Friday, February 16, 2007

Buy Curious: Undercover in the Dressing Room

Fri, Feb 16, 2007 at 3:28 PM

We know you love to shop � but what do you do when you've got next to no cash? Call us telepathic � we know you just thought, "Why, hand over the plastic, of course!" Wrong answer! Debt, our friend, is dire. So in this week's column, we decided to let you tag along on our latest mission: to buy a brand spankin' new outfit for $60. We hit four stores, and snapped sneaky pics of each ensemble to prove that it can, in fact, be done. Also, the scoop on hot new Web sites, the UC Berkeley grad who was the belle of the ball at New York Fashion Week, and more ...


When we saw this dizzying concoction in the March issue of Lucky, we couldn't help but think there must be a better way to incorporate the seemingly never-ending stripe trend into an outfit � and without emptying our wallets. Would you believe this dress-cardigan combo costs $595? Since we blew our budget last week on V-Day lingerie from indie shops, we figured we'd hit up the big guys at Bay Street this week and attempt to pull together stripe-inspired outfits for less than $60. (Shoes not included � but hey, isn't going barefoot like, a totally hot trend, anyway? Or is that so last year?)

First stop? Banana Republic, where half the store seemed to be on sale. We loved their sweet, jersey wrap dresses, but at $80 they wouldn't do. And if only we had the funds to fork over $200-some odd dollars for a belted white leather jacket guaranteed to look fantastic with stripes... ***What we wound up with: Boot cut jeans, $16.99 (orig. $68); striped long sleeve T, $24.99 (orig. $38); sleeveless blouse, $34.99 (orig. $58). Grand total: $76.97. (Okay, so this budget thing is tough. But we managed to save $87! That counts for something, right?)

Next we went to Express, despite the fact that one of the mannequins was visually assaulting passerby by sporting a white blouse beneath a black jumper/dress with fishnet stockings and heels. Where, pray tell, would one wear that get-up? We didn't have much luck inside as we searched for a cheap, tasteful outfit through rack after rack of overpriced office and fitness center hoochie wear. So we decided to pretend we were auditioning for a role as an extra in the next Dukes of Hazzard flick. The shorts we wound up with were kind of on the long side ... but you'll let it slide, right? ***What we chose for the audition: Denim hot pants, $39.50; v-neck T, $19.50. Grand total: $59

We braved the gale-force scent of cologne wafting throughout Abercrombie & Fitch to hit the piles of super-soft tees on sale in the back room. We had our doubts about whether their ultra-tight fits and the barely-there mini skirt we found would work on our "womanly" frame considering the mega-retailer's target audience appears to be pre-pubescent 12-year-olds and sorority girls whose highlight in life is scoring during Spring Break. And we were right. Since it quickly became apparent that finding any decent outfit that didn't scream LOOK-AT-MY-T&A! was going to be impossible, we decided to embrace the A&F look. ***What would rope him in on Spring Break: Denim mini skirt, $29.50 (orig. $49.50); white v-neck cotton tee, $19.90 (orig. $29.50); striped tank top, $12.50 (orig. $24.50). Grand total: $61.90 (We saved $41.60.)

Seeking a fashion-sane refuge, we ducked into Ann Taylor Loft, where we knew hoochiness would definitely be a non-factor. Indeed, it was difficult to go wrong in a place that takes little to no fashion risks. We managed to pull together an ensemble that perfectly embodied the "fashion and value" slogan touted by the brand for the up-and-coming career woman, yet actually looked pretty damn do-able. And this outfit was the cheapest of them all! ***What spells casual yet fashionable: Blouse, $16.99 (orig. $39); bootcut jeans $19.88 (orig. $54); chain belt $9.88 (orig. $34). Grand total: $46.75 (We saved $80.25.)

Two New Ways to Spend Your Lunch Hour *If you're a fan of Bluefly, SF-based Shop It To Me, an ingenious recent entr�e into the online designer discount scene, is worth checking out. Fill out a quick questionnaire that asks for your size and your favorite designers, and you'll be notified when stuff goes on sale at major online retailers like ShopBop, eLuxury, Macy's, and Sak's. You can sign up to receive word daily, though we prefer the weekly alert, since we can hardly deal with our overflowing inbox as it is.

*To counter all the major-chain info we've been dishing out, we encourage you to check out Modish, an incredible blog chock full of great finds created by indie designers. (It's based out of Chicago, but features stuff from all over the world.) Watch out, though � with link after fabulous link to explore, it's easy to get sucked in. And chances are, you have a job to do, right?


Fur Good Karma Are you one of those people who has old fur in your closet but a new social conscious that won't let you wear it outside? Now, as reported in the East Bay Business Times (registration required), used clothing retailer Buffalo Exchange, in conjunction with the Humane Society, is offering a new way to put your fur coats to good use: as beds for orphaned and injured wildlife. Their ads feature a photo of a happy, sleeping baby fox. Now, who could say no to that? Donate your fur coats at Buffalo Exchange: 2585 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley

Locals Make Big Splash at Fashion Week The SF Chronicle's Sylvia Rubin gives an intriguing behind-the-scenes glimpse of local fashion designers and stylists doing their thing at New York Fashion Week. Among them are Erin Fetherston, whose video collaboration with Kirsten Dunst Buy Curious reported on earlier this month. Here, watch makeup artist (and Richard Gere's cuter cousin) Vincent Longo discuss his plan for making Fetherston's models fit the "dolls on the moon" theme of her show, which Rubin describes in the Chron as "girly, ethereal and otherworldly, with lots of silver and white bubble-hemmed baby dolls, puffed-sleeve gowns, tiny star beading and silver-moon jacquard prints." Sounds divine � though what we're most bummed about having missed was Fetherston's pal Zooey Deschanel singing "Dream a Little Dream for Me" to kick off the show. Love that girl, whose own quirky sense of fashion is right up our alley. (No YouTube video if Deschanel's performance yet, but if you find one, let us know!)

Every Friday, Buy Curious dishes on the hottest fashion trends, news, and sales in the East Bay -- and we want to hear from you! Tips? Suggestions for things you'd like to see? Questions for Buy Clueless, our advice column? Send it all to us. Email BuyCurious[at]EastBayExpress[dot]com

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