Monday, January 23, 2012

Shopping: The Search for Simplicity

from the very beautiful site

All of my family has not yet come to grips with the fact that I'm not buying clothes for another 9 months.  Thus, I found myself, after the winter holidays, as the owner of a very generous gift card to a lovely retailer, with both online and bricks and mortar presence.

Now, when I set out my personal rules for my year-long fast from shopping, I did hold out the exception that I would be permitted to replace any garment(s) that were completely destroyed in the course of normal life.  Having spent the last couple of months in the heavy-lifting crew of a retailer, I have destroyed (rendered rag-like) a couple of long-sleeved tee shirts.  So I thought that this would be a reasonable opportunity to replace them...

This particular retailer's B&M locations aren't convenient to me (how bad are you locations, if someone living in downtown Chicago can't easily get to one of your stores?), so I was perusing their website.  I just wanted some simple cotton tee shirts.  Hemmed neckline (not banded), either v-neck or crew neck, and I was willing to be very flexible about sleeve length - long, 3/4, or short.  And I wanted black, charcoal, medium gray, and white...

Impossible.  I saw hundreds of tee shirts, but they had:

  • sequins
  • beads
  • pleats
  • top-stitching
  • ruffles
  • appliques (including some really ratty looking flowers)
  • silk screening
  • cut-outs
  • asymmetrical necklines
  • drawstrings
  • gathered hems
  • fringed hems
and sometimes more than one of these "enhancements" at a time.

I'm devoted to versatile clothing, that can be worn in a variety of combinations, and can be accessorized in a number of different ways. These tee shirts were NOT versatile, because they were too complicated and gimmicky.  The gift certificate abides, until the retailer can come up with something that meets my criteria.

A little bit of ornamentation is not a bad thing.  Gee-gaws, to the exclusion of timeless, elegant, classic clothing, is a lapse of good taste in which I choose not to participate.



  1. How frustrating. I guess you could resell the gift card or take a loved one shopping as a gift if you can't find anything. Perhaps exercise or lounge wear or underwear from this retailer?

  2. Dear me, that anecdote generates shudders.

  3. I've run into this myself - I had found some plain t-shirts from Target a few years back that met my need for plain, fairly heavy-weight cotton tees that were high-quality enough to be put under a jacket for my office job, but not too dressy that they could be worn for casual wear. It was tough to find tees that were not embellished in some way, and when I happily went back to Target the following year to replace a couple of white ones, the quality had deteriorated considerably. So - the plain t-shirts that I can find are invariably thin and skimpy. Rats.

  4. Can you use it for shoes or some lovely undergarments? It is a bummer though that you can't use it for what you truly "need".

  5. I am quite happy with Eddie Bauer long sleeve t-shirts. They hold up well in the wash, and have a nice weight to them. Plus they are a basic t. I have to order their scoopneck style online but the stores carry other one's.

    I used to go batty looking for simple layering t-shirts. Too many are too embellished or too thin in the weight of the material.

  6. That's why Eileen Fisher is so successful, I think. Understated garments are very hard to find.

  7. Out of curiosity, is is possible to create a good wardrobe with "gee-gaws"? I ask because lately I have been drawn to ruffles (flounces on sleeves, ruffled hem on skirts, ruffled collars or ruffled detail on a v-neck), lace, and other feminine/romantic elements.

    I am challenging you to make a wardrobe for those of us who don't typically wear the "classics"and masculine tailored clothing -- but at the same time want to look elegant and feminine with no pants or traditional "menswear" items.


  8. Yes, I've found that it's incredibly difficult to find "basics". And when you do find them, the quality is not what it used to be. Or if you find the quality, the colors are awful or the cut is not flattering. Or the styles sell out so quickly, you miss out. And of course, these days, it seems they never re-stock even the best-selling pieces.

    I can relate to what crunchycon said-- the quality of Target's tees is unreliable. But I have noticed that in fact it varies. Sometimes it gets better, sometimes it gets worse. They are very inconsistent, even with fabric content.

  9. Can guess who they are and their clothes definitely will not suit you to a "T". Found the pima cotton tees I wanted at LL Bean!
    and free shipping!

