Sunday, September 09, 2007

Snoop Shopping in the Largest Store in the World

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Macy's 34th Store ~ which is the largest department store in the world. I was there last week with my youngest daughter but she had absolutely no interest in the designer duds or the shoe department - two of my favorite floors in Macy's! So yesterday I spent a wonderful six hours there by myself and here are a few of my observations.

First - if you don't own either of these two patterns Vogue 2984 or Simplicity 3631; RUN do not walk to your nearest pattern retailer and purchase both of them. The Anne Klein suit - both the jacket and the skirt are displayed in her designer shop in Macy's EXACTLY the same as the pattern. So you can make your own version of this designer original at home. I know. I examined both pieces throughly and was amazed that Vogue has the license for a design that is selling at the retail level right now.

Now some version of the pieces in Simplicity 3631 was shown in almost every designer's collection that I looked at. The yoked jacket was everywhere - with and without buttons. Some variation of the dress was in most collections or separately on the dress floor at Macy's. The body of the dress was similar but the seam or dart treatment was the distinguishing factor between the dresses.

Another interesting thing to me was the hand and weight of the fabrics used in the garments. I don't shop retail much - okay hardly ever! I mostly snoop shop through the internet, catalogs and magazines so I rarely touch the fabrics used in the garments that inspire me. I was a little astonished at the flimsiness of the fabric...very lightweight...very bad hands that were cheesy feeling and looking...nasty acetate linings that were in garments retailing for over $100 a piece and that was the low end.

Here are some interesting details I noticed:

Snaps - covered snaps in medium to large sizes were everywhere. Beneath huge buttons used on the yoked jackets, used in regular jackets to give the front of the jacket a clean appearance, used at the back of necklines in dresses. Lots of snaps!

Zipper applications - used on jacket fronts (Calvin Klein had a great industrial type zipper with a big zipper pull on the front of one of his jackets!) and on sleeves.

2 piece sleeves with a v-opening at the hem like the application I used for Vogue 8209 - this look was in abundance in a lot of the collections. And the opening was lined so that the jacket could be cuffed...very kewl.

Yoked neck applications were on everything - jackets, dresses, all kinds of fabrications and colors. This is as hot a look as the duro look was in seasons past!

Designer Gear:

Calvin Klein had a great jacket in his collection that was made from a subtle plaid in a taupe color. The thing that intrigued me about the jacket was that it had a 2 piece sleeve and the underside of the sleeve was cut on the bias - so the it gave the plaid on the sleeve a very funky appearance. You wouldn't notice it until the person moved their arm - kewl!

Pure DKNY had a great dress ~ that I am copying!!!! It was cut with a t-shirt bodice from a wool jersey and the skirt was made from a lightweight tweed. It was a soft, very straight hanging silhoutte that will definitely end up in my wardrobe!

Tahari had a great silk short sleeve blouse but what provided the interest was the embroidery at the hemline. It was made out of a sandwashed silk and the embroidered hemline was also scalloped. The blouse closed with an invisible zipper in the side. It retailed for $95 and was in the most amazing soft pastel colors. It was displayed alongside some awesome gray suits...tooo kewl.

Ellen Tracy had a lot of wool & wool blend boucle jackets - very soft to the touch with appealing seam treatments such as piping in several fabrications (leather/satin/fabric) and flat fold bias seaming. Most of her jackets had peter pan collars. And there was a lot of color - I kept thinking shades of autumn when touching pieces in her shop.

But the Oscar (Oscar de la Renta) shop had the most color - his garments didn't stand out that much because there was still alot of summer in his shop - but color ohmygosh was there a huge amount of it. A feast to these eyes that are sooooo tired of all black!

Which brings me to something else I I was moving around the sales floor I saw that all the sales people were dressed head to toe in black. So I had to ask one of them what that was about. It seems that Macy's has a new policy - all sales associates must wear black. They can add color in the form of a shirt or blouse but that's it. They are dressed in black from head to toe...oh and if the women are wearing a skirt they have to wear pantyhose! This is starting in the 34th Street Store and being rolled out to all the other Macy's so it is coming to a mall near you!

Sooooo, do you want to know what I bought?

Shoes of course:

A pair of flat black patent leather slingbacks

and a pair of chocolate brown slingbacks - in patent leather - can you believe?!

This top in chocolate brown...

and some jewelry from the Monet counter (yes, I am contrary as I don't have pierced ears!)....

Everything else I could make myself! *smile*

So here is what I learned ~

1. I have worried that my use of trim is over the top and not representative of what's in RTW. Wrong - there is soooo much trim used in designer garments. I think that is what they use to distinguish the garments from the bridge and lower priced lines.

2. I learned that my sewing is on par with the construction techniques used in designer clothing and in some instances I take more care in my applications and techniques.

3. I also realized that the quality of fabric that I use is better than in most bridge lines. In some cases it is comparable to the designer labels - but not in all cases.

It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon - I mean if I wasn't going to sew! *LOL* I actually got to touch garments that I had only previously seen in a magazine or on the internet. I got to see details and construction up close and my only regret is that I didn't have a camera phone so that I could discreetly take a few pics!

