Friday, January 20, 2017

Ultra-Conservative Interview Shoes for the Junior Professional


In the coming months, I'll be interviewing at a few biglaw firms, as the impending post-clerkship transition makes this an ideal time to explore the job market. I have particular ideas about how one should dress for interviews, which I believe apply to all attorney jobs (clerkship, government, law firm, most public interest). While I enjoy pushing the dress code envelope as much as I can in my day-to-day life at the office (and do so with, say, Vans leather slip-ons at work and super-slouchy sweaters), adherence to conservative business formal dress code rules is necessary for certain occasions, i.e. court appearances and interviews.

For shoes, I have especially nitpicky criteria in mind, some of which are admittedly not universal, and are instead based largely on my own idiosyncratic preferences. The "total package" of my rules may be excessively stuffy by some standards. In no particular order, my ideal interview shoe is:
  • (1) matte leather, not patent, mostly because patent leather is more prone to scuffing, but also partially because of a possibly outdated view that matte leather may be more professional; 
  • (2) a less than 3'' heel, generally around 2.5'' for me, given my clumsiness in heels; 
  • (3) a "regular" heeled pump with a not overly thin stiletto heel, not a wedge; 
  • (4) as much as possible, without extra embellishments like bows or buckles, though a subtle detail like that is ultimately fine; and 
  • (5) while negotiable, likely has an almond toe or, at least, a not-too-pointy toe as I find overly pointy toe boxes uncomfortable and sometimes odd looking with skirt suits.

The last item is not as much of an issue now. I feel like today's pointy toe shoes are generally less dramatic than when I was last looking for a pair of interview heels in 2008-ish. Other rules or guidelines, such as a not-overly low vamp to avoid extremely obvious "toe cleavage" probably also apply, but typically aren't an issue with shoes that meet the other, somewhat "frumpy"-leaning criteria.

That being said, I don't always practice what I preach. I've done maybe half of my legal job interviews in non-compliant shoes. I still own one pair, a patent leather Naturalizer pump with bow detail and stitching all over that mimicked a quilted texture (similar without quilting). It's not as dramatic as it sounds. and I got my summer associateship in those, but they are certainly not compliant. I definitely interviewed for my current clerkship in a pair of suede Cole Haan wedges with a bow detail and patent toe cap (similar in all-matte leather). Things worked out despite how formal these interviews were, which suggests that my criteria for interview shoes are overly restrictive. Everyone who chimed in on my recent post thought my patent wedges were fine for the office (yay!), which I definitely agree with. Sometimes, I get self-conscious because I may be the only junior associate I know who relies solely on wedges when I want to wear shoes with some height. Thus, I'm still in the market for a pair of pumps that fits my criteria for these interviews and future possible court days.

I've posted before about shopping for interview clothing as a student on a fairly restrictive budget, with shoe suggestions. (A few classmates in biglaw have road-tested the Payless Karmen pump for both comfort and durability and are satisfied.) This time around, I'm looking at a higher price point, one that might make sense for a more well-established young professional in a conservative field, who is a few years into their career. Actually identifying which pair looks best and is comfortable enough for at least a business day's worth of normal walking and standing will likely take at least a bit of trying on (indoors) and sending things back.

First up is a few different options from Cole Haan, at two price points (all shoes pictured above in order, clockwise from top left and linked below). The Cole Haan Grace Grand is fairly pricey but has more padding for comfort (last year's version is discounted at 6PM, but has synthetic instead of leather lining). The Cole Haan Clara (almond toe) or Juliana (pointy toe) are at a more typical Cole Haan price point. The Rockport Total Motion shoes have a pointier toe, as do the Sam Edelman Tristan and well-reviewed Michael Michael Kors Flex. I may start with the Sam Edelman Tristans and maybe the Cole Haan Clara and go from there.


P.S., when shoe shopping, I like looking at Zappos for whether they stock the shoe I have in mind. They often do a video with one of their employees wearing each style they carry, which gives one a better sense of what it looks like on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Health and Wellness Lately


I don't write about body image and healthy living often, but it's one of those things that's generally at the back of my mind. With my current commute, where I'm out of the house 6:50 AM to 7:50 PM most days, it's been easy to slip into a habit of unconscious snacking. My hunger levels are all over the place! I eat a solid breakfast around 6:20 AM, but not long after I get to work, I'm hungry again and need a snack to stay productive, even if lunch (generally kale caesar salad with chicken) is just around the corner at noon. By 4:00 PM I'm hungry again, but dinner's not until I get home, hours away. Oftentimes, even when I've prepared dinner for the week, I'm so hungry when I walk in the door that I'll have a powerful compulsion to grab something, anything to nosh on while I'm heating it up, and before I know it, I'm basically eating almost two dinners when snacks are factored in. 

