our shopping cart

The Strategist Haul: What the Editors Bought in September

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

If you follow our monthly feature “Your Shopping Cart,” you know 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 is what we bought in September.

Latifah Miles, writer

I’m constantly on the hunt for skin-care products to address texture and dark spots. I was an avid and loyal fan of The Ordinary’s niacinamide serum and loved how smooth it made my skin, though it didn’t do much by way of dark-spot removal. After running out of that product, I wanted to find a replacement that could tackle both issues. Since I’ve only just started using this Urban Skin formula, I can’t say that my dark spots are totally gone, but my skin is far brighter and feels like I was born last week.

From $68

Although I am a fan of this brand, I only had one Cuup mesh bra (a balconette). These are a little pricier than my usual Target bras, but the quality is unmatched. During the brand’s recent sale, its bras were deeply discounted, so I took that opportunity to try the plunge bra, and I’ve never felt sleeker under my clothes. The fit is exceptional, which is saying something, because I have a very long upper body, so bras often dig into my shoulders or ride up my back. At the end of the day, as I was getting ready for bed, I almost forgot that I was wearing a bra. The balconette bra I have is about two years old and is still in perfect condition, so I expect the same from this style.

Jen Trolio, senior editor

As a follow-up to my August purchase of Bonne Maman’s annual advent calendar, in September, I picked up the 2022 Lego City advent calendar. Both are now safely stashed in a closet until December 1, when my family will kick off 24 days of jam on toast every morning and a small Lego build every afternoon.

I have two kids with very long hair and a large assortment of brushes, detangling sprays, and every kind of accessory you can think of to keep it under control (and looking cute). I picked out this organizer specifically because it can hold a bunch of headbands around the large central column — they’re my 4-year-old’s new signature style — while corralling brushes and products in the middle and storing smaller clips and elastics in the removable dish underneath. It has worked out great, and I’m about to buy a second one, so we can keep one in their bedroom and one downstairs, where we end up doing hair every morning before school.

I don’t put up many decorations for spooky season, but I’m kind of excited about a new addition this year: a waving, faux-neon skeleton that will hang out in our front window and greet anyone who walks by. Unfortunately, it sold out at Target before I was able to get my hands on one, but persistent Googling revealed that for $10 more, Party City has the exact same one, produced by the same manufacturer but under different branding. It should make a nice buddy for Skelly Bob, our skeleton pal who hangs on the front door.

Tshepo Mokoena, senior editor

I imagine there are couples out there whose body temperatures align perfectly; my partner and I are not that couple. He runs hot, while I’m known for always being cold, so buying bedding can feel like a tug-of-war. Not with these Zara sheets, though — their cotton percale feels cooling to him and just the right level of enveloping for me. I don’t know how Zara does it, but the fitted and flat sheet combine for an ideal sleep in both summer and fall (so far).

I’m scared of what’ll happen to my skin if this formula changes. The CeraVe moisturizer is a Strategist regular — found in our Best in Class stories for mature and dry skin — so I won’t repeat what you already know. In winter, I layer it over The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA cream before locking it in with a face oil. I like to go to bed shiny.

Dominique Pariso, writer

About once a year, Big Bud Press holds an online mystery-sample sale that I always use as an opportunity to expand my collection. I’m a big fan of its jumpsuits, but this year, I decided to nab some overalls and stock up on my favorite pants.

After reading contributor Ruby Redstone’s ode to Maggie’s Organics classic crew socks, I was pretty convinced. And after Strategist writer Erin Schwartz sent a Slack message saying they were “Maggie’s-pilled” after buying a pair, I was sold. I have three pairs in the natural color on the way and am excited to combine them with my new Mary Janes.

Brenley Goertzen, junior writer

During Our Place’s Labor Day sale, I ordered this dinnerware bundle that features our best stackable drinking glasses. They definitely lived up to the hype — especially in the vintage amber tone. I love the just-thin-enough plates and speckled detailing. This is replacing a nostalgic Corelle set that I owned all through my college years. So far, so good!

