Category Archives: Fashion

Fashion Shopping

{Guest Post} Father’s Day Gift Idea: Custom Shirts

The last time my husband wanted to do a guest post on my blog was…well, never. But he somehow developed a sudden and unexpected passion for custom shirts that he wants to evangelize unto the world, in time for Father’s Day. I guess I never realized the non-custom-shirt-misery in which he lived until now.

So here it is, folks. My husband’s detailed account of his foray into the world of custom shirts. May it bring you unbridled tailored joy.


“Hey – can I do a guest post on your blog?”

“Hm. What about?”

“Custom shirts.”

“Why? How many did you buy?”

“They are for my job. [Deploying her own tactics against her] I would have lost money if I didn’t buy them.”

“That is only relevant when there is a sale.”

“Wait … Here’s an Anthropologie gift card?”

“Fine … but you’re not as funny as I am so I’ll have to edit your post.”

When your wife is the type who understands the pricing dynamics multiple industries, it’s really hard to buy her presents (“Do you realize what the mark-up is on these roses?!”).

I am guessing some of you struggle with what to buy dads for Father’s day, so I wanted to share my experience buying tailored shirts online. It’s a little more involved than picking a gift off the shelf, but I highly recommend it as a special gift that keeps on giving. 

I hate wearing off the shelf long-sleeved shirts. For 4 reasons. 

Reason #1: because of “the Sail” (the shirt bellows when you lean forward)

The Sail

Reason #2: Because I always lose the “Arm-Hair Game”

(game rules: people secretly take a guess at how hairy someone’s arms are, then they find ways to get them to raise their arms. “Can you reach that for me?” … if the sleeve is too short, the shirt sleeve rides up, revealing the answer. At least that’s what I imagine people do)

Hairy! I knew it!

Reason #3: Because of “The Vent Game” (arm motion untucks shirt and exposes skin on side. A variation of the “Arm-Hair Game”)

The Vent

Reason #4: Because of “The Dress” (shirt is too wide around the belly, makes the shirt look like a dress just above the belt … closely related to “The Sail”)

The Dress

Last year, I gave buying online a try, primarily on eBay because they provide some measurements. So I measured my overdeveloped chest and other well sculpted body parts. I included NWT in the search bar (New With Tags). The shirts were a bit better (and cheaper), but I had to send some back, because of the loose definition of New.

NNWT (Not New, With Tags)

(I unfortunately no longer have the photo … it was gooood! Tag was completely shriveled up compared to the new one)

But I still couldn’t get rid of the problems. So, I decided to give tailored shirts a go.

I tried 4 sites, ranging from high end to value pricing:

  • J Hilburn (a person comes to a place of your location to measure … Shirts are $150+)
  • propercloth (the most aggressive marketer on Google … $95+, but most are $140)
  • ownonly (~$89+)
  • tailor4less (the value player … $60+)

After weeks of trial and error, HERE ARE THE RESULTS!

1ST PLACE (and where I bought 8 shirts): tailor4less

  • The shirts fit almost perfectly out of the box. The sleeves could be a bit shorter, but I think I am compensating for a lifetime of living with sleeves that are too short.
  • The quality is great (or at least, not noticeably different compared to J Hilburn, the premium player).
  • The selection is not huge (compared to J Hilburn), and some of the styles are questionable, but I found what I wanted.
  • Nothing fancy with the packaging … just good shirts.
  • The model and I have exactly the same, slim body types…right?

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.29.26 AMIMG_5577










2ND PLACE: J Hilburn

  • High quality shirt (though I didn’t think it was 3 times better than the tailor4less shirt) …
  • … in a super fancy box …
  • …hand delivered by a knowledgeable stylist.
  • Premium pricing (mine ending up costing $180 … The stylist recommended some custom buttons, which added $20 I think. I went with her recommendation … the shirt turned out nice).
  • Tied with tailor4less on the quality of the fit.
  • Best selection of patterns.


  • The best web experience of them all (great website, and email tracking).
  • Didn’t like the fabric of the shirt (Sandi:“Is that a burlap?”) … I am sure they have others, but for the material to be that rough made me question the quality of the other shirts.
  • The fit was way off, not even close. 
  • Good customer service … issued a refund no questions asked.


