Monday, July 16, 2018

Link List: Judicial Financial Disclosures and Nordstrom Sale

Pictured above is a birthday card I sent to my sister recently. It's from Trader Joe's, of all places! Things are quite hectic at work at the moment, which should last through at least another week, though I've still found some time to write here, because it's a good way to take a break from the very different kind of writing I do for work.

1. // I've made my second donation to the fight against family separation, this time to Kids in Need of Defense ("KIND"), one of the bigger groups people may already be aware of. They coordinate pro bono volunteer attorneys from firms, and match them up with unaccompanied minor clients going through immigration proceedings. (This sort of coordinating and organizing function is important. It's how most of my colleagues and I get our pro bono cases.) I almost worked on a KIND project while in law school, when there was a large wave of unaccompanied minors under the last administration, but they ended up not needing that many law student volunteers. 

I'd normally prefer to allocate my (extremely modest) donations to groups that focus more on direct services (just a personal preference, no larger reason for that), but the stories of children, including babies, appearing in court without their parents (and sometimes, without lawyers) was just a bridge too far for me to not do something right away, even if it's very little. 

2. // Judge Kavanaugh's financial disclosures as a circuit judge are weird. There's quite a few pieces (significant credit card debt at times and the very low total disclosable assets, though purportedly, his ~$500k retirement account is exempt) that just don't make sense to me, even for a judge who was a career public servant. (Judge Kavanaugh spent very little time in the private sector.) As someone from the Bay Area, $1.2 million for a fairly modest house is not a foreign concept and is not, by itself, unreasonable. The total picture, though, is strange. Two more facts to give color: as a circuit court judge, he's entitled to collect his judicial salary of ~$220k/year for life, even after full retirement. Also, the ~$25k/year teaching compensation is a product of legal caps on how much outside income judges may earn from a second job (a cap that may be lifted when non-SCOTUS judges retire), but their teaching services are certainly worth more than that. (I of course, loathe his and Justice Gorsuch's  politics and will never be over the theft of Judge Garland's seat.) 

There was a great r/blogsnark thread about readers' personal experiences with changes in their socio-economic class over time, which yielded a lot of respectful and thoughtful discussion. There was also an interesting discussion about The Cut's interview with Hey Natalie Jean, whom I was glad to see return to blogging. 

3. // Lin's recent post about how her style inspiration from nearly a decade ago is still relevant to her today gave me some interesting food for thought. My own hypothetical "ten years ago" board, if I had kept one, would be different from what it looks like now, heavy on the 2008 J.Crew catalog aesthetic. Archana wrote up a great piece about composting. A friend of mine has started a blog based on her interest and experience with the clothing production industry, both as a shopper and as someone whose family is involved in the industry. It's pretty cool!

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4. // It's hard to avoid that it's Nordstrom Anniversary Sale time. Keeping in mind that many items are made specially for the sale, i.e. basically the equivalent of "outlet only" items that are likely not the same quality or designs as each brand's regular items, it can still be a good time to get certain specific things, if your expectations are guarded. I really wanted that black dress with the cool neckline in 2016's post, but it was sold out, so my order was cancelled. I never saw that pair of Cole Haan tortoiseshell wedges anywhere else, which strongly suggests it was an "Anniversary Sale only" item, plus the texture of the patent leather was more plastic than on my other Cole Haan patent leather wedges. Even so, I love the look of those shoes (which are an "in the office only" shoe for me that I still wear). I've also tried a Natori Feathers bra from the sale that was noticeably different from a full price Feathers bra I'd previously tried, with less delicate, less pretty lace details.

With all that in mind, there are a few things I'd consider buying if they were still in stock once early access ends: The Panache Underwire Sports Bra is great for larger busts, enough that I'm relatively confident that the Anniversary Sale-only version could still be a good choice, particularly because it's in a more fun colorway. Cole Haan has these pointed toe "Tali" flats and shorter block heel pumps with a leather bow that look pretty and business formal-appropriate. I don't really use candles anymore because I don't often get the chance to relax at home (or settle in to study) for long enough to properly burn a candle for several hours to avoid tunneling, but I used to get the Voluspa Maison Blanc candle set each year while I was in law school. They last a long time and have nice, strong scents.

Do you shop during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, and have you also experienced the items being different from regular, full price items? What do you think of Kavanaugh's financial disclosures? 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Outfit Post: Very Casual Friday

Sweater: Madewell Striped Cotton Sweater (old, similar, similar,  similar)
Dress: Grana V-neck Silk Slip Dress, size M (old, current)
Shoes: Soludos Llama Slip-on Sneakers, size 7 (runs big, size down a half size!)

