Naturalizer has finally made the Kinsley

naturalizer-kinsley-review

Now that I am finally starting to get tired of this highly uncomfortable yet stunning sandal style resurrected from the 90s, Naturalizer has come out with their version, the Kinsley.

That’s all I really have to say about that.

This would be my pick over Stuart Weitzman, Sam Edelman, possibly even Calvin Klein, because I expect these to be well made for the price point and more comfortable.

I wish it had a thicker heel.

It comes in five colors, and I kind of want all of them.

My current favorite at Naturalizer right now is the Breanna wedge with the vintage inspired bow detail. They remind me simultaneously of the 30s and 90s somehow.

Also love the Sadie and Westing half boots. They’re currently on sale!

Dear Naturalizer,

Will you please make a mule sandal with a Sadie-esque sturdy block heel and an enclosed toe box that is either square shaped like something Rachel Green might have worn in the 90s or a trendier more modern almond shape?

Thank you.

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Best of J.Crew women’s new arrivals, February 2018

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From left, clockwise…

Machine washable skinny pants, tailored in the front, stretchy elastic waist in the back debuted last year and now, finally, we have machine washable wide leg cropped pants with a stretchy elastic waist in the back! It doesn’t look that flattering on the model to me, but I’m excited anyway. It’s only offered in two colors, black and red. The red looks like it has blue undertones. I guess red is trending now, but I’m still obsessed with neutrals and wish there were a taupe color. This wide leg pant didn’t get a name. J.Crew just calls it Wide-leg crop pant in 365 crepe. It’s item H6530 if you keep track of things like that.

I know everyone uses their phone on selfie mode to check their teeth after lunch now, but it’s still nice to have an analog mirror in your bag. The Odeme(R) mirrored compact comes in four trendy colors (one of which is red again) in a fancy box. It’s made in the USA. There are two mirrors in there. I’m not sure why two is better than one, but I guess something had to go on the second side. I wish there was a fun cat print on one side or something instead.

Coola(R) liplux SPF 30 is like a balm with sunscreen and a wash of color. That seems a lot more fun than rubbing regular sunscreen over your mouth. Is Coola better ingredient wise than other brands like Kiss My Face? I’m not totally sold. Someone please convince me because I love their packaging and the way it smells.

Last year I saw red and white vertical striped wide leg pants in Zara and have serious non buyer’s remorse. At the time it seemed a little too… antique carnival. But now I cannot get enough of red and white vertical stripes. I’ll take black and white stripes, too, please, as long as they are vertical, and yes, I intend to wear them to a carnival. Hopefully with a red and white vertical striped top hat. You only live once. J.Crew’s Striped silk top comes in all sizes. I just wish there were a cotton version. But if J.Crew does vertical stripes like they did horizontal stripes, there will be no shortage of vertical stripes in the future.

I’ve not had good fortune with J.Crew jewelry. Their gold color has just been weird too many times for me and I’ve given up. I really like the Double stretch bracelet though because its two and one-eighth inch diameter may actually be small enough to fit a petite wrist properly, and it stretches. Which means it will probably pinch. But it looks great.

Okay the Cropped knit pant is from last season but has the top-rated designation now on their website and I think the wool-cotton blend sounds cozy. Sounds like a great transition piece that goes with everything, and is super comfortable, and will probably be stylish for a long time.

The Drapey wrap-back jumpsuit may be how I crack and end up on the jumpsuit bandwagon. I like the cutout back detail, especially because J.Crew claims it’s bra friendly. Love that it is a one piece outfit that can be dressed up and down with accessories and that it is machine washable. Not sure how the short sleeves will play out in real life or how you get it on. It looks like there is a back zip on the pant waistband and a potentially annoying hook and eye closure, (or worse?) a button, on the top’s back flap detail. On second thought, maybe I’m too old to rock a jumpsuit.

Athleta is looking better than ever

athleta-february-2018-review

Just got the February 2018 Athleta catalog, and am really liking what I’m seeing. Here’s what stands out.

Up For Anything 7/8 Tight

Love the wide waist band, waist pocket that is not in the back, leg pockets that zip, leg pockets large enough for a phone, 7/8 length. Five colors with petite sizing starting at XS. Is this the new XXS? Is there no XXS size equivalent now? Anyone know?