  • I am reserving the last portion of this post to recount my experience.
  • The shirt quality was ok.

So, how does it work? 

If you go with a provider that doesn’t have a stylist (e.g.

  • Go to their website.
  • Before you do anything else, check their return policy. Look for “returns accepted” … if you don’t see it, I recommend you don’t buy.
  • Take 8-10 measurements (I had Sandi do it … I didn’t think it was particularly hard … you’ll need a tape measure, and possibly a stool if your measurer is much smaller) … interestingly, each site measures slightly different things … because I sampled a few sites, I (well, Sandi) took ~20 measurements in total.
  • Make your shirt selection … there are all kinds of options on collars, fit etc… I found these pretty straightforward. There are helpful hints on what type of collar is better suited for what type of face, the benefit of shoulder pleats etc…
  • Pick your fabric / pattern … I tried getting samples mailed to me, but those weren’t available with the vendors I tried.
  • Wait ~2 weeks (the shirts I tried are made offshore. China, Philippines etc…).
  • Receive / Open package … It’s fun to see how each provider wants to be perceived here … Some had fancy boxes, others just came in a beat up DHL package. I am not the type that needs a box to feel good about my shirt.
  • Try on your shirt.
  • If it doesn’t fit, then adjust measurements / provide feedback, then send back, then wait two weeks. Check that your provider does alterations and shipping for free (most seem to).

If you go with a stylist (e.g. J Hilburn)

  • On their website, look for a stylist in your area.
  • If they have more than one, I would recommend you talk to a few. You are going to be spending a fair bit of time talking to them, so check for compatibility. Ask them lots of questions, like what’s the process like, what they offer, what happens if it doesn’t fit, pricing etc… Through the conversation, if you feel comfortable with them, then it’s likely a good match. I made the mistake of not doing this, and though the stylist was knowledgable about the product, we didn’t jell well. As I reflect on the experience, that had a pretty big impact on my decision not to move forward.
  • Make an appointment (mine would come anywhere I wanted).
  • The stylist makes a bunch of measurements. I didn’t think my stylist did a significantly better job than Sandi. The process takes about 45mins by the time you talk options etc…
  • Pick your fabric and style … the good thing here is that you can see samples.
  • Wait two weeks … the stylist comes back to your house for a fitting.
  • If it doesn’t work, then they take pictures of the current fit, perhaps a couple of measurements, and take the shirt back.
  • Wait two more weeks … the stylist comes back for hopefully the final fitting.
  • You can then decide to order more … good news is that you don’t need to do any more fitting!

So was it worth it?

Yes. Without a doubt.

I CAN’T WAIT to wear my custom shirts. I am giddy when they come back from the cleaners, because it means I get to wear them soon. I get excited during the day when I am wearing them. I might occasionally take a break from working just to wave my arms about (I get delight knowing that there will be no game winners out there).

And for $60! I was paying almost $40 for the NWTBANNWT eBay shirts (New With Tags But Actually Not New With Tags), so $20 more for something new that fits perfectly is awesome.

The final product

Rhymes with Chiselled

Nice shirt!

You seem familiar ... are you an online custom shirt model by any chance?

Limited "Sail"

So, to

When the shirt arrived, I found that it was too narrow. It stretched across my perfectly formed upper body (Sandi: “nice boobs, sir”). The sleeves were also a tad too short.

There's no way around it ... those are tits, dude.

So I sent feedback, and got this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.35.45 AM

My first thought was “”Eligible”? uh oh … so it’s up Angie to decide?”

Angie asked me to go to a local tailor for an alteration (she said they would reimburse up to $79). I responded that the shirt was too small, that there is no extra material in the shirt, so wasn’t sure why I would go to a tailor. 

After that, it was all fun and games.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.38.55 AM

Ooooohhhh, so it was me that was wrong! Of course, the shirt is perfect! And they recognized my “developed” chest. Note that I picked slim fit from all the other providers. But I’m wrong anyway!