  10. Land's End makes great t shirts. I bought a breton t from Land's End and while it was excellent quality, it was too big for me in the smallest size. I recommend it if you don't normally take a size 0.

  11. So hard to find. I ordered the LL Bean Pima long sleeve but I was extremely disappointed since after only one wash, it completely lost its shape. Nobody likes an exposed tummy unless you are 15 (and even then)...

  12. Ah, the elusive hemmed neckline - you'll have better luck spotting a Dodo bird on Michigan Avenue. I've been searching for a replacement ever since my Jones New York standby was relegated to the rag heap 2 years ago. If you find one, let us all know.

  13. One of my son's friends received an unwanted dept store card . I used it to buy my daughter some perfume she wanted and gave him the cash so he could get what HE wanted elsewhere. What a relief for him!

    Maybe you could find someone who wants something from that retailer...(can you reveal the retailer?)

  14. I've not found it difficult to find basic T-shirts in brick and mortar stores. In fact, I probably have far more than I need. So, my guess is that you should be able to find the basic t-shirts you want somewhere else without too much of a problem. If you plan to use them again as work-shirts that are likely to get shredded, the quality probably doesn't have to be super high.

    As for the gift card, I'd probably hold on to it until the shopping freeze ended, assuming there is no expiration date, and then see if there's anything you would like at that time. If not, you could consider using it to buy gift for someone else.

    I do think that the extra embellishments are sometimes annoying, and have been known to have them removed if I otherwise like the item (tweed coat with chiffon trim down the front and on the sleeves or a skirt with a bow that I removed). However, it would not be worth doing that for a t-shirt.

  15. My boyfriend's mother gave me a small patent leather purse with a big patent leather rosette on the front, which she described as quirky. I didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't like it. It's actually a good size for a dog-walking purse to hold keys, bags, sunglasses, but it is oh so shiny! Maybe I should just donate it, but would feel a bit guilty to be honest if I did that. Usually, I have no trouble passing along things that are not me.

  16. Well, I was about ready to offer Victoria's Secret (ahem, yes, but sometimes they have acceptable plain clothing) Every day Tees as an option, but I'm returning the two I just ordered -- too long, too weirdly cut in the shoulders. So, I'm with you: looking for a good source of neutral v neck and crew neck tees. I have a set I bought in all colors from Macy's INC line years ago and I treat them like queens so they'll last. Sigh...the search for quality is never ending in the morass of hyped junky not-well-designed stuff. So, keep us posted on what you find!

  17. And even if you find the plain, well-made T shirt, nine times out of ten it won't be fitted such to flatter curves: even a designer piece rendering me as a ship in full sail and you gain twenty pounds without so much as sneezing.

    So, count us in on any white/black/charcoal ladies basic T discoveries that permit us, basically, to be feminine AND chic.

  18. Petit Bateau has good t-shirts, but they come in fairly small sizes.

    Three dots has a big variety, especially in stores.

    Cotton Basics in California has nice all cotton t-shirts in a good variety of colors. They have styles in the stores than on the website.

    I've seen James Perse, although those might be more expensive.

    Personally, I rarely order anything online as I need to try things on, and consider it a pain to have to mail things back. Except for Petit Bateau, most of these are local California companies, but you can check their websites for availability in other locations.

  19. the perfect t is very difficult to find, but the best for me over the years has been the gap favorite t in black (but the neck is.....cuffed...not sure of the proper word!)

  20. One thing I have trouble with, related to this, is finding simple, quality, well fitting shirts. I like wearing shirts with buttons and a collar for work and for casual as I feel a little more put together than with a tee. I need to stock up at the moment but I'm struggling to find them without ruffles, patterns, frilly sleeves and so on. I just want some basic, flattering quality in white, black, beige and charcoal. Should this really be so hard? Does anybody have any suggestions for similar simplicity in shirts?

    1. J Crew Perfect shirts come in white, solids--many gorgeous colors or patterns as well.

  21. What about using one of the sites that trades your card for one that would offer the shirts you need?
    Or give you a high percentage of the cash back.