En Route Dress

One reviewer described it as “the dress that feels like yoga pants.” It’s slightly sporty, but with a sheath dress silhouette, and knee length. No petite sizing currently available, but may work for some.

Stellar Blazer

Intriguing in the catalog photograph, not quite as great in the product photos online. One petite reviewer thought it ran small. The day to night, casual to dressier versatility and low maintenance machine washable fabric make this worth trying. Petite sizes XS-L currently in stock.

Chelsea Cargo Pant

This pant has plenty of pockets without looking bulky. Wrinkle resistant and lightweight. Petite sizes 0 to 14 in stock now, 16 currently sold out but check back for pop backs. Looks like a great pant for travel if you don’t mind cargo pockets and elastic at the back waist (which probably makes them super comfy). Here’s what some reviewers said regarding sizing:

5’4. 132lbs. 4P hits right at ankle. Can’t wait to wear!!

I bought a 4 Petite. I’m 135lbs and 5’1”.

I am 5′ and 105 lbs, and the 2P is perfect.

I’m 5’0″, around 112 lbs wearing a 2 Petite. I have three colors!

I’M 5’2′, 145 lbs AND GOT THE PETITE 8.

I am 5’2″ 110lbs, i bought size 0, they fit perfectly.

This pair of pants were just the thing, she is 4’11” and about 102 lbs. The XS [petite 0-2] fit her extremely well and they look great.

Brooklyn Ankle Pant

These look really sleek and comfortable in the product photos and if you work in an environment that leans towards casual I think these might qualify as Seven Day Pants (pants you can wear seven days a week). Machine wash and dry, with stretch, petite sizes 0 to 14, three colors. The four reviews collectively are neither glowing nor particularly insightful except one reviewer noted the calf area was too slim, so these may not work for those with larger calves.

Strappy Powervita Bra

My pick for a strappy back bra from this collection based on the photo of the back in the catalog. Can’t find it on their website now even though it’s an online exclusive. Check back as it’s a new product.

Illusion Bra

Sporty styling that reminds of Calvin Klein. My pick from this collection for a mesh cut-out style.

Interestingly, the Athleta catalog does not include product numbers. This makes it a little harder to shop the print catalog online. The search feature on their website does not return results for keywords in a product name. If you want to find the product, you have to type the whole product name.

Another interesting thing is that Athleta is now offering a few Fair Trade Certified items. Find them here.

Finally, vintage style shorts

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A great pair of shorts is so hard to find. If they are cut just so, they can be so flattering to the figure, but usually something about the pattern is slightly off for me. For several years, while vanity sizing peaked, no one even made shorts in my size. You’d put them on and they’d basically slide right off.

I’ve had two great pairs of shorts. Neither are made anymore. One was a lot like the pair pictured above, made of a nylon fabric with an elastic waist. These were great for exercising and the outdoors. The other was done in twill with besom pockets and good tailoring.

I had pretty much given up on finding a great pair of shorts and had settled for a cheap fast fashion pair just to buy time. It was okay, but quality was obviously lacking. I tried not to wash it too often (and thus not to wear it too often) since the fabric felt so thin and frail.

I’d see youthful girls rocking high waisted shorts that harken back to the 80s, which I never expected to make a comeback but did and somehow I found a way to love the new old 80s styles, and I’d wish I’d have a pair so on-trend. But I could never quite find the right pair.

Then I found the 5 inch Baggies (TM) Shorts at Patagonia. They are made of nylon like my old shorts were. I thought no one made that fabric any more because I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. They have a similar elastic waistband. Elastic waistbands may not look as sleek as tailored waistbands, but they are so. much. more. comfortable. Especially this one since it is somehow flat elastic and not all scrunched up on the inside.

These shorts in my opinion run a little small compared to other American brands’ sizing. I expected my size to fit below the true waist, but they fit more like high rise shorts on me, and so they have even more of a vintage vibe to me than I expected.

There is not nearly as much stretch in the waistband as I expected. I could barely get them over my narrow hips. I would definitely size up if you are curvy for this reason. The lack of stretch may make these hard to fit for some.

There’s also no stretch in the body of the shorts at all, and they seem to be cut slimmer than typical American sizing. This seems to be a trend at Patagonia right now. This could be good for petites though!

I also recommend checking out the Cross Beta Sports Bra, a cute sports bra that could also work as a bikini top for low impact activities and small bust sizes.