But there’s more…they did give me the opportunity of buying from them again…not sure why I deserved to, but hey! Free non-descript gift! 

I slowed things down, a trick I learned from my dad.

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.43.03 AM

It took two follow-ups and 14 days for the Lords of Ownonly to grace me with a response. 

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 11.43.53 AM

For next time, when I decide not to buy from them, at least I’ll know how to buy from them.

But perhaps it’s me? Perhaps there is such a thing as a bad customer? “Bad customer! Shirt don’t fit you right! Bad measurer of body parts ! Bad evaluator of how shirt fit! Bad!” Perhaps we can find a reason to also blame the measurer! As an aside, I am open to your suggestions on what to do with responses such as these.

Anyway, did I mention that I LOVE MY SHIRTS?!?

I highly recommend getting a custom shirt for a father out there … he’s going to love it!

And thanks for reading Sandi’s rewrite of my review! 🙂

Fashion Lifestyle Shopping

#seesummerbetter with Warby Parker

When the folks at Warby Parker invited me to try their sunglasses and share the way I experience summer, I squealed. Because:

1. I love glasses. I have terrible vision and in the animal universe I would be a mole. With glasses, I have overcome my genetic predisposition to be the one in the herd consumed by a lion.

2. I also happen to be covered in moles.

3. I love what Warby Parker does with their buy a pair, give a pair program.

4. It’s Warby Parker.

I tried 5 pairs of sunglasses:


and set about my summer business in them. I’ve been posting the pics to my Instagram account; here’s a roundup:

I spent an afternoon with my friend Alyson, where we had lunch at a new nearby eatery and then walked around the shops afterward. I can’t resist a pretty flower, so here I am helping myself:

Then we headed off to one of our favorite local gardens, where I wrestled the camera from her hands and took a shot of her wearing the Battens. After which I am just sitting.

My kids spend a lot of time at the ranch in the summer, so sometimes I help lead a horse to water (or other things that require neither skill nor grace).

No summer is complete of course without beach visits.

And sunsets.

And after all that running around, I love to just relax in my back yard with a good book.

How’s your summer shaping up? Feel free to share your own summer pics with #seesummerbetter!

Fashion Shopping Travel

{San Diego} Emme J Boutique


Every once in a while you come across an ethical dilemma. Let’s say you find out, through the kindness of a friend (who is obviously a lot more generous than I am — thanks Alice!), about a super secret but awesome source of brand name clothing where everything is 80%+ off. You go there and confirm, it’s true, this place is for real. This could be your secret source of inspired and interesting apparel at prices that rival those of Target…but then you meet the owner of the store who says she would love some publicity because she isn’t allowed to advertise. Do you keep this information to your self, continuing to mine it for a suspiciously evolving wardrobe? Or do you share it, introducing competition for the the inventory but bringing benefit to the business owner?

Sigh. I must really love you guys.

Emme J sells excess merchandise from the distribution centers of such major brands as Joe’s Jeans, Athleta, Free People, Anthropologie, Wilt and Urban Outfitters. Joni, the founder, came upon this business in a most tragic way: years ago, while she was working for Seven Jeans, her family was killed by a drunk driver in a highway accident. Joni, understandably, couldn’t stand to commute on the highway on a daily basis anymore. Her boss suggested that, as she was a veteran of the garment industry, she may be able to work out a way for her to set up a retail operation close to home — essentially leveraging her years of trunk show experience, while alleviating brands of their excess inventory. Though brands were initially concerned about cannibalization, she’s been able to prove that their brands and sales remain intact, while she’s able to provide for them a valuable service.

And what a valuable service it is! Especially for me (er, us). Joni gets 11,000 pieces of inventory a month (with a shipment of 5,000 bags from Nordstrom on the way!).

When you walk in, you’re greeted with racks and racks labeled $15, $25, $30 and $40. Joni also told me that most items would probably fit me well, since I was pretty much the size of the fit models they use for the brands she carries — at which point I loved her immediately, since no one has every accused me of being a fit model.

It was here that I discovered the joys of Wilt clothing, delightfully clever and slouchy awesomewear with uneven hems and clean lines.

