Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Suiting Up

Blazer: J.Crew Factory Lightweight Wool Blend, heather graphite, 8P
Skirt: J.Crew Factory Lightweight Wool Blend, heather graphite, 4R
Shoes: Cole Han Tali Bow Flat, black

Only a few weeks into my new job, and I've already had one business trip and two formal "in court"-type occasions, with at least two more to come in the next few weeks. It's quite different from the experience that I'd be getting if I'd gone back to my previous job, and I couldn't be happier.

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Naturally, I now dress in business formal significantly more often than before. I figured it was a good time to share an outfit photo with my new favorite affordable interview suit from J.Crew Factory. These suits, as well as most of J.Crew Factory's more fitted, number-sized items, are generally a better fit for less curvy figures than mine, but the suit with a petite jacket and regular skirt still fits me pretty well. (I'm 5'3'', with petite-length legs, a more "regular" sizing torso, and "petite" length arms.) Outside of the chest (which is just right), the jacket is a little loose and maybe a touch long, though not enough for me to rush to a tailor. I think this photo exaggerates the length of the jacket and skirt a bit. The skirt doesn't cover my knee fully when I'm standing. Also, I've gained an inch in the chest since I last took outfit photos, though the rest of me is still pretty much the same size, which I'm utterly baffled by. This makes me a bit self conscious.

My Uniqlo Rayon blouse is obscured by my phone, but the key-neck opening is small and the top quite conservative.  It's a good suiting top, though it fits rather boxy, and it has been washing and line-drying well. It can get wrinkly if folded up wrong, so I keep it hung up. Do note that this top has a second layer of fabric sewn in right around the collar/neckline, which might show through oddly on the lighter colors. I don't have a problem with this in the light pink, but it's something that borderline could have been an issue, and is probably good to know about before purchasing.

I took this photo in my business trip hotel room. It was my first ever real business trip, and I think I did a pretty good job packing, getting everything, including a few binders of documents, into my trusty Longchamp Planetes tote (current version) and my unbranded rolling carry-on, which I bought years ago in a Beijing tourist market. And well, the trip was only two nights, so it wasn't that hard to pack. I'd always thought that I could never get all my skincare products and makeup into a TSA-approved plastic bag, but with my current pared-down skincare routine, everything just barely fit into a reusable TSA-friendly "Beauty on the Fly" bag (out of stock) that I picked up from Sephora. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Money Life Lately

Saint Laurent Cardholder (affiliate link) - I find this wallet design oddly compelling, though I'm not sure it's that practical, especially given my newfound preference for smaller wallets. 

For today, here are two really minor, but nonetheless kind of annoying, things that recently happened on the personal finance management side of my life. These are both silly, kind of obvious things that most other adults may have experienced already, though both were a first for me. 

Dental Insurance

So remember that urgent dental care thing? It all healed well, so things are good. It was my first time going through an out of network dentist and needing to handle my ow n insurance claims. The insurance company finally finished processing my claims and... Well, I wasn't exactly pleasantly surprised. I'm getting back a little less than $200 on all the work I mentioned ($2650). 

Despite having legal experience, that doesn't actually empower me to understand dental insurance policies much better than anyone else. Because I had otherwise healthy teeth, I didn't hit my annual maximum benefit for the year, so that didn't cut into my reimbursement. I needed to work through my deductible first. Also, that 20% to 40% per line item reimbursement was applied only after the insurer first capped each line item by the maximum they allow for each category of work. (Those numbers were not at all realistic for New York City, something like $400 per root canal and $200 for the reconstruction of the broken tooth.) 

I still haven't made appointments for my crowns due to having a gap in insurance coverage while transitioning to my new job. When I get around to that, it's going to add quite a number, probably at least $1000 before insurance, to the cost of the accident. I'll have a new plan, so reimbursement might work a bit differently, but I'm not too optimistic.

Credit Card Closings

In other personal finance news, after more than a year of not using my Bank of America ("BoA") Cash Rewards card (1.1% cash back if you redeem to a BoA account, inferior to my other cards, which I've previously discussed), they started hassling me about closing the account if I didn't use it soon. This isn't a surprise, it's actually more shocking that they took so long. So I did what they asked, with a $5 purchase, which is what you're supposed to do occasionally to keep old, underused accounts open. No harm, no foul. 

And then they hassled me again with a snail mail letter that sounded kind of ominous, sort of a polite, but also somewhat curt, "please call us now or else." I assume the threat is to close the card, despite that I'd just complied with their instructions to use the card to keep it open about two months ago. 

They may not have intended it as a vaguely ominous warning, but that letter rubbed me the wrong way, so much so that I stuffed it in the shredder in a fit of pique. (I'd been working all weekend, which I didn't mind, but that apparently leaves me more temperamental than normal.) I thought about calling BoA to express my aggravation, that I'm a good customer, and while they can do whatever they want with my card, they should also think carefully about how it doesn't necessarily take much to make a customer reevaluate their banking relationships. I totally don't have the energy to call though, and hate getting on the phone, though, so instead I'm writing about it here.

I won't like it if they close the card. It'll harm my credit score, as it's one of my older accounts and most of my others are quite young. Still, it's honestly too annoying to spend a minute more worrying about it than I already have, by digging the card out of my desk drawer to make that dinky purchase to keep it open. (I won't be, say, applying for a mortgage anytime soon so the small hit to my score won't be a big deal, just annoying.)

Has a bank ever closed one of your credit cards on you? How have your experiences with dental billing and insurance been? Does one need to shop around carefully for a dentist to do crowns, given that it's somewhat cosmetic work? 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Life Lately

I've been at my new job for a few weeks now, and I love it! The work is interesting and intellectually challenging, and I couldn't be more pleased. I have a steadier workload than I used to (biglaw litigators generally have more consistent hours than our transactional colleagues, but workflow is still a bit feast or famine, with some slow weeks and some intense ones when multiple deadlines hit), which does leave less mental energy for blogging. Today's post discusses a few of the smaller things that have crossed my mind in recent weeks.

Little Alley is a fairly new Shanghainese restaurant here. Shanghainese is not a Chinese cuisine I'm especially familiar with (their most famous dish is soup dumplings or xiao long bao), but I've enjoyed quite a few dishes there. Given recent developments at the restaurant I would otherwise have said makes the best soup dumplings in Manhattan, Little Alley now takes that title. There is, admittedly, not terribly much competition. Joe's Shanghai in Midtown isn't great, and I'm not willing to brave the line in Chinatown, leaving only Shanghai Cafe, which is solid but has a less interesting menu, in contention. Flushing has more choices for good soup dumplings. At Little Alley, my recommendations are soup dumplings, pan fried pork dumplings or sheng jian bao, pictured, the dong po pork, and the fish blossom, also pictured.  For the fish blossom, keep in mind that the sauce is sweeter and has different flavor notes from sweet and sour fish dishes that might be more familiar.

