Sweating It Out for Fashion

Amanda Bar

What with the holiday season inching closer and closer, and the Florida weather ever-so-slowly reflecting the winter temperature, I’ve once again found myself buying cold weather clothing that I neither need nor use outside of a few weeks out of the November to February months.  The sweaters, jackets, and boots that I already own are more than sufficient to last me several years through, but it’s hard to resist updating your winter wardrobe when so many stores delight in holiday sales.

We live in a sub-tropical climate…just how many scarves does a girl need to own before it becomes hysterically (and financially) impractical?  Just walk outside when the weather dips even the slightest below 72degrees and you will see women wearing fur-lined boots and fashionable overcoats – sweating all the while, of course, but if we paid for it we will darn well get our money’s worth.  Fashion sometimes dictates more than common sense.

I’ve desperately avoided perusing the numerous boot aisles in the department stores – dependent upon quality just one pair of knee-highs can run over into the triple digits – but I’ve already been lured into buying two new jackets ($95 in total) to add to my already numerous jacket pile collecting dust for 10 out of 12 months in my closet.  It’s only early November yet, so I’ll have to monitor my wallet and my impulses to keep my checking account safe enough for imminent holiday shopping.

Posted by Amanda Conwell on | | Comments (1)

Clothing Diet

Ali Bar

Heidi Hackemer, a strategist at a New York advertising firm, has launched what she calls "a global experiment examining the power of what we don't wear." Six items or less is the game. Meaning all you can wear for one month is six items of clothing from your closet. Heidi says generally people who try this experiment fall into one of four categories:

--The uniform type. The thinking behind this is that if you are freed of choice in clothing, then you can focus that energy on something else. (That’s most likely what they were thinking when they imposed navy or khaki bottoms and polo shirts at my middle school.)
--The creatives. These people want to see how creative they can be with such a limited wardrobe. A savior for this concept might be the fact that accessories aren't limited.
--The anti-consumers.
--The curious.

Another challenge that people are trying is to not buy clothes for an entire year. To some, this might be difficult. Others, probably without giving it a thought, may not have bought a new piece of clothing in more than a year.

Heidi says this experiment changed how she related to her clothes. Staple pieces that have a certain longevity became more valuable to her. She also remarks how the clothes she wore weren't built for the way she used them. That brings up environmental and economic factors. While one shirt might be less expensive than another shirt, take into consideration the quality. A more expensive shirt might last longer that the cheaper shirt. Perhaps the more expensive shirt, in terms of quality, might be the equivalent of three of the cheaper shirts, making the more expensive shirt, in the long run, the better option. Of course, some fashionistas would rather have three shirts than one, but I guess it just depends on your thinking. I was contemplating trying out the six-items thing, but that means laundry more often, so that's out for me.

But maybe I'll try the not buying any clothing for a year. So, as of November 16, 2010, I will not buy any new articles of clothing until November 16, 2011. Ha, this is really not going to last – especially since I’m going to Rome in January. But, we'll see. It isn't too difficult now considering I have no money to spend on clothes.

Here is the site that started it:
Six Items or Less

and the sister site that followed it up:
The Siol Collective

Via Six Items or Less here's an interesting entry on College Girls in 1941.

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Not so Cheap to Stay Clean

Ali Bar

Doing laundry is sooooo expensive in New York.  When I lived in Ithaca, N.Y., laundry rates at both the Cornell dorm and my apartment house were about the same: $1.25 to wash and $1 to dry.  I usually  do two loads, which amounts to a grand total of $4.50.  The laundromat near my  New York  apartment has three washers, one for small loads, one for medium loads, and one for large loads.  I need  to use the medium washer,  which costs $2.50 . The dryer, which charges on a per minute basis, costs me about $1.50  a load. That means I end up spending $8.  Okay,  so maybe it isn't so much more, but I was still shocked the first time I saw it.  Not to mention, the first time I  used this laundromat, I didn't realize the machine costs differed and I ended up using the large ones  at a cost  of   $3.75 per load . Cost of doing laundry: $10.50.  I can only blame that on my unobservant self.  A plus  for this laundromat is that it's  open 24 hours.  I'm not saying I'm going to do my laundry at 4 in the morning, but I have done my laundry around ten at night.  It's convenient for a student 's  schedule  -- actually probably  for   most people's schedules.   Since doing laundry is just one of those things you can't find your way around, I must do it.  I'm sure when  I  get back to  Ithaca I'll exclaim how inexpensive the laundry is there.

