Wednesday, October 28, 2015

October Shopping Reflections

This was an eventful month: I started my full-time job, went on a business trip to Chicago, and am now in the process of moving to my new apartment. All of that gave me a little less time to blog than usual. My new office-dwelling lifestyle takes a bit of getting used to, and I can feel my shopping habits and wardrobe preferences changing as a a result. Although I've had a few summer internships that gave me some basis for anticipating my office wardrobe needs, I've changed my mind on a few things, such as my willingness to wear pants as part of my business casual outfits. 

Shopping-wise, I went a fair bit over my $250/month budget for fashion purchases this month, but I don't worry too much about that because I've been under budget for a few months, and I'm still on track to come in under my limit for the year. There are times now when I feel as if I'm possibly too busy to shop, but I obviously end up shopping anyway. The real budget-buster this month was my jeans, and that is a purchase I hope I don't have to repeat anytime in at least two years, if not longer. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $327.13)
  • J. Crew Factory Long-Sleeve Striped Boatneck Tee - $34.50* - This was one of my "Five Piece French Wardrobe-ish" choices for the fall/winter season. I reviewed it here
  • Madewell Northstar Pullover, Vintage Forest - $45.15 - I love the color, and I like the slouchy fit. It is 100% merino wool, which is nice in theory. Sadly, between this sweater and some other 100% wool sweaters I bought from Madewell last year, I'm about to conclude that it might be best to avoid their sweaters in the future. They just don't hold up that well to frequent wear and even the very gentle hand-washing I do with my sweaters. 
  • Uniqlo Cotton-Blended Ankle Length Pant, Dark Green - $39.90 - I reported on these pants and how they compared to a similar poly-blend style from Uniqlo here. I find that the Dark Green shade is indistinguishable from gray in basically any lighting. 
  • Uniqlo Cotton-Blended Ankle Length Pant, Black - $39.90 - I've mainly been wearing the black pair to work, and I like them so far. They do tend to attract lint a bit more than my other pair of poly-blend work pants from Loft. Because these have an elastic waist, it is difficult to get as good a fit from these as from other pants, but this style works well for me. 
  • rag & bone/JEAN "The Skinny" Jeans, Coventry - $161.68* - This was another one of my "Five Piece French Wardrobe-ish" choices for the fall/winter season, and in buying it, I contradicted an earlier decision to try and stick with more moderately priced jeans. I like these. They are comfortable and flattering, and they hold their shape fairly well between wears. The front pockets are fake, which I find bizarre. Although I need to get these hemmed a bit for my 5'3'' height, I find that the fading at the knees still hits in the right place. (Extra Petite reported the same thing in her review of this style.) 
  • Necklace Extenders - $6.00 - I wanted to extend the length of that Gorjana necklace from a few months ago so that it would work better with a short necklace that I wear daily. These are shipped from China, but they arrived in about two weeks, which is reasonably quick. 

Beauty - (TOTAL: $54.00) 
  • Fresh Sugar Deoderant Antiperspirant - $18.00 - I've used this product on and off for a while, and I keep going back to it. It is expensive, but I really dislike the smell of a lot of drugstore antiperspirants, and I often have problems with allergic reactions. 
  • MAKE UP FOREVER HD Pressed Powder - $36.00 - I used to use MUFE's loose powder, but that tended to be messy. I bought the smaller version of the pressed powder earlier this year and it was much more practical, especially for traveling, but it runs out a lot faster than the loose powder. I'm trying the larger size of the pressed powder now, and hopefully it doesn't run out too fast. 

*indicates that sales tax and/or shipping were included in this price

Linking up with Franish and the other Budgeting Bloggers again this month. Be sure to check out what everyone else bought! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Comparison: Uniqlo Ankle Length Pants

I've only recently started wearing pants as part of my rotation of business casual clothes. Because I'm finding that the one pair I owned is not quite enough for me now, I've been vaguely in the market for another pair of slimmer-cut slightly-tapered or straight-leg slacks. I have no patience for shopping for pants, however, and I wasn't particularly ready to invest in anything too expensive. Fortuitously, someone on my college alum Facebook group posted about Uniqlo's ankle-length pants, and I had a chance to try two different varieties: one at the store, and one via online order. 

