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The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in January

Photo: Courtesy of Retailers

If you follow our biweekly feature Your Shopping Cart, you know that we have some eerily good intel on what you all are buying. Which led us to think that, as Strategist editors, we could turn the tables and highlight all the things we’ve been buying for ourselves. As you’ll notice, it’s both a blessing and a curse to be a Strategist editor; we’re picky, but sometimes we just have to get on with it. (It’s online-shopping expertise meets IRL needs.) Below, what we all bought in January.

Chloe Anello, junior writer

I weave as a hobby, but I have only a small hand loom, and there’s only so many tiny square pillows, random patterns, and weird little wall hangings I can make. So I decided to try embroidery and bought a couple of inexpensive tools to get me started. So far, I’m loving it, and Hoop Dreams has helped me quickly get the hang of things. The author describes each stitch, step-by-step, in simple terms, so I didn’t feel like I needed to have a sewing background to get it. Plus, the patterns she provides are fairly modern-looking.

I also stumbled upon and bought this book, which has a similar vibe as Hoop Dreams, but with a few additional techniques and pattern ideas. When I start a hobby, I more or less go all in.

Somehow, Alex Mill created my dream jeans — dark wash, straight-legged, tall inseam, and preferably under $200 — for much less than I was willing to spend. (I even found them on sale at Net-a-Porter, which made it that much better.) These feel and look like trousers, so they’re a touch more put together than my other pairs of denim, yet they’re still so comfortable. The stitching also makes them look more expensive than they are. If they came in other washes, I would totally buy every color.

Maxine Builder, managing editor

I was walking through Union Square, biding my time before yoga, when I saw that Ricky’s was having a sale. I stopped in and I spotted the mother lode: a whole stack of full-size Mason Pearson hairbrushes for just $100 each, an unthinkably low price for such a statusy hairbrush. I never would’ve forgiven myself if I hadn’t bought one, and though I don’t know if my hair looks shinier or healthier or anything, I feel a heck of a lot fancier when I use it.

We moved offices right before the holidays, and though I love a fresh start, the whole space felt a little sterile and not quite lived in, especially because the desks and walls are all white. I bought this Yamazaki coat rack on-sale — both for decor reasons and as a functional place to hang my coat — and I think it’s really tied my little nook together. (I know that Tony appreciates being able to use it.)

I love this snow bib, and I’m now on the hunt for more snowy activities to do just so I have more excuses to wear it. I wore it while snow-shoeing in the Berkshires over the long weekend. I’m going to be wearing them when I go skiing in Utah in March. But more recommendations (and snow!) would be welcome.

Karen Iorio Adelson, senior writer

I already have a few pairs of these running tights (that I also wear to barre and other workout classes). They’re thin and stretchy, so they really feel like you’re not wearing anything, and they have tons of pockets (on the waistband and both sides of the legs) for my phone, keys, energy gels, or anything else I might need. I’m always on the lookout for new colors or prints, and these galaxy-printed ones are fun and pair well with lots of solid color tops.

I’ve been considering getting a pair of Uggs to slip on with leggings or sweatpants for weekend errands for a while now, and I finally took the plunge when I noticed these were on sale. I’m so glad I did because they’re warm, comfortable, and even cozier than I imagined. They’re like the winter equivalent of flip-flops.

Dominique Pariso, writer

My winter look this year is less street ski and more “fourth-grader going sledding on a snow day,” so when I spied this pom-pom hat in one of our sales roundups, I added it to my cart right away. The cap isn’t particularly thick, but I wore it walking around frigid Montreal, and the flaps kept my ears warm.

While in Montreal, I also picked up this tote bag for five bucks. I was extremely charmed by the cobalt blue straps and the cheerful bagel on the front.

And I bought this book, which I haven’t read yet but am excited to. It’s about the legacy of Chile’s dictatorship told through the lens of three friends who go on a road trip in a borrowed hearse to track down a missing coffin.

I heeded to Maxine’s Mason Pearson PSA and quickly ran to Ricky’s to pick one up myself after work. The mini I currently own and love will be moved from the sink to my pocketbook, to make room for this full-sized beauty.

Casey Lewis, senior editor

I own way too many pairs of Levi’s Wedgies to justify introducing the Ribcage — known around these parts as the Goldilocks of jeans — into my denim repertoire. When I spotted them in a new (or new-to-me) faded-black wash earlier this month, I gave in. And I’m so glad I did. Unlike a relaxed boyfriend fit, the wider leg of the Ribcage somehow feels more business casual, and the ultrahigh 12-inch waist manages to be more comfortable than the 10.75-inch version, even when sitting in a desk chair all day.

