Gauze Applause (and random other things)

I mentioned in my last post that I might snap some shots of my latest Oh My Gauze purchases, and this past week I ended up with about an hour to spare wherein I could throw on some clothes and shoot a few outfits. So, here they are:

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It’s been unseasonably warm here this winter – it was over 80 degrees outside when I took these shots, and it was humid as hell. To avoid messing with lighting and dealing with the small space in my little office/studio, I ventured outside to use natural light, which made things move more quickly, but it had its drawbacks. The heat, first of all, meant I got sweaty and tired pretty early on and by the third outfit change I was pretty much over it. And, as usual, my ability to take decent shots out of doors is still low, and as I tend to do I chose to shoot at the worst time of day (around 1 PM). The light wasn’t TOO much of problem this time, because it was overcast, but it sure would have helped both the light AND the heat situation if I’d thought to take pictures earlier. Anyway, the only thing Oh My Gauze in this leap shot is the skirt – it’s the Mahi skirt I showed a screenshot of last time. Obviously you can’t see it well here, but the shots I took just to show off the skirt were terrible so I didn’t edit any of them. Here’s another screen grab of the real thing (it’s better than the last picture I showed, I think):

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The gathers at the side are a nice touch and as with all of OMG’s clothing, it’s well-made and very attractive on. I’m wearing it with one of many Free People items I’ve bought lately; there was time when FP had terrible sales (10% off orders over $300, crap like that) and so my purchases were fairly restrained. But in the past year, they’ve really upped their sale game, and I’ve gotten some nice deals recently. Unfortunately, my favorite thing to do in the morning while I sip my coffee is peruse the FP online store on my iPad, and damned if they don’t keep putting things on sale that I really want for a good price. I’m not a huge fan of stripes at all, or collars for that matter, but the panel of multi-patchwork-floral cutting through at the middle really sold me. Also, it is made of the softest material that’s really comfy, and the sleeves are overly long, which I happen to like. The shoes are my Ugg hightops that are lined with sheepskin; they were a bit pricey and I waffled on buying them for several weeks before taking the plunge, and I’m glad I did. They’re really comfy, and I’ve been wearing the hell out of them. Hard to do when it’s 85 degrees outside, but I finally  just started wearing my winter shit even though it wasn’t cold enough for any of it. I bought winter shoes and I’m going to wear them, dammit.

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You know, there was about a ten-minute period of time when I was outside when the damn sun peeked out of the clouds, and it was when I was taking these shots. So, the color is blown out and overall it’s just a meh picture, but I did like the flow of the dress. In fact I had a hard time choosing which one to process because this dress makes some great shapes when it’s flung about. When it’s not being flung about, however, it looks like a big sack on me. In fact, when I was taking these pictures I had the tags stuck into the sleeve because I figured I would return it – after seeing the pics, though, and liking the way it flowed, I decided to keep it. This may have been a mistake, because it really is way too big for me, and it was $93, but I figure I can either give it to my mom (she is a sucker for big, flowy clothes just like I am) or use it as a cover up. And yes, I did manage to take all these shots without falling in the pool. I actually tried to orchestrate a levitation shot here, but when i went to edit the shots it just didn’t come together.

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This is called the Alex dress, even though I’ll probably wear it mostly as a tunic. The color looks lavender here, but it’s actually a very soft gray called Ash. While I love this, it may be a smidge too big on me; I’ll wear it around for awhile and see how I feel about it, but I may end up getting it altered a bit. On several of these new tops the neckline on me was very wide and tended to fall off one shoulder. I put a cami on underneath them all for the shoot, but I’m picky about such things and in a lot of cases it kind of ruined the look. i did order a few interesting cami tops recently that I haven’ t got in yet – with some detail at the neckline like lace or a laser-cut pattern – but I don’t have them in yet to see if they will work better showing up top than a plain cami does. Anyway, I love the hemline of this and the big unique pocket on one side; I also really love the ruched sleeves even though, again, i think they are a little wide on my skinny-ass arms.

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One reason I don’t feel like these shots turned out looking as nice as I wanted was that I used my wide-angle lens, which tends to flatten things out a bit. I used it both because I was still working in some tight places and needed to be able to zoom out (our pool takes up a lot of space in our backyard) but mostly because I wanted to take the opportunity to do some leaping shots since I haven’t done  them in awhile, and the 17-40mm works best for those. Still, I should have just used my 50mm for the clothing shots and switched to the 17-40 for the jumping ones – I was just too lazy to bother. Moving on.

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Ooooh, now this top I love. On the website it looks interesting, but not nearly as pretty as it in in person, and that color is a new one called “blonde” that on the site looks much more beige/tan. I took a chance on the color anyway, because I really was curious about it, and I’m glad I did because in reality, the blonde is a lovely soft yellow that goes great with all  the new colors I tried. It also fits perfectly on me and the arm holes aren’t too big – usually a problem for me. The pants are called the Polo pant, and I bought two pair of these because I just love them. This is the Flamingo color here. Oh, and I had to bust out my new Louis for a few shots, of course. I am in love with that bag!

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That skirt is another Free People steal; I think I paid maybe $30 for it at the store and was flabbergasted at how cheap it was for how nicely it’s made. It’s fully lined, not that mini-liner crap that barely covers your butt and all the stores seemed to be pushing now. I do NOT like my legs to be showing through the material of my skirt; it’s not that I’m a prude, I just think it ruins the look of the skirt. Anyway, I paired this with a newbie from OMG called the Kitty blouse. This is one is also in the Ash color, and it’s much better represented here than in the previous photo. I’ve learned that with OMG tops only certain cuts suit me; in general staying shorter is better than going really long (although obviously I make exceptions) and avoiding tops with the sharkbite shape (shorter in the middle and longer on the sides) is best because it’s a cut that’s really overwhelming on me, and makes my already-long torso look longer and my already-short legs look shorter. That said, if I do get a top that isn’t tunic-length, I also tend to avoid tops that are cut to fit narrow, because on me they are still much too big and even altering them doesn’t help with that. If the top, like this one, is meant to be loose but isn’t too long, though, I’ve found it will work for me.

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Last one – and oh MAN was I hot, sweaty, and grouchy by the time I took this photo  (remember, in each outfit after I took some normal shots to show the clothes, I then did some leaping shots)! The top is called the Stingray blouse, and as you can see the neckline is REALLY wide. I don’t like the cami I put underneath it as it distracts a lot from the blouse,  but like I said, I’m working on it. The pants are another pair of the Polo in Ash (the top is in Flamingo).

That’s everything I bought from OMG this last round, but wouldn’t you know in looking on the website while writing this post to be sure I named things properly, I now see several more new styles I haven’t tried yet and of course I want to buy a few of them. I also see two more new colors – Washed Black and Washed Blueberry – that of course I want to try as well. So, you may see a few more new things on the blog soon. “Washed,” by the way, means “subtly tie-dyed” in OMG-speak. I have a sleeveless top in the Washed Reef color already; it’s not my favorite effect but the Washed Black looks pretty awesome.

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I intended to shoot some of my Free People stuff, too, but it just got too hot to do so (it’s about 80 degrees here right now, by the way, and when I wake up in the morning it will be about 35. Welcome to Texas). It’s mostly been really cute and comfy tee shirts, but I did finally give in and snag this one dress I agonized over for a week or two (well, not really agonized over, but you get the idea). Free People is a tricky store; while they have a lot of awesome things, sometimes their materials aren’t the best and can be quite flimsy, and they tend to throw in some little detail that rules it out for me, like a really cute top that’s backless (which is a no-go for me) or a great dress that utilizes teeny tiny shell buttons all the way up the damn back (who in the world are these women who can get someone else to button them into their clothes when wearing this stuff? Because there’s no way you can do it yourself). In the case of tee shirts, I can buy an extra-small and I know I’m fine (in part because FR tends to run a little large on me) but dresses are another matter. So, I waffled because it was a dress, and also because in the pictures on the site the fabric looked like it might be really thin and transparent (FP does that a LOT). I decided to give it a go in the end, because I just couldn’t get it out of my head no matter how hard I tried, and I am so glad I did because it’s GORGEOUS. I don’t have any photos to show you, but here’s a screenshot I snagged to give you the idea (I couldn’t fit the entire model into the screenshot, sorry):

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FP makes several different styles of henley dress (this one is called the Wildflower Maxi), and I’ve always wanted to try one, but the generally narrow cut of them through the hips and thighs has made me hold off. This one, though has a looser fit as you can see, and I really loved the panels sewn into the skirt to make it flow better. And again, the arms are super-long, which I really like for some reason (not sure why, I don’t have overly long arms, I just like the look of too-long sleeves. I’m a long sleeve gal overall, really, and there isn’t much in the world of fashion I don’t think would look better if it had long sleeves! But I digress). It’s long, but even though it touches the floor on me I still don’t think it will need hemming, and I was happy to see that the fabric was sturdy and not as transparent as I feared it might be; I will still wear a slip under it because I always do, but in reality one probably isn’t needed. I also got another Stitch Fix box in and only kept one item from it which was – you guessed it – a Free People sweater! (Speaking of Stitch Fix, funny story I came across here – SF sent a woman a pair of shorts in her Fix with a Nordstrom Rack tag attached to it along with the price, which was about $45 cheaper than what Stitch Fix charged her. LOL. I think the kerfuffle was overblown, IMHO, but it made for interesting reading nonetheless).

