Twelve Months of Shoes

Did someone say shoe of the month?

Some time ago I became aware that there is such a thing as a shoe-of-the-month club. There are several, actually. One called Shoedazzle, styled by Rachel Zoe. A J. Crew one. One called Shoemint, where you can also tap into sister sites to buy bags, jewelry, and clothes, extra closet sold separately.

Naturally, this discovery led me to stroll down memory lane to the high-school days when I belonged to the Columbia House Record Club. There was nothing better than coming home at the end of a boring day at school and finding a package of Cure, R.E.M., and Depeche Mode cassettes (yes, cassettes), waiting in the mailbox.

Then it led me to recall the unfortunate year or two after college that I belonged to the

Wow, you need some really dry lips to join the lip balm of the month club, I’d think.

Book-of-the-Month Club and ended up with a book on dream interpretation (It seemed like a good idea at the time), and a cookbook from which I have made exactly two recipes, neither of which have come out that good.

Then I started wondering what other “of the month clubs” there are, which led me on a slightly hilarious journey.

Here are a few: Wine, craft beer, and coffee. Yum, yum, and yum. I’ve even come across a wine of the month club that sells wine by women vintners only, which is very cool. But did you know you can also do of-the-month clubs for cigars, dog treats, and jerky? Pass, pass, and pass. There are also monthly subscriptions for teddy bears, tea, chai tea (who knew there’s more than one kind of chai tea?), mustard, cheesecake, cupcakes, peanut-butter-and-jelly, hot sauce (not to be confused with the BBQ sauce club), pasta, pickles, soap and—wait for it—water. Yes, water. Or pardon me, fine water.

There are several, as I mentioned, on the more sartorial end of the spectrum. I confess to wanting, just an eensy-weensy bit, to join Birchbox, which sends makeup and product samples to your door, nestled in a cute little box, of course. There are so many of-the-month clubs that I wonder if there is a club of the month club, where you can try a different of-the-month club every month.

I wonder if there is a club of the month club, where you can try a different of-the- month club each month.

Actually, looking back at the list, it seems you could actually subsist only on items ordered from of-the-month clubs. That might be a project worth trying. I’d happily live on PB&J, pasta, cupcakes, and wine for a year, though the challenge would probably be fitting into the clothing-of-the month. I’d probably have to switch, then, to the lower-calorie water-of-the month club. But there would be soap, and coffee, and of course, I could always join the Book-of-the-Month Club again. I may never have to leave the house again.


Wake Up and Face Your Closet

It’s that time again.

Yes, that time. Time to decide what I’m going to wear to work tomorrow.

Much as I love clothing, I hate this part of my day. I mean, I can barely make it through one day, and before that day is out you want me to start planning for the next? Whatever happened to living in the moment, people?

Tocky the rolling alarm clock

Waking up is hard to do. So I bought Tocky, the alarm clock that rolls around so you have to get out of bed and chase it around the room. My cat isn’t a fan. Photo courtesy of Brookstone.

When I had a job where I started work at 4 a.m. (yes, you read that right), picking out the next day’s outfit was part of the pre-bed routine. I laid out everything, down to my, um… everything. That way I could sleep as late as possible and get dressed on autopilot.

Now, though, I tend to put off this task until I am showered and standing in front of my closet bemoaning the fact that I have nothing to wear. An early-morning denim crisis, if you will. Sometimes I even lie in bed an extra few minutes, telling myself that I’m mentally reviewing the contents of my closet and deciding what to wear. This tends to work not that well.

However, when I pick out my clothes the night before, I find it shaves a much-needed five to seven minutes off my morning routine. I’ve even—don’t laugh—looked for Lifehacker articles on how to buy time in the morning, but I haven’t found much of use.

I’m curious– is there anyone else out there who loves clothes but loathes having to decide what to wear every day? Do you choose your outfit the night before, or wait for inspiration to strike in the a.m.? Do you, god help me, put together a week’s worth of outfits on Sunday?

Okay, you write, while I get into bed and maybe think about what I’m wearing tomorrow. Or not.

Ruminations on Cashmere Sweaters

Poor pitiful me. I’ve never had a cashmere sweater. I think the closest I came was a tangerine-colored J-Crew cashmere shell bought at a sample sale more than 10 years ago. I wore it as a tank on cooler summer nights a few times, but mostly it lived under jackets and cardigans.

