We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favorites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trolling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including a drive-in-movie-worthy bug spray, a budget-friendly Peloton alternative, and a candle company started by a tween.
The Baggies-short alternative
“Humbly,” Strategist writer Louis Cheslaw begins, “I feel we all need reminding that Patagonia’s ubiquitous Baggies are not the only short out there. And in my experience, they’re not even that great a short.” Patagonia’s signature item, though highly regarded by our friends at the Cut (and many of our own staffers), came up, well, short for Cheslaw. He was underwhelmed by the nylon fabric, found the fit to be unflattering, and “as for the excited chatter about how you can swim in them: Well, no shit,” he says. Instead, he recommends the Vuori Banks Short, which took him from “a dip in the ocean at New York City’s Rockaway Beach, to a (masked, socially distanced) appointment at a jewelry store in Manhattan.”
The bike short that’s as good for biking as it is for lounging
Or, if you’d prefer shorts with a little more stretch, look no further than some Strategist-beloved Danskins. When we asked eight stylish women about their favorite fashion bike shorts, Strategist staffer Liza Corsillo effusively recommended this pair, which’ll set you back just $22 a pop. “I probably wear these bike shorts too much,” she says. “The fabric is really soft without losing its shape, even after throwing them in the washing machine over and over again.” She notes that, true to their name, they’re actually very good for biking, and “don’t chafe or irritate my skin even on miles-long rides.” But “most importantly,” she adds, “they make me look sporty and hot.”
The candle hand-poured by a cool tween
In our sweep of the best candles by Black-owned businesses, Strategist writer Tembe Denton-Hurst uncovered this Lizzo-inspired option from Johanna Howard, whose popular namesake home-goods store sells “a variety of homeware, including throws, pillows, and candles.” And not just any candles, but candles hand-poured by Howard’s own 12-year-old daughter. Denton-Hurst says these “soy-coconut candles use cotton-core wicks and phthalate-free oils and have names like ‘Herstory’ and ‘Save the Turtles!!!’” — and, of course, “100% That Girl.”
A vintage-looking velvet couch to zhuzh up your place
If, after four months stuck inside, you can’t bear to look at your threadbare couch another moment, perhaps you’re due for an upgrade. We spoke to a handful of interior designers about their favorite under-$1,000 sofas, and two recommended this handsome Article piece. Designer Meghan Noyes notes that the “delicate slope in the armrest” makes it “stand out from other modern sofa shapes,” and Decorist designer Emerie Forehand thinks it’s “super chic” and likes how the velvet gives it a vintage look. And if this rich gold shade doesn’t suit you, the blush pink surely will.
A particularly ingenious mosquito-repelling shawl
This week, we asked Catherine Zeta-Jones what she can’t live without, and she mentioned something we’d never heard of before: a mosquito-repellant shawl. “I always, always have a shawl with me, especially in the summertime,” she says, and as someone who gets bitten by mosquitoes often, “the invention of this shawl that can repel mosquitoes is just unbelievable to me.” She calls it “the finest invention,” and says it “really, really repels” even though it’s odorless. Plus, she notes, it’s handwoven in Ethiopia, and “for every one purchased, the company donates mosquito nets and malaria treatments to communities that need them across the world. It’s really amazing.”
An actually nice-smelling, mosquito-repelling potion
If a shawl isn’t your style, try Kinfield’s expert-recommended bug spray. In Strategist writer Hilary Reid’s deep dive into “Everything You Need for Car Picnics, Drive-in Movies, and Trunk Camping,” three different pros mentioned the importance of bug spray, with one drive-in movie buff (and Strategist writer) Chloe Anello suggesting this formula, because “it doesn’t give your car a nauseating chemical smell” She says it smells pleasantly of lemongrass and herbs, and, more importantly, “it works.”
The gadget that’ll turn your apartment into a Soulcycle studio
With many gyms still closed in New York, writer Kelsey Mulvey found herself missing spin class. “Between attending my favorite throwback ride every week to hogging the stationary bike at my co-working space, spin was a huge part of my life — and something I never thought would vanish overnight.” In search of an at-home alternative, she came across Sportneer’s Fluid Bike Trainer Stand, “which can turn any traditional bike into a stationary bike.” At $200, it’s far cheaper than Peloton (which costs $2,245 for the bike alone) and takes up less space, too. “All we had to do was attach the stand to my boyfriend’s bike and adjust the seat to my height,” she writes.
The housedress worthy of a silver screen star (and you)
“If there was ever a fitting time to embrace the housedress, this housebound moment is it,” writes Alexandra Ilyashov in her quest to find the best housedress. She asked a dozen stylish women — including writers, stylists, and one former costume designer — about the caftans, muumuus, and all other manner of housedresses they wear. New Yorker writer (and noted housedress enthusiast) Rachel Syme says there’s a fine line “between a caftan that makes you feel like a goddess and the one that kind of makes you feel like you were like an old lady getting the newspaper with a towel on your head,” which is why she prefers “the ones that look like you’re a Hollywood actress in her dressing room,” like this Boudoir by D’Lish piece.
The mic for aspiring Ira Glasses
If you’ve exhausted victory gardens and sourdough loaves as far as quarantine hobbies go, now is as good a time as any to get into podcasting. We asked a bunch of podcast professionals about their essential gear for podcasting from home, and many of them namechecked the Yeti X mic. Emma Gray, a co-host of HuffPost’s The Bachelor podcast Here to Make Friends, says, “This thing makes me feel like I’m back in the studio. When I hear my voice filtered through it, I don’t want to swear off ever listening to myself again.” Unlike a lot of gadgets, she says it’s easy to set up, “even if you aren’t a wildly tech-savvy podcaster.”
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.