Anyway, so there’s my post about clothes. Happy week before Christmas, everyone! At least when I wake up tomorrow it will finally be cold!

 

Stitch Fix Quick Pics: May

How long have I been using Stitch Fix now? I think it’s been about a year. At first, I went back and forth over keeping my service or cancelling it, but they’ve really been sending me some great stuff the past few months, and it’s become my primary way of buying clothes now since I don’t shop nearly as much as I used to (in stores, that is – let’s not kid ourselves I’ve stopped shopping completely).

While my room was set up for photos the other day when I took a bunch of macro florals (I’ll show those in a separate post later) I threw on some of the stuff I’ve gotten from them recently to share here. Keep in mind I didn’t edit these shots except to process them from RAW to JPEG, so they’re not up to my usual standard, but it seems fair to do them that way since it shows the clothes themselves in the closest representation to what they look IRL, rather than adding all my usual bells and whistles. My mug is also SOOC which bugs me a little, but hey, I am willing to suffer for you, people. Oh, and while I was at it, I put on some of my new wigs to change things up in the pics. So here we go.

First up is the Minna Crew Neck Top:

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Minna Crew Neck Top; Gap Authentic Boyfriend jeans; Seville by Noriko wig in Banana Split-LR

The shirt is more orange than it came out in the photo; it’s a true orange and white print, not red-orange. As with pretty much everything SF sends me, I took this out of the box and thought oh HAIL no and started to shove it back in there, but then remembered that I needed to try everything on since those nice people went to all the trouble of packing this stuff up for me and I should least put it on once before casting it off the island. Besides which, I never like anything SF sends me right out of the box, but usually find that I do once I get it on – and this top was another example of that phenomenon. The solid orange sleeves and shirttail are a stretchy jersey knit, which you know I am always a sucker for, and the printed front and back panel are some sort of silky polyester – which usually bugs me as I don’t find it comfortable, but it worked OK here since it was just the bodice and not the whole top. I got it in an extra small, so it was a touch tight in the armpit and chest areas, but not so much that it wasn’t wearable (just a little difficult to get off and on) and it looked great. Put this one down into my ever-growing pile of Stuff I Got From Stitch Fix That I Never Would Have Bought On My Own But Really Like Anyway, because I’ve already worn this top twice and I just got it five days ago. Moving on.

Next up is the Analisse Anorak Jacket:

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Analisse Anorak Jacket; Under Skies shell (also from a Fix I got it a long time ago); Destroyed Wash Straight Leg jeans from Ann Taylor Loft; necklace from Free People; Oprah Wig by Mica for Jessica Lin in Color 6

This jacket came from April’s shipment, but since it was clean and hanging in my closet I decided to show it anyway (I also got a really cute crochet sweater from April’s box that was in the dry clean hamper, so I didn’t show that one). This is a very light rayon jacket that is easy to carry around and throw on when needed; my only complaint is it has all these various ties and zippers and snaps that get annoying and aren’t particularly useful. I never see the point in this MacGuyver-style clothing that can be added to or taken away or converted at random. I get that camping and hiking-style wear has need for all that stuff; but when it’s a faux-outdoors jacket like this one I feel like we’d all be better off if the manufacturer didn’t play like we’re ever going to take this thing camping and leave all the shenanigans alone. I actually cut the waist tie from this one (which could  be used to cinch the waist but I would never wear a jacket that way and the ties were so long it would just come untied every five seconds anyway) and am considering cutting out the one at the bottom because it’s long also and is always banging around my knees – and again, why do I need to cinch the bottom of the jacket, exactly? Exactly. Aside from that ramble, this is nice and light and goes with everything. Love it.

Here’s two pieces put together – the Adam Crochet Detail Top and the Mea Lace Skirt:

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Adam Crochet Detail Top; Mea Lace Skirt; Lucky Brand Fairwayy Sandal (not a typo); Caitlyn wig by Rene of Paris in Coffee Latte

First of all, yes I am over-posing there which makes me look like I’ve twisted my body in some weird way, but whatever. The skirt may be lacy but it’s still casual in style and very comfortable, and an over-the-knee length which means I will actually wear it. I like to have at least a few items like this on-hand that can be dressed up on those very few occasions where I need to do so, but this can also be worn quite casually which is nice. The top was only kept because it goes nicely with the skirt; it’s cute enough but a bit fussy for me, and the cotton fabric isn’t soft or stretchy at all and requires (gasp) ironing, which to me is synonymous with dry-cleaning. It’s also pretty transparent, so although for the photos I didn’t require a cami underneath IRL I will – and there’s this lace panel in the back that hits right where my bra strap would show so that’s another reason a cami is needed. However, it is a cute top and it wasn’t too expensive, and I love me some white tops I can throw on with anything when in a hurry, so it stayed. The sleeves are also a nice touch with the elastic that gives a cute pouf to their 3/4 length.

Oooooh guys, I really love this next one – it’s the Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt:

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Char Geo Print Maxi Skirt; Sweater from Ann Taylor Loft; Braided Circle Scarf Necklace from Nordstrom; barely visible Dayna Point Flat from Free People; Amanda wig by Jon Renau

I got the skirt in my April shipment, and when I saw online that I was getting something called a “geo print” skirt I recoiled in horror. Not exactly my style. But the print is small, and the colors are lovely and spring-y (mint green, soft tangerine, navy blue and white) and it has enough of an A-line that I can actually wear this even though the material is clingy (jersey knit maxi skirts are usually a problem for me). I’ve worn the hell out of this since I got it, although when looking over my photos I realized that the point-toed flats I like to wear with it don’t look nearly as good as I thought they did, since the skirt’s so long all you see are these two little pointy witch feet poking out, and it’s odd. As Cher Horowitz says, always take a photo of your outfits, people, you’d be surprised what you find when you do.

Last but not least is a dress I almost didn’t keep, but my  husband commented that it was pretty, so I changed my mind. My face looked really goofy in this shot and I wasn’t willing to put out the effort it would have taken to photoshop a different head onto my body, so I just cut it off instead. Moving on – it’s the Briar Printed Maxi Dress:

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The color is also reading green here for some reason; the bodice is a true gray and the paisley print is far more green than the light blue it appears, sorryboutit.  The cut on this one is pretty narrow, but I guess my recent weight loss has been significant enough in the hip/thighs that I can actually pull this off. It is a jersey knit (score!) and super-comfortable, and this is another one I started wearing right away.

Now – here’s my one complaint about my recent shipments that I have to mention. Guess what else came in May’s box that I didn’t take photos of or keep? Say it with me people – FREAKING SKINNY JEANS. I have received a pair of skinny jeans at least three more times since begging Stitch Fix to quit sending them to me, and every time they do I have to send them back and miss out on the 25% discount. I am starting to think they are doing it on purpose just to mess with me. Once again I left comments online when checking out, repeating my request to stop receiving them, but so far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The ones they sent me were a color other than black at least, I’ll give them that after they sent black ones 2 or 3 shipments in a row, but the color was hardly unique – a light faded denim. Plus, they were $160, the most expensive item in my box by far. They fit nicely and were comfortable, but of course I sent those suckers back. So, once again no 25% discount for me since I couldn’t keep the entire Fix. Sigh.

All in all, though, a successful shipment. I continue to wear most of the pieces from SF regularly (except the fabulous jeans I got a year ago that are now way too big), and they’ve certainly been sending me fun boxes of stuff. So, the subscription continues. Now if I can just get them to STOP WITH THE SKINNY JEANS I’ll be all set.

Oh, and if you liked this review and want to sign up for the service, consider using this link so i get credit for it. Until next time!

Chopin Liszt

That title only makes sense in relation to an old friend I had back in college who was a piano teacher. On her refrigerator she kept a magnetic notepad which functioned as her grocery list, and it was titled “Chopin Liszt” instead of “Shopping List.” I’ve always thought that was clever, and every time I start to write a shopping post here I consider giving it the same title. So, I finally did it. Sorry, classical music lovers who stumble onto this page by mistake. Unless you want to read about eyebrows, purses, and Stitch Fix. Moving on.

It’s still Sunday when I’m writing this, so in my mind Spring Break hasn’t officially begun yet, but I’ve already taken 240 photos. As usual, give me a little time off and the camera starts flashing! But more on that later. It’s definitely worked out nicely that our Spring Break is a week behind almost all of the public school districts in Houston; usually having the week off is nice, but everything is so crowded with high school students some of the thrill is lessened. Doug and I were going to take advantage of the free week by going down to Kemah, a part of the city that usually gets packed when students are out of school, but considering last week’s little trip to the emergency room is probably going to cost us a couple thou, we decided to bow out of any major expenditures. Still, it’ll be fun to run around town all week and feel like the only person in the world who isn’t working. Good times.