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I finally read Michael Cunningham's The Hours, which had been on my list for years. I have a somewhat strange attraction to the extremely somber Philip Glass soundtrack for the film, commonly using it as background noise at work. It's been a long time since I read a novel that I really enjoyed, and that I found emotionally affecting, but this one fit the bill. I suppose I really like books that are mostly about characters' complex inner lives. That's present in abundance here.

With regards to my recent sudden desire for a camel coat, I've decided that a coat of that color with a waist tie likely wouldn't suit. Coats with belts are a difficult proposition for me, though I own two, the Everlane classic trench (current version) and that Ted Baker wrap coat. The style should be reasonably flattering on me, as a more or less hourglass figure (roughly 36''-27''-37''), I have a hard time getting the belts to stay in place and cinch close enough to the most narrow point of my waist. If the belt's not just right, I end up looking boxy, with my chest emphasized more than usual. So I'm in the market for more of a menswear-inspired chesterfield coat. I may have decided on the Polo Ralph Lauren cashemere blend coat that I previously linked. The shell is entirely wool and cashmere blend, no synthetic fiber, which I thought was rather unusual for coats at my general price range. (The fabric composition may cause me to worry slightly about durability and longevity.) I realized, however, that Uniqlo is also currently doing a chesterfield coat and stand collar coat with waist tie that also have all wool and cashmere shells, so it isn't that unusual.

I ordered that Polo Ralph Lauren coat at a significant discount during a recent Macy's sale and, spoiler alert, with my family's rather eclectic gift giving practices (where the recipient orders their own gift, and the giver reimburses them), it may end up being heavily subsidized by birthday gift money from my mom, rather than something that comes out of my shopping budget. I'm still very sheepish about my mom's generous birthday presents, as I'm definitely a financially self-sufficient adult otherwise. 

Any novel or book recommendations? It's been difficult finding good books. I'm currently reading Thomas Stanley and William Danko's The Millionaire Next Door, which I would not recommend as much as other personal finance books I've reviewed, though it is a "foundational text" for financial independence, a philosophy that I think makes a lot of sense. I'm also reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed, which I find tiresome and self-aggrandizing, so I'll probably drop it without finishing. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September Shopping Reflections

Predictably, this was an extremely shopping-heavy month. Some of my most-used shoes finally got too worn out for me to keep wearing. I bought more clothes for my new job. Now that I wear makeup more regularly than before, I also made my first Sephora purchase in nearly a year.

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As an aside, I'm on a fashion-centric Facebook group with alums from my college, and we've been complaining a lot about Loft and Ann Taylor. For brands traditionally focused on work-appropriate clothing, they've been serving up excessively ruffled things, weird colors and prints, cold shoulders, and things that just won't work at most of the (conservative) offices I'm familiar with. It makes me rather sad because it used to be easy to build an entire new graduate work wardrobe at those stores quickly, in as little as one season. I did that barely three years ago, as a biglaw summer associate with almost no business casual wardrobe to speak of. I had my three sets of black skirt suit separates, maybe three or four tops (the J.Crew stretch button downs I dutifully wore for on-campus recruiting have never been worn since - I loathe button downs!), a few winter cardigans, and no work dresses or pants (I was a late convert to pants). I bought so much that summer, generally at additional 40% off sale, including three dresses that are still in heavy use all year round. I also bought lots more besides, not all of which I ended up liking. 

I totally don’t recommend that buy it all at once approach to building a work wardrobe, by the way. I made so many shopping mistakes, and probably ended up reselling a good half of what I got. It was wasteful, and inconsistent with the minimalist-ish ideals I otherwise try to apply to my shopping. I vaguely think that the ideal way to build a professional wardrobe, at least for business casual workplaces with business formal interviewing, would be to start slowly while at school, maybe a year before it’s really needed. I’d start with finding the best fitting interview suit (my current favorite is J.Crew Factory) and shoes and bag possible in one’s price range, and an interview-appropriate blouse or two. My next step, given my personal preference for skirts and dresses, would be a nice sheath dress, one a bit more fitted than the a-line shifts I ended up with. After that, the next steps would be a slower, more careful accumulation of other outfit components than I did. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $384.69)
  • Fitflop "The Skinny", silver - $39.38 - My trusty old Fitflops saw three summers of heavy use, during which I rarely wore anything else. In hindsight, they wore down enough to demand replacing much sooner than now, as the internal cushioning had long since deflated and the sole was starting to peel in one corner. (I patched it up with superglue and kept wearing it for another few weeks.) I don't love silver, and almost always prefer gold, but the discount was substantial, and they aren't offering gold at the moment (the closest is a  muted bronze-ish). The silver's been working fine with my casual summer clothes. 
  • Ann Taylor Seasonless Stretch Boatneck Dress - $77.40 - As much as I've been complaining about Ann Taylor, credit where credit is due, this dress is great for me, exactly the type of thing I wished they'd stock more of (machine-washable, fits me perfectly, conservative and good for work). Many Ann Taylor sheath dresses fit me almost perfectly, and this is one of them. Sheath dresses with little rectangular cap sleeves are somewhat common, J.Crew Factory has one,  J.Crew has one in stretch wool, and M.M. LaFleur has one too. As usual, I prefer regular sizing for Ann Taylor dresses. The hem is a bit lower than usual (most hit at my knee), but I kind of like it as, when combined with the design, it makes me look a bit taller, or so I think. 
  • J.Crew Factory Wool-Blend Suit, black (blazer, skirt) - $148.00 - I now own this suit in all three colors. I've done a fairly detailed post about these before. Sizing and other details remain the same.  The fabric quality isn't the greatest, and of the three colors, I find that the gray fabric looks the nicest. It's probably one of the most affordable suits that's consistently available in a wide size range and all the main conservative colors, navy, black, and gray, though I'd prefer a darker charcoal gray. It's the only reliably available wool blend women's suit in this general price range that I'm familiar with. Like many of J.Crew Factory's more tailored-looking items, I find that this suit fits less curvy figures better, and I wear a 8P jacket and a 4R skirt as a result, as I'm much curvier in the chest than the hips. For some reason, the black fabric's been more stubborn about holding onto wrinkles than the other colors.
  • Cole Haan Tali Bow Flat, black  - $119.90 - Those Louise et Cie flats I've had since I was a student finally gave up the ghost. (This doesn't mean that those shoes were outstandingly durable, just that  I generally only wore them in the immediate vicinity of the office until this recent recruiting season, when they were my primary walking shoe.) With my previous Cole Haan flats, which all had patent toe caps, there was a breaking-in period, but these didn't need one, and they were comfortable on the first day. To be honest, Cole Haan flats are a little pricier than I like, as I don't get better durability from them than more modestly priced flats, but they're also so consistent with sizing and comfort that I go back to them anyway. 

