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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Fashion Star Dress from Macy's!

Woooo! My Fashion Star dress arrived from Macy's and it is beautiful! Here's the stock photo of it, I will take a picture of me wearing it when I lose my vacation puff.
I had no idea what to expect buying a dress featured on a reality television competition. Could an "as seen on TV" dress really live up to the quality of Macy's, Sax Fifth Avenue or Express or was I just buying into the hype? In my case, YES, it was really great! I feared that the fabric of this dress would be of the cheap, stretch, accentuate the bulges variety. On the contrary! It is more like a lightweight neoprene, clinging slightly to curves but in a very flattering way. The fit is true to size (although I love it when they run big ...) And, I have the cheap (if you call $99 cheap) thrill of knowing I am wearing a television dress. 

Shipping was free from Macy's and the dress arrived in about a week. I ordered it quickly and, as I suspected, the dress sold out over night (although I think they re-stocked). My one disappointment, as with almost all mail order, is that my highly anticipated dress came folded in a small square, stuffed into a plastic bag then crammed into a white plastic shipping bag. Somehow I have to get those square folds out of the dress before I wear it. 

Mail order retailers: listen up!!! Those of us that order online want the same experience as your best, in store shopping bag. Put the dress in a nice box with tissue or something!!! We shop online for convenience and price but we are still shopping, which is an emotional experience. I don't buy much post Bye Buy challenge so when I do, I would like it to feel special. So, Fashion Star, yes! Macy's, yes! Packing for mail order products: a big, fat fashion-don't.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flash Sales: Zulily, Wayfair, Groupon and the Likes ...

Post Bye Buy challenge, I consider myself a reformed shopoholic. As a reformed anything, the will almost always be triggers wooing you back to your old, evil ways. My triggers include things like clearances and sales, special events and special shopping opportunities like "flash sales". Flash sales generally refer to a one-day or very limited time offer. It feels like you are in on a big secret and you have to act quickly lest everyone find out about the amazing offer. Hesitate and it sells out. Flash sales are a gigantic, flashing red warning sign, spending spree waiting to happen to a reformed shopoholic. Yet, I subscribe to a few websites that offer daily flash sales. My first was Zulily

Zulily got my attention with eye-catching ads that showed up alongside my email. The items, usually clothing, were attractive and my feeling was that these waere an "insiders-only" offer. I, of course, wanted to be an insider. After signing up (it's free) I received a daily email with the limited time offers. Selection is limited to what is pictured, so the colors and styles are limited. After watching for a while, I finally made my first purchase of a casual cotton dress. Casual dresses are on my "need to re-stock" list. I was not familiar with the brand (Gretchen Scott Designs) but the style was nice and the fit appeared somewhat forgiving. The dress was priced at just $19.99 but I would have purchased it at a higher price. Shipping was $5.95 (but if you buy anything else from Zulily within a 24 hour period, that shipping is free).One complaint I had was the time it took for shipping. In this next-day world, waiting 2-3 weeks for a purchase can seem interminable (or in my case, you can forget you even ordered it and enjoy a great fun surprise when it arrives.) The dress was really cool, so much so that I found the Gretchen Scott website to see what else they had. Whoa, giant price increase on the regular site! My particular dress was not pictured so I am thinking that Zulily items may be close-outs or last season stuff (which is OK with me, sort of like TJ Maxx.) Brands run from the very familiar (Avia) to the obscure. Quality seems vary as well. For me, it's like browsing the mall without leaving the house, which is kind of nice. I recently purchased a bra from Zulily for my hard-to-fit daughter. After the very long wait, the bra arrived with oddly discolored spots. The quality of the fit or support did not appear to be affected but I would not purchase an item in a store that appeared dirty. During checkout at Zulily, you are informed that items are not returnable. I am generally too excited about my purchase at this point to turn back. In this case, I was unsure what to do about an item I was not satisfied with. I sent an email with photos of the bra to Zulily customer service but honestly, did not have high hopes. In just a few hours, I received a message with an apology and a refund. The nature of the limited-time sale meant there wasn't another to exchange for, but at least I got a refund. I have to say, I was genuinely surprised and delighted. Real customer service! Despite the long delivery wait, customer service response time is very fast.

Groupon is another of my favorite sites. They, too, offer special, limited time offers with great deals. The deals are based on locale so you will only find offers for your area. Customer service is good and refunds are available. Watch the fine print and don't lose the voucher Groupon sends, most retailers need that piece of paper. 

I consider Wayfair to be the Amazon of the home decorating world. Lots to choose from and they, too, offer daily deals. I was excited to find that the Coastal Living Magazine product collection is sold on Wayfair.

Groupon and Zulily also reward you for referring friends. This is nice, but try it out yourself before referring others (it's just the nice thing to do). 

SO--the pros: A little browsing for sales each day. Small enough in quantity that you won't take too much time (hopefully) but some variety. Check the policies, but there is still some good customer service out there.

The cons: The shipping time for Zulily was irksome. Be aware of return and refund policies. And, by all means, if you don't need or can't afford things, don't subscribe!

