Carmen: Karina Dress Review

July 27th, 2011 § 6 comments §

L.'s Karina Dress Review


  • Dress: c/o Karina
  • Shoes: Tahari via DSW

Like A., I was asked to review one of the dresses generously offered to us by the Brooklyn based designer Karina Cousineau from her eponymous dress line, Karina. I jumped at the chance after looking through their selection of high quality, easy-to-maintain, and totally flattering dresses for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Something that I thought was really cool about this company is that these dresses fit such a variety of women AND they make small issues of each style in each color or print so that you really feel like you have a unique piece.

L.'s Karina Dress Review - closeup

Once we said we’d like to review something, we each answered the following questions and they chose the dress for us:

    1. What is your body type? — Petite (5’3″), curvy (??)
    2. What are your preferred dress styles? — Carmen, Megan, or Audrey
    3. What are your general preferences for color and/or pattern? — Blues, greens, and purples are my favorite colors, and I prefer geometric patterns.

So from that info they decided to send me their Carmen dress in a plum color with a coral, black, cream, and white print. They do say not to get too attached to a certain color or print since they use limited fabrics and change often!

L.'s Karina Dress Review - neckline

What attracted me especially to the Carmen was the rounded neckline, cap sleeves, and high waistband, but what kept me twirling around for several minutes was the fantastically fluttery skirt that comes to a perfect knee length. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I felt very good in this dress – comfortable, stylish, a little sexy (I love the neckline!), and totally at ease because it’s not clingy or short (which is incredibly hard to find these days!). I seriously wish I could get this in several colors, but like one commenter noted, I’ll have to save up since these are at the higher end of my price range.

L.'s Karina Dress Review - swish L.'s Karina Dress Review - swish

I second A. in her apprehension about the fabric at first, but the “imported microfiber blend with 4-way stretch” is very flattering and falls nicely. I wore a slip under my dress, but the fabric isn’t see-through, I just like slips. I’d say that this dress is a very good investment for the long-term, and I would definitely consider getting one of the other styles I liked as well, but probably in a solid color so that I could wear it more often. You can find Karina dresses online, on Facebook, and in boutiques around the country.

Happy twirling!

Category: Academichic Product Review, Dresses for Day

Karina Dresses

July 25th, 2011 § 10 comments §

Karina Dress Review


  • Dress – c/o Karina
  • Cami – Banana Republic
  • Shoes – Banana Republic
  • Hat – Banana Republic


One of the many things I will miss about blogging is getting to know some really great independent retailers including small online boutiques and etsy sellers like those featured in our Boutique Consortium.  If we weren’t closing up shop, Karina would certainly be a shop we would be interested in adding to our consortium.   Karina generously sent me this “Rita” dress to review. I love the color and can already image so many ways to wear it.  For its first outing, I paired it with heels and my straw hat for lunch with a friend.

Karina Dress Review

Before I tell you how I feel about this particular Karina dress, let me tell you a bit about the company.  Karina dresses are all made of heavy, stretchy microfiber that drapes beautifully, never wrinkles, and washes easily. Each dress is made in Brooklyn in a small batch - which means prints and colors come and go, so if you see one you like, don’t follow my usual shopping pattern!

My favorite part about Karina is their motto:

dresses for “every body” … celebrating women from 18 to 80 … easy wear, easy care … wear the love”

Karina is committed to making all woman look & feel  great, no matter what shape or size . They offer many different styles made for a variety of body types and lifestyles and many of the dresses are offered in sizes 0 through 20. I also love that they use women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to model their dresses!

Karina Dress Review

So, now about my dress – the “Rita.”  I can already tell this cap sleeved wrap dress is going to be very versatile.  I love the cut and the color and am quite happy with the fit. It’s a true wrap dress but has enough overlap to keep my legs covered.  The waist hits at the perfect place – often not the case for me with wrap dresses – and I think the tie could easily be tucked under a belt as a way of changing up the look.

