Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Eat, Drink, See: New York City Holiday Favorites

It would be absolutely, one hundred percent impossible for me to compose a complete and comprehensive holiday guide to New York. Impossible. For me, at least. It brings these words to mind:

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up

 running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is 

the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody 

except my own confusion.” 

This city is...well, endless, in terms of opportunity. Cue Alicia Keys right now, maestro! 

Olivia Inkster, American fashion blogger, fashionable US girl New York City, New York fashion blogger, Brooklyn girl style NYC, winter in NYC 2014, leopard wide brim hat, designer leopard accessories, Susana Monaco faux fur wool coat, black wool and fur coat, best winter black coats women 2015, Cynthia Rowley black suede heels, new york city streetstyle, street photographs New York

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Wearing: Susana Monaco coat (similar HERE)// Cynthia Rowley pumps (similar HERE and HERE)// Bloomingdale's wide brim leopard hat (LOVE this option!)// Marc Jacobs quilted "Stam" bag (snag one gently used on Poshmark.com or Ebay)

So, I've done my best, rounded up a few of my own personal cozy favorites for December and beyond, and whittled down the list. Hey, in my head, though, the holidays never really end. I might be adding to this as we go along, because I just can't ever get enough. Stay with me, folks. I got you covered.

Sips 'n Bites:

Rolf's: Go for the decor, maybe grab an appetizer of potato pancake with applesauce and sip a warm beverage! The atmosphere is delightful, decked out in all of the wonderful holiday vomit you could wish for, but skip the full dinner.

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Sardi's:  After catching a Broadway performance or midtown jazz show, slink into Sardi's for post-show dessert and nightcap or coffee. They serve a full lunch and dinner, so feel free to grab a meal before a matinee or evening show, if you so wish, surrounded by the iconic caricatures of all of the Great White Way's stars that line the perimeter. Open for ninety years, this famed Broadway establishment has has hosted some of the world's most talented performers. Mad Men fans can easily recognize the distinguished interior with its dark mahogany, deep banquettes, and reputation for the three-martini-lunch. It still maintains that air of masculinity and old school charm. Don Draper, I'll huddle in a booth with you and a dirty (martini) drink any January evening. 

Sarabeth's: Have breakfast or a warm cup of coffee overlooking Central Park, which is even more gorgeous when wrapped in a blanket of white. The brunch on weekends offers the ideal start to a day of ice skating in Central Park followed by some roaming, shopping, or just window-gazing down Fifth Avenue.

1 if by Land, 2 if By Sea: Complete with two crackling fireplaces, garden views, and a mood-setting pianist, it's no wonder that the West Village's 18th century landmark One if by Land, Two if by Sea (*Try to say that twice in a row!) is consistently ranked one of New York City's most romantic and stunning dining experiences. The proof is in the brulee: this landmark even boasts 24 marriage proposals a week. This intimate historic carriage house once belonged to third Vice President Aaron Burr, who also infamously shot and killed longtime political rival Alexander Hamilton in a dual. Their prix-fixe menu offers the very best combination of seasonal highlights. So, cozy up next to the fire, enjoy the atmosphere, your company and a good amount of wine in this hibernation-worthy restaurant. With the freezing temperatures outside, you may not want to leave your banquette. The rumored ghosts of this place just may not let you either. Bunker down!

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BG Cafe:  Bergdorf Goodman's as a whole is clearly a favorite place of mine throughout the entire year, but it's particularly special during the cooler months after some holiday window gazing and shopping (if you're lucky).  Try to snag a table that includes a window view of the famous statue and the 59th entrance of Central Park. If that doesn't scream "holidays in New York City," I don't know what will. You'll feel extra fancy, which you deserve. Treat your...no, yo-self. Order the afternoon high-tea, which is served with an array of teas and too-many-tired display of scones and adorable finger sandwiches. Champagne is optional--I'd opt for it, though, duh! Or, step in for lunch, which can be expectedly pricey but delicious, from lobster cobb salads to croque monsieurs and melt-in-your-mouth Chilean seabass. The people-watching is included, and it is the best, unscripted show you'll see in New York. This is the 1% of the 1%. Eavesdrop, notice jewelry and bags, whatever your cup of tea might be...it's Disney World for grown-ups. Truly, BG Cafe is a feast for alllllll of your senses.

