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Allison Kaplan

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July 29, 2008

Oh, to be this coordinated

I should be organizing my closet. Instead, I sit here at my desk in my new home, while the contents of my wardrobe remain strewn across my bed, dresser and - it's true - in garbage bags on the floor. Good thing Sara Rogers isn't coming over. Just last week, the Mall of America fashion expert and image consultant was on "Shop Girls" talking about how she arranges her closet by outfit. Rather than pants on one rack and tops on another, she groups five shirts with the bottoms that match. I am in awe. And I'll think about that as I cram my pants on one rack and tops on another.

June 27, 2008

Gaga for Gulbis

Nataliegulbis Now I understand why guys are so excited about the U.S. Women's Open, taking place this weekend at Interlachen Country Club in Edina. Natalie Gulbis. She's the hottie on the course: long, blond hair, killer long legs that she loves to flaunt in skirts up to there, and, unlike Anna Kournikova, she has a win to her credit.
Am I impressing you with my vast golfing knowledge? Well, it ends there. But I can tell you Natalie's favorite jeans: True Religion. I got a crash course in all things Gulbis this week when the sports department at the Pioneer Press asked if I'd write something "fun and fashiony" about the Open. Paula Kraemer wouldn't talk to me about her penchant for pink. Jennifer Rosales didn't return my calls. But girly golfer Natalie Gulbis was happy to trade her Adidas for Dior stilettos to go shopping with me at the Galleria. We met at BCBG which happens to be one of her favorite stores because everything fits her so well (um, does anything not fit a body like that? "I have an athletic build," she complains). She likes dresses (Shorter the better. If I had legs like hers, I'd feel the same) because you put one on and you're good to go. Outfits are too much trouble (and too cumbersome, perhaps?). When she's on the road, she picks a color scheme - this trip, it's black and gold. She won't even buy something that doesn't coordinate. She liked the bags at Pumpz & Company, although not as much as the Chanel she was carrying, which was a gift from a friend. (I'm really hanging with the wrong crowd.) She tried on an Anna Sui dress at Arafina, but didn't buy. As much as she loves fashion, she loves having a stylist. She asked me if belts are still in style. As for feeling in her element when she attended Fashion Week earlier this year, she said "heck no!," which was rather charming coming from someone who looks like she could step onto a runway. In other Gulbis gossip: she and ex Ben Roethlisberger are on good terms and Natalie is single. Try not to drool. Read more about my shopping excursion with Natalie and see a video clip at www.twincities.com.

June 24, 2008

Imagine! A tankini with support

On maternity leave (officially, anyway) for the summer, I imagined lots of pool time. What I hadn't factored in was the smushy state of my midsection three month after batting out Boy No. 2. A tankini would be nice for a bit more coverage and comfort while swimming with a toddler, but then there's the state of the boobs, which require some sort of underwire treatment. Good luck finding a tankini with underwire in stores. It's the dumbest thing - these suits with extra coverage are really designed to fit women who probably don't need it. I'm glad I complained about this on my radio show, "Shop Girls," because a listener called in and suggested Athleta.com, a great website where you can buy swimwear by cup size - tankinis and all. Brilliant!

June 10, 2008

Bitten? Not even a nibble, thanks

Steve & Barry's is desperately trying to capitalize on the "Sex and the City" movie frenzy by launching its own SATC t-shirt collection and new pieces for Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten line, which is exclusive to the retailer (all items priced at $9.98 or less). Since the initial Bitten blitz when I immediately bought three t-shirts and a hoodie - all of which I still wear - I've only stopped by Steve & Barry a couple of times and I've never felt compelled to buy more. My most recent visit this week was no exception. Bitten, which showed a flash of potential to do stylish pieces at unbelievably low prices, has become nothing more than cheap basics - khakis and t-shirts in solid colors and unsexy cuts. While the first group had some pieces that you could perhaps imagine SJP donning - at least for pr purposes - there's nothing there now. No big surprise that the televised clips of SJP that play over and over in the store show her in a t-shirt from the original Bitten collection. I know, because I have the same one. One gets the impression that was the first and last time Ms. Parker took a look what Steve & Barry's was actually doing.

