Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a Walk on the Wild Side!

Fall Trend: Animal Prints

Animal Prints are a major trend for Fall 2009.
While these wild prints are always available, this season they are prominent, found on everything from dresses and jackets to clutches, and patterned tights.

I've always loved animal prints (in moderation of course) because while the prints don't go with anything, they tend to go with everything. Strange but true. If you have never ventured into the world of animal prints, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Never Go Head to Toe Animal Print. The effect will be more Halloween costume than fashionable. Add solids with your accessories and complimenting pieces.
Women's Apparel: Animal-print cowlneck dress: new arrivals Banana Republic

Don't mix your animal prints. There's no need to look like a walking zoo.

Keep the size of the print in proportion to your own size.
apt. 9 Leopard Scarf, Kohl's

As with any trend, accessories are a great way to participate without breaking the bank, not to mention that trendy accessories may have a longer life, stylishly speaking.

You'll find a menagerie of animal prints at every price point.

It's All About Good Service

One of the best shopping experiences I have had lately was at a kiosk in a Los Angeles mall. I was looking for a pashmina scarf in a specific shade of moss green. I had looked in just about every store that sold scarves to no avail when I stumbled onto the pashmina kiosk as I headed toward the parking lot. The lovely lady manning the business, (I'm sure that she was the owner) greeted me warmly and asked if I was looking for anything special. When I described the color, she immediately pulled out several different scarves in various shades of mossy green. She began to try the pashminas on me. Together we rejected two before finding just the shade for me, a shade slightly brighter that the one I'd envisioned. I remember her saying, "You see this shade compliments your skin tone, while the other lies flat." I was at the kiosk for fifteen to twenty minutes as she assisted me by showing me different colors and teaching me new ways to tie the scarves. There was never any pressure; in fact, the entire experience was very pleasant. She offered to give me a special price on two, but I honestly only needed the one. However, I'll probably be visiting her again around the holidays. She can help me with at least three different Christmas gifts. Spending a little extra time with me, and making me feel special has made me a loyal customer.

For me it's always been service that will bring me back to a store. I've walked out of stores that have been lacking in their customer service, especially when I'm there to spend money. Years ago, I visited a Victoria's Secret to purchase lingerie for my wedding. On a Tuesday afternoon, I was the only customer in a store where five employees were busily chatting amongst themselves as they unpacked new merchandise. Not one of them acknowledged my presence. I left and went into what was then Bullock's where I received some excellent one on one service, and probably spending more than I'd planned. It was years before I set foot in that Victoria's Secret again. Things were very different. I learned that the store had a new manager who made customer service a priority, and I've enjoyed shopping there ever since.

Good service should be a benefit of being a good customer. In this economy, it's difficult to part with hard-earned cash, and businesses should be grateful to get my business. There are so many retailers from which to choose. When I'm talking about good customer service, I'm really talking about the little things. A greeting as I enter a store is always nice but not expected, as I understand that a smaller staff may mean that employees are off assisting other customers. I enjoy working with employees that are warm and personable and take pride in their merchandise. I am always thankful when a store's staff is knowledgeable about fits and sizes. They are not afraid to make suggestions or to offer opinions. I'd rather be told that yes, my butt does look big in those jeans. This is usually said kindly. "Why don't you try our so and so fit? I think it may be more flattering for your body type." A little honesty is better than discovering I'd made a mistake, or worse, having someone else call the mistake to my attention. I love it when an employee will take the initiative to call another store to see if they have an item that out of stock. This extra effort will always keep me coming back.

Over the years, I've found several stores that consistently have, great customer service no matter where you are.

Banana Republic
Ann Taylor Loft
Nine West
Mac Cosmetics
The Gap
The Limited
Goodwill (some of the friendliest)

While good customer service is something that you always hope to experience often,
there's one more thing. Strive to be a good customer. How do you expect to be treated while shopping? With courteousness? In a warm friendly manner? With respect? If so, this is how you should treat hard working sales associates. Contrary to popular belief, many of these associates are earning an hourly wage, not a commission. A little common courtesy and respect may generate excellent service and the most positive shopping experiences.

Thrifter's Diary

Is it possible to find deals, steals, and quality merchandise at a thrift or charity store? Yes! Check out some of my recent finds.

