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Handbag Decision Paralysis: A Response to the WSJ

My future mother-in-law Deb sent me this recent WSJ article written by Rachel Dodes entitled “The Nerve-Racking, Soul-Searching, Exhilarating Process of Shopping for a Handbag.” And what perfect timing, because 1) this was a topic she (Deb, not Dodes) and I had discussed about a month ago, and 2) it’s a topic I discuss with myself, oh, daily. Kidding. No, I’m not. Am I?

The Proenza Schouler PS1 iPad bag, at Louis Boston

Dodes nails it when she says: “I’ve wasted countless hours looking at images of bags online, emailing links to friends, debating the pros and cons of various color schemes and then wallowing in a shame spiral for spending so much time thinking about something as inconsequential as a sack in which to stuff my sorries.” Yup. Check, check, check, and CHECK. Dodes then touches on some key factors for what she calls “Handbag Decision Paralysis (HDP)” such as fear of commitment, it-ness, and economic impact. I’d say she accurately diagnoses the problem, but I’m compelled to elaborate on the issue and get you all sorts of excited about a solution.

Note: If you’re on your third Hermès Birkin, and can’t decide between black croc and purple ostrich, you may not be a true sufferer of HDP. I’m not invalidating your feelings, I just think that’s a different kind of suffering that deserves a different name (like Multiple Purse-onality Disorder). On the other hand, if you’re looking for one of your first “classic” bags, and are stuck in a self-doubting spiral, then read on.

Your bag is not a cell phone (or a horse)

Dodes equates purchasing a bag that suddenly goes out of style to “betting on the wrong horse at the Kentucky Derby.” Her point is to stay away from the trendy, and focus instead on the classics, so you don’t find yourself in a womp-womp situation. Put another way, your bag is not a cell phone. I have big-time TDP (Technology Decision Paralysis), but that’s because I know that Kindles, tablets, phones, laptops and cameras are eventually going to morph into one device called the iEverything, and it’s going to be announced the day after I decide to get the iPhone 5. With handbags, thankfully, true “classics” (often from makers like Chanel, Hermès, and Louis Vuitton) actually get far better with age, and that can’t be said for my 2002 Motorola LG flip phone. Handbag example: When that leather handle on an LV bag gets all caramel-y from your hand’s oils and turns from fresh-out-of-the-factory tan to a rich brown, it’s like your bag had a bat mitzvah. It’s of-age, and ready to spread its wings in society. Personally, I can’t stand most LV bags unless they’re vintage.

In the end, though, your bag is still kind of like a horse. Eventually you may need to retire it and/or “put it down,” and that’s okay! You guys had a good run.

“Label whores” have it way easier

Because label whores are worried about quality, color, price, versatility, and functionality. The rest of us are worried about quality, color, price, versatility, functionality AND how many people already have it. Which brings me to…

Other people are going to have your bag—deal with it

My most-coveted “everyday” bag:
Jerome Dreyfuss’ “Carlos”, at Viola Lovely

I bought my wedding dress last year from a boutique in the East Village. On the same trip to NYC, I also tried on a dress by Jenny Packham, who is arguably the “it” wedding dress designer as of late. She’s painfully talented and is already a leader in her market, but the dress I tried on (the “Eden”) is also in the “it” category right now (compare to Proenza Schouler’s PS1 bag), which means I’ve seen this dress many, many times on popular wedding blogs, in magazines, and on wedding photographers’ websites. This doesn’t make the dress ANY less beautiful—stunning is stunning—but I wanted to go with a lesser-known designer, so I did. Since buying my dream dress, I’ve noticed it on a few blogs and photographers’ sites, even though I hadn’t noticed it before. Unless you’re Shallow Hal, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something lovely that nobody else takes a second glance at. Be okay with this. In the end, it’s how you wear the item that matters. The same wedding dress looks different on everyone who wears it, and so does a handbag.