Both are “Fair Trade Certified” which means profits are shared with the factory that manufactures the garment and the workers decide how that money is used. That makes me wonder how much these things would cost if they were made in the U.S.

Petite outdoor gear

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Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece Pullover

I have to shout to the mountain tops about the Patagonia Re-Tool Snap-T Fleece Pullover because it’s the first fleece anything I’ve ever, EVER found anywhere that isn’t ridiculously oversized. It’s the first outdoor jacket I’ve ever seen that had sleeves that weren’t too long. And this from Patagonia, a brand that prides itself on making high quality gear (that they will repair or buy back from you used to resell on their Worn Wear website), but that until now never technically carried my size (they’re carrying XXS now, which is looking really promising).

In my opinion and the sum opinion of reviewers on their website, the women’s version of the Re-Tool runs a little small. You might even think too small if you like your outerwear with a relaxed fit, but may rejoice at this find if you are searching for something more fitted. I think it also runs a little shorter than other past women’s Patagonia gear, which may translate to a better fit for petite ladies.

This pullover is constructed with a 51 percent recycled polyester fleece that is not ultra lightweight, but offers a surprising amount of warmth. The kangaroo pocket detail is great for keeping hands warm.

Jackets

My all time favorite jacket for exploring the great outdoors is the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket. It is expensive and it is worth the cost. This is a great three season jacket that retains warmth when wet! You can layer under and over this jacket in cold or wet weather. It is machine washable, although I expect washing to reduce loftiness over time. You can get the women’s version in full zip without hood, full zip with hood, or as a pullover with partial zip.

I have an older version, and can vouch for the quality of its construction as it has held up very well over time. Size wise it is cut for a taller person, meaning that if it were taken up at the shoulders, the waist would dip in at the right spot instead of too low, the sleeves would be about the right length instead of too long, and the overall length would hit at the hip as it is designed to instead of further down. If taken up at the shoulders, the fit would be more flattering and easier to transition into an urban setting.

The material is a slippery, thin polyester that my tailor refused to alter. At least the cuffs are elastic so the too long sleeves don’t get in the way. The upside of it being a little big is that it is roomy and comfortable and you can layer under the jacket as well as over it easily, making it highly versatile.

There are directions on the Patagonia website that show how to make simple repairs to the stitches and seams, probably the most common issues people have, but I wish they also had guidance on how to best repair rips to the fabric.

Patagonia also makes a Girl’s version (but only currently in the full zip without hood option) that I haven’t tried but will consider when in the market for a replacement (and they have better color options) since the Girl’s version may fit better and is half the price.

Their newer iteration of the Nano Puff concept is the Micro Puff Hoody. The name makes me think of a weightless cloud of air. Their marketing describes it as “the best warmth for weight jacket we’ve ever built.” The stated weight of the hoody Nano Puff is 10.8 oz on their website while the Micro Puff is said to weigh 8 oz. The Micro Puff Hoody costs about $50 more than the Nano Puff Hoody. I wonder how warm the Micro Puff is? If you have either of these jackets, please let us know in the comments below what you think about them.

Baselayers

Patagonia Capilene shirts make great baselayers and come in several weights/levels of warmth. I’ve tried cheaper, fast fashion quality synthetic shirts and they tend to pill very easily. I haven’t seen Capilene pill yet. There are also Capilene bottoms and underwear, and Patagonia makes Capilene garments for the whole family. The old trick of sizing down to kids sizes may work here as well, although I have an old shirt that runs pretty fitted except for slightly too long sleeves which I shortened myself. The great thing about altering field gear is that it doesn’t have to look perfect.

Pants

No one seems to make petite nylon pants. Nylon dries quickly and is very lightweight. They can be very thin and require layering under or over in cooler weather. Kids section is your best bet. This one by White Sierra has gotten great reviews by petite women, although there is no current version on the White Sierra website. Military grade cargo pants are also a popular option around here. They are very tough and probably relatively quite affordable if available at a military surplus store.

Socks

One word: wool. You can’t go wrong with Smartwool, although I’m curious about Darn Tough.

Rain gear

The North Face makes high quality Gore-Tex jackets that are cut a little slimmer and possibly also smaller overall than other options out there in my experience, which results in a better fit. When everyone else is wet and cold, Gore-Tex in good condition with sealed seams has the ability to keep rain totally out. If you need top of the line rain gear, you will not want to go with kids gear. For less expensive fabrics, I would check out the kids section first.