I've gotten totally swamped at work for the next two or three weeks, so I'll be slow on posting new entries and commenting and replying! I am, however, glad to see that I've already posted more this year than I did in either 2017 or 2016, and it's only July, which makes me feel quite accomplished. I guess I've finally sort of figured out a balance between working adulthood and blogging!

Strictly speaking, this outfit may lean a little too casual for many attorney workplaces that have a dress code. In actual practice, my current office's dress code is a bit all over the place, with the fairly recently-imposed no-jeans restriction for casual Friday and a written policy that suggests a mostly business-formal rule is in place for the rest of the week. Despite that, we're actually mostly business casual outside of client meeting and court days, with a casual-ish Friday, so long as there are no jeans.

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The Madewell sweater is very old, and it's a very light pointelle-knit cotton (this H&M cotton sweater is the most similar thing I could find that's currently available, though with dropped shoulders and without the pointelle details). It's quite boxy-looking, especially from the side, and kind of has that effect of hanging straight down from my chest that's not always great on me, but I like it anyway. On the day I wore this outfit, it was in the mid 60s and low 70s Fahrenheit, otherwise I'd have avoided long sleeves! 

The Grana v-neck silk slip dress would definitely not be work-appropriate without being completely covered up by a top like in this outfit. The neckline of the dress is definitely too low for work if it isn't fully covered up like this. I've been really loving this dress, and would totally wear it all the time this summer if I could, though it's not the easiest look for a very busty person to pull off, and the straps and side of my bra usually peek out a little when I wear the dress by itself (which is totally fine in NYC in the summer). 

I really love the Soludos slip-on sneakers with the llama detail. They're just so fun! The pale pink is probably going to be hard to keep clean though, but I liked this color better than the navy velvet version. I've found mine to be very comfortable. They run big, so definitely size down a half size from your usual if you're interested. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ideal Wardrobe Outcomes


Recently, quite a few of my favorite bloggers wrote about their approaches to building their wardrobe and, through that, some described what their ideal wardrobe looks like, what qualities it has and, possibly, what ideal quantity of clothes it would contain. These are themes that almost all of my favorite blogs talk about sometimes, actually, everyone who writes about clothing and shopping with some regularity, at least! 

More broadly, I also enjoy when people discuss the limits of minimalism for themselves and their lives, and either feeling like or being told "you spent too much" or "you consumed too much", whether to be a "proper" minimalist, or a "proper" frugal person. Those are definitely thoughts I relate to.

One of the recurrent themes to my writing here is anxiety about not being a good enough minimalist because (a) many things I buy (especially for work) are from mid-range mall brands with fast fashion production practices, and (b) I shop a lot, by both minimalist and frugal-person standards. One could very reasonably argue that I have plenty of money to make better consumption choices than I do, from an ethics perspective, but well, that may not be fully compatible with some of my personal finance-related values, which I'm increasingly finding might not easily allow for the big distant future designer splurges I used to dream of saving my way to earning, because those values put a ceiling on the price points I'm willing to consider in many shopping categories. Also, the biggest factors in all my spending decisions are my still gigantic and scary student loans ($2,500+ a month!), for at least the next four to five years or so, most likely, which can be expected to take me right up to when financial obligations to family, especially to the kids I hope to have, really "get real".

Then there's the anxiety about not fitting in to my particular segment of my profession, which sometimes feels dominated by people from wealthy backgrounds, because of those same more affordable mid-range mall brand clothes I stick to, even if I'm pretty sure I'm not actually being judged for that.

What would my own ideal wardrobe look like? 

First things first, I definitely don't have an ideal total number of items in mind. I got into minimalism blogs back when capsule wardrobes just started gaining traction (Un-Fancy was still a fairly new blog back then, for instance), and most of my biggest influences were bloggers who had done most of their fashion and shopping-related posts quite some time ago, and who were winding down their interest in fashion and shopping, or even their blogs entirely (think Assembled Hazardly and La Nife en L'air) by the time I started reading. So capsule wardrobes were never really something they discussed, and I wasn't primed to look in that direction as the idea got more popular.

I find the capsule wardrobe idea appealing as a theoretical matter, how clean uncluttered a closet would be if it contained only a small, discrete number of well-loved pieces, every one of them comfortable and that one is thrilled to wear. I also agree there probably exists an optimal, "perfect" number somewhere, at which one doesn't "need" anything more (and that it's a surprisingly small number, relative to what advertisements say or imply). I'd feel a genuine sense of "everything as it should be" accomplishment if I could find that number, but realistically, I just didn't think it was practical for my needs or my habits. I feel like capsule wardrobes generally have their biggest shortcomings for people with a lot of different wardrobe "needs", whether that's from a job with a restrictive dress code, extreme weather patterns (who really ever derives KonMari-esque joy from a puffy down coat and snow boots? not me, at least, but they're definitely necessary in some parts of the country), or for sports, things like that.

