Category: Shopping

Best of 2016: Purchases, Part 2 – Accessories

OK, this is it, you guys: the last of my “best of” posts for the year. Whew! This series was starting to drag on much like the year did. Today, let’s look at my 16 favourite accessories purchased in 2016. Now, I know what you’re thinking and, yes, that is a long list. I wasn’t sure I could come up with 16 things I absolutely adore and can’t live without … and then I did. I even had to make a couple of tough calls, can you believe it? Erm, you probably can. Let’s have a look, shall we?

In no particular order …

Clockwise from top left: Stella & Dot necklace (thrifted); MaxMara necklace; Alexandra Leigh ring; Winners ring
Clockwise from top left: Stella & Dot necklace (thrifted); MaxMara necklace; Alexandra Leigh ring; Winners ring

MaxMara necklace

I don’t keep track of how often I wear my jewelry, so I can’t give you those deets, but I do know that this necklace has elicited compliments every time I’ve worn it. Even my husband, who called it a “third grader’s failed art project” when he first saw it, has come around to admitting that it is, in fact, awesome.

I’ve spied other MaxMara costume jewelry at Holt’s this year, and really dig the Iris Apfel-esque vibe of many of their pieces, but the prices put them outside the ‘casual acquisition” realm for me. (My necklace was something like $160, and I bought it with a gift card.) Some pieces do pop up on eBay though, and I plan to keep an eye out for them there.

 Stella & Dot necklace

There isn’t anything crazy special about this necklace; in fact, it’s wonderful in its simplicity. It goes with practically everything, especially given that the pendant is reversible (mint green on one side, brown on the other). I thrifted it for $6, and I like the quality at that price point. Finding it inspired me to start having a closer look at the non-showcase jewelry displays at my local thrift stores, which has been paying off like whoa.

Blue labradorite ring

I used to love the jewelry showcase at Winners (aka Canadian TJ Maxx), only to fall out of the habit of checking it out regularly a few years ago. Luckily, this year, I remembered what a treasure trove of unique finds it can be. There is usually a plethora of sterling silver pieces at reasonable prices, although the quality can be hit and miss in my experience. (Some seem more prone to tarnish than others, and the workmanship can vary.) I suggested to my husband that he should buy me this ring ($40) as a “just because” gift … and he did because he’s awesome like that. It’s definitely a winner, both in terms of quality and style. The blue flash of this labradorite stone might just be my favourite shade of blue.

Alexandra Leigh ring

This was a vacation splurge at the Nordstrom store in Vancouver (~$150). I love it, though – I’m a sucker for blue-tinged moonstone as well.

Clockwise from top left: D'Orlan bee brooch (thrifted); vintage bird brooch (via Swish); Rebecca Minkoff earrings; Alexis Bittar earrings; vintage bow brooch (thrifted)
Clockwise from top left: D’Orlan bee brooch (thrifted); vintage bird brooch (via Swish); Rebecca Minkoff earrings; Alexis Bittar earrings; vintage bow brooch (thrifted)

D’Orlan bee brooch

This is one of my favourite brooches, and one of my fave thrift store finds this year ($3). You guys know I have a terrible weakness for vintage brooches, and “brooch bouquets”. I love mixing two or more brooches together, and as much as my magpie eyes are always seduced by big, brash rhinestone statement pieces, a smaller brooch like this is the key to a successful “bouquet” – it complements and/or ties together bigger pieces.

Vintage bird brooch

I bought this little guy at Swish boutique (~$40) because I loved the jelly bean-like cabochon and the colours. Much like the bee brooch, this one is great for mixing.

Vintage bow brooch

OK, so the truth is that I’ve found a ton of amazing brooches this year, and it’s basically impossible to pick favourites at this point. This bow brooch ($6) edges slightly ahead of the others because it so easily accessorizes with my big, floral rhinestone numbers.