For more fun, let’s talk about my eyebrows. For a few months now, I’ve been getting them tinted when I go in for threading (which I do about once a month). The tint fades pretty quickly, but it’s only another $10 or so, so I always figure why not. Now, I’m perfectly familiar with the fact that the day I get them tinted they’re pretty dark, but that they start to fade after the first face washing. So I’m not sure just what happened yesterday; if the technician really did put much more on than usual, or if the fact that I wore no other makeup yesterday (when I usually have a full face on) made my brows appear more, erm, dramatic than usual. And it’s not like she didn’t give me a mirror and show me how the brows looked before I went on my way, but what can I say – as always, I barely pay attention when in the salon because I’m in a hurry to get out of there (usually for lunch), so perhaps that’s what happened; or maybe it was because I didn’t have my glasses on when I looked at them, who knows. As it turned out, even after leaving the salon and getting lunch, stopping into a few shops, and hitting the grocery store on the way home, I still hadn’t given them a good glance. It wasn’t until I’d come home and gotten settled that I looked in the mirror, and saw this:

Photo Mar 14, 4 05 04 PM

Yep, that was me on Saturday, walking around, gettin my Groucho Marx on. I swear I’ve never noticed them looking quite this painted on before, but as I said, it could have been my lack of other eye makeup that made this happen? Either that, or the tech just went overboard. It’s also nice that I had my hair all pulled back like that, to really allow everyone a good look at my freakishness. Fortunately, by Sunday morning, things were looking a little more normal:

Photo Mar 15, 11 53 07 AM
Still no makeup hence the filter

But I definitely need to remember in the future to go straight home after a brow tint, or at least keep my hair down. Moving on.

Now, shopping! First I’ll share a few quick Stitch Fix shots from my March box. They sent some nice stuff, but I only ended up keeping one thing as the others were all near misses. There’s three SF items in this first shot:

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The cardigan is called the Vivianna Open-Draped Knit Cardigan , and it’s the only piece I kept. I need another long cardigan like I need a kick in the throat, but this one was light and cute and comfy so I couldn’t resist. The coral top is called the Micah Embroidered Bib Top, and it was SO almost a keeper; it’s a nice, light jersey-type material and the fit was loose but not too big. However, coral is a horrible color on me (in spite of how nice it might look here – THANKS PHOTOSHOP) and as much I liked the cut and feel of this I knew it would end up being given to my best friend who looks amazing in this color after it hung in my closet for six months without being worn. So bye. And then – sigh – we have the Anita Skinny Pant in, of course, black. I believe this is the third pair of black skinny pants Stitch Fix has sent me, and I’ve yet to buy any of them as well as giving feedback on each pair that I do not need any more black skinny pants. These weren’t a jean and were not quite a legging, so they were nice, but again, just don’t need them, plus they were a size 26 which, as hard as it is for me to accept this, is too big for me now. Even in skinny pants. Crazy. Back they went.

Also – I wish you could better see the shoes I’m wearing here. These are from Free People and are by Jeffrey Campbell; they’re a pointy-toed flat slide called the Dayna Point Flat, and they are awesome. I bought them in a brown snakeskin back in October when they were full price (they no longer sell them, just have taupe and black now), but they were hella uncomfortable, so I stuck them in my closet and forgot about them since it turned cold right after that and I went deep into Ugg mode for the winter. I never did want to send them back because I knew if I could get them broken in I’d wear them forever – they have just the right amount of dressiness to be worn with nicer clothes, but are still casual enough for everything else I wear. A few weeks ago I pulled out the snakeskin ones and wore them around the house for several days, as well as putting some moleskin inside to make the fairly stiff material feel softer, and lo and behold I eventually wore them down. They almost immediately became my favorite shoes, so when FP put the black ones on sale I snatched them up, even though they’re suede and I’d like them much better in plain leather. I don’t think there’s anywhere else you can get these, so if you like them, go snatch them up now, because they’re marked down to $49 and selling out fast. In fact, I am going back to get the taupe ones now…yep, just bought ’em.

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Sadly, no more snake print

Annnnnd now, let’s get ready for a big HELL NO from Stitch Fix:

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I couldn’t even take this shirt seriously enough to take a decent picture

This is called the Marietta Chambray Top, and it’s one of those tops that has plenty of photographs on the internet, with most women (at least the ones posting pictures) liking it. I knew, however, just from seeing the pics online that I was going to hate it. Oxford-style tops are very difficult for me to wear. I don’t know what it is about them that doesn’t work on me; maybe it’s the formality of them more than the fit? Anyway, I don’t like the cut and that silly fading in the middle (oh, and that’s not a pocket you see there, it’s the imprint of a pocket) makes me think Hee Haw (does anyone else remember that show?). Hee Haw Hell Naw! Back it goes.

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This falls into the “meh” department, so it went back also. Again – black, why so much black, Stitch Fix? It bores me. And it’s another jersey-knit maxi dress of the sort I’ve bought many times before and ended up getting bored with pretty quickly. This one in particular is called the Jessie Basket Weave Detail Jersey Maxi Dress (not very catchy, is it) and it’s by a label called Gilli that I’ve worn before (my poor abandoned ModCloth sells a lot of Gilli dresses). All the Gillis I’ve owned have been cute, and comfy, until the second or third washing when they start pilling and looking worn out. So no on this one for me this time, too, Stitch Fix. But thanks for the cardigan. Seriously though, this isn’t a bad Fix, and sending most of it back had more to do with not needing anything new than it did with being disappointed in what I received. So we’ll see what next month brings. And now: purses!

LVcollection

When I bought my first Vuitton back in November and quickly became obsessed with the bags, there were a few things I knew I wanted to add to my little collection: as far as purse styles, I knew I wanted an Alma (the bottom one) and a Speedy (third up to the right, below the checkerboard bag with the pom tassel), and as far as different lines besides the monogram print I knew wanted a Damier Ebene (more photos of that one here) and something from the Epi Leather line (the ivory one). The denim and the little mini-Ellipse got snatched up while looking for the other things, since they were good deals. So happily, I have now found all of what I wanted, and don’t feel the need for anything else from LV right now. Not that I don’t still enjoy looking, but brand-new items are out of my price range (although OMG the Spring and Summer line looks AMAZING. Can’t wait until I can buy some of it used in, say, ten years) so my online shopping mostly involves finding good deals on used sites rather than breaking the bank on new stuff. Although…

Louis Vuitton, Ready to Wear Spring Summer 2015 Collection in Paris
Anybody care to loan me three grand?

Oh, and those two little purse tassels on the ivory and checkerboard bag are from Banana Republic; Vuitton makes bag charms that cost up to $500 used, but the Banana ones are $40 which is much more reasonable, and they are real leather. Yes, I’ve even begun decorating my handbags. I’m in deep, people.

So deep that even though I’m all caught up on LV, I’ve also gotten obsessed with an older bag from Fendi that was, apparently, all the rage about ten years ago. Seriously, type “Fendi Spy Bag” into Google images and check out every single female celeb imaginable carrying them around, oh, 2004-2007 or so. I never had any idea, of course, because the bags retailed for well over $1000 so there was no way they would have ever crossed my path, but now that they’ve been discontinued for several years they can be found on the resale sites I frequent, and there are loads of old posts singing the bag’s praises over on the Purse Forum where I’m now a member.

victoria-beckham-and-fendi-spy-bag-gallery
I’d love to find one in this color

In fact, it was on the forum where  I first stumbled across a post or two about them, and at first I thought they were hideous but soon they grew on me; they do have everything I love about a bag – they are huge, and they are slouchy, and those woven handles are gorgeous – and I decided I’d like to own one. Sadly, I did not notice when first reading the forum posts that they were all years old, so when I went searching for more information I was surprised to find they were no longer being sold. This means they re-sell for more than I am comfortable spending, but I’ve been watching a few closely since December as they’ve slowly gotten marked down ever further over at Fashionphile (I’ve also been bummed to watch a few disappear that I was really wanting to buy and waiting for further discounts, because someone else was wiling to spend more scratch than I – grrr). There was one that hit a price I was willing to spend, but at first I was still unsure if I should pull the trigger, because even for a Spy bag, it’s pretty unusual.

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This one was a limited edition Spy, and even though it looks a little freaky, it was pretty exclusive. The Fendi Moncler Spy was released for Christmas in 2006 and was only on sale for three months, at a few exclusive stores. Only 500 of them were made in the US, and well, now I own one of them! Most people hated these when they came out; they were made in collaboration with an uber-expensive line of ski wear called, of course, Moncler, and yes, it is made of the same down-filled nylon as the ritzy ski-wear label’s winter gear. It came in red, green, and black (I would have loved to find a red one) and retailed for around $2100, and most people thought Fendi was insane to charge so much for something so, well, ugly (apparently Paris Hilton got a red one, dammit, as did Ashlee Simpson. I still want one in that color. I’m sure they’ve both given theirs to their dogs by now to use as pet beds too, or something). I was unsure about getting this one, but when the price went down to $550, and under the influence of all the exclusivity and limited-edition-ness hype, I decided to give it a try. And – I freaking love it! It’s not much of a spring/summer bag, but the best thing I can say about it is that last weekend when I got so sick and had to go to the hospital, it was very cold and raining here, and I took my Moncler Spy with me and cuddled it the whole time I was in the ER as if it were a stuffed animal, or my favorite blanket, and I swear to you it made me feel better. It was so cozy and soft and warm, and it withstood the awful weather without a single smudge or water stain, and it got loads of compliments and carried absolutely everything. And also, there is a reason these bags were named the “Spy” – secret compartments!

