Season of cats and clans

On Labour Day Monday, saying I owed it to my readers, I trolled our city's largest department store, The Bay (like Macy's in the US) to check what the big mass-market retailers had on offer.

I will say, no I will growl: animal. Nine West, Jones New York, Anne Klein, Liz Claiborne, INC. All of them had a cat print, or at least a zebra running though the section. Shown, Abstract Animal Print Scooped Neck Cardigan, Nygard Collection, $88, from

Jones New York's Leopard-Print Tie-neck Blouse, $99, does retro with a ruffled placket and nicely scaled print, but in sheer poly I'd freeze by October, and it's too wintry looking to wear in summer.

Their C
omfy Leopard-print 3/4 Sleeve Top ($89, also comes in an open-front cardi and a gored skirt) is another animal entry. Though I liked the dark yet lively pattern, I just could not drop over $100 on this piece.

Anne Klein followed the animal-print trend but thankfully in better fabric, with a python-print pleated cashmere tunic, $245.

The best top I saw at the department store was an Anne Klein cashmere draped-necked tunic in an eye-catching feather pattern, with a refined autumn palette, $245.

Plaids ever

d mass market make a pact?

A Nygard Collection '40's-era
kilt-detailed skirt ($85) and smart stroller ($158) lured me with the promise of replicating the pieces my mother wore in this same tartan.

When I grabbed the pieces, I felt the stiff poly-viscose blen
d and fled, mourning the memory of Mom's fine Scottish woolens.

This ruched bias-cut sleeveless dress at Liz Claiborne, is cute if you are thin, but I looked like an ottoman.

While I wou
ld not consign the plus-sized woman to dull darks, is it not a bad idea to put her in this oversized loud plaid? The colours don't coordinate with the bottom, and cut her right across the widest point in wild blocks of orange and purple.

The oversized Flannel Toggle is a lot of blocked colour even in small sizes. Duffles in interesting shades are te
rrific, but they are usually a single colour for a reason.

My sense is these mass-market retailers have cut fabric quality but not the number of offerings, so while the racks look stuffed, there's a lot of cheesy cloth out there.

I was aware that someone was looking at me, and met the gaze of a tiny woman of about 70, sitting on a chair. She nodded hello and said, "I like your jupe."

Her daughter appeared to ask where I'd bought it. As soon as I said "Max Mara" (about th
ree years ago), I remembered I should not fritter away a cent on just average clothes I really don't need.

If I decide to
add a plaid, I will choose this Eric Bompard pure cashmere voile tartan shawl (120cm x 120cm), light enough for indoor wear, €212. Over twice the cost of two so-so items, but the quality is immeasurably better.


Deja Pseu said…
I agree about the fabrics this year, so hard to find anything especially at lower price points that won't look like a dishrag in a matter of weeks!

Love that Anne Klein feather sweater. I'm leaving the plaids alone, unless I decide to go for one of those Pendleton 49'er jackets.
materfamilias said…
So sad that so many people choose to wear "bad" fabric, denying themselves the "comfort and joy" of more sumptuous textiles -- here, fewer but better is definitely the way to go.
I think I want to see that Anne Klein sweater in person -- it could well be worth a splurge!
Northmoon said…
I too go into the Bay every once in a while - and every time I am not impressed. The racks seem stuffed with poor quality uninspiring clothing. If I'm looking for something in particular, it's impossible to find a sales person.

If I wanted to buy cheap fabric I'd go to H & M where at least the price tags match the quality.
Belle de Ville said…
Maybe it's my Scottish DNA but I still love tartan plaids. A couple of decades ago I had some lovely kilt style skirts in the softest wools. They are impossible to find now.
I am a freak for fabric and like materfamilias I can't understand that people will choose to wear uncomfortable fabrics.
Duchesse said…
Belle: Should you want a kilted skirt again (or a shawl, waistcoat or trousers) ScotWeb ( see especially Lochcarron skirts.

Northmoon: I can't fit into H&M, but am not especially mournful.

materfamilias: Drop by soon, my sense is it will sell well.

Pseu: Want one of those '49er jackets too!
metscan said…
Thanks for the tour. I sense that I´m sharing a lot of your views. However, animal prints are too exotic for me ( real furs don´t count, they are a necessity living in the north ). Cashmeres and pashminas fill my needs. I´d rather be without, if I can´t find something that looks and f e e l s good.
Rebecca said…
I could not agree more about the fabrics available. Why, oh why, do women want to wear clothes that feel like plastic?

It was interesting. The other day, dd and I were at the mall remarking on the preponderance of plaid, which I love, and she said she couldn't imagine me wearing plaid, since I don't have any. I had not realized that I had neglected the plaid part of my personality. It's still there on the inside, whether it shows or not. lol
I've just started looking around for a 3/4 winter coat, and could not even bear to touch the woollen blends I looked through. Dreadful. The very nicest coat I had seen was at a charity shop, but sadly, it was just a hair too snug, and although I lost weight this summer, it is harder to say if I could drop any more before winter. It would have been utterly perfect, in a very-slightly bouclé wool in charcoal grey. The shape was ideal (yes, I did note the brand, but don't know if i'll find it or if they'll have nice offerings this season.

I'm really not very fond of animal prints. Today I saw a woman of about 30 wearing a feline printed tunic with big-cat heads on it - really too much. I love cats but would have really looked the mad catlady in that.

Tartans and other plaids can be lovely, but not for me, except as a scarf or shawl. They really have to be in a good woollen fabric.
Frugal Scholar said…
I learned a lot about fabric quality when I worked in a vintage store many years ago. Wool lasts forever! So I would check out vintage and thrift shops. There is no comparison.

Interestingly, in a moment of harmonic convergence, while you were at the Bay, I was finding my first ever Hudson's Bay blanket at a thrift shop. It has a cigarette hole near the bottom and a little moth damage, but it's from the 1930s and I will cherish it!

I would bet that the 2nd hand market in cold climes--Toronto, New England etc--is full of classic wool sweaters. I am so snobby that I only REALLY like old cashmere.
Duchesse said…
metscan: Not a huge animal print wearer but have unleashed my inner love for cheetah with a pair of shoes and found them surprisingly wearable.

rebecca: Kind of thought that about you! Even if it''now' plaids are also classic.

lagatta: Sound like a beauty of a coat! That's the heartbreak of thrifts, it has to fit. Left you info on duffles on the Pendleton post. Cat HEADS are not animal prints (at least I hope not), the fur-pattern print can be quite discreet- but not for everyone.
Duchesse said…
Frugal: My favourite cashmeres were Scottish ones inherited from my sister after she moved to TX. At least 15 years old by the time I got them and many lasted another 15. Still have a few for sentiment.

Sounds like you scored a Hudson's Bay Point Blanket- see their site for the history.
Imogen Lamport said…
There is so much low quality fabric out in the stores. This is why I wouldn't buy off the internet - you can't see and feel the fabric beforehand.

I've noticed here too this winter masses of animal prints of all sorts.

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