I have to admit, I was surprised at first by the material, but am now a huge fan.  It really doesn’t wrinkle, making it perfect for traveling (both wearing on the plane and shoving in a bag) and super convenient if you just don’t have time to iron in the morning!  Also, the drape on it is much more flattering than jersey – I’m not even wearing spanx!  I also think the material could be dressed up more than jersey but can just as easily be worn with flats for an active day of errands.

If you want to know more about the dresses you can also check Karina out on Facebook!


Karina Dress Review

Category: Academichic Product Review, Dresses for Day, Dresses for Evening, Reaching New Heights
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Friday Study Break: Tom Bihn Tri-Star Giveaway!

July 8th, 2011 § 905 comments §

Earlier this week E. reviewed Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star carry-on bag. Now we’re giving YOU a chance to win your own little bag of organizational fantasticness, a Tri-Star in Tom Bihn’s newest color of U.S. 1050d ballistic nylon: Forest.


To enter to win this bag, “like” Tom Bihn on Facebook and leave us a comment here, telling us that you did so. For a second entry, browse through Tom Bihn’s website and leave us a separate comment here, telling us which product(s) — a bag or accessories — tickled your fancy. (E. is currently fascinated by the Freudian Slip.)

The contest is open until Midnight US Central Time on Sunday, August 10, 2011. We will randomly choose a winner to announce on Monday.

Good luck!

Category: Academichic Product Review

E. Travels: The Tom Bihn Tri-Star

July 5th, 2011 § 38 comments §

It’s been just about six years since my husband and I discovered Tom Bihn, a company making cleverly designed bags from US Ballistic nylon in Seattle, Washington. Since then, we’ve been devoted fans, especially of our carry-on Aeronaut bags.

But, as much as I love the maximal carry-on capacity of the Aeronaut, it’s a little bit too big for my two or three day conferences and research trips. So, I was thrilled when Tom Bihn offered to let me review their new(ish), slightly smaller carry-on bag, the Tri-Star. For short trips — particularly short trips when you need to hit the ground running off to a museum, archive, or auditorium — this bag is a great blend of briefcase and suitcase, small enough to fit easily in a locker but spacious enough to accomodate more than enough clothes and whatnot for a few days.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Take, for example, my recent research trip to New York City. I needed to go directly from the airport to a museum archive. This meant bringing my luggage with me on a bus, train, and a brief walk to a building with not-generously sized lockers. Besides clothes and toiletries, I also needed to bring my laptop, some reading material, note-taking material, and folders to house my piles (we hope!) of research findings.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

(Did I mention that these bags come in fun color combinations? I have grellow luggage! At last!)

The Tri-Star is basically made of three compartments that can be further sub-divided as necessary. The center compartment is the perfect size for my laptop and other nerdy supplies. Plus, there’s still a little bit of room for a snack in there, too.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The back compartment has nifty hold-down straps for clothing. I folded and strapped down a pair of knit pants, a cotton button-down, a thin tunic, two skirts, a jersey dress, and a knit blazer. My big soft tote bag fit easily on top of all of that without straining the compartment zipper.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front compartment is the one that got my compartmentalized packing self all excited. You could easily fit multiple configurations of packing cubes in there…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Or, you could choose to divide the compartment with the built-in zipper. Oh look, it’s the perfect place to stash shoes…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

My remaining clothes (underwear, pajamas, camisoles, a skirt slip, and three knit tops) and toiletries all fit easily into another packing cube. Speaking of, Tom Bihn pretty much makes a little zippered pouch for anything you can imagine: jewelry, toothbrush, a chapter of your dissertation…the usual.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front of the Tri-Star has three tiered zippered pockets of varying depths. It’s the perfect place to put things that you need to access easily, like your passport, boarding passes, pens, earbuds, printed directions, phone, etc.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

And then, you could use the additional zippered pocket to tuck a few more sundry items or…you could use the nifty little snapping contraption to create the perfect little pouch for your water bottle or travel mug.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

As with the Aeronaut, the Tri-Star has easy-to-grip handles and can also convert into a backpack. The very comfortable shoulder strap can be purchased separately as well. I find the backpack orientation to be the easiest way to travel with this bag when I’m boarding an aircraft or rushing to catch a bus or train. Once I’m at my destination, it’s easy to switch to a briefcase carry.

