Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Against my Better (Shopping) Judgment


One very small part of our recent trip to Japan was dropping by Loft (the fun Japanese stationery and home goods store, not the women's clothing retailer) no less than three times while exploring Tokyo and Kyoto. That first trip, my eyes zeroed in eagerly on their wide selection of Hobonichi Techo planners. There wasn't much real practical reason for my interest. I have absolutely no desire to use a structured, pre-printed, and dated planner, given that I've been happily using a blank notebook with dotted grid pages (from Leuchtturm) as a planner and bullet journal for nearly a year now. Yet, I was intrigued by the Hobonichis because of marketing. Some had hailed it as the best planner ever, and because I remembered reading that coverage, I was intrigued. 

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That first time at Loft, I took a quick look, ran my hands over the pages of the samples, and found that the Tomoe River paper they use in the Hobonichis really is quite delightful, and fairly unique when compared to anything I've laid hands on before (which admittedly isn't much because I'm not typically a stationery fanatic). The paper is smooth, practically silky to the touch and quite thin, but seemingly in a good way. The planners are well known for being less bulky than many of their competitors because they use this very thin paper, but I'm told that it is still high quality, that most pens and ink generally will not bleed through. Because that paper was so lovely to skim my fingers over, I started to want to buy one of the planners, though I didn't have enough time to think it through on that first trip. 

I didn't necessarily plan on going to Loft again, but we did, a second and then a third time, while doing other shopping. Each time, I dwelled an unusually long time over the Hobonichi Techo display, comparing the various ones on offer (each Loft stocked practically the entire product range, including some covers) and feeling an urge to buy one (the prices were great, much better than any available if I ordered from the US, if I was ever going to buy one, it would have been best to get it in Japan). This was despite how there wasn't a single design that was likely to be a suitable product. There's only one style available in English, and its A6 size is definitely too small for me. 

The A5 "Cousin" size (available as either one or two volumes) is better, but it's only available in Japanese (which, to be fair, doesn't dissuade most international fans) and I still wasn't likely to get use out of a pre-dated planner. Also, the A6 and A5 ones are primarily a-page-a-day planners, which isn't useful to me, I simply don't need that much space per day, every single day. I prefer more flexibility. Also, much of the appeal of the Hobonichi-related content I'd seen on social media, which helped fuel my interest, came from the colorful pictures or pretty writing some people put in theirs. It's all lovely, but I'm hardly going to be producing that on a regular basis, or maybe ever! I don't even know how to draw! Oh, and I don't use a fountain pen (many Tomoe River paper enthusiasts are fountain pen users). I use fairly boring pens (Muji 0.38mm pens, to be exact, decent prices also on Amazon). The Leuchtturm paper is perfectly adequate for that, and I'm not sure I'd get anything special out of the experience of writing on fancy paper. 

So I was at Loft that second and third time, and each time I spent quite a while standing there, researching the Hobonichi product line on my phone, thinking about whether to buy something. Each time, it was a bit difficult to tear myself away. I was so very tempted to buy this thing even though I knew it wouldn't be of much use to me. I didn't end up getting one, which was the right choice, but I came very close. I'd ultimately decided that, if I were to get one, it'd be a Hobonichi Cousin and I'd need a cover. But Loft didn't stock covers for that size, so I might as well order it online directly from the company, even if there'd be a markup. I was even researching their product pages online in the days right after we returned from our trip. In the end, I decided to get a dot grid A5 notebook with Tomoe River paper instead. 

That's an extremely long and rambling introduction to what is ultimately a post about a fairly simple little thing I do somewhat often, even though I should know better by now. I sometimes develop a strange preoccupation with certain items that I know, with 95%-plus certainty, will not suit my needs or preferences and so probably won't get much, if any, real use. Except that I don't stop thinking about the item, I'll keep getting pulled back to admiring it and thinking about how nice or pretty it is, several times over weeks or months. It's not a thing that takes up that much of my mental energy in the end, it's just something in the back of my mind that rears its head every so often.

It rarely actually results in an unwise and impractical purchase. If and when I end up giving in to temptation and ordering the item online, actually trying on the item is usually enough to remind me why it won't, in fact, work for me. So I usually send it back. Still, I'll sometimes keep going back to window-shopping for the item, even, sometimes, when I've returned it before. 

Please follow the link below to read about some of the fashion-related items that have had such a hold over me, and the thought process behind each. 

Lo & Sons Waverley

There's no two ways about it, this bag is definitely too small for me. My current wallet, a Fossil Mini Tab, is too chubby for the Waverley, much less if I want to store my phone in it at the same time and have an easy time getting both items in and out quickly and smoothly. (That's a trait I place outsized value on, and it also accounts for why I once returned another item on this list, the APC Half Moon Bag, in that case because the bag started out too stiff to easily take my items in and out.) And if it probably can't fit those two things comfortably, then the likely lack of utility for me is rather obvious.