For me, the primary sticking point that ensures a numerical limit-based approach would never work for me is my business casual, sometimes business-formal office dress code. I like to joke that it's "casual business casual" because, in most NYC biglaw offices, there's room for women who enjoy fashion to try and wear some trendy things that aren't traditionally seen as conservative enough for work, but make no mistake, there are also tons of unspoken rules and expectations still. Lots of people out there are secretly mean and judgmental about these things, there exist judges at prominent federal courts who think black skirt suits are the only appropriate courtroom attire for women, court staff definitely are snarking about inappropriate shoe or other attire once they're in private, etc. etc.

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I don't enjoy conservative business formal attire at all, neither the heels nor the suits, but understand that it's absolutely necessary for court and interviews, so that's several pieces of my work wardrobe I dislike, but that need to be in there. I also don't particularly enjoy most business casual either, but it's necessary and gets the job done.

I've sometimes commented, over at JENKR's, who also discusses this theme, that it can be really wonderful to find something that's good for both work and weekend, to start making that work wardrobe feel more "me" and create some overlap between it and my "for fun" wardrobe, but that's an extremely rare thing (seen most vividly in the J.Crew Open Sweater Blazer and the J.Crew Factory version). (That's an idea I think fellow law-person A at Posts Factum also touches on.) Because so much of my total wardrobe is necessarily taken up by all these work clothes I just don't enjoy, the idea of trying to refine the numbers (either of my whole wardrobe, or even just the work portion) just doesn't appeal, even if it is probably possible to create a streamlined "work capsule" and a separate very small "weekend capsule" for each of the seasons.

Having so much of my week taken up by dressing for work probably leaves me free to come up with a remarkably slimmed down and super minimalist-seeming tiny wardrobe for casual wear, actually. If I did laundry for my light-colored clothing often enough, I'd be perfectly happy with just the above set of clothing, two tops (both from Uniqlo ages ago, they've only stocked more traditional-looking breton-striped tops since) and a single standard pair of dark skinny jeans (mine are from Gap now), for all my spring and fall weekends. For summer, two or three short-sleeved or sleeveless summer dresses in some combination of linen, cotton, silk, or rayon (currently the older design of the Grana v-neck silk slip dress, an Old Navy tie-neck rayon shift dress, and a Madewell silk-cotton blend dress I bought secondhand) and a pair of FitFlops is all I really need and actually wear. Because temperatures have been all over the place sometimes, that long Uniqlo linen-blend open cardigan I bought mainly for work has also been seeing tons of weekend wear (it looks great over dresses).

Please follow the link below for some additional thoughts about ideal outcomes for new purchases!

Friday, July 6, 2018

MM. LaFleur Lenox Skirt and Kait Top in Swipe Print Review

Top: MM. LaFleur Kait Top in alpine green swipe print, size M
Skirt: MM. LaFleur Lenox Skirt in alpine green swipe print, size 6
Shoes: Sam Edelman Tristan Pump in black

Though I had realized I probably wasn't going to find a new formal dress that fit all my many criteria, and that K and I don't have that many more weddings to attend in the near future regardless, so I didn't need one anyway, my interest in this MM. LaFleur Lenox Skirt and the Kait Top, both in matching alpine green swipe print, was probably still inspired by that goal. The right set of separates could work for formal occasions, and also has the added benefit of versatility. Had this skirt and top worked for me, they could also be split up for various outfits for the office (or even worn together there, if I was so inclined).

I became very interested in this set after seeing MM. LaFleur's official photos promoting their swipe print collection (as well as from seeing some tagged photos on Instagram). Sadly, most of the swipe print items are only available in navy, which doesn't appeal to me as much, since I already have plenty of navy blue and black items (both for work and special occasions), and I think the navy print comes across a lot more subdued, it doesn't jump out at me as something I'd like to add to my rotation of items for formal occasions (even if the alpine green version is also quite understated). I don't know why I find the green swipe print so appealing, I guess its interesting while not being loud, which is what I had in mind for my formal dress shopping. (Plus I quite like pine green as a color for my wardrobe, and would love to see it better-represented.) 