To cut down on laundry costs, I've always wondered about making my own soap. But since I'm in perpetual motion, moving every four to six months, I haven't gotten around to it. The recipes I've seen make such  large quantities of laundry soap, however, that I wouldn't know what to do with the leftovers every time I moved . And I certainly don't want to be lugging around a large vat of soap.

But here are some recipes for laundry soap via Tipnut if you'd like to try your hand.

If you have any  other laundry ideas you'd like to share, feel free.

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All Hallows Eve

Ali Bar

Once again it’s the night before Halloween – and if you’re like me, you’ve probably waited to the very last second to come up with a costume for tomorrow’s parties. I’ve cut it very close. But if you’re in need of a quick – and cheap solution – I can help you out. 

CostumesHere are a few costumes I’ve tried in the past that can be whipped up in no time. Want to be lightning? So glad you ask, because that is what I was last Halloween. To start things off, I happened to find a steal at Target – a black, floor-length sleeveless cotton dress on clearance for $5. (Why spend major money on something that you’re probably only going to wear once?) I also bought some white sparkly felt that I cut into a lightning strike pattern and glued to the dress, which I hacked off to hit mid-thigh. I wore black
tights and black shoes. And then my very lovely friend painted a silver lightning bolt across my face a la David Bowie with rhinestones. Oh, and I painted my nails silver. For practically no money at all it was a pretty good costume. My friend, who had waited even longer than I, bought a purple shirt at A.C. Moore's, which was quite inexpensive, and also purchased various lengths of silver, purple and white string. He punctured holes in the shirt, pulled the cords through and knotted them on the reverse side. On the front, the cords cascaded down to his feet. He said he was Purple Rain. It went quite nicely
with my lightning costume.

This next idea may only be applicable to people who have access to plotters (large scale printers) but it also produces outstanding costumes. My friend and I found a high resolution image of a USB key, which we then plotted and printed. With spray adhesives, we attached the front and back images of the oversized USB keys to large pieces of cardboard. We added straps to hold the panels over our shoulders and side panels to keep the costumes rigid. It was difficult to walk, but everyone pretty much loved our people-sized take on a USB. We even made hats – the plug portion of the USB. I am thinking of being a lamp this year. Oh please, you may be saying. But I think being a very ordinary object is funny. I’m not quite sure how I’m going to do this, but,hey, I’ve got until tomorrow to figure it out.

Hope this gives you a few ideas on how to whip up cheap costumes quickly. Feel free to borrow. On a side note, while my friend and I were shopping in Whole Foods on Union Square, we were bombarded by a slew of zombies. It was quite funny and helped us get into the Halloween spirit. Many of them asked me for my brain. I politely declined. 

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Updated! Introducing It's-only-two-days-til-we-can-shop Wednesdays

Name bar So after months of scrimping, obsessive coupon clipping and sweating because I don't dare turn the a/c below 82 degrees, I've decided it's time to take up a little shopping again. Only for stuff I need and that's truly a good deal, of course. Not as therapy for any particular emotional wound that results in a trunk full of bags. Not as a way to pass the time. But because there's finally a little wiggle room in my budget -- even though I'm still a piggy-banking girl at heart -- and because some of my clothes have become so large they are simply too unprofessional to wear anymore. (Fringe benefit of eating most of my meals at home to save money: eating better, skipping most processed foods and eating normal portions.)