Even so, I got really obsessed with this bag for a while last year, around the time of their Black Friday sale. Back then, I think leather belt bags (a.k.a. grown-up fanny packs) had only recently started to emerge as a new trend, and I thought the Waverley was the most interesting take on it that I'd seen. I liked how it could be converted and worn several ways, and I liked the curved shape and how slim it was (even if that was also what made it impractical for me). Plus, Alice Gao makes it look fabulous.

I resisted the urge to order it then (I was thinking of the brown with gold hardware) and I continue to resist the urge now. I still take a look at it sometimes and think about whether I might ever change my mind. If I did, I'd probably want the black with gold hardware, which they never seem to put on sale anyway, which is probably for the best. That discourages impulse buying. A good sale could be enough to push me to actually order it, though I think I can be relied on to send it back. 

Vetta Capsule Oversized Sweater

Now this is an interest that first came from seeing the item on social media, mainly Instagram and on some blogs (and even an old Poshmark listing). That's not a bad thing. It's really nice to see a specific item on many different people of different heights and body shapes. And it was only on Instagram that I heard about how this very popular item had been restocked a few weeks ago, it's largely sold out already. Between all those sources (this is definitely an item where the store's official photography doesn't give a good sense of what the item would look like on me), I think I can make an educated guess about how this sweater would look if I got it. Unfortunately, I think the answer is "awkward, and generally not good." Like the person who made that old Poshmark listing, I think it's likely this sweater would overwhelm my frame, and not in that nice, intentionally oversized way. 

That relaxed shape through the body and the dolman sleeves are not things that have generally ever worked for me in the past, even though I still think it looks so comfortable and flow-y, like something I'd still love to wear nonetheless. Because I'm busty and a bit larger through the chest and shoulders, such designs tend to emphasize that, hang straight down from my widest spots and make me look similarly bulky all over. 

Plus, and this likely marks me as an extremely "lazy" customer, but I often dislike extra ties, buttons, snaps, etc. on anything that's not a coat. Even an attached decorative belt or the self-tie of a wrap dress can be "too much" sometimes, too fussy and in need of adjustment throughout the day. Such details are certainly enough to keep an item out of my typical "work uniform". Items that have such features will never be something I reach for without fail within a few days after each laundry session. And as Sophie has noticed with some of Vetta Capsule's other items, the extra snaps and buttons that make an item convertible aren't always that easy to work with, which is a total dealbreaker for me. Thus, a convertible sweater with a detachable turtleneck that can also be worn as a cardigan or a pullover is never going to work for me.

And then there are the items that I've actually ordered before and wisely decided to return, but that I still can't quite shake despite having turned down the item the first time for some very practical reasons. 

APC Half Moon Bag

I ordered this once from Ssense, which sometimes has better prices than the standard US retail price, but I sent it back quickly. This was a beautiful bag, and part of the reason for my enduring interest is that so many people online make it look so incredibly chic.

Unfortunately, I've always been self-conscious that, as someone who is both on the shorter and curvier side of things, I think I easily look awkward when carrying a crossbody bag that's (a) even just a bit too large for me or (b) has a strap that's just a little too long for it to hang at the right place. This bag has both of these traits, unfortunately. Plus, the leather is rather stiff, so when I tried it on at home and put my phone, wallet, and keys in it, it was a bit difficult to get those items in and out. This bag just isn't practical for me, but it's also so beautiful and great on other people that sometimes I still look back at it and wonder if, just maybe, I could make it work. 

Madewell Medium Transport Tote

I love my tote bags more than most. I have no less than five of about the same "as large as a work bag can reasonably get, but perfect for me" size, one that's potentially big enough to carry everything I need for an overnight trip, or even a weekend trip if I was so inclined, but that generally also look alright (as opposed to oddly deflated and floppy) when carrying much less: the Everlane Petra Market (discontinued), the Cuyana Classic Tote (this one gets the most awkwardly floppy-looking when not filled with enough items), the Cuyana Classic Tall Tote (discontinued), a large Longchamp Le Pliage Neo, and a large Longchamp Le Pliage "Miaou" bag in pink (recently available in blue). That's far more than enough, the last thing I need is another tote, yet I've long been intrigued by the Madewell Medium Transport Tote. For some reason, that outer pocket and the added option of carrying it with its longer single strap really kicks the design up a notch for me, I just think it's really cool, in an understated way. 

I ended up returning this after I ordered it a while back during one of Madewell's rare sales that includes the Transport bags. I did like the look of it as much as I thought I would, and it seemed sturdy enough. But, just like I thought, I simply didn't need another tote. Also, I'd already done a lot of shopping this year, and am on track to spend more than I originally planned, so it didn't feel right to spend that much, even with 15% off, on something that was fully an impulsive purchase, highly redundant of things I already owned, and that was something I'd only ever wear on the weekends. It is cute though, so I still find myself looking at itsometimes. 

Are you ever tempted to buy something even though you know it won't be a particularly good fit for your wardrobe preferences and needs? Are you ever tempted to go back to an item you've already tried and decided against before? And ha, I can't believe I just wrote more than 2000 words about this topic... 

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