Are these the most aesthetically stylish bags on the market? No. But it’s incredibly well-made, sturdy, smart, and worth the initial output of cash. And I like that in a bag. Oh, and, for you international travelers, the Tri-Star meets carry-on requirements for Europe and Australia as well, since it’s smaller than the Aeronaut.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, partly because I really, truly love Tom Bihn bags and have been on a crusade to convert as many family members and friends to them as possible. But also…we’ll be offering a chance for you to WIN a Tri-Star in Tom Bihn’s newest color of custom U.S. 1050d ballistic nylon: Forest. The giveaway starts on Friday, so be sure to check back for an opportunity to snag your very own Tri-Star in Forest/Ultraviolet. Start dreaming about what perfect little trip you could take…

Category: Academichic Product Review, It's in the Bag, Research Casual, Taking Notes
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Interview with Meenoo of Minou Bazaar

June 8th, 2011 § 1 comment §

Have you checked out our Boutique Consortium page lately? It’s where we highlight all those wonderful boutiques and independent artisans we are proud to be working with. We love supporting small business owners and craftspeople and we thought we’d share some of our findings with you too. Today’s shop: Minou Bazaar, a lovely place for hand-made jewelry on Etsy.

We spoke with Meenoo and asked her a little bit about what drives her craft and how she finds her inspiration. And, of course, we also wanted to know what books are currently occupying her coffee table…

Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?

Because my jewelry has a specific focus on India and South Asia, that helps me narrow down the huge world of inspiration for me, so I can concentrate. I am inspired by color, pattern, history, books, stories, childhood, and travel. All of that inspiration translates to the magic of the bazaars in India and I want to bring that sense of magic to my customers and anyone who visits my shop.

What is your favorite piece in your collection right now and why?

This is a hard question! I love my Mughal and Goddess line, but lately I’ve been in love with the vintage Lucite jewels that I use in my Rani Pink Lace Earrings and Neelam Capri Blue Lace Earrings. I use these jewels in the Bollywood Siren Necklace also. I love the stained glass look of the jewels and its gorgeous saturated colors, which remind me of rows and rows of glass bangles that you see in Indian bazaars. It’s a great way to add a pop of color while wearing something vintage and glamorous. But I also have a soft spot for my elephant and peacock jewelry because, well, they’re elephants and peacocks!

Since we’re academics, we just have to ask: What are you currently reading?

When I am not at my day job or making jewelry, I am reading and I have always been a huge fan of the public library. I am reading The Crimson Rooms, by Katharine McMahon, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris, The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, and To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick. I am also an Early Reviewer for LibraryThing so I get a lot of free books to review!

Thanks, Meenoo, for taking the time to tell us a bit more about yourself and your creations. You can find all of Meenoo’s gorgeous hand-made jewelry at Minou Bazaar and you can also follow her (for discounts and special promotions) on her Facebook page.

Academichic readers also receive 10% by entering ACADEMICCHIC at checkout!