I've opted to keep two pairs of the Cotton-Blended Ankle Length Pant, one in black and one in a "dark green" (pictured above), that actually looks gray in almost any lighting. On my 5'3'' and short of leg self, both of these ankle-length pants look full-length, cutting off right at the boney part of my ankle, rather than having the cropped look they have on the model. They're incredibly easy to wear and very comfortable, with an elastic waistband rather than a zipper closure. At $39.90, the price is right, especially because I'm still in the experimentation stage when it comes to opting for pants rather than skirts and dresses at work. 

One potential serious downside with this style is that it has a contrasting waistband, which is covered in the above photo, but can be seen in Uniqlo's photos of the other colors. It doesn't matter much to me because I am always wearing a jacket or sweater that will cover the waistband at work. However, I feel like that this design element is enough to take these pants out of serious consideration for many other customers. The pants just won't be formal enough for many workplaces when the waistband is visible. 

I have some concerns about how these pants will do in the wash. Some of the reviewers say that the cotton blend wrinkles badly, though I haven't noticed that while trying them on several times. Another reviewer reported shrinkage, which would be a bigger concern. 

I also ordered the polyester blend Ankle Length Pant to try, though the gray were sold out in my size, which was a minor disappointment. My thought on this was that I suspected the polyester might hold up better to washing, and a major plus is that they lack the problematic contrasting waistband detail. They're also easy to wear because, like the other design, they rely on elastic at the waist to hold them up. These run a little smaller than the cotton-blended version, and I found that this style was less flattering, both because of the smaller fit and because of the way the fabric skims over the body less smoothly. The fabric feels thinner and cheaper with these too. Keep in mind that both styles are unlined. (EDIT 12/8: after taking a closer look at more pairs of formal suiting pants and chatting with a friend, it seems that the norm at American retailers and brands up to the Theory price point is for women's pants to be unlined. Maybe that goes for all suiting pants and my cluelessness is showing!) They're definitely made to be affordable more than anything else. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

One's Sense of "Normal" Spending

via Pinterest
I am endlessly fascinated by how different people my age relate to money, consumption, and spending. It's almost silly of me. After all, how other people "do" money really isn't any of my business. Also, I tend to speculate about the "why" behind each person's different habits, and that's definitely an unproductive exercise. Even so, I do think it can be helpful to me to take a look at where I fall on the spectrum of willingness to spend. I'm not always known for having the best judgment about appropriate use of funds, and analyzing how my habits compare to those of other similarly situated young adults can be a "sanity check" for me.

In our first week at work, someone mentioned their consternation at needing to buy a $200 bridesmaid dress, and others chimed in with tales of aggravation about weddings that required an expensive hotel room, though they generally tried to reduce that expense by splitting a room with their significant other and another couple. Last month, I mentioned a bridesmaid dress purchase, and while I didn't list it in my shopping budget, I gave enough information so that anyone could calculate how much I spent: right around $200. The wedding in question is a Caribbean destination wedding, and the hotel room is... more than the numbers my colleagues were throwing around. (My friend and her fiancee were, by the way, kind enough to subsidize flights for the wedding party.) I didn't think much about these costs, except for a moment of surprise at how the hotel doesn't initially include its sizable resort fee when it lists room prices. Either way, I was excited to be part of their big day, considered it one of my vacations for the year, and didn't worry about it. I suppose its easier for me because, perhaps unusually for a person my age, it is the only wedding I anticipate needing to attend in the next year or two.

Before you think that I'm excessively extravagant, other peers have mentioned carrying a sizable credit card balance at the moment thanks to not having a regular salary this summer, moving expenses, and the like. Whatever else I've done with my funds, I ended the summer in better shape than that, having kept my small emergency fund of $2000 in place after I initially set it aside in September 2014, with another $2000 set aside for my first interest payment, and enough for my moving expenses (including first month's rent, last month's rent and a security deposit). All this after the aforementioned wedding expenses and my sizable Asia trip. The tale is, of course, not as simple as all that: a lot of them had an actual cross-country move and are waiting on the slow process of getting moving expense reimbursements from our company, but either way, I have more liquid cash than most. In other areas, I'm much more frugal on gym expenses than the average, and I also don't consume alcohol as a general matter.