Until now, I haven't used this blog to post some of the really great deals that find their way to me. But two I came across recently seemed really worth sharing, although I'm sure I'm going to incur the wrath of some nutritionists. (If it helps, I'm drinking a spinach-strawberry-blueberry-nonfat yogurt smoothie as I write this.)

Chick fil-a is offering free meals Friday to people who show up at their restaurants dressed like cows. To celebrate Cow Appreciation Day (you know, to prove that you're no chicken, their website says) they are giving some chicken-fried love to those sporting a bovine look. (Just make sure you don't end up looking too much like the real thing by eating there too often.)

In Davie, at Schakolad Chocolate Factory, there is a menu of items now available for a dollar through the end of August. Mondays are a 12-ounce iced drink. Tuesdays are for two medium chocolate-dipped pretzels. Wednesdays are chocolate dipped strawberries. And so on.

And finally, 7-Eleven is giving away 7.11-ounce Slurpees on the day that shares their name, Sunday, July 11.

If you check out any of these deals, or find other can't-not-share coupons or steals, let me know and I'll post them here, every Wednesday.

Posted by Nirvi Shah on | | Comments (2)

Priced to sell

Name bar Some stores make a big deal out of their low prices. Others tout their clean stores (This is a given for me. If you have to sell me on the cleanliness, I'm already wary.). Others keep a low profile, but apparently are the ones with truly the best deals.

A survey of more than 30,000 Consumer Reports subscribers found that Costco came out ranked best for value, while stores you'd think would rank high on the cheap scale -- Walmart and Kmart -- came out much lower. In addition to citing the warehouse club’s prices, people who answered the survey praised Costco's bang for the buck: It was the only store judged "much better than average" for value. 

“In our surveys over the years, Costco has earned high marks as a source of a surprisingly large selection of goods, including mattresses, electronics, small appliances, groceries, and books. In recent years, the chain’s Kirkland Signature products have often performed well in our tests,” said Tod Marks, senior project editor for Consumer Reports.

Part of the reason Walmart didn't get any shopping love: while prices are low, so is quality, according to survey answers. Walmart was the only chain to receive below-average quality scores in more than half of the product categories. You can read more details about the survey's findings for yourself.

My sister swears by Costco, but she has two kiddies, including one still in dMiapers. She buys in bulk to save time and money. (It's no fun shopping when you have to deal with taking two kids in and out of car seats at every stop.)

As I find my me time dwindling, I am more likely to go to one store where I think I'm getting the best deals, or shop at a store that requires the least amount of driving. I know that means I'm not getting the best price on everything, but I don't get a rush off saving 50 cents on a bottle of shampoo if I had to go to three stores to save it. I use coupons, but I'm not obsessed with them -- I can lose half a day trying to get a good deal, only to discover the fine print killed my savings, or the darn thing is expired. (But if I do think I've scored a deal, I'll brag about it for days, mind you.)

An offshoot of Consumer Reports, ShopSmart, did some undercover shopping recently that compares prices at outlet stores, regular retail stores and designer stores, too. Sometimes, shopping a designer store or department store was actually the better deal.

I loathe outlet shopping, partially because outlet malls seem to be so sprawling I find them overwhelming -- and because some of the prices don't seem like steals at all, nevermind that the merchandise is often obviously lower quality. I admit to living in South Florida for 10 years now -- and never having been to Sawgrass Mills!

But I'm game to give them a second try if you think it's worth it, so share with me your shopping secrets.

Posted by Nirvi Shah on | | Comments (1)

If the shoe fits, then fix it!

Bridget_Bar2 A couple days ago the heal of my black boot started falling apart.

It wasn't a surprise. Those boots are practically the only pair of shoes I've worn to work in the past year.  

I tend to wear a shoe -- or boot in this case -- untill it falls apart, and then I'll buy a new one. It's not how the female species typically operates when it comes to shoes, but it's how I roll.

