Friday, February 27, 2015

February Shopping Reflections

My fashion-related shopping for the month included some necessities, some things that I planned out, and a few things that were arguably impulse purchases (though all of those were things that I had wanted at some point). I've discussed why I don't set a concrete budget for myself while still keeping close track of my overall budget and limiting my fashion (and beauty) spending based on my other needs. Lo and behold, budget-related circumstances changed this month. My interview-related travels did not require anything more expensive than a train ticket and then I got the job! This allowed me to move funds out of the interview travel category. Some of the freed-up funds will go towards shopping. 

I might have made some of my spending choices out of a desire to celebrate, and that might also be seen in some of next month's  decisions. It isn't necessarily the best thing to celebrate one's achievements by shopping, but as long as one is careful, I don't think there's any real harm. 

I am proud of how well I have done with beauty-related purchases. The concealer was the first thing I bought at Sephora this year (an improvement over this time last year). While I still purchase many skincare items because of my complicated routine, each thing I bought was an identified "need."

Fashion - (TOTAL: $376.72)
  • Two-Pack of H&M Tights - $17.95  - I couldn't find black fleece-lined tights anywhere and my old pair was in poor condition. These count as a "need." They're not fleece-lined, but were the thickest pair available at H&M at the time.
  • Uniqlo Cotton Cashmere Tunic - $39.90 - I had wanted a gray sweater, but could have waited until next year. 
  • Uniqlo Striped Tunic - $29.90 - A St. James-like striped shirt is something I've wanted for a long time. However, I can't really say that I was thinking about buying one anytime soon until I saw this top while shopping for the sweater. 
  • Equipment Silk Shirt - $66.00 - One of the things from The RealReal. I had a 20% off coupon that dropped the price to $60, but I needed to pay rather outlandishly high shipping costs ($11.95!) which I averaged out between the two items. 
  • Diane von Furstenberg Wrap Dress - $66.00 - Same as above. 
  • Skagen Freja Watch - $69.99 -This was a very well planned out purchase and among the things I knew I wanted to buy this year under the rules of my shopping fast. This was a sale price on what I believe is an older style. The current price for new Frejas is $125. 
  • J. Crew Crystal Snowflake Necklace - $46.99 - Purchased on Ebay. I wanted this necklace a few months ago when it was on sale from J. Crew for a similar price, but never pulled the trigger. I looked for it on Ebay on impulse and was lucky(?) enough to find it. 
  • Pearl Stud Earrings - $39.99 - Purchased on Amazon at a greater discount than is available now. This was a replacement and slight upgrade for something that broke. 

  • Nars Creamy Concealer in Mustard - Replacement for something that ran out.
  • Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask Squeeze Mask 15 Sheets - My skin was acting up the week before my interviews and I wanted to go back to these masks because I knew for sure that they wouldn't exacerbate irritation. They're available for a good price on Amazon
  • Missha First Treatment Essence - Bought during one of those 40% sales (strictly speaking, 30% sale plus 10% cash back) as a back-up for when my current bottle runs out. 
  • Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule - Same as above. 
Linking up with Franish and other Budgeting Bloggers, which you can find here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Makeup Storage

I've continued editing down my makeup collection in the weeks since I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This probably means that I didn't perfectly internalize Marie Kondo's lessons on being decisive and confident about what to keep or discard, but I feel like decluttering is a long-term process. I still agree with Kondo that one only needs to read her book and go through the process once to fully learn its lessons. It's just that it can be difficult to actually part with all the items in one fell swoop.

At this point, I've edited my makeup collection down to basically just the items that I use almost every time I do makeup for work, with the exception of my lipstick collection, two extra blushes, and the eyeshadows from my Naked Palette. (I could even get rid of all the eyeshadow without really affecting my day-to-day life. I've worn it only three times so far this calendar year.) My skincare collection is still large, but comprised entirely of products I actually use. My nail polish collection is maybe still overlarge when I haven't worn any for weeks, but I'll work on that. 

Although there are a lot of other plastic drawer options for storing makeup, I like the clear acrylic cases from Muji best. They're expensive compared to other options, but I like the way they look. The three-drawer and two-drawer cases I bought don't stack perfectly, but are close enough in size. I took Kondo's advice on repurposing boxes to use as trays. I also bought a wooden tray at the Container Store.