Alexis Bittar earrings

I love the simple elegance of these earrings, and the fact that they are an interesting and somewhat unusual take on traditional hoops. I can wear them to work, as well as to any number of dressier work and social functions – they’re sparkly without being too sparkly.

They were a splurge (~$100 on sale), bought with a gift card – which is how I usually justify my splurges. Although I will always love inexpensive, bold costume jewelry, as I get older, I’ve started to be more comfortable with spending a bit more money on pieces that are more timeless. I have a good feeling about these earrings.

Rebecca Minkoff earrings

On the other end of the spectrum, we have these Rebecca Minkoff studs that cost a whopping $10 (on sale). They’re simple and deceptively boring; the truth is, they go with everything, and are a cool alternative to plain, white CZ studs. Not my most exciting jewelry, but a piece that gets worn at least once a week.

Clockwise from top left: Ferragamo pumps (thrifted); Clarks booties; Sam Edelman pumps (thrifted); Kelsi Dagger loafers (thrifted)
Clockwise from top left: Ferragamo pumps (thrifted); Clarks booties; Sam Edelman pumps (thrifted); Kelsi Dagger loafers (thrifted)

Clarks ankle boots

These are not my most exciting pair of shoes, either, but they were a weekend closet staple during the fall (worn 15 times) and will be again come spring. I bought them for $60 at Winners, and have been very impressed with both the quality and the comfort level.

Ferragamo pumps

How’s that for a 180? These are a statement if there ever was one, and I love them. And so does everybody else, I might add. I found them at Goodwill in near-pristine condition for $30 (3 wears and counting), and I’m still amazed that no one else scooped them before me.

Kelsi Dagger loafers

This was such an unlikely love affair, you guys. I’m not even sure why I bought these loafers ($17/24 wears) because I wasn’t super into their “look” … and then, somehow, they became my go-to casual shoe over the summer. The taupe grey colour is super versatile with my weekend wardrobe, and the style works great with all my skinny jeans and pants – and even some skirts.

Sam Edelman Opal pumps

I know Sam Edelman is old news to some of you, but it’s a recent revelation to me. I thrifted a pair of Opal d’orsay pumps ($8/6 wears) at the beginning of December, and have been super impressed with the comfort level. I do wish mine weren’t suede (the black seems to attract dust/dirt like nobody’s business), but I have my eye out for a pair (or two) in sturdier leather on eBay. I can see these becoming my go-to pair of black shoes for the office.

Top row: Skagen watches; Bottom row: 14Th & Union scarf (thrifted); Chanel bag (via Swish)
Top row: Skagen watches; Bottom row: 14Th & Union scarf (thrifted); Chanel bag (via Swish)

14th & Union scarf

I wear scarves a fair bit, usually by necessity, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “scarf person”. Is there such a creature? I digress. I am, however, totally crazy about this scarf ($5) – it’s my favourite shade of blue again. I love pairing it with black, grey, and khahi, which are basically my weekend uniform all year round.

Skagen Anita watch(es)

OK, so this is a bit of a cheat, because I bought three – yes, 3! – of these watches in the past year. The first one was a fluke (I just fell in love with the face and rose gold mesh band, and bought it on impulse), and then I purposely went and bought the others because I loved the style that much. I went from never wearing watches to wearing one every day.

The Anitas are sleek and elegant, look more expensive than they are (I paid between $120-$140 for each of mine), and are super lightweight. The last part is key for me, because I hate the feeling of heavy bands (watches, bracelets, etc.) on my wrist. I used to lust over the Cartier Ballon Bleu watch (and, truthfully, I still do), and having the Anita watches has reconciled me to the reality that my dream of owning one won’t become a reality any time soon. In fact, when I recently had the occasion to see the BB watch in real life, I found myself thinking that I might prefer it to have a mesh strap. Shhh, don’t tell Cartier I said that!