The conclusion here is probably that I spend too much time and mental energy on this topic, such that I might even write another post about how I relate to shopping, waiting for sales, and the like versus how others seem to approach these questions. What do you think: is this even a normal thing to think about? I swear I'm not trying to be judgmental, just interested in how different people approach things. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Things I'm Learning About Professional Life

personal photo

I'm officially a working professional now, and it's been a hectic transition! Although I'm only a few days into my career at this point, I'm already encountering many unexpected new truths about how life as an office-dweller differs from life as a student. Being a solidly mid-twenties person, I'm grappling with some of these experiences a bit later than many people typically would. In no particular order, here are some things that have been surprising to me:

  • I eat more takeout than ever before (some of it reimbursable when I order for delivery to the office, but that accounts for 20% or less of my anticipated takeout consumption per Monday through Friday), but I actually see my overall food expenditures decreasing. Part of it is that many of the meals I'm thinking of are at my company's moderately subsidized cafeteria. Another part of it, embarrassingly enough, probably comes from my prior inability to be efficient about my grocery shopping. In my defense, NYC groceries are extremely expensive, such that Whole Foods can average out to be one of the cheaper options.
  • I have much less time and patience for shopping, though it might be a little early to say that this new state of affairs will last. On the one hand, this has led me to go back on my resolve not to buy designer denim for my replacement pair of jeans. I went to a few places to try on more moderately priced ones, and it was a much more time-intensive and frustrating process than I expected. It makes me reevaluate my feelings on the Rag & Bone "The Skinny" jeans I tried on a few months ago, which have been the most flattering pair I've tried in recent memory. Relative to other styles, they're not as strangely thin as i thought, though the spandex content is very high.
  • Somewhat related to both of the above points, I worry a little bit about lifestyle inflation. Part of the thought process is that I'm fortunate enough to be at an income level where I can do almost everything I want: be extremely aggressive about student loan payments, make some decent efforts at saving, and maintain a comfortable lifestyle if I'm savvy about it. I will also be working hard. For context, my first week involved one session of working to 2:30 A.M. and another where I stopped around midnight. It's what I signed up for, and for this stage of my life, it works, but well, it becomes easy to say "screw it, I have a little more money than I have time or energy" on various things here and there, mostly on modest things like a generously sized $5.00 lunch at the aforementioned company cafeteria (excellent price for NYC). 
  • Women's work shoes are the absolute worst, and basically all of the women in my group of fellow new employees agree. I wear last season's version of the Cole Haan Tali Wedge, which I had been wearing to internships and interviews for months. Somehow, despite the shoes having been well broken-in by now, they still made my feet hurt rather terribly in the first few days. 
  • I actually enjoy wearing pants to work. Throughout the last few years, I never wore pants for business formal or business casual, ever. This was partially borne of the extreme difficulty of finding a flattering pair of slacks and partially because I thought most slacks were uncomfortable I finally broke that streak last week, and I actually didn't mind it. I wear these a slightly cropped older design of these Marisa Fit slim slacks from Loft, which are pretty good, though I really haven't tried on many other styles. One factor contributing to my newfound fondness for pants is that the climate control in the office can be a bit uneven, leaning towards being too cold. Pants are helpful for that, at least in this narrow window of autumn before tights-wearing weather really sets in.

Back when you first started working full-time, did anything about the transition surprise you? How often are you able to cook, especially to bring food for lunch? How often do you get takeout for dinner because of working late? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Review: J. Crew Factory Long-Sleeve Striped Boatneck Tee

One of my planned purchases for this fall/winter season was a breton striped shirt, one with a more classic design than a tunic-length top I purchased earlier this year at Uniqlo. My criteria for this purchase were as follows:

