Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mayle Knock-offs

Not so long ago, I would be one of those people disparaging stores for knocking off Mayle. I'd be angered at the theft from a small label, the absence of creativity, the dilution of the brand and the sheer lack of ethics displayed. I've not changed my mind on these principles and firmly believe knock offs are wrong--I'd rather these stores (usually but not exclusively chains) employ creativity--and their own team of real designers. But recently, I've been tempted, given the absence of new Mayle collections (unless you are Swiss or have access to the SE collection--how I wish Jane Mayle had chosen to share these with a US boutique, be it Metier in SF or Brooklyn's Bird).

Recently, I've seen a rip-off of the Ziggy romper in Anthropologie and the Zora blouse in Urban Outfitters. Both are variants on a theme--but while they are not identical, they display more than just a Mayle influence...

Photo Courtesy of Monica's i-phone

My interest in the romper, in particular, shows how Mayle-starved I am right now. When Ziggy came out, I hoped it was a lovely blouse paired with some unfortunate pants. I still maintain a blouse would have been a far better idea--had it been a dress, I'd have pounced in a second. Despite my reservations, I tried it on at some point, wanting to like it because it was Mayle, and Mayle was nearly over. Much as I loved the print and the top, Ziggy looked like pajamas on me. Not the look I was hoping for.

Fast forward one year, I tried the Anthropologie version on this weekend. It is sleeveless, the pants had no cuffs and fell straight, the fabric is not silk and the print, while similar, is no lotus print. Some of these points seemed OK--the missing cuffs may even have been a plus. Clearly this romper did not resonate with Anthro's core customer. After many markdowns, it was just $19.99.

After looking at myself in the changing room mirror, I saw why. I tried to convince myself that it was easily worth $19.99, that I could always cut off the pants (leaving me with a fairly dull top). I imagined ways to style it, none of which worked. I generally have a rule--if you have to make excuses for a garment, justify how it could work and be something that it isn't, then you don't buy it. Another rule--such hesitation tells you all you need to know (don't buy--you won't wear it). Finally I always think of an item I own, and like, and think will I ever wear this instead of my one of my favorites? The answer here is clearly no. Then I asked the hard question--would I have liked Ziggy if it was by another designer? And given that the answer was no, why was I even thinking about a knock-off?

Desperation hits us all, I guess. I left with a pair of tights and the recognition that there would be more consignment and ebay Mayle in my future. $20 may not get me much, but all those $20s add up and can go into my Mayle fund. Indeed, I may open a savings account for these purposes so I can watch those sporadic $20s grow.

As this is long, I'll comment on the Zora-alike in another post. And, yes, I am aware that Anthro and UO are owned by the same parent company.

Friday, January 22, 2010


During my Hollywood Up to 1960 class yesterday, we were discussing Orientalism, its influence on silent film and the representation of modern sexuality. One student asked about broader cultural practices, including the role of Orientalism in art. This reminded me of one of my favorite early photographers, Roger Fenton (I adore early photography). So I thought I'd share one of his orientalist pictures--he's better known, perhaps, for his more realistic work--war photography (the Crimean War), landscapes, images of churches, cathedrals and ruins. Apologies for the poor reproduction--the actual resolution is amazing--as it is in so much early photography. This reminds me that I want to talk to Caroline about her favorite pioneer photographers--maybe in conjunction with a visit to the Met, the ICP or some other gallery.

These landscapes are in a finer resolution, although jpgs hardly capture the quality of the actual images.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First week of classes

With the first week of classes over, I'm vowing that this semester isn't going to steal away from me like so many others. It is tough to write and teach, especially after the grading starts to get heavy, but I'm determined to accomplish a lot this time. The book has to go out in two weeks or less, I've got to get the proposal for the second book out this semester and I have my other goals to accomplish--hopefully by the summer.

It's early days yet, but my classes look like they'll be good. I'm happy about the syllabi I've drafted and excited to share some of these films with my students. I hope they'll enjoy them too.

So with time management and some luck, I'm hoping this will be my semester. I'm also hoping my Powerbook will last through the next few months, until Mac's next educational promotion--right now my power cord and battery are both on the verge of dying and I hope I don't have to invest in new ones as I do need to upgrade to a new Macbook Pro. Besides, I also want to save some serious money this semester as I have no idea what my employment situation will be next academic year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jeffrey Monteiro Sale

I meant to update on this earlier, but with the beginning of the semester, I've just been too swamped with work. I went to the sale Monday lunchtime--evidently it had been busy earlier, but it was quiet when I got there.