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The top of the bag is open, without zippers or clasps, but there is a large “flap” that folds over the top and essentially keeps it closed (see the top left picture). The cool thing is, that flap is actually a little mini-purse. It’s pretty deep, so open it up and you can fit quite a bit of stuff in there – I can put my ID holder, a little tube of hand lotion, my full set of keys, and a glasses cleaning cloth in mine (I think you’re supposed to put your makeup in it, but whatever). Then, hanging off the end of the mini-purse/flap closure is what Fendi called a “wand” – it looks kind of uselessly decorative, until you pop it open at the bottom and realize it’s hollow. The basic claim is that it’s for a tube of lipstick, but give me a break. Maybe a lip LINER would fit inside, but it’s way too narrow for ordinary lipstick of any kind. I honestly can’t figure out any way to use this feature, but hey! Secret compartment!

I think you know where this is headed. Yep. I have two more Spys on layaway over at Fashionphile – a brown Nappa leather and a metallic gold (the brown one I just paid off on Sunday and should have in my possession by the end of the week). But I swear after that I’m done. I think. I’m pretty obsessed with these babies right now, but, they are pretty HUGE bags, so there’s only so many I have room to own. Although, if another gorgeous teal green Spy like the one I missed out on when someone else bought it shows up over there, I may have to grab it too…Moving on:

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…to the last Fendi I own, which I actually bought quite awhile ago. It was listed on eBay in December, and the photos in the ad were horrible, so it had not sold even though the seller had re-listed it several times. She had a “best offer” option on the current auction, so I thought, what the hell, and sent a real low-ball offer ($180), which she accepted. Even though it’s quite used, I was pleased to see it looked much better in person than the seller’s online photos, and it still looks great to carry around – plus I don’t have to worry too much about it. It’s another from the Spy line; Fendi came out with many variations and sizes designed along the same lines as the original but without the massive size or any bells and whistles. So, no secret compartments in this one, but I love the Zucca print and those woven handles  get me every time. It’s my favorite feature of these bags. And notice how nicely those handles have held up over the years; the sign of a well-made handbag for sure.

Ok seriously, people, if you don’t want to go out and buy something by the end of this post, you have a self-control problem (namely, way too much of it). I hit y’all up with a lot of shopping in this post (I didn’t even get to discuss my excitement over a new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race or the Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul), so I promise the next one will be strictly photos. Happy Monday suckers – I’m on break! And probably still sleeping!

Stitch Fix Quick Pix (and a new Fashionphile bag)

When I say ‘quick pix,’ I mean it, and they are also pretty crappy, but Stitch Fix and I have come to understand each other better in the past few months, so I wanted to share a few of the nice things they’ve sent me. They’re all tops, because I guess when I told them I was sick to death of skinny jeans and did not need them to send me anymore, they ran out of ideas and quit sending me bottoms altogether – probably a good thing since I’ve apparently lost more weight in the past month and am still having to buy all new pants (and even sweatpants because I finally could not take them falling down anymore) and wouldn’t be able to wear any new ones they might have sent me anyway. I’m dreading the weather getting warmer and discovering that all that cool Free People stuff I bought back in the summer and fall no longer fits me, but I can always make a big old trip to the tailor I guess. Moving on.

Stitch Fix has, however, sent me several great tops I’ve kept (and one nice skirt I gave to a friend because sending it back would have brought my total to the same amount the full Fix was if I kept it and took the extra discount). Whenever I know a Fix is coming, I go to the website and look at what’s headed my way; sometimes I can find photos of it from other people’s reviews online, and sometimes not – but most of the tops I was able to find in these last few shipments I did not think I would like based on what I saw. Even when taking them out of the box I was not impressed, but when trying them on they really worked for me. I was not wearing makeup when I took these pics, so in most of them I took my head out of the equation. There were a few where I didn’t look TOO awful, so I kept my head on. But still, no makeup, so yeah. Not up to my usual standard. But I wanted to share a few since some of them didn’t have much online representation and other people may be searching for them like I was. So here we go – keep in mind that these did not all come in the same Fix, by the way. You only get five items per shipment, and these tops represent most of what I’ve kept out of the last three I’ve received (a few things weren’t clean when I took the pics, so they’re not being shown).

First up is the Evolution by Cyrus Lonnie Coated Metallic Sweater (hey, I don’t make up these long-ass names, I just repeat them):

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While I wouldn’t call this sweater comfortable, for how it felt when I took it out of the box it was far more wearable than I thought it would be, so perhaps low expectations made it acceptable. In other words, it isn’t uncomfortable, but it’s not my usual level of cotton/jersey knit softness. In fact, my first thought after touching it was that it felt, and looked, like a car floor mat, but when worn it’s pretty snazzy and unique. The fit one me is very good, even though here it looks a little schlumpy (guess I should have bothered to put on a bra before I took this shot. Oh well). Anyway, I loved it, even though I still don’t know what color it is (I believe the actual stated color on the receipt was just “metallic”).

Up next is the Janine Colorblock Open Cardigan and the Beau Fringe Infinity Scarf:

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There are items of clothing that scream “teacher” to me, and long open ruffly cardigans are one of them. So once again, I wasn’t sure I was going to like this one until I put it on. It’s actually quite cute and a nice fit, and it isn’t overly heavy so it can be worn in mild winters like we usually have. It’s not too long, which makes something this bulky more flattering, but the sleeves are a bit overlong, which I happen to love. The scarf is another crochet scarf. I didn’t need another one, but it was only about $30 so I kept it.

Then there’s my Alessandro Floral Print Silk Blouse:

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Starting to sound like a broken record here, but yeah, I saw this online (albeit in another color) and thought I was going to hate it, blah blah blah. I tried it on and loved it. So much so that I was OK paying over $100 for it. The tunic style is about the only type of “blouse” I will wear – everything else is too fussy and/or formal for me – and Stitch Fix has sent me several that I really like. The print and color on this one are just divine, even though coral isn’t a color I wear well at all. It’s primarily white, so I can pull this off. Gorgeous.

The improperly-named Placer Knit Poncho is up next:

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It’s fab, but it’s NOT a poncho.

This was the one I saw online and thought, oh yuk, Stitch Fix, don’t waste the postage sending me this. But it’s actually versatile and cute and fits like a dream. It’s quite long, but tapered, which usually is a disaster on my pear shape but there’s enough room and stretch to the material that it works perfectly; I can keep my bum covered without looking bulky at all. The dolman sleeves and the cowl neck are well-done too – full without being overly big (cowl necks are usually a disaster on me because of my small shoulders and chest; every time I lean over I’m flashing the world and not interested in putting a camisole on underneath a COWL NECK for modesty’s sake). The color isn’t the best on me, but who cares, this top is fabulous. Looks great with black skinny jeans (I don’t need anymore, remember? Cause I already have a ton) and my tall boots. One of my faves from my recent shipments, in case you can’t tell.

And here’s the Aleah Heathered V-Neck Dolman Top:

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This one’s pretty funny, because I only kept it due to the comfort level, thinking it didn’t look good on me but I would wear the hell out of it around the house. It does suffer from the wide v-neck/flashing-everyone-my-minimal-goods syndrome I mentioned in the previous cowl neck discussion, but putting a tank underneath it isn’t as annoying as I thought it would be, and although I did wear it around the house with yoga pants for a few days, it eventually ended up in my work rotation, and now it’s a favorite top. Great color and so comfortable it’s crazy. The long tapered bottom doesn’t bug me near as much as I thought it would; my larger-than-the-rest-of-me hips tend to make tops that taper like this unflattering, but hell, I have lost ten pounds so I guess that’s why this one looks fine (I keep forgetting that clothes are going to fit me differently at 120 than they did at 130).

Wrapping it up with the Daniel Rainn Lisbet Tie-Neck Blouse:

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Well what can I say about this one, except that once again this is one of those Stitch Fix items I would have never, ever tried on if I saw it in a store. First of all, it gathers at the bottom, which I usually hate. It’s also very sheer, which I rarely like (and the little cami that came attached to it was a joke, BTW, and had to be snipped out so I could wear my own underneath). It’s also a LOT of pattern for me (in case you can’t tell, I’m not much of a print person IRL. I save that for the costume portraits). Oh, and it ties at the neck. It’s just fussy, at least to me, and I almost sent this one packing. But it is tunic-like, and it’s very boho, and a gal needs a least a few prints in her wardrobe here and there, and the occasional neck-tie isn’t going to kill me. It’s cute, so I kept it. But, here’s my warning – as I already mentioned, the cami that comes with it is just stupid. It’s attached lightly by a string at the shoulder, and I seriously could NOT get the top on at all when it was hanging off of it like that. Even if I’d liked the cami I would have had to snip it out to get it on; once I did that however I realized the thing was a cheap material and had no shape to it, so it sagged down and didn’t even begin to cover my bra. If you like the look of this one, try cutting the cami out before you stuff it back in the bag. It helps!