Serendipity 3:  Home of the original, decadent frozen hot chocolate, it's adorably shabby-chic interior and iconic drink can be seen in dozens of films, television specials, and enjoyed equally by us common folks and celebrities, side by side. It can become crazily packed by tourists through the winter months, so stop in at an off-time or simply make a reservation. Frozen "hot chocolate" when it's snowing outside? Yes. Don't question it. Indulge away.

Miracle on Ninth: Everything seems to be popping these days. Popping up, that is. Until January, this albeit kitschy but lovable East Village cocktail bar is outfitted head-to-toe in decor...and, not just Christmas attire. Presents stick to the ceiling, and bartenders don Santa hats. Every libation is unique with a name to match--think "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel," accompanied by a dreidel inside and the "Bad Santa," served in an eighties-style Santa Mug. Watch out, though. It is packed, which is to be expected, so you'll perhaps be waiting outside in line in a "one in, one out" clublike fashion. Who doesn't like some holiday cheer while they're downing alcohol? Bing Crosby blares on the speakers, and people genuinely seem to be having a jolly good time, despite the close proximity to dozens of other half-drunken patrons. Check their Facebook or website for extended hours or maybe, just maybe, seasonal updates. Valentine's Day or springtime-themed bar, anyone? I'll take the latter.

Do and See:

Bryant Park--Market, Skating, and Dining: We all know how crazy I am about Bryant Park. It's my go-to park in New York City. From summer evening films on the lawn to yoga on the terrace. During the winter, this park undergoes its holiday makeover, and I highly recommend it over Rockefeller Center, which is a ZOO and a teeny bit overrated, despite its fame. Here, in BP, there's also a gigantic tree, an ice skating rink, holiday shops and a pop-up rinkside ice-themed restaurant called Celsius. Snag an outdoor seat  --don't worry! They have plenty of powerful heaters--and a hot drink to warm up after skating or a light bite and cocktail for some liquid courage before hitting the ice. I'm the absolute worst ice skater in the world, so I'm typically tired and ready to quit after a few rounds. My work is done. I'd prefer to move on to something else that's equally aerobic...perusing the surrounding shops. Blanketed by unique food, beverage, clothing, jewelry, art, and knick-knack vendors, you'll have no problem staying warm and well-fed while shopping for everyone on your list. There's plenty to play with, gaze at, and sample. These tiny store fronts that encircle the skating rink offer a wide range of specialties. I personally love to purchase a few personalized "New York" ornaments from the same store every year. They make perfect gifts for the New York lover, wherever he or she might live. Who doesn't love this city?

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Macy's: While I don't particularly enjoy shopping at this insane yet world-famous location, especially at any point around the holidays, it definitely is the epicenter of holiday shopping elation and ignites all of those nostalgic feelings we carry deep inside. Just don't stay for too long. Take a loop around the downstairs, snap a few photos, note the window, and try to escape before you have an anxiety attack and/or intense claustrophobia.

Bergdorf Goodman's and Barney's--Stroll Down Fifth Avenue: The windows. The windows. The windows. They will have you drooling over not only the high-fashion but their intricate displays that take up to a year to design and execute. They're pretty unbelievable, and each year, original and fresh themes emerge.

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The Plaza: Oh, the Plazaaaaaaa. We fancy. The Plaza turns every adult into Eloise. I'm obsessed with this New York icon. Maybe it was Home Alone 2 that did it to me. I did own the Talk Girl. Do you remember those?! I don't know what it is, but I do know that it's a very special place. Magical, almost. Expensive, yes. But, special, nonetheless. The holiday decorations are in full effect. If you don't feel like shelling out the money for a full lunch or high tea in their parlor, then grab a comfortable chair in the lobby, soak up the ambiance and look out over Fifth Ave. Order a warm beverage and relax or a glass of champagne, accompanied by a 3-tier tray of delicious bar snacks. We can all pretend, right? Just one wouldn't hurt.