It was a small sale--all the stock was out, everything was neatly ordered by size (although I was told to check that the hanger and the garment were the same sizes). There were a few resort 09 dresses (about 8-10 in total), mainly in the same style, mostly in size 2 and 4, all for just over $300. The only size 8 was a navy gown--not exactly something I'd ever wear. The rack of fall 09 clothes was also heavy on the 2s and 4s. In the 8s (my size) there were some purple shirts (around $110), one slouch red dress ($195) and some purple coats ($295). There was also a dark purple dress that was supposed to be an 8 but seemed to fit like a 4. The biggest selection of 8s was in the older stock rack, which was where the real deals were--dresses for $80, tops for $50, coats for $100 (I think). Again, the 4s and smaller had the greatest range of bargains, but I did pretty well (I also pretty much cleaned out the dresses in size 8 and even got my most coveted JM dress in the 6, which surprisingly fit me perfectly). The sale had very little stock--I'd say in the range of maybe 100 items (or less), covering all sizes, so I did remarkably well considering only about 10 pieces were in my size.

These are my finds:


This dress is in cotton and fits me perfectly (much to my surprise). I thought it would be too narrow in the hips but it is just right. I love it and it makes me look so slim. It's also beautifully made--and, like all JM, made in the USA--which I love. I can't wait to wear this one out.

This one is possibly my favorite (although I love all three). I wanted it last year but I never found it in a size bigger than 4.  The fact that the 6 fits perfectly is an added bonus.


I got this dress in black. It drapes beautifully and has these amazing pockets. It has some nice detailing too--covered buttons and an embroidered ribbon trim. It was originally the most expensive of these dresses at $600 and it is really special.

So I did very well at this sale--like all good sample sales, I left with a few regrets. There was a jacket, blue trench coat and a little white silk shirt that weren't really in my sizes that I nearly went back for. I suppose that's the mark of a good sample sale--feeling that you did well but that there were pieces you shouldn't have left behind. That said, the stock was very limited--it was one of the smaller sample sales I'd been too. Had I been a 4, I'd have left a lot poorer. As it stands, I am very happy.

Also, looking at the clothes, I have a new respect for JM. Many are very well made. Sizes do vary and some pieces were not so flattering-the red slouch dress is a lovely color but it isn't the right cut for me. Overall, I found his sizing worked very well for my body--surprisingly well, better than most designers. I don't know if his future sales will be this cheap--I doubt it as this seemed to be mainly returned Steven Alan stock and true samples (his sample size is a 4, which doesn't work for me although a few of his outerwear pieces did fit me in the 4, hence some of my regrets). I liked a lot of what I saw, found his staff to be very nice and the sale was really well run too. Overall, one of the best sample sale experiences I've had--although nothing will rival the legendary Mayle sample sale from 2007. I have so many regrets about items I passed on from that sale (because I had already got a fair amount of pieces and didn't want to be greedy) that I wish I could go back in a time machine, revisit the sale and buy those dresses, shoes, tops and sweaters that I put back on the racks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mayle for Sale, Part XVIII

It's been a long while since the last Mayle for sale item, but Karen is offering this lovely dress at a really good price. Here's her description.

Mayle for sale: Thea from Holiday 2008
A lovely, black, 3/4 quarter sleeve dress with lace and piping details. The dress is a size 4 (which I feel is pretty true to size) and barely worn. I found that I haven't worn it enough to justify it in my closet and am hoping to find someone who will give it a good home. Two things to be aware of - I had a friend place a couple of stitches at the midway point at the slit at the top of the dress so that I could wear it unbuttoned or buttoned without it being indecent and I also had her trim the ribbons on the front so that they wouldn't get tangled with coat zippers, etc. I'm looking to sell it for around $220, but would consider other offers too.