There are healthy snacks of course: beef jerky from Trader Joe's has proven to be one of the best ways, ounce for ounce, to keep hunger at bay for a long time; raw almonds are great; carrot sticks are good, etc. Still, that pre-dinner moment of must-eat-now! remains a constant challenge, even with so many hunger-fighting snacks in my arsenal. My body just really wants to eat dinner earlier. I never even got used to my 6:50 PM-ish dinnertimes at the firm. On days when I knew I'd be working late, I was often hungry and on Seamless as soon as ordering for client reimbursement opened up at 6:00 PM. And that was after having afternoon snacks.

On top of that, our in-building gym is closed for renovation. K bought us a folding exercise bike (likely the only reasonably sturdy cardio machine that could conceivably fit in our apartment and isn't too expensive), which has been useful. I'm also taking Barre classes with a friend, using a Gilt City deal that got me in for $12.50/class for five classes. It's typically $32/class, an unlimited monthly pass is nearly $300, and the cheapest package is still $28/class, so this doesn't fit into my current budget otherwise, but it's fun to try. At the promotional price, I thought it'd be a good alternative to going out for coffee or brunch to hang out. 

I'm generally rather skeptical about more expensive, "trendy" fitness options, probably unduly so. I'm perfectly happy to do the same workout over and over, and my ideal routine is probably just being able to regularly run on the West Side Highway running path again and mixing in some Pilates-type workouts at home. Barre really isn't for me, based on my first class. It's very different from what I'm used to (not that similar to Pilates), and half the time i had no idea what the instructor wanted me to do. Some of this isn't their fault. I'm not good at taking direction during fitness classes: I have trouble distinguishing left from right, learn new movements slowly, am uncoordinated, and have poor spatial awareness so I often can't figure out how to follow along. I'll use up the classes I bought, but am not especially interested in trying more. 

Do you have any favorite workout classes? I like Pilates, but am perfectly happy with an at-home video, and I enjoy the right Yoga class. Zumba is almost impossible for me due to my aforementioned lack of coordination, so it isn't much fun. Barre is, of course, not quite working. Spin or Soul Cycle sounds like something I could like, but I'm probably not terribly inclined to exploring it on my own. That's about it for classes I've tried or am familiar with.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Shopping Fast Fail (?) and New Instagram


Is my shopping fast going well? That depends entirely on the standard one uses to evaluate it. If the primary goal is to not buy anything new, things are still fine and dandy, as I haven't ordered anything. If the primary goal is to "detox" a bit from using online window shopping as entertainment, or not to make wish lists for after the shopping fast period ends, then it it's not so successful. I've had many of my sudden and powerful shopping impulses, many of which have not really gone away after a few days, so I've accumulated a list of things I'm sort of chomping at the bit to order and try on. 

For instance, I saw the Dagne Dover Simone laptop bag in steel grey leather and thought I desperately wanted to try it on. It's pretty and a bit unique in shape, as far as laptop bags go. Happily (or sadly) it's sold out in that color, so I don't run the risk of breaking my shopping fast there. I was intrigued by the J.Crew Ruffle Trim Dress after seeing it on someone in real life. They seem to have made it final sale though, so I should be safe. Also, I'll be doing a few firm interviews in the coming months. Because I don't currently own a pair of pumps that fits my personal ideal of what a pair of conservative interview shoes should look like (I have patent leather wedges at the moment, which I consider less conservative), I may actually end up breaking my shopping fast for something like the Sam Edelman Tristan or the Cole Haan Grace pumps, which I'd likely consider an off-budget purchase as it's for a specific and necessary professional purpose.