I have also gotten into the habit of taking apart what few palettes I have and consolidating into one magnetic palette. I tried a Z-Palette and it was functional, but this one is a much better value, provided that you are not looking for a travel-sized one. I bought it after seeing a recommendation on one of the beauty subreddits. Shipping takes forever because it is shipped from China. The black separator between the little metal pans is foam and is easy to take out. (The redditor also mentioned putting the palette in the freezer to make the glue less sticky so the separator is easier to remove, but I found that step unnecessary.) The little metal pans are magnetic and also easily removed. Unfortunately, I haven't identified a good source for little magnets to use with the palettes. The Z-Palette brand ones are a bit expensive.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Selling Clothes on Twice

The items I sent away to Twice. A lot more stuff would fit in one bag.

Edited 6/29 - I realized I never updated this entry to reflect that I've now gone through the Thredup selling experience twice. My thoughts on that can be found here.

One side effect of all the decluttering is, naturally, that I end with a lot of stuff to get rid off. A lot of things should be thrown away. I donate a lot of the clothes. I've gifted some of the nicer items to my sister. However, after years of not shopping as thoughtfully as I could, I've accumulated many fairly nice pieces of clothing in like-new condition that just don't suit me and wouldn't interest my sister or any of my friends. After dabbling with Ebay to sell some old electronics, I found that I just didn't have the energy to try to sell my clothes that way. 

Incidentally, I don't think Kondo's book would actually advocate spending time on trying to resell things. Her philosophy is more about keeping only the things that bring you happiness in your life and putting aside the rest. I imagine that expending additional effort or potential stress on reselling items that no longer bring joy would not be particularly consistent with her approach. If I was already working at my full-time job when I decluttered, I probably would have donated everything. It wouldn't have been worth spending the time to research my options. 

That being said, both Twice and Thredup make it very easy to sell. They'll send a free laundry-bag-sized thick plastic bag with a prepaid shipping label to you upon request (both selling services are currently free, but I believe Thredup normally charges), you drop it off at your local UPS or FedEx (the label on the bag will let you know where to go) or even arrange for pickup (Thredup) and they'll get back to you with an offer for your items. Both will donate the items that they don't accept for resale. 

Note that the $63.12 offer is only if I choose store credit, the payout was actually $50.50 in cash. 

I can't do a full comparison of the two services yet because I am still waiting on my offer from Thredup, but I can report that I was fairly satisfied with my selling experience on Twice. 

The things I liked about Twice: 
  • One of the primary advantages of Twice is that they are much faster. I actually sent my Thredup selling bag almost a week before my Twice bag, but because Twice is a smaller site, they get back to you very quick. It only took about 3 business days to get the bag and from the day I mailed it, it took about a week and a half to get my offer. Every step of Thredup so far has been slower. 
  • Based purely off the "letter of the law" when it comes to both sites' quality guidelines, Twice likely has slightly less stringent guidelines for the items they'll accept. Where Thredup explicitly requests new or like new items, Twice says that items "you would give to a friend" are alright. Anecdotal evidence from my college alum Facebook group suggests that Twice generally accepts a larger percentage of items than Thredup. 
    • This is not to say that they don't do quality control. Everything I sent was in what I considered like-new condition and you can see that they rejected two items. I had never worn either item and only tried them on at home or at the store. Relatedly, I am a bit surprised that they accepted the Loft cardigan. While I never wore it, there was a tiny defect with the sweater that arose from inconsistent quality with the manufacturing. 
  • Twice offers Venmo as an option for cashing out, which allows for an instantaneous payout.To my knowledge, Thredup only offers Paypal, which has a longer processing time. 
  • If you reject your offer, its cheaper to get your items back. It costs $4.95 to get your entire bag returned from Twice. It is a pity that they won't just send back the items that they rejected. However, when compared to Thredup's $12.99 Return Assurance shipping fee, its still a much better deal. 
The things I liked less about Twice:
  • They accept fewer brands. Regardless of my experience with Thredup, I'll probably end up sending them another bag because Thredup accepts H&M, while Twice does not. 
  • They accept fewer types of accessories. I believe Twice accepts only bags and shoes while Thredup accepts things like scarves and belts. 
  • Their quality control is maybe a bit more arbitrary than I would like. I think my experience shows that they are careful and scrutinize items fairly closely, but it does mystify me that they accepted the Loft cardigan, but not the Tracy Reese silk top, which looked new to me. It is fairly likely, however, that Thredup is even more stringent. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Interview Outfits: The Basics on a Student Budget

via Pinterest - This is pretty close to my ideal interview outfit, but I would opt for similar heels of a lower height and thicker heel, and I would be carrying a large black tote. Also, one necklace is enough.