So let’s wrap up this shopping post with my latest acquisition from Fashionphile to add to my nice little Vuitton collection, which I am pretty satisfied with at this point and slowing down on growing. This one is called the Manosque PM in the Damier Ebene print, and it cost me a pretty penny (at least as far as I am concerned it was a lot; in the realm of Vuitton I guess it was a bargain). I love this print, but it has a high re-sale value, I think because it’s only been around since the 1990s, so super-old pieces aren’t out there to sell like the traditional Monogram is. It also must be in high demand, because  people easily pay over $1,000 for some of the DE bags used, which blows my mind a little still being new to all this. No, I did not pay nearly that much; I just don’t think I’d ever do that, although when utilizing layaway paying more can at least be tolerable to me.

But first up, Simon:

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As usual, he loves the boxes AND the bags that come in them, so I have to keep all of them hidden in a locked closet, even the one I’m using, otherwise he goes right inside. Sorry Simon, but I paid $695 for this bag and I’m not letting you use it as a cat toy.

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Close-up of the Damier Ebene print, which I love

By the way, in reading about this print while researching why it’s so much more expensive at re-sale, I learned that it’s actually the original print Vuitton made back in the day (which I am too lazy to go look up again, but I’m thinking late 1800s). Vuitton transitioned to the Monogram soon after, and I believe the re-introduction of it in the 90s was the first time it had been manufactured since. It’s been a big success, so I don’t see it going anywhere soon. And in a previous post, I showed the Damier Azure, which is the white and grey version of it.

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So there it is! It’s an odd shape, and I was quite uncertain what I was going to think of this one, but believe it or not at $695 this was one of the cheaper bags of it’s size in the DE print, and I love the little pocket on the side, so I decided to try it. Fashionphile has an excellent return policy (since they’re selling things that are already used, they have a more open mind about accepting returns) so I knew I could return it if it wasn’t to my liking. I admit that it’s smaller than I usually carry, but that’s not a bad thing to have, since my Neverfull is pretty huge and a bit bulky to carry around day-to-day. The triangle shape means I can’t fit a whole lot in it, because there’s not much room at the bottom of the bag, but when I carry a smaller purse like this (smaller for me at least) I don’t put much in it anyway, and carry a second, larger bag for all the stuff I for some reason believe I have to have with me at all times. Anyway. I actually think the size is perfect for the shape of this bag, and would not like it if it were the larger version, which is HUGE. Also, I learned my lesson earlier about buying bags labeled by Fashionphile as only in “fair” condition – this was listed as “very good” and quite lives up to that description. It has a few flaws, and the interior has some pen marks and wear (which I couldn’t care less about), but overall this thing is in fantastic shape.

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So, my collecting is winding down. I have one other bag I just paid off which should arrive Monday – I wanted something from their Epi leather line, and once again found one at a good price and used layaway to pay for it. There is a Fendi I’d also like to get, even though it’s completely out of style (the Spy bag, which was an It-Bag in the 2000s but whatever, I still want one) and then I’m pretty much good for now, unless a super-good deal comes along (I don’t always spend $695). Try as I might, I cannot get into the small leather goods Vuitton is so known for and most people go gaga over; wallets and key fobs and cosmetic cases don’t thrill me in the least, so I have hard time paying a lot for them. I know to some people it’s practically a violation to put a cheap wallet inside a Vuitton bag, but whatever. I don’t know those people anyway, and it would be much sillier to spend $500 on a wallet because I think I have to match it to my bag when I don’t really care. So I don’t see myself going too crazy overall. I don’t have a lot in the way of storage, and I hate keeping things around I’m not actually using, so I feel my little collection is more or less complete (once I get the Fendi Spy, which re-sells rather high so I’m still searching and waiting for that one) because all the pieces I have are different enough to serve various purposes, while the collection overall is small enough that I’ll actually be able to use all of them from time to time. That’s just the way I like it.

After a lovely few days in the mid-70s, another Arctic Blast is on its way, so it’s shaping up to be a cold, miserable week, at least weather-wise. Here’s hoping you stay warm with yours!

Bag Lady! Buying Online Consignment

I’ve bought a few more bags since I last posted about my Alma – well actually, I’d already bought them at the time , but I didn’t own them yet. There are a few online shops selling used designer goodies that offer a layaway option, and I used this to nab a few more Vuittons and spread out the payments a bit to fit it into my budget better.

I feel a little guilty sharing all these finds, because I know how it appears to a lot of people. Several designer bags in two months? Ridiculous! But I do have a monthly “play money” budget, and in order to buy some more bags and build up a little collection I simply eschewed my other, usual monthly purchases to buy these. So I really didn’t spend any more on my new bags than I do any other month, and spreading the payments out over time helped me to acquire them. That said, I don’t intend to keep doing it long-term, because I have limited storage as it is and don’t intend to buy things I am not going to use; I’ve already sold one bag I bought and ended up not liking and given two away (one to my best friend Candace, who really loved it and is using it like crazy, and another one I donated to our school to auction off in this year’s fundraiser). So, even though I know I haven’t spent any more money on these than I normally spend on other things, I’m going to avoid talking about actual prices in the posts so I don’t come across as obnoxious. But if you really want to know how much I paid for these, ask me in the comments and I’ll answer; I get why people would be curious to know how much these cost. I will say they all cost almost the exact same amount, because as much as I am obsessed with Vuitton right now, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to spend and I just can’t bring myself to go over that. Moving on.

All of these bags were purchased used, and with one exception came from the same online store – Fashionphile. There are a few other places I like to browse that also offer layaway, but Fashionphile’s policies are the most reasonable; 25% down and 60 days to pay off the item with a minimum payment of $50 each time. I can cancel the layaway at any time for a re-stocking fee of 10% of the item’s cost. I did change my mind on one layaway and request to cancel it; I received an email response within five minutes of making the request and the layaway was canceled, no questions asked (my fee in that case was about $28). I read up on the site a bit before my first purchase, and as with any store that generates a decent amount of traffic there are some negative reviews out there; but my personal experience so far has been great, so for now I’m quite happy with them.

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Shipping is fast and the bags arrive packaged nicely, as you can see (click the images to get a larger view). Fashionphile puts each item into its own dustbag, packs it up in plastic, then stuffs the box with paper so the bag doesn’t slip around. Very nice presentation all around; even if all that fancy paper waters down the store’s commitment to promoting a green lifestyle by recycling bags instead of buying new ones. But still – very nice, pretty packaging that makes it feel like you’ve bought something new. A far cry from the typical packaging you get on eBay, where purchased items are often stuck into flimsy, abused Amazon.com boxes and stuffed with old newspaper that smells like wet feet (if packed in anything at all).

Some of the messaging on the site, however, is confusing. For example, when reading about the store’s layaway policy, the site claims that there is no minimum required on layaway payments, yet when you go to make a payment you find there actually is a minimum of $50. And then, there’s this:

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The card on the left states that a buyer can return a bag for 70% of the purchase price after “wearing it and loving it” for up to 90 days. Yet the tag attached to the purse states that the item can’t be returned once it’s removed. So, does this mean I have to leave the tag on while I “wear and love” the bag for 90 days? Because that’s just stupid. I suspect what they mean is that I can return for a full refund with the tag still on, but will only get 70% of the purchase price back if I return the item without the tag, but I’m still not sure.

But enough of all that, let’s look at the bags (remember, click the photo for a larger view):

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After acquiring several pieces in the traditional Monogram canvas, I decided I wanted a few casual ones in a more relaxed material, since I am generally a dress-down kinda gal. The Speedy 30 on the left is a linen blend fabric (and came with the original dustbag – score!), while the one on the right is, obviously, denim. The denim one was an unexpected purchase, in that it’s not something I ever would have thought I’d like; if you described a denim purse to me it would sound horrible, but when this one showed up on the site I liked it right away. As always, I waited about a week before pulling the trigger, because sometimes I really like something when I first see it and then later change my mind (hence my one canceled layaway). But I still loved this one a week later, so I went for it. It’s heaver than I expected due to the flashy hardware, which I normally am not drawn to in bags and have never had, but other than that I’m still quite happy with it.

One lesson I’ve learned so far is to look out for the bag’s description. Both of the bags above were labeled in “good” (the denim) or “very good” (the linen) condition, and in my opinion they’re even better than I expected. Sure, the denim is faded, but it already has a faded look even when new, so I don’t mind, and the leather and zippers as well as the hardware are all shiny and nice. But the first bag I bought from them was in a condition the site described as “fair,” and I realized after owning it a few days that I wasn’t happy with the state of it. While the bags above don’t need any re-furbishing from me, and the other eBay bags like my Alma were easily revivable (if that’s a word), I disliked the condition of the leather on this one, and gave it to my friend eventually, because I knew I wasn’t going to be happy  with it in the long run (as I  mentioned already, she absolutely loves it, so it all worked out. And now she’s as obsessed with Vuitton as I am, so my evil plan is working…heh).