50th and France is having a moment

Recently I asked one of the owners of Bluebird Boutique how she felt about the arrival of Bumbershute, which could be perceived as competition for the designer dollar. "Great," she said, and I'm inclined to believe her logic - "now her Wayzata customers have reason to shop at 50th and France. The more the merrier." Indeed, power in numbers was on the mind of Bumbershute owner Kathryn Paulsrud when she made the big move. She figured 50th is more of a regional draw. And becoming more so every day. Nani Nalu made the move from Ridgedale Center to 50th. Priscilla of Boston, like Monique Lhuillier, picked it for its first Twin Cities store. And the latest announcement: St. Paul destination boutique Stephanie's will open a second store at 50th in August - the same month the Bluebird girls will debut their accessories store, Ladyslipper Boutique. 50th has always been a distinguished address, but lately, there's an undeniable energy as the shopping district proves itself to be the destination for boutique shopping in the Twin Cities with a well rounded mix of styles and price points (plus great places to eat and drink). If you want to impress your out-of-town fashionista friends, there's no question where to take them.

May 28, 2008

Personal shoppers at Anthropologie

And as I examined myself in a pair of cropped pants in the fitting room mirror at Anthropologie, I thought, if only I had "a best friend and confidant available...for exceptional support, insight and a little fun."
Talk about your full service specialty chain. Anthropologie is taking a cue from department stores, introducing a free personal shopping service at many locations nationwide, including the 50th and France store. Call for an appointment - I'm told the personal shoppers can assist on both the fashion and home sides of the store, with anything from a wardrobe update to freshening up a room to top-to-bottom makeovers. The press release promises a whole lot, including the personal shopper pledge to "keep a record of clients’ sizes and interests, so they can alert them when something they might like first arrives." Sounds like  the stuff any good retail sales associate should be doing, but at least Anthropologie recognizes the need to enhance service. This is a great opportunity for women who get overwhelmed by Anthropologie's selection (there's always more merchandise under the tables), and for women who crave a fresh alternative but always assumed the store was too whimsical or too young (both my mom and I are huge fans, but rarely do we walk out with the same items). Again, like the personal shopping service provided at better department stores, this program is free. You've got nothing to lose. Except maybe your old best friend and confidant.

May 20, 2008

Get ready for BCBG

The wait is finally over - BCBG will open at the Galleria on Thursday, May 22. That's actually about a week ahead of schedule - so get in quick before everyone else figures it out! BCBG has shops within some Macy's stores in town, and an outlet in Albertville, but this is the first company store to grace the Twin Cities.

May 13, 2008

SATC in the TC

Satcativy Next thing you know, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will be hawking dish washing detergent. From beauty products to workout gear to, of course, shoes, every brand wants their product associated with the "Sex and the City" movie. I'd say I'm receiving around five SATC product pitches a day - and often, the connection is as remote as, these gloves are made of leather - just like the ones Carrie wears in the movie! I'm irritated already...but still, I confess, I'm excited to see the movie. A couple of local retailers are doing their part to capitalize on the fervor. Ivy at Calhoun Square is selling SATC t-shirts with sayings like "Looking for Mr. Big" and "I'm a Carrie." (Can't help thinking: would Carrie ever be caught in something like that?). They sell for $40 to $44. Drama at Gaviidae Common is hosting "An Evening with Sex and the City," including a screening of the film, cocktails, store gift certificates and gift bag. The event takes place Saturday, May 31. Tickets can be purchased by sending $25 via paypal to [email protected] Or call 612-338-9423 for more details. Cheers. 

April 29, 2008

Subtracting plus sizes

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from women has to do with the lack of stores selling fashionable plus size clothes. So I applauded Hudson, Wis. boutique La Rue Marche for turning over half of its shop to larger sizes. I wrote about it in the Pioneer Press, I talked about it on the radio. Finally, an independent shop recognized that women of all shapes and sizes want to wear trendy, stylish clothes. Finally, curvy women could try on jeans rather than guess their size online. Finally, a shop stocked the same contemporary looks for size 18 that are available in size 8.
But store owner Lisa Shortridge just informed me that she has eliminated plus sizes already. They just didn't sell. "Women did come in and buy," Shortridge told me, "But some of them seemed to be a little older and they were not looking for my style. Also, it was really hard to find cute merchandise from vendors. And I think these women don't think of shopping in boutiques - maybe they're too intimidated, which makes me sad."
Any other theories? If the women who complain about a lack of plus size options don't support the retailers that are trying, you can't blame stores for sticking with 0-12.