The last two to three weeks have been hectic ones because of a few of those surprise interviews I sometimes allude to. I am, however, happy to report that my interviews went well! Over the last several years of school, I've accumulated quite a bit of experience with dressing for interviews in my fairly conservative field while on a student budget, so I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about reasonably affordable business-formal interview clothes.

While I think there is still a wide range of acceptable styles that fit within the "business-formal interview" dress code, most of my women classmates err on the extremely safe side when it comes to dressing for their interviews. This is perhaps despite the fact that fairly permissive business casual dress codes are the day-to-day norm for most of our corporate workplaces, which suggests that most interviewers probably don't care much about any particular business-formal detail. That constant risk that someone might still care (i.e. that someone thinks pantsuits for women are less formal, that patent leather shoes are not okay, etc. etc.) still drives most of us to make extremely conservative choices.

Over time, I've found myself defaulting to the same uniform every time I have an interview, sticking to the same pieces or colors. Interviewing is stressful enough, so I like to save my mental energy for other preparations.

I should mention at the outset that, because this post is about interview clothing on a student budget, I include some items that come from the fast fashion side of things. As I mentioned in my previous post, sometimes that's just the reality when your budget is limited and your needs are very specific and somewhat time-sensitive. At the same time, a lot of the items are also not the most frugal in their category. I often find myself needing to spend a little more to buy something that is more functional or that fits me better when it comes to interview clothes. If business-formal interviews are an important part of your life, I think some of the more expensive pieces can be worth the investment if they truly are more suitable for one's needs.

The main criteria I've used when picking out my interview clothes in the last several years include (1) affordability and (2) versatility, balanced against the need for items that (3) fit reasonably well off the rack on my atypical top-heavy body type with minimal tailoring. Because of potential issues with fit and because I rely heavily on sale items whenever possible, I do a bit of mixing and matching with suit separates from different stores. Loft, Ann Taylor, and the Limited are my usual stores of choice when it comes to suit separates, both because of price (frequent additional percent off sales) and fit (when compared to say, Banana Republic, which does not suit my body type).

To be honest, I find black suits extremely severe and would prefer a suit in dark gray or navy if I had more time to shop and if budget, fit, reliance on sales etc. were less of an issue. Black separates from different stores generally match better than the different shades or textures of navy or gray that might be available across different stores. Also, I find that black skirts in particular fit my business casual wardrobe better than other colors. 

