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Welcome to How I Pick My Picks — a kind-of-regular newsletter series in which we check in with the Strategist staff on the stuff they’re using day-to-day, the products they’re testing for stories, and the things their friends and family won’t stop asking them about. Consider it a peek into the always-whirring brain of a Strategist writer. Today, we talk to our fashion and home-organization writer Ambar Pardilla.
It’s an intimate — and sometimes intimidating — thing to ask someone about their underwear. But it’s actually not that unusual — even presidents are polled about boxers versus briefs (or boxer-briefs). And it’s a regular part of my conversations. (The other day, our editor Maxine Builder messaged me about her favorite Tommy Johns, saying something to the effect of how “only in this job” would your boss send you a link to their favorite underwear.) Whether I’m asking a Hollywood stylist about avoiding VPL or talking to a colleague about their cheekiest knickers, I’m unfazed. Of course, I test all the recommendations myself, too — I have spent many nights sleeping in silk in the name of journalism.
The other part of my job is covering home organization: the stuff you need to keep your clothes and jewelry in order, as well as your kitchen and more. I can guarantee you haven’t thought about paper-towel holders as much as I have. I’ve gotten especially good at finding folks who are enthusiastic enough to talk at length about their less-sexy purchases, too. For example, Caroline Mullen, a former editor at Food52, penned an ode to her holder for the Kitchn, so I knew she would have thoughts. (She did.) Meanwhile, antiques dealer Erica Weiner went to the trouble of crowdsourcing recommendations from her followers when I reached out about how she stores her own jewelry. It turns out she steals ashtrays.
Do you have any strongly held opinions that have changed after testing something?
The Commando that topped our underwear guide is truly worth the money. Thirty-six dollars for a bikini brief is a lot compared with the classic three-for-$30 panties, but putting it on was like going commando (as the experts said). It was so next to nothing. I’m wearing them as I write this.
What’s the least amount of money you should spend, for example, on a bra?
Using The Price Is Right rules, I’m going with $40. You’re looking at $50 as a starting point for established brands like Wacoal (I swear by its minimizer) or Natori (very lifting). But lots of these bras go on sale, especially at a place like Nordstrom, so keep an eye out. Usually, the brighter the color, the better the discount. The start-ups — CUUP, ThirdLove, Parade — may be a little less, even at full price, and they’re often more size-inclusive, too.
What are you currently testing and researching?
As someone who’s five-foot-one and on the curvier side, I’ve always had trouble finding jeans. Hems are never “ankle-length,” and hips don’t have enough give. I’m hoping the Agolde Rileys, which we named one of the best pairs of mom jeans and petite jeans, are an exception.
Which product do you think is a total waste of money?
I have a vendetta against vermeil. I get that it’s cheaper than gold — but not by so much. I never take off my yellow gold signet ring from Catbird, which was $138. But any vermeil I’ve owned ended up scratched and scraped quickly. Even as a jewelry collector who looks after very delicate pieces and takes fastidious care of them (I have mine organized into themes like “celestial”), I can’t do all that.
What’s the most expensive product you own?
These Grande Soirees remind me of the pumps Roger Vivier made for Christian Dior; they have a sort of glamour that’s impossible to find nowadays. These had a price tag of $1,595 originally — I would never, ever pay that much — but I have a coupon code and tax return to thank.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A shirtdress that’ll be a shirt for me. It has a “corsage” that resembles one of those horse-show ribbons.
What are some open tabs on your computer right now? What do you have on your list that you can’t bring yourself to buy just yet?
If you had to spend $1,000 at Nordstrom, what would you buy?
I feel that if you’re given free rein, you need to be ridiculous. These two-tone Khaite heels, pearl-encrusted Simone Rocha socks, and probably a Puppets & Puppets banana bag. I don’t know how much those total, but I’ll toss in a Miffy light, too.
A Few of Ambar’s Favorites
The Catbird ring I never take off.
The paper-towel holder that inspired an ode.
Some $300 socks I would splurge on, given the chance.
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.