Snapshots & Stitch Fixes

Happy Monday, friendos! I hope you all had wonderful weekends, the lot of you. Sean and I continued our 2-year anniversary celebration this past weekend, so it was pretty fab… though, as you can probably guess, involved a liiiiittle more foodstuffs than I probably should have indulged in. Thank goodness my weigh-ins are on Fridays now, eh? Hahaha.

Anyway, in the spirit of always being honest and transparent with you guys (plus the fact that I’m a weirdo and I love seeing what other people are eating), I figured I’d share a few snapshots of some of the things I’ve been eating recently. I promise it’s not all from dining out, too! I even have a couple of recipes to share with you guys this week, so there.

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Whipped up a glorious batch of my (and Katniss’s) favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums — although evidently the Polar Vortex made it so that there was no good lamb at the grocery store, so I used beef instead. Still delicious!

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Played a game of pantry roulette and ended up creating a hot steaming bowl of deliciousness that included farfalle pasta, bacon, peas, and amazing mushrooms with a super light cream sauce just to bind it together. I know you all probably read the word “cream” and your collective buttcheeks all tightened, but I promise that it was still a very diet-appropriate dish. Recipe to come soon!

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A iPhone pic collage of some of the amazingness that we experienced at Tuscarora Mill, where Sean took me for our anniversary dinnah. It’s in Leesburg and it is DEFINITELY worth the drive. You can peep my review on Yelp if you want deets about everything we ate (spoiler alert, it was a lot more than what is shown, hahaha), but that on the right there is a truffled goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms and pulled short ribs. I KNOW. I had never been so excited to eat leftovers the next day IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

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And, finally, last night my friend Reema came over and we whipped up a recipe from my homegirl Cassie’s AMAZING new cookbook: Beer & Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. It really was just as delicious as it sounds, and even Sean got on board with the hidden butternut squash in the sauce. Mm-mmm, good. I’ll post more deets about the recipe (and Cassie’s cookbook!) soon!

So, lots of good eats (though in retrospect, I realize that there is a lot of pasta pictured. I promise I’ve been eating, like, vegetables and salads and stuff, too, hahahaha.) over the past few days, and even better ones to come!

So, in addition to all the deliciousness, time with friends, and anniversary celebration stuffs, I also had another fun addition to last week: I received my first Stitch Fix! Those of you who are already familiar with Stitch Fix are probably sick of hearing about it, and honestly, I kinda was too. But just before the holidays I had a chat with my friend Rachel about how much she was enjoying it, and I finally gave in and figured I’d give it a try. And when they hit it RIGHT OUTTA THE PARK with my very first box, I knew I had to share it with you all!

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So, for the uninitiated, Stich Fix is like a mail-order personal shopping service. You set up a style profile and you can do one-time or monthly recurring “Fixes” (same price either way, $20, which is applied to the cost of the clothing if you end up wanting to keep anything) and they send you five items that they think you’d like! I was skeptical as to how personalized it would really be, but they let you link to things like your Twitter, your Pinterest fashion board (if you have one), and I even put my blog address in the extra field at the bottom. And when I received my box, and it came with a personal note explaining all of the items, AND it also pointed to my love of polka dots which they would only have known if they really HAD checked out my Twitter and blog and whatnot, I knew this was pretty legit.

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Of course, it helped that the totally knocked it out of the park! I received a dress, two cardigans, a shirt, and an infinity scarf. Every single item is absolutely my style, and has details that I looooove. The dress has a light polka dot pattern and has that vintage-ish silhouette that I love, the blue cardi has polka dot detailing on the pockets and down the button closure area, the red cardigan has a light butterfly cut-out print and AWESOME buttons — each button is different! — and the infinity scarf is a bright, fun orange and THEY PUT A BIRD ON IT. Many birds, in fact.

The striped shirt was the only item where, before trying it on, I was kind of meh about, but once I did put it on, I LOVED it. It’s actually really flattering, incredibly soft, and super comfortable. Horizontal stripes! Who knew?!

