Monday, May 25, 2009

Winding down from Memorial Day Weekend

Happy Memorial Day to all of you JCA's, and happy Monday to the always-stunning Ms. A Bigger Closet in Canada! :-) Thanks so much for the blogosphere welcome, folks!

We're recuperating here from a wonderful weekend visit by my DH's brother, his wife and their 9- and 12-year-old kids. And recuperating is definitely the operative word (I'm sure for them, too!) DH and I, as you all know, have two "grown college men" sons, and it's been quite a while since the energy of the elementary and middle-school permeated our house. Even our dog's been asleep all afternoon. We really had such fun, ate too much ribs 'n chicken 'n stuff, stayed up too late and killed way too many bottles of nice wine. But I don't feel even a smidge of caloric guilt -- another sure sign that I've hit Midlife Mellow. Life's just too fleeting not to savor all the over-the-topness of a rare visit from these folks I'm so privileged to call family. This weekend I thought for the 100,000th time that I really hit the In-laws Jackpot when I married DH. Love his parents, love his siblings, love their spouses, adore their children. Wahoo!

The weather here in the Southeastern U.S. in the springtime is fickle. What they famously say in Denver about their weather is just as true of ours: If you don't like it, wait a coupla minutes. Sure enough, Mother Nature has been pouting and refusing to cooperate this weekend for her own mysterious reasons. Most of the weekend has been cloudy, warm and muggy -- the kind of weather that in our climate makes your skin feel sticky within seconds of stepping outside and that makes the annual bumper crop of mosquitoes stand up and say "YESSSSSSSSSS!!" But we braved it and spent most of our days out by the pool anyhow, lathering on our sunscreen for no apparent reason and spritzing Deep Woods Off in every possible direction like we were vampire hunters holding up our garlic strands. Every now and then we'd have ten minutes of total downpour, but on the other hand every so often the sun would burst gloriously through with such intensity that we'd all stop dead in our tracks, eyes closed, faces turned upwards. If you happened to be a little birdie member of the family of cardinals who live in our backyard and you'd been winging your way overhead just as the sunshine peeked out, for sure you'd have thought that we humans looked weirdly choreographed.

I'm both proud (as a JCA) and more than a little embarrassed (as a slightly compulsive JCA) to admit that I snuck (is that a word? Sneaked?) away a few times to browse J.Crew's Memorial Day weekend sale.
Nothing made me want to yell "Well, welcome to my closet!", much as I expected that inner voice to sing out. So in the end I left a cartload of things un-bought. And I can't complain -- I've drunk the Crewlade several times this year (and flat-out guzzled it during my April Red Card manic phase.)

But I sure did have a great time looking for goodies and practicing my new
stealth-style J.Crew sale-shopping skills, and for those I must thank JCA pros Heather and Bekah. Skip this if you're a JCA pro, too, but if, like me, you are jonesing to improve your J.Crew Sale Skillset and want to learn how to be way more effective at navigating the World of Popbacks and Price-Shifting that is J.Crew's online sale section, read on. Here's what Heather and Bekah had to sayover at J.Crew Aficionada's addictive blog, in response to my pitiful pleas for help.

Heather shared this (and props to Heather for being not only wise but also wickedly funny):
[T]o answer your question... I'm certain that many JCAs have their own technique for pop backs & hidden sales. In my case, I use the search, snipe, save, & stalk approach. Here's how it works: I'm in love with an item, like an ecole jacket, but I'm not too certain if I should buy now or wait. Sooo I snipe the jacket by selecting it in my size & colour & entering a high # in the quantity field before adding it to my cart. Now a pop-up appears to tell me how many are left, say 37 at the reg price of $160+. I keep adding everything that interests me into the basket & take a screenshot using shift+alt+4 to save the info for later. Then I will stalk those items by reg checking the site using the search field & the item #s. Lesse, now my ecole is on sale, down to &39.99, & there are still 30 left . Also, there is no free shipping or good disc on offer, so I don't need it as a ride along. I decide to wait for an addt'l off sale. A few days may pass & I discover - here's the sale, but my size sold out! No worries... I'll just keep searching & stalking to see what happens. Yay! The search shows 3 ecoles in my size & colour "popped back" & now they're priced at $33.99 - score! Now things don't always work out so favourably. The price may go back up or the "pop back" may never appear. Still, it does add a certain spice to the shopping exp. Most esp if you're getting extra colours of something you already love or are undecided about something & need a great price to make it worth your effort.

As if my head weren't spinning enough from this impressive and sage tutorial, Bekah added these tips for me:

JCAUNCMom, I notice the popbacks simply by the numbers. Usually in the 400s they haven't restocked, in the 6-7-800s they have. I find Monday-Thursday it's usually around 10:45, with the weekend being earlier (sometimes before I get up!) but variable. I don't know if other people have found that too or if I am imagining a pattern where there isn't one. I usually check the sale section every forty five minutes or so and wait for the total number of items to jump.

Wow. With sharpshooter shoppers like Heather and Bekah lurking out there, it's a wonder that novices like me ever score any of the best items. ;-) But look out, teachers, this student's gonna practice and have you two squarely in my sights during the next great sale.

Nothin' but love for ya in the meantime, of course!

