Buy Curious: From Cheap, Chic Basics to Toilet Paper Couture

This week, Buy Curious serves up a tasty little bit of everything. We tested the limits of low-budget shopping, and lo and behold, wound up with a swanky $40 dress and a few other stellar finds you’d never guess came from that giant off-price store you never admit to patronizing. We also dug up details on where to grab a killer last-minute gift for Mom, the Web site where all the fashionable plus-sizers hang out, why your collarbone — and not your waistline — is where it’s at, and more …

Style File

It’s been our experience that we never know what we’re going to find when we stroll into Marshalls or its slightly dodgier brethren T.J. Maxx and Ross Dress for Less (which just may be the most wince-worthy name for a store in history, with the possible exception of Dress Barn). After all, Buy Curious’ notion of a “top designer” is more often than not at odds with that of off-price retailers (think Gloria Vanderbilt, with a sprinkling of MaxStudio thrown in). The Marshalls in El Cerrito, however, appears to be kicking it up a few notches in the real-deal designer category. When we heard rumors that it was suddenly chock full of Ella Moss, Generra, C&C California, Joie and other high-end labels, we challenged ourselves to see how many pieces of clothing we could find that we’d actually wear. While we had our work cut out for us in sifting through overstuffed racks to find the gems, find ’em we did — we wound up with FIVE fabulous pieces! Our only regret? We had no time left to explore the store’s massive new shoe department …
#1 & #2
Cole Haan jacket. $150 (orig. $300)
with Joie blue and white cotton halter top. $39.99 (orig. $80)
Sigrid Olsen cotton khaki jacket (paired with an Ella Moss knit dress that just didn’t do it for us). $36 (orig. $140)
Kenneth Cole black dress. (Kinda like the ones Mrs. Roper used to wear on Three’s Company, but subtly sexy just the same.) Rayon and polyester. $39.99 (orig. $129)
Calvin Klein halter dress in sage. Polyester & spandex. $79.99 (orig. $160)
The end result, wallet-wise? Had we actually coughed up the cash to buy everything, we’d have saved a tidy $463.03!


When Feeling Blue Feels Good
We’ve just discovered GG Blue, a two-year-old Lafayette-based label that ostensibly targets women golfers but in reality conjures pieces any non-golfer craving beautifully tailored basics will love. (That’d be us.) Our favorite pieces include the sumptuously moody silk dress pictured, and this long sleeve T with snap-button sleeves. You can find the label at local country clubs including Contra Costa and Blackhawk or – and perhaps more practically? – on at

Plus Size (or Whatever Ya Call It)? Meet Your Newest Online Obsession
Shop your heart out at Fatshionista, a fantastic fat-positive blog where, every Friday, leagues of style savvy members post clothes and accessories they’d like to sell. But Fatshionista is far more than just an outlet for selling and buying. The brainchild of Oaklander Amanda Piasecki, it’s become the best place on the web to chat with other plus-size women about where to buy cool clothes, post photos of your latest acquisitions, get fashion advice, and talk about experiences with doctors, colleagues and more.

Piasecki spoke to the Express back in September. “I basically just wanted to start a community where people could talk about fashion and about its underlying personal politics,” she said. “People put themselves through insane dieting antics with the ultimate intent of finding clothes, and that seems kind of ridiculous when you stop to pick it apart. Not having access to particular kinds of clothing may seem like a superficial thing, but it may also mean you don’t have access to certain social circles, or jobs, or any number of things that people who can look a certain way do.” To read more about the Site and about East Bay women making strides in plus-size fashion, check out the article here. (Scroll down to the headline, “Fatshionistas.”)
Because It’s Been a Whole Week Since the Last One!
Yes, it’s another gathering of crafty people selling fabulous stuff you might not need but most definitely want. Goodies from dozens of local designers will be up for grabs at the Maven Urban Design & Craft Fair in San Francisco tomorrow. Still don’t have a Mother’s Day gift for Ma? This may be your last chance for a while to turn your mother into a trendsetter by giving her something she’ll feel obliged to actually wear!
When: Saturday May 12th 11a.m.-4p.m.
Where: The Noe Valley Ministry, San Francisco, 1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd

Jewelry Trunk Show
Bay Area native Melissa Joy Manning‘s delectable jewelry has garnered high praise in the fashion world. Featured in magazines like InStyle, Vogue, Lucky, US Weekly, and Self, her eye-catching designs (hand-crafted in Oakland) inspired by recycled and reclaimed pieces have been worn by celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, and Jessica Simpson. Currently based in New York, Manning will make a special appearance this weekend for a special trunk show.
When: Sat., May 12, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Hush, 1354 N. Main St., Walnut Creek

Sip & Gaze for a Good Cause
The Alameda Hospital Foundation hosts “A Garden Tea & Fashion Show,” honoring Dr. Alice Challen. Proceeds will support the John J. Mulvany Infusion Center & Cancer Services Program. Call (510) 814-4600 for more information.
When: Sat., May 12 at 2 p.m.
Where: 1200 St. Charles St., Alameda

Fort Mason Sample Sale
Need a last minute gift for mom? A dress for your cousin’s graduation, or for a summer wedding? Stop by this free designer clothing sample sale in San Francisco this weekend. Organizers promise designers like BCBG, Ella Moss, Splendid, and more at 50 to 70 percent off. Paying cash? Score an extra 10 percent off. Free parking available.
When: Sat., May 12, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Fort Mason Center (Building D), Marina Blvd. at Buchanan St., San Francisco. (213) 327-0531 for more information.

City College Fashion Front and Center
Student fashion can be funky, but their raucous shows are the antithesis to the snobbery of the couture world. Support budding young talents when City College of San Francisco’s fashion department hosts its annual fashion show next week. This year’s theme is “A Foreign Affair.”
When: Wed., May 16. Reception starts at 6 p.m., fashion show at 7 p.m.
Where: Ruby Skye, 420 Mason St., San Francisco
How much it’ll set you back: $15, $10 for students with ID

Your Lucky Deals of the Week
If you’re planning to shop SF this weekend, print out this week’s list of Lucky magazine store specials to save a bit ‘o cash.

FASHANALYSIS: Style News & Views

DIY Mike & Chris Hoodie
Just when you thought hoodies couldn’t get more popular, husband-and-wife design team Mike & Chris made the cozy staple ultra-modern, urban, and utterly adorable (if you have a tiny enough frame to fit into it, that is). Now you don’t have to shell out $150 to $600 for one of their highly-sought-after designs. The latest issue of Nylon Magazine features a handy, step-by-step guide by the designers to make your own Mike & Chris-style creation, with just a men’s pullover sweatshirt, scissors, some chalk, two buttons, and needle and thread. Then sell it on eBay!
How To Tell If That Chick In A Chic Sack Dress is Truly Skinny (or Not)
Sorry, folks – you can’t buy what has been deemed the hottest accessory of the day by the New York Times. But if you already happen to have a jutting clavicle well, then – lucky you! (Sure – you could spend lots of cash on diet products, but we can almost guarantee that by the time you lose that excess collarbone padding, high necked garments will be all the rage!)
Yo, Aspiring Fashion Designers! Any Good with toilet paper?
You have until June 15 to create the wedding dress of your dreams – using only toilet paper, tape and/or glue! Check out these incredible entries from last year (including the one in the photo). The winner takes home a $500 gift certificate to spend at the online store, Cheap Chic Weddings. Almost makes us want to get married all over again! (Almost!)


Next Sunday: Huge Design Festival in Hayes Valley
Don’t even think about skipping the CAPSULE Design Festival, one of the best shopping events of the year as more than 140 innovative artists and designers of every stripe set up shop in Hayes Valley Park. Whether you’ve got five bucks to spend or five hundred, there’s no way you’ll walk away unsatisfied!
When: Sun., May 27,11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Where: Octavia Street between Fell & Hayes, San Francisco

Every Friday, Buy Curious dishes on the hottest fashion trends, news, and sales in the East Bay and beyond. If you’ve got suggestions for shops or Web site to feature, comments on the blog, or a burning style question you’d like us to answer in our occasional column, Buy Clueless, send them our way! Write Kathleen and Lauren at BuyCurious[at]EastBayExpress[dot]com


Newsletter sign-up

eLert sign-up

few clouds
59.4 ° F
63 °
55 °
36 %
20 %
61 °
62 °
63 °
59 °
58 °