I ended up feeling the most iffy about the red cardigan after trying everything on, just because from a distance there was nothing too special about it. But because Stitch Fix offers a 25% discount if you end up purchasing all five items, it was essentially free — the cardigan cost less than the amount I ended up saving from the discount! Plus, it ended up being way cute when styled with the dress instead of on its own — I ended up wearing the combo to Tuscarora Mill for our anniversary dinner!

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Speaking of pricing, you can set your price points for all the various categories of stuff they offer. So in that way, you can totally emphasize the clothing items that are most important to you. For example, for jewelry and accessories, which I don’t particularly care about, I put “As cheap as possible,” but for dresses and outerwear, I said I was comfortable with paying over $100 for those. Now, it just happened that every single item in my first box was between 28 and 48 dollars (yes, even the dress! I ended up paying just over $100 for all five items with the discount and the $20 styling fee I already paid going towards the total), so this was like a double-win in that arena.

ANYWAY. Enough talk about Stitch Fix and my latest obsession. I promise that this is not a paid promotion or a sponsored post or anything like that — they’re not paying me to say these things! (Though, as a disclaimer, the “Stitch Fix” hyperlink above is my referral link for the site.) I was just REALLY impressed with this service, especially because I was admittedly worried that I was too big to fit anything they offer. Which, now that I bring that up, is probably the only real problem with it, because the biggest size they offer on their style profile is 14… and, let’s be honest, that is deeeefinitely pushing it for me right now. So it bodes well for my continued weight loss efforts, but it was kind of a crapshoot whether I’d be able to fit everything they sent this time around. Thankfully it did all fit… but still. Broaden your sizing horizons and you will be utterly perfect, Stitch Fix!

OKAY. Sorry, sorry, enough chatter for now. Hope you’re all having utterly tolerable Mondays, and I’ll see you on the flip side!

Smackable

Howdy, folks! It’s a totally miserable, dreary day here in the DC area, so I hope that you all are having extra sunny Tuesdays to counteract the weather here!

So in my post last week about the horrors of going to a college with a legitimate reputation for hot girls, and the body-image issues that ensued when I tried to work out around them, I left off saying that I would report back in with details about the actual functionality of the Active by Old Navy clothing I had been asked to try. Well, here I am!

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I know that you’ve probably been seeing quite a few of these Old Navy posts floating around the blogosphere over the past week or so, and that can be kind of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great because no body (and nobody!) is exactly the same, wears the same size, has the same body shape, or likes the same stuff, so there’s a pretty wide variety presented within the same line. But on the other hand, I’m sure it can get a little grating seeing similar–if not the same–stuff over and over again. I’m sure it would feel that way no matter what the actual content–if every healthy living blogger coincidentally posted on the same day about what they ate, and nothing else, I’m sure that might get old too. (Oh, wait… awkward. Haaahahahaha.)

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Now, all that being said, I really do think that this line offers fantastic options for those who might not want to shell out $70 for a single piece of UnderArmour or Lululemon clothing. And as with ALL things, there are pros and cons. So now that I’ve had more time to wear, stretch, relax, and workout in these clothes, I figured I would report back in. Also, joy! A zillion more pictures of me! Bahahaha.

Okay, so let’s talk utility. Functionality. Usability. Being in the healthy living blog business, as well as having a sister who works for UnderArmour, I like to think I’m in a pretty good position to have an opinion about workout clothing. I mean, at this point, I practically own more of it than I do regular clothes (okay, well, that’s not true, because I am a shopaholic, but you get what I’m saying). Ironic, since I am always saying how much I hate working out, eh? Bahaha. Anyway, as I was saying, at this point I definitely know the things that I like when it comes to activewera: the features I look for, the fit that I want, etc.

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Which is why I’m happy to report that these items really do fit the bill for me! And, of course, remain a fraction of the cost of many other brands. I mean, I liked certain items so much that I doubled up on them, so that should really say a lot. So, let’s break it down, shall we?

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I actually tried on like, every single item from the Active line, because I was in such a giddy shopping mood, haha, but the pieces I ended up walking out of Old Navy with were:

Active GoDRY Mesh Tanks in black and neon salmon sizzle (also known as pink–what kind of name is that?)
Active Fold-over Yoga Pants in fiber optic (lime) and retro violet (purple)
Active GoDRY running top in silver

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Fit/Silhouette:

I love the fit of the tanks–fitted at the top but looser around my stomach–as well as the fact that they are SUPER lightweight. They are a mesh material that isn’t see-through and just feels really, really nice. I may or may not have slept in one at one point, that’s how comfy they are. I also really liked how long the tops were. Since I have larger, ahem, lady lumps than some, I find that it can be difficult to find tops that are the length I like (and I just really like the look of long tops in general).