But a proper cable-knit crewneck? Dare I say, a cashmere sweater set? I’ve only ever been worthy of blends, it seems

But my life is poised for a change this week with the White+Warren sample sale at Clothingline in the Garment District this Tuesday–Thursday, October 16–18. I’m a huge fan of knits by W+W, a New York-based company that makes simple, classic basics, mostly in neutral hues.

Cashmere Goat

Hello, handsome. A cashmere goat.

Cashmere is never cheap, since it takes the soft, fine undercoat of two cashmere goats to produce one two-ply sweater, according to the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute. (Who knew such an organization existed?) Cashmere pieces by White and Warren, a staple among celebrities, are definitely never cheap.

Meantime, we all know sample sales are hit or miss, so if I don’t score a cashmere piece this week, apparently you can breed and raise your own herds of cashmere goats, the way some people practice beekeeping as a pastime. I’m not kidding. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Though it may not go over well in my 84-unit New York apartment, I’m thinking. So here’s hoping for success at the sample sale this week.

A Homeric Journey (for a Rebecca Minkoff black leather wristlet)

If there’s one thing I learned at the Muse and the Marketplace writer’s conference in Boston last weekend, it’s that every story is, in its essence, The Odyssey (yes, the Homer one you read in high school), and has to be about a journey in which the protagonist (in the case of the following story, that would be me) yearns for something, sets out to find it, and ends up in a different place from where she started.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 8.47.51 AMThat’s why it was completely fitting that I should, during a break from the weekend’s workshops on how to write books and sell them (if you missed the conference the answer  is not easily), continue on my quest for a black wristlet. I guess quests need to be completed even when the need for the object has passed. I had actually needed a wristlet (for the uninitiated, that’s a small purse with a strap that you carry on your wrist as opposed to on your shoulder or in your hand as you would a clutch, which I just have to say I personally can’t abide, since clutches often preclude you from holding a glass of wine) the week before, for a wedding. When it hit five hours before the wedding and I had gone to six different stores and still hadn’t found one I liked (in my price range; I saw plenty that were like $200), I settled for a rather junky but cute-enough cross-body bag on sale at Aldo. Buying it broke my rule about holding out for what you really want (in handbags as in life), but what could I do? Sometimes you have to settle (in life, as well as in handbags), so you can move on to the next challenge.

Still, the need for a wristlet stayed with me, even after the wedding.

So when I left the conference, needing to clear my head after a day of workshops on the not-easy business of writing and the even-less easy business of selling your writing, I headed straight to Nordstrom Rack on Boylston Street in Boston. And there it was, a black wristlet made of the softest soft leather. It was Rebecca Minkoff, no less, a brand that I can only consider contemplating thinking about actually affording when it’s on sale. Which it was. So I bought it. I don’t need the bag right now, and in fact, don’t even know when I’ll use it, but somehow this handbag odyssey just had to be finished. I returned to the writers conference with the Rebecca Minkoff wristlet, and a fuller understanding of the need for the protagonist to embark on, and complete, a journey.

All About Timing for this Year’s Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

I could be forgiven for lusting after these Frye boots at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, no?

I could be forgiven for lusting after these Frye boots at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, no?

In shopping, as in love, timing is everything. Being a perpetual hermit and curmudgeon, I don’t feel much qualified to talk about the second these days, but shopping—now that’s a topic on which I can easily discourse.

That’s why I feel okay coming clean about this: I’m not planning on shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale this year. I know I know, who are you and what have you done with our esteemed blogstress?

Believe me, I’m plenty tempted. In case you don’t know, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is the sale that puts all others to shame, the one that makes other sales say “I admit defeat, I can’t compete.” For the Anniversary Sale, Nordstrom puts the latest fall clothes and shoes (and boots! Oh, boots…) on sale at 30 percent off for about a month. When the sale is over, the clothes shoot up to regular price. Last year I bought almost all my fall work clothes at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Still, here’s where the timing issue comes in. It happens that I’m going on vacation next week. Not just any vacation, mind you, but an overseas one, to celebrate a milestone birthday the figure of which shall not be named. Where am I going? Surely you think Paris and Milan are the logical choices. But no.

Here’s a hint: It’s the land of Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats and James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and Colm Toibin and Colum McCann and U2 and the Pogues, who were only like one of my favorite bands in high school. And I know that when I’m there all the temptations of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale will recede and I’ll want instead to be spending money on wool sweaters made from famed local sheep, and the like. So this year, I took advantage of the Anniversary Sale by, um, restocking my lingerie drawers and called it a day.

