My Michigan winter closet: outerwear essentials

This post contains affiliate links.

As a Californian living in Michigan for the past three years, I like to think I’ve streamlined my winter wardrobe. This winter hasn’t dipped below 0°F too often so far (oh how far my temperature tolerance has changed), but it dropped down to around 20°F from 50-60°F within a week so I’m glad I had all my winter gear packed under my bed for convenience so I could quickly grab all the coats and jackets I needed.

When I first moved to Michigan, I was a little lost on what clothing items I needed since the coldest place most of friends lived was New York, which is cold, but a different kind of cold, compared to Michigan. My roommate during my first year of graduate school grew up in Minnesota so I asked her for tips which were really helpful. I’m hoping this post might help someone who is in a similar position I was in, or at least might be interesting to someone who’s looking for a few outerwear reviews. I have a 12 minute walk to lab and typically don’t spend more than 20 minutes walking outside in the winter.

I’ve made a personal goal that I cannot buy any new winter gear unless I sell a current clothing equivalent. After graduate school, I plan to move back to California where I won’t have much need for all this heavy-duty outerwear. So as of now, here’s my curated winter outerwear wardrobe (with a variety of Instagram/real life outfits).

1. Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket, $69.90 (wait for promotions)
similar here (save) and here (splurge)

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Uniqlo down jacket layered over a sweater.

The first down purchase I ever made was from Uniqlo in the fall of my first year. I’m a person who typically runs warm/hot rather than cold, so when it’s around 20-30°F, this Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket zipped up over a light sweater is perfect. The small size fit snug in a cozy way when zipped up over just a shirt. Unfortunately, my hips are wider than the cut of the jacket; there’s no stretch to the fabric and the jacket rode up noticeably when I walked so I ended up with a medium. Overall, the medium fits slightly oversized on me but it does fit over my hips and leaves room for a sweater. I find their down products well priced (they’re often on promotion) and my jacket has washed and held up well for over two years now. Feathers to escape but not enough to de-poof the jacket. I also just throw the jacket in the washer and dryer and it comes out perfectly fine. Additionally, these jackets (not sure about the vests) come with small drawstring bags. It takes a try or two to figure out how to roll up the jacket to smoosh it down to fit into the bag, but it makes these products really great for traveling.

For even cooler temperatures, I step it up with a slightly heavier Uniqlo down-filled jacket. This jacket is my newest purchase; I received it just a few weeks ago and have already worn it several times. I needed a jacket to fill the gap between my previously mentioned lightweight down and my heavy-duty snow jacket. I often go without a beanie so having a hood is crucial to protect my ears from the cold wind. Remember to protect your extremities (feet, hands, head/ears)! This was the only winter gear purchase I made this year and it’s perfect for my needs, down to the fleece-lined zip-closure pockets and adjustable hood.

3. Uniqlo Military Hooded Parka (old, sold out)
similar here, here and here

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Uniqlo parka (in black) worn over a dress for a holiday party.

Alternatively, I have a waterproof parka also from Uniqlo (do you sense a trend here?) with a detachable faux-shearling lining. I picked it up on super sale last spring on a whim and I’m absolutely in love with it. In the winter, for not-too-cold days, I keep the faux-shearling liner in and wear the parka over a shirt and when it’s even colder, I wear it over a cashmere sweater (optional: Heattech shirt underneath).

Speaking of cashmere sweaters, I always stock up during Macy’s Black Friday sale (a tip from me to you). Charter Club (Macy’s in-house brand) crewneck (currently $32!), v-neck (currently $28!) and turtleneck cashmere sweaters (currently $40), also available in petites and plus sizes in a variety of colors, are marked down to $40-50 per sweater which is amazing. My mom has been buying them for about a decade at this point and while the quality of recent sweaters aren’t as good as past season’s, they’re still of decent quality and don’t pill as easily as my Uniqlo wool sweaters which pilled horribly in one day. The Charter Club ones do eventually pill but are easily cleaned up with a sweater-saver (or pumice stone as an alternative) but are very warm and wash well (either by hand or wash on gentle in a machine but hang dry). I’ve also asked friends who’ve purchased Everlane cashmere sweaters and they’ve found that the Everlane ones pill within a few wears similar to the Charter Club ones but are $100 instead of $40.