{all images are courtesy of Minou Bazaar}

Category: Academichic Product Review, Academichic Sponsor

A: To The Farmer’s Market

February 25th, 2011 § 4 comments §

/></a><br /> <br /><br /> <span style=A: To The Farmer’s Market, originally uploaded by academichic.
I think this last look was my second favorite outfit I styled at Banana Republic.  I loved the casual playful vibe of the whole look and could easily see every piece being used on a regular basis as part of my casual wardrobe.   I imagine this as the perfect outfit for those first visits of the season to the farmer’s market or taking the kids I watch to the zoo.
I loved the print, color, and the ruffles on this shirt but wasn’t crazy about the cut.  Many of the shirt at BR this season are empire waist/tunic tops which don’t work very well with my proportions.  So, I am now on the look out for a blue gingham shirt with a little something special (like a mock collar and ruffles).  I actually ended up purchasing the ruffled sweatshirt (I have quite the sweatshirt collection, which you all never really get to see) and the navy silver-studded flats and can’t wait to pull them out for my next trip to the zoo!
Which was your favorite of the four looks (pencil skirt and scarf, safari shirt dress, grey ruffle dress, or this one)?  Which look should I try to replicate in my own wardrobe?Will you be replicating any of them?
 /></a><br /> <br /><br /> <span style=A: To the Farmer’s Market, originally uploaded by academichic.

Category: Academichic Product Review, Color Combinations, Our Best Flatware, Pants Please, Proportionally, Research Casual, Weekend Wear
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25 February 2011 – Work With What You’ve Got

February 25th, 2011 § 17 comments §

Work With What You've Got


  • Cardigan: H&M, thrifted
  • Tunic: Tucker for Target
  • Belt: thrifted
  • Jeans: Old Navy
  • Wedges: Lauren by Ralph Lauren

End Notes:

I didn’t come up with this outfit on my own. I really should have. After all, both this tunic and cardigan were in my 30 for 30 capsule wardrobe. Thankfully, the one-that-got-away was reeled back in once I looked at my wardrobe with fresh eyes, having “shopped” for ideas elsewhere. (And yes, I just used a fishing metaphor. I’m not sure why since I have no real point of reference for that.)

For me, playing with Banana Republic’s spring line was like getting to play in someone else’s closet. Someone who gets to wear a lot of silk. In that closet, it was a no-brainer to top off this ruffled, red-orange print top with a structured military jacket while keeping things sleek and simple on the bottom with jeans and statement heels.

Ruffles In Command


What made the outfit for me was the combination of voluminous ruffles under military structure, and I immediately started thinking about how I could translate to the clothes already in my closet.

Now, let’s be honest. My own jeans, though cheaper, are doing my legs lots of favors. That’s why I own them. As for the top, I knew I didn’t own something with such peplum-like ruffles at the bottom. But, I wondered if I could tweak this Tucker for Target tunic to mimic the effect. A hidden belt and some strategic blousing let me adjust the length of the tunic to the optimal hip-mitigating length. I think the trick here was making sure that the “blousing line” of the tunic was noticeably higher than the bottom edge of the cardigan, creating a play with proportions rather than a heavy horizontal line. And that’s the best thing about re-interpreting outside inspiration for the garments you already own! You already know that your pieces fit and flatter you or you know how to use them to their best advantage. I love it when an outfit comes together as a mix of new inspiration and old favorites.

Work With What You've Got DSC_9848

Thanks for indulging our dress-up this week. It was a treat to take a little bit of a week off from daily photos and to show you some of our inspiration for the coming season.

Category: Academichic Product Review, Color Combinations, Pants Please, Proportionally, Reaching New Heights, Research Casual
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L: Day to Night

February 24th, 2011 § 4 comments §

Flower Belt Take Two, originally uploaded by academichic.

The final two looks I prepared from the BR spring line fall neatly into the categories of “Teaching Outfit” and “Night without Grading” meaning, one of these I’d wear in my classroom and the other I’d wear when meeting my friends S., E., and A. out for drinks! The first look incorporates my two (new) favorite items: the stretchy flower belt and these little olive suede studded flats (neither of which is available online but this belt and these flats are similar, and these flats have the same flower as the belt on them, are equally adorable, and come in more colors in the store). The cropped jacket with a small ruffle and wider leg trousers dressed things up and the “Market Tote” was buttery soft and definitely could hold a day’s worth of books. I had first tried out the belting over a jacket look last week with a wide woven belt and blue blazer and I’m definitely a convert. I’d seen A., E., and S. do this before, but hadn’t tried it out myself until now.