Footwear

So this is going to vary depending on what you are doing outside and where. In general, for hiking I would recommend checking out Merrell for general all-purpose use and comfort and Salomon if you want a lighter weight trail runner with softer and stickier grip and aggressive lugs, but in my limited experience you need to provide your own insoles with Salomon because the stock insoles are flimsy. People also swear by Chaco’s sandals but women’s sizing starts at a US 5 to 6 (EU 35, size chart correlates this with US 6) and the kids versions don’t seem to have the same strap design.

Daypacks

Backpacks can be trickier than you would think. Large backpacks can make one look like a turtle. Seriously, stay away from anything that has the curvature of a turtle shell. You have been warned! The fit issues I always have with backpacks are the straps or back of the bag rubbing against the neck because the straps are too long when adjusted to the shortest setting or because the bag itself is too long for the body.

If you are physically smaller, you want the bag itself to be as light as possible, yet durable. There are waterproof bags out there, but there are a few issues to consider with this: (1) weight – you can always dry bag things that really need to stay dry, but you can’t change the material construction of your bag to a lighter weight fabric, (2) vinyl is impermeable and holds water – if water does get into your bag, you will have to pour it out, (3) condensation – water may end up in your bag if it falls out of the air inside your pack and can’t evaporate away.

You also want the straps to have good, durable padding and be wide enough to be comfortable. Thin straps will just concentrate the weight of the bag into a narrower strip over your body and will not be comfortable for long. A lot of brands not targeted to outdoors use will skip padding or choose thin straps for aesthetic or maybe cost cutting (in the case of skimping on padding) purposes.

It is possible to find a backpack that fits properly, but it may take trying on several to get a comfortable fit. I can vouch for the Patagonia Ironwood 20L. It weighs 14.8 oz according to the product page. It isn’t ultra-lightweight in my opinion (it does have a laptop sleeve), but it is light enough for day long activities. It is a little small for my purposes in terms of the interior space of the bag, but I’m pretty sure I tried the larger Toromiro and Arbor Pack and those weren’t as comfortable. The front slash compartment is a great idea and looks very sleek and minimalist but since there is no depth to the pocket it is hard to find things in there, hard to get things in and out, and you can only fit pretty small things in there to begin with. It would be a huge improvement to have more external pockets for things like water bottle, mesh pocket for wet things, etc., although I agree it would be difficult to have these features and still look sleek and minimal. I wish it came with instructions on how to use the lash points properly.

Larger packs

For longer trips, a stop at REI to try on the different packs they carry would be worthwhile. Look for a pack that is cut for a woman’s body and has an adjustable torso such as these on REI’s website.

Versatile travel clothing

For versatile travel clothing for ladies on the go, check out Gap’s Athleta brand, which carries petite sizing. They seem to be phasing out size Petite XXS/00 though, and have introduced Athleta Girl for girls.

General tips

Seriously consider weight if you’re going to have to carry it. Ounces and grams add up fast.

Check the kids section for petite friendly sizes and lower prices. Except when it comes to high end rain gear and sleeping bags – go with women’s styles for these.

This is just my experience with gear so please take it as just one opinion and do your own research before leaving the house on any adventure. What gear do you swear by?

Under cabinet plug-in lighting review

6355927701_fd1a2f7031_z_dPhoto credit: 148 Straith Street Staunton, VA 24401 (Flickr)

It is truly amazing how much of a difference under cabinet lighting can transform the ambiance and functionality of a space. If I had known this, I would have invested in under cabinet lighting a long time ago, even though I don’t own the place. I recently installed under cabinet lighting and cannot figure out how I ever lived without it. The area is so dark without it that I am certain I left the house with way too much make-up on way too many times. There are probably a lot more, and a lot better options available if you can hardwire the lighting, but I am so thrilled to be able to say that renters can also enjoy this upgrade because there are fixtures that you can plug into the wall.

My first purchase of this type of lighting was based on convenience. These lights are long, skinny, and bulky so I didn’t think it was a great idea to have them shipped in. I just got the best looking one from one of the big box hardware chains and thought I’d be able to enjoy the new lighting that evening. I was wrong.