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 Brooklyn's Dyker Heights Lights: This Italian-American neighborhood features not only some of the most lavish homes, but their holiday spirit is also unmatched. Residents spend up to $20,00 on decorations for the season. The festive lights, props, motorized figurines, inflatable snowmen, toy soldiers, Santas, and sheer amount of lights, lights, lights blows my feeble Christmas-loving mind. Like, whoa. Television specials and documentaries have covered the  lights of Dyker Heights and surrounding Bay Ridge streets, but it's even more magical in person. Take a guided bus tour from A Slice of Brooklyn (perfect for the family or just dorky adults....cough, cough), or simply walk through or drive by the displays on your own time before settling down for some authentic chicken parm at one of the neighborhood's Italian restaurants. Read more HERE and check for updates via Dyker Heights Facebook.

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Via NycGo

 Nutcracker Rouge: What an incredible acrobatic interpretation of the classic Nutcracker. Note: this is not for children or for anyone under 21. While burlesque and at times, extremely tongue-in-cheek, this performance remains far from crude with its wit and raw talent. The dancing, the singing and the skill of each performer, in addition to the skin on display, takes center stage. Be prepared. I've attended for two years now, and I wouldn't miss this adaptation. If you prefer your Sugar Plum Fairies wearing nipple tassels, you've found the right show.

A Christmas Carol: Every year since 1843, stage adaptations of this Dickens classic have run in theaters of all sizes and styles throughout the country. In New York City, we have numerous options to choose from--campy, musical, traditional, family-friendly, adult-themed, independent, or major. There's A Christmas Carol for everyone. I like the intimate somewhat quirky musical production at The Player's Theater in Greenwich Village, and additionally, it's wallet-friendly. It seems ironic that so many of the Christmas Carol adaptations can be financially draining, particularly when buying tickets for a group of friends and family. Defeats the whole message, right? Check it out HERE (it runs until December 30th). If you or someone you know loves a good dish of ghostly history, which is too perfect for the story of A Christmas Carol, then catch the one-man interpretation of this classic at The Merchant's House Museum. Witty and with an emphasis on pure storytelling, the 1800s decor of the landmark's parlor provides a captivating and Scrooge-worthy backdrop. Read about the MHM production HERE. 
              **If you're even more interested in the original tale by Charles Dickens, The Morgan Museum and Library displays the original manuscript in Pierpoint Morgan's historic library. "Dickens wrote his iconic tale in a six-week flurry of activity, beginning in October 1843 and ending in time for Christmas publication. He had the manuscript bound in red morocco as a gift for his solicitor, Thomas Mitton. The manuscript then passed through several owners before Pierpont Morgan acquired it in the 1890s." 

Holiday Train Show at New York Botanical Gardens/Arthur Avenue: I wrote about this holiday tradition last year after my first visit (HERE), and again, it truly is an incredible sight. Ridiculously talented artists have recreated landmarks, icons, and historical buildings all with the use of sticks, berries, bark, and every other natural element. The skill and attention to meticulous detail is mind-blowing...think the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, and Yankee stadium all consisting of tree and plant-based materials? Trains zip around the lengthy display. Take photos and enjoy. Oh, and Arthur Avenue, the "REAL Little Italy" of New York, is just a quick ten-minute walk away, so grab some dinner or shop in the Italian specialty shops for unique food items and imported Italian products for those especially difficult people to buy for...like, maybe just a pound of truffle cheese from the famous Teitel Brothers like I may or may not have chosen to do last year. I ate it all. No regrets. Or, "NO RAGRETS, know what I'm sayin'?"

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What are you and your family's favorites?

Feel free to comment or email me with any comments, concerns, or questions if you find yourself in New York City or are planning a trip. I know how overwhelming it can be. I'm clearly more than happy to share or swap conversation. 

Happy holidays. 
Stay warm.
Eat well.
Be kind.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Bling in Hand: Holiday Clutch Guide

OK, I love something shiny. Anything shiny. My eyes grow, and my gaze is transfixed on said object. Sparkle Sparkle. Eyes twinkle right back. Maybe it's just the ADD. Fine, probably.