The poop on postpartum shopping

All I wanted was a couple of new shirts.
Getting dressed postpartum is oddly more challenging than maternity fashion - and that's not even accounting for the spit up and milk leaks. While pregnant, I sought out shirts that were form fitting to show off my belly - better to let people know you're knocked up, rather than knocking back too many pints of Chunky Monkey. But the clothes that worked at 9 mos. now feel too revealing. Nothing cute about the aftermath. Nothing cute about my 3-year-old pressing the jiggly remains at my midsection and asking "Mommy, is there another baby in there?"
And the boobs are a bigger issue (literally) than the tummy. Even some of my more forgiving shirts and sweaters won't work because I'm taking up so much fabric up top.
So I decided to make the trek to Hot Mama. I wanted to check out those Yummie Tummie body shaping tanks I've heard so much about. I know women love them, but personally, I felt like the stretchy top (think Spanks in shirt form) simply emphasized my extra rolls. I did, however, find plenty of longer, loose (skim the body, loose - not potato sack loose) tops.
I actually had time to try a few on because 1. Hot Mama has toys to occupy my 3-year-old. 2. My parents came along to hold the newborn when he fussed.
It really does take a village to shop with children.
The baby was fine. My  newly potty trained older one, however, suddenly needed to poop. I dropped the  one Free People shirt that fit, left the stroller in the aisle, the baby with the grandparents and dashed across the hall to the restroom (A good mother always identifies the nearest potty when out in public with a toddler.)
False alarm.
Returned to the counter to pay when the urge hit him again. This time, I could tell by his red face, and the fact that he asked if I had brought him other pants, we were in trouble. So much for those cute Elmo underpants.
We regrouped, cleaned up, packed everyone up and about three hours later, we were ready to go home.
At least I did get my shirt. And a silver bangle.

March 09, 2008

Fashion at Hotel Ivy

Moniqueshow Now that's a fashion show. Minneapolis designer Joy Teiken of Joynoelle skipped ClubDiva this weekend to team up with Monique Lhuillier for Sunday's elegant Runway Luxury fashion fundraiser hosted by local  philanthropist Blythe Brenden at the new Hotel Ivy. It's rare in Minneapolis to be treated to a show where the fashion commands center stage: no rock bands, no dancers or drag queens - just a runway, a few rows of squished seats, dramatic lighting and music with a beat. And judging from the well-dressed, enthusiastic crowd, the Twin Cities is hungry for more of it.
Teiken showed her versatility and love of the female figure with looks ranging from 20s-inspired to simply modern cocktail dresses.  She can drape with the best of them, and her attention to detail came across in everything from a silk organza coat dress decorated with a hand-beaded poodle and scalloped hemline to charmeuse gowns with ruffled necklines. The best part of having Joynoelle's studio right here in town: any piece on the runway can be custom ordered to fit.
And you've got to hand it to Teiken: sharing a runway with Monique Lhuillier is daunting. As home to one of just two flagship Monique Lhuillier salons in the country, Minneapolis enjoys great access to one of today's true fashion stars. No, Lhuillier wasn't there in person - but her spring collection represented - in lovely shades of mint and butterscotch. Soft and gorgeous one shoulder chiffon gowns, strapless cocktail dresses with beading - makes a girl long for an occasion befitting the dress. The $3,400 or so to buy one would be nice, too.

March 04, 2008

Tim Gunn on Project Runway and more

So close. I spoke to style guru Tim Gunn today - the day before the finale of "Project Runway" Season 4, but couldn't get him to so much as hint at the winner. He did say that he's thrilled with the outcome. Really, it sounds like any outcome would have pleased him - Gunn says all of this season's designers were talented enough to win and he's expecting big things (bigger than we've seen from past vets so far) from many. Gunn said he'd jump at the opportunity to do a fifth season, which has yet to be announced, but seems inevitable given the show's continued popularity. As for his other Bravo show, "Tim Gunn's Guide to Style," Gunn didn't sound certain there would be a Season 2. Ever the diplomat, Gunn did admit the underwear drawer surprise scene in each episode "bothered me to no end." He'd like to see more education and fewer gimmicks...that is, if there's anything to see at all. Sounds like a decision has been made, it's just a matter of when Bravo announces it.
I'll have much more from Tim Gunn on "Project Runway," Isaac Mizrahi, his new job with Liz Claiborne, the trouble with petites and plus sizes and his own wardrobe in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 23. That's in advance of Gunn's March 26 appearance at Herberger's Rosedale Center.