Beauty - (TOTAL: $28.00)
  • Tatcha Aburatorigami Japanese Blotting Paper - $12.00 - These are fantastic blotting papers and generally don't disturb makeup when used (unless I accidentally applied too much or didn't fully set it with powder). I don't think Tatcha has a monopoly on these Japanese-style blotting papers internationally, as a friend bought me some from a Japanese brand, Yojiya, that were essentially the same product and just as good. Tatcha is the only real source that's readily available in the US, as far as I know.  These are a bit pricey at $12 for 30 sheets, but because I didn't wear makeup often in the past, it wasn't a big deal. I generally only need one sheet a day.
  • Too Cool for School Dinoplatz Blotting Paper, mulberry - $8.00 - The one downside of Tatcha is that, because it comes in a cardboard sleeve and in rather large squares, it's not that portable. I purchased this because I was hoping the product would be very similar, and it comes in a small, well-designed compact that seemed easier to keep in my purse. The product isn't as good as the Tatcha, as  it's more likely to disturb my makeup and I need to blot at least twice a day, if not more often, but it works for day to day use at the office. 
  • Cocofloss, pure strawberries - $8.00 - This was just for fun, as I'd heard good things about this brand . I've only tried it once and it's nice enough, with a bit of strawberry flavor, though it's not been transcendentally awesome, just similar in ease of use to the smoother tape-style drug store floss that I typically use. (If I had to pick one, so far I prefer my old floss.)
Have you been a regular Ann Taylor or Loft customer in the past? Have you noticed that their styles have gotten stranger? (There's been a bit of a quality decline as well, though it wasn't as if the stuff was fantastic before.) Where do you buy most of your work clothes? 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Thinking About: Camel Coats

Photo from
Master of None. Though I never watched this season of the show, I still find the Francesca character's style quite inspiring. Style Dtour did a lovely roundup post!
In the last two years since I graduated, coats have proven to be my biggest shopping vice. I just can't seem to stop myself from window-shopping for more, and that was the start of the trouble complying with this year's budget. By now, I have a robust collection of coats for all seasons, mostly purchased in the first six months after graduation. Nonetheless, I often find myself struck with the desire for another, this time a camel-colored coat.

I suppose all these coat cravings come because the rest of my work wardrobe, the only clothes I wear five days out of every week, is so static. There's almost no variation to it throughout the year, the same items are used year round, except that the tights and warmer sweaters only come out in winter. I suppose this could lead one to an interest in shoes or handbags instead of coats, but I've never been a shoe person and have realized over time that I'm inclined towards keeping a smaller collection of less fussy and more practical handbags, so coats it is.

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The camel coat is a genre I also shopped for last winter, though my primary coat craving back then was for bright colors, eventually resulting in the purchase of that Ted Baker long wrap coat in oxblood when it went on sale at the end of the season. I didn't see many camel coats with designs I liked back then, only ordering a Calvin Klein single-breasted cashmere-blend style, which was the slightly tweaked, newer version of a design I already had in black and still wear often. I don't love most of the changes they made, including narrowing the lapels and removing the pocket flaps. More recently, I've tried again with the J.Crew Parke Topcoat, though the color wasn't at all what I wanted. Nor should I have been surprised by that, as the shade was called "dark chestnut," which hardly suggests a camel color.

I'm not sure of what design elements I'd want for this type of coat. It'd likely be single-breasted, as that's been my general preference for wool and wool-blend coats that I've tried on or ultimately bought in the last several years. (Double-breasted coats can look very odd on me because I'm on the curvier side, I find they can emphasize my chest more than I like, and the two vertical rows of buttons can seem distorted depending on the spacing between them.)  It probably will have visible buttons and be on the longer side. Outside of that, I really don't know. I'd love to find one with a waist tie like Francesca's in Master of None, but those seem to be a rare feature in the ones available this year.

Most of the camel coat styles I see while online window shopping are a bit boxier, more menswear-inspired. That's fine in theory, but often doesn't actually work on me because I'm so busty. Some of the more androgynous coats hang right, and some just don't, and it's generally not possible to tell upfront which it'll be when online shopping. I almost wonder if I'd end up really wanting the same Ted Baker wrap coat in camel (which Nordstrom stocks, but with no corresponding photo). That would make me feel really silly and extravagant as (a) I already have one in a perfectly lovely color and (b) it is an expensive coat for me.

With the more menswear-inspired styles, there are a few in my more typical price range for coats. There's a Lauren Ralph Lauren reefer coat and a Kristen Blake walking coat that fit the general bill. Just for fun and as an illustration, I've also included a mishmash of additional styles in the widget below, most of them at a price point that's entirely unrealistic for me. You can hover over each item to see the brand and price without clicking.

Do you have any shopping vices that you can't quite tear yourself away from, even if the type of item is already well-represented in your closet? What does your coat collection look like? P.S. I'll probably be doing a lot of shopping-centric posts in the next few weeks, as my mind is rather focused on the task of getting my work wardrobe up to scratch for my new job. Also, er, it helps that I'm back to earning a more biglaw-like salary, though my new position is not in that exact genre.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

August Shopping Reflections

It's official now,  I've lost the plot on this year's shopping budget. With a whole quarter of the year to go, I could still get back on track, but given certain changes associated with my new job, I'm not optimistic. Specifically, my work wardrobe needs to be more formal. I won't be keeping a running tally anymore of how far I've fallen behind. I'll write about it in an end of year analysis, whatever happens. Given the rest of what's going on in my life, personal finance-wise, being over budget for fashion purchases isn't a huge deal. In truth, this year's $1800/year (~$150/month, but flexible month-to-month) was a bit of an experiment, and well, it's one that hasn't panned out.

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The recent cause of this year's budget failure is a Marc by Marc Jacobs "Too Hot to Handle" Hobo bag (identical, for less, with "Marc Jacobs" branding here). I could try to retroactively categorize it as an "off-budget purchase", but that wouldn't be consistent with my past practices. It's a category I've used on rare occasions for items such as a suit or a bridesmaid's dress, items I knew I would need far in advance, but for which it was difficult to set a limit upfront. This purchase doesn't fit that bill. It's a gift to myself to celebrate my new job, but well, I couldn't have anticipated that in advance!  