Emme J also offers event services, such as birthday parties, girl’s night out, fashion shows and fundraisers. Tell ’em Sandi sent you!

Emme J
6840 Embarcadero Ln (directly across from the Carlsbad Coaster station)
Carlsbad, California
(619) 208-7639

Open Tuesdays / Thursdays 9 AM – 6 PM and on select Saturdays

Fashion Shopping Uncategorized

Why Shopping for a Handbag is Like Looking for the Right Guy

I haven’t been cooking much this week because I’ve had the flu. And I have to make this quick because the Ny-Quil is kicking in.

Anyway, when you have the flu there isn’t much you can do but lie in bed and hope you pass out for the first couple of days, and then lie around being too sick to do anything active but too alert to think about nothing for the next couple of days (plus watch Downton Abbey). So I reverted to my innate competency and started shopping around for a handbag.

I got the feeling that it should be yellow. A bright, bold, cheerful yellow — not marigold, not celadon — there should be no mistaking this fresh, lemony yellow.

I felt I should decree that shouldst such bag be bold in hue, said bag shalt be structured and not unstructured. Thine form shalt hold its shape regardless of surrounding environs, and shalt not shift its shape in case of changing environs. Thou shalt be at least 10 cubits (ok, I’ll take inches) in width and 5 cubits (or inches) in depth.

It should be leather. The leather needs to smell like leather, which means it cannot be patent leather.

It must be a satchel.

And after hours of groggily surfing the web, I identified a few candidates but was wary about transacting a big(-ish) ticket purchase sight unseen. What if the bag is bigger than I thought? Clumsier? It’s leather not the right texture?

If only there were  a handbag goddess to whom I could submit my criteria, and my supplications would be answered in the form of a beautifully packaged box, wrapped in paper without tape the way they do it in Japan, with an incredibly cute dustbag that you might mistake for an adorable shopping tote.

When I was single and bored and would think, “I wish there was some new guy for me to like.”

I always had a framework: he has to be smart, but not crazy; funny, but still laugh at my jokes;  attractive but not prettier than me.

I wished there was a guy goddess to which I could just submit my criteria and have it fulfilled. The accompanying adorable shopping tote would have been nice too.

I did eventually find the right guy, though he did not come with an adorable tote and is prettier than me. Which is why now I must shop.

Anyway, I submit now to the internet goddess and hope that something comes of it. I suspect that nothing will, given that I am posting this on a food blog, but the internet is a wondrous thing. If you’ve seen this Most Beautiful Bag in the World please send me a link.

Fashion Money-Saving Tips

Shoe-Stretching Tutorial

Ok, this next post isn’t about food, but, staying focused on what’s important here, chances are that sooner or later you may have to wear shoes to get to some food. I always thought I was destined to a lifetime of painful modern-day foot-binding in the name of cute shoes, but no more! I tried this out on a pair of nubuck ballet flats last night and now have two more pairs in the freezer; I’m repeating on one more pair that I want stretched out some more.

So if you have shoes that are too tight in the toe box, give this a try, and enjoy your food and your cute shoes next time you’re out. Thanks, Michelle Phan!

Shop and Do Good: 31BITS


Photo credit: 31BITSAll photos in this post courtesy of 31BITS

I’ve been squealing a lot lately, which I realize is unprofessional unless you’re a pig, but I did it again when I discovered 31BITS. This post isn’t about food, but it’s about helping people get food. That’s important.

I had the privilege of meeting Jessie and Alli from the gorgeous 31BITS jewelry line at a recent event, and these young women have a noble mission: to give women in Northern Uganda who were displaced by war an opportunity to overcome poverty by providing income, education and holistic care.  You can read more about the company’s story here, and watch the video below to see how this amazing company works.

To top it off, the jewelry is stunning. And versatile. And made of 100% recycled paper beads.

It’s for a good cause, I said, grabbing a handful of necklaces and bracelets.

The first handful was for me, because I’m like that. The second bunch: Mother’s Day, teachers’ gifts, upcoming birthdays.

