Buy Curious: December 29, 2006

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The holiday shopping madness is over, but the real shopping season has just begun! This week, Buy Curious braved the crowds (and the gale-force winds) to track down the best post-holiday sales in the East Bay. Needless to say, almost every store has slashed their prices, and we found discounts so astounding that we almost don't want to tell you about them! Does "half-off" mean anything to you? Then, Buy Clueless tackles two very serious issues: precious metals and blue jeans. Read on for your weekly dose of style ...

STYLEFILE

Who: Coco Poovey, 35, visiting from Orange County

Occupation: film producer Spotted: College Ave. at Manila Ave., Oakland Wearing: Chloe sweater coat, Prada sweater with suede elbow patches, Taverniti jeans, Tod's riding boots, Chloe purse, and Chanel sunglasses. What inspired the look: "Comfort." Fashion inspiration: "Tom Ford. Everything he does is sexy and cool." Also, Kate Moss, who can "swill champagne gracefully." Fashion style: Practical. "Casual elegance with a flair for comfort," says her husband. Also: Sexy, glamorous, country club preppy. Favorite piece in her wardrobe: "I like to look at my [Oscar] de la Renta dress. I need to go to the Academy Awards but I haven't been invited yet." Poovey describes it as a frothy concoction of tulle, gold sequins, and metallic thread.

Currently into: "I love Gucci right now."

SHOP TALK No matter what your budget is, no one can turn down a sale. We headed to the Bay Street mall and checked out some Oakland boutiques to compile our Top Ten list of sales you can't miss. Now if only we could cash in those darn gift cards ...

#10: The Gap : up to 60 percent off Stock up on basics, shirts for dad, and cozy loungewear. Try long fitted sweaters, perfect for layering, for just $14.99. Where: 5690 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 594-9500. Also online.

#9: J. Jill : up to 50 percent off The mature older cousin to, say, Anthropologie, J. Jill has some deals worth checking out, like a ribbed U-neck cotton sweater for just $20 (orig. $39)

#8: Aerosoles : up to 60 percent off Check out warm, snuggly boots and flats perfect for the office, on clearance! If you haven't been in years, you'll be stunned by how hip this retailer has become. Where: 5643 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 428-0626. Also online.

#7: Banana Republic: up to 50 percent off Almost all their merchandise is discounted, including suits, dresses, and sweaters. How about a wool/nylon-blend sweaters in an array of neutral tones for $33.99 (orig. $68)? Where: 5636 Bay St., Emeryville, (510) 428-0389. Also online.

#6: Iniam: 20 percent off The two-year-old Oakland boutique has discounted most of its merchandise, including this delicate Cynthia Steffe chiffon floral dress for $244 (orig. $305). Where: 5902 College Ave., Oakland (510) 597-1448

#5: Sefina Studio : 50 percent off and more The closet-sized Oakland boutique is clearing out their sportswear and lingerie for half off. We spotted cute, colorful undies from Cosabella and Mary Green. Plus this super pulled-together off-white pea coat from French Connection for just $99 (orig. $248).

Where: 5326 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-4779

#4: FIT: up to 40 percent off For the slightly more mature Rockridge mom, FIT stocks its shelves with comfortable, stylish, and low-key items. It's also one of the few East Bay stores that carries our favorite line, Diane von Furstenberg, and lucky for us, they've got quite a few pieces on sale. Try a DvF long chiffon dress for $196 (orig. $326), or a brown jersey wrap dress for $165 (orig. $275). This brown wool coat with floral embroidery from Rites was on sale for $299 (orig. $499). Where: 5707 College Ave., Oakland (510) 923-0784

#3: Viva Diva: 20 percent off dresses until New Year's Day A boutique for the young and trendy, Viva Diva is currently discounting its collection of dresses, just in time for your New Year's Eve bash. We spotted this red-hot Ella Moss dress for $135.20 (orig. $168) and this Rachel Pally kimono-style frock for $179.20 (orig. $224). On Monday, Jan. 11, Viva Diva will extend discounts to most of its merch, including jeans, sweaters, and dresses. Where: 5854 College Ave., Oakland (510) 594-8380

#2: August: 50-70 percent off Starting Tuesday, Jan. 2, this modern, Oakland boutique is having a massive sale off all its merchandise, including its entire denim collection. August specializes in unique styles from lesser-known designers and luxurious fabrics. Definitely one of our new favorite stores! (For stellar tips on shopping for jeans, be sure to read this scroll down to read this week's Buy Clueless.) Where: 5410 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 652-2711

#1: Twenty Two Shoes: 25-30 percent off; 50-60 percent off starting Tuesday, Jan. 2 One of the most buzzed about shoe stores in the East Bay has slashed its prices on its fabulous collection of shoes, including sparkly Repetto ballet flats and boots from its own collection. We found these fantastic black booties by Marc Jacobs on sale for $409 (orig. $585). Next week, they'll be $289!

Where: 5856 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 594-2201

BUY CLUELESS Has a shopping or style quandary been eating away at you for months? Mere minutes? Whatever the case, it's time to end your agony. Buy Curious will tackle your fashion dilemmas in Buy Clueless, the East Bay's first online fashion advice column. Advice is free, but following it may require forking over some cash. Send your query to buycurious@eastbayexpress.com.