Same for the pants–the fit is awesome, they’re not too long and not too short, which is actually kind of a hard balance to strike with yoga pants. They are nice and fitted through the thigh and knee, and the fold-over waistband is perfect for someone like me who still has a bit of a gut. Plus, the waistbands come in SUPER fun colors (I kind of wish I had gone with another bright color rather than the purple, actually, cause you can barely tell its purple and the bright lime green is so fun!)

I really like the fit of the running top, too. It’s not too tight in the shoulders, still skims over my stomach without being baggy. Also, the running top has THUMBHOLES. Which are the best. Because I find running gloves kind of annoying, actually, since I run with my phone for GPS/music and not all my gloves have capacitave touch. Also, I should probably note that I got size L in all the clothing, except for one kind of hilarious mistake which I will go into in a second.

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Function:

(Sidenote: even with a camera remote, self-timed jumping pics are really, really hard.)

I specifically went for more yoga/group exercise-style workout wear this go around, mostly because I already have SO MUCH RUNNING stuff (not that I’m complaining, I’m just saying). So while Old Navy does carry a line of compression running stuff, I was very deliberate in my choices. I did some yoga and a session of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred in the tank top and yoga pants and had no problems. The tank tops have sweat-wicking technology that did work insofar as I can tell (I am a SWEAT MACHINE) and the pants were stretchy and comfortable, without exposing my crack to Harry and Daxter in the process. I did find myself pulling at the green yoga pants a little bit during some of the more flex-intensive yoga moves, but it wasn’t terrible, and I think really it comes down to the fact that I probably should have sized down in the pants. I’ll get into that in a second though.

I haven’t tested the utility of the running top by actually RUNNING, but I will say that in the capacity I did use it (um, just, like, wearing it, haha) it definitely reminds me of a lot of my UA heatgear stuff, because I felt it was keeping me warm despite the fact that it’s super lightweight. So that’s a definite plus for outdoor runners/exercisers! And even though I did sweat quite a bit in one of the tank tops, I didn’t find it smelled super rank or anything afterward, which is a DEFINITE plus (though don’t ask me how I know that, hahaha).

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Sizing:

Okay, so here we come down to really my only issue with this line (and arguably, with Old Navy in general). The sizing is SO inconsistent. Generally, when I go into an Old Navy I assume the sizing is pretty generous. So whereas I may still barely be able to squeeze the girls into an L blouse at J.Crew, at Old Navy, I often fit into a size M. I mean, honestly, that’s probably one of the reasons I’ve always loved wearing Old Navy so much, because back when I *was* bigger, and quickly climbing my way up to size 20, I could always count on Old Navy to hold strong as a size 18, hahaha.

However, with many of the items in their Activewear line, I found the opposite problem. I own a lot of compression leggings and capris for running, and I consistently fit into an UnderArmour size L without much of a problem. I mean, they’re tight, sure, but they’re supposed to be. But when I tried on the Old Navy compression leggings in size L? Could not even get them on. They were SO tight. And belive me, I tried! But I would have had to size up one, maybe two sizes in order to even squeeze into them. And maybe it’s a thing about my particular body shape (I gots THIGHS, yo!) but I found the same thing with their super tight, compression, built-in-bra tanks.

Somewhat hilariously (because I’m an idiot), I actually ended up grabbing the wrong size in the purple foldover yoga pants. I tried on the green ones in L, and they fit, and I really liked them, so I grabbed another pair in purple without checking the tag on the inside (only the size on the hanger). My mistake. By the time I got home (having already cut the tags off because, again, I’m an idiot), I realized I grabbed the wrong size! A much, MUCH smaller size. However, I still put ’em on, and I think you’ll notice in the pictures above, that it doesn’t really look like the purple pants are too small. In fact, I almost liked the fit better with the smaller pants (probably because I wear so much compression gear) than with the size Ls.