It’s the time of year again when every café, coffee shop, and diner is busting out pumpkin spice. To restrain my PSL-buying urges, I always order this creamer from Nutpods, a brand beloved by YouTuber Emma Chamberlain (they recently partnered on a limited-edition creamer). I’m not a fan of the sugary Stevia taste of most coffee syrups, but this creamer is unsweetened, so it delivers a delicate pumpkin flavor with zesty hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

Kayleen Schaefer, senior editor

I was in the eye-care aisle at Rite Aid, begrudgingly picking up contact-rewetting drops, when a fellow shopper asked, “You’re not getting the Blink ones?” After getting over my shock that a stranger, who didn’t work for Blink, was giving me an unsolicited recommendation at the drugstore, I took her advice and got the Blink ones. I’m thrilled I did. Unlike other rewetting drops I’ve tried, they don’t make my eyes sting or my contacts feel heavier. They’re a moisturizing fix on par with rinsing my lenses in solution, and on a recent vacation, they kept my contacts comfortable after overnight flights and daily lake swims. Most recently, after my toddler broke my glasses, they’ve made it so I can wear my contacts from when I wake up to when I go to bed without feeling like I must rip them out of my eyes. Next time, I’ll be the stranger at the drugstore suggesting these drops.

I’ve wanted this flannel since last fall, so last week, when I saw a woman wearing a plaid shirt over a slip dress — a combo I adore and immediately wished I were wearing — I finally bought the Jenni Kayne version. It’s the perfect layer for when a leather jacket feels too aggressive, and now that I’m headed into work in-person more, I’m using it as an edgier alternative to the office cardigan.

Ambar Pardilla, writer

Catbird’s Leigh Plessner made such a convincing case for these Nikes (in an ode and in our under-$200 flats guide) that I bought them. I was previously anti-tabis, but I haven’t taken these split-toes off since they arrived. Absolutely no breaking-in time needed. Plessner calls them perfect for “the sport of life,” and I second that. I feel like I can do anything in these.

I’m really into silly sweaters, so obviously, I had to get this one from Demylee (on sale at Anthropologie, but it has since sold out there). It has the right amount of looseness, but I don’t have to roll up the cuffs, as they hit right at my wrist. (Speaking as a petite person, this never happens.) And come on, the “Baguette” stitching? I hope to wear this ironically somewhere in France in an Emily in Paris–inspired performance.

Erin Schwartz, writer

I was inspired to buy Maggie’s Organics socks by fashion historian Ruby Redstone’s strong endorsement, and wow, am I happy I did. These are the comfiest socks I’ve owned — they’re warm without being bulky or too plush, and they feel like walking on a cool, smooth cloud. As much as I’m a Uniqlo-socks partisan, I dress to optimize warmth in the winter, and Uniqlo socks are on the thinner side. I’m looking forward to trying Maggie’s socks with my thermal leggings on the first chilly day.

As a masc individual in today’s clout economy, I recently realized that I need a fun little nylon cross-body bag but struggled to find something that wasn’t overexposed, wildly expensive, or flimsy. I found my solution in a recent Strategist pitch meeting, when associate editor Louis Cheslaw brought up Tough Traveler as one of several great brands with bare-bones websites. I hadn’t heard of it but immediately fell for their collection of “funky bags,” which use leftovers from other designs to make offbeat little sacks. I ended up getting the Double Pouch, which is very fun and silly and the perfect size for a wallet, a small book, and a phone.

Tembe Denton-Hurst, writer

I’m in the process of editing and refreshing my wardrobe for fall, so I bought lots of clothes this month. The thing I’m most excited about are my Cuup bras, which I bought during the brand’s sale. I already have the plunge style in Clay but wanted another, more wearable shade for the coming months. I opted for black, then grabbed the limited-edition Ocean, a deep-teal shade. I picked up the balconette style, because I saw a TikToker explain the best bras for different breast shapes, and when she described mine, she said balconettes are a good fit.

I bought these boots from ASOS, and I’m sure they’ll be in regular rotation for the next few months. So far, I’ve worn the boots with a pleated skirt, a maxi dress, and sweat shorts, and they’ve pulled together every look. The mid-calf height is ideal, and they have a nice matte texture — on top of being extremely comfortable.

Emma Wartzman, kitchen and dining writer

Anyone who knows me knows that I am obsessed with Graf Lantz’s coasters — and I finally decided to try another of the brand’s products this month. As the breeze has come in, so have the allergies, and my nose let me know it was time to buy a tissue box. But the problem with tissue boxes is that they’re often kind of ugly — this cover, made from Graf Lantz’s signature merino-wool felt, is a simple solve. While the material doesn’t have a function here (as it does with the coasters), it looks both cool and sophisticated, transforming an everyday essential into something I’m happy to look at on my counter.