So, this is MY season. These shiny, glittery, glowing objects are in full bloom and everywhere. Everything, everywhere is frosted, am I right? You can't escape it. It's magical. Or, obnoxious, depending on your view of this time of year. I tend to agree with Andy Williams that it's "the most wonderful time of the year." But, I know plenty of others who side with the Grinch. That's OK. Can't we all just harmonize on  the "eat, drink" even if without the "be merry," at least?
Cocktail? Hot chocolate? Sugar cookies?

Accessories during winter are bling-ed out, no doubt. I'll stop rhyming now (try), but shoes, bags, and jewelry are getting the icy treatment, usually reflecting the outdoor situation.

Cocktail parties, family dinners, and even office celebrations call for some seasonal acknowledgment, fashionably speaking. Since I'm not planning on decking the halls...or my arms... in diamonds--Come on, we all know I haven't been that good this year--For me, nothing brings the frost like a "wow" clutch. Pair with a chic jumpsuit, a party dress, or even jeans and booties.

I've rounded up some--well, just twenty--of my favorite sparkling handbags from shockingly affordable price points to more couture tastes. We have Marchesa to Kate Spade to Dorothy Perkins, so find your perfect match at the right price that fits your holiday budget.
Splurge OR steal.
Or, do BOTH. I like that idea A LOT.

Do you, boo. 
Do you. 
'Cause I'm already doing me. 

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 What's your favorite? I know it's difficult. I'll make it easier-- top five?

Shine on. 

Oh, and shop below. 


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Monday, December 1, 2014

Cold Weather Wishlist.

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    Pointing above, how amazing is this sign?

    I stumbled upon it, leaving a friend's apartment on Thanksgiving and really dwelled upon its message. People are so quick to jump on the "thankful" bandwagon, which is all-around beneficial, even if it takes one designated "holiday" to remind us. But, I suppose that we should all try just a smidgen harder to consciously acknowledge the positive in life more often. That's the point. Well, Thanksgiving came and went...far too quickly, I might add. Just like it always does. It seriously sprinted from October, right? I spent my holiday in the city here with friends. Sadly, I wasn't able to get away, especially in lieu of my month-long vacation. But, it's rare that I do travel for Thanksgiving anymore. Ugh! Jobs? Responsibilities. #AnnoyingAdultProblems. Friendsgiving, it is! This year, once again, I prepared a brussel sprouts recipe and a mashed cauliflower dish (I substituted some lowfat cream cheese and a splash of almond milk), a healthy (ier) alternative to mashed potatoes, which are a favorite of mine. I could eat the whole pot. Swapping potatoes for cauliflower, though, relieves me of some of my usual guilt. And, most importantly, the recipe is delicious. Tell me I'm wrong, I dare you.

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    With that said, since having returned to New York City, I've realized that there are plenty of items that I not only waaaaaaant for winter but seem to need. Seriously. Neeeeeeeed. With emphasis. In the span of a week and a half, I've made a list of the things that are not on my "holiday wishlist," but instead, are necessary for survival. OK, not all of them are necessary (Rhinestone clutch, is that you?), but for the most part, the list is very tame. I tried.

    They're all practical, functional and affordable. Let's just say that I'm on my way to collecting these, considering I'll either be battling the whipping, icy winds that assault my face while trotting through the city, or I'll be hibernating indoors. Home. I'll be enjoying (hopefully!)-- God, are you listening to this desperate plea?--an exorbitant, delicious amount of time at home.

Winter colors are in full force. I suppose I'm feeling the season. Greys, silvers, and snowy whites, oh my! 

Hey, when in winter...