If you get a chance, spend a few leisurely hours strolling around your local department store. Get invigorated to sew more, knowing that you can use fabrics that are of the same quality or better, in patterns that have the same up-to-date stylings!


  1. Isn't snoop shopping fun? It's always interesting to see how rtw is made, especially the designer clothes. I love your purchases, especially the earrings.

  2. You are so lucky! What a fun afternoon. The last time I was in a decent sized Macy's I was amazed, like you, at the quality vs. the price. I also know that my friends got tired of hearing me say, "I have a pattern for that" or "There is a pattern for that" or "I have fabric exactly like that" or "I know where to buy that fabric".

    I love your "straight from the store" trend report - many of those things I'm going to use or have used. It's funny that you mention that faced, slit, turned back sleeve finish. That was popular in the 50's, too. Many suit sleeves had that treatment.

    Wouldn't it be fun to do a group snoop shopping trip with a group of sewers who really know what they're looking at?

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    This was fascinating.

    I wanted to tell you that when I worked for Lord and Taylor years ago, if we wore pants, we had to have a jacket and must always have on pantyhose.

    I've also started to notice the yucky acetate linings in the bridge lines. Not a fan.

  4. I wonder how many of the Herald Square items will filter out into the hinterland. Macy's West has been terrible in the past, so we'll see!

    I'm glad to know I'm on the cusp since I have the Vogue and the Simplicity you mentioned.

    And, girl, love the shoes! I picked up two very dark brown (almost black) dresses at Chico's this weekend and those patent leather slingbacks look like they'd be a perfect match. Love your taste in shoes!!

  5. Carolyn! Thanks for this wonderful post - I've been debating over both of the patterns you mentioned so now I know I MUST purchase them.I guess I should do a little snoop shopping myself - the Mall of America has a Macy's as well as Nordstrom's and Bloomingdales. Did you bring a camera with you or use your cell phone?

  6. Thanks for all the great insight! We do not have a nice department store where I live, so snoop shopping comes via the internet. Nothing like touching the real thing!

  7. First off the black patent leather slingbacks are TO DIE FOR! I need some. Thanks for report, sounds like you had much fun. I am going to treat myself to a field trip on my next day off.

  8. Carolyn - Thanks for the report! I have been trapped at work for so long that I haven't had the time to get out to see the fall collections. That, and I live in the desert where it's resort casual pretty much all year round. Generally, the population resists considering woolen tweeds/plaids when the temperatures are in the 100s and will be so until the end of October...I agree with you regarding the general quality, as well. I think it started a long time ago, for at least as long as I've been shopping for myself. Tahari is my personal fave for quality and cut, but I usually stick to buying from TJ Maxx and Marshall's; $95 for a t-shirt? Only for the very stupid or the independently wealthy...

  9. Thanks for the snoop shop journey, I loved it. Oh and the patent leather shoes to DF.

  10. Carolyn, I throughly enjoy reading your posts, but this was one of your best. Thanks for taking the time to post about your findings, it's given me a lot to think about. Also, loooove the shoes. You have excellent taste. I'm gonna go out and buy the AK pattern now that you've seen the real deal at Macy's. Thanks for the tip. Also, I love that chocolate brown top! TDF

  11. Thanks for sharing your snoop shopping trip.
    I'm about ready for one. Loved your observations, and analysis.
    I am baffled by the dictate to wear all black. Don't their fashion stylists Know that black doesn't look good on everyone? Amazing.
    Shoe shopping - love the shoes. I went to Nordstroms yesterday and picked up a pair of brown (BROWN?!?) pumps from the sale rack - Stuart Weitzman on sale.

  12. Carolyn, thanks for an interesting report. Your new shoes are TDF !
    As a girl from DownUnder,I recognised the Macy's photo and address. Three years ago, hubby took me to many landmarks in New York and one was this huge Macy's.
    It was especially interesting as many years ago (c.1970) he worked his way through college with a job in the Sign Writing department at this Macy's.

  13. Just discovered your wonderful blog. I want you to know that I too do NOT have pierced ears. Ever want to borrow some earrings? Drop me a line!

    Your work is lovely and so professional. I look forward to much good reading.

  14. Isn't it nice what you learned about your sewing? All the effort you put into it is definitely worth it, isn't it? Congratulations.

  15. Thanks for a great review of what's in the stores! The clothes get more expensive and the quality gets worse and worse. Boy am I glad I sew!

  16. I saw this post earlier in the week and just now had time to really read and enjoy it. Thanks so much for sharing your observations and analysis. This post is a great motivator for fall sewing!

  17. Hi Carolyn - great review! Thanks for reporting from the flagship store in NYC. When I snooped the new Vera Wang line for Kohls that I posted on SG last Monday it was much the same as you saw in the bridge lines. I was amazed at the cheesy, cheap fabrics and cheap, fast production techniques like serged or raw edges on tops and skirts. She used that clammy, slippery, polyester in tops, skirts and pants. The sheets are really nice though so I got a new set since all of her line was 30% off today.

  18. Carolyn, What a wonderful informative report on RTW. I am eager to take your advice and get out there. You really have your finger on it. Sure enjoy reading your blog and seeing your wonderful creations.

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