MIA Fringed High Heeled Boots
Goodwill, Los Feliz CA
Condition: Very Good

I never would have considered buying these amazing boots in my real life, but my thrifting self could not resist them! I love the vintage look and can't wait to wear them with skinny jeans and vintage turquoise jewelry. I love the seventies vibe!

Coming soon... more fall finds and thrifting treasures!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Things I'm Really Liking

1. The Limited. Years ago The Limited was my favorite store. I could always find my wardrobe staples as well as items that were current, on trend and of course reasonably priced. I purchased my very first suit at The Limited. But as time went on my wants and needs changed and The Limited no longer catered to my personal style. That and the fact that so many Limited stores closed. The one nearest to me closed several years ago and I hadn't set foot in a Limited in years. I didn't even know if they still existed.

While visiting Chicago last year I found a Limited (the Oak Brook Mall store) and was pleasantly surprised. The store had been reinvented. There was energy, excellent displays and items that inspired me. I had originally gone into the store to kill time, but ended up shopping and purchasing several items. I especially liked their tops and accessories. Back home in LA, I have to travel thirty-five minutes to the closest Limited, but I don't mind. The customer service in the South Bay Galleria store is stellar! The associates are attentive and knowledgeable about their merchandise. They are not afraid to make suggestions, or to offer honest opinions. While their regular prices are good, The Limited runs great sales and specials.

2. Mac Cosmetics/Mac Stores Mac makes some of the best cosmetics available to consumers. I first was exposed to Mac through professional makeup artists when I was working in the industry. In my opinion MAC makes the best concealer, lipsticks, and glosses.

3. Nine West Shoes/
Nine West Stores.
For years Nine West as offered affordable well-made and fashionable shoes. They have good and frequent sales, and their online store is easy to maneuver. But for me, I love the service I receive at Nine West brick and mortar stores. Their associates are friendly and have great suggestions. They know their stock and are aware of nuances with different styles. (The last pair I bought was a half size smaller than what I usually wear. The associate had told me to try the smaller size first.) They have often helped me locate shoes in other stores and have arranged to have shoes delivered to me when they have been out of my size. Little things yes, but little things that are not done automatically by everyone. These little things keep me coming back.

Test Driving Gap 1969 Premium Jeans

Denim is a wardrobe staple for most American women. Personally I've amassed several pairs of jeans that I rotate depending on my destination or occasion, mood, and the rest of my outfit. I have a lot to choose from, but I do have a favorite pair. I love my Gap Classic Boot cut jeans. This is the style that has always worked best for my body. If I had to get rid of all but one pair of jeans, I'd keep the Gap Boot cuts. They are always comfortable, versatile, and affordable. When I heard that Gap was introducing Gap 1969 Premium Jeans this fall. I was curious. There were new fits and washes of previous styles, and they hailed the line as the best fitting premium jeans in America. That was a pretty big statement in my book , and I was going to have to try these jeans for myself.

Before I continue, let's discuss the term premium denim. My understanding is that premium jeans are made with better quality denim that the wearer can easily feel. The jeans are made with custom construction details and design touches. You pay for these touches, with many premium brands starting at $150.00 a pair. The new Gap Premium jeans start at around $60.00.

I test drove five different styles of the new Gap 1969 Premium Jeans, and here's what I found.
The denim feels amazing! It's soft and comfortable. The fits were very good. All five styles that I tried were perfect through the waist, hips and thighs.

There is style for everybody. My hands down favorite was the Perfect Boot ($69.50). They looked great as they lengthened the legs and lifted the bum. This style will flatter many body types. I especially like the wide waistband. A darker wash will certainly make these jeans appropriate for casual work environments.

A close second for me was the Always Skinny(69.50). Despite my own... generous booty, these jeans made my legs look long and slender. The rear view was also flattering. I found these jeans surprisingly comfortable.

All styles come in a variety of washes. Some styles are available in a distressed option. Many of the styles feature a low rise. Don't let this scare you. The low rise isn't very low. To me it felt comfortable.

A few years ago I purchased a pair of the Gap's Long and Lean Jeans. I prefer the previous incarnation to the new style. The older design made me look both long and lean while the new style (while fitting well) just hung on my body. But remember this was my body with its own specific quirks and idiosyncrasies You'll have to try these new styles for yourself.

If you are in the market for new jeans this season, I'd try the new Gap styles. While they're a little pricier than most Gap jeans of the past, they are certainly affordable and will become a staple of any woman's wardrobe.