Lastly, when I’m running late or when I don’t feel like wearing a ton of layers, I’ll just wear a single shirt under my holy grail Marmot Montreal Coat which I normally try to reserve for below 10°F.

5. Marmot Montreal Coat, $285
certain colors on sale here, here and here

winter-outfit

Admiring my winter outfit (featuring my Marmot coat) in the elevator

Like I mentioned in the previous sentence, this Marmot Montreal Coat is single-handedly my favorite thing about winter. I got it in the olive color since green is my favorite clothing color. It’s fleece-lined in the body and pockets, feels like you’re wearing a puffy duvet/cloud and hits me mid-thigh which doesn’t constrict my walking which is important when I’m wearing snow boots trying to avoid the slippery icy spots. The removable hood, with a removable faux fur ruff, is also down-filled as well as adjustable. The pockets have zips and there’s an inner pocket as well (I usually stick my wallet or my phone in there when I don’t want to carry a bag). I have this jacket in an x-small and it’s snug in the body but I’m still able to fit a thin to medium sweater underneath. The small would be a little roomier but where there’s space, there’s cold air.

As for my decision to go with the Marmot brand, I almost bought a North Face jacket because that was the only brand of down jackets I knew of at the time. I seriously considered the North Face Arctic Down Parka before stumbling upon the Marmot Montreal Coat during my internet research.

For jackets around the same price between the two brands, I found that North Face coats averaged 550-fill power where Marmot jackets were around 700-fill power. From what I understand, the higher the fill number, the less down material is required to trap the same amount of warmth aka the Marmot jacket requires less material to provide the same amount of warmth as the North Face coat which requires more geese feathers (so the North Face jacket isn’t as economical). Additionally, at the time I was searching for coats, North Face was in the process of switching to ethically sourced down where Marmot already had ethically sourced down. I am aware of my hypocritical stance on this since I do buy items from fast-fashion brands that probably don’t ethically source their materials or have great labor practices. However, for the heavy duty coat I was planning to spend $200+ on, I wanted to buy as ethically as possible. I ended up getting the Marmot jacket on sale for around $150 where the cheapest North Face jacket I could find at the time was around $200.

I mentioned that I tend to run warm so I found I can get away with wearing fewer layers compared to most. For alternative heavy-duty coat options, one of my friends here who’s always freezing (and also a native Californian) finally turned to Canada Goose for negative temperatures because the other brands she tried (North Face, Columbia , L.L. Bean, Patagonia) just didn’t cut it, and she hasn’t looked back since. For reference on our differing temperature tolerance, she wears North Face parkas when the weather is 30-40°F when I occasionally forgo the Uniqlo light down jacket and just wear multiple layers of sweaters and hoodies because hoodies are genuinely my favorite clothing item. However, for those who realistically cannot go the Canada Goose route, taking note from the lab tech in my lab, layering multiple down layers is probably the best alternative. For instance, a Uniqlo light down vest of jacket is thin enough to layer underneath a heavy winter down coat for two layers of down insulation.

Overall, I’m happy with my collection of outerwear. Every item has its own niche in my closet and I think the “one item in, one item out” rule will work well for me and my physically-small closet.

Hope you found this post helpful or at least interesting. And because it’s worth repeating, don’t forget to keep those extremities wrapped up!

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December 2016 clothing budget

This post contains affiliate and referral links.

It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these, but I have been trying to stick to a monthly clothing budget for the last year. I’ve been fairly successful staying within budget month to month and since I’ve been keeping track of purchases on my phone via Google Sheets, I thought this is a simple enough post to write up.

