Recommendation Recall: Kodiak Boots and Madewell Denim

Dressed to Code in Moorea Seal Morley adjustable black wool hat with petite-friendly North Face Women's Stretch Thermoball jacket in matte black (TNF black), Madewell whisper cotton tee in black and white hardy stripe, Madewell 8" skinny jeans in quincy wash dark denim, and Kodiak Acadia waterproof insulated boots in caramel leather.
Two of the items in this photo have let me down in a big way.

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post, but I believe that it’s important to admit when your opinions have changed. So here it is, the post on which items haven’t retained my initial enthusiasm. That isn’t to say that these items might not be a good fit for someone else or that we didn’t have some good times together. Nonetheless, in the spirit of informed purchasing, here are my recommendation recalls.

The Bad News

Ammended Recommendation: Kodiak Arcadia Boots

First post here.

I purchased these boots at REI after realizing I was completely unprepared for a slushy winter day in Seattle. These insulated boots seemed to be just the thing, and I was drawn to the gorgeous coppery color. Clearly I wasn’t alone; I’ve noticed many REI employees sporting them as well. Why am I recalling my recommendation? They scuff horribly.

As one particularly annoying salesman explained to me, all leather shoes scuff (insert eyeroll here), but these Kodiak Arcadia boots age exponentially faster than any leather shoes I’ve ever owned. Within a day, I’d tripped over my own feet, introducing a long, pale gash down the side. Within a month, the boots look as though they’d been industrially aged for a vintage look. It might have been fine if that was my thing; spoiler: it’s not. Even shining the boots only improved the look temporarily.

Therefore, I’m amending my recommendation. The boots have kept my feet comfortable, warm, and dry. They have not kept their exterior style. If you’re looking for a vintage exterior look, these might actually be a good choice.

Rear view of Madewell radio tee, Quncy wash 8" skinny jeans, and Hinge Drea blush leather sandals.
These jeans may be comfortable, but they won’t last much longer.

Recalled Recommendation: Madewell Denim

First post here.

This one is especially painful. My relationship with Madewell denim goes back to my very first recommendation on Dressed to Code and extends to three different pairs of jeans (overalls so far not excluded). The first pair to go were my 8″ skinny jeans in Lakeshore wash. At the time, I thought there was nothing quite putting on your pants for work and realizing they’d worn through in the rear — with no idea when that happened. I was wrong. A few weeks later, my black 10″ skinny jeans (purchased several months after the Lakeshore pair) split down the inner thigh. Even better, it was Monday morning as I was en route to a special trip for work. Awesome.

After the first pair, I figured it was a fluke. After the second pair died in a different, yet spectacularly embarrassing way, I checked my third pair. The fabric in the seat is discolored and thinned; time’s ticking before it also wears through. Now, I get that all items wear out. That said, the oldest pair was about six months old. I don’t know about you, but I expect my jeans, of all items, to last longer than that. As an example, my beloved demi-curve Levis wore out after five years.

Now, before any denim experts start in, I don’t over-wash my jeans or put them in the dryer. I addition to losing ground on my intentional wardrobe, I’m now desperately seeking at least one replacement pair, preferably 99% cotton or higher. I’ve ordered a few pairs and have my fingers crossed for a winner or two. Otherwise, I’ll be out of pants in about a month. Yikes.

To be fair, Madewell’s customer service has been excellent, offering to refund my full purchase price both times. However, I’d rather have jeans I don’t need to replace every few months. I believe the wear might be mitigated if Madewell decided to offer a fit cut more generously through the hips, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
Thankfully, this Eddie Bauer has been a pleasant surprise.

The Good News

To leave you on a more positive note, I’d like to also note items which have pleasantly surprised me, items which have exceeded my expectations.

Strong Recommendation: Eddie Bauer Flightplan Cardigan Sweater

I wear this sweater at least once a week. It’s chilly in my office, so this sweater keeps me warm but not too warm when layered over a cotton tee and jeans. Remember, my workplace is rather casual. The fabric has held up well and (knock on wood) hasn’t gotten fuzzy.

Which items have been your greatest disappointments or unexpected favorites? Have a denim recommendation of your own? Let me know in the comments below.

 

It’s better to be right eventually than wrong forever.