As an aside, back when I was a college student, Marc by Marc (or "MBMJ") was one of those brands that was highly aspirational for me, something I desperately wanted but couldn't afford. (Except that, unlike the linked blogger, teenaged Xin had little taste and was highly susceptible to marketing, so my longing was reserved for various specific and sometimes really ugly items, possibly just for the sake of the brand name and the fact that the items seemed widely coveted. I don't think I ever got attached to any one consistent aesthetic or "look".)

These days, MBMJ has shuttered, its old stock fills the physical racks at Nordstrom Rack, and the brand's been rolled into "Marc Jacobs", hence the er, current selling of this item with a new label only a month after I bought mine. Nostalgia goggles on top of the Nordstrom Rack price for this bag when I bought it (roughly 50% off original retail), may have contributed to this purchase, though I really do like the look and how unfussy it is to carry. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $ 315.12)
  • Marc by Marc Jacobs "Too Hot to Handle" Hobo - $239.34* - (lower price, identical style with "Marc Jacobs" label at Hautelook and Gilt) - My current handbag collection, omitting purely utilitarian bags like my backpack, is here. Most of my bags are for work, and I had almost nothing for casual wear that could hold much more than say, my Coach City (cheapest used on eBay). I frequently use my large Longchamp Le Pliage totes for the weekend, but they're a fairly boring look. After I got my new job, I started looking at bags that might be more fun to carry with my casual outfits, and partially because of nostalgia, I looked specifically at MBMJ bags. (Nordstrom Rack has tons, both in store and online.) When I first ordered this, I was so sure I would return it, but the leather was nice and soft, and I really liked the idea of a slouchy hobo bag for casual use. It fits with my general preference for unfussy bags.
  • Uniqlo Rayon Key-Neck Sleeveless Blouse, pink - $19.90 - For months now, I've been in the market for machine-washable blouses or shells to go under suits. Most of my current items in that category are polyester tops from Loft, which I mostly purchased at deep discounts while I was a summer associate in 2014. They've served me well over the years, but, in my experience, various fabrics from Loft have an unnatural tendency to acquire mysterious stains that all of my usual laundry tactics (spot treating with The Laundress All Purpose Bleach Alternative and the Stain Solution before soaking in Stain Solution, a combination that has helped many white tops that started to turn gray and dingy over time) are entirely unable to lift. So my collection has dwindled. I've tried so many blouses from Uniqlo, focusing on their rayon items, but none worked until now. 
  • Uniqlo Rayon Key-Neck Sleeveless Blouse, forest green - $19.90 - Please note that these are rayon and poly blends. (I'm not sure if this was the case in previous years, but if not, the change is unfortunate.) The fabric may get wrinkly if not hung up. They're also fairly boxy, which I don't mind for work. I'm often a size S in Uniqlo sweaters, but for non-stretchy tops, a M is a better fit, and that's what I went with. I also ordered the Rayon Long-Sleeve button down blouse, but they were much looser and longer than expected, and it just wasn't the right look. 
  • H&M V-Neck Jersey Dress, red - $17.99 (on sale now) - I never got around to shopping for more linen dresses this summer, once work got busier and the season wore on. I'd cut a few summer dresses out of my wardrobe last year, and even with my once-weekly laundry schedule, I've often run out of casual summer dresses between laundry days. The easiest way to fill the niche seemed to be with one of those ubiquitous swing dresses (like from Loft, but so many places have them). Back when I was shopping in early August, it seemed like none of my usual retailers had one in a summer-friendly fabric like cotton, linen, or rayon (why would anyone ever want a summer dress in polyester? I'm looking at you, Old Navy, and many others). Now that I look again, I'm not sure how I searched, because it seems like many of Loft's swing dresses from this past summer were done in 95% rayon, 5% spandex. 
  • H&M V-Neck Jersey Dress, black - $17.99 (on sale now) - Regardless, in the moment, I ended up at H&M after other avenues failed. I like the v-neck and find it more flattering than the round necks that are more common with swing dresses, though the v-neck is a bit deep and makes the dress feel skimpier than most. Because I'm busty, the front hem does sit slightly higher on me than the back one, adding to the, er, sense of slightly greater skimpiness than with my other summer dresses. (The partial lining at the top, from the neckline down to around where a typical bra sits, is slightly odd, though not in a way that's generally visible when wearing the dress.) It's not the highest quality, and as with this silhouette in general, I don't see the shape being especially flattering on almost anyone, but it's comfortable. I really like wearing these to run errands on non-office days. I've already gotten a lot of use out of both, and I expect them to last at least another two seasons. 
*Includes sales tax. 

How are you doing with your shopping budget for the year, if you keep one? Have you had times in your life where a big transition, job-related or otherwise, required fairly large changes to your wardrobe? Were there any inaccessible items or brands "of your dreams" for you when you were young? Do you shop from those brands now?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Reading: On Data Breaches and Credit Reporting

John Oliver's very educational, pre-Equifax data breach segment about the American credit reporting system.

By now, if you're American, you're probably painfully aware of at least some of the messy facts and many remaining unknowns surrounding the recent data breach at Equifax, one of the three major companies responsible for recording individuals' credit histories in the United States. (The others are Experian and TransUnion.) If you're unfamiliar with the system, John Oliver's 2016 segment above offers an entertaining and accessible explanation. Heck, even if you are already familiar, I'd still recommend the clip, as it certainly taught me a few things I didn't know about the downsides of the system. As the clip progresses it's strongly implied that these companies are really very, shall we say, "amateur hour" in their handling of certain things, including by getting people with similar names mixed up or accidentally declaring someone dead. 

Most recently, and perhaps most catastrophically, Equifax suffered a security breach that compromised the personal information of an estimated 143 million individuals. I've read that this is roughly 44% of the U.S. population, which would pretty much mean that one has a rather close to 50-50 chance of being affected (by 44% do they mean of the adult population? regardless, the odds are really bad). It's unclear how much information was compromised, but the credit reporting agencies definitely have SSNs, address histories, essentially everything that's needed to open accounts in a person's name, which seems worse than just the loss of credit card information (as in the Target breach).  By the way, Equifax discovered the breach in late July, but did not inform the general public until early September. In the meantime, several Equifax executives sold some of their Equifax stock. 

To my knowledge, Equifax has not reliably confirmed who is affected, i.e. is it only people who had "hard" credit inquiries run on them in the last year, or something like that. They had a website for checking if one was specifically affected, but, at least at one point, it gave inconsistent results to people checking the same information multiple times. P.S., Equifax was originally charging fees for customers to use some of the tools (credit monitoring or a credit freeze) that could help protect those affected by the data breach. Oh and also, when that site for checking whether one was affected first opened, using it to sign up for certain protections also meant agreeing to a waiver limiting one's ability to participate in a hypothetical future lawsuit against Equifax. To be fair, Equifax has since publicly stated that the clause at issue will not actually preclude future legal action. But let's be real, has anything about this mess given you reason to trust this company? 

