Thursday, May 23, 2019

Changing my Mind: On Trench Coats

I've debuted a new page, "Shop the Sales", accessible from the navigation bar at the top of my blog. Inspired in part by how Kathy and Luxe share sales, I've decided to maintain a page for sale finds that are related to things I have purchased before, or that I have seriously considered purchasing at some point in the past. I'll keep updating the widget over time, generally at least once a week, based on new sale finds and/or to remove outdated listings. I'll occasionally flag certain sale highlights in new posts. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

Current sale highlights include Matches Fashion and Net-A-Porter's discounting that APC Clare dress I mentioned a while back, which, between the two sites, is on sale in almost its entire size range. SSENSE is also doing a big sale that includes a number of Alighieri pieces, including coin necklaces like the Il Leone and the Kindred Souls. I don't think I'll be shopping for jewelry anytime soon, but I was sorely tempted by the Flashback and Trace of a Tear necklaces. 


Looking back over the years, my feelings about trench coats as a wardrobe staple for myself have gone through a few reversals. In the beginning, I was quite skeptical, mainly because of weather patterns here in NYC. As I complain often, we generally get only the briefest flashes of balmy spring or fall weather, sometimes just one or two lovely days that truly feel like a comfortable spring or fall, before the harsher temperatures of summer or winter quickly start setting in, leaving us with as little as two or three weeks of reliably trench coat-friendly temperatures each season. 

But then I got my current trench coat, the Everlane Classic Trench (discontinued, current version with a few design changes), and it really grew on me. It's still a big part of my wardrobe today, in any time of year that's a suitable temperature for it. Currently, the Everlane trench continues to be my only jacket or coat that's particularly well-suited for those all too brief weeks of in-between temperatures around spring or fall. The next best candidates in my wardrobe, that J.Crew collared Sophie sweater blazer or those collarless Juliette sweater blazers, don't block the wind on the cooler days in that range, and are also a bit too thick and heavy for the warmer, sunnier days.

I even liked my new trench coat so much, that, when I thought about my vague hopes to someday splurge on a fancy designer purchase, once I felt like I'd earned it, I no longer wanted a handbag (though that's mostly for lack of seeing any bag design I liked enough). I started wanting one of those classic Burberry trench coats instead. Those coats really are extremely, almost unthinkably, fancy by my standards, whether it's the mid-length Sandringham or Westminster, or the longer-length Kensington, all of which are $1795-plus at full retail, several multiples over the next most-expensive single piece of clothing I've ever purchased for myself (specifically, the Ted Baker midi-length wrap coat, at ~$418 when I bought it on sale). Nor have I ever tried one of the Burberry coats in person. I suspect it'd be hard to find a good size for me, maybe enough that I wouldn't be able to bring myself to buy it after all, because I've heard that they all have a super-slim fit through the chest.

More recently, though, as I've started finding that I only wear my Everlane Trench coat open and unfastened these days (partially because it's been fairly warm for spring, and also because the waist tie has always been fiddly, it regularly slips down my waist on its own, or even unties itself if I've only tied a single knot, and the belt is just barely long enough to tie a bow), my tastes in trench coats have shifted again, towards less traditional, less structured trench coats that omit some of the classic design elements. The trench coats I'm thinking about now are often made of softer, more flowy-looking and drapey materials, many of them without any buttons at all. With those features, I think they could look a bit more "intentional" when worn open. For instance, in the photo above are two colors of the same Club Monaco Claudine trench on the left and right, the blue is also available at Shopbop. The middle one is a possibly misnamed Mango "classic trench with bows" that doesn't appear to have any bows anywhere.

Given that I've only suddenly become interested in this general look in the last two weeks or so, I think I may actually be far behind the curve when it comes to this particular trend. I can't find all that many coats with this look in stores right now, in colors that I like, and I remember that it might have been easier to find similar coats a year or two ago!