-Casey

Start Building an Intentional Wardrobe

 

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
The three primary pieces you see here are all on my wardrobe checklist: drapey black cardigan, dark skinny jeans, and black rain boots.

This post could also be titled “Start Building a Wardrobe Instead of Hoarding a Bunch of Things in Your Closet.” With new styles coming out every season, it’s easy to get caught up in trends and start buying pieces. However, unless you have a pretty big bank account, buying individual pieces or outfits gets expensive fast. Instead, by shopping intentionally, you’ll find that the same budget will get you further.

After making my own wardrobe checklist, I’ve recently been focusing my search on sweaters for Seattle’s chilly days. As a petite, I find that “oversized” sweaters are often far too big on my body with comparatively tight arms. Unfortunately, I tried on far too many sweaters that were too thin, draped oddly, etc.. Finally, I stumbled upon this color-blocked drape-front cardigan at Eddie Bauer. I’m wearing an XS in the “Women’s Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater,” which is available in two other color combinations, including a rich merlot red called deep garnet. (It’s currently 25% off too!)

This style is more forgiving than other sweater shapes. Most importantly, I found that the sleeves were fitted without being too tight, and the grey color helps minimize the volume of fabric in the front. The fabric is substantial without being itchy, and the merino wool gives it some breathability. It’s also machine washable (yes!).

Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater rear/back view.
While a piece with as much fabric as this draped sweater won’t be the most slimming thing in the world, I like that the color block changes just below my natural waist, adding a little more definition.
Black and grey/gray Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with delicate, minimalist silver dot necklace from Silver Cup Studios on Etsy.
I see myself snuggling up in this sweater as things get chillier and tossing it on over my other wardrobe essentials.

I paired my black and grey acquisition with minimal silver jewelry, including my silver dot necklace from Etsy. As you can see below, I’m also wearing my black and silver (see a trend here?) Fossil Georgia watch, which nested nicely under the fitted but not too tight sleeves. I also have the sleeves cuffed slightly where there is a difference in texture, but someone with longer arms could leave them uncuffed.

Eddie Bauer Women's Flightplan II Cardigan Sweater with Madewell 8" Skinny Jeans in Quincy wash, Hunter Original Refined rain boots in black, Forever 21 tank, and Fossil Georgia leather watch.
This petite-friendly cardigan is going to take me into fall by adding a warm layer to my existing base layers.

Now, here’s how I’m building my intentional wardrobe and how you can too!

0. Put down the card.

With online shopping, snatching up new clothing now takes under thirty seconds. The first step is to stop buying individual pieces and focus on creating a cohesive wardrobe of items that work together.

I know I’m guilty of making “desperation purchases” (seizing the first thing you find when under a deadline), but these items rarely make it into my regular rotation. Instead, they often spend a lot of time in the back of my bottom drawer. That’s a waste of money! Right now, I’m pledging to myself to stop doing that. You should join me.

1. Figure out what you like.

Congratulations! If you’re here, you’re probably already reading blogs and following bloggers. I follow plenty of bloggers who have amazing style that just doesn’t line up with my own.  That’s okay. Focus on the bloggers who have style you could actually see yourself wearing. Classic looks are always in style, and you can modernize the basics with a trend here or there, such as adding a bell-sleeved sweater for this fall.

Also take into account what shapes you feel comfortable wearing — don’t bother adding pencil skirts if you’d never wear them. There are plenty of pieces I love on someone else that I wouldn’t on myself.

Pin your favorite outfits and figure out what the common elements are. Is there a common theme or color scheme? For example, I find myself drawn to outfits which consist primarily or entirely of neutrals: black, white, tan, grey, and denim blues. Check out my inspiration board here.

2. Make a list.

Of course, you’ll always have some pieces which don’t strictly fit into your new wardrobe scheme. That’s totally fine. I’m certainly not going to give up my burgundy skirt because it’s not in the neutral palette! You can also omit special occasion clothing (unless you get fancy on a regular basis) and workout gear (unless you’re going for an athleisure look). Remember to include work appropriate apparel if you need weekday outfits that meet a certain look or criteria.

That said, make a list of the core of your intentional wardrobe. I love blue ball point pens and lined paper for getting the creative juices flowing, but I then transferred the list over to a spreadsheet to move things around and organize a little more.

a. Figure out how much you’d like.