So, yeah. Super inconsistent sizing, for which I could really smack Old Navy (title reference #1!) because it makes online ordering a pain. So I recommend you definitely go into a store and try things on if you can (although I think they offer free return shipping if you order from their website anyway, so that’s really good).

And with that, we move on to the final workout clothing judgement criteria (and arguably the most important one)…

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Butt Smackability:

And yes, that would be title reference #2. Heh. Oh please, don’t even try and pretend like you don’t think about this factor when it comes to yoga pants. So yes, borderline-inappropriate photo aside, the pants in particular are, in my opinion, very flattering and they satisfy that need of mine to be both incredibly comfortable and look as good as possible in one fell swoop. So sizing issues aside, as long as you find the size that fits you best, I heartily recommend this line.

Only time will tell if it has the long-lasting durability that some of my other fitness clothing, but if you’re looking for a few bright, fun new pieces to add to your workout wardrobe, why not grab yourself an $8 tank top or $12 pair of yoga pants? If nothing else, maybe it’ll be a way to get your signficant other to appreciate you just a little bit more. 😉

AdvertisementThis post is sponsored by Old Navy. Check out Old Navy’s Active wear in stores or at oldnavy.com. Active by Old Navy is 40% off until January 16th! I received a gift card and stipend for my participation but my words and opinions are 100% my own. #GetYourActiveON

Now and Then

So, alas, this post isn’t about the absolutely marvelous 1995 movie, Now and Then.

No, sadly (though we can get into all the various ways in which that movie changed my life when I was 7 another time) this post is simply about, well, me. And I would apologize for that, only I’m pretty sure that if you didn’t like to read about me talking about myself, you probably wouldn’t be on a blog that literally has my name in the title. I mean, just scroll back up to the header if you need a reminder, haha. There’s a picture of me, too. Just saying.

Anyway, one of the things I like best about this blog is how it enables me to have open (and thoughtful and intelligent and generally awesome) conversations with you guys about topics that are really near and dear to my heart. These also tend to be topics that not everybody really likes to talk about. So when I was able to submit myself for an opportunity to sample ON’s new line of Activewear and discuss how my workout wardrobe has changed over time, I jumped. Like, seriously, jumped right out of my desk chair. Not just because I was so excited to get a $50 gift card to go pick up some new Activewear items (don’t get me wrong, I was totally excited for that — $50 goes REALLY far at Old Navy! I got FIVE things and only went like $8 over!) but because I was also immediately inspired to re-open and re-discuss one of those hard topics. But one of those really necessary ones: body acceptance, body image, and body confidence.

Let me paint you a word picture. I went to James Madison University for college. JMU is a beautiful little (well, not really so little) school down in Harrisonburg, VA–the furthest south I have ever lived. It’s a really gorgeous place, with the old (er, historic) campus on one side of highway 81 and the newer part of the campus on the other side, bridged by… uh… a bridge. And when I first enrolled, as a wee young Freshman, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and totally naive to the concept of skipping 8 AM classes (oh, how quickly that changed) one of the shining gems of the newer part of campus was–and I’m assuming, still is–UREC. The University Recreation Center.

Actually, I just realized I don’t need to paint you a word picture. I can show you a real picture. Heh.

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Pretty nice, right? And it was–er, is. It’s got tons of machines, an indoor track, raquetball and basketball and whateverball courts, group fitness classes… and a ROCK WALL. Sweet, right? Only, I never got a chance to test out the rock wall. Not once in my four years there. In fact, I could probably count the number of times I actually ventured into UREC on both hands. (Well, okay, maaaaybe it would take three hands.) ‘Cause here’s another thing you should know about JMU. We have a widespread reputation throughout the state of Virginia (perhaps further than that?) for having really hot girls. I know. I’m so proud.

So anyway, here I am, just one of thousands of faces, enrolled in a school that is literally known for the hotness level of its female students. Talk about pressure. And, of course, we all know I had my eating issues, and my body issues, and those led to my weight issues… and by the time I started realizing that my weight was getting out of control, by the time I actually wanted to DO something about it, well… things didn’t go very well.