Thrifter's Diary

Is it possible to find deals, steals, and quality merchandise at a thrift or charity store? Yes! Check out some of my recent finds.

Coach Handbag
Goodwill: Mid-Wilshire District, Los Angeles CA
Condition: New with tags.

Recently, while visiting an area Goodwill, I saw a small cute, black leather bag in the glass case at the front of the store. The hardware looked solid, sturdy, and familiar, so seeing the Coach logo was no surprise. Seeing the retail store's original tags was. This turned out to be one of Coach's Soho Hobo bags. $39.99 for a brand new bag that retails for around $200.00 was more than fair, especially for a classic bag that with proper care will bring me years of use.

Velvet Betsy Johnson Jacket
Goodwill, Los Feliz, CA
Condition: New

This long double-breasted jacket is very Rock-n-Roll. GW has allowed me to become trendy affordably!
Coming soon...Even More things I'm Liking, and of couse more of the Thrifter's Diary. Shop Smart!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shop Doc...I'm back!

A funny thing happened to me about a year ago. I was at one of my favorite malls looking at the new fall merchandise, something that I've always looked forward to doing since I was twelve. Instead of being inspired I found myself confused and frustrated. Not too many of the new clothes spoke to me, in fact I had the feeling that I'd seen many of them before. For the first time in years I found many items overpriced, a major concern for many in the economic environment. As I looked at several garments I wasn't impressed with the workmanship or fabrics. Where were the design details that had been an important part of some better lines of mass produced clothing?

Bored I returned home. I 'd always joked that shopping was my favorite activity and something in that I'd always excelled . If I was getting frustrated shopping, I had the feeling that many other women were as well. I decided that I was going to rethink my shopping habits and expand my options. You see I wanted to maintain my current style (that I've always described as modern American Classic), and reduce my clothing budget. I was going to make sure that I shopped my closet on a regular basis, and no longer looked to the major retailers as my only source for fashion. I've started to revisit stores from my past, which has provided for some very nice surprises. I've now added vintage boutiques and yes, even thrift stores to my regular shopping rounds. The added bonus here is that recycling is good for the environment.

The result of my past year of rethinking fashion, shopping, and my own personal style has been a revelation. I'm dressing much better for less and enjoying the process more than I have in years. I guess that shaking things up from time to time can be a very good thing.

This fall in Shop Doc I'll be exploring some of the things I've learned over the past several months. Keep an open mind, and please use what you can.

Thrifting: The One I Never, Ever Thought I'd Write.

Shopping at thrift and charity stores is a, great way to supplement your wardrobe. There. I said it, and I'm still in partial disbelief, but I'm standing by that statement, even while many pros in the fashion industry would bitterly disagree with me.

I know that many of you have been enjoying the joys of thrifting for years while I personally never saw the appeal. For me, thrifting is a brand new wonderful thing. Part of me wants to yell, "Why didn't anybody tell me about this?" Today I'll proudly admit that thrift and charity stores have become a regular part of my shopping routine.

Thrifting is fun, especially if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt. You never know what treasures you'll find. In addition, in this economy, just that fact that your dollars will go so much further in these stores makes the entire thrifting concept especially appealing.

So why am I only now jumping onto the thrifting bandwagon? I'd tried it a few times, years ago, and never had any luck. In high school, my sister would make frequent trips to an area thrift store and come out with vintage cashmere sweaters and great costume jewelry. Totally jealous I'd go in hopeful and come out sneezing from the dusty store with nothing to show for it. I found that the stores I visited were cluttered, disorganized, musty, and frankly depressing. I adopted the school of thinking that these stores were for people who couldn't afford anything better and saw no need to visit these stores myself.

Recently two friends urged me to try thrifting again. I refused them initially but finally agreed that I had nothing to lose and promised that I'd keep an open mind. At the least, we'd have a good lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. A week before this thrifting trip, NBC's Today Show aired a piece on thrifting's new popularity and ended the piece with a fashion show of items found in thrift stores. I remember that one model was wearing a pair of 7 For All Mankind Jeans. Was the media spinning thrifting to make their story more positive? I was still skeptical. Fine, I'd go but honestly, I never expected to find anything wearable.

Thrift and charity stores have changed for the better. I had expected to see piles of disorganized clothing. Instead, found a pleasant well-lit shopping environment. Items were hung on racks and organized by type and color. Most of these stores have dressing rooms and play upbeat music like any mall store. The stores I frequent are anything but depressing.

