Sunday, May 31, 2015

Between Sizes: Ann Taylor Floral Eyelet Dress


EDIT 6/28: A 6 regular ended up being the best fit for me because the fabric doesn't have much stretch. I ended up buying this dress at a particularly good sale price.

As a tangent, headless fitting room mirror selfies are probably the primary type of photographs of myself that I will take for the blog (potentially to be replaced by self-timer digital camera "selfies" if I ever get the hang of it). I'm still learning how to take a flattering-ish (but still helpful) photograph of clothing too, so the above pictures might just illustrate the big differences that things like the angle at which I hold my phone, how I place my arms, or how far I stand from the mirror, can make on even a fitting room selfie. One dress also fits a lot better because of the limited sizes available in store, which makes the petite versus regular size comparison illustrated above even less useful.

Today, while returning the shirtdress, I tried on the Ann Taylor Floral Eyelet Dress, which Franish and another blogger have posted. I really like it and am sorely tempted to buy it, but with a few caveats. The outer part of the dress is cotton, but the lining contains polyester, which means that its fairly unsuitable for casual wear, particularly on my upcoming vacation to hot, humid climes. It's currently an additional 30% off sale, for a total of $90.99 before tax/shipping, which is a bit high when I really don't need another work dress, especially one that would be uncomfortable on an NYC summer commute.

I'm wearing an 8 petite on the left, which fits well but is too short (well above the knee, more than an inch) and a little bit too "mini dress" (the waist is a bit high for my tastes) for me. The model photo suggests that the dress is actually supposed to be that length, but I'd want it for work more than play. They only had the 8 regular, pictured on the right, and it is definitely as much as two sizes too big. If I am indeed a 4 or 6 regular, that would make this fairly true to size for Ann Taylor. My photos totally don't show the regular-sized dress to its best advantage and maybe deemphasize the length of the petite one. Looking at my photos now even makes me think that I should order the petite to try on again though I was so sure it was too short in the store... In this case though, I'm pretty sure the camera misleads and the regular in a smaller size will be the one for me if I try it out again. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Full Circle

Instagram photo from when I first moved in for school.

When I first moved in for graduate school several years ago, I came into the city with nothing but two suitcases, a backpack, and a tote bag. I didn't have any particular minimalist or decluttering tendencies. It's just that all my moves up until then had been across the country or across the world by plane, which meant that everything I wanted to keep each time had to fit in as many bags as I could check in. 

Most of my things minus a Ikea Hemnes dresser and nightstand and another large and small suitcase that I will take home with me and bring back when I return to NYC. 

This is the first time I'm moving to anywhere within driving distance, and being able to keep most of my stuff is a new experience. The movers came a few days ago to take the pictured boxes and the furniture that I will keep, and it was not too stressful. My Ikea dresser did not endure the move as well as could be hoped, which could make this process an expensive lesson on how Ikea furniture is not the most portable of things (it wasn't the mover's fault either, I hired a company to assemble it when I first bought it and they messed something up). With a quick repair job, the dresser should survive our next move in October, but it could well be a bit touch and go.

Clothes, shoes, and bags take up maybe half of the space in the pictured large tubs and suitcases, and my remaining clothes and beauty products will barely fill another large suitcase and carry-on sized bag. I'm inclined to believe that this means that I've internalized the decluttering lessons from Marie Kondo's book pretty well and that I've cut my things down to what I need or am happy to own. While I was packing, I gifted a few blouses to my sister and threw out a few very worn out pieces of activewear, but I otherwise had very little additional decluttering to do on the wardrobe front.

Many friends and family think that I'm sometimes a bit overzealous with throwing things out or giving them away, and they are right, in a way. It can start looking wasteful, especially back in college or earlier years when I often had much in the way of barely-worn clothes that I only really half-liked when I bought them. Hopefully, as I learn to shop more carefully and consciously, that problem of wastefulness will subside. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Shopping Reflections

This monthly budget post looks a bit different than usual because I didn't buy anything fashion or beauty-related this month. I've done some in-person and online browsing at many of my go-to shops, mainly when family visited for graduation, but I didn't see anything I liked. Also, I dined out considerably more than usual while showing family members around the city, which left very little room for a shopping budget anyway. 

I purchased some gifts for others, and I added the pictured Ann Taylor dress ($77.40 on a 40% off promotion) to an order to get free shipping on the gifts. I don't record online purchases against my monthly total until I've received the item and decided to keep it (unless it is final sale). Although the dress is objectively quite cute, I strongly suspect it will not be a keeper for me. I tried on sizes that didn't work in the store, and I found it to run quite small in the chest relative to other AT items. It is 100% cotton with no stretch, which means that I could need to size up two sizes from my "average" AT size, which could leave the waist baggy. The yoke neckline/tapering at the upper armhole is also likely to emphasize my chest in a way that's not flattering. I'm also contemplating some purchases from the Paula's Choice sale (referral link) to replace items when they run out, but I'll wait until June.

All in all, I'm actually a bit shocked that I haven't shopped this month. It isn't too surprising: I went from the exam period to showing family members around NYC to graduation and then straight on to packing and moving. There wasn't time. In past busy times though, I've often looked to online shopping as partial stress relief, without really thinking about how other expenditures for the month affected my ability to shop.