But this time, I didn't run to the mall when this one broke. Instead of hunting around for a new pair, I took it to a shoe repair place.

I've never been to any shoe repair place before, but I remembered this one because it had a little shoe maker in the window, and I passed it everytime I went to the movies. It's called Humberto's Shoe & Luggage Repair in Pembroke Pines, west of I-75 in the Westfork Plaza next to the Regal theater.

I decided to take three pairs: badly scuffed brown boots, a dressy heal that needed the bottom fabric re-glued, and the black boots with the broken heal.

Two days later they were in great shape. Cost me $37.10 to fix three pairs. Not too shabby!

Shoesticker2 Only downside is that this place put this nasty stickers on the bottom to keep track of the orders. And they don't come off easy. I'm gonna have to buy some Goo Gone to get it all off. But in the end, I'm happy I took them in and saved some money. 

I asked the owner if his business was up because of the economy and with people trying to save money by getting things repaired. He said he has noticed a little increase -- mostly with expensive men's dress shoes -- but nothing dramatic. Judging from the mass amount of repaired shoes I saw that were ready to be picked up, I'd say he must be doing pretty well.

Posted by Bridget Carey on | | Comments (1)

Giving up shopping for Lent


I fell off the frugal wagon.

I actually think I fell off around December, but made excuses with holidays and I never felt I was being bad since I still use coupons for groceries... as if taking advantage of CVS discounts absolved my sins of not putting away money into my savings for three months and buying junk at the mall every weekend.

But this past weekend, it finally hit me that perhaps I've lost all spending willpower. I believe this photo explains it best:


Yes, that is me with Amanda. Wearing silly ears. And I'm wearing a $130 hand-made crown.

Amanda took me to my first Renaissance Festival this weekend. I didn't even want to go, but she was really excited about it and convinced me to come along because of the neat things you can buy there. I put together a basic renaissance-ish outfit after borrowing a few items from Amanda. Amanda dressed up in full green fairy garb (she used her old Peter Pan costume and just added wings she already had).

TinkerbellThe entrance fee was $20. Spent $8 on a mediocre gyro. Spent $3 on lemonade. Spent $6 on a beer. Spent $16 on a hand-crafted faux family-crest shield as a home decoration. Spent $13 on a cute teeny fairy doll that looks like a sleeping Tinker Bell (pictured here). I wasn't going to get the ears because they cost $17, but after Amanda got hers I wanted a pair of my own. (I rationalized that I could get multiple use out of these ears... Star Trek events... St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun... Christmas Elf...). But the real damage was of course the crown. I put it on and just fell in love with it. (Also told myself that I could get repeated use out of this for all princess-related events... still trying to figure how I rationalized that one.)

I wasn't the only one in our group shopping. Amanda and her sister did a good amount of "economy-boosting" themselves.

Although I take pride in the fact that I am helping stimulate the economy, I am not proud of spending more than $200 at a stupid renaissance fair.

I never used to get this carried away!

With tomorrow being the start of Lent, I've decided that my personal sacrifice will be to stay away from malls and shopping. More specifically, I will not go to a store to buy any item that isn't an absolute necessity -- even if there is a sale. No new clothes. No books. No purses. No movies or games (not even rentals). No earrings. No desk knick-knacks (which tends to be my greatest spending weakness). And especially no princess crowns.

The question I will be asking myself is do I want it? Or do I need it?

The $30 watch I bought two weeks ago -- although on sale from $65 -- was not necessary.

The Space Ghost Christmas ornament I bought last week on sale for 80% off at Hallmark was not necessary.

The Minnie-Mouse dressed as Princess Leia bobble head I bought this month was not necessary.

The $60 Street Fighter IV Xbox 360 game that came out last week was not necessary.

The past few months I have been a shop-a-holic. And I'm not saying shopping is wrong. If anything, these days we need more consumer confidence to keep our economy from getting worse. This is just something personal I want to do for the next 40 days since I'm having such a hard time keeping my shopping willpower under control.