And well, maybe by writing a whole post about these less traditional trench coats, and pinning a bunch to my Pinterest wishlist, I'll find that this whole thing is a passing fancy that I forget about in short order. In any case, the spring season for wearing coats like this is fast coming to a close in NYC, it'll almost certainly be completely over in the next two or three weeks. Also, I suspect this is a fairly trendy look that might not age well. Even so, I also think I'd enjoy wearing this type of coat because it feels more relaxed and a bit less structured or fussy than the classic trench coat look. (Recall how eagerly I sought out "almost" blazers and jackets for work that'd be less structured and less closely fitted than a standard blazer.) We'll see if this sudden craving of mine ends up going anywhere, or if it's one of the ideas I end up discarding after it's sat on my Pinterest shopping list for a while, as has happened a few times since I started being more regimented about how I track my shopping plans this year. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Maui Trip 2019 (With Brief Tangents About Ocean Safety)

Kaanapali Beach, on one of the few days of our trip where the water was somewhat calm. 

We had tons of fun on our recent 10-day family vacation to Maui! The island is absolutely gorgeous, and very different from any other beach resort-type location I'd been to in recent memory. While I don't think I'll be back anytime soon (Hawaii is a long and onerous trek from NYC, and I'd rather see the other islands there next time), I have a decently long list of things in Maui that I'd happily do again on a second trip. This is the first of two posts about my trip, the next one will focus on food.

A week, maybe even five days, might be enough to have a good time and see a lot of the major attractions in Maui, particularly if you're a high-energy traveler or trying to squeeze in another island as part of a longer Hawaii trip, but I also liked having the full 10 days to do everything at a relaxed pace. Early on in our trip planning, we thought briefly about doing two islands in ten days, but between the travel time required for my sister and I to get to Hawaii from the East Coast (no direct flights and at least 15 hours in transit each way, including waiting time at the airport) plus expected jetlag, we ultimately decided against it. Looking back, we could also possibly have cut the trip down to eight or nine days and still have been able to do everything we wanted to, weather permitting, at what would still be a fairly leisurely pace.

The Hotel

We stayed at Kaanapali Beach Hotel which, based on my research when I booked, is generally one of the more affordable large beachfront hotels in Maui, and is pretty much the cheapest large hotel on Kaanapali Beach, south of Black Rock (a.k.a. Black Rock Beach). It's neighbors with the Sheraton, and on the same beach as a Marriott, Hyatt Regency, and one of the multiple Westins in Maui. We paid ~$260/night, including tax, for a non-ocean view room with two queen beds (and $14/day for parking, it's very helpful to rent a car). Most of the other hotels I named would generally be at least $100/night more for the room at this time of year. The hotel is a bit dated both outside and in, pretty much all the others are a fair bit newer and look it, and the pool is quite small, but service is friendly and I think it's a good value for travelers that don't plan to spend too much of their time hanging out at the resort.

One other nice thing about our hotel location: It was very close walking distance to the Whalers Village shopping center where I bought my new Ray-Bay Wayfarers (affiliate link) and where there's an ABC Store that sells just about anything a tourist could need, including plenty of reef-safe sunscreen and a wide selection of souvenirs, like these Hawaii-themed Gudetama plushes.

Although I thought our hotel was an excellent value for its location, if I were to go back to Maui, I'd probably stay somewhere else where the rooms have kitchenettes. Restaurants in Maui are expensive (close to $25/entree at most nicer sit-down restaurants in the tourist-geared areas, and ~$15/entree at fast casual places). While the food was generally tasty everywhere we went, on future trips, I'd probably prefer to save money by doing some basic cooking, particularly for breakfast. (Oh, but I must put in a recommendation for poke, which, even at grocery stores, was much fresher and tastier than anything I could get in NYC. Poke in Hawaii has ruined me for the dish anywhere else in the world!) An eight day-plus day trip might also be enough time to stay in two different locations on Maui, which is also something I'd consider next time.