You can get a bracelet for as as low as $10. Today I’m wearing the Starboard bracelet and I can’t stop looking at my wrist. When I wear the Camellia necklace in Mint Green, people are blinded by its glory (It’s a figure of speech. Nobody went blind from it. Still, it’s beautiful.) .

So go on, share this, spread the word and mouse on over to 31BITS to help make the world a lovelier place.



Fashion Shopping

Finding the Right Yoga Pants

I bet in heaven you’re allowed to wear sweatpants and eat cake pops and bacon every day.

My new fascination with baking requires me to invest in a new wardrobe — specifically, one that maximizes opportunities to wear knit pants with an elastic waistband.  This blog isn’t rated for mature audiences so I won’t post a close-up of my belly here, but you can trust that I have tested and maybe had a third helping of everything I’ve posted here.

All this to say that in the past few weeks I’ve become a bit of an expert in lounge wear. I’ve been known to wear exceptionally hideous clothing when no one’s looking, but 1) my expanding waistline demands more elastic waistband time, in public even, and 2) I live in California so I have to consider earthquake risk: that there could be a day where I might be stuck for some time in a single outfit.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) Stick with black. I’ve been tempted by the occasional charcoal gray, and my biggest mistake was a heather gray which can only really be described as inappropriate — kind of like giving people a peep show of what your lower half might look like in black and white TV. Black masks a lot of detail, and you have a lower risk of the dreaded camel toe if you stick with black.

2) Heavier fabrics are more forgiving. Knits notoriously show off every little detail. Think fondant versus regular frosting — you’re  more likely to get even coverage, and again, reduce the probability of camel toe. I prefer fabric blends that contain some percentage of elastane.

3) Vertical seaming is very, very good. Any vertical details elongate the leg and are generally slimming. One pair I have has a really subtle extra vertical line of stitching about three inches behind the normal side seam, and it makes a huge difference.

4) Other butt detailing is generally bad. I tried on a pair that claimed to be “butt-lifting” and had concentric semicircles of black stitching on the rear like a padded bike short would. While someone from very far away might think I had a very lifted, rounded butt, anyone within 30 feet of me would wonder why I was wearing a very large black diaper.

5) Cut matters. I find that the most flattering pairs skim your thighs just enough to accentuate the shape without being tight. I generally prefer a straight leg, or one that flares very subtly at the bottom.

6) Know your inseam. When stand up and look in the mirror, with shoes on the back of your pant leg should be about 1/2 inch off the floor. Too long and the leg will start bunching up in the front, making you look chunkier and once again risking camel toe; too short and it will look like you didn’t bother updating your wardrobe after puberty.

7) Get a bargain. You don’t have to do this — they’ll still look good of course if you pay full retail, but I always think it’s fun to get a $45 pair of yoga pants for less than $20 — like I’m actually making money. I’ve found really good Adidas, Puma and New Balance pairs at Costco (wear a skirt so you can just try them on right then and there and spare yourself the returns line) and discounters like Marshall’s and Nordstrom Rack.

I would love to be able to branch out into other colors, actually….does anyone have tips on how to find a decent pair? If so, and if you have any other tips to add, please share! Stay comfy, everyone!




Ippolita Wonderland Party Ring

Recently, I was up in San Francisco, and was shocked at how little plastic surgery I saw.  Living in SoCal I had largely forgotten that most people are not actually blond and that the average 50-year-old woman doesn’t naturally have the full, perky breasts of a Barbie doll.  I saw people with…brown hair.  Boobs that didn’t resemble globes.  Facial expressions.  And they were eating food.  Really good food.

While we were in SF I celebrated another birthday…one that is precariously close to a rather large number.  I started realizing that I had outgrown certain things.  One of those is the hope that someday I’d be perfect. I’m appreciating that being flat-chested means I can sleep on my stomach.  That my stick-straight hair can only really successfully be stick straight.  That my inability to do just one thing at a time enables me to, well, do more than one thing at a time.  And I’ve come to know that I’m officially too old for some of the clothes in the catalogs I still get, and no matter what anyone says it’s ridiculous for a woman of my age to be wearing a micro-mini.