This was a re-up of a staple that’s always in my pantry. I have yet to find a harissa I love as much as this one. It has the perfect consistency and the perfect amount of heat (IMO), and it adds a depth of flavor to anything it touches. I spread it on sandwiches, mix it into dips, rub it over roasted chicken, dollop it on potatoes … I could go on.

Maxine Builder, editor

When my husband and I got married in Maine, our friends gave us a gift card to L.L.Bean as a present. And in the three weeks since our wedding, we’ve ordered and monogrammed three different Boat and Totes with that gift card — including a large zip-top with my dog’s name and an extra-large zip-top that says “Thumper,” the name of our new boat (a 13-foot Boston Whaler from 1968). I’m content to use the bag to carry laundry and groceries for now, but I will be absolutely unstoppable once I bring the tote on our boat next summer.

At some point during one of my many pandemic closet purges, I got rid of my black Danskos, which was dumb. Or maybe it was a gift to my future self, because I had an excuse to pick up a pair in this gorgeous honey color. These look way less severe than the all-black ones did — especially when paired with a chocolate-brown Carhartt vest. I’m still breaking them in, but at the rate I’m wearing them, they’ll be fully molded to my feet in a matter of weeks.

Arielle Avila, writer

I went on a trip to Santa Barbara this month and made a stop at Parker Clay, a brand that sells ethically sourced leather goods. I couldn’t make up my mind in the store, so I bought this fold-over card wallet online after I got home. It hasn’t arrived yet, but when I saw it in person, it seemed roomy enough to fit cash and cards yet not so big that I’d end up accumulating too much stuff. I got it in black and added my initials for a personalized touch.

On my trip, I stopped by Santa Barbara’s Crossroads Trading and thrifted the most perfectly broken-in pair of Levi’s. The rise is flattering but doesn’t cut into my stomach, and the denim isn’t stiff at all. I truly did not have enough room in my luggage, so I had to wear them on the plane ride home. It was well worth it, because they’ve become my favorite pair of denim. I’m fully converted from a Wedgie girl to a Ribcage girl.

Lauren Ro, writer

I recently returned to work after my second maternity leave, so this month’s haul includes some baby gear — like this adorable board book that simply delights my son Solomon. He has a bunch of hand-me-downs from his big brother, but I wanted to get him something new and decided on this book that I’ve had my eye on ever since I wrote this story a couple of years ago. It’s a bit larger than the other high-contrast baby books we have, which makes it easier for him to look at, and the bright, swirly colors and sweet characters (a frog, fishies, kitties, watermelon) absolutely mesmerize him (as the book’s subtitle promises). He focuses the whole time we’re reading it to him and sometimes cracks a smile. It’s too cute.

I bought these terry socks for the baby from Rative, a brand that makes toddler socks I swear by. They’re thick, soft, cushiony, and really well made.

Rachael Griffiths, writer

This month, I moved to a cozy (a.k.a. small) flat in London, so I’ve been searching for furniture that’ll make the space count. At the top of the list, I needed a desk for my work-from-home setup, but I also wanted it to act as my dressing table and be sturdy enough to cope with the rumbling of my sewing machine. I knew I’d find a desk that’s up to the task among the Strategist-vetted archives, and sure enough, I came across one from Vasagle that Strategist contributor and fellow Brit Rosie Percy had raved about. I can see why. Not only does it have the right measurements to fit a screen and a mirror, but it’s rather handsome and has a swoon-worthy price tag ($50 less than most of the other options I’d considered).

[Editor’s note: This desk is currently sold out and only available used, but Vasagle has a similar 39-inch computer desk available for $58.]

The British weather has been characteristically rubbish lately, and my summertime tan is quickly fading. To keep it alive a little longer, I picked up a bottle of St. Moriz tan-boosting serum. A couple of drops mixed in with my nighttime Cicaplast add some color back into my face, but I quite like adding a splash to my body moisturizer. That way, my whole body has a subtle glow, and I don’t have to bother with the extra step of applying fake tanner.

Liza Corsillo, senior writer

My most flattering and comfortable fall basics are vintage raglan-sleeve sweatshirts, which I own in many different colors. So when I saw that Madewell was selling a fine-knit alpaca take on the cozy tops, I couldn’t not buy one. You know how cooking shows always ask their chef contestants to elevate comfort foods like grilled cheese or meat loaf? This is the very best clothing version of that. It only just arrived, so I haven’t worn it out of the house yet, but given how soft and casually slouchy it is, it will soon become the only thing I want to wear.