The Outfit:
  • Black Blazer - I strongly prefer two-button styles over one-button styles. 
    • Two-Button Jacket (The Limited) - I got the sleeves shortened, but the regular sizes otherwise fit me well off the rack. 
    • All Season Stretch One-Button Jacket (Ann Taylor) - I own this jacket and it is alright. Ann Taylor and Loft have not, to my knowledge, generally sold two-button basic black blazers in the last three years, which distresses me. 
  • Black Pencil Skirt - Skirts should be close to knee-length.
    • Wide Waistband Pencil Skirt (The Limited) - My favorite pencil skirt. The regular sizes are the exact right length for me off the rack. 
    • Tricetate Pencil Skirt (Ann Taylor) - I've had good luck with Ann Taylor's pencil skirts too, though I don't own this specific one. I imagine Loft's pencil skirts would be similarly suitable. 
    • All Season Stretch Pencil Skirt (Ann Taylor) - See above. I find (mysteriously) that both regular and petite skirts at Ann Taylor generally work well for me.
  • White or Cream Shell or Button-Down - Many other colors are also perfectly acceptable, but I find white or cream to work best with my skin tone and be the most universally flattering. 
    • Pleated Cap Sleeve Top (Ann Taylor) - I own this top from another season and love it. The v-neck detailing is flattering and the neckline is still modest.
    • Silk Sleeveless (Everlane) - I highly favor silk tops from several seasons back at J. Crew for my interviews. I like the way silk hangs on the body when compared to other fabrics. Scouring sale racks for suitable cream or white silk tops could be a good strategy for finding interview tops. Everlane's pricing and quality are also alright, so I include it here.
    • Stretch Perfect Shirt (J. Crew) - I generally prefer not to wear button-downs because I find them boxy and unflattering as a general rule with an added risk of gapping and buttons coming undone. After trying button-downs at quite a few stores, I found that this shirt is the best fit for me. 
      • I wear a fitted white tank top underneath to mitigate the risk of wardrobe malfunctions. I always use this one or this one (H&M). 
  • Black Leather Pumps - I prefer shorter, chunkier heels because I am clumsy. I also prioritize comfort over style when it comes to shoes. Finally, I might not be a big stickler for high quality in this area because I always commute to my interview site in flats or boots if any walking is required. 
    • Karmen Pump (Payless) - I can't personally vouch for these, but multiple friends report that they're extremely comfortable, including for a commute.
    • Lennox Pump (Naturalizer) - One of my main pairs of interview pumps is from Naturalizer.  These are a very basic pair. 
    • Bromstad Grifton (Naturalizer) - These have a bow detail with metal hardware in a design that I find reasonable for interview shoes. They're also 70% off right now. 
  • Subtle Jewelry - I stick to a small necklace and a pair of pearl studs. 
    • Chloe Necklace (Gorjana) - I wear another Gorjana necklace. There are of course, many options at various price points when it comes to small, subtle necklaces.
    • Pearl Stud Earrings (Amazon) - I wore these daily for years before one of the pearls fell off the post. 
  • Handbag - I need one that is large enough to carry a change of shoes for walking/commuting and a leather portfolio. 
    • Le Pliage Neo (Longchamp) - I have a black Planetes tote which is an earlier version of the same design. I know this is not at a student-friendly price point, but I find that this bag is good for school, work, travel, and pretty much any other context one can think of. It looks professional, is waterproof, and is light and can carry a lot of stuff. In short, I think it can be worth it based on the excellent cost per wear value.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thrifting, Budgets, Ethical Shopping, etc. etc.

Diane von Furstenberg Wrap Dress, purchased via TheRealReal

I'm still putting serious thought into how to be a responsible consumer while still living within my budget constraints and trying to fulfill both my wardrobe "needs" and some of my wardrobe "wants." I still don't anticipate having any good or clear answers anytime soon, but I have come to a few conclusions.

The realities of my budget dictate that fast fashion will still be part of my life, even after I graduate and begin working. I've done calculations for what my student loan payments will look like and thought about my financial and other priorities. With all that in mind, the truth is that I will still buy basics like tights or plain tank tops for layering at decidedly fast-fashion places like H&M or Uniqlo. My activewear, when I need to buy it, will most likely continue to come from Forever 21.

I have no illusions about the serious problems with how these items are produced. By making the decision to stick to the fast-fashion price point for certain wardrobe components because of my financial needs, I am contributing to global environmental and social problems. I have some of the relative economic and other privileges that could facilitate better decisions, but I also have other constraints and needs that take precedence.

I have to believe that if I do my best to approach my Uniqlo or H&M shopping carefully (buying as few items as possible with the intention that things last as long as humanly possible, often in my experience for at least two to three years even with frequent wear) and consciously, that it is enough, that it is as ethical as I can and should have to be.

If it is not enough, then I am not sure what to say because I can't easily change my approach. I can't put down $40 or more to try out a pair of fleece-lined tights of unknown durability from a more expensive brand, for instance. Heck, I don't even know if paying more for a brand means that it is more ethically produced, since one argument in both Overdressed and Deluxe is that many higher-end brands also try to cut costs and outsource production to the same factories as H&M or Forever 21.

All this is to say that I am still figuring things out and that I will be for a long time. One thing that I am more confident about is that thrift store or consignment store shopping can be a good way to get around some of the thornier issues. Just by virtue of buying things secondhand rather than at a traditional retail shop, some of the ethical issues are mitigated. One reason why I buy certain things at H&M et al. is that I am sure that I won't reliably find reasonably-priced basics like black tights elsewhere at the exact moment I need them. However, when it comes to other clothing purchases that don't arise from urgent needs, thrifting becomes a more viable option.

Quite a few of my favorite business casual appropriate pieces came to my closet by way of digging through the racks at Buffalo Exchange in the East Village. As far as I can tell from Yelp reviews and my assumptions about the wealth of other thrift and consignment options that must be out there in NYC, Buffalo Exchange is far and away not the best in the genre. Nonetheless, I've found something great almost every time I've gone. It isn't the place for higher-end pieces, but I have good luck with heavily discounted ($15-25 per sweater or silk top) like-new or very gently-used items from the likes of J. Crew and Free People. In short, I've found Buffalo Exchange to be a surprisingly great place for the graduate student who is starting to think about dressing like a young professional.