  • Long sleeves. I typically like three-quarter sleeves and think they're flattering, which is maybe partially a product of being a bit too wide-shouldered for petite tops while still having slightly too-short arms for some regular long-sleeved tops. Either way, my other striped top has three-quarter sleeves, so I wanted to mix it up. There was a newer design at Uniqlo that fit most of my other criteria, but the sleeves were awkwardly long with excess length extending to at least the base of my thumb. That sleeve length was especially strange relative to the shorter than expected length of the shirt. 
  • Boatneck preferred. I find boatnecks flattering, though I sometimes have issues with a bra strap showing. (Most of my bras have fairly thick straps, and they can peek out of a wider boatneck unless I push them a little off-center.) Round and crew necks can sometimes be very unflattering on me by emphasizing my chest in an awkward way, though I was ready to look at round neck shirts at Saint James.  
  • Thick cotton fabric. I wanted something made to imitate the classic Saint James shirts, which are made of a heavier cotton fabric, which results in a shirt that is good for spring and fall, but isn't really suitable for, say, a NYC summer. 
  • Stripes must be woven in, not printed. Back when I first started looking, I browsed regular J. Crew as well, and one of their only striped tee designs available at the time had printed rather than woven-in stripes. (You can see from the photo, where the inside of the shirt is visible, that the stripe is not woven in to the fabric.) That felt a bit cheap to me.

This J. Crew Factory Long-Sleeve Striped Boatneck Tee was backordered for a while, and I received it right at the end of September, after I'd already compiled my budget post. I first saw it on Franish several months ago, and I vaguely thought about buying it then, but I had just bought that other striped top. Now that I have it in my hands, I find that I really like it, and I've already decided to keep it, so it will be listed in the next budget post. It fits all the criteria I had in mind. 

I ordered both the small and the medium, and I'm wearing the small above. On me, the small has a slightly relaxed fit that still skims pretty close to my body. The boatneck is narrow enough that I don't have too much trouble with bra straps peeking out. The sleeves hit a bit past my wrist, but aren't as awkwardly long as the ones on that Uniqlo top I tried. The cotton is a bit thinner than I was envisioning, but it is the same type of thicker cotton fabric that I had in mind.

Monday, October 5, 2015


I recently went back to Rigby & Peller, the specialty shop where I had my first professional bra fitting, and I'm officially one cup size bigger than at my last fitting three years ago. It isn't the biggest difference, actually, because my chest circumference remains the same, and a properly fitted bra often has the effect of making one look a little smaller under clothes regardless. Nevertheless, I am a bit mystified by how my size can change when most of my measurements didn't, but bra sizes are mysterious. In hindsight, I should have gone in sooner. I've been shopping Nordstrom sales for new bras, and I'd been marveling at how difficult it was to find a good one even when I knew my proper size. I was chalking it up to different brands and designs having considerable variation, which is true, but the main factor likely was that I no longer had my correct size at all. Oops! 

I am a bit distressed because I bought a few relatively pricey things this year that won't work as well with this change: a bikini in March and a sports bra in June. I've been using the latter frequently, and the size mismatch isn't too serious there, at least. It has some visible hallmarks of a not-quite-fitting bra when worn, but it's comfortable and keeps things stable, if you will, during my workouts. It serves its purpose and probably doesn't demand a replacement anytime soon. I have a few rarely used items, including a beautiful Chantelle bra that I bought last December (in the shade pictured above), which I might consider putting on eBay now. 

I highly recommend getting professionally fitted. It can be a magical experience, as Nicole at Writes Like a Girl recently reported. (Cassie at The Minuteglass is also no stranger to a the joy of having the right fit.) For those who are able to get spend-y and live near a Rigby & Peller, they do an excellent job. They take a lot of guesswork out of things and will bring you a selection of things to try, based on your preferences, once they've figured out your size. Essentially everything their sales associates bring to me is a perfect or near-perfect fit, and all that after figuring out my size by just taking a glance at how I looked in the bra I wore to the store. (I was wearing something very close to the right size each time, though.) They are very pricey though, especially if you're in a less common size. They stock a few bras in the $70-$80 range, but almost everything that worked for me this time was around $120. The cost per wear analysis should be favorable though: I tend to stick to a very small collection of two or three bras in frequent rotation, and I get a solid two and a half to three years of wear that way. I handwash my bras in The Laundress delicates wash, but I think Cassie mentioned getting similar longevity by machine-washing.