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

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.


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

O Black Sweater at Marshalls, Where Art Thou

The other day, Nurse V mentioned that she needed clothes for an upcoming vacation, and asked if I would help her shop. She really had to twist my arm, as you can imagine, and we wound up at Marshalls in Brooklyn’s Atlantic Center.

Now, when it comes to brand-name discount stores, shopping at that Marshalls means seriously kicking it old school. It makes browsing at the Upper West Side Loehmann’s that I know and love looks like amateur hour. At Marshalls, there are only a few racks organized by designer, and almost no neat endcaps displaying merchandise in that spare, boutique style that makes you want to buy something.

No, this Marshall’s offers up endless racks of clothes divided into the most basic categories. Shirts. Sweaters. Pants. Small. Medium. Large.  Not for the faint of heart, was this Marshall’s. Luckily, Nurse V and I were up to the challenge. We patiently went through each rack in Nurse V’s size, evaluating every piece of clothing.

Once my friend had a decently sized “definitely coming home with me” pile as well as a a reasonable “maybe” one (many items successfully found by me, I’m just saying), I went in search of a little something-something for myself.

Gold buttons like the ones on the sweater I left at Marshalls.

I am bad at taking camera-phone pics in dressing rooms, so I don’t have a picture of the Magaschoni sweater from Marshalls. Just picture a very plain, long-sleeved black sweater, crew-neck. The gold-button detailing at the shoulder was made from buttons that looked like these. It’s the best I could do.

Which was when I happened upon a black crew-neck Magaschoni sweater. Simple and elegant, it was plain except for a row of gold disk-shaped buttons running from the chest to the shoulder. It looked fabulous on. It had been almost $200 and was now a reasonable $50.

Continue reading

Crisis in Denim Contemplates Letting Herself Go

Lately, I’ve been thinking about letting myself, well…how shall I say it?

Amy's Bread Pink Frosted Cake

I would eat an entire one of these in one sitting, if I could just bring myself not to care about fitting into super-cute clothes. It’s delicious. Plus, it’s pink, like my blog. Photo courtesy of Amy’s Bread.

I’ve been thinking about letting myself go. Really go to seed. As in, drop that Abs Attack! class and let my only exercise be the walk from the couch to the freezer for a gallon of Edy’s Slow Churned (Light ice cream ceases to be “light” when you eat one dozen servings over the course of as many hours, bee-tee-dubs.).

I mean, here I am, pushing middle age. Single. We all know it’s right about now that gravity really starts to gain the upper hand anyway, so why not let gravity do its thing (exert its saggy forces on my body), while I do my thing (eat a tub of ice cream the size of my head all in one sitting)? I’d never have to have a denim crisis when my cropped Paige jeans felt snug. Instead, I’d just pull on my fave elastic-waist jeans.

Well, here’s my reason: Continue reading

Friends and Family Sales: You’re One of Us Now

The other night when I stopped in at Loehmann’s on my way home, a friendly lady at the entrance handed me a coupon for 20 percent off everything in the store. Sale stuff. Non-sale stuff. Expensive shoes. Cheap shirts. Purses. EVERYTHING.

Baby chicks sale sign

Browsing on Pinterest for a “sale” sign I came across this, and thought it was super cute, and somewhat relevant. A little.

Apparently it was their friends and family sale. All stores seem to have these periodically and I’m not sure why they’re called that, but I’m always happy to consider myself a friend—even a relative—of anyone having a sale.

Meantime, as I roamed Loehmann’s, I found myself doing that thing that I’m sure we all do (I’m curious– do you do it to?)… that thing where you’re constantly calculating, and doing it so quickly it becomes automatic. Everything I saw I said to myself “Oh! But it’s not that price! I’d be getting another 20 percent off!”

At one point I even saw a gorgeous brown leather Michael Kors skirt and said “Oh, it’s not really $600. It’s another 20 percent off!”(No I did not even let myself think about letting myself consider thinking about trying it on. Yes it was beautiful. I can’t find a picture. You’ll have to take my word for it.) Continue reading

New Year’s Resolutions, Crisis in Denim Style

Frye boots, Bordeaux color

Maybe this will be the year these gorgeous Frye bordeaux-colored boots (their color name, not mine), magically land in my closet.

Being Jewish brings with it many burdens (the guilt! the guilt!), not the least of which is having to mark not one but two new years (the regular January one, and Rosh Hashana), which means not one but two sets of resolutions to break and feel guilty about later.

It’s good to have resolutions large and small to cover all aspects of your life. I mean, sure I have big resolutions that involve vowing to be a better person, one who smiles and says ‘excuse me’ to the fellow subway passenger with her bag on a seat rather than one who gives the scowl of death and wishes she had one of those handbags that is also a set of rings that is also a weapon until said passenger sheepishly moves her bag (even though it is COMPLETELY against New York City subway etiquette to have your bag on a seat during rush hour when people are STANDING, I’m just SAYING.).

What I’m getting at is that I like to start the new year with some smaller resolutions as well. Not personality-changing ones, necessarily, but sartorial ones that will make getting dressed in the morning more efficient and pleasureable; resolutions that will keep me from spending money on things I don’t need, while helping me enjoy the ones I already have.

So here, in no particular order, are my top Rosh Hashana resolutions, Crisis in Denim style: Continue reading

Hunger Wins Out Over Barney’s Warehouse Sale

Last Wednesday I was abducted by aliens.

You scoff. But really, what else would explain why, finding myself in Chelsea with an hour to kill, I chose to eat dinner instead of going to the Barney’s Warehouse Sale? (The sale ends today, having been extended for one more day.)

I even got past the first security guard and was about to check my bags and make a beeline for the racks.

Then, I heard a voice of admonishment. This time it was not my Really Irritating Internal Voice (RIIV). It was, in fact, my stomach growling.

That’s when I realized that even the most battle-hardened shoppers have their limits. On the outside the Warehouse sale seemed fairly tame on this mid-week eve. But I’ve heard tell tales of elbows thrown and punches narrowly ducked, and I realized: There was no way to do the Warehouse Sale on an empty stomach.

So I admitted defeat, Yelped the nearest sushi bar and ordered some maki.

I guess it’s easier to just say I was abducted by aliens, than to admit I couldn’t brave the Barney’s Warehouse Sale.