Friday, October 2, 2009

Jenna's Picks and Their Budget-Loving Alternatives

Especially now that I'm out $846.00 because of my car, I need to be watching the budget. While it was only for a brief but glorious moment in time, this summer and fall I was actually in a position to be pairing expensive indulgences with penny-pinching finds, which worked wonders in increasing my wardrobe staples and updating my style. But alas, those days are gone, not to be back until most likely next summer when I can once again work 40 hours a week, and escape from the misery that is the life of a poor college student with car troubles.

Enough of the melodrama.

J. Crew has creative director Jenna's current Picks up on their site. At this moment in time, Jenna's all about unexpected pairings--to quote from the site, "sweet with sleek, soft neutrals with black and a shot of red." The pieces have a lot of fall trends integrated, while polished with a J. Crew classiness: the biker babe look is evident in their studded belts and motorcycle jackets, but when the belts are pink leather and the jackets are paired with red pumps, you can see this rebel-style all grown-up.

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the current Picks, and, in as much of an effort to help myself curb spending as the rest of you, their cheaper, guilt-free doppelgangers.

First up is the J. Crew Belstaff Leather Bomber Jacket (left). I have to say right off the bat that this isn't a piece I would personally own; anyone who knows me knows that the rosy cheeks, big brown eyes, and pearl earrings hardly scream "leather bomber biker," but I still admire those who can pull the look off well. This piece obviously has J. Crew's collaboration with Belstaff going for it, which delivers both name-brand appeal and an assurance of quality. I mean, really, who wants to get the $19.99 Wal-Mart fleece pullover when there's a staple black North Face fleece to be had? I'm not going to lie, when it came to buying a fleece, I wanted the real thing.
But here are my arguments against the bomber. Firstly, I wear my fleece every day. Who is going to wear their Belstaff to class or the office? Secondly, at $1,195, I could pay for my car to get fixed twice over--hell, I could almost buy a new car, for the amount of money I would spend on this jacket.

Here's my alternative to the Belstaff: the American Eagle Leather Moto Jacket (right). First of all, it's cognac-colored, and anyone who has seen my new boots can attest that it's only the most beautiful and perfect fall color ever. Secondly, at $250.00, it's guaranteed not to break the bank. You could buy almost FIVE of these bomber jackets for the price of one J. Crew Belstaff. And, it'd more versatile--appropriate for the office, class or retaining femininity while giving off an edge of rebelliousness on a date.

I've been on the prowl lately for some skinny jeans that I can fit into my boots (they're really fitted around the calves; flared or even boot-cut jeans just won't cut it). The J. Crew Ankle Stretch Toothpick Jean in Twilight Wash seems like it'd be great, but definitely presents two big drawbacks. The first is that, although the ankle stretch cut would fit beautifully into my boots (the less material, the better!), my hips are WAY too wide to wear these on their own, with flats. Therefore, they'd be completely defeating the purpose of finding new skinny jeans to wear with the boots, by the boots being the only shoes I could wear with the jeans. At $125.00, they're almost as much as the boots themselves! Unjustifiable.

However, I could just be a prude. My idea of splurging on jeans is to shop at Express. At 59.50, I feel like I'm paying just enough to ensure good quality, while not paying hiked-up prices for a brand or, worse, for no good reason at all. I've been eyeing the Express Stella Skinny Leg Jean for awhile. Express jeans are the ONLY jeans that fit me just right and feel true t0 size; actually, when I lost two jeans sizes this summer after South Beach I was shocked to see I even fit into my size in Express, and not only that, they're actually loose! Anyways, I can be the biggest voucher in the world for these jeans, and would buy these ones gladly if I could get to an Express within 150 miles of Williamstown =(.

J. Crew/Jenna recommend that "a chic little belt is all you need to instantly update your wardrobe." Theirs are designed to be worn around the waist, and so they recommend getting a size up if you're going to actually use a belt to hold up your jeans (who does that, anyways?). I actually really like this Studded Skinny Belt and wouldn't be completely horrified if I knew that someone spent $35.00 on it. Except I know that J. Crew would like if I wore it around the waist on the outside of a cardigan, which is one trend I can just NEVER get into. Who WANTS to make their hips look bigger???

Anyways, while a $35.00 belt isn't going to mean giving up dinner one night to reward yourself with studded-leather luxury, I'm always convinced there's something out there that's just as cute and much, much cheaper. And what do you know, I found this: a Faux-Leather Silver Belt at Old Navy for a mere $10.00! It might not be Italian lambskin leather with a solid brass buckle, but here's my philosophy: who needs to know??? If you don't tell anyone you're not wearing Italian lambskin leather, they won't ever know you're not wearing Italian lambskin leather--and you'll have $25.00 left over to maybe buy two more in gold and pink.

Something amazing happened while I was browsing and doing price-comparisons with some of Jenna's other Picks. I found this GORGEOUS Shawl Collar Cardigan in a beautiful oatmeal color on the h(y)r collective magazine blog, and realized it was a $590.00 version of a very similar cardigan at J. Crew! The h(y)r collective cardigan is 80% lambswool, 20% nylon and guaranteed to hold its shape for years. The shape is neutral enough to be worn with almost anything. However, at $590.00 you'd HAVE to wear it with everything.

I'm surprised I'm doing this but I'd say if a good, chunky and quality-made knit cardigan with big cute buttons is what you're dying for this fall, the J. Crew Donegal Shawl Cardigan is the much, much more economic investment. It's a wool/mohair/angora heathered yarn and, though it's a touch more pink than the oatmeal cardigan and thus perhaps less versatile, at $148.00 you could buy more clothes to pair with it and STILL pay less than the h(y)r collective version!

I may be picking up that Old Navy silver metallic belt to go with a particular purple dress you may remember from an earlier post, but sadly, my goal here today was to find and provide cheap and gorgeous alternatives for all of you, while having no intentions of buying, myself. How very Emma of me. Until I can make back the money I have to put into fixing my car, I'll be trying to reinvent and update old pieces, without buying any new ones.

[Images from respective stores; find links within text. (Do some shopping!)]

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