I've also recently made a first purchase at the online consignment shop TheRealReal and I found it to be a great experience. I got a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress in perfect condition for a fantastic price ($60 with a 20% off sale from the original $75 price, though it comes with $11.99 shipping, which is less nice, and buyers are also obligated to pay shipping for returns). They don't always have them in stock and what stock they get seems to move quickly, but I see myself continuing to scour TheRealReal when I have a particular type of higher-end clothing item in mind and know exactly what size I want. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: You Need a Budget (YNAB) Software

All images via YNAB

I have mentioned that I don't set a definite shopping budget for myself, but I do keep obsessive track of my overall spending. I've tried both Mint and keeping an Excel spreadsheet, but I've found that You Need a Budget (YNAB) is the software solution that works best for me.

This is totally going to start sounding like ad copy, but this is not a sponsored post, though I do benefit if you use my referral link, as I mention at the end. (As an aside, it is so strange to me that blogging as an activity is in a stage where one might feel the need to explicitly declare "not sponsored" when recommending something enthusiastically.) 

The main advantage of YNAB over Mint is that while Mint is backwards looking, YNAB is intended to keep track of transactions in real time. If you're using it faithfully, you know exactly how much you have left to spend in every category for the month at any given moment. There's a mobile app that syncs with your data, which YNAB saves to your Dropbox, though I personally like to sit down and record my transactions on the computer.

Also, YNAB primarily relies on the user entering each transaction on their own rather than being automated, which I've found helpful for keeping me accountable. I've used the software since last September and I haven't fallen off the wagon, though I dropped the ball a bit for two to three weeks in November. It was a pain and a half to retrace my steps and enter all my transactions from those weeks. It is best to make time daily for recording your transactions. Sometimes it is surprisingly difficult to remember what one was spending even a day or two ago. 

This is totally not my budget, but this is what the software looks like. As you enter transactions, the amount of each is deducted from the relevant category. Because my primary "income" is a loan disbursement at the start of the semester, I have personally budgeted out that money from January to May, which is not the norm for people with regular paychecks.

It is difficult to fully explain how it works when the company can do it better and there's a reddit for it too. There is a bit of a learning curve, though I also find the software to be reasonably intuitive.

You can and should "roll with the punches" within reason. If you overspend in one category, cuts likely have to be made elsewhere. When I find myself with an unexpected expense, I've found it helpful to immediately look over the rest of my budget and see what I can cut down on to accommodate it. 

Additionally, this might go without saying, but I should mention that the experience is completely defined by how you set your own budget and whether you factor in things like savings and investment goals. If you draw out your budget numbers in a way that doesn't fully allow you to meet your savings goals (like I did last semester), then it is no surprise that YNAB can't help with those goals. I feel sheepish about it now, but I only started setting aside an emergency fund and extra "savings" in anticipation of things like interview expenses and friends' weddings in January. 

If you are feeling inspired and don't want to wait for a sale, you can use my referral link here. You will get a $6.00 discount and I will get a $6.00 referral bonus. The software costs $60.00 full price. However, I highly encourage you to try the 30 day free trial first and to wait for a sale at AppSumo or on Steam. I bought YNAB during a 50% discount sale at AppSumo and the best price I have seen was a 75% sale on Steam last fall on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thinking About... Interlaced Bangle Bracelets

Alexis Bittar Interlaced Bangle (AKA the Miss Havisham New Wave Bangle, apparently)

My taste in jewelry has changed a bit in the last year or so. I used to be very much a J. Crew colorful statement necklace kind of person, and there's definitely nothing wrong with that. I am even keeping at least two of my brightly colored statement necklaces in my post-KonMari method, more "minimalist" (in terms of size) jewelry collection. 

These days, when I add new pieces, I look for smaller, daintier designs. I find that I also tend to reach for those pieces more when putting together outfits. 

Gorjana Laurel Bangle

I was thinking about getting a new bracelet. I currently own only one, a Gorjana Sunset Disc bracelet in blue/green (no longer available) that is consistent with my current preference for more delicate jewelry,  but I am fond of these interlaced bangle style ones too. I don't think I can justify the expenditure, given that I have a few more pressing needs at the moment and the full retail price was never really going to fit in my budget (at least for pieces that are just costume jewelry).  