Dinner Out?, originally uploaded by academichic.

This look, however, was fun, sleek, and definitely going-out-worthy. Had I not just recently stumbled into a few pairs of skinny jeans that I really like, I would have snapped these dark wash skinnies right up. The slight sparkle of the sweater (jacket?) and the skinny spike of these platform heels seemed evening appropriate and the soft silk edge of the tank and the cardigan played nicely off this bling-tastic necklace.

Sparkly!, originally uploaded by academichic.

So that’s it for my spring time inspirations from BR. A big thanks to the great sales people who allowed me to take photos in their store and helped me out! I know there has been some fruitful debate going on about this week of academichic playing dress-up with the BR spring line, and I hope that our readers have enjoyed seeing how we took new styles and brought our own aesthetic to some spring trends. Now we can rifle through our own closets with fresh eyes!

Category: Academichic Product Review, It's in the Bag, Night Without Grading, Our Best Flatware, Pants Please, Reaching New Heights, Teaching Outfits
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A: Dressing Down the Ruffle Dress

February 24th, 2011 § 2 comments §

 /></a><br /> <span style=A: Dressing Down the Ruffle Dress, originally uploaded by academichic.

I often draw inspiration from the outfits styled for clothing catalogs and retailer websites, so since I knew I wouldn’t be able to purchased all the fun items I tried on at Banana Republic, I decided I would use the experience to come up with inspiration for my existing wardrobe.  My first instinct with this ponte grey ruffle dress was to pair it with a pair of shinny heels, sparkly jewelry, and other evening accessories.  But, this cognac braided leather belt happened to be in the dressing room with me so I threw it on.  I liked the unexpected addition of the casual belt so ran with it.  I added orange and wood wedge sandals, gold hoop earrings, and this brown and black snake-print clutch.

Ruffles and Woven Brown Belt, originally uploaded by academichic.

I didn’t purchase any of these items (although I was really tempted by the dress, which is what I would put a $50 gift card towards).  Instead, I took home inspiration for a similar ensemble using pieces in my own wardrobe.  I love the navy ruffle dress I wore for S.’s wedding, but have been looking for ways to keep wearing it.  Thanks to this little experiment, I’m now planning to wear the dress with my cognac belt, brown wedges, and my woven straw clutch, for a more casual spring dinner date. Now, if only the weather would warm back up!

/></a></p> <p><span style=A: Dressing Down the Ruffle Dress, originally uploaded by academichic.

Category: Academichic Product Review, Color Combinations, Dresses for Evening, Reaching New Heights, Weekend Wear
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E: An Improbable Safari

February 23rd, 2011 § 41 comments §

Unsuitable Safari Wear

A few of you have expressed interest in an exploration of what Banana Republic’s name references. Ask, and you shall receive a nerdy exposition with a bibliography. If you didn’t ask, just skip down to the bottom.

Although the phrase “banana republic” may, for many of us, call to mind the retail brand, the term actually has a very different historical usage. Merriam-Webster defines a “banana republic” as “a small dependent country usually of the tropics; especially one run despotically,” with the term dating back to 1904. The name references dictatorships that supported the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture (historically bananas) for economic gain.

So how in the world did a clothing retailer end up with that as a name? The Banana Republic clothing line was founded in 1978 by Mel and Patricia Ziegler as a safari and travel-themed company. (Interestingly, they were also co-founders of The Republic of Tea. They seem to have a thing for naming companies in relationship to fictional colonial encounters.) Mel Ziegler says that they named the company as “part of a whimsy of creating an imaginary republic where I was Minister of Propaganda and Finance and Patricia was Minister of Culture.” The Gap bought Banana Republic in 1983 and subsequently began shifting the brand away from its original travel theme (the Travel and Safari catalogues were discontinued in 1988) and towards being a mainstream luxury brand, though certain tropes of travel and discovery continue to appear — whenever relevant to broader fashion trends — in the company’s clothing and marketing. (For example, despite all of the giraffe print and safari dresses and cargo pants that have been in stores the past few seasons, I distinctly remember a 2004ish marketing campaign with balloons, croquet, and pink and white pleated skirts.)

