Outrage at the Outlets

June 17, 2012

There’s a giant outlet center about an hour outside of town, and the other day, I did a little shopping there. At the top of my list was finding a new pair of shoes, but I ended up going in more than 20 stores and looking at all kinds of stuff (and trying a lot of it on). I didn’t want to spend more than 2 hours shopping, but it ended up being closer to 4. Exhausting.

And I saw something there that really pissed me off.

Read the rest of this entry »


Uniqlo

May 18, 2012

Remember yesterday’s post, when I said I was done blogging about my trip to New York City?

I lied.

Just one more post. It’s about shopping! I found a store in Manhattan that I really like. It’s called Uniqlo.

That’s their store on Broadway in SoHo. There are two more Manhattan locations, on 5th Avenue and near Herald Square, and those are the only three locations in all the United States.

Read the rest of this entry »


Zara

February 18, 2012

I’ve really come to love clothes shopping over the past year or so. For most of my adult life, shopping was a mandatory but embarrassing experience: I was way too large for most retailers, so my shopping was done at two nearby big & tall stores, and that wardrobe was complimented by catalog purchases.

Things started changing when the pounds started coming off. Once I no longer needed to shop at big & tall stores (an epiphany I celebrate in this blog post), the whole mall opened up to me, and now I have fun checking out stores and seeing what fits me and what I like. I’ve learned a lot, and they’re still tons to figure out. I already know that I tend to have good luck at Macy’s (most of the time), and that my favorite type of Levi’s are their 514s (slim straight). I’m still on the hunt for a good basic t-shirt with a flattering cut, a heavier fabric, and a reasonable price tag. I’ve also discovered what doesn’t work for me, and that information is just as valuable: I know some brands and labels that run short or are too narrow for my shoulders. And there are stores I used to frequent, like Gap (which I wore a lot of in high school), that just don’t interest me anymore.

What’s most fun, however, is walking into a store that I know nothing about and checking it out for the first time. I did this last summer in Seattle with a store called AllSaints Spitelfield, and it was a complete bust, but still fun. The other day, I did it again, with a store called Zara.

The first time I heard about Zara was a few weeks ago, when I met up with my friends Paul and Court at the Getty Center (an outing which yielded kickass ‘before’ and ‘current’ pictures that you can check out here). I complimented Paul on his shirt, which came from Zara, which is one of Paul’s go-to stores. Then, about a week ago, I complimented Tavi (ugh, yes, this is yet another blog post that Tavi figures into) on a sweater he was wearing, and that, too, came from Zara. It was time to check out Zara.

Zara is a Spanish retailer that only has about 25 stores in the US (and about a 1/4 of them are in southern California), but they’re all over Europe – actually, they’re in over 70 countries on 6 continents. They’re huge. The other day, Tavi and I went to the one in Pasadena, which is housed in an festively festooned storefront on Colorado Boulevard:

The men’s section is large, clean, and well organized:

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, so I wandered, and ended up pulling two large armloads of clothes to try on: pants, jeans, sweaters, t-shirts (maybe they’ll have the perfect basic T for me!). I picked up things at Tavi’s suggestion that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. Generally, I liked the aesthetic: a nice mix between clean lines and fun details, with a lot of neutral colors and bold pops of color. I was reminded of the description Paul initially gave me of the store, which turned out to be pretty spot-on: H&M style at a Banana Republic price point. I also noticed, from the get-go, that a lot of their offerings were slouchy and lacking in structure, which is not a flattering look on my body, but I reserved judgment until the dressing room.

The dressing room was illuminating. I learned, really quickly, that Zara is not the store for me. The textiles were a little thin and the European sizing was a little different, resulting in tops that, much to my chagrin, proudly showcased every roll of fat on my body. It was laughable how unflattering these clothes were: they clung like saran wrap, and I felt and looked like a sausage. I fared a little better with the pants – there was a pair of jeans that looked good. They were size 38″ (the largest size Zara makes), although they were the tightest 38″ I’ve ever tried on. They cost $80, and I’m not gonna spent that much on anything that I don’t absolutely love, and these jeans didn’t quite fall into the “love” category.

