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Triumph or Tacky?

15 Feb

Welcome to the first addition of my post-challenge week results segment that I have decided to dub “Triumph or Tacky?”! I know, the name is horrible but it beats my original less inspired idea of calling it the “Tuesday Testimonial”. This is a post that I will write every Tuesday to go over the results of the previous week’s challenge and let you know what the reactions were to my outfit from people who have seen it in person (I’m going to try to make a habit out of wearing the challenge outfits on Tuesdays).

So how did I do in the Week 1 Marc Jacobs cardigan challenge? Given that it was my very first challenge for this experiment I think that I did pretty darn well and the online votes seem to agree with me so I think this week was a triumph! So far a total of 11 people have voted (first of all I’m amazed that you’re actually reading this!) and 9 out of the 11 people thought that I did great (to the two people who voted “Good effort but not quite close enough” I appreciate your honesty and thank you for keeping my budget in mind and not choosing the last option).

Now what about the outfit in person? Well as Murphy’s Law would have it I picked the coldest freakin day of the week to wear a skirt since it felt like -28C this morning with the wind chill! Since I have wholeheartedly committed myself to this challenge I couldn’t cop out and wear something else so I paired my outfit with an incredibly stylish pair of good old Canadian wool tights…. actually they’re wool long johns that are probably circa 1986 but fashion sometimes needs to be tweaked to accommodate the elements so consider them my tribute to practical Canadian attire. I may have lost points for styling, seriously though, it was cold!

Super stylish Canadian tights!

My day consisted of working at school and a trip to the passport office. To be honest, there weren’t many people at school today but the people that I did see thought that I did a good job (and ironically are also part of the 9 people who voted that I did great online, they wouldn’t lie to me right?). While standing in line at the passport office I considered polling random people but something tells me that the middle-aged commissionaire with the beer belly, pants so short they bordered on being capris, and mismatched socks wouldn’t be all that interested in my challenge…

As a complete aside, the passport office also just happens to be located in the same building as Holt Renfrew. Since I was in the area I just had to stop in to peruse for a few minutes, only because their merchandise could inspired future challenges of course ;o) Now I love Holt Renfrew but every time I go in I also feel slightly uncomfortable. It usually starts when I walk in and a tall, slender, stylishly dressed older sales associate gives me “the look”.  You know, the “I’m not looking at you to greet you and welcome you to the store” look, it’s the “are you even worth my time to say hello to since you don’t look like you can afford this store” look. It could also be construed as the “I’m not going to offer to help you but I’m going to follow you around the store to make sure you don’t steal anything” look. Well of course today I got “the look” but at least I felt slightly more secure since I was holding a Coach bag. As uncomfortable as I was I still looked around and I saw a gorgeous Burberry trench:

Burberry, $775 at Holt Renfrew

Unfortunately, they didn’t have my size (can you detect my sarcasm?) so I moved on and did a quick search for the Marc Jacobs cardigan and Theory skirt (this is about the time I started to hear my VISA card start laughing maniacally). I had no luck locating either garment (and the laughing from my VISA was getting louder) so I put the Coach bag back on the shelf where I found it and promptly left the store (just kidding, it actually was my own Coach bag). It was nice to look at beautiful clothes and shoes though!

Well, I think that I have done enough rambling in this post. Here’s hoping that this week’s challenge is also successful!

Week 1 results

12 Feb

I knew that this experiment was going to be a challenge. Everyone I spoke to about it told me either: a) I’m crazy, b) $20 is just too little money to recreate a look, or c) that I must have a lot of time on my hands. Well in response to those comments, yes I probably am a little crazy, $20 is a VERY tight budget to stick to, and well, as for time, with the exception of doing some volunteering I was at home this week having a little staycation so I had the luxury of some extra shopping time. We’ll see how next week pans out when I’m back doing school-work full time (if you’re looking for me I will either be: a) at school, b) strapped to my computer at home, c) swimming in the bottom of a bargain bin, or d) at the gym doing cardio to build up my endurance for shopping marathons).

Without a doubt this challenge was very difficult. I visited more stores than I can count and every type of store imaginable. I have to admit to lying in bed a few nights wondering if I bit off more than I could chew. I think that I may have been a little overambitious with my first fashion choice. The thing is, at first glance an article of clothing can look very simple but when you actually break it down based on its details it ends of being more complex. The Marc Jacobs cardigan is a good example of this. At first it looks like a simple cardigan but then you notice all of its elements. So when I was shopping I had to consider that it is a button-front cardigan, that it has a ribbed neckline, cuffs, and hem, that it has three-quarter length sleeves, that it is stripped, and that the colour tones are beige, pink, and grey. I tried as best I could to match as many of these elements as possible but of course I couldn’t find an exact replica (although if you have $54.99 there is a similar one at Banana Republic, unfortunately I don’t have a picture of it).

