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Written and illustrated by Kathryn Martinez
Niketown (click to jump there)
The Levi's Store (click to jump there)
Ann Taylor (click to jump there)
Banana Republic (click to jump there)
The Gap (click to jump there)
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and the weeks of parties, I hope you all agree that it's time to take refuge in warm and comfy attire. To relax, and to focus on the optimism that lies in time yet unspent. With this in mind, I have tried to keep this month's picks simple, comfortable, and unpretentiously wearable.
I haven't been into Nike's New York headquarters since it opened a couple of years ago. When I think of workout gear, I think of my gym uniform from high school (no joke, I still use it when I work out). It actually got me excited about mixing sports gear with regular clothes, kind of like my favorite Spice Girl, Melanie C (AKA Sporty Spice). (Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, I have to say I don't have a favorite Spice Girl -- they're ALL my favorite!).
The first pick got plucked from the GOLF wear section, which just makes me giggle, because amongst all the sweater vests, I found this great thin, soft turtleneck top. It's made of 88% cotton 12% spandex, and comes in this great yellow color that is neither too bright, nor too dull. But for those who feel yellow is too bright by its very nature as a color, this top is also available in black, light gray, and dark gray. $58.00.

With them, we have these fleece pants with a tiny front pocket that zips shut all safe and sound whatever it is you can possibly conceive to put inside this nifty little pocket. Comes in either a light moss green or black. $40.00.
Our next pick is the polyester "Dri-Fit" runner's shirt. It comes in dark gray with light green/gray accents along the sides of the arms and body, or in blue with light blue accents. However, be forewarned, wearing this shirt may
grant you admission into the secret society of Ravers, wherever it is they have all disappeared to. $50.00.
This gray mesh top is as comfy as mesh can be. It feels a little slippery and very soft. There's a mock-turtleneck collar with a zipper running down the front. May I add that there are very cool reflector tape and bright blue accents along the zipper. $60.00.

It seems like with the growth of the  indoor-sports club culture, workout fashions have also grown more stylish, to stylishly absorb all that sweat. Case in point, these nylon-spandex pants. These spandex pants are definitely more likely to be worn by Brittany Spears than Axl Rose (another artist with a spandex fascination). Actually, I would go as far as to say that these pants are quite elegant. They're stretchy, have a nice wide pant leg, and are available in a pistachio green or black. $52.00.
Surprisingly enough, despite the close connection between the words "Levi's" and "jeans," I seem to have neglected to include any denim picks  in the Top 5 of 5 this month. Perhaps it's because Levi's has many supplemental items that incorporate the simplicity of jeans with urban details, like surprise pockets, and modern fabrics, like fleece.
For example, I found this cotton long-sleeve crewneck t-shirt. It's very plain, until you look at the back. Why, there are pockets there! Who woulda thunk it? Just be careful people don't stuff notes or old candy wrappers in them when you aren't looking. $38.00. Available in sky blue, black, orange, or blue-gray.

With it I have the classic Levi's jeans' close cousin, corduroys. I'm not sure why, but I always did like cords better than denim; a little more texture never hurt nobody. These are available in beige (or gray).  I have a  feeling of great hope that these will turn into someone's favorite pair of pants. $50.00.

Now, we've got the schizophrenic orange polyester fleece t-shirt. It's long-sleeves one minute, then zips off and it's short sleeves the next. They should give you a little bottle of medication with your receipt! Despite its little split personality problem, this is a great shirt to have for the cold outside / hot inside thing going on. $38.00.

I've paired the fleece tee with a very sane black fleece skirt (made of 75% polyester and 25% acrylic). It's great for anyone who likes to wear skirts in the winter...the fleece adds a little more wind resistance for you and your legs. It has a drawstring waist, has vertical front pockets, and costs $48.00.
The last pick from the Levi's Store is this black, long-sleeved, shy turtleneck top. (It's shy because the turtleneck part is short -- you know, like a turtle that's only partially out of its shell, ha ha :-) Anyway, it's made of an acrylic-nylon blend; $58.00.
Ann Taylor hit me with a good selection of clean and simple casual wear with slighty retro glamour.
Mariah Carey's revival of the super-tight tube top for her Rainbow album tries too hard to project a blatantly late-70's nympho-roller rink image. This one by Ann Taylor, however, has a great ease about it;  it's made out of cotton, which gives it a more demure appeal, keeping the campy-ness to a minimum. It has a bit of spandex blended in to ensure a snug fit, and no accidental flashes of indecent exposure. Available in gray, black, or hot pink. $25.00