Still, I will keep an eye on these styles and think about it more seriously if either goes on sale. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

When Everything Needs Replacing

Maybe I'm just grouchy because I'm getting tired of winter and of snow, but lately it feels like too many things in my closet are breaking down or in need of replacement sooner than I anticipated.

My two and a half year old "everyday" boots have a hole in the leather upper and are probably unsalvageable. One of my "everyday" earrings, a nearly three year old pair of modestly priced pearl studs, keeps falling off the post and superglue is no longer doing the trick. My fleece lined tights are showing their wear because they're my only pair and they're two years old. Alas, it is not a good time of year to find a reasonably priced pair online. Neither my size nor my color are generally available for less than $20 a pair. My almost three year old down coat (vaguely similar to this one in price and design) has some really annoying design defects (the cloth gets stuck in the zipper and the hood has never stayed up) that feel increasingly obvious.

I'm sad about the boots. I paid $20.00 to resole them in November, declining a $45.00 deal that would have included cleaning and weatherproofing in addition to resoling. I thought the boots were too beat up (very noticeable salt and water stains) to be worth the maintenance costs. I was thinking yesterday that I might like the boots enough to go through with the cleaning and weatherproofing after all. I examined them and realized there I had worn a hole into the side of one. No wonder it still leaked despite the recent resoling. 

I really shouldn't complain. Winter will still be going strong for another month or two, but I have a pair of rain-boots and a pair of riding boots (which went through the $45.00 treatment) that will see me through the season. Replacement for the boots might need to wait until the fall this year. I might like a pair of waterproof duck boots then, but now is not the time. I can replace the earrings and that fits in my budget. If I get desperate, I can probably figure out the fleece-lined tights situation. The coat can definitely wait until winter next year, and maybe longer. 

Still, it isn't a great feeling when a lot of things seem to need replacement all at the same time. I am forced to wonder if spending my money more carefully on the boots and the coat would have helped me avoid the need for replacement this soon. Do you have anything in your closet that's crying out for a replacement? Was it a surprise? Or was it something you already anticipated and accounted for?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Recent NYC Adventures

With my graduation coming in a few months, now is the time to really take advantage of living in New York City. Although my blog's main focus is on budgeting, shopping, and the like from the perspective of someone trying to live by more minimalist principles, I also want to talk about other aspects of my life from time to time. Here are some of my outings from the last few weeks.

K and I went to a Malaysian restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens that is aptly named Taste Good. It is a fairly busy hole in the wall, and I loved each of the dishes we ordered (curry laksa, char kway teoy, chicken satay, and roti canai). Admittedly, I don't know much about Malaysian cuisine, but K is more knowledgeable and was a big fan of the restaurant. 

Katzenzungen, or "cat tongue" chocolates... I didn't actually try them. Though I am sure they are good.

There is also a branch of the Hong Kong Supermarket chain right near the restaurant and the subway stop. I have shopped at both the Chinatown branch and the Elmhurst one recently. While the Chinatown one has broader selection, it can be really crowded and a bit stressful to shop at as a result. 

I finally had the chance to stop by Bao Haus, the restaurant owned by Eddie Huang, author of the memoir Fresh Off the Boat, which is being adapted into a sitcom of the same name. It was one of those places that K and I always passed by on the way to or from another restaurant. We always thought about going, but never did until now. The "Chairman Bao" contains red-cooked pork, peanuts, and pickled mustard greens. Overall, I personally like this style of pork bun better than the one at the Momofuku restaurants. 

Some friends and I bought tickets to the Matilda musical during a recent 2-for-1 Broadway promotion. I loved the show, though some of my friends thought the pacing was a bit slow and found some of the story changes from from the book to be very strange. Some of the jokes the characters make throughout the show are quite grown-up, but I guess those jokes probably go straight over the heads of the (many) children in the audience. The Miss Trunchbull character is hilarious. 


Finally, I've read two novels recently that I would highly recommend. I don't generally gravitate towards novels that are "classics" or that would be at home in a high school class reading list, but I really enjoyed The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss is also very good and is beautifully written. The story is quite sad, though, and that becomes clear within the first dozen pages or so.