My use of my shopping budget this month then ends up as follows: 
  • Fashion - $0.00
  • Beauty - $0.00

Linking up with Franish and the other budgeting bloggers this month as usual! Franish graciously answered some of her readers' questions about her budget in this month's post, which provides a very real look at how she manages her finances as a medical student. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Camera Shy

A few years ago (at Point Lobos Reserve in California). 

Is it strange that one of the things I get most anxious about with my upcoming transition to working adulthood is maintaining a healthy lifestyle (by which I primarily mean my weight)? Many young professionals in NYC have a hard time with regularly cooking weekday meals, and my record as a student suggests that I will not be an exception. I don't particularly enjoy exercise either. I hate how much of my mental energy is devoted to weight, thanks to the influence of pop culture and larger social pressures. An additional layer of pressure comes from my Asian-American background. Within the community and amongst family members, the standard for an "acceptable" weight and size is quite strict. 

I generally dislike being in front of the camera. I used to have a visceral negative reaction to seeing recent photos of myself because of body image-related insecurities. Back then, my distaste for photographs focused on how my face looked. These days, my tune has changed a bit, and I generally think of my face as reasonably photogenic most of the time. More recently, my insecurities center on the rest of me.

Learning to be confident about and happy with my body has been a long process, and I'm not all of the way there. Based on my own purely anecdotal experiences, it seems that more or less everyone I know has their own cross to bear when it comes to body image hangups. For me, its generally been my somewhat atypical (particularly for a Chinese-American woman) top-heavy body shape. My measurements are generally 36''-26''-37'', with much of anything extra accumulating in my chest first. Because I spent most of my teenage and young adult years being self-conscious about my chest measurement, I think that it photographs poorly and generally makes me look larger than I am. How it comes across in pictures varies dramatically depending on angle and pose. Or at least, I think so.

I'm not entirely sure what I mean to do by writing this out. I think a lot about body image issues and the way American society and media treats women and focuses on outward appearances. I know the pressure is, for lack of a better word, externally imposed BS, but its difficult to fully escape it nonetheless. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Party Dresses

Diane von Furstenberg "Zarita" Dress

As of yesterday afternoon, I am finally done with all my exams and schoolwork for the degree! Graduation is next week, and then I have to pack and move. 

There was a fancy party to celebrate the end of the year, and I finally got to pull out the DVF Zarita dress I bought on deep discount from Nordstrom last fall. I've occasionally contemplated looking to Rent the Runway for my fancy party needs, but never pulled the trigger on renting a dress, though it is probably my only potential avenue to dressing in a full-length gown for a special occasion. Whenever I browse the catalog, I seem to have a knack for picking out gowns with rental fees that rival the amount I normally expect to spend to own an (admittedly much less fancy) dress. I don't foresee having any other occasions that call for a gown in the near future, which means that actually trying out Rent the Runway is probably not in the cards for me anytime soon.

I bought the Zarita dress on the expectation that I could also pull it out for future office holiday parties. The possible irony is that it is simultaneously the most nightlife-appropriate dress I own (speaking as someone who generally wears Ann Taylor sheaths on nightlife outings), despite the modest neckline and its reasonable length on someone my height. The fabric is thick, slightly stretchy jersey under the lace, and it doesn't have any shape or structure of its own, which allows it to conform almost entirely to the wearer's body. It was a good purchase for me, and I expect to continue getting use from it. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Thoughts While Studying

By this time next week I will have completed my last final examination going towards my graduate degree and likely my last bit of school-related work ever. The end of the school year cannot come soon enough! I've had a few ideas for posts (primarily something about the Met exhibit's theme, which is, by its own definition, about Orientalism), but I have lacked the will to actually write. For now,  here are a few things that have been on my mind as I've prepared for my last set of exams. 

There was a deeply sad story published today by ESPN, it is mainly about a college student's suicide and it was, indirectly, also about Instagram and how it might implicitly encourage people to present a heavily edited version of their lives and what that depiction might obscure. It is hard for me to fully understand how social media has changed since I started college (almost a decade ago, which is itself a scary thought). Despite a considerable amount of time spent blogging, mostly at other sites  over the years, I generally feel a bit behind the curve when it comes to new social media platforms. I have fun browsing Instagram, but I find that I hate being in front of the camera. I'm also not particularly dedicated to uploading other photos either, perhaps partially because I generally don't get a lot of likes even from real-life friends that use social media. 

I do remember, however, some of my own "fear of missing out"-like social anxieties from college. Back then, an average person who liked to take photos (with a digital camera, not a smartphone) might upload photos twice a month or so at most. They'd be less edited, I think, and would generally be more realistic about all the awkwardness associated with going to college parties. I would get anxious when friends posted pictures from social events I had not been invited too. Long story short, college was a deeply awkward time for me, and I feel that most of my friends agree with that assessment. If I had gone to college in the age of Instagram, it probably wouldn't have been a good influence on me. 

Because tigers are not native to Japan, depictions of tigers in traditional Japanese art were modeled on housecats and imported tiger skins.

On a lighter note, the Japan Society's current exhibit on depictions of cats in Japanese art is fun, but small. One of the great tragedies of my life is that both K and I have moderately severe cat allergies, which means that cat ownership is not in our future. (This probably distresses me considerably more than it does him.) 

Also, it is Mother's Day this weekend! Sadly, I've been away from home every Mother's Day since I started college. I always send a card, though my gift-purchasing has been a bit more uneven. I feel completely sheepish, and I should be, though my mom is the first to insist that I not worry too much about it.