I have not, to my knowledge, been affected by previous high-profile data breaches (and there are many). With this one, given its size, I think it's safe to assume that I was affected, or have such a high likelihood of being affected, and that I must seriously consider preventative measures. At present, I'm not sure what I plan to do. I already conduct my own credit monitoring by logging in frequently to CreditKarma. While their information on your credit reports is not not quite as comprehensive as you'd get from running your own credit report, which Americans can do for free three times a year (once each from each of the big three), I've still found CreditKarma a reliable way to monitor my credit. Its reports have generally been consistent with the information I received when I formally ran my credit on rare occasions (no exact FICO score, but that might be an unrealistic expectation). As far as I can tell, the only other, stronger step to take is a credit freeze, which costs money, though not in certain states. (Even if public pressure has forced Equifax to waive fees for a time, one likely should initiate a freeze at all three agencies to be safe, so fees could apply elsewhere.) 

At this point, I'm dragging my feet on the credit freeze step because it sounds like a pain and a half. (I open new credit cards somewhat frequently to take advantage of new cash back or bonus travel points offers.) Still, I am somewhat likely to ultimately choose to take the step. One note from my research: Because a freeze requires a PIN number to un-freeze one's credit, one should sign up very carefully and make sure to record the number, which might, in the case of at least one agency, be delivered only over the phone.

Are you taking any steps to respond to the Equifax data breach? Have you previously been affected by one of the other major data breaches? How often do you check your credit reports? I only realized today that I'd never written about CreditKarma here before! It's been a constant, but less-used (compared to YNAB and Personal Capital), tool in my personal finance arsenal for years now, and they're fairly well-established. Totally not sponsored or anything, they don't offer referral or affiliate programs, and it wouldn't really make sense under their likely business model. (They promote credit cards and other financial services to users on their site, but I find that information easy to ignore if its unhelpful to me.)

Please note that, as with everything else I write here on this blog, nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice. I write about these topics purely from my personal perspective as a fellow consumer. If you're interested in any of the steps I've mentioned, I encourage additional research before taking the plunge. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Biggest Purchase of 2017: Urgent Dental Care

Put another way, unless I suddenly turn around and do something completely ridiculous and out of character sometime in the next three months, I've now made my most expensive purchase of 2017. And it wasn't any fun, nor particularly voluntary. As a precaution, content warning on this post for those who are squeamish about dentistry. No gory details here, but some of my friends found even a bare-bones recounting of what happened rather icky.

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I'm probably clumsier than average because, about once a year, out of the blue, I'll trip and fall right in the middle of a city sidewalk. This time, instead of skinning my knee, the majority of the impact hit my upper lip and front teeth. The result was $2650 in urgent dental work to repair the damage, which affected two teeth. This was all pre-insurance, with an out of network dentist, so I paid up front and will be filing claims with my dental insurance.

The bill reflected a total of:
  • $250 - for x-rays;
  • $100 - for the initial exam and consultation, which included pushing a tooth that was knocked loose back into place;
  • $1200 - for the root canal on the broken tooth; and
  • $1100 - for the reconstruction of the broken tooth.
Dental insurance is not generous, so I can recoup at most 20% (for the root canal) to 40% (for reconstruction) per line item on the bill. There are probably additional policy terms that will decrease my reimbursement. I may eventually need another root canal, for the formerly loose tooth, but that remains to be seen. There may also be other, more expensive cosmetic work that I could need later to get closer to what my teeth looked like pre-accident. 

One lesson from all this: Thank goodness for emergency funds! I'd saved a good-sized one while at my previous firm, and managed not to touch it all year long despite the substantial pay cut I took for my clerkship. Then this happened. Womp womp. 

So there we have it, my most expensive purchase for 2017, particularly if we consider all of the financial consequences of my fall as one purchase, including the dental care and a few other related (but, thankfully, significantly less substantial) medical expenses. The exact total impact of the accident is still up in the air, but it's definitely already a fearsome number, even if all goes well on the insurance front. Alas!

As an aside, when I first read that Refinery29 article about several women's biggest purchases for 2016, I had found most of the examples difficult to relate to and inconsistent with my experience of my biggest purchases for each of the years since I first started law school. None of mine were designer items, despite my fondness for shiny, fancy things and my tendency to get attached to the "idea" of them. At the same time, I also knew, from personal experience, that judging others on big ticket purchases is unfair, as the circumstances and context surrounding each particular purchase are unique, and generally very personal. From an outside perspective, most of my biggest purchases could have been worthy of judgment or criticism.

While my biggest expense in past years was generally education-related, the full extent of each was often far greater than strictly "necessary". Each of them happened in a context that might make me seem frivolous (like when I bought a new MacBook the day before an exam when my old one died only a month after Applecare expired, and by the way, I was two months in arrears on my student housing rent because I was waiting on my law firm summer associate salary... I swear it wasn't as bad as it sounds, and that similar things happen to people much more frugal than I, but it was still... foolish). As for this year, when one really gets down to it, who else trips on a sidewalk and ends up with a bill for more than, say, the cost of a Burberry trench coat? That's a long way of saying I don't believe in judging big ticket purchases, and darn, I wish this hadn't happened.

What is, or will likely be, your biggest expense of 2017? Do you regret the purchase? Any thoughts on American dental insurance? Some of my friends have done the math and consider dental insurance not worth it. I don't agree, even if I have significantly worse than expected outcomes with my claims. (My employer-offered dental insurance has always been affordable, less than $15 in pre-tax deductions per paycheck.) 

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Minimalist(ish) Skincare Routine

I'm now in the sixth month of my experiment with dermatologist treatment. My doctor has tweaked my prescription routine a few times, and in early June, she suggested that I dramatically cut down on the number of non-prescription products in my routine. Being a long-time adherent of an extensive, ten-plus step "KBeauty" or otherwise East Asian market-inspired skincare routine, and having seen a lot of success with that, I was extremely apprehensive. Still, when I decided to commence this rather expensive experiment, I promised myself I would fully commit. Also, if I'm paying well for professional advice, it'd be a foolish thing not to listen to it! So for the last nearly two months, this has been the full extent of my skincare routine:

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1. Cleanse: I use Cerave Foaming Face Wash morning and night. It's an excellent, no-frills facial cleanser that's quite gentle on my sometimes-dry and sometimes-sensitive (thanks to prescription topical products for acne) skin. I've even converted K to using it, instead of the Purpose facial wash he used to use. On the rare days when I wore makeup, I'll soak a cotton pad with the Garnier Skinactive Micellar Water (it's basically as good as Bioderma) and use that to remove my makeup before washing with  Cerave.