What I find most interesting is not a debate over what the name does or does not mean for Banana Republic as the brand currently defines itself, but instead what its rise — and recurring motif of travel — says about some broader cultural moves in the United States. In a much bigger essay on the relationship between American Studies and Postcolonial studies, Brian Edwards momentarily digresses, suggesting that there was an “efflorescence of colonial nostalgia within U.S. popular culture during the 1990s” (73). He cites a range of examples: the films The English Patient and The Sheltering Sky, the J. Peterman clothing catalogue (that like the old BR catalogue would sprinkle colonialist anecdotes throughout), the “faux colonialist” feel of furniture stores like The Bombay Company, the growing popularity of Banana Republic and Anthropologie, and the 1990 Ralph Lauren “Safari” perfume campaign, which featured well-appointed models lounging in exotic locations in Africa and the Middle East. Drawing from a framework of national narratives offered by Donald Pease, Edwards argues that the success of such businesses and marketing campaigns can be understood as a “nostalgia for a colonial encounter the U.S. never had” and, in the wake of the Cold War and the accompanying economic and political shifts, “a process that helped establish the U.S. state and its major corporate apparati as global managers, accomplished by producing…sensual fictions of the older (colonial) order” (73). I would love to hear what some American Culture Studies folks think about that.

On a more pedestrian level — and having not brushed up on my travel theory — I think that the notion of exotic travel and exploration has an appeal that’s also intertwined with certain class and gender norms. Admittedly, in a marketing sense, places like Anthropologie and Banana Republic are smart to capitalize (hee! Marxist joke!) on this desire.

So, much like the travel narrative used to sell it, this silk skirt with its front patch pockets, even in its deceptively sturdy olive green color, is a total fantasy. This skirt will not withstand either a safari on the African plains or a day with my toddler. For a day of playing dress-up and gathering inspiration for spring dressing, however, it was perfect. It took a while to get the right mix, but I loved the end result that mixed a variety of textures — silk, cashmere, and leather — in a subdued color palette. Oh, Banana Republic, if I won $50 to spend, I would be tempted to buy this confection of a skirt, but let’s be frank. I would end up with one of your staples, like your glorious classic trench or pleated sheath dress.

Cardigan and Lace Detail

E: Improbable Safari

Want more to read on colonial nostalgia and clothing retail? You could also check out:

D’Urso, Gabriella. “Urban Outfitters to Anthropologie: From Hipster Grunge to Hippie Chic.” Journal of Culture and Retail Image 2 (2009): 1-8, accessed February 22, 2011.’urso%20final.pdf

Edwards, Brian T. “Preposterous Encounters: Interrupting American Studies with the (Post)Colonial, or Casablanca in the American Century.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 23 no. 1 (2003): 70-86.

Kaplan, Caren. “‘A World without Boundaries:’ The Body Shop’s Trans/National Geographics.” Social Text 43 (Autumn 1995): 45-66.

Smith, Paul. “Visiting the Banana Republic.” Social Text 21 (1989): 128-148.

Smith considers Banana Republic’s pre-Gap travel-themed catalogues: hand-illustrated, eclectic items accompanied by fictional backstories that seem to be from colonial narratives but in fact have no historical or cultural specificity. Smith argues that this catalogue as a kind of evacuation of history from purposeful representation, and he uses the catalogue’s text and image relationship to launch a critique of late capitalist “inflated truths.”

Category: Academichic Product Review, Reaching New Heights, Research Casual, Resources, Theoretical
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