To be honest, I didn't have a concrete goal in mind for my shopping fast this month. Over time, I've been shopping less than I was before, and it wouldn't be that surprising to have a "no shopping" month here and there, even without a conscious effort. I suppose one main goal of the shopping fast was just to accumulate that month's budgeted dollars for future months, which isn't especially minimalist. I think I'd like to purchase some jewelry for myself this year, which likely requires "banking" budgeted dollars from multiple months. I've been looking at Opal rings from Catbird for a while (like this Wwake one or their teardrop ring), though I'm somewhat likely to pick one up from Polamai on Etsy (a Thai jeweler with a lot of good reviews). I've been tempted by the Monica Vinader Baja Bracelet in Green Onyx for a while, though that's probably way too pricey for me, for something that's gold-plated and more fashion jewelry than fine. In that light, if I haven't ordered anything new yet, then the shopping fast is going just fine. (Overall, this is probably not one of the better reasons to go on a shopping fast...) 

In other news, I recently opened a new Instagram account for blog purposes. My old account was set up through my personal Facebook account, though I ran it as the Instagram for my blog. That got too weird for me as I didn't really want random Facebook acquaintances to be able to find my blog and identify it as mine through Instagram. Independent from that, I'm starting to better understand how to explore new content on Instagram, and it's fun! As usual, I'm way behind the times when it comes to learning how to use new social media platforms.


A photo posted by Miyu☺︎ (@miyumo_21) on


One thing that I stumbled upon is a large set of Japanese daily outfit Instagrammers. I follow many, some with a more casual style and some that seem to primarily do office-type wear, but they all have a similar photography style and wear such well-executed, put-together outfits! I follow so many that there's no real way to pick out my favorites because they're all so cool, but in no particular order, here are a few that had really great outfits pop up in my feed most recently: ____cream.ice.____, akko3839, cestmignon_mau, and miyumo_21. After one starts following a few, Instagram starts putting more and more of them into one's "Explore" feed, so it doesn't take long to find others.

Are patent leather shoes, in your opinion, appropriate for ultra-conservative business-formal interview outfits? Do you have any favorite Instagram accounts to follow, or any specific type of account that you like? I also follow quite a few comic artists like adamtots.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Reading: Grab Bag

via Sarah C. Andersen

Today's post is a bit of a grab-bag, mostly money-related, of things that I was reading this week. Some of the links were either a bit clickbait-y or not that substantive, but they generate some food for thought and a jumping-off point for deeper discussion nonetheless.

Designer Items on Credit

I'm totally preaching to the choir here, no doubt, but I was shocked by this Refinery 29 article "21 Women On the Biggest Purchase They Made in 2016 - and Whether they Regret It." Out of the 21 women surveyed, five of them bought a designer item on credit without (it's either strongly implied or explicitly stated) having the cash set aside to cover the purchase. That way lies only madness, or at least  some serious ambivalence about where all that money went. 

As a general matter, I quite like Refinery 29's money-related features. They satisfy my ever-insatiable craving for financial voyeurism. More often than not, their money diaries imply a fair amount of financial responsibility across many income levels (though I sometimes find that the numbers don't quite add up or that some parental subsidies are implied). So it was a bit of a surprise to see them publish something that maybe plays into sexist stereotypes of women as spenders.

I don't want to sound preachy or that I'm putting myself on a moral high horse, by any means. I've done plenty of financially silly things in relatively recent memory and I hate how much contemporary American society like to judge women, in particular, for their consumption. That being said, I don't think anyone would argue that it's distressing to think that it's at all common for people to buy designer items on credit cards and let that balance sit.

Emergency Funds

This piece on "Why Emergency Funds are a Bad Idea" is particularly clickbait-y. It's gotten a little traction in some of the personal finance online communities I follow and generates some helpful discussion, mainly about why having some sort of emergency fund or cash savings buffer is actually really important. The universal response is that the article is silly. Even those who advocate extremely aggressive debt repayment and who might frown upon my six-months' basic living expenses emergency fund, given my student loans at ~7% interest, would agree that having at least $1,000 in an emergency fund is a good idea and should occur before tackling high-interest debt.

Ken Liu's Dandelion Dynasty

I recently finished Ken Liu's The Wall of Storms, the recently released second volume of his Dandelion Dynasty series.  It was fantastic, a really wild ride in the second half, and I enjoyed it more than the first volume, The Grace of Kings, which was also good. (That pattern of slower set-up in a still good first book and a dramatically faster-paced second that was therefore more enjoyable reminded me of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, incidentally.) Liu's writing style is very different from most of the other fiction authors I read, particularly in the sci-fi/fantasy genres, and it took some getting used to. Among other things, I find his characters a bit flat as a result, though I think it's an intentional stylistic choice.