So onto the big question: how did I do? Well, I tried my best and I did end up finding something! I’m not sure how much it lives up to the essence of the Marc Jacobs cardigan (not perfect but as close a match as I could find within my budget) but I guess that’s for you to decide!

So here it is!

It is made up of a luxurious blend of 60% cotton and 40% acrylic. Ladies and gentlemen, “a rich blend of silk and cashmere” this is not, but it is still a cute basic cardigan that I can add into my wardrobe rotation (I’ll let you know how it holds up quality-wise once I wear it).

So what was the grand total for this garment? Well, it was on sale in the clearance section of Old Navy for $21.99 and everything in the clearance section was an additional 50% off so with taxes it came to a grand budget-friendly total of…$12.42! That left me with $7.58.

Since I had some money left over I decided to see what was out there that resembled the Theory skirt. Well I think that I really lucked out! It doesn’t have the abstract patterning of the Theory skirt but it was a serious deal:

The skirt came to a grand, unbelievable total of $1.05 and I got it in the children’s section of Winners. I couldn’t believe it! Even the girl at the cash said that it was one of the best deals she has ever seen at the store! So when I subtract everything from my $20 I’m left with $6.53 for future ventures (I’ll post about what I’m going to do with left over money sometime next week).

Although my finds aren’t exact replicas of the Marc Jacobs and Theory designs I think that I did pretty well on my first challenge! Here’s the outfit I created with a bit of styling (please keep in mind I am not a very photogenic person, I’ll be writing a post on this topic at some point):

Cardigan Old Navy, skirt Winners, boots (since it’s cold outside!) my own from Aldo


So what do you think?

I will also wear this to school and conduct my own very scientific poll of my co-workers and let you know the overall verdict next week (I’ll probably end up calling it something cheesy like the “Tuesday testimonial”).

Don’t take off the tags

10 Feb

I’m going to state the obvious here. I love looking through fashion magazines and ads to get ideas for outfits, especially future outfits that I might wear when my financial tide starts to turn (current status: the tide is still out). This is of course one of the main challenge activities related to this experiment outside of the actual shopping part, I need to find an article of clothing or outfit to copy to the best of my abilities for $20 or under. The more I think about it though this poses a challenge besides my just being able to find the clothing that I am looking for on a tight budget.

Vogue Italia February 2011

When I look through magazines the models in the spreads and ads are usually beautiful, the styling is luxurious, the lighting is soft or well-balanced, and the photography is artistic. A picture of perfect or deliberately imperfect perfection is presented to the reader. Oh and everything has been photoshopped from here to next Tuesday! The thing is, when I pick clothing or outfits for the challenge I really have no idea if they will actually look good on me. Heck, I don’t even know if they actually look good on some of the models in real life (probably, but I’m sure that not everything looks good on everyone, even models). This creates a problem.

You see, I have not been blessed with the genetics to be a Kate, a Gisele, or a Heidi. I am an average woman. I am petite in height and curvy and will probably never be stick thin like the models wearing the clothing I covet (and that’s ok!). So for the purposes of this challenge  what do I do if the clothing I buy just doesn’t look good on me even if it measures up to the criteria of the pictured look I’m going after?

I actually love this blazer, I just haven't had a chance to wear it yet so I haven't taken off the tags

After some discussion with Raine (the poor man is going to be so sick of this experiment soon!), he said that I should leave it up to the opinions of our families, friends, and whoever is reading this blog to decide.  BUT just in case I shouldn’t take the tags off in case I want to return something. This could be tricky not to mention kind of wrong if I need to wear an article of clothing or outfit for a day to solicit opinions on it! So if the majority of people I ask don’t like something I bought as part of the challenge, or if I don’t like the look of it (because honestly I don’t want to buy something that I will never wear again, I’m not trying to be an actual spendthrift!), what should I do? Should I return it or do I have to keep it? If I do return it does that make the week’s mission a failure or is it still a success since I found what I was looking for? What do I do with the money that I get back from a return? Do I get to pool it with the next week’s money?

So many questions to answer and details to sort out! Let me know what you think, I’m going to try to decide how this new issue should work into the rules (along with the eBay/online shopping rules) this weekend.

Ebay and online shopping

8 Feb

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the finer details of this challenge  and the rules. Specifically, I haven’t decided how eBay and online shopping should fit in. I have to admit that I love shopping online! I think that it’s convenient, you can find things that you wouldn’t normally be able to find in a mall, and you can get some amazing deals!