I bought this Loeffler Randall Aylin look-alike months ago, after my beloved Vagabonds gave out on me. I love ’em so much that I just ordered a backup pair during J. Crew’s amazing final sale for just $56. The leather feels substantial, the sole is sturdy, and the heel is the perfect height – comfortable to walk in, but still a bit elevated. They’re slightly Western-y, but don’t feel so trendy that I won’t be able to wear them for seasons to come. Which is necessary, since I now have two pairs.

The lining in my grandmother’s (faux) fur coat has been slowly disintegrating around my body every time I wear it, which is a lot. I looked into replacing the lining, but it seemed complicated and expensive. Plus, I didn’t want to give up my coat at a time when I need it the most. So instead, when I came across a Uniqlo ultrathin down puffer in the exact same camel color, I bought it and sewed it right in. I’m by no means a seamstress, but I’m proficient enough with a needle and thread. It turned out surprisingly great — and warm, too.

Anthony Rotunno, senior editor

By far my most exciting purchase of the year is this tray, which stands about an inch tall and sits at the bottom of my kitchen sink. All it does is basically elevate the dirty dishes above the gunk that’s fallen from them, and give you a place to lay small things like a sponge or utensils to air dry. But somehow it also makes something as forgettable as my kitchen sink unforgettable. (I bought it because I could not stop thinking about the ones in the kitchen sink in our new office and in my sister-in-law’s newly remodeled kitchen.) It’s not one-size-fits-all, but there are ready-made options for seemingly most sizes of sink you’d find in pre-furnished spaces or rentals like mine. (To find the right size tray, I took a tape measurer to the bottom of my sink, then I took to Google.)

When my dad got one of these for Christmas (in “sage khaki”), for the first time in a long time, I was genuinely jealous. So I copied him and got one for myself (in black).

Technically not bought by me but my brother’s girlfriend, who gave me a red pair for our family’s (belated) holiday gift exchange earlier this month. The unisex slippers are as cozy and comfy as contributor Lauren Adams says, and I’ve worn them inside and out. They come in only four sizes: XS is women’s 6.5–8, men’s 5–6.5; S is women’s 8–9, men’s 6.5–7.5; M is women’s 9–11, men’s 7.5–9.5; L is women’s 11.5–13.5, men’s 10–12.

Peter Martin, senior editor

This is our daughter’s first winter as a toddler, so it was my first opportunity to buy her snow boots. Considering how quickly she’ll outgrow them — and the even more immediate threat that she would hate the idea of walking in snow and instead insist on staying inside to eat a third banana — we wanted to keep the price under $20. This meant skipping these adorable Merrells and even these duck boots and settling on a pair of knockoff Timberlands from a company called Benhero. Turns out, these booties are water-resistant and lined with soft fake fur that actually helps them slide on more easily. And she loves them. When we first tried them on her, she wouldn’t let us take them off until bedtime. They make her look tough, like she could walk through four inches of snow in her grandparents’ backyard, which she did a couple weeks ago — and also kind of like she could drive a forklift.

Alexis Swerdloff, Strategist editor

From $601

One of my favorite Instagram accounts is Laguna Vintage Books, which sells rare and/or out-of-print children’s books, most of which have been lost to time. My husband and I have bought multiple books from them — but you have to pounce. Recently, we weren’t fast enough and let a delightful-looking book from 1984 called Department Store slip away. Luckily, I was able to order a used copy on Amazon, and let me tell you, it’s a real treat. As Kirkus wrote when it came out, it’s “almost totally unimaginative — but reasonably true-to-life (e.g., the woman with a broken clock on line for Customer Service) and undeniably if drily informative.” But that’s its charm! I can’t wait to teach my son what a credit department is. Plus, the illustrations are wonderful.

I was in the market for a wireless bra with some amount of support but that was not a bralette, and after much deliberation and sniffing around the internet, I landed on this “How Perfect” bra from Wacoal with (at press time) 882 very positive reviews. I will say that it looks ever-so-slightly sexier than it does in the photo, but she’s not going to win any awards for her looks. The bra is extremely comfortable, gets the job done, and is totally unassuming as an everyday option.

Our new offices have pretty unforgiving superbright fluorescent lighting and so I have been on a real journey to create a nice lighting situation for my office without having to use the overheads. In addition to buying some rather standard-looking lamps from Ikea (this, this, and this), none of which, it turns out, really create enough light, I just bought a fourth lamp, which we featured in a sales post, that reminded me of the one Ellen Dusen has in her living room. Hopefully my office will feel less like a sultry underground speakeasy soon!