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Frozen Fingertips Nail Polish: Essie, OPI, Formula X // Boots: Sorel Winter "Carnival" // Hat: Chicnova leopard beret // Travel Mug: Kate Spade "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" thermos // Crockpot and slow cooker // Cookbook: Martha Stewart "One Pot" // Cozy writing spot: Home Depot armchair // Sparkly clutches: (top) Anya Hindmarch glitter clutch,  (bottom) Lulu Townsend rhinestone clutch // Flask: Mark and Graham "Celebrate" in pewter // Dry Skincare: Clinique Moisture Surge cream, Clinique Moisture Surge overnight mask // Floor Runner: Safavieh Chatham Collection 

Icy, frozen fingertips to match the outside temperatures. "Frost yourself!"-How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days// Winter boots for the snow, sleet or rain are practically a can't-live-without, especially here in the northern states. These Sorels provide comfort and cozy safehavens for those feet and do it with style. I like that they hit mid-calf rather than knee-high// Need to keep the ears warm? Check! Leopard print? Always! Really, a beret? Yes, tres chic in this cozy cony hair style!// Crockpots are where it's at these days...throw the ingredients in and go. Can I get an Amen?! And, this Martha Stewart cookbook features all recipes that require just that one pot. Who knew you could get so creative with one major appliance? Warm, hearty meals that keep you from running back out to the grocery store after a long, exhausting day sound ideal for hibernation. No leaving the abode tonight for canned soup.// Why the chair, you might ask? I decided that I'd like to spend more time, writing and reading (and watching holiday movies!) next to my bed. I currently own a nice, worn-in country kitchen-esque chair that I do love, but I think it's finally time to upgrade, upgrade. I'd love an affordable fabric armchair to curl up in or to work from, but as always, space is an issue. This particular Home Depot chair doesn't take up unnecessary room while still inviting me to enjoy a cup of hot cider, window-side, on a snowy December evening.// Add some bling to the sea of grey with a sparkly clutch. I'm easily distracted. Give me something shiny any day to gain my attention. These two pack the power.//  Like the intoxicated Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street said, "A man's gotta do something to keep warm!" Snag this festive "celebrate" flask (when is there not something to "celebrate?") or personalize it to something of your liking on the site.// Ahhhh, skincare. In winter, while we're being whipped by the wind, chapped, and snowed on, we take a beating, facially speaking. Faces crave moisture and not just the sleet that's pouring down. Give yourself a tall glass of water with Clinique's heavy duty Moisture Surge skincare system. That overnight repair mask will change your daytime game face.// Finally, this Safavieh floor runner would change not only the look of my entire kitchen and entryway but the literal feel of it as well. Again, like my chair, my runner is plain tired and worn out. Due to foot traffic and my two adorably annoying fur children, it's time to replace. I want something simple and modern but a rug that can withstand cold hardwood floors and even colder toes on the way to the bathroom during those winter mornings. Grey and white reppin' hard in this house.

With these in tow, watch your back, winter. 
I'll be ready for whatever December throws. 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

That's a Wrap.

...And, we're back.


    Back in the...OK, you get it. I won't sing that song, but it's always so damn catchy, and I find myself humming it whenever my plane lands on the runway here in THE Apple, and I emerge from the gate. Bags in hand. Dog wiggling in her bag, desperate to be set free from its confines. Groggy from my nap. Checking my phone. Wondering if I rounded up all of my stuff. Yes, that's the routine. And, then....humming. Like a gigantic dork. Every time.
OK, so...

Let's wrap up the past month
Wrap up in style afterward, cool?

   I've been gone from New York for exactly one month. My southern accent might have even emerged...a teeny bit. Thanks, Mom. I can hardly process that time, though--one month. This month has felt like both ten years and ten hours. However that happens. Like I mentioned (here), traveling and withdrawing from the madness and subsequent stress and debilitating anxiety has proven to be just the remedy that my mind, body, and soul craved. I'll emphasize my friend Heather's term once again--Renaissance. An extremely gritty and often uncomfortable personal Renaissance. And, you know what? That's OK. It's been hovering over me for the past year, and I've finally found the courage to make some changes in my life. I have always considered myself moderately brave. A survivor. Someone who can acknowledge their feelings and shortcomings. But, it can prove difficult to ultimately be your own catalyst for change. Daily change. Leaving New York to spend time with family has been a goal of mine for years. I've just never closed the deal, afraid almost, of departing this city's chaos. It's ingrained in our lifestyles. It has to be-survival of the fittest. Or the hardest-working. Or, the luckiest. Your choice.