February 14, 2008

BCBG Max Azria at Galleria

You won't have to go to Macy's for BCBG Max Azria. The popular and accessible fashion line will open its first stand-alone shop at the Galleria in Edina in April. Finally! It will be located near the new Crate & Barrel store, which is opening in March. And stay tuned for additional announcements - there are two more storefronts to be filled in Galleria's new Crate & Barrel atrium. Look for more details on the BCBG shop - and what it means for the BCBG boutiques in select Twin Cities Macy's stores - in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

February 13, 2008

Bras, boy shorts and sex appeal

Give me a minute to cool off. I just visited Gilly Hicks Sydney, now open at Mall of America (second floor, west side near Nordstrom). In case you're not familiar with this brand new chain, there's a squad of sorority girls in camisoles and lounge pants to greet shoppers with "Welcome to Gilly Hicks. We're the cheeky cousin to Abercrombie & Fitch." Anything Abercrombie left to the imagination - and we all know that wasn't much - is revealed at its new women's lingerie shop, which is filled with $13.50 cotton panties - you've never seen so many boy shorts - and $29 bras. The store takes its design cues from Hollister - it's a dimly lit tangle of boudoir-like suites decorated with sketches of mostly naked men. Sexy, for sure. So who is going to shop here? The bras don't seem to come in DD cups and you'd be hard-pressed to find many women over 30 who would dare to wear those short shorts. Teens are clearly the target - and if their parents didn't already loathe Abercrombie, they will now. (Don't tell Mom about the naked video on the Gilly Hicks website or she'll really blow a gasket.) But of course, this is Abercrombie marketing, and enraging parents with overtly sexual marketing to teens is the tried and true strategy. Whether you're a mom, a teen or somewhere in between, let me know what you think of this new shop (we're one of the first four cities in the country to get it) - I'll be writing about marketing lingerie to teens in my St. Paul Pioneer Press Savvy Shopper column.

January 20, 2008

Hanging with a Victoria's Secret Angel

Selitaebanks1207lg Tip of the day: don't go lingerie shopping with a Victoria's Secret angel when you're seven months pregnant. Doesn't do a lot to boost one's self-image. I met up with model Selita Ebanks for a little lingerie talk before her appearance at the Mall of America Victoria's Secret store earlier this week. She's been an "angel" - sort of like a sorority, with less clothing, the usual scrutiny and more perks - for three years. Honestly, I hadn't heard her name before the publicists started calling me about her appearance. But apparently, others know her, because two hours before she was scheduled to start signing autographs, fans - and not just the drooling male variety - were lining up outside the store. Selita was charming - even in her total adoration of Victoria Secret and all of its products.  I'm inclined to believe her - all she has to do is point at something in the store and it's hers. Read all about it in my "Shopping with..." column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press next Sunday, Jan. 27.

January 15, 2008

So long, Isaac

In case you missed it on the biz pages, Isaac Mizrahi is leaving Target. He's moving on to a more lucrative  - and challenging - undertaking: trying to revive Liz Claiborne.
Analysts are saying it's a big blow to Target, which reinvented its image as a trend retailer with the introduction of Mizrahi's exclusive collection five years ago. Isaac Mizrahi for Target sells as much as $300 million annually, according to the New York Times.
I was impressed by the line when it debuted, and season after season, I find myself drawn to a jacket or dress. But honestly, I couldn't tell you the last time I actually bought an Isaac Mizrahi item at Target. Like so many of the retailer's fashion lines, it's always better in the flashy ads than in the fitting room. Don't get me wrong - I love that Target continues to take fashion risks and introduce the public to edgy designers most people couldn't afford (or find). But perhaps this shake-up is a good opportunity to take a step back and make sure there's substance behind the style.

January 09, 2008

Praise for "How Not to Look Old"

Beauty and style guides land on my desk virtually every day and generally get stacked in a dusty pile. Sure, some of them include a useful tip or two...but rarely enough to warrant purchasing. I can, however, wholeheartedly recommend the new "How Not to Look Old" - and not just because I advised author Charla Krupp on which Twin Cities salons to spotlight in the city-by-city beauty guide at the back of the book. (The mere fact that she includes cities between NY and LA is a triumph.)

Krupp, a veteran beauty editor and frequent style expert on the Today show, has managed to stay real after years in the fashion biz. She's more concerned about spider veins and hair loss and disguising a less-than-taut tummy than the next runway collection or miracle cream. "Aging sucks," she writes. "The question is, what are we going to do about it?" Her book is honest, humorous and packed with useful tips on everything from managing wrinkles to wearing the right shapewear.

One of the big lightening rods seems to be Krupp's advice on hosiery. "For some reason," she told me this week, "women didn't know not to wear nude hose!" Krupp is a fan of fishnets and opaques. For dressy occasions, she says to go with bare legs (spray-on tanner helps) or consider nude fishnets. If your dress happens to be black, very sheer black stockings could work.