Color matters, and black is better

How many times have you spilled something (wine, coffee, pen ink, makeup) on your black [bag/shoes/dress/car seat], and said “thank GOD this is black.” The sooner you accept this, the better. If you’re not worried about the money thing and/or you already have a great black bag, the stain theory still holds true, but it may not pull as much weight in your decision. If you’re spending your entire paycheck and forgoing a couple of meals to buy a Céline crossbody bag, don’t go with the baby yellow leather version (even if it IS the definition of buttery goodness). Now you ask: what about an “after-midnight blue” or a “triple-burnt brown”?! Sure, sure. Those are fine. Because they’re also known as black.

The solution might not be what you want to hear

Issey Miyake’s geometric “Bao Bao” bag, at Alan Bilzerian

Being a lifelong sufferer of HDP, I had to figuratively look myself in the mirror the other day and come to a painfully clear realization: There is not ever going to be THE perfect handbag. In Dodes’ article, Jennifer Zucher, co-founder of the matchmaking service Project Soulmate, is quoted as saying: “Everyone thinks that the next person is going to be better than the last, and that’s why people don’t settle down. It’s the same thing with bags.” I have to disagree. Because when it comes to my personal life, I’m all about knowing when you’ve found your one true love, and when it comes to handbags, I’m a full-fledged polygamist. There was a time I was so caught up in finding my one true handbag that I lost site of the fact that handbags are inanimate objects. Different bags are necessary for different occasions. Period. Even if you do get that perfect “everyday bag,” that won’t necessarily be a bag you’re comfortable wearing to a cocktail party or beach vacation.

Find a bag that works for MOST of your needs

Can I wear it almost everyday? Is it spacious enough? Can a stranger spill some coffee on it when we’re shoulder to shoulder on the subway car without me screaming “Do you KNOW what this bag COST?!” and demanding their contact information? If so, this bag is pretty wonderful. It may not be the “pop of color” you’ve been looking for, or get you photographed by street style bloggers, but there are other bags for all that. You’ll feel much better purchasing those kind of bags down the line if you have your mostly-dream bag as a foundation.

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Boston’s 2013 V-Day Sales and Events:

The mush, the gush, the sales, the events! You know you love V-day. Check out the sweet list of celebratory sales and events leading up to February 14th.

What's Nu Davis Square Valentine's Day Event 2013In-Jean-Ius Valentine's Day Sale 2013


R What’s Nu — On February 7: 5-8 pm. Pick up a gift card or gift at What’s Nu, pre order your flowers from Nellie’s, stock up on cocktail necessities from Boston Shaker, and grab a donut from Union Square Donuts.

What’s Nu
67 Holland St. (see on map)
Somerville, MA 02144
Price Point: $-$$

R Wish — On February 7: 4:30-8 pm. Enjoy chocolate and refreshments during Wish’s Valentine’s shopping event.

49 Charles St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02114
Price Point: $$-$$$

R Crush Boutique (Back Bay) — On February 14: 5-8 pm. Celebrate Crush on Newbury Street’s 1st birthday and V-day at the same time. Take 25% off a full-priced item of your choice, receive a gift with purchase, enjoy snacks and refreshments, and snap a picture in Crush’s photobooth.

Crush Boutique (Back Bay)
264 Newbury St. (see on map)
Boston , MA 02116
Price Point: $-$$


R Raspberry Beret — Through February 14: Take 20% off skirts and dresses through Valentine’s Day.

Raspberry Beret
1704 Massachusetts Ave. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Price Point: $

R In-jean-ius — Through February 15: In celebration of V-Day, share the love by shopping with your friend and you’ll both receive 20% off your entire purchase.

441 Hanover St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02113
Price Point: $-$$

R In the Pink — Through February 14: Spend $150 or more, and receive a Lilly Pulitzer heart keychain with your purchase.

In the Pink
133 Newbury St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02116
Price Point: $-$$

Check back for more additions this week, and for all ongoing happenings check out the sales and events pages.