I was fine with completely striking out at Zara. I was curious about the store, and now I have my answer. I’ve since done a little reading about Zara, and their business model is kinda fascinating. They do no advertising whatsoever, and focus on clothes that are already trendy and popular, as opposed to trying to establish trends of their own. They can design a knock-off and have it in stores in 2 weeks, and if that item doesn’t sell within a week or two, they’ll yank it from the shelves. As a result, they’ll sell 10,000 unique items during a year-long span, compared to 2,000-4,000 items for their competitors. They’ve resisted outsourcing more than other companies, and claim that 75% of their clothes are made in Europe (mostly Spain). I recommend the Zara page on Wikipedia for an interesting primer on fashion retailing.

Zara’s not for me. Big deal. I’m not in the market at the moment for any clothes anyway, except workout pants, which I should be able to find easily at a discount store or on the sale rack at a sporting goods store.

Do you have any ideas for retailers that I can investigate next?

Keep it up, David!


My Incredible Shrinking Clothes – Jeans Edition

September 7, 2011

I’ve covered lots of different types of clothing in the “My Incredible Shrinking Clothes” series on this blog, from my swimsuits to my dress shirts (all six prior editions are archived on the My Favorite Posts page), but today’s post is about one of the most popular types of clothing that can be found in nearly everyone’s closet…

…JEANS.

Usually, these posts include a photo of a piece of clothing that I wore at my heaviest, which I compare to clothing I can fit into now, but this post is a little different, because I don’t have any pairs of jeans from when I was at my heaviest.  It may be hard to believe, but for a span of close to a decade, I didn’t wear jeans at all.  I didn’t even own a pair.

At some point in college I stopped liking jeans.  As my waistline expanded, I found them less and less comfortable.  Meanwhile, the pants in my closet that I grew to favor most had one thing in common: elastic waistbands.

Oh, elastic waistband, how I loved you!  You made my life so easy.  I never had to pay attention to my actual pants size, because elastic waistband pants aren’t sold by the number, they’re sold in basic Small, Medium, Large, and Extra-Large sizes.  I was a 3XL.  Plus, elastic waistbands are forgiving after junk food binges – you never have to worry about not fitting into them the next day.

As my love and reliance on elastic grew, my love for denim shrunk, and by the time I moved out to California after college, there was none left in my closet.  I found jeans with elastic waistbands at the big & tall store, but they were so goofy, unflattering, and ugly that I couldn’t bear the thought of wearing them.  So I went jeans-free.

By June 2010, I had lost around 80 pounds, and the thought started percolating in my brain that maybe it was time to buy my first pair of jeans in a looooong time.  Despite my 80-pound loss, I was still too big to shop at major retailers, so I went to the big & tall store and started trying jeans on.  I found a pair that fit that were 46″ around the waist.  A few months later, I was able to buy 44s.  A few months after that, I bought my first pair of 42s, and the bigger sizes ended up in the donation bin at Goodwill.  And so on.

Lately I’ve been noticing that my current jeans are a little looser, and then all my friends on the kayaking trip I went on last month came to the consensus that my jeans were just too big.  That’s when I started trying on jeans, and realizing that I was fitting into jeans that were one size smaller.  That’s an amazing feeling, by the way.  Even though smaller jeans were fitting, I wasn’t finding any that were quite right for me:  the cut wasn’t flattering, I wasn’t nuts about the finish or color, there was some other detail or stitching that bothered me.

The other day I went shopping with my mom, and I finally ended up coming home with a new pair of jeans.  It’s my first new pair in about 6 months, and yep, they’re a new smaller size.

Ladies and Gentlemen, take a look at my SIZE 36″ JEANS!

They’re Levi’s 514 jeans, waist 36″; length 32″.  514 jeans are called Slim Straight, which means the jeans are slim cut through the butt and thigh, but have a straight leg.  They’re comfortable, and even though you can’t see it in the picture, they make my ass look good!

While fitting into 36″ jeans is certainly a notable milestone by itself, there’s a greater milestone that I must mention.  Even though I wore elastic pants almost exclusively before I started losing weight, I went to a wedding two summers ago that required the purchase of a new suit.  The suit pants that I bought were size 56″ waist.  That’s right, folks…

…I’ve lost TWENTY INCHES around my waist!