Beyond the seemingly endless hosiery debates, Krupp stirred up a bit of controversy on my radio show, "Shop Girls" a few weeks ago when she advised women over 40 not to go gray. A flurry of calls followed from women reluctant to commit to hair color for the rest of their lives. Sure, maintenance is a bitch, but Krupp is goal oriented: lightening your hair takes 10 years off your appearance. Yes, we'll save your spot while you call the salon.

Which one? Well, for those Minneapolis beauty listings at the back of Krupp's book - what pressure! - I suggested Jon English, Denny Kemp, Root Salon, Brian Graham Salon and Juut at Gaviidae, especially master stylist Woody Theis, who got up early to style Krupp's hair when she was in town recently. (It's blond.)

November 29, 2007

More on the most versatile piece...

Got an email from the owner of Cuff Luv who invented that instant wardrobe wrap/poncho/sweater sold at StyledLife that I've been raving about (see original entry). "I'm always bored when I step into my closet, no matter how many new purchases are hanging there so I decided to design a piece that looks different every time you wear it - without going broke," says Julie Sloan Lowenbaum. "I have to say, I never thought of it for expecting mothers." Well, Julie, glad to open a new market for you! Here are just a few ways to wear the genius piece:

Cuffluvgraytied_5 Cuffluvgrauntied_4 Cuffluvgraybelted_2

November 19, 2007

The ultimate wardrobe maker

Cuffluvgraytied_4 Cuffluvgrauntied_2I was so surprised this weekend to find what appeared to be a charcoal gray textured sweater dangling from a post at StyledLife, the hot downtown accessories shop that has stayed away from apparel - preferring to help women and men find new ways to jazz up what's already in their closets. But the Cuff Luv Wrap ($128) is not any old sweater. Nor is it a scarf. Or a jacket. Or a simple wrap. It's all that, and more. Store owner Kevin Quinn (I love that he works Saturdays. His enthusiasm for helping customers look their best is what makes shopping here so much fun. That, the great dance music and free Laffy Taffy.) excitedly showed me how the piece can be worn at least nine different ways. Put it on upside down, it ties at the waist. Backwards, it looks almost like a cape. The chic piece is an instant wardrobe, and one size really does fit all. For a pregnant girl like myself, looking for clever ways to to avoid the baggy sweater syndrome, it is ideal. Kevin advised me Cuffluvgraybeltedto belt it while I still can, and try the tie-at-the-neck, flowy style as I grow. Of course, I know myself well enough to realize that without Kevin to tie it on me this way or that, I'll be lost. While it would be fab to start every day at StyledLife, I had the staff print me off a copy of the tutorial that shows all the different ways to wear my new wardrobe maker. 

November 07, 2007

Maiden Minnesota

It's safe to assume Maiden Minnesota will become an annual event, based on the turnout for Wednesday night's inaugural event at the Chambers Hotel. The 200 gift bags - which I'm told included full-size products from The Thymes (I really should have arrived earlier) - were gone within 20 minutes. The stylish shopping event showcased women-owned, Minnesota-based companies and girls, there's a lot to be proud of. It was fun to see Red Stamp's sophisticated stationery in person - the company is Minneapolis based, but sells primarily online. (The Russell + Hazel shop at 44th and France offers a small selection of Red Stamp products). Kirke Design had some cool, stretchy shirts and I couldn't get over the crowd around the Elin & Clara table of decorated belts and headbands. Funny enough, one of the biggest discoveries of the night was actually one of the longest-standing companies represented: Local Motion, the Uptown shop that used to focus on local lines, but now has moved full-force into updated and affordable contemporary women's apparel, including Free People and lesser known brands. I heard several women, gushing over the cute sweaters and coats for less than $150, comment that they always thought of the store as "granola," but not anymore!
Mommaidenmn Who is that stylish lady? Why, it's my mom, shopping the Local Motion racks at Maiden Minnesota.

November 02, 2007

Vera, where are the smalls?

07veraholidayHadn't been over to Kohl's since the initial fuss about Vera Wang's Simply Vera budget line, so I stopped by this week and unintentionally launched myself on another shopping goose chase. The good news: the second wave of Simply Vera looks as good (with a few notable exceptions, like the shapeless, scoop neck tops, which wouldn't be flattering even on a pregnant person) as the first: silky print party tops, gray and black dresses that you know would get plenty of wear to work and beyond, and a long wrap style sweater - which happens to be exactly what I've been looking for. And of course, the Knollwood Mall Kohl's had XLs only. So at 9:45 p.m. last night, I bounded into the Southtown store...and found the selection only slightly better: Ls, XLs and one M. Where are the smalls? This is exactly what happened with the first shipment - smalls disappeared instantly (guess small people shop more?). I know there are formulas for size runs and all that, but come on. If a size is gone at every store, that tells you that you need to order more!!!