DROWNING IN MY JEANS Dear Buy Curious, Help! I'm 5'4," the average height for an American woman, but when it comes to shopping for jeans I feel like an elf. I love bootcut and straight-leg styles, but whenever I find a pair that fit at the waist, they're way too long. Faced with no alternatives, I buy them anyway, and � shocker! � I step on, and shred, my hems day in and day out. I've tried jeans marked "ankle length" or "short," but they tend to be tapered in an unflattering '80s pegged-leg sort of way. I'd rather not do the giant pant cuff, and haven't had much luck hemming them myself. Any suggestions for brands that do right by us "short" girls, or know of a good jeans repair place closer than LA's Denim Doctors? Bonus points if you have any helpful tips about how to keep a dark rinse dark for as long as possible! Thanks, Frustrated Jean Shredder

Dear FJS, We've also been forced to decide whether to drag extra fabric around (was the swaddled ankle look ever in?), learn to walk in six-inch heels, or leave a pair of otherwise perfect jeans hanging in the dressing room. And we're both taller than you, Frustrated. Truth is, unless you're angling to be the next Miss California (and if so, we suggest you don't get sloshed while you're practicing that giraffey strut), these options are not options at all. So we've got two that are better: check out Zafu.com, and find a reliable tailor.

Zafu, a genius (hah!) Emeryville-based Web site that launched in August, is a denim addict's dream. Answer a dozen or so simple questions (Height? Weight? Booty size? Preferred rise? Leg cut?), and a mysterious Oz-behind-the-curtain runs some fancy algorithms to come up with more than a dozen perfect possibilities for your body. (Zafu culls from ninety brands and more than three hundred styles, so there's bound to be at least one you love.) Once you home in on a pair, Zafu directs you to an unaffiliated online store, like Nordstrom, where you can snap it up.

The site has great tips, too, including a list of non-dorky brands that offer shorter inseams (including our personal favorites -- 7 For All Mankind and Lucky), and the nifty suggestion to go with a flare leg style if you're short and plan to get the jeans hemmed. Which brings us to our next option: Put down that hotel sewing kit and find a good tailor who understands trends.

Truth is, even if your Zafu selection fits you to a T, you're going to fall in love with supermodel-length pants at some point in your life. One local spot that's received rave reviews for its denim know-how is Advanced European Tailoring (2115 Allston Way, Berkeley, (510) 843-3881). The name may sound hoity-toity, but you'll pay just $9 for a regular hem or $18 for an exact copy of the original (think intricate stitching or fading). They're speedy, too, with a one to two day turnaround time. Just remember: always wash jeans before having them hemmed, as most will shrink about a half-inch or so. And before you toss them in the machine, turn them inside out, and be sure to use cold water only. If you must expose them to the dastardly dryer, do so only until they're slightly damp, then hang them over your shower rod.

Once you're at the point where you pretty much want to sleep in your jeans, if not marry them, maintain the original rinse by washing them only when absolutely necessary. In other words, wear underwear and watch the spills.

XO, Buy Curious

P.S. To our readers: Have other suggestions? Tales of denim woe? Post them in comments.

THE PRICE OF LOVE? Dear Buy Curious, My boyfriend and I have been together for two years now and we are ready to display our homo-commitment for the world to see. He really wants a platinum ring. I'm sure it's because it's the trendy Castro thing to wear, but I've done my research and platinum is not only very expensive, but soft and prone to scratches as well. Will anyone notice the difference if I were to buy 18k white gold for him? It's almost as heavy, is more durable, and is less than half the cost of platinum. Is platinum really that much better? Or is it worth it to spend the extra $1,500 now to not have to hear about it later? Signed, Seeking Family Jewels

Dear SFJ, You're asking a few separate questions here, but only the last really matters. If your guy wants a platinum ring, and you can afford it, then by all means, go for it. If you don't, he may well end up thinking, "My partner is damn cheap," instead of, "Oh, how I adore my partner!" every time he studies the ring during a boring business meeting. (Or, worse yet, during foreplay.)

It may help to think about it this way: Let's say you're 33 (the average age of a visitor to gaymarriageworld.com) and expect to be with him for fifty more years. If you shell out $2,000 for the ring, that's a mere $40 a year, or eleven cents a day. Even if you wind up spending just another decade with him (not to bring you down or anything but we do have to be practical here), $200 a year isn't much to pay to make him as happy as he can possibly be, right? Sure, his attitude may appear to be materialistic, but isn't that part of the reason you love him? Because he has great taste and elevates yours as well? Back in the 18th century, King Louis XVI anointed platinum "the metal of kings." So go ahead � coddle your king.

If you still want to make an argument for 18K gold, be careful. You may lose. While platinum's more matte surface may make it look "scratched," it's actually a stronger, more durable metal than 18k white gold, according to online jeweler blue nile. The reasonably priced, reliable retailer (one of us once received an engagement ring from there which was simply gorgeous, although it never made it to the altar) offers a great assortment of platinum bands for men.

Finally, something to consider: If your would-be life partner cares so much about what other people might think of his ring, you've got to ask yourself why. Better yet, ask him.

XO, Buy Curious

Every Friday, Buy Curious posts photos of the fashion fabulous of the East Bay, as well as news on store openings, closings, new items, and sales. We want to hear from you! Tips? Send them to us!and Kathleen Richards

Back to 92510, the East Bay Express news blog.

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