When it comes to books, I don't seem to have consistent criteria for which ones I enjoy the most. Like many readers, I love books that resonate with me, but that trait doesn't seem to hinge on writing quality or genre. The History of Love is one of those books, perhaps because it is largely told from the perspective of an elderly man and I have been thinking about caring for aging grandparents and related ideas. (The History of Love is impeccably written, but some of the other books that resonate with me... are not as good.  Amy Chua's The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, for instance.) 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Personal Style: Pulled in Many Directions

I have a hard time pinpointing my personal style. As you might see from my inspiration board on Pinterest, I gravitate to a lot of possibly contradictory elements. I like bright colors. I like prints, even when they're loud. Sometimes I add colorful statement jewelry. Then again, I also like a slouchier, more monochromatic, and more casual look. A more minimalist aesthetic has appeal to me. It is an open question whether those slouchy styles work for my figure, but that's a question for another day. 

I am not sure that I could hope to bring together both extremes simultaneously in a single outfit. I then have to balance my personal style inclinations with the limitations of my current (and future) lifestyle and needs. 

In a few months, five days of most every week of my life will involve an office with a dress code. Its a fairly permissive business casual dress code. Day to day, there's not much interaction with clients or anyone else outside the office. As a result, very few occasions demand formality. Additionally, many of the women (both up and down the corporate ladder) have fun with workplace dress. Despite the possible stereotype that my field is very conservative, there's some room for experimentation (within limits). Bright colors, loud prints, and skinny pants that show a bit of ankle etc. are a-okay most days so long as the overall look is still professional and covered up. 

From my summer internship at the same company, I think even my current predilection for casual, slouchy looks could also be fine, though with some obvious limits. There will be no jeans, leggings ,or hybrid leggings-pants, but that might go without saying. 

All this is to say I still don't have any answers to those personal style questions I was thinking about a few weeks ago. I just wanted to put together some pictures that  illustrate what I'm thinking about.

None of the photographs are mine, image sources should all be clear from looking at the captions on my Pinterest board.

In case you might be wondering about my future office dress code, Jamie Chung's Marimekko for Banana Republic outfit would be work appropriate. Peony Lim's outfit is not (chambray shirt if a no-go for me personally at work and the skirt is too short), though I would probably be ok with the overall color scheme with a few brightly colored elements swapped out for neutrals. I might or might not be envisioning wearing the green sweater type outfit to work, with jeans swapped out for slim-fitting cropped slacks and no t-shirt peeking out. 9to5Chic's tan-colored outfit is maybe too casual even with the sandals swapped out for closed-toe shoes. If the top could be tucked in, the skirt would be fine. All of the modified outfits would be pushing the envelope a bit, but still appropriate on non-client meeting days. I just threw in Atlantic Pacific (outfit won't translate to work) and Extra Petite (definitely work appropriate) for fun. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

How Many Pairs of Jeans Do you Own?


My college has a set of fairly active Facebook groups, one of which is devoted to fashion and beauty and inspires a few of my posts. Recently, someone posted this brief Apartment Therapy piece about a "minimalist" approach to a denim wardrobe that involves only owning three pairs of jeans at a time.

People in the discussion were pretty evenly divided between those who owned around eight pairs or more versus those who owned two or three. I was surprised to discover owning only three pairs of jeans at a time might seem revolutionary to some. Those who owned more tended to recognize that they generally had one or two favorites and could likely do without the rest. Even before my recent aspirations to minimalism, I have consistently only owned two pairs at a time for most of the last six years.

My maintenance of such a pared down jeans wardrobe was never out of any desire to downsize. Instead, it was for the simple reason that shopping for jeans (or any other pants) is a giant pain.

I am fairly short (almost 5'3'') and seem to be particularly short of leg for my height. There are many instances where even petite or "short" length pants or jeans still need to be hemmed to be an appropriate length.  Additionally, even if my main body image hangups lie elsewhere (as I carry weight in the upper half of the body), I still find most pants or jeans to be extremely finicky in how they fit. The only time I go shopping for jeans is when a previous pair rips.

I  currently own two pairs of Uniqlo skinny jeans, one black and one dark blue, and I bought both at the same time about four years ago. I took advantage of their free alteration/hemming service in the store. Given how rarely I shop for jeans, I can't really vouch for them having superior quality or fit, but I suppose their longevity speaks well of the quality. I anticipate needing new ones in the fall as the blue ones are starting to stretch out and sag quite a bit between washes.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?