Keep it up, David!


Hello, Americana!

January 30, 2011

This week I cleared out space in my closet and dressers.  I few days ago I got, in my hot little hands, the gift cards that were so generously given to me by Ellen (which arrived to the Ellen offices when I was in Michigan, so I didn’t get them until I got back).  Which means that yesterday, I was in the perfect position…

…to go shopping!

My friend Jen came along with me – she can work her way through a mall better than most people (certainly me), and she has a great eye and fashion sense.  Here are three more reasons I love shopping with Jen:

  • The day after I asked if she’d come, she emailed me a game plan – she had gone to the mall’s website, scoured the store directory, and identified all the stores we needed to hit.
  • When we were driving to the mall, she directed me to a side street where we got a great parking space, avoiding paying for parking at the mall itself.
  • She was excited to document the entire excursion with photographs, which will make writing this post so much easier (and so much more fun!).

We went to The Americana At Brand, the mall where I was given the gift cards.  It’s in downtown Glendale, California (only about 15 minutes from my place), and it opened a few years ago.  We only focused on clothing, but there’s also a big movie theater, a Barnes and Noble, a bunch of restaurants, and other shops and retailers.  There’s a park in the center, with some dancing fountains, and there are apartments and condos above all the stores:

By the time we left, it was turning dark.  Here’s one of their signs:

So…  wanna see the fashion show?

First stop was Urban Outfitters, where I picked up 2 shirts:

The orange plaid shirt may not be a keeper, I haven’t decided yet.  I like the colors, but it’s a tiny bit tight through the back and shoulders, so I may return it.  Those photos, by the way, are totally against the rules:  Jen was asked not to take photos in Urban Outfitters.  Whatever.   Oh, and guess who we ran into at Urban?  You’ll never guess.  My friend Glory!  I love Glory, she’s so hilarious and so much fun to be around.  Wanna see Glory in action?  She was on TV last month, and her skirt got ripped off – it’s very funny.

Next stop was H&M.  Glory had a few spare minutes, so she came along, too.  I probably tried on 10-12 different things, and found some keepers:

I love these pants.  It’s hard to tell in the picture, but they have a subtle gray/black/white plaid pattern, and a bunch of fun details.  The brown polo was really thin, and I didn’t love it, so I didn’t buy it.

My friend Jim will love that I bought this gingham shirt:


I also picked up a couple V-neck tees ($6 a piece) and a pair of black workout pants.

Right next store to H&M was Forever 21, which apparently has a men’s section.  I’d never been in a Forever 21 before – but this jacket was literally the first thing I picked up after walking in:

A saleswoman saw Jen take this picture and told her photos weren’t allowed in their store.  Oops.  She also asked Jen to delete the photo off the camera, and Jen did a bang-up job miming doing just that.  And I bought the jacket – it was only $37!

We headed into American Eagle Outfitters, where I picked up two t-shirts (buy one, get one 50% off).  Here’s one of them:

I wanted to see if I could find a new pair of sneakers to work out in, so we ducked in the Puma store.  They didn’t have anything I liked in my size – I’m a size 14, and end up buying a lot of my shoes online – but I did find this shirt, and it was 50% off:

And there you have it, folks!  Everything I bought today at the Americana.

There was a lot of stuff I tried on and didn’t buy.  We went into A/X Armani Exchange, where I tried on a pair of pants and a zip-up top:

The photo doesn’t do justice all the details and seams in the pants, but they were too snug around my waist, and not quite my style – maybe if I owned a motorcycle.  The top, though, I debated.  It’s actually a dark navy zip-up dealie, and there’s a brighter blue lining that you can’t see.  It was on sale (50% off), and I would have bought it if they had it in a different color – I already have a zip-up hoodie that’s navy with brighter blue details.  I liked Armani Exchange, though, and will remember to go back once I settle into my final goal weight (which I haven’t determined yet).  They have fun, different clothes, but it’s too pricey for transition clothes.