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The purse itself is pretty, but the leather really bugged me, and the interior wasn’t all that great either. It looks fine from a distance, but the handles were so worn out and dry I didn’t like they way felt any more than how they looked:

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You can see that I tried to treat the top handle, and in fact spent several days trying to get the leather into a condition I could like, but it just wouldn’t work. The leather on the corners was also in bad shape:

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Top top photos are the corners before I cleaned and conditioned them, and the bottom shots were taken after I did so. However, I still felt they looked a bit worn out and dingy overall, and obviously I couldn’t get that pen mark out either.

I do not think this bag was misrepresented on the site; rather, I think I overestimated my ability to spruce up a bag: I could not work the miracles on this one that I’d hoped for. Moving forward I decided to avoid any bag the site described as ‘fair,’ and to stick to the bags in better condition; I don’t want to risk getting another one that I don’t care for. While I’m getting good deals on these, they are still expensive enough that I’m not willing to risk it again.

Now – there’s one more. I spied this one on eBay when I was looking for bags in Vuitton’s Epi leather, which is something I want to add to my little haul. I stumbled across this St Tropez bag in an Epi leather color called Vanilla, and it was only $170. Plus, it appeared to be in very good condition, so even though it wasn’t the sort of bag I’d usually carry (in case you can’t tell already, I lean towards large, floppy, unstructured bags) I couldn’t pass it up. However, I think I am going to send out some photos and get some quotes from consignment shops about this one; there’s a chance I might get offered more for it than I paid, since it sells used anywhere from $380 to $600 online. It’s not very “me,” but it’s very pretty (not sure it photographs well, but trust me, in person it’s a lovely bag).

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As far as selling bags, I sold my first one to a site called Couture USA. They offered me a fair price for my Sac Plat and paid me the day they received it, so I have no complaints about them. I sent photos of the Sac to both Fashionphile and another site I can’t remember, but they both declined to buy it due to its age. I’m going to send the photos of the St. Tropez several places and see who gives me the best price, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

As far as shopping at these places, as I mentioned I like Fashionphile best, but Couture USA also has nice finds and a good layaway option (30% down instead of the 25% Fashionphile offers, but still decent). And, while Fashionphile only peddles the purses of high-end designers, Couture USA also re-sells contemporary designer bags like Coach, Dooney and Burke, and Tory Burch – for very good prices indeed (less than $100 in many instances). I ordered a used Gucci wallet from them quite some time ago, and was pleased with the overall transaction as well as the item I received.

I hope some of this was at least interesting…and by the way, I was in no way paid to write this post up and discuss these stores. As I think I’ve already made clear, I bought all this stuff with my own money, so there you go.

Bag Lady! Part Two – Sprucing Up a Vuitton Alma

OK, here comes another boring purse post again, readers beware! And by the way, you can all blame Beth Byrnes for all these purse posts. I emailed her and gave her the opportunity to talk me out of buying my first ever Louis Vuitton, but instead she told me to go for it. So it’s all her fault! 🙂

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I’ve been skulking around eBay and a few online consignment stores, looking for deals on designer bags. I’ve found a few that were a real steal (much less than, say, a new Dooney and Burke or Coach bag), but they have needed a little work. With one exception I’ve been good about picking up bags that are in decent shape already, so all they need is a little spiffing up – and I’m still working on the exception, which I may end up taking somewhere to get the professional treatment. I guess the upside of actually enjoying getting up every morning and sitting in front of the computer scrolling through eBay listings with a cup of tea is being the first to snatch up a good deal; the downside being carpal tunnel syndrome. And a lack of storage space. Moving on.

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I also took some arty-farty shots of the bag.

Anyway, one of my favorite shapes Louis Vuitton makes is the Alma bag, and in the Monogram canvas they are abundant on eBay – this one looked to be in nice shape except for the large water stain across the bottom, something I noticed a lot of Alma bags have anyway, since the bottom of the bag is vachetta leather, and the older models don’t have feet of any kind. So I figured, for the great price, I could deal with the water stain, and after I got it in I gave it a good cleaning. I got slightly more noticeable results than I did with the Papillon 26 I posted about awhile back, so here we go with the details! (By the way, as with my last bag repair post, I did not edit these photos except to add a little clarity and contrast. They are basically SOOC).

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Click on the photos to get a larger view

As you can see, the canvas on the bag was fine  – it’s durable as hell so that’s no surprise. In fact, I think LV’s coated canvas is one of those things that will survive a nuclear detonation, like cockroaches and styrofoam. Not sure how the company would feel about me saying that; I doubt they’d use it in an advertising campaign. Almas, apparently, are known for caving in and losing their shape a little bit, but I tend not to get too concerned about stuff like that. I buy bags to really use them, so if they look used, I’m cool with it, including if they lose shape a little. The leather at the base of the bag was the worst part, really; other than that I couldn’t find much wrong with it. It even still had the lock, although the key was long gone.

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Speaking of the lock, that’s how I got started – by working on the bag’s brass. I used Brasso applied with a q-tip to clean up the zipper and pulls, as well as the lock and all other hardware. It’s time consuming, but fun, because you get to see the most immediate results when the brass is really tarnished, as it was here. And by the way, I stumbled across a great tip for how to clean Brasso off the cloth part of the zipper if some of it gets on there and turns it white; another q-tip with Dawn dish soap on it will remove it.

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Wear gloves; the Brasso is messy. Also pictured is the Apple leather cleaner and conditioner I used.

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The zipper before and after.

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The lock and zipper pull before and after

After that was done, I used the Apple leather cleaner to clean all the leather areas. I used a soft towel that came with the kit to apply the cleaner and let it dry, then used another soft towel to apply conditioner. After the conditioner dried, I did my best to buff it out to get a little shine, but my  buffing skills are sub-par, so I didn’t get too much shine out of it. Could be the age of the leather and not my buffing skills, who knows.

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Shot of the handles, before and after. Not bad!

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Nothing too dramatic here – but the slight darkening of the leather caused by the cleaner and conditioner helped to conceal the water stains a bit.

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But check out those corners! Great improvement.

After all that was done, I used an organic baby wipe to clean the canvas, then a damp towel to wipe off the residue. And voila! My new and improved old bag:

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There were two little spots on the bag that looked like nail polish or paint, but the baby wipe and a little scrubbing got rid of it. Click on the photo if you want to see a larger view. 

I can honestly say that so far, this is my favorite bag, and it’s in part because I fixed it up myself so successfully. My Papillon really didn’t need any work, and the end results of my more recent acquisition remain to be seen, because it’s a real fixer-upper indeed. But this one was so simple from beginning to end – buying it was a snap, it was an excellent price, it was described and photographed properly in the auction so there were no surprises when I got it in the mail, and it cleaned up nicely. It’s also a great size, has just enough structure to give it shape but not so much that it’s overly stiff or formal (I do not like structured bags much at all), and even though it’s covered in Monogram it’s not as ostentatious as my big Neverfull MM appears to be (I’ve gotten some rather interesting reactions to that big old Monogram bag from members of my family, but we’ll address that some other time. Except to say – I think the Monogram canvas can be seen by others as too showy or obnoxious, especially when the bag is large, like the Neverfull is).

And for those of you that have known me awhile, look out – I think these vintage bags are becoming my new wigs, meaning, I’m getting obsessed with buying them, fixing them up, taking pictures of them, then sharing on my blog what I did with them. And no, even though these are designer bags, because they are all used I am not spending more on them than I did on all the wigs. If I start making videos about them, though, we know I’m done for!

Purse Flings

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Since buying my first Louis Vuitton as a Christmas present a few weeks ago, I’ve been on a bit of a binge. I’ve been scouring eBay for deals and snagging a few up here and there; I’m not out any huge amount of money on these items, and I’m starting to calm down a bit from the purse-shopping frenzy I was in for a week or so.

The reason I even mention this, though, is because a few of them need some refurbishing, and I decided to document the process Sunday. I’d spotted a ridiculously cheap LV Papillon 26 bag on eBay, and it was just too good a deal to pass up; it didn’t cost much and was in fairly good condition. I’d been reading up on how to care for and clean Vuitton bags since buying the first one, and had also run across instructions for how to clean up and repair an older bag that needs help. So Sunday afternoon I decided to try out these techniques on the little Papillon and see how it turned out (you can click the small photos to see them bigger).

Pap Leather B and A
A before-and-after shot of the leather handles. The one on the right has been cleaned; the one on the left has not.

With all my love of before-and-after transformation blog posts in mind, I photographed each step of the process, as well as taking some shots of the bag before I started, with the intention of writing a little instructional post about what I did to spruce it up. The entire time I was buffing and cleaning, I was certain this was going to be an interesting post and the improvement to the bag would be impressive – it definitely did look impressive to me as I was working on it. And what’s more, I actually enjoyed cleaning and polishing it up, which may be a sentence I’ve never uttered before in my life. It was fun to watch the brass grow shiny and the leather deepen.

