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June 28, 2007

Plus size shopping

In case you missed my plus size fashion spread in last Sunday's Pioneer Press, here's a list of useful shopping resources:

  • La Rue Marche in Hudson, Wis. recently added a substantial selection of trendy plus-size apparel
  • b & lu - St. Paul-based website devoted to trendy, affordable plus size fashions
  • Maurices just added a plus size shop (16 to 24) in most of its stores, creating a new option for younger women looking for casual, career and dressy looks.
  • Did you know that American Eagle offers extended sizes, online only?
  • Great jeans: Svoboda
  • Great dresses and more: Monif C. and Kiyonna
  • Old Navy seems to be eliminating plus sizes in stores, but the online selection is still worth a look.
  • Other online resources: Igigi , Alright and Alloy
  • Bombshellbeauty.blogspot.com: Curvy fashionista Sara Bartlett of St. Paul offers tips and reviews of plus-size fashions.

June 26, 2007

No coupon? No problem.

"Is there a coupon offer today?" I asked the sales associate in the contemporary department at Macy's, and we both burst into laughter. Is there ever not a coupon offer? So I fished around in my bag and came up with a couple of expired 15 or 20 percent off cards . I needn't have bothered. Krista, the sales associate, had a stack of them sitting at the counter. Same thing happened to me in shoes. So don't miss out. Basically there is never a reason to pay full price at Macy's - you know, the department store that promised to be less promotional.

Interesting addendum: Krista did have an ulterior motive. She wrote her name on the bottom of my receipt and asked me to go online and say nice things about her. (Does this count?) I've been told by company officials that this employee recognition program is not new, but someone must have recently clued in the front line staff because suddenly they're all begging for accolades. No one seems to have many of them that they'll need to actually work for it.

Sur La Table opens Friday

The Twin Cities' first Sur La Table store opens Friday, June 29 at 50th and France (kiddy corner from Anthropologie) at 5000 France Ave. Known to local foodies through its catalog and website, Sur La Table is a chef's paradise, offering better cookware, bakeware, barware, small electrics, gadgets, table decor, hard-to-find tools, books and items I can't pronounce and have not a clue how to use, like Portuguese cataplanas. It's probably a good thing that locally owned Cooks of Crocus Hill just down the block has its well established roster of cooking lessons to keep the place jumping. With so many quality culinary options in town, where will you shop? Let me know.

June 19, 2007

Can't swindle me, Office Max

I needed sheets of crack and peel sticky paper to create some odd-sized labels. Wish I had known what a production that would be before creating the odd-sized labels. Kinkos couldn't help me. I found the 8 by 11 sheets at Office Max, 10 for $17. Not quite satisfied, I started asking around and got a referral to Minneapolis-based wholesale paper distributor Xpedx. Turns out, individuals can shop there. In fact, the facility at 1401 W. River Road in Minneapolis is extremely inviting -- clean, helpful staff and set up like a store with tons of paper products that just make you feel like getting organized. And here's the best part: Xpedx sells that same sticky paper, 100 sheets for $13! So, let's recap: 100 sheets for $13 at Xpedx or 10 sheets for $17 at Office Max. Can you believe the nerve? I'll never be able to buy paper products at retail again.

June 13, 2007

How cheap can Macy's get?

Anyone who has recently purchased a wedding gift at Macy's knows the department store no longer provides free gift wrap for items purchased off a registry. As a consolation, they offer boxes and ribbon -- which, to be fair, has long been the standard at Crate & Barrel. But here's the caveat: those boxes come in just three sizes - none of which accommodated the $559 worth of All-Clad cookware (a rather common wedding gift) my mom and some friends recently purchased for a bride. The sales associate acted like she could do my mom a "favor" by wrapping the items for $6.50 apiece. Plus tax. Instead, my mom took her business to the dollar store, where she purchased gift bags for a total of $3. But how ridiculous that she should have had to do that. Little perks like gift wrap are the reason people shop at department stores. Strip the store of that, and there's not much left.

June 11, 2007

Discovering Steve & Barry's

The last time I'd been in Steve & Barry's it was to buy college t-shirts, two for 10 bucks. On Thursday, I was there (under the guise of being a fashion writer -- read all about it in the Pioneer Press) for the launch of Bitten by Sarah Jessica Parker. It's Steve & Barry's attempt to become a full-service lifestyle brand with clothes and accessories for men, women and children. The store itself struck me as a poor man's Old Navy. Same warehouse design; less energy and trend. The clothes were pretty blah -- however, I'd go back to grab some cheap swim trunks for my husband, or a $5 polo for my kid. And the interpretations of Ugg boots and Puma sneakers for $14.98 were very convincing.

Still, people keep asking me why a fashion icon like SJP would choose Steve & Barry's. Because H&M is busy with Madonna, Kohl's has got Vera Wang and Target prefers fashion designers to movie stars. Really, SJP says it's because she's all about making fashion accessible to everyone. Those who showed up for the launch, however, found the line to be a bit short on fashion. Bitten is basic. If that's what you're looking for, you'll find some decent fitted tees for $7.98. The $12.98 hoodie SJP raved about on Oprah fit me well (did you really think I was going to get out of there without shopping?), but you can see how they keep prices low: the zipper is junk. I didn't try the $14.98 skinny jeans that have also gotten a lot of hype. The women I saw trying them on liked them, but complained that they ran small. In fact, plus size shoppers were probably most disappointed by the collection, which has boasted sizes up to 22. "This XXL is nothing close to a 22," one woman told me. Nevertheless, she - like most shoppers I talked to -- left with at least a few pieces. I bought four t-shirts and that hoodie (hazard of the trade) -- all for $46. Can't complain about that!

June 01, 2007

Finding jeans that fit

A couple of websites are taking some of the guesswork out of finding the right jeans for your shape. Answer a few questions about your size, style preferences and problem areas and they will generate a list of brands likely to work for you. I've tried both and been impressed by the results. They are www.zafu.com (my top pick) and www.truejeans.com (newer, more limited on brands but still worthwhile).


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