The merchandise itself runs the gamut from well worn to new and unused. (Surprise!) Every once in awhile you'll find a great vintage piece. I've learned that many organizations will sort out the good vintage pieces to sell to vintage dealers, but every once in awhile something slips through. Most stores have a glass case in the front where you'll find smaller and sometimes pricier items (I saw a pair of beautiful Valentino sling backs on a recent trip).

Is it possible to find bargains that might only be described as ridiculous and or amazing while thrifting? Yes! A year ago, I wouldn't have believed this myself, but I've found some great pieces. I've found some beautiful blazers and coats on some of my recent thrifting trips. I couldn't believe my luck when I found a brand new black leather messenger's bag from Bloomingdale's at a Goodwill for $7.99. I found a pair of long black Italian kid gloves at a charity shop for $3.00. The possibilities are endless. I've had some fantastic luck, and am no longer disappointed when I leave a store empty handed. There's always next time.

A new feature to the Shop Doc Blog will be my Thrifter's Diary where I'll highlight great finds, simply to prove that it is possible to find real bargains and sometimes unexpected treasures. Bragging rights are a benefit of thrifting should you chose to exercise them.

For those of you who are new to thrifting, here are a few things to keep in mind.

To thrift effectively give yourself plenty of time. Be patient and go through everything carefully.

Upon entering the store grab a cart or a basket (when available). Once you find an item that interest you, put it in your cart. There is so much. You don't want to lose, or worse have somebody pick something up that may have been perfect for you.

Once you find an item that you like, examine it carefully. Look for flaws. While a button or a rip on a seam can be an easy fix, a tear across the front of the garment cannot. Look for stains, discolorations, insect holes, and don't forget to check for odors. Smoke, for example, lingers forever.

Wear things that are easy to slip on and off as you would for any shopping trip. If you plan to shop for shoes, bring footies.

Once you've purchased an item, have it cleaned immediately. This can mean dry cleaning, or hand and machine washing. While many places will clean their merchandise before it goes on the selling floor, you don't know how long it has been there or how many people have tried items on before you. You'll also want to do this to avoid any insect problems.

The world's best bargain is worthless if you're not going to use it. Know when to just say no.

Make that that an item fits. Really fits. Sorry. There is no way that your size 8 foot is going to fit into the size 6 Valentino sling backs. Leave them be.

See the possibilities. A trip to the tailor could make a so-so piece spectacular. Minor alterations like shoulder pad removal, hemming, moving buttons or nipping in at the waist can make all the difference in the world. However, don't let a huge tailoring job offset the bargain. In this case it's better to leave the item there.

Sometimes you'll leave empty handed. Accept this possibility.

Have Fun!

Am I suggesting doing all of your shopping at thrift stores? No. Nevertheless, don't be afraid to supplement your clothing and accessories wardrobes here. A good discriminating eye can reveal hidden treasures, and certainly stretch your wardrobe dollars. Good Luck!

Thrifter's Diary

Can you really find bargains, deals, and steals at a thrift store? Yes. Remember that patience, persistence and a good eye are necessary to sift through the large amount of merchandise. I've done well in the short time I've been doing this. Here are some of my recent finds.

Cashmere Overcoat
(Vintage 1960's/early1970's)
Goodwill, Los Feliz CA
Condition: Excellent
It's evident that this coat's previous owner took excellent care of this beautiful coat. Every button is intact and the lining is immaculate.

This coat's classic A-Line styling and neutral camel color will insure years of wear to come. frankly I can't wait for winter.

Silk Batik Print Scarf
Discovery Shop
(Benefits the American Cancer Society)
Toluca Lake, CA
Condition: Very Good

7 For All Mankind Boot Cut Jeans
Out of the Closet Thrift Store
Hollywood , CA
Condition: Very Good

Sure I love the look and feel of premium denim, but I can't justify the premium price. So when I found this great pair of 7's, in my size, I had to try them on. They were a perfect fit though they seemed rather short. Upon closer inspection I saw that a four inch hem had been put into these jeans, something that I easily removed. The original manufacture’s hem was still in place. After a quick cold water wash and ironing, I wore them out that night with strappy sandals. (My husband loved the fit asking me if they were new. He actually noticed!) $16.99 + minimal effort=a great look and a great score!

Shop Doc: Coming soon...

Things I'm Really Liking Now, and the Thrifter's Diaries continue.