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Before and after of the brass buckle and more leather. Unfortunately, I was not astute enough to realize I needed to photograph the same exact buckle, so this is a bit of false comparison.

But. When I uploaded and combed through the photos, I found that none of them captured the magical transformation I thought was taking place. I think there are two reasons for this: 1) I used my cheap camera because it’s lighter and easier to manipulate, but it doesn’t have near the color rendition or clarity of my 7D, and I think the subtle changes to the leather and the canvas didn’t translate.  And, 2) the bag actually was in pretty good shape to start with. I do have a second bag with more water damage to the bottom (the bag in the foreground in the group shot), so it may show a greater transformation that this one did. And, when I work on that one, I’ll be sure to use the 7D to photograph the process and write a proper “how to spruce up a Louis Vuitton bag” then.

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The zipper before cleaning is on the left, on the right is zipper after cleaning. To me, this was the most noticeable difference. Plus, it was fun – seeing the brass come to life right away was gratifying. 

There are other things I need to do differently next time, photographically. I made sure to take shots after every step, but I didn’t pay close attention to, say, which handle I photographed before buffing, to be sure I photographed the same handle after. And, when I got all the shots onto the computer, I actually couldn’t  recall what photos were taken at what stage, so it’s not possible for me to give much commentary about them. I took 139 photos and was unable to tell which shots were taken right after leather cleaning, for example, and which were taken after leather conditioning. Next time I try this, I’ll have to make notes along the way so I know where I was in the process when I took each shot.

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Before (left) and after (right) of the side of the bag – at least this time I photographed the same side for both shots! If you click on it I think you can see the subtle difference in cleanliness a bit. Also you can see that the piping looks more even in color. 

As far as what I did here: First I used Brasso brass cleaner, applying it to the brass on the bag with a Q-Tip. This led to a mid-day panic wherein I realized Simon had made off with one of my discarded, Brasso-drenched cotton swabs and I had to dash around the house trying to find him before he ate it and poisoned himself; since he is a cat, he knew I was looking for him which meant he made himself hard to find. In not too much time, though, he was discovered under the kitchen table, staring at the Q-Tip he’d obviously just been knocking around the floor. Cat crisis averted.

After the Brasso was buffed off, I used Apple Guard’s leather cleaner on the handles and straps, followed by Apple’s leather conditioner. While that was drying I used an organic makeup wipe to clean down the canvas, then used a damp rag to wipe that off (all of these suggestions I’ve read repeatedly online, so I feel OK trying them all out). After the leather dried, I buffed it a bit and was good to go. It took about two hours, partly because of all the stopping and photographing and chasing of cats.

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Almost no editing of these shots, BTW. Just some added contrast and sharpening. Wouldn’t be fair to snazz these up in photoshop when the purpose is to show the results of cleaning the bag.

The above, then, was the end result. Don’t be surprised if you can’t tell the difference between the before and after – but I promise you in real life it was a more dramatic reveal. After cleaning and conditioning the leather, supposedly, it takes a few days for the true effects of it to show, so I’ll see if in a day or two if the leather looks different or not. For now, it’s at least done, and I enjoyed the project. And since I did the work and took these damn pictures, well, I’m going to write a blog post and make you look at them even if they aren’t impressive.

One more week of vacation! Oh and by the way – I have password protected yesterday’s post, because I definitely do not want that to be seen by the relatives in question. If you want to know the password, email me and I’ll send it along.

 

Stitch Fix Glitch Fixed!

After finding my post about my last Stitch Fix fail, the company contacted me and apologized for sending me a shipment I didn’t like. Quite honestly, I was embarrassed – I actually didn’t tag that post or anything because I didn’t want it to be found by anyone other than my regular readers. Overall I still love the service and just wanted to bitch in my little corner of the blogosphere without getting noticed. But noticed I got, and not only did Stitch Fix apologize for the Fix, they shipped me out a new one the next week and waived the styling fee. I asked for none of this star treatment, and I must say it’s a testament to the company that they went so far beyond what I expected for simply getting some clothes in the mail I didn’t like – I wrote in my comment box on their website that I didn’t like the stuff they sent me, but I never would have dreamed of asking they accommodate me for it in anyway. It’s not like I had to keep any of it or anything. But without any prompting from me they did their best to make it right, so hats off to them for that, great customer service indeed.

I got the Fix Monday evening, but unfortunately Monday morning my father-in-law went back into the hospital so I did not have time to try the clothes on and pose for pictures. I debated waiting to write about my new Fix until I did have time, but since it looks the FIL is in for a long hospital stay I have no idea when that might be – so I took pictures of everything on the hangers like I did last time, and that’ll have to do. Sorry.

In short – I liked the items in this fix very much. Overall it was much more in line with the Fixes I usually receive, and although I was terrified that based on my complaint that the stuff they sent me in September was too cheap they’d stuff this box with super-pricey items I couldn’t afford, nothing here was out of my price range while still being better quality and a higher price point than the previous Fix. I liked everything, but didn’t keep it all for reasons I’ll explain as we go, so let’s get to the pictures.

SF1

Damn it all, wouldn’t you know I threw away the statement that listed the names of these items, so I’m going to have to go on memory for the ones I didn’t keep, which is a bummer because I can’t tag things so people find them if they’re looking for photos. Oh well. This dress is from Three Dots, which is a brand I like, and it is wonderful but the fit is all wrong for my body. Really clingy through the thighs where I run large, and then the fishtail effect is awful as a result. It’s very nice and sturdy even though it’s a jersey knit, and wouldn’t need a slip or anything under it to wear. The fit was just a big old NO, so back it went. The scarf I did keep – it’s called the Sutro Chunky Knit Infinity Scarf, a fitting description. I think infinity scarves are the coolest thing ever, and that big open weave is right up my alley. It was $34 and I loved it. Moving on.

SF2

I was torn about this skirt – surprisingly, it fit me well even though nothing about it should have worked. It’s a clingy fabric in a straight skirt, and those two things generally spell disaster for me. It’s a faux wrap, though, which I think gave it a little width in the waist and a slight pleating up top that added some material and kept it from being too clingy. I don’t remember what it was called, but I do recall that it was $88, and even though it fit I decided not to keep it. The print is pretty loud and large for a small frame like mine, and in this colorway it also reads a bit “swimsuit” to me for some reason (although it does match my Obama 2012 sticker nicely). Maybe it was just too summery for me to get excited over it in October, I don’t know, I just felt like this was one of those things I tend to buy because it fits and then I end up never wearing. Back it went, but it was very cute.

SF3

I may have prematurely bitched last time about being sent tops in a size S instead of an XS, because both of the tops I received this time were XS and felt a touch small. That said, for both of them I felt the S probably would have been too big, and I liked them both enough to keep. This is called the Alan Cowl Neck Asymmetrical Cardigan ($58), and it came all zipped up to the neck and crazily asymmetrical indeed. I did not like it that way, but when I unzipped it all was well. The fabric is a touch itchy, and as I said it felt a bit snug, so I hemmed and hawed on this one before I decided to keep it (this one and the skirt gave me the most trouble deciding). In the end, I felt this would get a lot of wear, and I actually didn’t have any cardigans in heathered gray, so it stayed.

SF4

This shirt was pricey – $108 – but was so perfect for me I had to keep it. It’s called the Alec Split Neck Mixed Material Blouse, and it’s got just the right amount of casual going on with the baseball sleeves, dressed up by the front panel which is a silky rayon (even though in the photo it almost looks velvet – it’s not). Again, it was a touch snug, but one downside to Stitch Fix is you can’t exchange things for a different size (at least not that I’m aware of) and I liked it enough to keep it anyway. It’s possible the S would have been too big anyway; it was mostly the sleeves that felt a little tight on me. I think I’ll wear the hell out of this one and it goes with so many things I already own, so total score here.

I’m still a little torn about whether or not sending that skirt back was a good idea, but as I’ve purchased a few dresses already this month from Free People, I wanted to keep my final cost below $200, and the three pieces I kept rang up at $191.25, so you know, do what you’ve got to do and all that. Anyway, thanks Stitch Fix, for going above and beyond to make me happy – I don’t feel at all deserving of the extra attention, but I’ll take it. My next Fix is scheduled for October 18th, so we’ll see what the future (and my mailbox) holds!

Stitch Fix Flop

Because I have nothing else to talk about today, I’ll briefly discuss my latest Stitch Fix shipment. I’ve gotten one or two more since my post about them over the summer, and in general I’ve liked what I received. But this one was a total bust, and since I didn’t like anything enough to photograph myself actually wearing the items, it was easy to take quick pictures of them on the hangers before stuffing them into the mailer to ship them back. So, due to ease of photographing and discussing, Stitch Fix is the blog post topic of the day. You’re welcome.

stitchfx1_Snapseed
I didn’t even care enough about these pictures to reduce the photo size, so click on it if you want to see a REALLY HUGE picture of a sweater.