Next time I won't be so long-winded, folks. Have a wonderful rest-of-day -- I am outta here to practice Polyvoring and to read your blogs! Ciao!!!

P.S. OOTD (no pic but I'll describe): J.Crew 5" chino shorts in papaya (2008) with Perfect Fit crewneck s/s shirt in chocolate, ColeHaan chocolate 1.5" belt with pewter buckle, J.Crew fabric flip-flops in madras with cantaloupe polka-dotted V-strips, and funky old Liz Claiborne silver hoop earrings embellished with tiny caramel & cantaloupe dangling beads. Not too shabby for lounging around!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Polyvore, J.Crew blogging and the legacy of paper dolls

So I'm putting this "out there", ladies (and gents, perhaps?), feeling a bit like I'm tossing flower petals into the breeze and wondering where they'll land. Being past 50 makes me a bit longer in the tooth, you might say, than the average J.Crew Aficionada (JCA, I proudly know to abbreviate). But it doesn't make me any older at heart than all of the 30- and 40-something (and younger) JCA's whose blogs I have recently discovered and spent WAY too many hours browsing. A special hat tip to A Bigger Closet (here's a gal who could accessorize a flour sack), Gigi, Heidi, FFM, the original J.Crew Aficionada blog hostess, and so many more. You ladies are feeding -- nope, not accurate; you are accelerating -- my long-time J.Crew habit. American Express thanks you.

And Polyvore? Ohmigosh. How can I thank you all for introducing me to that wonder? Most of you JCA's out there are too young to remember "paper dolls". But if there any other JCA's out there of a certain age, you'll know what I mean by this in the MOST complimentary way: Polyvore is the Paper Dolls of the internet. Wahoo to that!

Like most women my age, I spent many a happy young childhood hour "playing" paper dolls. There wasn't much "play" about it, actually, but it was a humdinger of a hand-eye-coordination exercise, and it nurtured my whole generation of clothes hounds. Paper dolls were purchased in booklets that looked like comic books and cost a few bucks, and you could find them almost anywhere. Each booklet came with a cardboard two-dimensional doll (the heavier the cardboard, the costlier the booklet). And each booklet had pages and pages of colorful clothes and accessories. If you were lazy, you'd pay extra for the paper doll booklets that had clothes you could "punch" out -- they had perforated edging around the clothing. But my pals and I thought that was some kind of SERIOUS cheating. For us, the whole point of the exercise was to use your best, sharpest scissors expertly so that YOUR fashion pieces emerged from their paper cocoon with absolutely no white edging. And anybody who knew anything at all knew that punching out perforated-edged clothes left those annoying little white nubbies on the clothes. Kiss of death, those nubbies.

We, the more discerning paper dollers, would carefully -- ohhhhhh so carefully -- snip the white boundaries from around the clothes (except for the critically-important paper tabs, the "bra straps" of paper doll clothing, if you will). This could take a very long time, and little fingers cramped up, but we didn't complain. We gently placed our finished clothing into piles around us -- tops here, pants there, jewelry alongside. And when all was cut out and the floor and table around us was a wasteland of white debris and used-up paper doll booklets, then and only then did we get to dress our always perfectly-coiffed and impossibly-tiny-waisted paper dolls. We folded those little paper "bra straps" into place for each piece, added jewelry and shoes, and voila, instant outfit.

You might wonder -- as do I, actually -- what was so fascinating about this time-consuming endeavor, seeing as how at the end of all that labor you had
laying on the table in front of you a two-dimensional girl, precariously and temporarily dressed in two-dimensional clothes. Your coiffed, dressed and accessorized paper doll didn't move, bend, or even stand up. But the deeply satisfying thing was this: your own unique fashionista touch was right there in her outfit, ya know? You might look over at your best friend's paper doll and silently think to yourself "Gee whiz, I can't believe she put THAT top with THOSE pants". Out loud, of course, you'd say to your best friend "That's neat" or "That looks good" -- because much as you didn't love the ensemble, you loved your friend that much more and wanted to encourage her fashion experimentation. So you didn't insult. Instead, you might just say "Hey, try this top on her with those pants... See, awesome!"

I've always had a strong sense of my own style, and it's pretty J.Crew-ish --- clean-lined, simple, not a lot of frou-frou but with a touch of feminine. Nowadays, though, I am navigating the treacherous waters of trying to dress well as a young-at-heart 50-something. Like so many of my friends, I'm walking a tightrope: I want to dress fashionably and with a classic yet fresh look, but I do NOT want to make the dreadful mistake of being one of those moms who tries to wear clothes that are too young for me. This is far easier said than done. When your birthday says 50-something, your heart, soul and self-image don't necessarily keep pace, and those cute little low-rise jeans still look awfully cute on the hanger. That's where all of you JCA's and Polyvore come in, and why I so love this newfound hobby of keeping up with your blogs and your Polyvore sets. You are the paper dollers of your generation, ladies. You put together your ensembles with such care that I can practically FEEL those sharp scissors in your hands trimming the white edges off the beautiful clothes. I look at your Polyvore sets and your wonderfully descriptive blogs (verbal paper dolls, truly). And I learn. And I remember. :-)

Thank you. I hope these floating flower petal words find some of you.