With it is a cotton denim skirt, which has a rather thick waist band and buttons on the side, perhaps a touch  influenced by Madonna's outfit in the Ray of Light video. Regardless of its influence, it makes you feel like you're wearing a belt, without the hassle of actually wearing one.  $48.00.
Next, a crisp white shirt. As crisp as a banker's shirt, but in the shape of a hippie tunic, resulting in a very Audrey Hepburn-ish blend of casual and class. $58.00.
All the stores, not just Ann Taylor, are offering lots of color, ranging from the softest hues, to the most vibrant, yet natural, hues. A great example of this is Ann Taylor's orange-pink, 100% ribbed cashmere sweater. To increase its appeal even more, it's totally soft, fuzzy, and it has a pretty boat neck collar. Also available in light blue/lavender, light gray, or black. $98.00.

The last item from Ann Taylor is the pant counter-part of the cotton denim skirt above. It has a relaxed 1950's look in its capri-length/wide leg cut. $55.00.
Recently, Banana Republic has upped the ante in its advertising campaign with a new TV commercial, in which models roll around a conveniently clean studio, in time to a bubbly jazz tune about champagne or something. With all the merino wool items at BR these days, trying something like this in real life, say, on actual grass, on the sidewalk, in a TV studio, even in your house, would leave you with a HUGE dry-cleaning bill.
Dirty or clean, the fact remains that BR has lots of knitwear for the  increasingly cold weather, a great example of which is this merino wool "grandpa" sweater. It's been restyled for hip little ladies of this day and age, updated with kangaroo pockets and a slim fit. It's got a large collar, metal snap closures at the collar, and  three-quarter length sleeves. Available in gray, oat-gray, black, white, and icy-blue-white.
The next item seems to be the result of some genetic tinkering by the designers at Banana Republic, almost as if they've spliced an old-school track suit sweatshirt and a classic sweater. The end result is both sporty
and nice. Available in gray or navy.  $48.00.
Next, I found this very "cruise wear"-styled shirt with three-quarter-length sleeves. It's made of 84% silk, 15%nylon, and 1% spandex, the combination all making  for a thick, soft, and malleable fabric that is both comfortingly insulating, and clingy so that you don't feel frumpy (a common hazard when comfy clothes are involved). It's black,  and has tiny stripes that alternate between light blue and white. If the stripes make you feel too nautical, then you can also find this top in light yellow or a pale blue/gray. $68.00.

These soft, plush, cotton sweatpants will set you back $48.00.  Spending this much on sweatpants somehow seems justified when you feel how soft they are. They feel like your oldest sweats, but look brand spankin' new. It's a beautiful thing. Available in black or cream.
Last up, here is a 100% cotton  turtleneck sweater in yellow, black, navy, blue-gray, or charcoal gray. It has thick ribs, and buttons running down the left side of the neck to use at your leisure. $48.00.
At the Gap, I tried to stay away from the items that were advertised as great gifts, as I fear that people have already gotten them as presents (like all those fleece sweatshirts, nylon bubble vests and wool blend pullovers). Here's what I've come up with:
First is this cotton/polyester crewneck long sleeve tee. Its fabric is slightly fleece-like for that great, insulated feeling that comes with fleece. Plus, it's real cute in a little-league, Bad News Bears kind of way. Available in oat heather with red cuffs and stitching at the armholes, gray with hunter green cuffs and stitching, or gray with navy cuffs and stitching. $19.50.

Next, drawstring, polyester, windbreaker pants with mesh lining, and the knee patch styling of a snowboarder. $29.50. Available in white, light gray, or black.
Overalls are comfy. Everyone knows this. Need I explain myself further? $48.00.
Next is this polyester fleece PJ top with hood, and buttons going down the middle. It reminds me of those one-piece pajamas with the attached feet, but without the feet and the pants part. I guess it's not the same thing. However, even without the feet and pants, it retains a fuzzy, sleepy-time appeal. $28.00, comes in light blue, gray, and white.

The last item from the Gap are these cotton pants with wide legs and drawstring waist. They are in the sleepwear section, yet resemble regular pants enough to wear around the house on those days when it's 3 in the afternoon and you're still glued to the TV in your pajamas. A convenient thing for keeping up appearances when friends drop by. This way, you won't too feel too much like a lazy couch potato! Some of you have done this, right? $20.00. Choose from gray or light blue.
Well, there you have them, all of my picks, for all of you. Enjoy a great start to a new year!
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