Vintage Chanel Jumbo Maxi bag

I’ve bought some great bags this year, but none of them quite measures up to this one. It’s the perfect size, and I prefer the single flap over the classic double flap of my old Chanel bag. The colour is also quite versatile, and the longer chain strap is a bonus. I do worry about the soft lambskin leather, which is more prone to scratches than other types of leather; although that is a common issue for all vintage Chanel bags, I worry that wear will be more obvious on this lighter colour than the black. I’m not typically great at babying my bags, but I may have to make an exception in this case. She’s worth it.





Blogging, Budgets, and Perceptions

One of my fave bloggers, Xin at Invicible Summer, who shares my interest in both clothes and personal finance (an Odd Couple pairing if there ever was one), recently wrote a thought-provoking post about clothing budgets, and specifically the balancing of shopping desires and fiscal responsibilities. Go and read her post (and the recommended reading), and then come back, and let’s chat.

I’ll wait.

OK, I obviously have many thoughts about this topic. I kinda touched on them before (like here), but reading Xin’s post made me wonder if they might be worth revisiting — not because the substance of my opinions has changed (it hasn’t), but because the readership of the blog has increased dramatically in the last year or so, and some of you may not have come across my old posts. At any rate, I think it’s a discussion worth having again.

As a blogger and as a blog reader, I am very much alive to the proposition that blogging sends messages, both explicit and implicit. Although I do not believe the focus of my blog is consumption per se, it is fundamentally a showcase for consumable goods so the distinction may be one without meaning. As far as that goes, I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: I do buy a lot of clothes. Obviously. Which is not to say that I think you should also buy as many clothes as I do; different strokes and all that. I do my best to side-step the connection between blog reading and shopping – it’s one of the reasons why I don’t use product links in my posts – but I realize that it’s probably impossible to avoid it altogether. Many of you have commented about buying an item because you saw it on my blog and liked it. The more clothes I feature on the blog, the more opportunities for you to find things you are inspired to buy – and, perhaps, to find tacit approval for buying them (should such thing matter to you). I get it, and it’s why I am about to talk about some things that are either outside the usual scope of the blog, or too “meta” for a typical post.

Shopping Responsibly

I don’t talk about my personal finances on the blog, but I want to make this clear: I shop within my means. My family does not have any debt (apart from a modest mortgage), and we have healthy emergency, retirement and education savings. We live in a country with (largely) free healthcare, and have coverage for things like dentist trips and pharmacy prescriptions through our jobs.  We are comparatively thrifty in some life categories, but we don’t scrimp on categories that are important to us (whether things or experiences). I’m fortunate to have enough discretionary income to indulge my passion for (collecting) clothes — responsibly, which means without negatively impacting my family’s financial situation. Most importantly, I have never spent money I did not have in order to buy clothes, and I would never encourage anyone to do that (with clothes or any other non-essential items). That means that there are things I lust over, but cannot and will not buy — unless I get lucky at the thrift store. It also means that, as I have come to put more and more value on having a large and varied wardrobe, I have made other adjustments to my shopping behaviour (i.e. buying a greater proportion of my clothes secondhand).

I realize that my discretionary income, while certainly not limitless, is higher than that of many people, and that some of those people will find it distasteful to see my spending “documented” on the blog. There isn’t much I can do about that, and I accept that it’s a legitimate reason for some to avoid my blog. But I do hope that the blog also shows that it’s possible to enjoy fashion no matter what your budget, and do so in a responsible fashion. (Psst, I’ve written before about ways to make the most of what you’ve got to work with, budget-wise.)

Shopping as Therapy

I know, I’ve joked about this many times, but listen: shopping is NOT actual therapy, OK? It’s not therapy in the same way that buying clothes is not an investment. Shopping — and more specifically, thrifting — is something I do to relax and take an occasional mental break … while I work on actively addressing whatever real problems or stressors I’m facing. [Which is the part I don’t talk about here, because it has nothing to do with this blog.] Shopping doesn’t fix my problems, nor do I expect it to do so. Some people watch TV to relax. Some people knit. Some people work out. I go thrifting. It clears my mind, by allowing me to focus on something very specific: finding a treasure in a haystack of other people’s trash. It’s the process I enjoy; the end result (if I find the proverbial needle) is just a nice bonus. Let me put it this way: I find it equally relaxing to thrift whether or not I buy something at the end.