See, at first I thought, Okay, here we go. I’m going to go to the gym every day and eat super well and things will work out, you’ll see! Except I was already ashamed of my body, ashamed that I had gained so much weight, and comparing myself to every Jessica and Lindsay I passed certainly didn’t help (seriously, there were, like, six Lindsays living in my Freshman dorm). Because you know what those girls spent their spare time doing? Working out. Doing yoga. Going running. At UREC. In spandex capris and tight tank tops, and sometimes just in their sports bras. To say it was intimidating is like calling a jaguar a cat. UNDERSTATEMENT.

So each admittedly infrequent time I would actually get up the nerve to go to the gym, I was so afraid. So afraid that someone would see me, that they would judge me, that they would know I don’t belong. So I’d put on my baggy t-shirts and my loose-fitting sweatpants thinking that they hid my bulges, and I would pull my hair back and stuff headphone in my ears and pretend like I wasn’t watching the taut-bodied, long-legged girl reading Glamour on the elliptical. I’d huff and puff for maybe 10 minutes and then would get too discouraged to keep going, because I was so certain that SOMEBODY was going to look at me and think, “Ew, why is she even here? It’s not like it’s going to help…” and then I’d make sure I grabbed a grilled cheese sandwich from D-Hall on my way home.

Yeah, I know. It was messed up.

But the point of this story isn’t to dwell on the sad-sack Gretchen. Eventually she found in-office gyms and home workout videos and a diet that finally worked, and she ended up pretty okay. The point is to focus on the things that made her feel like she needed to cover up, to hide, to feel ashamed. Because even though, yes, I was overweight, it’s like there was a rule that said I wasn’t allowed to like the way I looked, or wasn’t allowed to associate with the skinnies, or wasn’t allowed to look cute at the gym. It was all self-imposed. A symptom of my complete lack of body confidence. And the ironic part is that before my senior year, I wasn’t even “that bad.” I didn’t reach my highest weight until 2009, the year that I graduated. I’m sure that I think I’m still heavier now than I was when I started college. (I graduated from high school around 185.) But, man, 197 pounds feels really different on this side of the void, that’s for sure.

I wish I had some photos of myself in “gym clothes” from back then. (But of course I don’t. I would never have let anyone take that photo, haha.) I wish I had something to really show you how low I thought of myself back then, how I thought I needed to hide, that how I looked was somehow offensive. How I hid my curves and rolls and completely HUMAN imperfections under unflattering giant t-shirts and old pairs of stretched out Soffe shorts.

So I don’t have photos of exactly that, but I do have a couple of photos that might help show what I mean:

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These photos are unrelated to gym apparel, obviously, but they make a point. Here I am, in giant, oversized sweatshirts–which I wore A LOT in the hopes that that they would fool the world into thinking I was smaller. Silly, right? Because in reality, all that wearing big, baggy, oversized stuff does is make you look oversized. Which makes you feel oversized, which makes you not want to show off the goods that God gave you. And the cycle continues.

So. We thank our lucky stars that those days are done, and we revel in the fact that the same girl who used to think like that and hide her body, well, now she wears stuff like this:

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And like this:

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I got a camera remote for Christmas and I am SO EXCITED but still figuring it out, haha. Can you tell?

And she doesn’t just wear them, she feels legitimately awesome in them. Confident. Unashamed. And yes, it helps that she’s lost a lot of the weight she put on during college and beyond. But her stomach still bunches up when she does crunches and things still jiggle when she’s on the treadmill and–gasp!–her thighs will always (ALWAYS) touch. But who cares? She doesn’t. And neither should you. What she does care about is the fact that the sweat-wicking technology in her tops helps keep her cool, and the spandex in her bottoms help her stretch and bend and reach without showing the world her buttcrack.

Old Navy has always been awesome about providing clothing that fits almost every shape and size of woman. It’s why it was one of my favorite places to shop THEN, and it’s still one of my favorites NOW. Because I appreciate the fact that they make it so that you can look good, no matter what number is stitched on the inside label of your jeans. I’ll go into detail about the actual utility of the pieces I’m wearing in a later post (for your reference though, I’m rocking the Active GoDRY Mesh Tanks and Active Fold-over Yoga Pants in both pics, with the Active GoDRY running top added in the second). The point is, workout apparel like this — clothing that clings and is fitted and has technology that helps make us better and faster and stronger… that is what’s important. And the fact that it all comes in awesome colors and flattering shapes and helps us look cute even when we don’t have that perfect body yet? That’s just gravy, man.

