Tuesday, September 27, 2016

September Shopping Reflections

Although this isn't too apparent from this month's shopping, my new commute really brings out the urge to online shop. My train ride is an hour and a half each way, and while I am able to get online and work on the train, my brain is often a bit tuckered out and it's so much easier to browse online shops for entertainment instead. We'll see whether it results in more actual shopping, as I am also more aggressive about returning things that don't work, given my reduced salary.

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I have a few things on my radar for the upcoming fall/winter period. I've had my knee-high riding boots (the Madewell Archive boot in black, not yet available this year) for almost five years now, and I'm in the market for something similar, but with a zipper and a sleeker look. With my frequent trips to the cobbler for resoling and, last trip around, weatherproofing, my old boots are actually in fine condition, but I just don't wear them much because of the extra minute it takes to pull them on. I'm trying out the Tory Burch Jolie boots (thanks to a recently ended 30% off promotion), and we'll see if I like them. Although I bought plenty of new coats last season, I also find myself tempted to add another, in a design similar to the frequently recommended blogger favorite J.Crew Lady Day Coat, but I don't like the colors on offer this year. My ideal color is probably a bright cobalt blue or a hunter green, and we'll see if this idea pans out. This Kristen Blake coat in cobalt is a possibility. 

No beauty or skincare purchases for this month, though a few were made in July and August. Quite a few are upcoming as I think about whether to switch from the Paula's Choice 2% BHA liquid to CosRx's BHA and AHA offerings. The Paula's Choice was and is a game-changer for my resistant-to-prescriptions hormonal acne, but the CosRx is cheaper and a lot of people in r/AsianBeauty insist its better, so maybe it's worth a try. I can always go back to the Paula's Choice BHA if this experiment doesn't pan out.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $104.92)
  • Ann Taylor High-Low Cotton Cardigan - $14.99 - I needed more summer-weight cardigans, in colors that were not black or navy. This one is a little cropped, and it can look a little odd if worn with an untucked top, though that's not an issue with wearing it to work, with dresses or tucked-in tops.
  • Ann Taylor Linen-Blend Cardigan - $11.93 - This one is now fully sold out. This was another summer-weight cardigan, one with a more relaxed look and fit, which I like. 
  • Brass Clothing A-Line Dress - $78.00 - Brass is a fairly new woman-owned company with a commitment to ethical manufacturing (with factories based in China). I was mainly interested in trying out Brass's ponte pants, as I've vaguely been in the market for super-skinny-fit work-appropriate pants in black, but the dress ended up being the keeper. (The pants were, unfortunately, too much like leggings on me to fit the bill, even in my fairly permissive business casual workplaces.) This dress is also made of a ponte material, which feels nice on, but is a bit too heavy for NYC summers. I won't be able to wear this out until the weather cools down a bit more. I'll likely post a review with photos of this soon. Note that only the white color is lined. 

Beauty - (TOTAL: $0.00)

As always, I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers this month. I'll be back soon with my very belated shopping reflections post for July and August!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Recommendation: J.Crew Factory Wool-Blend Suit

Long time no blog! The transition to my new job and my rather substantial new commute ended up being more intense than expected, and I’m only gradually starting to feel more settled in. The job itself is fantastic, though, and my first few weeks only confirm my previous sense that a judicial clerkship is basically one of the best legal jobs ever, at least for those with an interest in litigation and in law as an academic subject.

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One incidental effect of my new job is that I have far more business formal days than I used to. To that end, I recently purchased two wool-blend suits from J.Crew Factory, one in gray and one in navy blue. In terms of my super-conservative preferences for interview suits, these are the perfect design (two-buttons jackets, classic, the right colors, no trendy details). The material and quality are, as expected from the price, not perfect. Mine had a bit of loose thread in the stitching of one jacket pocket of and a tiny flaw in the fabric near the waistband of one skirt. I do, however, think the material is “good enough," as it feels similar to Ann Taylor’s wool-blend fabrics and the fabric is certainly more substantial than that of the paper-thin Super 120s J.Crew wool pants I tried last winter. I paid roughly $95 for each jacket and $50 for each skirt, for a total price of roughly $145 for each suit, making this an excellent value

This wasn’t how I planned to allocate the funds I’ve been setting aside for an “off-budget” suit purchase this year: I was supposed to buy one nicer one instead. A few factors went into this. First and foremost is the big pay cut associated with my new position. While I have a few month’s expenses saved, and likely will dip into those savings for not-strictly-emergency reasons at least a few times this year, doing so for any clothing purchase, even one as “necessary” as a suit, just doesn’t feel right. I had been saving separately for planned off-budget purchases, but didn’t have enough for, say, a Brooks Brothers suit. Second, I'm picky about suit design. Only the most conservative and “boring” of skirt suits will do, with two buttons on the jacket, no more, no less. This excludes offerings from a surprisingly large number of brands at the moment, including Theory and J.Crew. Third, given that I may well have needed more than one new suit, the price was right at J.Crew Factory. Ann Taylor’s suits fit me well, for instance, but their newer wool-blend offerings were not being included in some of the more recent rounds of additional percent off non-sale merchandise discounts, so those were off the table. (Note, however, that Ann Taylor is now having a 30% off full-price suit promotion.)

No photos for these, as they fit exactly as expected and are, therefore, boring. Fit-wise, I’m 5’3’’ and roughly 36’’-26’’-37’’ with shorter legs (petite pants necessary, but I prefer regular skirts so they hit at my knee) and shoulders and torso that generally fit regular tops and dresses better (but petite blazers are often a better fit because of sleeve length). I generally find J.Crew Factory sizing similar to Ann Taylor and regular J.Crew for tops, but a noticeable margin bigger for skirts. With fitted work dresses, I’ve been finding that J.Crew Factory runs consistently smaller than Ann Taylor in the bust, though that’s not especially relevant here. I took a petite 8 for the jacket and a regular 4 for the skirt, which is still a little big, but I find “just-right” pencil skirt fits a little uncomfortable sometimes if I eat a larger lunch or drink a lot of water. The stock photos for the skirt are misleading and make the skirt look longer than it is. It looks like they may have pinned the skirts in the back to make the waist seem smaller in the photos. 

As the J.Crew Factory suits are one of the better classic and conservative suit designs at a graduate student and new graduate price point that seen in years of being in that market, I really wanted to share. (Single button jackets have been standard for too long, in my view.) Be cautious of the pricing and wait for the right sale, though! Has anyone else noticed how often and dramatically the J.Crew Factory base prices change? When I ordered my suits weeks ago, they were $150 total at the J.Crew Factory price with no additional discount code needed, but two days ago, the base prices was $259 total, and $181 with a 30% off flash sale code. Such fluctuations!