Rio Viera-Newton, writer

Like many others, I simply could not resist this astro Peanuts Baggu. It’s always in my purse and whenever I whip it out, it absolutely fills me with joy.

This is another purchase I made thanks to the Strategist! I had a potluck for my birthday this year and was very stressed about finding a jug for my homemade Pimms cup. This absolutely did the trick. And as we speak, I’m looking at some beautiful, pink deli roses I put in the jug yesterday.

For my potluck, I also bought this giant pasta dish. The size is great for having guests over (or even just a hearty meal for two), but what really gets me is the colors — they’re so lovely and vibrant.

Lauren Ro, writer

I’ve decided that 2020 is the year that I start getting serious about tackling my skin problems — namely general dullness and acne scarring from middle school. For my scars, I started microneedling treatments with my dermatologist (whom I trust with my life) after deliberating about doing it for years, since it’s expensive and requires at least three sessions spaced four to six weeks apart. For what I call my old, haggard skin, I started using Biologique Recherche’s P50 lotion again after having stopped it while I was pregnant. It’s not for everyone, but I honestly think that it really brightens up my skin and just makes me look cleaner, for lack of a better word. I’m so happy that it’s back in my life.

I bought this after the Cut’s beauty director Kathleen Hou made a very convincing case for it as a “face condom,” and as a dupe for the much more expensive (nearly six times more!) Skinceuticals vitamin C serum. (It’s also one of the best vitamin C serums out there, as recommended by our panelists of experts.) I still don’t know exactly what vitamin C is supposed to do, but I think I see a difference after just one week of use? Like, my face looks a little less tired and a little more moisturized or something. But who’s to say whether it’s this, the microneedling, P50, or a combination of all three. I also like that it feels and smells like nothing, which I couldn’t say about the other vitamin C serums I’ve tried in the past.

Or maybe it’s this. For a while I was using Glossier’s skin tint, then I switched to the much cheaper serum foundation from the Ordinary, and then I just stopped using any kind of tint at all on my face because I didn’t want to get used to feeling like I had to wear makeup all the time (and because I am profoundly lazy). But then a friend with flawless skin told me about this and I had to try it. I already wear SPF, so I figured the tint would be a bonus. Again, I’ve only used it for about a week or so, but I like it. The tint is really light and offers just enough coverage to make it look like I tried — but not like I tried too hard.

I bought these jeans during Moda Operandi’s huge holiday sale, but they sent the wrong size and then sold out of my size, so I was stuck. I liked them so much that I decided to pay full price for them from Opening Ceremony, which seems to be the only place that carries them now. They’re still a tad too big, but I love them, since they’re so easy to wear. I love the heavyweight denim they’re made of, the high waist that’s not constricting, and the wide, roomy leg that makes every outfit look cool and relaxed. And! They’re only slightly more expensive than a pair of Madewell’s. Designer jeans under $200 feel like a steal.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, junior writer

Don’t ask me how I’m affording rent this month, just know that this buy was worth it. I’ve been thinking about this ottoman for months, and I’d be lying if I said all my other furniture purchases haven’t been made with this piece in mind. Of all the leather ottoman poufs I’ve considered, I found this one to be the right balance of cozy and structured. Mine is still being made at whatever the Joybird North Pole is, but I am anxiously awaiting its arrival so I can start enjoying the splurge.

In anticipation of my ottoman, I jumped on this HAY tray when it popped up in one of our recent sales posts. It’s smaller than I thought it would be, but whether it ends up on the ottoman or only makes appearances for parties, I’m glad I have it.

I’ve never had a serious acne problem (knock on wood) but the few breakouts I’ve had left what seem to be permanent dark spots on my skin. This is my latest attempt to get rid of them. I’m only two applications in, so I haven’t seen any results yet, but I really hope I do, since these are way cheaper than a package of the professional microneedling sessions that Lauren started getting.

In an attempt to make use of last year’s health benefits, I spent the last day of the decade at my optometrist’s office, where I decided to put my new prescription into these bad boys. I already own several pairs of Karen Walker sunglasses and I am now a fan of her prescription eyewear. The best thing about them (besides being able to see) is they come with this old-school glasses chain. The whole setup gives me ’70s-career-woman vibes, which I’m oddly into in 2020.