Figuring out what stores I like and don’t like was actually one of the best things about this excursion (apart from buying lots of new stuff and not paying for a single cent of it).  I never stepped foot in any mall stores for probably a decade when I heavy, because I never could buy anything at any of them, and now, there’s just tons of places to check out.  I like Armani Exchange, but we also went into Calvin Klein, and I didn’t really like their stuff at all.  I tried on a couple things at J. Crew, found it pricey for transition clothes, but will probably go back once I reach a final goal weight (or, at least, check out their outlet store).  There’s stuff for me that I like at H&M and Urban Outfitters, too!

I’ll end this post with a couple definite ‘no’s.  This J. Crew long sleeve tee was not flattering…

…nor was this long-sleeve number from Urban Outfitters:

All told, I walked outta Americana with 4 tees, 4 button-down shirts, 1 jacket, and 2 pairs of pants.  Not too shabby!

Keep it up, David!


ELLEN Clothing Poll Results!

January 9, 2011

About 24 hours ago, I posted photos of four possible outfits I could wear when I go on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW this week.  It airs Tuesday.  You should watch it!  I’m going to be a guest, alongside Richard Simmons, talkin’ about my weight loss journey and success.  Don’t know when the show airs in your part of the country?  Go to www.ellentv.com and find out!

Anyway – I posted photos of the potential outfits, and asked all of you to vote on which outfit you liked most.  I got tons more votes than I was anticipating!  Between the two polls (one for shirts and one for pants), I got 158 votes!  And, many of you elaborated in the comments section and on Twitter, and I thank all of you for taking the time to help me out.

Pardon me for employing some Seacrest-style stalling here, but before I get to the poll results, I want to invite you to take a minute to look around – I added some new features to the blog!  There’s now more buttons along the top:  The “Watch Me on Ellen” button, which will soon feature a video of my appearance on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW, the “Photo Gallery” button, which features a bunch of Before and Current photo comparisons, and the “My Favorite Posts” button, which takes you to a list of (surprise!) my favorite posts – and is a great way for new readers to get acquainted quickly with me and what the blog is all about!  A big thank you to Mike Chiaburu and Kristy Hanson for helping me put together these new additions.  You can follow both of them on Twitter – Mike is @mikerelay, and Kristy is @kristyhanson.  And while you’re on Twitter, are you following me yet?  I’m @keepitupdavid (duh).

Okay, back to the poll results.   For both shirt and pants, there was a clear-cut most popular choice – they weren’t close races in any way, shape or form.

Ready to see what you think I should wear on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW?  Here it is!

Here’s how the voting broke down:

SHIRT:

  • Shirt #1 (Blue/Brown Plaid)     10%
  • Shirt #2 (Red Plaid):     24%
  • Shirt #3 (Light Blue):     19%
  • Shirt #4 (Brown):     47%

PANTS:

  • Pants #1 (Dark Jeans):     63%
  • Pants #2 (Distressed Jeans):      21%
  • Pants #3 (Khaki Jeans):     16%

See?  Not even close.

I have to say that the results for the shirt surprised me a little.  The brown shirt was the one was I was least excited about – I think it’s a little boring, although I do look great in it.   Based on the comments section and the conversations I had in person with friends and family, it seems that, generally speaking, you found the blue/brown plaid too busy, and thought the light blue wasn’t quite slimming enough and would get washed out on TV.  A few observant Ellen fans pointed out that the furniture on the set is red, so the red plaid shirt would blend right in, which is true (and, yes, I knew that, but I threw the red plaid shirt into the mix because I liked the way it looked on me).

Meanwhile, I’m with you 100% on the pants choice – I like the dark jeans the most as well.  The distressed jeans cost me $80, so I’m more than happy to go return them.  I’ve been dropping a pant size every 2 months or so, and $80 is too much to spend on jeans I’ll only be wearing for 2 months.

These results have given me a lot to think about!  Does this mean that I’ll be wearing the brown shirt when I tape the show?  You’ll recall at the end of yesterday’s post I added a little disclaimer ["I promise to take these poll results into consideration when I make my choice (which, in all honesty, may not be made until I’m backstage at Ellen)"] and I plan on sticking to it, which means you’ll have to tune in on Tuesday to find out!

Okay – I need to go get some shuteye, because a camera crew from Ellen is arriving at my place bright and early in the morning to film some footage for my segment.  My Ellen experience starts tomorrow!

Thanks again, and…

…Keep it up, David!