I think that pre-Bye Buy me would have gone crazy on flash sales. The new and improved me is more thoughtful, less panic-y and makes better decisions.  It is smart to save money where possible and there are some good deals out there. 
 Flash sales: proceed with caution and shop smart. Good deals can be had but like always, if it really seems to good to be true, it probably is. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I Ordered a Fashion Star Dress from Macy's!

Fashion Star, the fashion design reality competition on NBC debuted during the Bye Buy year. Good news, bad news. I would have loved to have some of the designs offered but I knew I could be lured by buying events and roll quickly into frenzy mode. Now that I can buy again, I watch Fashion Star with a more critical eye. Good news, bad news, I watch Fashion Star every week but we generally watch it on OnDemand on Saturday and anything really good has sold out.

Good news, we were home last night. I was watching (quite intently) while my husband drifted in and out of the room. Design competitor Cassandra offered up a "day to night" dress and my jaw dropped. It was beautiful! I didn't realize that my husband had wandered in until I heard him say, "order it!" I uttered my typical decline. "I don't need it."
"Order it."
"It's probably expensive."
"Order it."
"I don't have anywhere to wear it."
"Order it. I'll take you out to dinner."
Fine. I logged on to Macy's and found the dress offered for $99.
I considered $99 a fair price for a decent dress. My size was available. I ordered. I have to say, it was thrilling! I actually ordered a Fashion Star dress!

According to the Macy's website, my dress should be her in 3-6 days. Shipping was free. I can't wait to see what the dress looks like in real life. I ordered my standard size and hope the fit is true. It looks black and ivory to me but the website calls it "black and tan". We will see. In any case, I ordered a Fashion Star dress! Stay tuned and I'll let you know exactly how it is!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clothes: How Much Should You Spend?

Based on my last post and my new rule for restraint, I determined that I could buy one pair of ankle length pants. Only one pair, so boy-oh-boy, I chose those carefully! I must have tried on 30 pairs but decided on just one. When you only get one, it makes sense that you can spend a bit more, right?

Because of my crack-like addiction to clearance prices, I have tried to shop blind to prices. I have had many people who have followed my progress tell me that, yes! We should only buy expensive stuff, and thank you! That's not the point, exactly. We should only buy the RIGHT stuff. The old me would settle for $20 cropped jeans instead of even trying a $50, or even $100 pair. How much should jeans cost? How much should we spend?

Annual Budget:  I recently found a blurb in People Style Watch Magazine about spending guidelines. In the past, I have attempted "guesstimates" about how much should be spent on clothes but truthfully, if I went on a binge, I would just feed the family cereal for dinner for a week to make up for it. I never realized that there is a recommended clothing budget allowance and it was confirmed in this article. 4% of after-tax income. That's the recommended budget. If your salary is $30,000, your clothing budget is roughly $960 per year. Or $80 per month. IF you can afford 4% of your income and it's not eaten by rent, car payments or food. A family income of $80,000 may allow for a $2500 clothing budget ... for the whole family. The magazine suggested breaking the annual budget into seasons which I think is an excellent idea. It's no wonder I have a craving for bargain prices! One single fancy event can wreak havoc on a clothing budget.

Cost Per Wearing:  The other side of the cost consideration is determining how much is too much to spend on any garment. Is $100 too much to spend on jeans? People Style Watch suggests a "cost per wearing" guideline of $2-$3 per wearing if your annual clothing budget in in the $1500-$3000 range.  If you buy the RIGHT jeans for you, they fit well and are made well, could you wear them 50 times? Would you? For a year, that's about 4 times per month.  So, if you keep your jeans for a year and wear them about 4 times per month AND can afford the $100 price tag, then, yes, $100 jeans a perfectly acceptable. If you are trying out a trend like high-waisted flairs then I suggest you re-think. Going forward, every time I purchase something I will be asking myself, will I wear this enough to account for $2 per wearing? Suddenly, spending $200 on an event gown that will be worn 2 or 3 times seems like a crazy idea.

The aforementioned article contained other excellent suggestions:

There is no such thing as clothing as an investment (!) Savings accounts are investments. Buying a home is an investment. Leather boots--not an investment. 

Buy basics and accessorize. 

Avoid event shopping. Frenzy mindset happens to the best of us.

Don't get caught up in brand names. I have mentioned before and still think that since so much of clothing is made outside our country, there is no longer the giant quality gap we could once count on if spending more. No matter where you shop, look closely at the fabric and construction. Surprisingly, Target has some items with the same or better construction than Macy's. Not always, but you just can't count on quality anymore. 

Dress for the waist up. This one is super-interesting! The article mentions "see-level", meaning wear good basic pants or skirts and draw the focus up. Bummer for a shoe fanatic like me, but really true.

Dang. By the time I am realistic about how much I need and how much I should spend, shopping is just not as fun as it was. Paying bills, however, way less painful. They say "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." How about "nothing looks as good as a zero balance credit card!"