2. Prescription Product: In the morning, I alternate between Acanya and a compounded topical spironolactone and clindamycin. In the evening, I use Retin-A Micro 0.1%. The dermatologist actually recommended that I apply the Retin-A Micro after moisturizing, but it balled up and wouldn't absorb into the skin that way, so I've switched to applying it before.  

3. Moisturize: I've always looked to very basic drugstore moisturizers. In the morning, I use Cerave Moisturizing Lotion and in the evening, I use Vanicream

4. Sunscreen (Daytime Only): At the moment, I use the Biore Aqua Rich Watery Essence, though I may end up needing to find a new one soon, as it was reformulated in early 2017. While I've seen mixed reviews about whether the new one is worse or better, it seems clear that the new formula is noticeably different (other blogs compare the old and new here and here). Most of the Amazon sellers have, as late as June of this year, still been shipping the old version, but at some point, they'll run out. I'm open to trying the new version at least once, so I'll keep ordering until I get the new formula, and then try it and see. 

As for how I like my new routine? When I posted in June, I had added the new presriptions and stopped using my CosRx BHA (cheapest on Amazon) and Timeless C + E Vitamin C serum, but was still using the other moisturizing products in my original routine, such as the Hada Labo moisturizing toner (cheapest on Amazon), Josie Maran argan oil light, and the CosRx Snail Mucin Power Essence (cheapest on Amazon). Removing those items was another big change. As with the last time, there are upsides and downsides to the new routine. As is usual for me, alas, perfect skin is still not within reach.

The upsides: Removing all of the other moisturizing products from my routine has definitely made the prescription products more effective. The healing time required for my blemishes and bumps (took several weeks before I started BHA, shortened down to five days to a week on BHA) has become even quicker, usually taking about three days now, for most. They also don't swell up as much or come to a head. The dark spots remaining after blemishes also seem to heal about as quickly as they do when I'm using a vitamin C serum. My skin generally looks fine and is not overly dry despite the minimal moisturizing steps.

The downsides: I still miss my over the counter BHA! Acne-wise, I get painful, inflamed spots significantly more often than when my old routine was at its most effective, about once a week as opposed to once every six. (Most of those bumps go away much more quickly now, and don't get to quite as icky an extent as on my old routine.) The overall appearance of my skin is also less nice, the tone's a bit less even, there's more redness, it looks a little dryer, and I don't have quite the same "glow" I often had with my old routine. Whereas I sometimes didn't think makeup (thanks to my rudimentary skills) improved my skin's appearance on good days on my old routine, I definitely benefit more obviously from makeup now. 

My new job comes with a new insurance plan that doesn't allow me to continue seeing my current dermatologist, so my experiment with dermatologist treatment will end soon. I'll stick to this minimalist skincare routine for a while longer, while I think about which steps I want to add back in. While I miss a lot of my old products, I'm also sure that I don't need every single step in my old routine, and that some of thse were just "fluff" that wasn't bringing much benefit. 

How many steps are in your skincare routine? Have you noticed big differences when you either significantly cut down or added to your routine? Readers made some great suggestions on my last skincare post, including cutting dairy products out of one's diet, which does make a big difference for my acne, but isn't enough to get me to "perfect skin" status. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Selling to ThredUp: An Update

I recently sent in another bag of clothes to ThredUp, and because their policies have changed since I first wrote about the experience in 2015, I thought it was high time for an update. Information on my most recent bag, including total payout, can be found here. (Previous bags in reverse chronological order from January of 2016 and earlier can be found hereherehere, and here.)

First, some context. If you're a longtime reader, you might not recognize the vast majority of the items, despite how faithfully I've been documenting my fashion purchases since January of 2015. The vast majority of what I sent in predated the start of my monthly budget posts, with only three of the items they accepted having been purchased since (a Loft sweater from last year, a pair of H&M shorts from 2015, and a J.Crew lace bridesmaid dress that was an off-budget purchase last year). Most of the items were, therefore, quite old. That I still had so much to send in from that long ago probably speaks to how difficult it can be to do a serious closet clean-out (and the sheer quantity of items I was buying before I started embracing minimalism and being more careful about shopping). I'd done several rounds of closet cleaning-out before I started this blog, did a bigger round of KonMari-style closet decluttering in early 2015 before sending a bunch of things to the now-defunct Twice and ThredUp, and have done several smaller rounds since. One round of KonMari method was enough for everything else I owned, but not for my closet.

Given the age of the items and that many had been worn more often than things I previously sent in, I wasn't expecting much. I was actually pleasantly surprised by the $22 payout, which would have been $29 without the new per-bag shipping and handling fee. I also have another $40 in possible consignment earnings that I could still receive. As far as I can tell, these are the most noticeable changes  to the ThredUp reselling process since 2015:

  • They now charge a $6.99 shipping and handling fee per bag. They'll deduct this from your payout, rather than charging it upfront, and will waive the fee if they don't accept enough items to cover it. 
  • Processing time takes longer now, approximately seven weeks. They received my bag on June 29th, and only got back to me about my payout last week. Total time between the date I shipped it out to the date I'll actually receive my payout (via Paypal), instead of as store credit, is about ten weeks. 
  • They're more likely to put items on consignment now. That may not be a good thing for sellers of J.Crew or Ann Taylor-type items as a general rule, as the payout for consignment items is, of course, not guaranteed, and the per item payout isn't even much higher than the upfront payouts. Their policy on which items get upfront payouts and which will be put on consignment is not terribly concrete, with items that are "on-trend, in-season, in great condition, and likely to sell quickly" getting upfront payments and items that are "in great condition that may take longer to sell because of the unique nature of the items" going on consignment. Whatever process they use to determine what items go in which box, it seems generally accurate, as most of my "upfront payout" items throughout the years sold quickly. 
  • Selection process and pricing continue to seem a bit arbitrary. While I was generally very happy with my payout, given that many of my items were well-loved and on the older side, as with my previous experiences, I was somewhat surprised by some of what they took and what they rejected. I sent in a rarely worn J.Crew silk blouse (this style, different color), for instance, which they didn't accept, as well as some worn-once Ann Taylor pencil skirts. Those items were, likely, generally in nicer shape or otherwise nicer than many of the things they have accepted from me over the years.

Selling to ThredUp does, naturally, result in significantly lower returns than more high-effort ways of selling, such as Poshmark or Ebay. I definitely wouldn't send ThredUp anything particularly high value, as they can be quite stingy or arbitrary in their acceptance of individual items here and there. For my needs and work schedule, however, and given the fact that I generally don't have particularly "special" items to sell, just fairly generic items from the general price range between H&M and J.Crew, I've been very satisfied. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Resoling my L.L. Bean Boots

At the moment, I'm wrapping things up at my current job, planning some travel, and getting ready for my new, exciting next job. I hope to write more about all of that later, but today's post will be a very quick one, a follow-up post on how my well-loved and well-used L.L. Bean boots have aged, how to get them resoled, and how much that costs.