Jessica Silvester, contributing editor

During my last pregnancy I learned a secret that no one ever told me about maternity jeans: They’re just like regular jeans, only more comfortable. In other words, you don’t have to wear them only when you’re expecting. With this in mind, now in the second trimester of my second pregnancy, I splurged on this exclusive Current Elliot collaboration with Hatch. They have that rare quality that (even non-maternity) Current Elliot denim has — so relaxed and yet so flattering. And so expensive, of course. But again, I’m going to be wearing these for years to come, whether I’m pregnant or not.

Lash serums really work. I’ve used Revitalash for years, and people always compliment my long lashes. So I don’t know why in 2020 I suddenly decided to switch it up and try this Lancer version, instead. It’s about the same price as Revitalash, and the main difference is that it has pumpkin seeds, which … who knows. But I did read in reviews that this specific formulation actually helps with lash thickness, rather than just length (which I’ve noticed is a Revitalash limitation). I guess if a re-up of Lancer appears in my Strategist haul a few months from now, we can assume I did indeed get that result!

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

After an accident with a garlic slicer (and a newly sharpened knife before that), I’ve forced my girlfriend to wear cut gloves whenever she’s near sharp metal objects. Her last pair wore out and got gross, so I picked her up a pair of these.

“Such a Fun Age” by Kiley Reid
From $12
From $12

Everybody and their book club is reading Such a Fun Age, so on a recent trip to WORD I picked up a copy and stuck it at the top of my TBR pile. I’m only two chapters in, but it’s shaping up to be a very good read.

I’m a sucker for a good book where the characters are all loosely (or tightly) related, so Girl, Woman, Other was a must-read. It doesn’t hurt that it won the Booker Prize (Evaristo is the first black woman to do so) and has earned glowing reviews from bookish people I know and trust.

Liza Corsillo, writer

After my Tape-a-Call app dropped yet another important work call, thrusting me into the depths of professional anxiety, I decided to follow in my colleagues’ footsteps and buy this Olympus recorder — owned and used by at least four New York writers, including contributor Vanessa Grigoriadis — and pick-up microphone. I’ve had the pair for about two weeks now and my stress level around recording interviews has dropped a ton.

Another stress-relief purchase I made this month was a package of Newman O’s which I hadn’t had in probably five years. I’m a cookies-and-milk person through and through, both for the taste and the ritual. I’m eating them as slowly as possible while watching episodes of Father Brown on Netflix.

Katy Schneider, senior editor

I’m not a big drinker, but I am a big shopper, so instead of doing a “dry” January, I tried to cut down on unnecessary purchases this month. It was going smoothly until I encountered this relatively affordable turtleneck at Sincerely Tommy, where I buy more or less all of my clothing. I wore it to work, where our managing editor Maxine checked it out and said, approvingly, “very street ski.”

I ran out of my drugstore shampoo and conditioner, and decided to consult this very site, the Strategist, to figure out what to buy to replace it. I went with Sachajuan’s Normal Hair Shampoo and the matching conditioner, because it was mentioned both in Hilary’s article on the best shampoos, and Rio’s piece about the hair things her hair-obsessed mother uses on her curls. I’m pleased with it so far! Mostly because it smells really, really good.

Hilary Reid, writer

I’d been meaning to go to Studs, the new ear-piercing store in Soho, and went this month to get a gift card for a friend’s birthday and these little gold and green CZ hoops for myself. It was such a fun place to shop: The store has a getting-ready-to-go-out vibe, and the earrings, which are all 14k-gold fill and sterling silver, are inexpensive enough that you can buy a smiley or bedazzled bone stud without worrying if you’ll want to wear it forever. I can’t speak to getting a piercing there, but it definitely seems like it would be more pleasant than either of my last two ear piercings (one at a place called Piercing Pagoda at the mall, the other done by myself in a college dorm).

This duvet cover and sham set was open in a tab on my laptop for probably two months. I finally went for it and am so glad I did. The bluish-periwinkle stripes are lovely and not too in-your-face, and the material has the feel of a pair of crisp cotton pajamas, which is exactly what I want in any kind of bedding.

Kayla Levy, editorial intern

I’m far from above buying myself city-themed merch, especially if I can use it to carry my laptop. So when I was home earlier this month, I opted for a messenger bag from the San Francisco bookstore City Lights. It has a convenient Velcro closure and is made of much sturdier canvas than your average tote.

I picked up this on-the-go tube of Aquaphor to round out my collection of the brand’s products, including an industrial-sized tube and ointment tub. It basically lives in my pocket during these chapped-lip months of winter.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in January