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Paxton Gate: My Favorite Boutique of 2012

California knows how to juxtapose life and death. During a trip there in October, I encountered a few fine examples: impressively ginormous trees dangling off plummeting cliffs of insanity; scenic mountain hikes, but in 99 degree dry heat; or the tastiest fast food burger, along with my pleading arteries. It’s no wonder then, that when it came to boutique decor, it was terrariums and taxidermy everywhere I turned.

Take San Fran’s Paxton Gate. While many small stores and coffee shops are sprinkled with plant life and former wildlife, Paxton is entirely comprised of it. The shop doesn’t just have a plant display, they have an entire greenhouse filled with succulents, ferns, and cacti. They don’t just have antlers hanging above their front register, they have a conjoined twin calf bust, fox penis bones, and cave bear jaws. How could this not shock and occupy me for hours on end? I can’t think of a cooler place I visited in 2012, and it certainly set the bar for 2013. Here’s to discovering and uncovering gems just like it (or better yet, nothing like it) this year!

Paxton Gate

Paxton Gate Bismuth, Calcite Clams, Chrysanthemum=

Paxton Gate Exotic Bird Feathers Military Macaw

Paxton Gate Red Fox Penis Bones, Porcupine Claws, Mink Penis Bones

Paxton Gate Taxidermy Penguin

Paxton Gate Interior Shot

Paxton Gate Cave Bear Teeth and Jaw

Paxton Gate Plants

Paxton Gate Taxidermy Wall

Paxton Gate Terrariums and Vegetable Garden Book

Paxton Gate Plants Green Room

Paxton Gate Succulents

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Rounding Up 2012 with Racked Boston

Call it superstitious, but I prefer to talk about a year being over when it’s fully over, and it ain’t fully over until the fat ball drops. So with 2012 now officially behind us, let’s dish!

Boston recently welcomed their very own edition of Racked, with editor Susie Kostaras running the show. She asked me, along with seven other Boston insiders, to share our year-end thoughts on trends, parties, and style. Below are my answers in full:

Haberdash Fashion Bus

The evolution of fashion trucks (credit: Haberdashvintage.com).

Racked: Favorite trend of 2012?
Amanda: Oxblood, the color

R: Least favorite trend of 2012?
A: Oxblood, the buzzword

R: Are fashion trucks here to stay?
A: “Stay” is a strong word. They’ll evolve like everything else. Soon, fashion hovercrafts!

R: Which industry newcomer caught your attention this year?
A: Vira Boutique on Charles Street. They opened in April and bring a younger, bolder vibe to the
typically-preppy Beacon Hill.

R: Your favorite purchase of 2012?
A: My red and pink striped oxfords by The Office of Angela Scott.

R: Biggest shopping regret in 2012?
A: I sell most of my regrets to Buffalo Exchange, and then promptly erase them from memory.

R: Pick one adjective to best describe 2012 Boston fashion.
A: Collegiate.

R: Most interesting start-up of the year?
A: Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which was recently a gold winner in the 2012 Mass Challenge accelerator program. The founder Ashley Stanley is the granddaughter of the former senior VP of Bloomingdales, and left the fashion world to help bridge the gap between places where food goes to waste and places where food is desperately needed.

R: Best party of 2012?
A: The opening of Saloon in Davis Square in March. It wasn’t a fashion-focused event, but the speakeasy atmosphere is very “Boardwalk Empire,” and they served drinks that night as if prohibition were imminent.

R: Most memorable outfit you wore in 2012?
A: The outfit I wore the night I got engaged: black jeans, short black moto boots, and a navy tie-neck button down with pink triangles on it by the UK brand Whistles. I had bought the blouse at Dress earlier in the year, and the owners told me Whistles was the brand Kate Middleton wore in her engagement photos. Thought it was a funny coincidence. I won’t let it get to my head.