Contact Karen at wytheandmetropolitan[AT]gmail[DOT]com

I'll report on the Jeffrey Monteiro sample sale tomorrow. I start back at NYU then and may have a few minutes spare during office hours to update the blog--if not, I'll share the scoop--and the items I regret not buying--later tomorrow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

J. Crew finds

While this has not been the best season for sales, I did find a few things. The cheapest of all were my J. Crew pajama bottoms--one in cotton, two in flannel. The cotton ones are the softest thing in the world and I'm wearing them now (I don't want to take them off). These were $29.99 with another 30% discount. I got two pairs last week and another pair on Thursday after they were marked down further to $19.99 with 30% off. While I was in J. Crew I also got the chevalier cardigan (the Mayle knock off--it steals a lot of details from Nadege, which I still hope to own one day). I passed on a Medium a week or so earllier hoping to find it in grey but then realized it was impossible to find in stores. When I saw a Large (really too big), I realized it was now or never and bought it. At $62, it's not a bad wardrobe adddition. I also found a gray and white fine striped long cashmere mix cardi in J. Crew for just $24 and the statement necklace I wanted for $70. Again, it's all accessories and sleepwear but I think I did OK.

Today I'm sewing. I'd love to shop to but that can wait until Monday when I'll hit a couple of sample sales. Tuesday, it's back to teaching--althoug I think this week has been a full work week as I've prepared classes and, yet again, not got back to my writing. Hopefully I can finish things next week and get on with my conference paper and book proposal, while cutting a few book chapters down to article length to submit to journals.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sales Frustration

The war between stores and consumers appears to wage on. Yesterday, I popped into Barneys and the Chelsea Co-Op on a circuitous route to acupuncture. I am trying not to spend too much money (last year was a little out of control) and saving for Mayle, not that anything has been available recently (another topic for another day). Still, I assumed there would be some rock bottom prices, and I'd be coming home with at least one Barneys bag.

I couldn't have been more wrong--the items I liked were few and far between and on 40% discount. Extra reductions were limited to specific racks, most of them filled with t-shirts, boring blouses from the likes of Tucker and DVF rejects. Everything else was on first markdown--and this is usually the point where the price tags have been marked down twice or three times. Nobody was shopping. The Chelsea Co-Op was the same, as was the Soho one earlier in the week. I had hoped to pick up a couple more No. 6 dresses but those had sold out (my dress was the sole one available, probably because it was ordered in greater quantity and a little more formal). Most of the shoes in the Co-Op weren't on sale at all and many of those that were came from earlier seasons. Inventory was low, but I chalk that up to reduced orders and people snapping up items early on in the sale in case they sold out.

The same picture was repeated elsewhere. Lyell evidently isn't taking another markdown until March, with its fall collection a mere 10-30% off right now, and some pieces remaining full price. Refinery 29 had sent out an email touting their second round of reductions--up to 60% off--but that appears to be a miscommunication. [EDIT: Lyell has dropped prices--on final sale, final markdown prices are max 40% off but many are unchanged or at 25-30% off, making much of the stock costly for this time or year]. Bird has discounts, but not as steep as in the past, and the more covetable pieces are either sold out or not discounted (or not in my size). The same applies to all the online boutiques in my usual search.

As for the chains, J. Crew has decent markdowns but dismal frumpy stock, save for some jewelry, cords (by this point, in very odd sizes--lots of 26S), and their amazing pajama pants. Club Monaco has barely reduced anything and as its designs are heading downhill fast, I smell trouble ahead--a shame as they used to be good for basics with an interesting twist. Now most of their stock seems dull, dated or just off, and any notable pieces aren't being reduced (and they don't appear to be selling either). After all, by mid-January, nobody wants to pay full price for sweaters that have been on the shelves for two or three months. That won't change unless the clothing arrives in stores much later. Retailers--we know you will need to get rid of it at some time and we'll either wait it out for the discount we want or pass.

This fall, I bought mainly J. Crew jewelry because it was inspiring and well constructed, despite the price tags (I still wish they had more earrings that were pretty and lightweight). I also got my Lyell skirt because it was so beautiful on and would be a valuable wardrobe basic (it was on sale, but still pricey). I've also bought a couple of Fletcher by Lyell items and some J. Crew Mayle knock-offs (so much of the store is dull, but they have expanded out and provided some interesting pieces). But still, this isn't inspiring. It's not accidental that most of my new pieces were basics (jeans, tee-shirts, cardigans) or accessories--tights, jewelry and the like. I'd buy new dresses in a second if there were any good ones out there. With just four exceptions, all my new dresses last year were Mayle--whether they came from the store, from the sample sale, Septieme Etage, tthe Outnet or ebay.