As I unpackaged them and plugged them in, I realized to my great disappointment that the lights were the “wrong color.” They were so pee yellow (i.e., “too warm”) that I had to go back to the store immediately and return them. It takes at least ten times longer to return things at that store than to buy them so I usually try to avoid that, but apparently there is a line and they had crossed it.

After that return experience I spent days researching plug-in lighting to minimize the odds of repeat disappointment. Picking the right lighting is so much more complicated than just finding a fixture that physically fits into the space you are trying to light. I’ve listed all the criteria that went into my decision and why these factors matter, and include links at the end of my top two picks.

While the fixtures cost more than I originally wanted to spend, I am very happy with the outcome. And honestly, for the difference that this simple tweak makes every single day, it was money well spent. It seems like such a minor change, but the benefit is huge.

Kelvins

This is the reason I jumped down this rabbit hole, so this is the first consideration. The Kelvin (K) rating indicates how cool or warm the light is. A higher number means the light renders cooler, while a lower number means the light will be warmer. Some fixtures allow you to adjust the warmth with a built in switch, which is nice if you want to be able to change the ambiance of a room, or if you’re not sure which setting you’ll like. But it is surprisingly difficult to find a decent color (hue?) of light these days and not all fixtures render light equally well, so please do not stop reading here.

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

This number indicates how similar the light color produced by the fixture is to incandescent light. A higher number indicates better color rendering. The highest I’ve seen is 93. At this point, I wouldn’t want anything less than 90.

Diffuser

You want there to be a diffuser on the light fixture that distributes the light produced by individual bulbs and reduces “hot spots” unless you want to be able to see the light emitting from each bulb individually. A diffuser will allow the fixture to produce more even light distribution. Not all diffusers are created equal.

Spacing

I like the look of continuous light that makes a counter glow evenly along its length. I do not like it when you can tell by the glow or reflection off counters exactly how long a fixture is not. To avoid dark zones, my strategy was to light as much of the linear under cabinet length as possible rather than purchasing just one light per cabinet or the minimum fixtures to provide adequate lighting for the space. Cramming in several fixtures may provide more than enough light, but the lighting will be even, if that makes sense, rather than in spotlit zones separated by darkness. I am not sure how to determine the maximum distance between fixtures that will provide lighting that looks continuous other than trial and error.

Fixture color

Currently I have seen white, black, and bronze, although it should be possible to customize the color of the fixture by painting it. When painting you always want to do sufficient surface preparation so the paint adheres properly. I would not want to pick white unless the fixture would not be visible from any viewing direction, or the surrounding colors are in fact true white. I just don’t like the look of bright true white (which is what they always seem to use for electrical equipment) against a white that is not true white because it makes the off white white look dirty and/or becomes an unintended focal point because it is so much brighter than everything else around it.

Hard wire vs. plug-in

If you can hard-wire, this will be the cleanest installation and avoid cables running everywhere. If hard wiring is not an option, there are fixtures designed to plug into an electrical outlet. Two strong candidate plug-in brands are GetInLight and Dewenwil on Amazon.

Block heel booties for small feet

LEFT

Eric Michael Patricia

Main Image - BP. Lance Block Heel Bootie (Women)

BP. Lance

Naturalizer Westing Boot

Naturalizer Westing

The BP. Lance looks like an updated version of the blogger favorite BP. Trolley with a slightly taller and narrower stacked heel and a more flattering boot shaft that dips slightly at the front for a leg-lengthening effect.

Years ago, however, I tried on an Aquatalia bootie that was super flattering and comfortable without a front dip. It was straight throughout the boot shaft, which ended a couple inches above the ankle, and rather wide at the opening. This style was so chic and timeless, but I didn’t purchase, and I’ve been on the lookout for this or a similar style ever since. Enter the Eric Michael Patricia (top photo) and Naturalizer Westing (last photo), which are the closest I’ve found this season to that style.

You have to be careful with this type of style though. The boot shaft ends higher up the leg than a true ankle bootie and can visually shorten already short legs, but with cropped pants trending, I really like the look of taller booties paired with slightly cropped pants in monochromatic colors (like black boots with black pants) and find that a monochromatic color scheme can work to visually elongate the leg even though there is a break in the silhouette.

I like the edgier style of the Eric Michael shoe, but the Naturalizer Westing is very classic, and Naturalizer has really stepped up its game lately, consistently striking the right balance between style and comfort at very reasonable price points.