Every September, I get the bug to organize my apartment. This year, I’m focused on the cluttered bookshelves and looking for ways to store things that currently make my space feel visually chaotic. These rope baskets fit perfectly into our Muji cube-storage bookshelf and do an excellent job of streamlining the look of a room. They’re also great for storing all of my old sketchbooks.

Kitty Guo, junior writer

I’m not the biggest fan of American cheesecake, as I find it a bit too rich, but Japanese cheesecakes are fluffy and bouncy and light as air — which means that if I’m not careful, I could swallow the whole thing in one sitting. My favorite is from the bakery chain Uncle Tetsu, but as its sole location in New York has permanently closed, I’ve found the offerings from Keki Modern Cakes in Chinatown to be a fine alternative. Along with a cup of jasmine tea and some fresh berries, it’s the perfect afternoon snack to shake you out of your midday slump.

My skin doesn’t get super oily, but it could use a bit of blotting now and then. I’ve been loyal to the blue Clean & Clear oil-absorbing sheets since high school, but I always feel a pang when I have to discard a single-use sheet that’s only half-saturated. So instead, I picked up the TikTok-approved Revlon volcanic roller, and I wish I’d done it sooner. The porous stone removes any and all traces of shine, and the motion is very relaxing — almost like giving yourself a mini–face massage. But the best part is that the stone is easy to clean and reuse: Just hit it with some soap and water, and let it air-dry overnight.

Jeremy Rellosa, writer

After spending the night on different Airbnb beds and various friends’ couches on trips this summer, I had the creeping realization that my foam mattress really wasn’t that comfortable. In fact, it was definitely uncomfortable and way too firm. I didn’t want to buy a new mattress, just a topper to add a boost of comfort, so I bought this ViscoSoft one from our roundup of the best mattress toppers, going with the thickest, four-inch model. My first night of sleep with the topper on was so relaxing — the foam lent the cushion that my sore body needed. I sleep hot, and the little pockets of gel helped keep me cool throughout the night. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone with a too-firm mattress looking for a more plush feel.

I bought a box of this incense at my local market, because the name sounded cool. I have no idea what dragon’s blood might smell like, but this incense smells sweet, earthy, and a little musky. I recently bought two more boxes, and I burn them while watching House of the Dragon like I’m taking part in a weird ceremony.

Winnie Yang, senior editor

I love my Oxygen pillow and, over the years, have made converts of a few people including my sister and her partner. On a recent trip we all went on together, they showed me the travel version of the pillow. They found out about it from a friend they had convinced to get the full-size pillow, and they now take the smaller size on all their trips — whether camping or international. I ordered a pair as soon as we got home from our travels.

The Wet Brush Squirt Detangler in the kid size is one of the few brushes that my 6-year-old will tolerate and even use willingly herself, so when our adolescent dog ripped out all the bristles from her brush, we replaced it immediately with the very same kind.

Stay True: A Memoir

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the publication of Hua Hsu’s memoir (I pre-ordered it months ago), and it’s finally here.

Jenna Milliner-Waddell, associate editor

I visited a friend in L.A. last month, and I had a list of places I wanted to go while I was there. A few things on the list were Erewhon, a psychic, and Goodies, a ceramics store I learned about on TikTok. Nothing in the store costs more than $25, which both excited me and gave me pause. I wanted to see the stuff in person before committing to an online purchase, and the IRL wares did not disappoint. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality, weight, and size of the pieces. I picked up a few things, including two of these mugs, and they survived in my checked luggage on a multi-stop flight home.

[Editor’s note: These mugs are currently sold out, but you can enter your email on the product page to get notified when they’re back in stock.]

I don’t trust restock notifications. I sign up for them, but I periodically check websites directly when I’m trying to get my hands on something selling fast — like these always sold-out Local European pants that I’ve been after for months. On a random day a couple of weeks ago, I spotted them in stock in my size with no email in sight. I checked out before they were gone again and can’t wait for them to arrive.

[Editor’s note: These pants are, indeed, sold out again, but you can sign up for restock notifications on the product page or, like Jenna, periodically check in yourself.]

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 September