Ocean Safety

One other factor that's somewhat relevant to choosing where to stay in Maui, and maybe in Hawaii in general: At least with the surf conditions on Kaanapali Beach, I'm not sure I'd be so eager to select a beachfront hotel again, given that this feature tends to come at a premium price. On past beach-y vacations, I've always enjoyed spending most of my time lounging on the beach, with frequent breaks to cool off in the water. Kaanapali Beach wasn't really the place for swimming or wading while I was there, and after reading up a bit on ocean safety elsewhere in Hawaii, that may be the case for quite a few other famous beaches there. 

Ocean conditions at Kaanapali Beach changed dramatically throughout the trip, with maybe two days where the water seemed very calm with only small, relatively gentle waves, followed by several days in a row of much stronger waves coming in at unpredictable intervals (at least to my eyes). It was a shock to see a beach where the water looked calm enough one day for parents to let their small children play in it suddenly become one where some waves that looked almost as tall as I was were crashing down onto the sand, punctuated by less intimidating, but still kind of scary and powerful-looking ones, just a few days later.

And on one of the days were conditions were in between those extremes, but far closer to calm than not (there were young children playing in the waves just a few feet from where I was, and the waves mostly looked barely tall enough to reach my calf or knees), I had a rather scary moment in the water. Even though I'm a reasonably strong swimmer, after taking a decade of regular swim lessons as a child, I was scared. I'd been swimming around just off the beach for a bit with no problems, in what looked to me like fairly calm water with small waves. But when trying to get back to shore (approaching at an angle, never turn your back on the ocean, especially in Maui, there were so many rogue waves just in the relatively little time I spent watching the beach) I got caught in some deceptively strong shorebreak that pushed me down underwater, head and all; spun me around underwater; and bumped my shoulder into the sand, leaving a quarter-sized abrasion with some bleeding. I was in very shallow water at the time, probably just past my knees if I was standing instead of wading. When I got back out, there was sand coating much of my body, including under my swimsuit, and stuck in my hair down to the scalp.

All things considered, it was a minor ocean-related mishap, I climbed out without too much trouble immediately after, and I didn't even get much seawater in my nose or mouth. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to panic. But, in part because I didn't see it coming (and I don't think the kids or other tourists right near me in the water got swamped that way either, it was probably a freak incident), it scared me so much that, for the rest of my trip afterwards, I'd wince slightly every time I saw a tourist in the water at that beach without a boogie board or surfboard.

Admittedly, I may be unusually nervous in the ocean for someone with my swimming abilities. I even get anxious sometimes while snorkeling in completely placid conditions! And I once booked a "discover scuba diving" dive in super-calm water in Thailand with a good, highly-recommended instructor, but I still got too scared to actually dive. So maybe I'm not the most reliable narrator for this, but I really felt like an inexperienced swimmer could have easily gotten into a bad situation on that beach, as has happened before! (That particular beach is No. 3 on the "deadliest" list.) Plus, Black Rock, just north of where I was, is supposed to be a top snorkeling spot, but most days of my trip, it likely wouldn't have been safe to try and get in and out of the water with snorkeling equipment on. I even saw people struggling to do exactly that from the same patch of beach on one of the less calm days, they gave up because the waves were just too strong.

A few more unsolicited tips for first-time snorkelers, which might be terribly obvious, but that I wasn't told before my first time trying the activity and didn't figure out until later: No matter how strong a swimmer you are or how calm the water is, if it's your first time, please use a flotation device! (I had another scary moment in the water years and years ago due to never receiving that advice before my first snorkeling session.) Before swimming too far from the boat or shore, please also take a few moments to make sure you're comfortable with the equipment and how to use it. And, although I've admittedly never tried one myself, I personally think those full-face snorkel masks look unsafe, given what gets me into potential trouble while snorkeling (mostly feeling panic ramp up suddenly due to leaks or breathing issues, which is at least easier to solve quickly with a traditional snorkel mask by lifting your head out of water, spitting out the mouthpiece, and pulling off the mask).

