Current petite-friendly favorites at J.Crew

Textured summer straw hat

I’m not loving stripes or ruffles or the off-shoulder look as much as everyone else it seems. What I love the most at J.Crew right now are the few staple items that have stuck around for the past few seasons.

Topping this list is the Textured Summer Straw Hat, which comes in black and a natural tan. This hat is a head turning statement piece. It makes everything else you wear instantly chic. It’s proportions are perfection. I hope they make this forever. I’m sure they will not. Stock up while it’s available. Everyone should have one. The description for the current version says it is foldable and packable, although in past seasons it was not and it looks the same as past seasons.

French cross-back bikini top

Next up is the French Cross-back Bikini Top. It comes in a multitude of colors and extensive sizing options. The sizing is a little tricky but with free shipping and returns, it isn’t too much of a hassle to get the right fit.

Ebbets Field Flannels® for J.Crew Brooklyn Eagles ball cap

Love this twill Ebbets Field Flannels hat. Ebbets Field carries this hat in wool. It’s nice to have the twill option here, although wool sounds good, too…

Knot-back tank top

The one thing I like out of the new arrivals is this Knot-back Tank Top. It has a more modest overlap in the back than some of the other versions I’ve seen, which is a nice option to have if you aren’t a fan of a more exposed back.

American made ball caps

Brooklyn Eagles 1935 Vintage Ballcap
Ebbets Field Flannels 1935 Brooklyn Eagles ball cap

After several hat purchases – all products imported from abroad – that have been underwhelming for a variety of reasons, and after seeing J.Crew carry American-made hats, I became curious about what hat options are left after all of the imported products are filtered out.

Well, there are only three companies that I can find that make (or at least firmly claim to make) their baseball caps in the USA.

But first, here are some amusing statements I’ve seen along the way:

USA Seller
(printed in red white and blue flag-like graphic reminiscent of classic Made in USA logo)

Made in USA and/or Imported

Made in USA and Imported

 

Ebbets Field Flannels (see lead photo), based in Seattle, looks like a pretty cool shop that specializes in reproducing vintage baseball paraphernalia with great attention to detail, craftsmanship, and material selection. It’s hard to choose just one of their many hat styles. They even offer blank hats now and they’ve been collaborating with J.Crew.

 

Light Liberty Clouds Ball Cap

FairEnds Light Liberty Clouds hat

 

FairEnds says their hats are made in California, and they’ve collaborated with Madewell in the past. They seem to focus on minimalism, eschewing logos and branding in favor of producing a classic product that works for everyone, kind of like the Rayban Wayfarer of baseball hats. Their hat silhouettes somehow manage to simultaneously feel both vintage and modern, at least on the heads of their Madewell-esque models.

 


Bayside hat

 

Finally, there is Bayside, which makes both structured and unstructured caps in brushed and washed twill using 100% cotton material. They also have union made t-shirts in five styles. These are pretty straight-forward hats veering towards utilitarian, free of any hipster-like qualities. They only come blank, ready for your own creative printing project, crafty embellishments, or minimalist styling.

That’s it! I could only find three! (For comparison, according to one website, about 43.8 million baseball caps are sold in the US per year as of 2016.) Anyone know of any other American hat manufacturers?

 

Sunday Funglasses

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Aerie Pineapple Sunglasses

Yes, I am fully aware of how frivolous and unnecessary funglasses are. Nobody needs a pair of cheap shades with lenses shaped like hearts or fruits or charismatic pandas. The lenses are never as clear or sun-protective or scratch-resistant as the glasses one might procure from an opthamologist in standard oval, square, or cateye shapes. They never have the option to add a custom prescription or anti-glare coating. They never come polarized.

Yet I have been sporting a pair of classic heart-shaped sunglasses for the better part of two years that I got for just a few dollars at Claire’s of all places, and am delighted to report that while nobody’s life is changed by standard eye-doctor sunglasses, a pair of classic heart-shaped glasses has the power to transform other people’s ordinary, errand-filled, hum drum days into hum drum days punctuated by an extraordinary moment of highly memorable joy.