I would understand entirely if a reader had trouble getting through The Grace of Kings or stalled through The Wall of Storms, but the last half of the second volume really shines and established the series and Liu's writing as something special. One of the top Goodreads reviews of Kings criticized Liu heavily for alleged poor representation of women, which I actually thought was unfair even then. I believe deeply in the importance of diversity in fiction and media, with a particular emphasis on diverse authors and voices and diversity on screen, but I still found the criticism misplaced. Either way, Storms establishes that the criticism contained in that review cannot be applied to the series as a whole: Storms is filled with women taking central stage in both political intrigue and war.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Trip Down Memory Lane

via Pinterest - My real-life dorm rooms were never this cool.

As a child of the Internet age, I've been blogging for over half of my life, though little evidence remains. That's by design: a few years back, I specifically went back to delete or make private every old blog I ever kept, partially to protect my privacy and partially because of embarrassment about my old writing. A few days ago, while doing research for another forthcoming blog entry, I found something that I thought I'd never see again, an old blog that I forgot about, circa 2008. Let me just say, oh lordy, it was quite the blast from the past! Some of it made me smile, but I also cringed. A lot. College-aged Xin had eclectic tastes in clothes.  

I could never link that old blog here. It'd thoroughly destroy my anonymity, as I was much less careful then. I also won't be able to go back and destroy the evidence, to my sorrow, as I forget which email address the account is associated with. It'll sit there on the Internet forever, a testament to my youthful enthusiasm for Blair Waldorf's headbands and shopping at Forever 21. 

A few of the many, many thoughts that occurred to me as I browsed my old entries: 

Is it strange that I don't think I'm that much of a better writer now than I was then? I'm sure I am, it's been so long and I've done so much academic and professional writing since, but, well, the last major development in my writer's education was when my freshman writing professor broke me of the habit of using the passive voice (which I've gone back to, sometimes, but much more carefully). Any other changes have been so gradual that I have a hard time identifying exactly what makes the "before" better than the "after."

Related to the above, whatever else was true about 2008 Xin's writing, it had a certain spark and spirit, which I hope translated into a type of charm that my current writing lacks. I had so much bubbly enthusiasm, or righteous indignation, depending on the topic. It's not just because of the passage of time, or increased maturity, that those things are no longer present.

In some of those darker, "why-did-we-choose-this" moments in law school, I've told friends that, adding insult to injury, law school took the very soul out of my writing. While that exclamation is mostly just drama queen-moment exaggeration, there's a grain of truth. In school, we were taught to tone things down, to be objective, to be more subdued and restrained in our writing, all in the interests of clarity. Those things are important for work, but I always feel like it's had a chilling effect on my personal writing, took something away that I can't find again.

Surprisingly enough, a lot of the things I believe about fast fashion and consumption haven't changed much, especially my skepticism about whether we can really trust any brand to be completely ethical and my discomfort that some aspects of more ethical, conscious consumption are made possible, or at least easier, by financial and other privileges.

Still, even if many a would-be fashionista of modest means is contributing to the market for [fast fashion], people like that are hardly the powers that be behind a free market economy or capitalist culture that makes the people behind the big companies think it’s ever alright to pay their workers less than a living wage. Young consumers are products of this culture and world economy, not the cause. Additionally, a lot of upmarket stuff that is not anything close to “fast fashion” is also being manufactured in the same sweatshops.

I wrote that. In 2008. (Presented with minor edits.) It was part of a deeply misguided entry that was ultimately kind-of, sort-of defending fast fashion (sorry! I was so very young and foolish!). I hadn't done the research to back up that last claim at the time, though it's since been borne out by, say, Elizabeth Cline's book on fast fashion. That particular piece of content makes me cringe now, but well, I was a teenager who could only shop at Forever 21, H&M, Target, or Ross and I guess I felt a little defensive about that. Another slightly modified quote from said entry: "It begs the question: if someone cannot afford the “real thing” in terms of organic, free-range chicken or wild salmon (it’s no small thing to buy that for a family of four), does that obligate us to eat naught but potatoes and bread?" Dear me. It all sounds very awkward now, but some of these points have at least a tiny grain of truth, I hope, namely that (a) our power as individual consumers is small when compared to the might of the capitalist system, and (b) that sometimes the more environmentally or ethically conscious choice is necessarily one made possible by privilege. 

Finding that old blog was an interesting and slightly entertaining trip down memory lane, though it was also seriously embarrassing. How long have you been blogging? Do you have any nostalgia for your old blogs or blogging personality? Did you write differently from the way you do now?