   My time was divided between Rosemary Beach, Florida (be jealous of my sandy feet and kaftan-wearing self) and Memphis, Tennessee, where my parents reside. I spent my mornings walking and strengthening my knee (an injury I've been struggling with for four months). Lots of coffee was involved and typically outdoors. In Florida, I dug my toes in the sand (like you're supposed to), book in hand, surrounded by family with entertainment provided by my almost-two-year-old nephew. My oldest sister is seven months pregnant with her first child, so...there's that. She was actually quite pleasant, despite my initial uncertainty (love you, sis! I was kidding...kind of). We cooked together, strolled through local shops, ate delicious seafood at our favorite spots, and mom baked cookies in the evenings. It was magical--by the way, can I go back now?

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     In Memphis, I watched an obscene (obscene! I'm ninety years old, apparently) amount of Hallmark holiday movies with my mom (Sidenote: I constantly made fun of my mom's affinity for these over-the-top cheesy films--can we even call them "films?"--Now, I'm the one spearheading the campaign. Funny how that happens with age, eh?). I attended my cousin's "camp-themed" fourth birthday party, had the opportunity to finally participate in one of my oldest sister's baby showers (first pregnancy, mind you...like eight showers from Nashville, to North Carolina, to Memphis), reconnected with childhood friends (and their little ones!), inhaled the breathtaking transition of the Tennessee seasons (See below-I'm in awe of its beauty). Lastly, I even roadtripped with my mom and aunt to East Tennessee to check on close older relatives, who are struggling. Although my family lives all around the country, I have no words for how incredibly priceless it felt to be able to be present with so many different members during so many incredibly important events. In person. In damn person. Not via phone. Not via video or text or email or Facebook. I was there, face-to-face, interacting. Birthday parties, reunions, baby showers, new baby announcements, illnesses, moments of joyous celebration, and moments of infinite sadness. I'm tearing up all over again with gratitude for the time I did have, despite wishing for more of it.

I was there. In the flesh. That trumps all, despite what the world tells us
Enveloped by acceptance, encouragement, and genuine love. Bottom line. A month of that combination performs even the most difficult of heart surgeries, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Oh, and how could I possibly forget? I ATE AT CRACKER BARREL...TWICE. That, friends, is medicine in itself. Sign me up for a dose of biscuits and gravy any day.  

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    The temperatures dropped to the thirties at the end of my stay to all of Memphis's surprise, but even that didn't prepare me for the bite of the cold here in New York City. Like, bug-eyed, shimmying and shaking protocol when your asshole friend used to put ice cubes down the back of your shirt in fifth grade. That's me. That's been my life since my return. Point: I'm constantly chilled.

    Firstly, I own a ton of coats. I love them. We're stating the obvious here. From leather motos to vintage seventies faux fur to a classic double breasted wool. But, two years ago, I purchased the most fabulous wrap coat with an oversized collar, which doubles as a hood. It's on trend yet still ladylike....oh, and most importantly, warm. Most outerwear serves a fashion-related purpose with mildly-warm properties. My chic AND very warm coat is a bit worn out, and I've been toying with the idea of replacing it. While shopping in Florida with my mom and sisters, I stumbled upon  the most fabulous T Tahari leopard wrap coat that I fell in love with immediately at Saks Off 5th. Of all places, Florida? Restraining myself, I decided to mull over the purchase overnight. Unshockingly, I never made the 30-minute drive back to the outlet. In what can only be described as a winter miracle, it came across my laptop screen just yesterday. Oh, and in an array of colors! And reduced price! Win. This style + additional colors (wine and mink-hued) are offered on other sites (discounted), but the VERY LOWEST PRICE was found at Saks Off 5th again. 

On the Saks Off 5th site, the coats are listed at $279.99 (marked down from $400).
But, even better news: 
Enter code: GOBBLE for an additional 50% off (YES, I just wrote 50%!)
Enter Code: FREESHIP for--you guessed it--free shipping

That's $140 even for a feminine, classic coat. I like a good deal, but I lurrrrrv it when it should or could have been a splurge. 

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Shop more T Tahari:

Yeah, girl, yeah.
Get that coat.

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