Thursday, December 26, 2013

High Style, Low Cost Fashion

It the most wonderful time of the year

Oh my Lord, it is December 26th and for me, this is one of the high holy days of fashion. In the words of the great Martin Lawrence, "for 50% off, Jesus was born on the 26th." Last night, I checked some of my favorite online stores and many had already started their unbelievable markdowns. Even my favorite blog Jezebel got in on the action and listed some of the best sites that would give you the biggest bang for your money. But before you rush into any store and attempt to buy all the things, here's some advice: 

Use this as an opportunity to get the things you normally can't afford. The fashion hierarchy, from highest to lowest, is (generally speaking) coats > shoes > jeans and handbags > dresses > bras > sweaters > skirts > blouses. There are variations and you can always find exceptions to the rules, especially if you shop at fast fashion retailers like Forever 21, but this provides a general overview. Also, I included bras because for the busty gal, you'll have to pay for the support you need. Buying cheap in this category simply is not worth it. 

Now with the list in mind, evaluate your wardrobe and see what things are missing. This will help you to concentrate on the things you need instead of re-buying things you like. I.e., that black peplum shirt that is on sale for 25 euro is great, but not if you already have 15 black shirts and only one pair of jeans that are starting to fray in crotch due to chub rub. 

Another piece of pre-shopping advice is to concentrate on quality versus quantity. Style Digger has a great article about this, which I highly recommend. I think the biggest challenge for shoppers is knowing how to select quality pieces. At one point in time, a designer label was the guarantee of quality craftsmanship. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and finding good pieces now takes a fair bit of effort. But it is not impossible, if you know what to look for. My mother studied fashion and one thing she taught me was to look at the print. On a well made garment, the print would continue across the seams, e.g, the stripes would match on both legs. On a cheap item, she said, "it looks like they just sewed two random pieces together." Additionally, I try to only buy natural fabrics. I sweat more than a menopausal woman, especially if I'm on my bike, so acrylic sweaters are not an option. I will grudgingly accept polyester, but that is only because it's almost impossible to shop vintage and avoid it. In my personal opinion, leather, wool, cotton, and silk just feel better than manmade materials. They allow my body to breathe which means that smells do not accumulate on them as fast and easily as something that works as a personal sauna. Not to mention, leather ages while plastic falls apart.

Now with these lessons out of the way, let's concentrate on the meat and potatoes of the discussion, sales!

Go For the Good Stuff
To piggyback off of my advice of going for quality versus quantity and use today to buy the things that are normally out of your price range, stay away from cheap stores and go to the more expensive ones. For instance, avoid H&M and head into Weekday. The jeans in the former run on average, about 100 DKK while the latter sells jeans for 450 DKK. But today, you can get a great pair for only 113 DKK. Also available at Weekday are these two lovely jackets. 

The first one breaks my rule of natural fabrics, but it's mostly wool and cute enough for me to ignore the viscose it contains. Both are only 250 DKK and available here and here.
Edited: It appears that the price on the first jacket was 250 DKK only on December26th. So forget that nonsense and only focus your energies on the black asymmetrical bomber jacket instead. 

If you are in need of jeans and crave something a little more high-fashion and you're in the New York area, I recommend getting thee ass down to the nearest Lucky Brand store. Their jeans are everything you could want in a pair of pants. They are slimming, comfortable, and make your butt look amazing. Right now, most of their jeans are on sale for less than $40, marked down from $100+. Check them out here. Lucky also sells lovely handbags and traditionally marks them down by 50%. Right now, this blue tote is selling for $84 instead of the normal sale price of $164. But if you don't mind yellow, you can get the same bag for only $62.49.

If you live in Denmark, things are little more complicated since everything in this country is SO.DAMN.EXPENSIVE. And if you find something that is "cheap", it is usually cheap quality. This is especially true for shoes. So if shoes are what you need, here are two options. The first choice, though it seems counter intuitive,is to take a trip to Magasin. Yes, it is expensive, but just like Irma, it too offers some deals. 

The above sneaker is currently on sale at Magasin for the low Danish price of 420 DKK. Sure, they're almost 500 DKK and barely qualify as cheap. But they are marked down from 1,400 DKK and are made of leather instead of polyurethane, meaning that they'll last much longer that the cheap versions on sale on Stroget. 

The second option is using the internet to access things beyond Denmark's borders. As long as you stay in the EU, you won't have to worry about paying VAT and often the shipping is less than what you would pay for in-store prices. Including shipping, the shoes below are still less than 300 DKK from Topshop

Here's a word of caution: It is extremely hard to judge the quality of shoes when buying online. Just as important as material content is comfort and usability. If something hurts, pinches, or chafes they're useless. Also, a pair of heels that are too high for everyday use is equally bad. A pair of shoes that you never wear is just a bunch of money wasted. So factor this in as well as the cost of return shipping before you punch in your credit card number.

ETA: It has just come to my attention that my favorite vintage store in Copenhagen, Second Love, is currently having a sale where most of the merchandise is 50% off.

This is, hands down, one of the best shops in Copenhagen. Located at Dronningensgade 55 in Christianshavn, it's just a few steps away from the metro and offers a great assortment of hand picked items. I purchased a pair of black wool, high waisted capri pants there that garners numerous compliments every time I wear them. So take advantage of their sale and stock up on high quality, simply lovely, vintage winter items. 