How many items and what should be on your list is really up to you. Jesica of Classic in Gray just did a great post on this. Think about how frequently you want to recycle the same looks and how often you do laundry. Those in hot and humid climates probably won’t get away with multiple wears of base layers the way someone in a cool climate might.

b. Figure out what your staples are.

Maybe you’ll happily rock the same great booties all season long. Maybe you’re happy wearing the same tops but like to mix it up with your bottoms. Personally, I’m happy with a few great bottoms that I mix up with a greater variety of tops. Bottoms can be reworn more frequently and are often more expensive, so this is a win-win in the laundry and budget departments.

Figure out what your staple items should be (hint: you’ve probably already got some of them in your closet) and build out from there. Pinterest is a great place to find lists that will help you determine what kinds of pieces work well together.  I like this “50 Classics for Your Closet” list for ideas, even if it’s not item-for-item my style.

c. Don’t forget underwear, outerwear, and accessories.

A great jacket can really define your wardrobe in cooler temps, so remember to add gear appropriate to your geography to your list. Similarly, undergarments are the foundation of a wardrobe. Therefore, add items like tanks, bras, and bralettes to your list, keeping in mind what would pair with your intended tops and dresses.

3. Check off what you already have.

If you don’t own any of the items on your wardrobe wishlist, that’s a red flag that your plan may not be realistic about what you’re comfortable wearing. You probably own multiple of your staple items, so that’s part of your focused wardrobe already available to you! You may also want to evaluate these items to determine whether they are in good condition and fit well or need to be replaced (holes happen, unfortunately).

4. Shop strategically and be patient.

If you don’t already have a monthly or similarly regular budget, make one first! Once you have an idea of what you can spend, think about your target price range per type of item. I’m willing to spend a little more per item for better quality. That said, I still have a price at which I’ll balk and walk away. I also tend to stick things in my bag or on my wishlist and wait until they go on sale. The great thing about being intentional is that you can better figure out where to splurge and where to save.

As a petite woman who doesn’t buy many overly trendy items, the items in my cart don’t usually sell out before going on sale. I also sign up for the lists for my favorite stores, so I can jump on sales when they happen. Also pay attention to your items after you buy them. I’ve gotten as much as $40 back after asking for a price adjustment on a big purchase that went even more on sale after I bought it.

5. Keep reevaluating.

You may never have everything crossed off your list, but it’s important to periodically reevaluate all the goals in your life, including this one.

 

What’s on your intentional wardrobe wishlist? What’s that one item on which your closet depends? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Best of luck, lovelies!

-Casey

DIY Distressed Denim

Banana Republic black wool sweater with delicate silver necklace, Fitbit Charge HR, distressed Levi's jeans, and black leather INC boots (booties).
With delicate silver jewelry, a mid-weight sweater, and these black leather booties, these newly-distressed jeans fit right into my fall look.

Distressed denim is back in a big way, with rips, slits, and scuffs adding visual interest to skinny jeans. I’m normally one for dark denim, but after seeing so many cute posts from other bloggers, I wanted a distressed pair of my own! Unfortunately, the extra attention that goes into aging that denim often comes at a price. My bank account took a hit recently with pricey standardized tests, so I decided to opt for a little DIY.

If you don’t have an extra pair lying around, this is a great time to hit up those thrift stores. Quality denim is durable enough to still be great second-hand, and for the distressed look, a little pre-wear only helps. I dug into the back of my bottom drawer (where things go on their way out), and found this pair!

My canvas is a pair of Levi’s Curve ID low-rise skinny jeans in demi curve, size 25. (Side note: my all-time favorite jeans were another pair of Levi’s Curve ID skinnies in an extra low rise and 99% cotton. They did amazing things for the rear before tragically ripping in the crotch after many years. Levi’s, if you’re reading this, bring them back!) This pair was a little stretchy for my taste because I prefer a thicker, higher-cotton feel, but I appreciated the dark denim look.

Levi's demi curve curve ID jeans size 25
These Levi’s served as my canvas. The knees were already thinning, but I added some more character.