In that sense, I find thrift shopping to be completely different than retail shopping. At a mall, it’s almost impossible NOT to find some thing (or many things) that appeal, without much effort — the retail business is predicated on it — so the experience for me is often less about the process and more about the end result. With that said, not much turns on this, ultimately. No matter what you get out of shopping, in any of its incarnations, the bottom line is the same: it won’t fix your or my problems (unless said problems are of the what-am-I-wearing-to-the-office-Christmas-party variety, and don’t get me started on that). That doesn’t mean that using shopping to get a “quick fix” (or relaxation, distraction, mood boost, whatever you want to call it) is a terrible thing. It’s not, as long as it’s recognized for what it is, and as long as it doesn’t amount to irresponsible behaviour (see above) — much like, say, having a glass of wine after work.

(Sidenote: we can certainly talk about the ethics of clothes consumption as it impacts the value of shopping as a form of relaxation, but that is a whole other topic which deserves its own post. I will just say that I do believe that it is important for everyone, as consumers, to be aware of the impact of our actions on the environment and others; it’s another one of the reasons I have embraced thrifting.)

Shopping and Blogs

I read only a handful of style blogs these days, and I read them mostly because I love their respective writers’ voices. Which is another way of saying that most of them are focused equally (if not more so) on writing as pretty photos. Even so, I occasionally find myself clicking a link to a retailer’s website … which, these days, is pretty much the only time I check those out. Inevitably, I end up with 2 or 3 items in my cart, and it takes a very conscious effort on my part to close my browser without going any further.

So, I get it. If you’re constantly looking at pictures of pretty things, it’s hard not to want to possess at least some of them. I avoid certain types of style blogs for that very reason, and I would encourage anyone struggling with blog-inspired FOMO to do the same with whatever is the source of their angst. If that means all style blogs are a no-go zone, then so be it.

One issue I do struggle with, however, is the amount of responsibility that bloggers owe to their readers, particularly with regard to implicit messaging. For example, I would probably feel bad if I knew that someone went into debt to buy something they saw on my blog; but is there, in fact, a degree of culpability on my part for that person’s actions? And further, if I am aware that my posts may be perceived as conveying an unintentional message, is it incumbent upon me to change them? Should blogs come with content warnings?

As you can imagine, this is a topic on which I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you have a clothes budget? And if so, how does blog reading (or media consumption generally) affect your budget or your shopping? If you read style blogs regularly, why do you do it and what do you wish you could change about them (or your engagement with or reaction to them)?


Wardrobe Statistics

How do you guys feel about another wardrobe statistics – are you with me? Good. Be forewarned, this one is going to be heavy on numbers. I was inspired to write it after reading about Emma Watson’s Met Gala outfit, which led me to discover the #30Wears movement; it’s been around for a while, but this would not be the first time I’m behind the times, so please bear with me. The premise is solid – making purposeful clothes purchases guided by ethical and sustainability principles – but what really intrigued me was the question that it poses and from which the hashtag is derived: would you wear a particular piece at least 30 times before disposing of it? That sort of thing is practically catnip for this numbers nerd. I was really curious to see what answers the question, applied to my existing wardrobe, might yield.

The short answer is: no, for the most part. The slightly longer answer is: no, with the exception of bags, coats, shoes, and black cardigans/blazers. For the really long answer, read on.