R: The item that got away…
A: In a literal sense, one of two tiny rose gold stud earrings I bought from Catbird NYC. It fell somewhere in a car and I did everything short of ripping out the seats to find it, but I only found the back!

Read answers from the other Boston insiders here.

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8 Places to Buy a New Year’s Eve Dress in Boston

Greet 2013 in your Monday best. These shops are still fully-stocked with dresses for last-minute NYE shoppers:

Plenty by Tracy Reese white shift dressPlenty by Tracy Reese Embellished Shift Dress

Plenty by Tracy Reese dresses available at Crush.

1. On trend, colorful options at Twilight

12 Fleet St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02113
Price Point: $$

2. All things shimmery and sexy at Crush Boutique

Crush Boutique (Back Bay)
264 Newbury St. (see on map)
Boston , MA 02116
Price Point: $-$$
Crush Boutique (Beacon Hill)
131 Charles St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02114
Price Point: $-$$

3. Dresses for under $100 at Ku De Ta

Ku De Ta
663 E. Broadway St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02127
Price Point: $-$$

4. Leather and lace details at The Tannery

The Tannery (Back Bay)
711 Boylston St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02116
Price Point: $$-$$$
The Tannery (Harvard Square)
39 Brattle St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Price Point: $$-$$$

5. Charming dresses and separates at Mint Julep

Mint Julep
6 Church St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Price Point: $$

6. High-fashion designer dresses and gowns at Louis

Louis Boston
60 Northern Ave. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02210
Price Point: $$-$$$$

7. Relaxed and flirty frocks at Flock

274 Shawmut Ave. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02118
Price Point: $-$$

8. Barely-worn cocktail dresses at Second Time Around

Second Time Around (Back Bay)
324 Newbury St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02116
Price Point: $-$$
Second Time Around (Beacon Hill)
82 Charles St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02114
Price Point: $-$$
Second Time Around (Harvard Square)
8 Eliot St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Price Point: $-$$
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Woolbuddy Ornament and Giveaway

Running with the ornament theme on Spreedia, I decided to give Woolbuddy kits a go after spotting them at Magpie. Developed by 3D story artist and art teacher Jackie Huang (and inspired by his baby daughter), the “Buddys” are animals, sea creatures, and “lovable monsters” that come in a DIY package filled with colorful wool, felting needles, and instructions, so you can make your very own. Levels come in “easy,” “medium,” and “advanced”, so I opted for “easy” since my needle skills extend to re-sewing buttons on things, and even that is best appreciated from afar. Very afar.

Let the frog felting begin:

Woolbuddy Frog

Woolbuddy Frog Ornament

It took me approx. 30-40 minutes, and I’m pretty darn pleased with how talented it makes me look! Sure, I broke a needle on the first step (that’s why you get two), but the whole jabbing a piece of wool process wound up being pretty fun and therapeutic. I had a little trouble forming the first ball (thanks, YouTube), but other than that it was pleasantly intuitive. There’s no mess, because there’s no glue, water, or glitter involved. Also, had I rationed my wool properly and not gotten overly excited, I would’ve had enough material to make two frogs: one ornament frog and one small keychain frog, rather than one baseball-sized bullfrog.

Of note: As with most crafting activities, pupil placement is key. Nothing brings an inanimate object to life quite like two tiny black specks. I toyed with a few options.

Woolbuddy frog animated gif

Enter the giveaway: Woolbuddy was kind enough to give two more kits away to a couple of Spreedia readers!

Penguin and Owl Woolbuddy Ornament Giveaway

Follow both instructions to enter:

1. First, “Like” both WoolBuddy and Spreedia on Facebook (if you haven’t already!).

2. Second, let us know your preferred kit in the comments section: owl or penguin?

Original retail: $24 each

Dates: This giveaway runs Dec. 14-18 (keeping it short, so we can ship before X-mas!). The two winners will be announced Dec. 19.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to winners Ash and Erin!