My wedding (a little over a year ago) was a prime example of how successful and budget-friendly online shopping can be (I think that stylewise it was also a success, I was featured as a Wedding Belle in a Weddingbells magazine blog at least :o). Even though we got married at a resort in the Caribbean I still wanted to bring down decorations for the reception, create welcome bags for our guests, and have some really cute outfits to wear the week we were down there. I also had a budget to stick to (well try to stick to at least) and the online deals I found were great! For example, I found my authentic Jimmy Choo wedding shoes for a ridiculously low price (see the about me section for a pic!). Here are some other examples of some cute Lilly Pulitzer and Betsey Johnson shoes I found (keep in mind my wedding colours were fuchsia and lime green):

I was especially successful at finding bargains on eBay… a little too successful though. The thing is, finding deals and steals can be very addictive. Wedding shopping turned into things like late night Coach binges:

Obviously a leather messenger bag and dog collars don’t quite fall in the realm of “wedding-related expenses” though…

Overall the point that I want to make is that you can be wildly successful shopping online. How can I fit this in with the rules of this experiment though? Here are the main problems with online shopping:

1. With many sites/stores you have to pay for shipping. Do shipping costs have to fall within my $20 limit (Raine says yes) or can they be added on top of the $20?

2. Exchange rates can make the cost of items more expensive.

3. Shipping can take a while. Can I wait for a purchase to arrive or do I have to receive it by the next Saturday (the end day of the challenge week) for it to count? Again, Raine says that I need to have the item in my hands and ready to photograph at the end of the week.

Hmm, I’m thinking that I have to agree with Raine in terms of shipping costs and time but this severely limits my online shopping options…

What do you think?

The challenge begins…

7 Feb

Today I began to shop for the first week’s challenge and I’m already realizing that this whole experiment will be harder than I originally thought. I knew when I came up with the idea for this endeavour that it would be difficult to find specific articles of clothing for $20 or under, but I think that I underestimated how difficult it would be to find specific articles of clothing in general! But as Raine (my husband) told me when I got home, this wouldn’t be a very good experiment/challenge if the tasks were easy!

I began my day with optimism. I had a hair appointment* at a local mall and I figured that since I was already at the mall it would be a good opportunity to start looking through a few stores for the cardigan (since I’m a grad student I have the luxury of controlling my own work schedule). I was feeling great as I left the salon with shiny swinging hair, Marie Claire magazine spread and $20 in hand…that is until I actually started searching for a clone of the Marc Jacobs cardigan!

My strategy was to start with sale racks and look for anything that even remotely resembled the cardigan. After searching through a few stores and finding nothing similar to what I was looking for, I decided to switch my strategy to looking for any cardigan that looked like it in any part of the store (even if it cost more than $20). At least that way I would know that there were similar looks out there. Well, after going through about ten stores I found absolutely nothing! Nada! I even tried stores that I wouldn’t normally shop at e.g. those that sell styles completely opposite to my own or cater to opposite ends of the age spectrum (I have to say, I got a few looks from some sales associates and felt a little out-of-place in some of these stores but it’s good to broaden your horizons right?). Needless to say my lack of success worries me a little… BUT I did learn a few things while I was shopping and have come up with some new ideas for this experiment (and also some issues with it) so the trip wasn’t a total loss. I’ll blog about some of these in the future.

Well, this is just the beginning of this challenge and I still have the rest of the week to search so it makes no sense to get discouraged this early in the game! Hopefully I have better luck on my next shopping trip!

*Just a quick note here: I am still broke. Yes, I was getting my hair done but that was a huge luxury since I haven’t had a haircut since October. I used to get full highlights along with a haircut every 8 weeks or so, this was pared down to getting my hair coloured and cut ~every 10 weeks when my funds started to fizzle out, and now I’m down to a box of drugstore hair dye and a quarter-yearly cut (*sigh*) paid for with Christmas money from my parents that I saved up. If you see me on the street please tell me that my hair colour looks nice, lie if you have to…lol.


6 Feb

So it is officially my first challenge of the experiment! I wanted to pick something relatively easy to find so I decided to start with a cardigan. It’s winter so this should be pretty easy to find right? I saw a cardigan that I thought was really cute in a spread in Marie Claire’s February 2011 issue:

[Marie Claire]

It’s by Marc Jacobs and it retails for $995 US. According to Saks it’s: “A classic striped cardigan in a rich blend of silk and cashmere. Button front closure, three-quarter sleeves, rib knit neck, cuff, and hem”.

I also LOVE the Theory skirt but with only $20 to spend I’m going to stick with just the cardigan. This is my first challenge so we’ll see how successful I am!