Funglasses are an easy way to filter the debbie downer grumps from those gems of humanity that have a healthy sense of humor and appreciation of creative self-expression and random quirkiness. Because the most highly evolved humans do not judge you sternly for your decision to pursue frivolity and fun in your fashion choices. No. They are overcome with amusement and giggles and delight in the silliness of it all. They understand that life is hard, so why not shape a pair of eyeglasses into pineapples.

I am all about delicately balancing form against function, with function as the foundation of good design. Eliciting pure joy from a form that also (mostly) fulfills its utilitarian goals is what great design is all about.

Pink Heart Sunglasses from Paper Source. (Unsure about sizing.) Also, Unicorn Lipgloss and heart shaped drink straws.

Daisy Sunglasses, also from Paper Source. (See product description for sizing info.)

Pink Flamingo Party Sunglasses / Tenacious Peacock (Unsure about sizing.)

Totes, totes

product photo

Totes are everywhere. I can’t even remember what preceded them now. Maybe the hobo or satchel? Stylistically, I’ve moved on to coveting crossbody bags, but often you have a lot of junk to haul around that requires a larger bag. That’s where the tote comes in. (A large crossbody is essentially a messenger, and while it may be slightly more practical, I’ve never been a fan of them.)

I, like every other woman on earth, like the Longchamp Le Pliage a lot. It may not be the most beautiful bag ever made, but it balances style and function well. It’s lightweight and allows one to look put together and business-like in an understated way. It packs well, making it great for travel. It can hold a lot of stuff. It zips shut.

I can’t speak to the durability of the Le Pliage because I opted for a knock off straight from China because I’m cheap…I mean, because the 10 inch strap drop length of the Le Pliage felt slightly too long and the knock off has a shorter strap drop of about 7.9 inches (20 cm). It does show wear after a while and won’t last forever, but I’ve gotten a fair amount of use out of it. It is not exactly the same as the Le Pliage design wise, but still achieves the same ratio of form to function, actually has more proportional sizing to a petite frame in my opinion, and is similar enough that other people mistake it for the real deal. If I knew that the Le Pliage held up much better, I might opt for it instead, but I figure all nylon and thin leather will eventually show wear. The knock off sells for a fraction of the price and I believe it has that plastic edging on the leather instead of raw edges.

The only things I don’t like about the Le Pliage design are that it’s stingy with interior pockets and it lacks structure. It won’t stand up on its own if you set it on the ground. That’s obviously the trade-off for it being packable and lightweight.

I probably won’t invest in a bag with more structure any time soon, but can’t help looking around to see what’s out there. The reversible Street Level tote at Nordstrom is similarly easy on the eyes and has an 8 inch strap drop length. One of the bicolor options is black/brown, which I think is genius! It looks a little awkward in the product photos to have brown on the underside of the bag handles, but that seems like a small price to pay for having a black and brown bag in one. It’s faux leather, but has over 800 reviews, including one glowing testimony to the bag’s relentless durability. At under $50, it sure is enticing.

Old Navy’s Classic Tote (pictured above) is even more affordable, and I prefer its design over its sister brands’ offerings. It has a 10 inch strap drop and seems a little on the large size. There is also a zippered option of unstated dimensions. Both are faux leather.

At this point, I think I prefer faux leather for a tote. Faux leather can look so much like real leather aesthetically these days. And the handles of totes seem to be their Achilles’ heel. Why have a leather bag that will last for ages when its (often too skinny) handles will inevitably fail and render the bag useless? How hard is it to replace bag handles?

People seem to really get into their bag purchases. When I think about purchasing a handbag, I do feel a little societal pressure to make it a big investment purchase. Like it should be a beacon of status and achievement. Like your success in life is judged by the quality of the bag you carry and the shoes you don. Like you do not take your career or yourself seriously if you don’t meet some unwritten standard of nice-but-not-too-nice. But those kinds of bags weigh as much as the stuff they are designed to contain. Why would I want to carry around two bags?

Back to limping along my well worn Le Pliage knock-off. Good design trumps beauty when it comes to the carry-all, at least for me, for now. What’s your go-to, must-have bag?