Sadly, that sweater was the most likable piece in my box, and it isn’t very impressive (I’m purposely not including the names of any of these items, because I don’t want anyone searching for info on these pieces coming across this post and being insulted by my negativity towards some item of clothing they like). It retails for $58, and although this is probably going to  make me sound like a terrible snob, I think everything in this Fix suffers from a low price point. I have nothing against $58 sweaters in general, but I’ve learned that with Stitch Fix unless you bump up the prices you’re willing to spend on their items, the quality just isn’t there, and when the tops run towards the lower end of the scale (the cheapest items I’ve ever seen from them are around $48) they are just NOT the business. Boring, with a poor fit. No thanks.

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Ugh! These tops! What?!

Oh g-d these are awful. First of all, I don’t know who my ‘stylist’ was this time out, because I never bother to read the little Style Suggestions sheet they stick in the box, but I don’t think the person read anything from my profile in the slightest. The choices here are so odd compared to the pieces I’ve received in my past few boxes, so although I know the box is packed by a different person each time it has so far seemed like by using my information and links to my Pinterest page anyone could pick out things I’d like. But I don’t see anything about these tops that matches my profile except that I did say I like my tops loose-fitting. However, these are both not only HUGE on me size-wise; but they are ugly. The white one was so sheer it might as well have been a pajama top, and I was swimming in the black one, it was so wide. Even if they had fit and the white one hadn’t been completely see-through, I never would have worn either one of these out of the house (or even in the house for that matter). Again, I hate to harp on it, but they look…cheap. Really cheap. Moving on to the worst of the bunch:

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At least Simon enjoyed the box.

Yes, that Southwestern print thing on the right there is a handbag. I went to my profile after receiving this and realized that, in fact, I had not checked the box that says “handbags” under the section asking me to indicate what I DON’T want included in any of my Fixes. After receiving this bag, believe me, I went straight to my profile and checked that box. Then I unchecked it, just so I could check it again. And the jeans? They’re the “boyfriend” style of jean that I have never been able to wear – whatever makes the cut of a jean a “boyfriend” cut, it don’t work on this Girlfriend. At all. They were not bad, but the wash wasn’t anything special, and unlike the still-amazing jeans I received over the summer and wear almost every weekend, these were pretty cheap – the amazing ones were almost $130 while these are $78, reinforcing my belief that the more you are willing to spend through Stitch Fix, the better the clothes. I can get a perfectly great pair of jeans for under $78 at Ann Taylor Loft, for example, so it’s not about being a price-tag snob; it’s just that the clothes on the lower end of the cost scale at Stitch Fix are too drab and unpredictable for me to bother. The odd thing is that my profile still requests items between $100-$200, so I’m not sure why they’d send me a Fix that totals a little over $200 for all five pieces. I think someone screwed up here all around, and either sent me clothes without looking at my profile at all, or sent me someone else’s fix entirely.

Because this Fix was such a bummer, I went to the site to close out the shopping cart by clicking a big old NO on every item, because once you’ve checked out your cart you can immediately schedule your next fix, and I was hoping I could get another one within the next two weeks or so to make up for this loser. But alas, Stitch Fix is still so popular that there were no earlier shipment dates available than a month from now. I’ve gotten enough cool stuff from them that I’ll keep on receiving Fixes, and hopefully this bummer of a box was just an aberration. Even so, I’m not out anything but the $20 styling fee, so there’s no real loss. It is odd, though, to have to provide feedback to a company by saying SELL ME STUFF THAT’S MORE EXPENSIVE PLEASE. Not something I usually want to say!

EDITED TO ADD: Stitch Fix read this post (and probably read the feedback I gave them on the site too), and emailed me to apologize for missing the mark on this shipment. They also offered to roll over my stylist’s fee into the next month, which was nice, since I wasn’t asking for any sort of discount or refund for getting a lame shipment. It’s nice to know the company is paying attention to what gets said about them online and that they will respond without being asked to do so. As I said in the original post, I still enjoy the service and have gotten some great stuff from Stitch Fix, so I’ll definitely continue to use them. 

Purse Post: The Free People Slouchy Vegan Tote

I have to rave about this Slouchy Vegan Tote I bought recently from (no surprise) Free People. I loved it so much, I bought three of them.

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Simon likes the brown bag best

I am actually not a big purse person (a “purse-on”?); I tend to find one I really like, then keep it for several years, or buy the same style for several years in a row. My last favorite was a large tote by Tory Burch that was very big (I love a huge purse) and square and open (love a big-mouthed purse too; one I can just toss things into from across the room) and most importantly, it had pockets on both sides that made it incredibly convenient to place keys and cell phones in them and know exactly where they were. But in the past year or two TB quit putting side pockets in the totes, which made them decidedly less fabulous in my book, so when I realized the huge blue one I’d carried for two years needed replacing (I am VERY hard on handbags), I needed to find something new.

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My pics are unedited and kinda sloppy, sorry – had a lot to do tonight so I had to prioritize.

I wanted something big, of course, and floppy, because I much prefer soft purses to sturdy, structured ones (again, I like to throw tons of stuff in there and sort it all out later, so floppy helps with that). I also wanted something a bit bohemian, perhaps with fringe or some interesting print – but it was not to be found. Apparently, my current style obsessions are not IN style, at least not in the purse world. I’ll skip over the part where I bought a Coach bag on sale in a snake print, just because it was the closest thing I could find to an interesting print and it was good deal, and skip right to two weeks later, when my friend Candace and I spied this bag on the way out of the Free People store in the Galleria. It was floppy (check) and big and square (check-check), but then we discovered so much more when we looked inside. It also had a very large zippered clutch-type removable insert (people in their reviews refer to this as a laptop case, then complain that laptops don’t fit in it, which leads me to believe it was not intended to be a laptop case in the first place, but I could be wrong about that) and a third, small zippered bag roughly the size of a large square wallet. It also had an extra-long strap, and – here’s the real clincher – the purse is also reversible. It’s also NOT leather, although it looks like it (in fact, most people who’ve asked about the bag since I started carrying it were under the impression it was quite expensive) and it feels buttery soft, so it is both cruelty-free and inexpensive – the bag retails for $68.

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A peek inside the smallest pouch.

I bought one, then a few days later decided I needed a few more. One reason for that is the one I’ve been carrying around since I bought it is starting to “peel” a little around the edges (see pic below), so I thought having a few others to switch around might help slow that down a little. I don’t really care about the peeling so much though, and mostly wanted a few more just because I love this bag to death and was feeling spendy. When it comes to bags, I am not opposed to handing over some decent cash (although I’d never pay the cost for a Louis Vuitton or anything like that, at least I haven’t up to this point) for whatever it is that I like, and since this one was not expensive, I figured getting two more still kept it in a good price range for me.

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A close-up of the peeling – you can also see the magnet that holds the purse closed no matter which way you’ve reversed it

The cool thing is how many ways I can mix and match all these pieces. Because the bag itself has nothing going on inside (no pockets of any kind), I have everything I regularly carry arranged to be either in my wallet, my makeup case, or one of the two pouches that come with the bag. My ID holder/debit card and cell phone fit perfectly into the smallest bag, I think it’s obvious what my wallet and my makeup bag hold, and the big zippered pouch holds everything else. This way, it’s super-easy to switch purses by grabbing those four pieces and stuffing them into another big purse; no pockets to go through and organize or anything. If I have time I can do some color-coordinating, of course, by taking all my stuff out of one colored pouch and putting them into another one, but if I don’t want to mess with that, the switch can be made in about four seconds.

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A peek inside the larger pouch – Simon was interested, too

I’ve also found that the small zippered pouch works well when I don’t want to carry the big bag somewhere, as I can just pull it out and go, and the larger zippered one is easy to pull completely out of the purse and dig through for whatever it is I’m trying to find. The only downside I’ve discovered so far is that the inside of the big zippered pouch is black, which can make it hard to find what I’m digging for. And, I found the dark brown one to be stiffer faux-leather than the black or the natural one, so the softness of the vegan material isn’t consistent I suppose. But other than these two things, I am in love with these bags. I got six purses, really, for the price of three (although the reversed color of the black is almost identical to the natural colored one, it’s just a touch lighter) plus 6 multicolored pouches to play around with, and in total I spent about $210 for all of it.

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The black purse – the reversible side is the same cream color as the small pouch

I’m not one to go around switching bags to match my outfits, but for that price and for how easy it is to do with these, I am going to start. It’ll also help each bag last longer to switch them out, because as I said, I am hard on bags. I’ve carried all my usual stuff, plus my lunch, an iPad, and an extra pair of shoes in this thing a few times (when going to work) and it can handle all that and still look great, but I know from past experience that won’t last forever. Fortunately this appears to be an incredibly popular bag at the Free People site, with a lot of color options they keep updating, so I think it’ll stick around for a season or two if I ever need more. It certainly feels sturdy to me, even when loaded down and requiring the bigger strap to carry, so I hope they last awhile.

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The brown bag reverses to cobalt blue

Now I just have to figure out what to do with that Coach bag that I only carried for three weeks and no longer want…if anyone wants to buy it off me, make an offer!

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The bags reversed!