October 31, 2007

Bejeweled? Be careful.

339054_fpx1 This has been declared the sesaon of shine and sparkle, but I'm noticing that the cheaper the dress, the more glitzed up it seems to be. Just walk through the INC department at Macy's (warning: the preponderance of garish prints and gaudy colors can induce motion sickness) and you'll see what I mean: dresses are bejeweled, besequined and be-over-the-top throughout the department. Some of them come off okay - the black numbers with jeweled trim can look fresh and fun. Just remember: the bigger the jewels or sequins, the bigger the embarrassment when they fall off at a party. I used a few such dresses, from Macy's and smaller boutiques, this week in a fashion shoot (appearing in the Pioneer Press the week after Thanksgiving) and we ended up with several plastic stones on the photo studio floor. There's a reason why it is said: less is more. That, and, you get what you pay for.

October 16, 2007

Can you pull off this look?

Fashion magazines are showing high waisted, trouser jeans this season, but let's get real - on the streets, we're still drooling over those tall girls with their skinny jeans tucked into killer boots. The look is timelessly chic. We got talking about this on Shop Girls last Saturday with the always sensible fashion adviser Kevin Quinn of StyledLife. He believes that even girls with meat on their thighs can tuck in - the key is proportion. First, the jeans. Don't try to stuff your flared bad boys in boots. The girls who do this look justice wear seriously narrow jeans. Maybe you'd never step out in them without boots covering most of your legs, but that's OK. Different pants for different shoes. Then, pick a top that falls about mid-rear. You want a lengthening effect without going so low that it cups the tush. Kevin suggested adding some definition by layering a shorter cardigan or jacket over the tunic top. Voila! You're smokin'.

September 18, 2007

Shopping mission

It's wonderful when work and personal shopping desires overlap. I rushed to Kohl's early last week to scrutinize the new Simply Vera Vera Wang collection before writing a column on it for the Pioneer Press. Trying on a few things was research! I bought an extremely soft long sleeve crewneck - good for layering - on my way out, but I passed up the $138 short sleeve textured coat. It nagged at me all week, especially when I spotted it on models in two fall fashion magazines. I got back to the Rosedale Kohl's on Saturday intending to commit, and much to my surprise, the entire collection was 30 percent off and my coat was gone. Gone! I know Kohl's tends to discount everything, but really, why would you mark down such a high profile line in the very first week when the designer has appeared on Oprah? That's Kohl's. So, I went home for the receipt from the shirt - no way was I going to pay full price - and headed to the Southtown store where I got my price adjustment, but no coat. They, too, were out of just about everything in small sizes. I did score two cute shirts for my kid (if your little one likes Sesame Street, Kohl's is the place), both on sale, of course. A shockingly competent customer service agent agreed to check the system for me to see if any store in town might have the coat. She found it in Burnsville. And like a fool, I immediately drove there at 8:30 on a Saturday night (yes, I do lead an exciting life), family in tow, to buy it. I'm not sure my desire to have the coat turned into a need to possess it. But now that I've got it home, I'm not so sure the coat looks as great on me as it did in all the magazines. Too much material up top and I think I'm too short waisted for the belt. Guess I'll get to make another trip to Kohl's this week - that's more times than I've entered the store in the past year, so they should at least feel good about that.

August 28, 2007

Mark your calendar for Hot Mama Deals

Just got word that Hot Mama will donate $25,000 of trendy merchandise to Hope Chest for Breast Cancer's "A Night of Denim & Diamonds" gala on Oct. 5. Everything not sold at the event will go to the Hope Chest stores in St. Paul and Orono, where you can be sure it will be priced ridiculously cheap and you can rest assured your dollars are going to a good cause. Hope Chest profits benefit breast cancer victims in Minnesota.

August 21, 2007

Could Steve & Barry's save Lindsay Lohan?