The goal of today is not to buy any and everything. I think a smart strategy is to use the sales to acquire the clothing staples you need and fill in the holes of your wardrobe. Try to buy high quality items that will last you for several seasons. Once that is accomplished, you can then splurge on special flourishes to make your wardrobe unique. 

Hope this helps, happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Visa Time

Those mountains in the background? The Alps!

On July 31st, my residence and work permits for Denmark expired. In order for me to to get a new one from the Germans, I needed several things. If I worked in a "real" industry like computers or engineering, I would be eligible for the Blue Card which meant that all I had to do to get permission to work in the country is present a job offer. But I'm a creative and my job is in entertainment, so things were a little more complicated. 

The first hurdle I had to cross was a valid work contract. This was accomplished by luck/ prayer/ begging. I scoured job listings and miraculously found someone that was willing to hire me. I would work as an international event planner and organize Oktoberfest events throughout Europe. Plus my native English skills would be put to use and help the company expand in England and Scotland. Score!

The second hurdle was finding a home. As I mentioned in this post, in order for me to submit my visa application, I first needed a place to register as my residence. In order for me to register I needed to present a lease with my address. So that meant that I actually had to find an apartment before my job even started and I received my first pay check before I would be given permission to work. Fuck. My company was registered in Uberlingen (which I call the Alabama of Germany, but that is for another post), but my new boss said that we would be moving to Munich after the Oktoberfest tour ended in November. So that's where I started my apartment search. And ran into wall after wall. Trying to find a place there was so hard and stressful that I was afraid I wouldn't find one before my Danish permit expired and would have to leave the EU. I spoke to my boss about the trouble I was experiencing and he offered me a place in one of the apartments in his house in Uberlingen to use instead. 

So I packed my bags and headed south. I took the train from Copenhagen since it allowed me to take more luggage and after three trains and a stop in Nuremberg to see a friend, I arrived in Alabama Uberlingen. 

Now, I don't expect many of you to have actually heard of Uberlingen before, I certainly hadn't until met with my boss. The only thing you need to know is that it is small. So small in fact that the nearest airport is in Basel, Switzerland, which is about an hour away by train. The only thing going for it is the fact that it is a tourist destination for Austrian and Swiss tourists as it sits on Lake Constance, which is borders Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Oh, and on a clear day, you can see the Alps. 

Brass bands and beer in a Bavarian Beer Hall, one of the few pleasures of Uberlingen

My arrival at my boss's (who I will hereafter refer to as C) house cleared the second hurdle. Now all that was left was receiving clearance from the German authorities that I could take the job that was being offered. For many reasons, German citizens have priority when it comes to employment. This means that the only way C could hire me was if no other German or EU citizen living in Germany was better qualified. How they check, I have no idea, but I had to supply both of my degrees as well as a CV and job description to show that I met the qualifications. And then they see if there is anyone that was better qualified. If there was, they would be offered the position and I would SOL. Thankfully, no one came forward and we received preliminary approval for my application. However, the visa would not come for another month, which meant that I had to live with my boss in a tiny bodunk town for four weeks, with nothing that even resembled a nightlife. 

On the positive side (or should I say sides since there were many things to be grateful for) I got to spend the summer in a lovely town, rent free. The lack of social life gave me the opportunity to enjoy the first real summer I got to experience in three years. And looking back, I'm so happy I did get the chance to relax because little did I know, the upcoming months were going to be exquisite torture.

Monday, December 16, 2013

See you later, Copenhagen


First, I would like to apologize for my sudden and abrupt departure. This blog was birthed from boredom and unemployment. I needed something to keep my mind sharp and skills current while I prayed for a paying job. And then it came and I pushed this project aside like an old, formerly loved toy. Also, I figured that my new experiences as a newly employed, now financially secure person would have little resemblance to the struggling lifestyle I wrote about. Oh, how wrong I was.

Funny how a steady paycheck fails to eliminate some the problems I once faced. So now I'm back and ready to continue on the journey I started several months ago.

Second, I am no longer in Denmark. Like so many sad immigrants before me, I was forced to leave. I actually received a letter from the immigration office about a month before my residence permit expired which read (and I'm paraphrasing), "Your residence permit will expire on July 31st. Please be sure to leave the country before or on that date or you will face fines and will not be permitted to enter the country again for three or five years. Cheers!"

Of course I was stressed since I did not have 77,000 kroner nor a job offer that would pay the 31,250 kroner per month needed to turn my residence permit into a green card.  

So I looked elsewhere and was fortunate enough to land a job in nearby Germany. I made the leap in June and have been traveling around Europe for work for the past four months. 

Saying good-bye, or even see you later to Copenhagen was hard because I actually liked living in Copenhagen. Unlike many before me, I befriended native Danes. And I mean, they were/ are really my friends; we go out and have dinner together and they don't talk in Danish. I took the train to Germany and as my boyfriend started to count down the minutes before my train arrived, tears started pouring down my chubby cheeks. Leaving him and the life I had created there was like ripping out my heart. I still get a little sad when I think about it.

O well. Shit happens. I am currently in Munich, amassing new stories and having new adventures. So if you will allow me, I'll take you with me to this new and foreign land. There's so much to discover and hopefully you'll be there as I feel my way around. Stay tuned.