In anticipation of buying presents for people, I decided to decrease my personal clothing budget down to $100 or less this month. Which would have happened if not for the A.P.C. sale that’s currently happening.

december-2016

1. H&M knit hat – $4.99 (originally $9.99)
2. H&M sweatshirt – $9.99
3. A.P.C. Gregoire wallet – $117.50 (originally $235, sold out at A.P.C. but also on sale here)
4. Uniqlo Heattech v-neck top – $9.90 (originally/now $14.99)
5. Uniqlo Heattech crewneck top – $9.90 (originally/now $14.99)
6. Everlane cotton u-neck  – $14 (originally $20, used credit)
7. Everlane medium stripe crew  – $14 (originally $18, used credit)

Budget: $100
Spent: $152.28

A friend and I spontaneously decided to go to the mall and shop the After-Christmas sales. I ended up picking up the two H&M items above. I’ve wanted a soft knit beanie for a while especially during the recent blasting cold winds and this one is super soft and I don’t find it itchy at all. I’ve also wanted a simple black sweatshirt for a while and this one was a great light-medium weight and soft and the right price. I’ve tried staying away from fast-fashion brands but I’ve come to the terms that it’s not easy to pass up the prices when living on a graduate student stipend. I picked up a few other items but due to long fitting room lines, didn’t try them on but am planning to return those things after trying them on at home.

I’ve been using a Skagen half-zip leather wallet for the better part of a year and it’s getting a bit beat up. The Comme des Garçons Zip-Around Wallet is the wallet of my dreams but they’re never on sale and I can’t bring myself to spring $285 for a wallet. I thought about the Everlane Square Zip Wallet but couldn’t find any reviews online about the quality and decided to pass on it for the moment. I was casually browsing the A.P.C. sale online (as one does) and saw the Gregoire style wallet in black leather in the men’s sale section. I hemmed and hawed before finally pulling the trigger. I decided it would be my Christmas present to myself for the year. I’m hoping the A.P.C. brand name proceeds itself and the wallet will hold up for a while.

It got really cold really quickly about a month ago and I wasn’t prepared. I only have one Uniqlo Heattech shirt and wanted to get a few more as undershirts for sweaters so picked up two of them during a promotion.

Lastly, thank you to anyone who has made an Everlane purchase with my referral link. I was able to pick up two t-shirts using credit during their expanded Choose What You Pay range. I’m a fan of their crewneck shirts even though they’re a little long on me and have wanted to try one of the striped ones (love the red!). I’ve also been wanting to add more gray basics to my closet and picked up the grey/white microstripe in my favorite Everlane t-shirt style: the u-neck (reviewed here).

Going to try and keep my clothing budget under $100 for January since I don’t feel like I have any major gaps in my closet at the moment and need to recover from buying presents for friends and family 🙂

Linking up with Franish and other budgeting bloggers here.

Review: Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud Earrings

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The earrings were paid for with my own money. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this product since I couldn’t find many reviews before I ordered mine.

Maison Miru is a jewelry brand that has recently come to my attention when I saw their ad on Instagram that said they were giving away pairs of their Tiny Crystal Studs ($29) to celebrate the launch of their “Ear Bar” (a section of their earrings that are mostly stud earrings).

maison-miru-earrings2-500

My pair of Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud Earrings

You have to pay the price of shipping ($6.99) for the free pair of Tiny Crystal Studs but I thought that $6.99 was a reasonable price to get to try out the brand as well as the earrings. I’ve amassed quite a large collection of stud earrings (my favorite type) but actually didn’t have any simple crystal/jewel earrings on the more “professional” side. The first time I tried to place an order, they were sold out of the studs but they have since restocked (link at the bottom of this post).

After placing the order, my earrings were shipped that same day. I told one of my friends who also loves stud earrings about this deal, and she also placed an order. Her earrings also shipped the same day and actually arrived the next day (the brand is based in NY and my friend is in CA) which is pretty amazing. My earrings took a bit longer to arrive to MI but we had been having weather delays due to snow that week. Still, they arrived just 1-2 days later than expected which isn’t a big deal.