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Vintage by Crystal Cotton-Spun Ornaments at the SOWA Holiday Market

SOWA’s holiday market was this past weekend, and I was on a mission to check out Crystal Hanehan’s booth. A 29-year-old Saratoga Springs native (now living in Boston), Crystal made her big debut when she appeared on Martha Stewart’s show in 2009 to talk about her whimsical, hand-spun cotton ornament line. I first spied her creations decorating the window displays at E R Butler & Co. on Charles St. a couple of years ago, and was reintroduced to them last year when I saw a few at Gracie Finn.

Drawing inspiration from the cotton-spun ornaments crafted by German artisans hundreds of years ago, Crystal combines recycled and repurposed materials to create her own one-of-a-kind ornaments, figurines, and cake toppers. The characters (including people, animals, and people dressed as animals) feature cotton, wool, vintage Japanese paper, vintage buttons, and/or other found items.

Vintage by Crystal tree ornaments at SOWA Winter Market

Vintage by Crystal ornaments at SOWA Winter Market

Vintage by Crystal Santa Feliz Navidad ornament at SOWA Winter Market

Vintage by Crystal star ornament at SOWA Winter Market

Vintage by Crystal fox ornament at SOWA Winter Market

Crystal’s ornaments and figurines, $23-$38

Because SOWA is also great for people-watching and -listening, I’d like to report my fascination with how polarizing these ornaments seemed to be. While many SOWA patrons were “oohing” and “ahhing” over their adorableness, I overheard at least two or three separate people using the word “creepy” to describe the ornaments as they passed Crystal’s booth. Creepy?! Hold on. I slept in my parents room until 4th grade because my brother got me to watch a single scene in Gremlins, then I saw a 30-second Chucky trailer and continued sleeping there until 6th. I found E.T. terrifying until, no wait, I still do. I have a very low bar for what creeps me out (particularly in the doll/creature world), and these ornaments don’t even rank. I’d put them more in the Where the Wild Things Are and The Wizard of Oz camp. I adore them, and want to colonize an entire tree with them.

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Top 10 Boutique Gift Shops in Boston

Below is my personal holiday shopping hit list. These 10 boutique gift shops have been my trusty resource for all the “tricky people” as well as the “not-so-tricky people” in my life.

1. Geeky gifts, jewelry, and novel toys at Xylem

287 Third St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02142
Price Point: $

2. Games, books, wrapping paper, and curiosities at Black Ink

Black Ink (Beacon Hill)
101 Charles St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02114
Price Point: $
Black Ink (Harvard Square)
5 Brattle St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Price Point: $

3. Humor, games, and gag gifts at Joie De Vivre

Joie De Vivre
1792 Mass. Ave. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02140
Price Point: $

4. Sophisticated gifts and vintage toys at Abodeon

1731 Mass. Ave. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02140
Price Point: $-$$

5. Jewelry, handbags, men’s accessories, baby and home items at Good

133 Charles St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02114
Price Point: $-$$$$

6. Chachkies, collectibles, and throwback toys at Buckaroo’s Mercantile

Buckaroo’s Mercantile
5 Brookline St. (see on map)
Cambridge, MA 02139
Price Point: $

7. Upscale home gifts and accessories at Michelle Willey

Michelle Willey
8 Union Park St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02118
Price Point: $-$$$

8. Stationary, baby items, and humorous books at Gracie Finn

Aunt Sadie’s and Gracie Finn
18 Union Park St. (see on map)
Boston, MA 02118
Price Point: $

9. Local artists, handmade jewelry, and posters at Magpie

416 Highland Ave. (see on map)
Somerville, MA 02144
Price Point: $

10. Local artists, cards, wrapping paper, and modern gifts at Davis Squared

Davis Squared
409 Highland Ave. (see on map)
Somerville, MA 02144
Price Point: $

Have a reallllly tricky person to buy a gift for? Perhaps your husband’s great aunt’s niece’s boyfriend’s sister-in-law-to-be’s child? Or maybe just your dad? Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction!

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