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I recently sent in my L.L. Bean boots with Gore-tex/Thinsulate for resoling. I've had them for two years, and I put them to heavy use throughout almost the entire period from November to March each year On weekdays, I generally spend forty minutes plus walking on city sidewalks as part of my commute and while running errands. That alone isn't inherently hard on shoes, but I always grind down the heels of my boots remarkably fast. I end up resoling my go-to Sam Edelman Petty booties twice a year, for instance. I wore my Bean boots through two winters, and even at the end of the first, the rubber sole was seriously worn down at the heels. By the end of the second, I'd worn through the yellow rubber soles at the heel all the way down to the second layer of gray rubber, which made the shoes more prone to slipping. In short, it was long past time for resoling. 

There isn't a streamlined process for getting L.L. Bean boots resoled. I emailed customer service, and it took a few days to get everything set up. L.L. Bean currently charges $39 to resole the non-insulated boots; $42 to resole the Gore-tex/Thinsulate boots; and $43 to resole the Thinsulate boots. They ask you to mail them in to an address they provide, enclosing a note with your contact information and shipping address, as well as a check or your credit card information. I spent about $12 shipping in my boots with the cheapest USPS option, and they sent my boots back for free. There isn't any kind of confirmation email or tracking info for the return shipment. My boots reappeared approximately five or six weeks after I sent them in. The soles look like new now, and I'm very pleased!

As for how my Bean boots are holding up otherwise, they're doing great, with no serious signs of wear other than at the soles before the repairs. I don't subject them to much except walking around in the sometimes very slushy, salty NYC streets, but that can be pretty hard on some boots. If I had to go back and do it again, I'm not sure if I would still pick the Gore-tex/Thinsulate boots, as they felt rather heavy and stiff when I first got them, more like serious snow boots than I was expecting, and even now, two years later, they still feel that way a bit. It's not something that fully goes away with the shoes being broken in. (At the same time, the non-insulated ones wouldn't suit either, as I've gotten used to having warm feet without needing to get special socks for winter.)

For the other Bean boot lovers out there, how have yours been holding up? Am I just unusually hard on my boots, needing one resole or reheel per season of hard use, generally, or is that the typical experience?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Reading: Minimalism as Product

via Pinterest

I feel silly using this months old article decrying minimalism as a product for wealthy people as a vague starting point for today's post. It's deeply flawed. It picks out one narrow type of minimalism - a particularly extreme version of the "minimalism as trendy aesthetic" thing I've sometimes referred to, where the desire for fewer, but much much nicer and perfectly Instagram-able things is the primary goal - and sets it up as straw man representing all minimalism. I've followed so many minimalist blogs in my time, indirectly encountered quite a few more that I don't particularly relate to, and even then, I don't think I've encountered a single self-identified minimalist out there that fully and uncritically espouses the particular snobby and image-centric brand of "minimalism as product" that this article criticizes. 

Nonetheless, I'm always up for another discussion about minimalism and possible criticisms thereof. For instance, I've previously touched on whether all of the general "ground rules" about quality and fast fashion are entirely correct, and whether my own motivations for beginning my minimalism-ish journey were a little too based on a desire to consume nicer things by consuming fewer things. Today's links are a bit broader than that, and ultimately a bit all over the place.

However one practices minimalism, I think it's pretty clear that the varieties that most Americans are familiar with (from Kinfolk, Marie Kondo, etc.) are a concept designed largely to appeal to people with a fair bit of privilege, economic and otherwise. Heck, just living in the USA, or in any wealthy country with democratic freedoms, is an immense privilege. Decluttering wouldn't feel as radical if consumption (and overconsumption) wasn't so easy. It wouldn't appeal if one wasn't initially swamped by an excessive quantity of stuff. It also wouldn't be remotely practical if it wasn't so easy, in practical terms, to replace what was being thrown out at the drop of a hat, if needed. It's also clear that many companies use minimalism, ethical consumption, or other progressive empowerment-type buzzwords in their marketing, without necessarily conforming to those ideals. As usual, r/femalefashionadvice has interesting discussions about these general ideas.

To what extent is my minimalism-ish a product of my privilege? I've mentioned that I'm a devout KonMari fan. K thinks it odd, and I doubt my parents would approve. They'd consider the gleeful wholesale discarding (and donating) spree that the process starts with unspeakably wasteful. I had a privileged middle-class upbringing and I think my parents would say the same about their own childhoods, but they also grew up in somewhat-rural Taiwan, in a time and context where consumer goods were not half as accessible as they were for me in America. Incidentally, my post-KonMari wardrobe was about the same size as K's, even though he only throws out clothes that are entirely worn out by years of use. My oldest items, which are few and far between, are from late college. His were from high school. (That may imply something about the quality of men's clothing versus women's clothing, as he has a very lean wardrobe where most individual items see frequent use.)

I had a distorted relationship with consumption and shopping, not to an extreme extent (no credit card debt, not that crazy an accumulation of items in the end), but plenty of money was wasted, unthinkingly, on things I didn't need and sometimes never wore. I've thought a bit about where that came from (including in my comment to Adina's post a while back, which I hope to spin off into another post someday), and I suppose the long and the short of it is that I kept finding myself in situations, academic and professional, where I felt out of place and rather "less than" despite how hard I worked to get there and how, by most objective measures, I was generally holding my own or outright excelling. Mostly, I was just being neurotic or overthinking things, but part of me always felt like consuming and wearing the right things would help me fit in, make things easier, and quiet those imposter syndrome voices inside. It's complicated. Getting out of NYC for a while during my clerkship has probably a good influence to counterbalance all that, because what's "normal" for my colleagues now is so different from what's "normal" at the firm. The legal community in adjacent areas and states is also... quite different from that in the city.

Alas, I feel like I'm never able to fully get to the bottom of any of these topics, however often I try to write about them or think about them. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

July Shopping Reflections

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So this was a high-volume shopping and totally bad at minimalism month, though many of my purchases were secondhand, at least. I started window shopping over July Fourth weekend and suddenly found that I'd ordered a completely ridiculous quantity, including an APC half-moon bag (discounted to $380 USD at Ssense, but now sold out). Then I sent most of it back because very little of it worked. Womp womp. The half-moon bag was a bit too big for my height and build, and too stiff for my tastes. My battered and much-beloved Coach City fills the same niche more comfortably (used at Etsy here and here, or more affordably on Ebay including here). Other things, like a Madewell Central shirt, just didn't flatter on me. I still ended up keeping quite a few things, mostly unseasonal items.