What Should I Wear on ELLEN?

January 8, 2011

Blog Readers, I need your opinion! I tape my appearance on THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW on Monday.  (It airs Tuesday, January 11, 2011… Is your TiVo set?  Why don’t you take a few seconds right now and double-check that everything’s set.  You don’t want to miss it!  Oh, and go to www.ellentv.com to find out when it’s on in your city.)

The taping is a few days away, and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to wear!  I have it narrowed down to a few options, thanks to a fantastic afternoon at the mall with my friend Kristy (check out her website, she’s an amazing singer/songwriter).  We power-shopped through 2 department stores and about 4 or 5 mall stores, and I ended up buying 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants.  I’m not committing to keeping anything – I’m saving the receipts, and everything I don’t wear could go back.  In addition to the newly-purchased pieces of clothing, I’m also throwing into the mix 1 shirt and 1 pair of pants that  just got as Christmas presents.

I photographed myself in each of the outfits.  I’m not going to sway anyone’s opinions by revealing cost, where I bought things, or which items I already had in my closet, so don’t look for any of that info.  I also apologize in advance for the quality of the photos – I was setting the timer on my camera, then running into place and trying to pose a little bit (so they didn’t look like mug shots), and it took many many many attempts in each outfit before getting ones that were usable.  It was frustrating.

Anyway – take a look, and then vote for your favorites in the polls below!

PHOTO #1:

  • SHIRT #1: Brown/Blue Plaid
  • PANTS #1:  Dark Jeans

PHOTO #2:

  • SHIRT #2: Red Plaid
  • PANTS #2: Distressed Jeans

PHOTO #3:

  • SHIRT #3: Light Blue
  • PANTS #3: Khaki Jeans

PHOTO #4:

  • SHIRT #4: Brown
  • PANTS #1: Dark Jeans (the same jeans as in Photo #1 – I’m not trying to sway opinions by wearing these twice; I just don’t have a 4th option for pants, so I needed to repeat)

Now onto the polls!  This is the first time I’ve used actual polls in my blog before, so I’m excited to see how this goes.  I rigged it so you can’t see the results – I want honest opinions, not people jumping on bandwagons.  That doesn’t mean that you have to keep your thoughts a secret: if you want to elaborate, then please do so in the Comments section!

One more thing: I’m not married to these shirt/pant pairings, either – if you think the shirt in one photo would look great with the pants from another, then vote accordingly.

Again – if you want to leave additional comments or thoughts, then head to the comments section.  I’ll let you know the poll results in a couple days.  Thanks for providing your input!  I promise to take these poll results into consideration when I make my choice (which, in all honesty, may not be made until I’m backstage at Ellen).

Keep it up, David!


Torture Device or Symbol of Success?

December 19, 2010

Last month, I was Skyping with my uncle and grandmother, and during our chat, my uncle wandered away and came back with this, which he had found in my grandmother’s garage.  Any idea what it is?

My first thought was that it could be one of the Dentist’s tools in “Little Shop of Horrors.”  But it’s actual use is to….

…punch holes in belts!

Knowing that my grandma had such a device, I brought a belt that is too big for me on my trip to Michigan so I could test this sucker out.

Here’s the belt:

It’s either a size 48″ or a size 50″ (I can’t remember), and I got it in July.  Now I’m down to a size 40″ around my waist – a full 18″ smaller than when I was at my heaviest, and my waist measured 58″!

Anyway – the belt would need more holes if I were ever to wear it again, so I got to work punching those holes out.  First step: figuring out how big to make the holes.  The tool can punch holes in 6 different diameters, so I found the one that fits my belt:

Then I lined up the punch with where I wanted to hole to go:

Then I squeezed.  And squeezed.  And squeezed.  Turns out you need a lot of pressure to punch a hole through leather!  Finally I felt it give way, and voila!  I had a new hole!

I was so excited that I immediately started again and punched a second new hole.  Then a third, then a fourth.  Ultimately, I punched 7 new holes:

In the background are the bits that I punched out.

Now I can wear the belt again!  It sure feels good to have outgrown my clothing – although outgrown is the wrong word… outshrunk my clothes? Thinned out of my clothes?  Whatever the word it…

…Keep it up, David!


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