Hah, that turned out to be a long and not particularly fun digression, but I feel like it's important, and I don't think all of this information is particularly obvious or intuitive. For a return to the actual fun details about our trip, please follow the link below!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Outfit Post: First Signs of Summer (and the Madewell Medium Transport Tote)

Top: LinenFox Kimono Top, milky white, size S/M
Dress: Grana Silk V-Neck Slip Dress, size M (old version, current)
Shoes: FitFlop "The Skinny", light brown, size 7 (old, limited sizes)
Bag: Madewell Medium Transport Tote, english saddle
Bracelet: Coach hinged bangle (old, similar or similar from Kate Spade)

And just like that, it's starting to feel a bit like summer here in NYC! I'm actually a bit surprised we had such a relatively long burst of more spring-like weather this year, I've been wearing my old Everlane Classic Trench (discontinued, current version with some design changes) for most of the last month and a half, which is a bit more use than I normally get out of it each spring. We might have only another week or two, however, before the really miserable hot, humid, and muggy weather starts setting in. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

My LinenFox Kimono Top order finally arrived in the mail late last week! Their basic shipping option doesn't come with tracking information, so it was a mystery to me when it would arrive, until it was actually here. After it was made to order and shipped, which took around four weeks from when I bought it in early April, it ended up taking around two-and-a-half weeks to get from Lithuania to my apartment. I had done a lot of online browsing between all the popular linen shops on Etsy before deciding on this top. I liked the look and shape of it a bit better than that of the similar NotPerfectLinen "square" top. (I do slightly wish that LinenFox had a wider range of colors though, the way NotPerfectLinen seems to.)

I'm quite pleased with my new top! The linen feels nice, I haven't found it scratchy. As with many other white tops these days, particularly with a fabric that's light enough to be comfortable in our hot and humid NYC summers, this top is a little, but not overly, sheer. As you can see above, a faint hint of the black dress I'm wearing underneath is visible in the sunlight if you really squint to look for it, but the black fabric isn't showing through too badly, in my opinion.

The size S/M of this top is, in keeping with the design, a bit boxy on me, as it's meant to be, and I think it's the right size. On me, it's a bit more cropped and boxy than it looks on Elaine, because I'm likely quite a bit wider around the bust (which can pull up the front hems of some tops and dresses a bit), and maybe have a slightly longer torso. For reference, I'm 5'3'' with legs slightly too short for some non-cropped petite sizing pants and a mostly "regular" sizing torso for tops and dresses, and I measure around 37''-27''-37.5''. If I were to buy another one of these tops, I think I might consider asking them to customize it by adding just a bit of extra length to the body. As it is, this top might be just a little too short on me to easily tuck into skirt or pant waistbands that hit at my natural waist (I could do it, but the top might be somewhat prone to slipping out, or might look a little odd to me). I do think it looks good when untucked though, like in this outfit.

And I know, I know, I totally said I once ordered the Madewell Medium Transport Tote and sent it back because I just didn't need another leather tote, so one might be surprised to see it here now. But after K got it for me for Christmas, and after trying it on in person again, I've changed my mind and found that I actually really love it, and that it fills a different enough niche from my other tote bags.

I've been carrying the Medium Transport Tote as my work handbag almost every day for the past month and a half, and I've found it very functional. (But do keep in mind that I don't have a work laptop anymore and rarely need to bring papers home, so I generally don't carry much.) This bag is very light, so my shoulder doesn't get antsy the way it sometimes does with my other favorite work bag, the noticeably heavier Coach Rogue in dark denim (old, current colors). It's really a perfect size for me in that, unlike the Rogue, it's just big enough to comfortably accommodate a medium-sized stack of letter-sized papers and a letter-sized notepad, though it probably won't fit a large binder. I particularly like the look of this bag when I carry it by the adjustable long shoulder strap like in the photos above, it's comfortable to do so throughout my entire walking commute (please note that the strap is not quite long enough, even when adjusted to the maximum length, for me to comfortably carry this bag cross-body, that could be a downside for some).