One of you is gong to make me a mighty nice scarf. Or sweater. Or both.

One of you is gong to make me a mighty nice scarf. Or sweater. Or both.

However, Nordstrom more than senses my internal struggle. See, when I last checked Facebook, not only was there a sponsored post from Nordstrom, but through the magic of cookies (or some other technology that, if I understood, would mean I’d have the kind of job where I wouldn’t have to think twice about buying a new pair of Fryes), but the post showed the very boots I’ve been jonesing for, and reminded me that time is indeed slipping away. “The Anniversary sale,” it said “only comes once a year.”

Meantime, here are my top picks from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale:

*Mackage wool and leather asymmetrical coat
*Tahari black A-line dress
*Michael Kors pencil dress

Wedge Sandals and (not) Rethinking my Priorities

I hate to admit it, but it turns out I’m more shallow than I thought. Here’s what happened:

I was on my way to meet the lovely AA, who, p.s., can rock a denim skort like nobody’s business, and I was running late. We were on our way to my favorite brunch spot on Smith Street, where I already knew I’d be ordering the pancakes.


My cute Lolë skirt. I was wearing it with a shirt, though.

I parked my car with two minutes to

spare, but was a solid six-minute walk away. Since one of my resolutions for 2013 was to be more timely, I broke into a jog. I haven’t been working out much, so it felt good, which I was noticing just as my ankle gave way under my cute little wedge sandal (despite the fact that they’re Clarks) and, well, there’s no good way to say this. I wiped out.

People stopped (this was in direct contrast to the time three years ago when I lost my shirtbalance and rolled like halfway down Ocean Parkway and no one cast as much as a glance in my direction). I stood up, and what do you think is the first thing I asked? Yep. “Did I tear anything?”

Now, by “anything” I meant my cute peach-colored Lilla P. cross-over top that I just bought at my most favorite of sample sales, and my adorbs grey and peach striped skirt by a sporty brand called Lolë from REI (if you think camping stores are not good places to buy cute skirts, rethink)– both of which I’d worn only two or three times. One of the good Samaritans looked down at my leg, and I could tell what she was thinking: “You didn’t tear your skirt, but you tore a hunk of skin off your knee.” Yes, but did I tear my shirt? My skirt? A nice man sipping an iced coffee said “Uh, no, but I think you’re pretty banged up.”

Clarks sandals

The culprit

With a goose egg forming on my knee and blood running down my leg, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought back to that Ocean Parkway rolling incident from a few years back. I’d torn the knee of my favorite jeans. Even after the attention of an expert seamstress, you could see the stitches, so I’d demoted the jeans from going-out-to-a-nice-wine-bar-jeans to going-to-trader-joe’s-jeans.

AA reaffirmed that my clothes were intact, but was a bit alarmed at the state of my leg. However, some Bandaids, Neosporin, an ice pack, some pancakes, and a nice mimosa later, I felt a lot better. I have my priorities, after all.


Am I a Sartorial Psychic?

A couple months ago, Mom and I were spending an afternoon browsing in the Meatpacking District. As one is wont to do, we ambled into Anthropologie and made a beeline for the sale section.

Perhaps there’s still a trace of whimsy left in me after all. Not a bad find for $29, right? Image courtesy of Anthropologie.

Shopping at Anthropologie is, more or less, a habit from my more youthful past (of five years ago). With a bent toward the whimsical, most of Anthropologie’s offerings now seem too young for me. Life has pretty much beaten all the whimsy out of me. Nevertheless, I like to peek every now and then.

On that April day, I came across a colorful cardigan I had seen the last time I was in Anthropologie. It was marked $89, on sale from $118 or some preposterous price. But somehow I just knew that it was supposed to be cheaper than that.

“I’m just going to ask at the register,” I said. “It might have gone on sale even more and they forgot to mark it.”

“I don’t know. I suppose you can ask,” Mom said skeptically.

“I just have a feeling,” I continued. “Something inside me says it’s supposed to be much less.”

“Well, it can’t hurt to ask,” Mom, with no less skepticism.

At the register I handed the woman the sweater. “Is this priced as marked, or has it gone on sale more?”

She rang it up—for $29, which I happily forked over. “It’s good you asked. Occasionally we forget to mark something down when it goes on sale again.” Everyone—Mom, the saleswoman, especially me—was duly impressed with me.

