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? 

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