One thing for which you can never be too old, thankfully, is jewelry.  While the world most likely no longer appreciate viewing a large swath of my thigh anymore, they’d surely enjoy a well-positioned delicacy made of semi-precious stones, something that says “maybe I can’t wear short skirts and over-the-knee boots anymore but I can afford better costume jewelry now”.  I saw this Ippolita Wonderland Party Ring in the Bloomingdales catalog, juxtaposed to a stack of a dozen or so rock-candy bangles with gorgeous hammered workmanship and thought, yeah, that still works.  At $795 a pop you’d hope to be going to a lot of cocktail parties to get your money’s worth, but nice work, Ippolita — the online photo doesn’t do it justice.

Fashion Shopping Whining

Skinny Jeans

I have discovered one thing more humiliating than trying one swimwear. And that would be shopping for a pair of skinny jeans. Not only painful, but physically exhausting as I breathed irregularly and wrestled myself into these vacuum-sealed contraptions. You can see at right what they’re supposed to look like. Cute with pumps and boots, right? Totally not cute on me. Today I tried on some Paige Petites (which I was sure would fit me but didn’t), some J Brands, and a number of others I can’t recall, all of which resulted in an unsightly bunched-at-the-knees and horizontal lines on the back-of-the-thigh-look. It did not look like the picture to the right nor like the woman who was helping at the school morning drop-off who had the perfect skinnies with gorgeous boots, who inspired me to start this painful quest. I can’t quite figure out the problem — is my butt too small or too big? Do I need to have bigger hips? Thanks to my friend Nina, I have been on a handbag-leggings-skinny jeans rampage. The bags always work; the leggings look fine, but the skinnies — can’t seem to get them to work. Are they really that different from leggings anyway — and will my life be incomplete without them?

I was with my 4-year-old daughter, who accompanied me to the Komen Race for the Cure this morning (and we Sat in the Park and Ate Cookies for the Cure because we had to park so far away that she was spent by the time we got to our team tent), and she was able to pick out 6 outfits, all of which looked good on her, even with the Princess Leia double-buns she had requested as a hairstyle this morning. She even did a 3/4 pivot while checking herself out in the mirror for full effect. So maybe I should give up on the skinnies and just focus my energies on clothing my kids.

Fashion Shopping Uncategorized

Handbag Emergency

Yesterday my friend Nina called me with a handbag emergency. With YSL Downtown Tote in hand, should her next purchase be a Bottega Veneta hobo, YSL The Muse, or a Valentino Nappa 360 Hobo?
It’s only in dire times sometimes that we take time to assess our priorities. What is the right portfolio of handbags right now? Which best hedges against drastic changes in the fashion climate, and is best suited to protect the interests of you and your family? I’m giving that some hard thought.
I was pretty committed to the as a classic addition to my portfolio, but I’m having second thoughts. First of all, when have I ever been a classic kind of person? Second, am I adding an LV just because I feel I should have one in the portfolio — and would it be equally effective to add, say, a Valentino Petale Satchel to the collection? Third, won’t I eventually bore of it anyway — eliminating the point of being classic?
In addition to the Tivoli, which is still in the running despite being a canvas bag for $1,000, are the above: from left to right: Valentino Rose Vertigo Hobo ($2,395), Coach New Annie ($798), J. Crew Campo ($298). If we assume the Tivoli goes into the portfolio, the likely complements would be the lower-priced Annie or Campo. Annie has the advantage of over-the-shoulder-carryability, but overweights my portfolio on metallic bags; Campo is a practical, functional bag with a classic appearance and an over-the-arm portability, but makes less of a statement. Valentinos are certainly statement bags, and for the price point, would trump the Tivoli in the blue chip spot. I also really like the Valentino Petale Satchel which has been controversial in the handbag addict circles — but I think the leather petals are gorgeous.
Another option would be to forego the Tivoli, and fill the LV void instead with the LV Vernis wallet (in the deep aubergine shade I love). Anchor then with a Valentino, supplement with an Annie or a Campo, and revisit the Botkier selection (I am clearly overweighted on Botkiers, despite having sold a red Bianca this season).
Portfolio strategy. It ain’t for the faint of heart.