“I just had this feeling,” I explained.

Now let’s face it. If I were a true psychic, I wouldn’t have to shop on things for sale because I’d have won the lottery a hundred times over, since I would know the winning numbers ahead of time. But I guess I’ll take whatever little powers I can get, and for now I suppose I’ll have to settle for being a sartorial psychic.


Pajamas and Staying Warm Through Hurricane Sandy

Mom and I bought matching puffin pajama pants on a trip to Maine one summer.

Holing up in my apartment to ride out Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, wearing a hoodie and a pair of puffin-print pajama bottoms I bought in Maine, I found myself thinking about the things we wear when we want to cozy up.

I went through a phase a few years ago when I was really into Nick & Nora for Target flannel pajamas. I had pink ones with coffee cups and a pair with elephants wearing striped scarves and hats (yeah, I don’t know either). I had ones with snow globes, and ones with penguins. I thought of the Beverly Cleary story I’d loved as a child, in which Ramona wants to hold onto that tucked-into-bed feeling all day, so she wears her flannel pajamas to school under her clothes; with all those layers on, hilarity ensues. Hunting around to write this post, I found pajamas with pictures of wine bottles, owls, cupcakes, and high-heeled shoes. And, of course, more than plenty with pictures of cats in all shapes and sizes.

Pajamas for people who love shoes, by the brand PJ Salvage. Are there pajamas for people who love pajamas? That would be quite meta.

Why do grown women want to wear cute printed pajamas? Do we, like Ramona the Pest, want to hang on to a little piece of childhood and be transported back to a simpler time?

What do you wear when you want to feel secure, when you’re settling in to spend an entire day inside while the world howls—literally—outside your window? Sweats? Yoga pants? Your college sweatshirt? Kitty-cat pajamas? Let me know.

It seems especially important to feel—and stay—safe and warm this week. New York and New Jersey are reporting multiple storm-related deaths. As I write this there is a building on fire in Queens;  NYU’s hospital is being evacuated; hundreds of thousands of customers are without power.  Wear whatever you’d like, as long as you stay safe.

Building a Wardrobe for Life

An article in this month’s More magazine struck a chord with me. More‘s tagline is “for women of style and substance,” which I take to be marketing code for “women in their forties who are smart and look good for their age.” Since I will be one of those women in a few short months, I’ve started reading the magazine with some regularity.

In this piece the author, Jennifer Braunschweiger, forces herself to consider every last item in her closet. “If I put it on, and then take it off, I have to give it away…If I wear it to work and feel uncomfortable, out it goes as well.” (You can see a slideshow of Braunschweiger’s closet project in More magazine online, but the essay is only available in the hard-copy magazine, and it’s worth a read.)

She continues, “a closet isn’t a museum or an archive. It should be a simple storehouse of clothes that reflect who I am today and that I can wear to work tomorrow. .. Letting go of clothing is letting go of who I used to be.”

Closet as Archive

That’s true, but for me there’s something more. The truth is, and I say this without meaning to sound like the world’s biggest Debbie Downer, but I have had little success to date in building the things most women my age have. Through many missteps for which I take full responsibility, a couple strokes of bad luck, and a select few cases of good old-fashioned getting screwed over, I haven’t as yet succeeded in building a lucrative, flourishing career or a family of my own.

But a wardrobe? Now that, I have managed to build.

Don’t get me wrong. I have managed to grow as a person these last years and I’ve certainly had some successes.  But the truth is that one of the few very tangible things I have to show from my last 10 years is my wardrobe. If I dismantle it blouse by sweater by skirt, what do I have to show for the last decade? Continue reading

Make Mine a Double: Gap Men’s Khakis and Jameson

A Boston Globe article this past weekend about stores enticing shopping-phobic men through their doors by offering whiskey and other manly perks reminded me of this one time back when I lived in Phoenix. I was out doing some shopping when I saw a sign in the window of the Gap.

It read: “Try on a pair of men’s khakis, get $10 off any purchase!”

I approached a salesgirl. “So can I try on a pair of men’s khaki’s and get the $10 discount?” I was all set to wage a sartorial feminism campaign a la Gloria Steinem. “Gap gives better discounts to men! I’d call the corporate offices first thing Monday morning.

Jameson Irish Whiskey Bottle Shot GreenBut the salesgirl shrugged. “Yeah, of course. We can’t offer a discount to men and not to women. That would probably be illegal or something.” Continue reading