Fortunately, there isn't that much I want--except for those Mayle covets. There just aren't many inspiring items out there and at this point, Topshop's designs are as good as any, even though execution isn't always that great. I'm still looking for a good pair of winter shoes that aren't super high, aren't Oxfords, aren't totally flat and I've struck out.

If the stores want people to buy, they can't just keep inventory low--they have to up their design game so we consumers feel we have to have an item (or an entire collection). This applies throughout--to small designers, department stores, boutiques and chains. Significantly, Topshop is the best performer of all--and they have kept inventory high and worked on design. They don't need to reduce as much because people have continued shopping because they produce piees that make their target customers' pulses race. They don't have to wait until March for their real sales or keep items priced high in the hopes that someone, one day, will buy. Of course a giant on this scale is not comparable to small, barely profitable venture like Lyell, but from the consumer's perspective, the point remains--make us want a piece, thrill us, and if you fail to do that (or price it too high), reduce it and move on. If you want to keep winter items in store in January and February at full price (not a bad idea), you can't put them on the shelves in Sept-October. That thrill of the new and exciting pales, and as it leaves, so does your chance of a full price sale.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Things to do this week

1. Finish syllabi
2. Place film orders
3. Finish writing letters of recommendation
4. Finish proof-reading book
5. Write letter to editor at U. of California Press
6. Mail book
7. Start writing SCMS conference paper on female nude in early feature films
8. Place remaining desk copy orders
9. Bank checks/pay credit card bill
10. Go to No. 6, Topshop and Madewell--hopefully for a reward for work well done.

Friends Time

It's been a good weekend, but I haven't done as much work as I wanted. I have decent reasons (I wouldn't say good as inertia did crop in). First, the residue of jetlag and the resurgence of whatever virus I picked up in the UK hampered my productivity. Second, I was pleasurably distracted as I got the chance to see friends, both from NYC and from out of town.

Friday night, Evan and I went to the Met and had dinner with one of his friends and her friend, both of whom I really liked. I also went to visit two paintings in the European hall, both not so well known mid-late 19th century works (neither are impressionist and neither fit into any well known school in any easy to describe ways).

One is of Salome (the one at the top). This is my friend Alyssa's favorite picture in the Met's collection (or her picture...), the other is a monumentally large painting of Joan of Arc, pre-warrior phase, where she stands in front of her village house just before a storm comes through (the lighting on the painting is fabulous--to restate, it isn't impressionist and was shown in the Salon) with two visions--a warrior figure and an angel--visible in the greenery on the left of the frame. This has become known as my picture as it is my personal favorite in the Met.  They used to sit next to each other but Alyssa's Salome has been moved a few paintings down and we have joked about writing to the Met to return them to their original positions. I've put them next to each other here, where they belong. I also visited the photo gallery as I love 19th and early 20th century photography.

This made three museums in one week--the V and A and the Natural History Museum were the other two. Whenever I'm in London, I wander through the V and A, usually with no map, just to see what I can and to be surprised. The Met is smaller and I know it so well that it is an entirely different experience.

Saturday I met up with Cindy, Julie and Monica. After a mini shop in Nolita and Soho, we ate dinner and had some drinks (water for me) but the fun part is really being with each other. As for clothing, it was so cold that I just wrapped myself in seemingly endless layers. Style didn't come into it for me.

My friend Jenny is in town from DC for a conference and has limited free time so I met her for brunch on Sunday, along with Alyssa. We went to a Belgian place in the Flatiron District and after Jenny left, Alyssa and I bought reduced pajama pants from J. Crew. Brunch was a lot of fun--it's always great to see Jenny and I realize I have to make a trip to DC to see more of her this year.

So I still have films to order and syllabi to finish (my brain isn't fully in gear yet). But I did write letters of recommendation for grad students all evening and dealt with a couple of related issues so I'm slowly but surely climbing back into work mode. Next week, I have to finish the book--and I have to finish the syllabi tomorrow. At this point, all the goodies I was hoping to buy myself to celebrate the end of the book are sold out so that has to be a cautionary lesson.

I also have another friend coming into town tomorrow (Aniko, another friend from grad school, is bringing up some of her University of Virginia students tomorrow for their annual tour of NYC media). So I have to be disciplined with time as well as my diet. This is really where the New Year and its resolutions come into force!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Settling in

I may have been back in New York yesterday but my body clock hasn't quite got the message yet. I fell asleep during acupuncture, which may have been because I was tired, jetlagged or because Juliette is so good at what she does. I'm thinking it was a combination of the three. Interestingly, I woke up thinking I was wearing socks (I wasn't) and almost cried out because I had no idea where I was. Thankfully I kept silent.