Currently thinking about: versatile crossbody bags

Recently I picked up a fabulous vintage 1990s (yikes! 1990s is vintage now?!) crossbody purse in black leather from a thrift store and rejoiced in its not-seen-on-everyone-everywhere shape and lack of those plastic finished edges that are ubiquitous now. I love the style, but the strap is too long and not adjustable.

It can be a challenge to find bags that are proportioned for smaller frames and a shorter stature. I generally size down: large probably means jumbo to the point where the bag makes me look like a child playing dress up, medium is most likely large, small is medium, and something like a wristlet is still sizeable enough to qualify as a purse.

I like the idea of a crossbody, but gave up trying to find one with a short enough strap length and a small enough bag size years ago. Too long and large and the bag is not only aesthetically awkward, it takes on a life and personality of its own, bobbing around you and dragging you down into the sidewalk by the shoulder with each step.

The Madewell Simple Crossbody (pictured above) appears to be perfect for petites. The body of the bag measures approximately 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.75 inches, with an approximately 21.5 inch adjustable strap drop. Although it’s never clear in product descriptions if that is the maximum or minimum strap drop (ideally brands would provide both), most of the reviews comment on the strap length either being too short (if they are average height or taller) or hitting perfectly at the hip (if they are petite). This is great news for petites!

I like that the Simple Crossbody has a zippered closure and that the strap is removable, allowing the bag to function as a large clutch. The downsides for me are the lone interior pocket; the zipper pull, unappealing in both form and function, seemingly a downgrade from the classic YKK pull; and the casual aesthetic that is oh-soo-perfect for every daytime activity I can think of, but that I can’t imagine transitioning well into the night for anything other than the most casual affairs.

The Dooney and Bourke Daphne Crossbody Wallet is like a wristlet with more depth and a crossbody length strap. The Daphne has a detachable strap, and unlike the Madewell bag, I can see it potentially transitioning from day to evening more seamlessly. It has way more interior pockets, as well as credit card slots and an exterior zip pocket, but the main compartment snaps shut instead of zippering (wish it had a sunken zipper) and the adjustable strap’s drop is listed as a whopping 25 inches. That makes it a great candidate for average to tall people, but probably too long and unwieldy for petites without leather alterations or purchasing a shorter 1 x 1 x 15 inch replacement strap (in Vachetta Natural, Butterscotch, or Tan, but note the reviews that say the width is actually 9/16 inch and the colors differ from their names).

 

Daphne Crossbody Wallet

 

For years, I have been quietly hoping that someone would make a high quality, highly versatile bag like the Daphne with interchangeable straps. A long crossbody strap is perfect for using a bag like the Daphne as a purse, but it would also be nice to have a shorter strap option to convert to wristlet, and to be able to go sans strap when a clutch or wallet is desired. Well, D&B has made the Daphne strap completely removable, and they sell replacement straps of varying lengths (including those with a 15 inch drop length mentioned above), but only in different shades of tan.

Other options:

Leatherology Katy Mini Crossbody

4.5 x 7.75 x 1 inches, fully removable strap with adjustable 15 to 22.5 drop length, extra points for stating that clearly on website, strap is secured through slots hidden on the underside of the flap (seems like that may cause the flap to unsnap if pulled too hard), monogrammable up to six characters.

J.Crew Factory Mini Crossbody Bag in Leather

5.25 x 7.25 x 2.25 inches, adjustable but not removable strap, probably lined with fabric, may not have any interior pockets, unstated strap drop (but appears to be on the shorter side), affordable. Also see: J.Crew Edit and Signet bags.

Kate Spade Tenley

8.5 x 7 x 1.5 inches, adjustable 21-23 inch strap drop, mail bag shape, zipper closure, one interior and exterior pocket, potential quality issues.

BP Minimal Faux Leather Crossbody

8 x 6.5 x 3.25 inches, adjustable 21-24 inch strap drop on fully removable strap, snap closure on flap, not really a clutch silhouette, very affordable.

What crossbody or other bag do you recommend or are you currently considering?