Lighter washes are typically recommended for distressing, but I figured it was better practice with what I already had (cost: $0). My mother would probably cringe at the idea of intentionally attacking a pair of jeans (her distressing and paint splatters are all 100% authentic), but this pair is already pretty thin in certain critical areas, so there aren’t too many wears left anyway.

Step 0: Know what you want

I decided to aim for a less-is-more look. I knew I could always add more distressing later if I wanted, but I wasn’t interested in a completely shredded look. Looking for inspiration online, I found these pairs from AG, Hudson Jeans, and PAIGE, all around $200. I liked the subtle knee tears and the upper thigh patch. I thought it looked odd that the distressing was restricted entirely to the front, so I decided to add a little wear to the back pocket as well. Those four elements became my todo list, and I decided to start with what I thought would be the easiest:

  1. Back pocket (right)
  2. Upper thigh (left)
  3. Knee (right)

Step 1: Get what you need

My online research suggested that you could use a number of different tools, but that sharper was better when it came to making the little slits. I opted for a box cutter as my cutting tool, and I also gathered sandpaper and tweezers. (Side note: if you don’t already have a pair of Tweezerman tweezers, do yourself a favor, and get a pair. They come in a variety of colors and also make great stocking stuffers!) It’s also important to put some material between the layers of fabric so that you don’t cut through to the back. I went for folded up paper grocery bags.

Two slits with some denim fibers removed reveal the white fibers within. Black Tweezerman tweezers rest at an angle just above the distressing.
Usually reserved for brows, these Tweezerman tweezers were perfect for this DIY because they have excellent grip, a sharp tip, and a comfortable handle.

Step 2: Make it happen

I tried the sandpaper on the edges of the pockets, but even after vigorous effort, all this produced was a soft, fuzzy effect.

The white patches are produced by making two parallel, horizontal slits with the box cutter. Make sure that you have some kind of thick buffer between the front and back of your pants. I used rolled up paper grocery bags. The bags were pretty sliced up in the end, so don’t try to use your hand or anything you like. (This should be obvious, but I’m saying it just in case.)

You want to do your best to align these cuts so as to break the fewest number of the white threads as possible. Making the cuts as close to the same length as possible will also make things easier later.

Two slits with some denim fibers removed reveal the white fibers within.
As you pull out the blue threads, you will reveal more white fibers.

Then, slowly pull out the blue vertical threads between the slits with the tweezers. For the first few, I found it helpful to look at the underside to better distinguish the blue from the white. Then it was a matter of working out from the middle until reaching the end of the cuts. You’ll notice that if you go any further, the threads won’t pull out as easily because they are still attached. This method will produce a rectangle.

Levi's jeans with DIY denim distressing
This little bit of distressing was one of my favorites and quick to do. Two short slits approximately 3/4″ apart create this elongated rectangular patch.

Up close, I love the elongated little rectangular accents. However, for the key features, the rectangles looked a little too crisp. For a more organic look, along the lines of the thigh distressing on the Hudson Jeans, I added slits of decreasing length above and below my original rectangle; pulling the threads between the new slits and the existing ones produced a staggered shape. Keeping the slits close together softens the gradation.

I won’t lie, this took longer than the 15 minutes promised in some of the tutorials I read. Be careful about pulling the blue threads without damaging (too many) white ones. I put on Netflix and good lighting and worked carefully. The results were immediately satisfying, and it would be fun to do this again.

In the end, I distressed the right knee, the upper left thigh, and the back right pocket. I also added three small elements: one to the outer right thigh, one outside the left calf, and one on the right thigh, just above the knee.

Banana Republic black merino wool sweater with DIY distressed Levi's denim jeans, INC black booties, and Fitbit Charge HR.
Per my black-and-denim uniform, I paired my newly distressed jeans with a black Banana Republic sweater, and stacked heel INC booties. You’ll also notice my near-constant accessory: a Fitbit Charge HR.

Step 3: Enjoy!

While the distressing didn’t fix the reasons I hadn’t been wearing these jeans in the first place, I now have more reason to wear these before they wear out. In short, I’ve added a pair of attractive distressed denim to my rotation without spending a dollar!

Want to recycle your denim? Bring a pair into Madewell, and they’ll give you $20 off a full-priced pair of jeans!

Have your own DIY distressed denim? Leave a pic below!

 

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Casey