Let’s start with a quick inventory of the things currently in my closet. These numbers are ever-shifting targets, because I acquire new (to me) things all the time. Bad Adina! But also: good job, Fun Closet Adina. (I’m sure Emma W. would disapprove of Fun Closet Adina. I guess I’m Team Slytherin, or something. Moving on.) Here’s what I’ve got, along with the most worn item in each category:

Category      Total items     No. of items worn at least 30 times     Item most worn
Tops                      34                0                                striped top (26 times)
Jackets                   21                0                                 black blazer (28 times)
Outerwear              14                4                                 camel coat (223 times)
Pants                     23                2                                 skinny jeans (81 times)
Skirts                    33            1                                 black skirt (44 times)
Sweaters               26                3                                 black cardi (71 times)
Dresses                 52                0                                 black dress (27 times)
Bags                      25                8                                 black (commuting) tote
Shoes                    56                10                                black pumps (87 times)

This looks pretty pathetic, doesn’t it? I always knew that my closet sees a lot of turnover, but these numbers are quite stark. Let’s delve a bit deeper, though. How long, exactly, do clothes hang around (har har!) in my closet?

Vintage                    No. of Items
2010 or older             10
2012-2014                   64
2015                          57
2016                          74

Put another way, about a third of my clothes are more than 2 years old, and about a third are less than 1 year old, with the remaining third falling in the middle. I’ve been, um, busy this year. As far as trends go, it looks like coats and sweaters tend to keep the longest, with the remaining categories turning over almost completely about once every two years. It could be argued that the last 3-4 years may not represent the best data set, because of life changes and fluctuating weight (two pregnancies, two mat leaves, etc.), but I have a suspicion that the results would be the same regardless.

I think it all comes down to this: I like variety and I like bright, colourful things. I also get bored, periodically, of those bright colourful things, and want to exchange them for new ones. The basics tend to stick around much longer, usually until they fall apart. But “basics” in this context mean all the black things: black sweater, black cardigan, black pants, black blazer, black skirt, etc. And skinny jeans. The exception is coats/outerwear. Because I hate to buy coats, and because I also actually need to wear coats for a large part of the year, coats tend to get a lot of wear and stick around for a long time, regardless of style, colour, etc.

(Please note that the stats above do not include shoes and bags, which would probably skew the numbers a bit towards the older side. Also, “vintage” means years spent in my closet, rather than since production. I buy a lot of things secondhand, as will become apparent in a moment.)

I also decided to look at the composition of my closet, because there has got to be some good news in there, somewhere. Right?! So, I decided to look at the provenance of my clothes; due to time constraints, I looked at this only at a very high level. Ideally, I would like to tally the actual country of manufacture for each piece in my closet, but because I don’t currently track this in my closet worksheet, it would take a long time to tabulate at the moment. It’s definitely something I’m considering tracking on a going forward basis. For now, here goes:

Provenance                         No. of Items
New/Retail                                  59
Thrift                                            64
Consignment                               72
Swap/Gift                                     8

This, I feel good about. Over 70% of my clothes are pre-loved, which means that, although my environmental footprint is by no means small, it’s not quite as large as it would appear at first blush. I’d like to be able to say that the majority of my clothes have, in fact, been worn 30 or more times – if not by me, then by their previous owners – but I actually don’t think that’s true. Most of the clothes I thrift or buy from consignment (or eBay) come to me either brand new (some with tags) or very nearly new. A lot of clothes leave my closet (their second home, at the very least) only barely worn. It is entirely possible – and I hope it’s true – that they get their third lease on life in another closet. In my experience, however, the biggest driver of the rapid cycle of clothes production is not poor quality. Most clothes that end up in thrift stores are perfectly fine (fit excluded, which is a separate issue perhaps). Other factors are in play here, including the thrill (and relatively low personal cost) of novelty. I know that’s my weakness, for sure. And it’s a big reason why I’ve become an increasingly dedicated thrifter.

I want to hear your thoughts! Tell me if you’ve ever considered the #30Wears challenge (and question), and whether you think your closet would pass it.