First impressions of the earrings out of the packaging were noticing how small and dainty they were despite the size being listed in the description (3mm) and seeing the pictures of someone modeling the earrings. If you have multiple piercings, I’d say these would look best in a second or third piercing if the main earring is larger than these studs. But I think they look simple and pretty if they’re the only earrings you’re wearing. I have a second lobe piercing on my right ear with a small black stud, and the Maison Miru studs are about the same size, so I feel like I can get away with wearing them together since the black stud doesn’t overwhelm the Maison Miru ones.

maison-miru-earrings1-500

These studs are made of “14k gold plated brass with high quality CZ crystal.” I haven’t had any metal allergic reactions to any earrings before, so I can’t really speak about the metal quality for someone who is more sensitive.

After wearing these earrings several times, some of my main issues with the earrings are that the butterfly backing is a little difficult to get onto the stem (it’s super tight) so it’s hard to put on and to take off. In addition, the stem of the earring bends fairly easily which adds to the difficulty of putting them on and taking them off (see photos; you’ll notice the stems aren’t necessary straight). I’ll keep an eye on how these earrings hold up over time but after wearing them a handful of times, I’ve had to bend back the post multiple times and am worried it might eventually snap. This will only be a problem for someone like me who like sleeping in earrings with a butterfly backing.

maison-miru-earrings3-500

Comparison: The Madewell Staccato Stud Earrings are my everyday earrings. They’re also described as 3mm but look larger than the Maison Miru Tiny Crystal Stud. Notice the bend in the earring stem of the Maison Miru stud.

Overall, I do think that for $6.99, these earrings are worth it despite my concerns. However, I haven’t had them long enough to say whether I think they’re worth the full price of $29/pair. I do like the convenience of how Maison Miru sells their earrings as pairs or as single studs (in case you have an odd number of piercings like me or if you lose just one earring).

If you’re interested in trying out a pair of the Tiny Crystal Studs for the price of shipping, the link can be found here.

Starting anew

Hello world. I’ve decided to try and start blogging again. Previously, I could be found at misCELLany which was a blog shared between me and my friend Tammy as a fun project while we studied at different schools across the country. However, neither of us are particularly good bloggers and our postings petered off.

On a bit of a whim, I’ve decided to try and resurrect blogging activities (now on a separate space) where I have a completely blank slate. I am currently a graduate student pursuing a PhD in the biomedical sciences field, and I’ve been having a difficult time recently on multiple levels. As a kid, I always had various creative outlets (art, playing musical instruments, etc.) and since undergrad, I’ve lost most of those hobbies that I didn’t realize helped ground me in a positive headspace. I’m hoping by blogging, I can bring back a little bit of a creative outlet back into my life.

This blog will mostly be a collection of my thoughts and random science ramblings mixed in with posts relating to my mild shopping addiction.

Case in point: At the moment, I’m currently listening to The Misfits’s Static Age album while waiting for part of my experiment to finish spinning down instead of reading something for class. Good to know I have my priorities in the right place.

Top Three #3

Time for another top three!

1. Brand New [music]

I finally got to see my favorite band live for the first time. Truly a surreal experience. Throughout the whole concert, I was oddly calm but it keeps hitting me in waves that I got to experience them live. Judging from Youtube videos, they can be hit or miss depending on whether they’re feeling it, but they were fantastic last night. I wish I could say the say about the crowd. The crowd/atmosphere was a bit disappointing (venue was on a college campus so a lot of undergrads/younguns) but I think I managed to stand in a pretty good spot/enough of hardcore fans around me to get me excited too. At concerts/large gatherings, I’m that fan in the crowd with his/her arms crossed because I honestly don’t know how else to behave/express myself but other fans’ energies get me to loosen up a bit.

But holy crap. Such a fantastic night. Major thanks to my two friends I convinced to go with me (story of my life haha). I have yet to find my music soulmate-friend.