My only small quibble is that the top-handle straps feel just a touch too short for me to comfortably carry it tucked under my shoulder sometimes. It's alright and comfortable-ish to do so, though still a little short for my preferences, when I'm wearing lighter clothing in spring or summer, including my trench coat, but might feel like a bit of a squeeze if I had a thicker wool-blend or down coat on. One other potential quibble for some, though it's actually a plus for me, as I like the look of patina-ed and aged brown leather, is that when seeing it on other people (whether out and about or on social media), I've seen that this "english saddle" shade may change color and take on some noticeable wear and tear over time. I'm actually eager to see that happen with mine! The only other potential complaint I can think of is that the leather on the entire Madewell Transport line of bags can feel a bit dry or stiff in comparison to the softer pebbled leathers I usually prefer for handbags (like that of the super-squishy "classic" Cuyana totes, which are in the same general price range). 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Unpopular Facts: On Biglaw and Biglaw-ish Financial Trajectories

Did you notice and hate this graphic when it went viral via CNBC's twitter account recently? I felt that way too, but maybe for different reasons from the norm.

Eagle-eyed individuals using certain RSS feed readers may have noticed that, for just a minute a few weeks ago, I accidentally published a half-finished draft of this entry. I'd only ever made that specific mistake once before, on another post I also thought could be a little controversial. I'm terribly embarrassed, in part because, as it turns out, I actually wanted to approach this topic very differently than how my half-finished draft originally did. 

Recently, CNBC regurgitated, with little critical analysis, a somewhat infamous graphic from a certain personal finance blogger who shall not be named. Among many other things, this person had recently been known to gleefully and repeatedly revel in their own ignorance during the recent "manifesto" kerfluffle I alluded to, so theirs is, let's just say, not a blog I'd ever recommend. Here's an link to the original source, so that we may all refrain from giving it page-views. People hated this graphic, and all that it implied, and one understands their reasons. I hated it too, though for maybe slightly... nontraditional... reasons, ones that may turn out even more unpopular. 

Specifically, I think it slanders (in the colloquial sense, not the legal one) the good name of attorneys like me, attorneys who started off with substantial student loans, who are now inching into their early 30s, and who have been in biglaw or biglaw-ish for most of their relatively brief careers thus far, as this purportedly real couple allegedly is*. (Please note that, throughout this post, I make the assumption that both halves of the couple earn roughly equal shares of their alleged $500,000/year household income.)

Just about the only thing the graphic gets right is that we're all very lucky and financially privileged. We work hard for that, and often take out a jaw-dropping total in student loans to get there, which gets difficult sometimes. Nonetheless, it would never be cute for any of us to complain about our finances too much. 

But this supposedly real account gives unrealistic views of too many important things, from actual student loan payoff timelines, to typical family planning decisions in my cohort, to sensible approaches towards car ownership, and so on. And that's just the things I can speak intelligibly about, before even getting into nitty-gritty details about the actual numbers associated with the cars, the house, childcare, and so on! I also suspect the tax numbers are a bit off. (My own effective tax rate in 2018, making in the general ballpark of half of this alleged couple, was ~31.8%, including federal, state, and NYC city taxes, fairly far off from 40%. Though of course, tax laws change frequently, and I don't know much about what taxes look like for my peers who are married with children...) So many of the most important details are so implausible, so incapable of passing the "sniff test", that I don't think there's any way there wasn't tons of rounding up, rounding down, or wishful thinking involved, most likely in the service of making up some clickbait, such that there's no way the graphic and accompanying post are a particularly accurate or helpful picture of much.

I'm totally being overly dramatic. And I'm also totally doing that thing again where I'm overthinking something, likely devoting far more time, effort, and energy than the original author probably did in the first place. But really, it hurts my feelings to see people like me so misrepresented! There's many a complaint or somewhat typical for our demographic negative trait that can be laid at our collective doorsteps, but not this annoying fairytale, no sir.