AdvertisementThis post is sponsored by Old Navy. Check out Old Navy’s Active wear in stores or at oldnavy.com. Active by Old Navy is 40% off until January 16th! I received a gift card and stipend for my participation but my words and opinions are 100% my own. #GetYourActiveON

Closet Purge

Yesterday I felt sick (again). I have the immune system of a Bubble Boy, so this really came as no surprise. I took the day off from work to console myself, made a doctor’s appointment (though as I suspected, there wasn’t anything really wrong with me that he could fix. “Maybe it’s stress,” he said.) and in order to make sure I didn’t feel like a total lump, I got a few things done around the house.

Laundry was the main thing. Here’s the back story on my laundry habits, which will probably leave the majority of you in awe and disgust. I do laundry maybe like, once every 6 weeks. This is not because I am a hobo without access to a washing machine, it is because I am lazy. It also partially because my sister used to work as a buyer for Hecht’s/Macy’s, and started her illustrious career in women’s underwear. As such, I have enough underwear to last me through the entire zombie apocalypse (and then some). And because I am apparently a 19-year-old boy, I don’t usually feel the need to do laundry until I run out of underwear.

As my clothes were spin-cycling and rinse-cycling their little hearts out, I also decided that this would be a great opportunity to do a little purging. No, not that kind of purging, you crazy kids. The kind where I go through my closet and pull out all of the things that I no longer wear, no longer fit, or just generally need to go.


Evidently 4 bags of donation-bound clothing is the norm for me, since that’s how many I netted last time too. Which is why I feel okay reusing this blurry picture from last time, hahaha.

I’ve mentioned my hoarding tendencies more than a few times on here, and I quickly came to realize yesterday that this was another prime example of such. I went through a rather significant room cleaning extravaganza and ended up with four garbage bags full of stuff that went straight to Goodwill. This was, however, over a year ago now (one of the great things about having a blog like this? It’s like a super-detailed timeline of your life! Wait, maybe that’s not a good thing…) so it was definitely time.

I was actually pretty surprised at how willing I was to get rid of stuff. I really went all-out this time, including shoes and bags. Last time I kept a lot of stuff because of sentimentality, but I was a lot better about that this time. Some things were admittedly a little more heartbreaking to part with, but it was cathartic at the same time. After all, I’m probably getting a little bit old to keep multiple Hello Kitty zip-ups in my closet… and a Hello Kitty backpack… and a stuffed Spiderman backpack… need I go on? (Though you better believe I kept my Gryffindor jacket!). Ah well. Hopefully some lucky (and age appropriate) person will be able to thrift my wares for mere pennies and they will bring her (him?) joy.

Now the only trick will be making sure I don’t quickly fill up all my new closet space with MORE clothes. I already bought quite a few new pieces when Ai Rei was visiting (what, I HAD to show her Tyson’s Corner! It’s a landmark of the area!) I will say (and actually, have probably mentioned it before), that I am much more inclined to buy clothing more frequently now that I’m a smaller size. Back when I was a size 16/18/pushing 20, I would force myself to make maybe one big shopping trip each year to replace certain things, or get more work-appropriate clothing. Even though I love to shop (always have!), the experience would leave me downtrodden and with a lot of self-loathing (damn you, dressing room mirrors!).

I can’t say that I’m totally immune to those feelings now, but shopping for size 12 not only gives me more options in the “regular” stores, And because I generally feel better about how I look, it’s more fun! Now I’m much more inclined to go “for fun” shopping and pick up a shirt here, a new dress there, as opposed to one huge, multi-hundred-dollar, get-it-out-of-the-way trip per annum. I’m definitely not saying that you can’t look amazing or find chic clothing in plus-sizes. I was just too self-conscious and ashamed to take true advantage of it back then. Now? Not so much. In fact, I have to be careful…!

Be strong, Gretchen, be strong!

How often do you go through a closet purge? Are you a love-to-shop or shop-to-live kind of person when it comes to clothes?