This month was my first time shopping at ThredUp. I had a good experience, with their reasonable prices and a 40% off your first order discount. I did make a few mistakes, but those are on me. It's expected that their return policy wouldn't be as forgiving as a retail store's (returns within 14 days to original method of purchase). I, er, misinterpreted their policy initially, and assumed all returns were store credit only, so I ended up keeping (and paying for) a few sweaters I wasn't sure about and haven't listed. Those will be gifted to my younger sister, W, as they'll suit her much better!

As for my yearly budget for 2017 ($150 x 12 = $1800), it's not looking fantastic in terms of my staying under, though I technically made a tiny bit of progress this month. I'm now $162.98 over budget for the year, rather than last month's $168.18 (($150 x 7) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 - $128.80 - $98.47 - $144.80 = $162.98).

I buried this detail in another post last week, but I may be taking a new job that will change some of my work wardrobe needs, and could result in not getting back on track for this year's original clothing budget. It's very exciting, and I'm so happy with it, but I definitely couldn't have predicted it!

Fashion - (TOTAL: $144.80)
  • Uniqlo Womens Volume Skirt - $29.90 - I've been wanting a navy blue midi skirt (inspired by Adina!) for more than a year, but was never able to find one I wanted to try on. I ended up experimenting with a striped J.Crew Factory skirt (similar in limited sizes here and here) last year, but that was pretty far from the design I had in mind. This year, Uniqlo had two skirts that were close, this one almost exactly. These skirts are actually not super-practical for me. They're cotton-poly blends, and not terribly comfortable in high summer heat and humidity, because of the volume of fabric. They go a little past mid-calf on me (maybe an inch past how it looks on the models.) Both have very elastic waists, to the point where I'm not sure exact sizing... matters terribly much, there's so much fabric, and the waist so stretchy. I picked a size M in both. Wearing these to work is outside my comfort zone, so it remains to be seen how much actual use I get out of these.
  • Uniqlo Women High-Waist Belted Flare Midi Skirt - $29.90 - I like the belted waist design here, though this design is less like the simpler look I had in mind for a midi skirt. I originally intended to keep only one, because I definitely don't need two midi skirts that I'm generally not inclined to wear to work, but I ended up not being able to pick. This was a bad-at-minimalism month for sure. Even with the downsides of these, I just find them really fun to twirl around in, even if only indoors, and I couldn't resist.
  • ThredUp - ~$85.00 (after typical 40% off first order, for discount of up to $50, coupon)
    • Club Monaco Open Cashmere Cardigan - This drapey open cardigan is essentially identical to an item that's still in stock at Club Monaco, which I've linked. It seems to be a design they redo frequently. I got this in M/L, which has a very generously sized shawl collar that is nice and cozy, but is otherwise not too oversized on me. 
    • J.Crew Linen Sweater - Not sure how old this is, but it's 100% linen and very boxy. I love this, despite the dull color and boxy-ness. It feels like a very Eileen Fisher-like look when I wear it with my Grana silk ankle pants (use my referral link for 10% off your first order, and I'll get $20 store credit if you make a purchase, thank you for your support!). I can't find anything similar in linen at J.Crew or other mall stores, though this Loft sweater in cotton-nylon blend has a very similar look and feel in brighter colors and this Lou and Grey all-cotton sweater is similar in spirit and color, but much slouchier. 
    • Madewell Patterned Sweater - I think Madewell does a sweater like this almost every year in recent memory. I have a slouchy patterned sweater from H&M and before I started monthly budget posts that's a favorite, though one that's not held up terribly well to regular wash and wear. Thus, I'm generally partial to wearing a loose-fit patterned sweater (that requires a black camisole underneath, I like these from H&M and they last for years) over dark skinny jeans in winter. 

Have you shopped at ThredUp before? Were you able to find any gems? 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wear to Work: "Appropriate Attire"

Recently, there was controversy about the women's dress code at the House of Representatives. Specifically, multiple women journalists had been barred from parts of the building for wearing sleeveless dresses. Apparently, the text of the rule left some room for interpretation, providing for "traditional coat and tie" for men, while providing only for "appropriate attire" for women. After several congresswomen spoke up about what was, in their view, an archaic interpretation of "appropriate attire" or "appropriate business attire" to exclude sleeveless business casual attire, change is promised

This is an interesting question for me, because, well, even as I loathe "full dress" business formal with all of my being, I nonetheless believe in its importance for certain occasions, particularly court and job interviews. My natural tendency is to push the business casual boundaries towards the casual as much as possible for any given workplace. Nonetheless, I'd still be shocked - shocked! - if I saw anyone appearing for an interview with me or before a court in "problem" attire (peep-toe shoes, loud colored shoes, etc.).

Of course, congresswomen themselves are absolutely the most qualified and the most vested with the authority to make decisions about what is appropriate in their workplace! Furthermore, the expectations for journalists who happen to be conducting interviews or otherwise working in the building should absolutely not be the same as, say, for someone speaking on the House floor. If one is to draw an analogy to the courtroom, of course the attorney likely should be in a suit (they may not need to be, but a failure to don one, of the right general color and formality level could cause a jury or a judge to react poorly), but there's no such expectation for members of the jury, or for witnesses, or for people observing the proceedings, including journalists. Absolute formality in business clothing has its place, but a somewhat limited and specific place, only for people in certain roles. 

It's not too surprising, now that I've been in the field for quite some time, to find that expectations for women's business formal dress are generally more conservative for lawyers than in other business fields. The bit about Supreme Court dress codes is particularly interesting (page 3 of the linked article). Everyone, men and women, was wearing rather archaic "morning dress" until quite recently, apparently. More recently, I've definitely heard that at least one Supreme Court justice, even in the last six or seven years, will still criticize women for wearing suits of any color other than black. Apparently, the propriety of pantsuits is also not universally accepted nationwide, though I've been lucky enough that I've never needed to work anywhere where that's really a thing. (I prefer skirt suits, but I'd resent a system in which it wasn't optional.)

As for me, well, thanks to a recent job offer after a long, long interview season, I may be becoming part of that dramatically high attrition rate statistic (also see piece from 2006) for minority women in biglaw. I'm possibly destined never to be back after having worked in biglaw for a little less than a year before my clerkship. It's incredibly exciting, though not set in stone just yet! One side effect of the possible change will be a need to buy more suits and expand my collection of more formal work clothing. Back in biglaw I'd often have several days, perhaps even several weeks on end where I wouldn't expect to see or speak face-to-face with anyone but my officemate and other junior associates, but that's looking to change. More client contact and more court proceedings or important proceedings may be in my future.