Could Steve & Barry's save Lindsay Lohan? This was the question I found myself pondering as I spoke to the very poised, straight laced rising star Amanda Bynes, whose new clothing collection, dear by Amanda Bynes, is now at Steve & Barry's stores. Bynes is 21. She, like Lohan, has been famous since she was a little girl. Her profile rose considerably this summer with her role in hit movie "Hairspray." Now, she's got another movie coming out and the new clothing line seems to be keeping her outfitted and out of trouble. Of course I had to ask her about Lindsay and Britney. She handled it gracefully, saying she couldn't comment on them - all she knows is this is a job and one she hopes to hang on to for a long time to come. (Read more in the Monday, Aug. 20 Pioneer Press.)  As for Bynes' collection - which she, like every celeb, swears she is totally involved in designing (which entails a meeting every two weeks) - it targets a younger shopper than Sarah Jessica Parker's Bitten. Jumpers, minis, hoodies and skinny jeans. All $20 or less. You've got to give Steve & Barry's its props for continuing to crank out the new collections. However, I must say my Bitten t-shirts have not come through the wash very well. That's what you get for $7.98.

August 09, 2007

Not the Oval Room, too!

Phones have been ringing off the hook today at Macy's Minneapolis Oval Room - since Channel 5 morning anchor Vineeta Sawkar got a little carried away reading my article in today's St. Paul Pioneer Press on Macy's retiring Santabear after this holiday season. Sawkar said something to the effect of "First the Oval Room, now Santabear." She probably meant it more generally, like, the Oval Room has gone down hill since Macy's took over, but viewers apparently took her very literally and immediately started calling the store to find out if the Oval Room is kaput. It is not. In fact, Macy's announced yesterday it is adding two new Oval Room lines, CNC by Costume National and Y's by Yohji Yamamoto. My guess: The callers were most interested in snagging some designer deals.

July 24, 2007

Online bra fitting?

What's even more difficult to fit than jeans? Bras. So, popular denim finder Zafu.com (it helps, seriously) has added a bra recommendation service - no measurements necessary. Does it work? Read all about it in my Savvy Shopper column in Friday's St. Paul Pioneer Press. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think. Just be sure to have a pencil on hand. You won't need it for writing.

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 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).

March 08, 2007

What do you wear to a fashionista shopping party?

If you're feeling depressed about the Macy-ization of your favorite 'Dale department store, take a trip to Minneapolis. The downtown Macy's store looks great -- inviting, energetic and downright fashionable, packed with dozens of designers you won't find at the suburban stores. While I'm annoyed that the convenient mall locations are looking like neglected step children, it's nice find a reason to shop downtown. I was at the store Thursday night for the Fashionista Shopping Party in the third floor women's contemporary department. Even in my Urban Outfitters dress, tights and kick-ass buckle boots (that might not have been the precise name on the Cole Haan box, but that's what I call them), I felt ancient -- the average age had to have been 23. Of course, it's a lot easier to stop for cocktails and shopping at 6 p.m. on a Thursday when you don't have any kids to schlep to hockey practice. Still, the crowd made me feel like dressing up -- or at least, dressing better. Lots of girls in dresses, cropped sweaters with longer layers beneath, slim jeans, great boots and big handbags. Good thing I had a photographer with me. You can get a look at what the best dressed were wearing in the Pioneer Press on Wednesday, March 14. Who knew so many girls in town were shopping at Bebe...

February 21, 2007

Options for mature girls

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is where to shop for clothes that are up to date, yet suitable for women over 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70). The first thing I tell these women is to stop limiting themselves. My mom just bought an adorable, age-appropriate sweater in the junior's department at Macy's and she's a regular at Anthropologie. But that won't work for everyone. And "mature" chains like Coldwater Creek and Chico's aren't exactly original suggestions. So I told the woman who cornered me today to try Sorrayah Studios, which does a good job of appealing to a range of ages and sizes with tasteful clothes. I should also have mentioned H.o.b.o. and Epitome. Another current, but casual shop geared toward grown ups in Hudson, Wis. is Elan and of course out in Excelsior, there is Water Street Clothing Co and in Wayzata, it's Side Door. National retailers are also getting smarter about offering fashion to women over 40. Case in point: Acorn at 50th and France and Mall of America. So there you go. I don't want to hear another complaint about every store selling skinny jeans and skimpy tops.

January 17, 2007

Celeb connection

Behold: The power of the almighty pre-awards show gift suite. The promise of pictures featuring celebrities holding your product makes entrepreneurs do crazy things, like pay money to give their goods away to people quite able to pay. Removed as we are in Minnesota from such goings-on, many a Twin Cities business owner has ventured to Hollywood to get in on this career-making opportunity. I wrote in the Pioneer Press on Sunday (Jan. 14, 2007) about Ramsey-based Simply Ella infant car seat covers and clothing line, given away last week at a pre-Golden Globes party to Angie Harmon and dozens of semi-stars.