2. Speakers [things]

When I initially moved to Michigan, I ran out of room for my nice (aka heavy) three piece speaker set and only had room for my $10 pair that my dad bought for me at Fry’s like five years ago. I’ve been using the $10 pair for most of my first year but last time I was home (May), I was determined to fit my nice speakers into my luggage. Once back at school, I immediately pulled them out and oh man, music/TV/movies have not sounded better since. (And seeing how the $10 pair are still in perfect working condition, I brought them into lab since I don’t mind them getting all grody with science).

3. Kayaking [life]

I’ve caught the kayaking bug. Being on the water seems like a big part of summer life here in Michigan, whether it’s tubing, kayaking, canoeing, etc. A few weekends ago, I went kayaking for the first time in years with a group of friends who were similarly unexperienced. And I went canoeing the following week with a friend who just moved to the area.

The first and last time I went kayaking was probably in middle school and it was kayaking in the Baylands (so like… no current). I was in the back seat of like a three person kayak where the front two people were two dudes. So you have this petite Asian girl, kayaking for the first time, trying to steer a whole kayak through narrow passages where the dudes barely paddled because they thought it’d be funny. I ended up ramming us into a bank by accident and then they realized I physically was not able to move the thing by myself and started helping. But I really love being on the water.

Anyway, today, I went kayaking for the first time since then and it was amazing. I went with three others and was in a kayak with one of the ones who had never kayaked before. One of the best days I’ve had in so long. It’s so much fun and it doesn’t feel like exercise but man, got an arm work out in since my friend was paddling for the first time.

panoramic creeper shot of my friend 🙂

It’s definitely a wet and messy experience but it’s totally worth it. Would highly recommend and my graduate program has a kayaking/tubing/canoeing trip planned for later this month. Got to get my tan on before the sun disappears.

Bespoke Post reviews: Roam and Vibes

All boxes reviewed were bought with my own money. However, this post contain a coupon and referral link at the end.

Hi everyone! I just want to do a review about the two Bespoke Post boxes I got these past two months. If you’ve never heard of Bespoke Post before, it’s sort of like Birchbox Man where the box is more lifestyle geared. Bespoke Post offers themed boxes and releases new boxes every month and you’re able to get past month’s boxes as long as they’re still in stock. While Bespoke Post is aimed towards men, I find it the boxes/items to be gender neutral and always well curated (sleek and minimal are the words that come to mind). This review is mostly for the Vibes box, but I’ll talk a little bit about the Roam one too.

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Top Three #2

This post contains affiliate links.

Time for another top three!

1. Wildlife by La Dispute [music]

I’ve mentioned this band so many times on this blog but these guys are just so amazing. I’ve been listening exclusively to their earlier two full lengths and they get better each time.

2. Textured Cross-Back Pullover from Banana Republic [fashion/shopping]

This sweater was on sale last week and with an extra 50% off (ended up being $25!), I couldn’t help but pick it up. I usually don’t understand/like many trends but this crossback design caught my eye and I feel like I can still wear it after it’s no longer trendy (I see similar designs everywhere so I’m assuming it’s a trend…). I love the color (I got the light blue one), the feel of the fabric (weighted and textured but cool), the different ways (sleeveless or long sleeve collared button up underneath, tank underneath, paired with a jacket/scarf) I can wear it, the way it looks on me and how I don’t have anything like it. So much win.

3. Peaches/nectarines [food]

Summer is possibly my least favorite month of the year (yeah, I know). I hate the heat/sun, sweating, the clothing and especially here in Michigan, the humidity. However, the one saving grace of summer are the fruit. I love peaches and nectarines. I buy maybe 5-10 a week to keep up with my cravings. I’ve only been able to find good yellow peaches and nectarines so far but I’m hoping the white ones (I could probably only eat white peaches and nectarines for the rest of my life) will be available soon! So so yummy. Thank you nature!

Those are my (maybe trivial) top three things at the moment. I’m going to try and write up Everlane reviews later today (I think I have like 5+ items). But I did a huge Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic haul that I just took all the pics for… So there’s that coming up. 😁

-amy