After that, I headed out to Long Island to meet Evan and his parents for an early dinner (or not so early given I'm still on GMT). I managed to make my train, despite getting out of acupuncture about 18 minutes before it left--my subway karma was good yesterday--which seemed an impossible feat even given the proximity of Union Square and Penn Station. It was frigid in L.I. so I suspect the next week here won't be pretty. Then we headed back into the city, back to Trader Joe's which was out of everything I needed so I have to make another trip in if I want to carry on eating healthily at home.

Partly because Mum and Dad's internet was down, I hadn't ordered my books for the upcoming semester (which is really bad of me, I know). So this morning, I put orders in, ordered at least some of my desk copies, setting up the afternoon to write at least one syllabus--that way I can also get my film orders in and placate the stressed out staff. It's not a deliberate procrastination or provocation--these things need to be done at exactly the worst time--when I'm grading, writing letters of recommendation for students for grad school/Ph.D. programs and when I'm already tired and overworked. I need clarity to decide on the best films, readings etc. which is impossible when I'm submerged in completely different material. Later tonight, Evan and I are heading over to the Met to meet with friends--I hope I can stay alert for a decent amount of time.

On other matters, I have been quite good with my clothing splurges recently (although I have to acknowledge the drain Christmas puts on my finances, like everybody else). I have some (increasingly fading) hopes about items I want to find in the sales which I'll share later. Reduced inventories, the absence of Mayle and the disastrous state of sample sales (like the Rachel Comey sale which I missed as I was in the UK/in the air) suggest little is available cheap and even less of it is worth getting. I'm thinking of getting some more J. Crew toothpick cords as they are now down to around $20, but do I really need a second pair? I like the ones I have but duplicates aren't always necessary.

My sole new UK item (other than some underwear and tights bought on sale) is one I am quite proud of. The only photos of me in it are on my new UK cell phone and I can't download them until I get a US charger, but I did find the following images on line. I like it because it is so fake, so much like feathers rather than fur, and has that aura of British rock star/alterna-chick/art school glamour. Even Mum liked it. Plus it was a mere 30 pounds (I can't find the pound sign on blogger which irritates me somewhat).

I think my main complaints here (and they are minor) is that there are no pockets and the fasteners could be a little bigger and sturdier (they are those frog kind of hooks that are needed for this kind of coat). Still. I am very happy to have this little piece with me--even though it necessitated me bringing back another bag and checking it in so I could get the jacket home. All this for less than the price of a cardigan. Alas, the rest of the sale offerings were not so hot in the UK--like here, everything was picked over and inventories kept very thin. When I get another camera--one that actually works--I'll post photos of me wearing this. I think it is best with skinny pants/jeans or miniskirts and boots but I have a couple of Mayle dresses I think it will complement nicely.

On another note, the UK is still deeply frozen. It was a minor miracle I made it back to the US just one hour late.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Full update soon, but just a brief post for now. I had a great time, despite my entire break coinciding with Britain's worst snow and cold in maybe a 100 years (or 30, depending on the newspaper you read). Indeed, I was amazed that my return flight was a mere hour late--yesterday saw horrendous snow in the Southeast, with Heathrow and my house seemingly two of the few areas in the UK to escape with just a couple of inches of snow.

No updates this holiday as my parents' router broke and I had no email for 10 days. I also don't want Mum to find my blog and realize how much I spend on clothes.

On a related matter, there was no Mayle anywhere to be found in London, which was sad. I imagine the few pieces left in Harvey Nicks went in the summer sales, which I missed. Great things in Topshop, many of them available in the US, but I was restrained and just bought an amazing fake fur jacket that looks like long feathers. It was a mere 30 pounds, possibly marked too far down. Even though it is two sizes too big, it works for me.

So I return to what seems like a balmy NYC, having lived in my Madewell jeans, J Crew toothpick cords and stripey ts and sweaters. Alas, most of my lovely Mayle items remained largely unworn as it was just too cold to wear a dress, or silk, or anything delicate most of the time I was home.

So now it is back to a lot of work, to acupuncture, to Evan and the cats. I have many resolutions and ambitions for this year and hope I can fulfill them all.

Happy New Year to all of you. More soon.