Meanwhile, Minnesota-based fashion designer Joy Teiken of Joynoelle set up her own Golden Globes suite in L.A. with smashing results. Marcia Gay Harden fell in love with the line and might want something for an upcoming premiere. Alicia Keys is also interested, as is Shaun Robinson of Access Hollywood. Won't be long before Joynoelle is all over the red carpet. But all that sucking up to celebrities and their demanding stylists does take its toll on a down-to-earth designer. "Lots of drama," Joy said of the trip. "People not showing up for appointments or being two hours late. Thank goodness I have a fabulous assistant."

Sbgbrooke_2 Another native Minnesotan who has learned to play the celebrity game with enviable finesse is jewelry designer Sara Goldfine of SBG Designs, who grew up in Golden Valley and now lives in L.A. (She returns to the Twin Cities for trunk shows at least a couple of times a year.) Last week, Sara participated in a Golden Globes gift suite and got her necklaces and bracelets on Brooke Shields, Paris Hilton and Josh Henderson (who plays the new two-timing teen hunk on "Desperate Housewives") -- to name a few. But her favorite celeb encounter was Ethan Embry ("Can't Hardly Wait"). Says Sara, "He hung around to chat with my sister and me for what felt like a half an hour....told us all about his up and coming projects and how he is going to have to gain a lot of weight for a new film he'll be working on."

Give that actor a bracelet!

January 08, 2007

Can't give up Macy's entirely...

This is why I always end up returning to that store, the one they now call Macy's:

Yesterday at Nordstrom, I dismissed a pair of DKNY tights...$18 just seemed a little pricey, especially at this point in the season. Tonight, at Macy's (which was delightfully dead -- Monday night might be my favorite new time to shop. Still made it home in plenty of time for "What About Brian?") I picked up the exact same pair, on sale for $12.60.

And I only had to walk three departments over to pay.

December 27, 2006

Big night out: Eden Prairie Center

Okay, I'm convinced: There are like 50, maybe 52 products that come in three colors each and are available at every mainstream store in America. The Michael Kors suede boots I paused over at Pumpz & Co. yesterday were on the floor of the clearance room at Von Maur at Eden Prairie Center today. The super comfortable and yet refined Sofft boots I saw at Macy's were also at Von Maur, still full price. But then I wandered into Scheels, and there they were marked down not once -- but twice. Almost nothing is exclusive and that means it all gets discounted -- usually sooner, rather than later.

So what is Scheels, anyway? A bizarre new specialty retailer that isn't clear on its specialty. Its bread and butter is outerwear -- jackets, boots and snow gear from Columbia and Patagonia. But next to the classic Woolrich sweaters you'll find Free People, Kenzie and Lucky denim. And all of it is on sale, because the girls who wear that trendy stuff aren't shopping at a store that has ski clothes in the display windows!

But let's get to the real question: What was I doing at Eden Prairie Center at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday? Out with my guys -- the toddler and his daddy. Our nights on the town now revolve around family friendly bathrooms and places where running is not frowned upon. Knowing there's an Old Navy in the vicinity is also a comfort. EPC has it all: an indoor playground, amazing bathrooms (they even have toddler seats inside the women's stalls so your kid can't escape. Genius!), a Thomas train table at Von Maur and a Target actually connected to the mall. Plus, the food court has a fireplace, and these days, that counts as atmosphere.

December 10, 2006

Be a little less Free, People

Certain shopping moments stand out. I remember discovering a brand called Free People at the Urban Outfitters on State Street in Madison, Wis. back -- way back -- when I was a college student. There was a black and white zip up sweater I really, really wanted, but couldn't afford. But that was the exception. Back then, Free People was juniors stuff -- basics, mostly.

The line reentered my shopping consciousness a few years ago when it showed up at Marshall Field's -- looking fresh and more sophisticated (I like to think we grew up together. I'm entitled to think that. Okay?). I started buying the free-flowing tops and sun dresses. So did my mother!

Now, I can't get away from the line. It's everywhere I shop, from better department stores to Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, which are part of the same company that owns Free People, to boutiques. Like, every boutique. There's a definite trend right now of gift stores dipping a toe into women's apparel -- most seem to cultivate a bohemian-chic type look and virtually every one of them is selling Free People.

Time to show some restraint, Free People. I like your clothes. The prices are decent. The look is distinct. But it won't be for long.

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