Posted by Bridget Carey on | | Comments (4)

Style, now on sale!

Amanda_bar I've never been much of a discount store shopper, Jacket_2 but my mother loves nothing more than to drag me to such retailers as TJ Maxx, and (her favorite) Loehmann's.  I don't know where the notion came from, but I used to think that such stores had a stigma of carrying not just cheap, but poorly made clothes (why else would they be discounted?).  On the contrary, hunting through the aisles of these stores can not only reveal some very fashionable items, and they're often items that you'd never find anywhere else.  I own this awesome Heatherette Wizard of Oz-inspired jacket (pictured), that retailed originally for about $100, as well as a really interesting Friponne military jacket.  Both items were a steal at discount price, and both are really original pieces of clothing that will have people asking "Where did you get that?!".  These retail stores, which I previously would have never looked sideways at, offer a variety of labels and styles for any occassion.

Dress_4 Planning an ensemble for a major event is also easy & simple at discount stores - you're almost always guaranteed to walk away with not just a deal, but an outfit that no one else will have (a major, and dreaded, party foul).  Recently I picked up an amazing Free People dress at TJ Maxx that cost only $29.99, compared to the original price of $108; and while I have never in my life heard of the brand Free People, the dress is both versatile and amazingly affordable.  Since I don't go out partying often or attend many events where I'm called upon to where a dress, I think it's great to find such fashionable pieces at such a great cost - many of which are styles that will never go out of season.  And since I was in a frugal mood I decided to budget my entire ensemble and pick up the shoes at Payless.  Add in a necklace (buy 2 get 1 free!) and my entire outfit cost just under $50.  Heck, and while I'm at it why not throw in a new purse?  I picked up a great Kathy Van Zealand bag for less than half of the original price at my local Marshall's.  And if I wanted to be completely all-inclusive for my supreme party outfit I could have even picked up some great (and cheap) brand name perfumes; you know I just go crazy for Curious.  So yes, you can say that I am now an official discount store convert...and while you still will never see me inside of a Goodwill, it's a safe bet to say that you'll see me torso-deep in the sales rack at Ross  on any given day. 

So yes, perhaps my earlier avoidance of these discount stores was unwarranted.  I can only blame myself for this bizarre train of thought - I certainly didn't inherit it from my mother - but looking back on my cultural reference points I find that many of the reasons that I avoided these stores to begin with lurk in the humor of movies and TV show portrayals.  But one can only allow themselves to be turned away from a good deal (and good fashion) for so long.

Posted by Amanda Conwell on | | Comments (2)

One Wear Miami


Miami Beach is a one-wear kind of town. Guys and dolls alike, out for a night of clubbing, are quick to buy a colorful collared shirt or tight-fitting skirt, but less likely to keep it in the closet and pull it out for the holidays.

So what happens to all those once-worn blouses from Saks, Neiman, Barneys and Bergdorf?

Well, it turns out that many of them make their way to local consignment stores.

“If you see something at department stores one day, you can come to Consign of the Times and get it for a third of the price,” says Carin Kirby, owner of Consign of the Times, a small store just of Lincoln Road. "People are tired of paying retail."

For example, if you head there right now, a Louis Vuitton Manhattan handbag (retail $1,350), can be yours for a paltry $400. A pair of brand new black Prada heels (retail $520), is available for $190.

Another local consignment store is Fly Boutique, an outfit on Lincoln Road that specializes in vintage offerings. On its website, Fly is now offering a Pucci feather print dress for $1,000. It's not quite Florida Room material, but could make for an interesting night on the roof of the Gansevoort South.

Consignment stores don't have the selection of a department store, and some of those Tibi slips might have that used-clothing smell. But in tough times, even fashionistas are looking for deals.

Kirby says her business is doing well, even in the midst of a recession. "People realize it's time to spend less," she says. "It's a sign of the times."

Posted by David Gelles on | | Comments (1)

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