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Alas, I probably should have realized from seeing the Lenox skirt photographed on various blogs, including MM. LaFleur's own, that the Lenox skirt would be too long and the wrong design for someone on the shorter side (5'3'' in my case) and with shorter than average legs for my height. That draping detail is lovely, but combined with the length it probably makes the skirt a bit overwhelming on my frame. Plus, it strikes me as being a potentially difficult (and in NYC, expensive) skirt to get hemmed. If only they had the Noel Dress in the alpine green swipe print, that might have stood a better chance of working for my height and body shape!

It's hard to tell from my photograph, but the Kait Top has a draped pleat hanging across the front, which can look lovely (and is more apparent in the store photography for the navy mixed print version of the top), but is definitely not the right design detail for my body shape. I'm busty enough that the draping doesn't look right, and the pleat can't lie flat across my chest and look as it was designed to. If I were to photograph this outfit from the side, the top sort of balloons out from over my chest down to where its tucked in at the waist. It's definitely not the right top for me, especially when paired with a skirt that's also a little too long.

Do you have any separates that you wear as one formal outfit? I've seen a lot of people wear really stylish separates for weddings and other fancy occasions, generally something that makes more of a statement than this matchy-matchy outfit would. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Life Lately

I passed by Anthony Bourdain's old restaurant in the week after he passed, and it was amazing to see how much of an impact he left on so many people. He was just such an extraordinary, wonderful person.

For US-based readers, I hope that you'll be able to have a relaxing Fourth of July holiday! I'm extending mine into a very long weekend to hang out with my sister, W (and her dog), in the Washington D.C. area, which should be lovely. 

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Book Chatter

I've been trying to read a bit more after having not read much for fun in quite a few months, and have mostly been sticking to Karin Slaughter crime thrillers after finishing the latest Tess Gerritsen. I also read Roxane Gay's Hunger, which was powerfully written.

I'm eagerly waiting for a few books that I have on hold from the library, in particular John Carreyrou's Bad Blood, about the wild and wacky Theranos story. I'm still completely floored by it, I still remember back when Elizabeth Holmes was on the cover of all kinds of magazines and being widely touted as the richest self-made woman in the US. Now that the story's come out, I often hear that tons of people realized that Holmes's and Theranos's claims couldn't possibly be anything more than highly exaggerated puffery, at best, but wow, that house of cards didn't all come crashing down for a very long time. 

Bad Hair Day: The Update 

It's been around eight months now since I got a Japanese straight perm that totally fried my hair. It's been behaving strangely ever since. Around January a single, particularly damaged patch near the roots was frizzing up like dried straw or steel wool most days, and only the really pricey and kind of odd-smelling Alterna Replenishing Moisture shampoo and conditioner was able to smooth away the frizz for a day or two after washing, and results were extremely inconsistent. 

Then the frizz died down, and was replaced by an even bigger patch of my hair regularly getting these really gnarled, intractable small knots, to the point where there seemed to be no other solution except for dragging a comb through, even if my hair would break off at the knot, and I'd shed what felt like an oddly large amount of hair every day. The Alterna shampoo and conditioner didn't help as much with that phase, which is probably for the best, as it's so expensive and the bottles are poorly designed and don't dispense product well. 

Both the frizzy phase and the intractable tangle phase are over now, and I think I've realized that my hair was changing texture and behavior because so much of it was getting broken and shed right around the point where the permed hair starts, what was at the roots when I got the perm. By now, enough of the hair has broken off that there doesn't seem to be enough of the most damaged hair left to frizz up or get tangled, which is good, I guess.

The bad news is that the shape of my hair generally doesn't look right because it's gotten dramatically thinned out in that one particular section, starting about four or five inches of new growth down. Typically, the hair that grows in for months and months after a straight perm stays quite straight on its own, because its weighed down by permed hair, but because a good amount of it was getting broken off around where the perm starts, a lot of it is showing my natural waves and curl in odd ways. Plus, because my hair is still generally dry and damaged, it all looks quite limp and sad. There's probably going to be quite a few months where it looks a bit awkward while all this grows out. Because I don't feel like putting any energy or effort into styling my hair, there's not much to be done except get regular haircuts (once every three months now instead of my usual six) to cut off damaged ends and have a professional try to tidy the shape up a bit. I've put in an order for at-home Olaplex treatment, which is supposed to repair damaged hair, and the salon version of which was recommended by my stylist. We'll see if it seems to do anything!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Everlane GoWeave Short-Sleeve Mini Wrap Dress Review

Today's review may be a surprise, as I've been upfront about being... grouchy about Everlane, thanks in large part to a customer service snafu last time I shopped there, years ago. Then came their underwear campaign. I detested their use of faux-feminist "this is what all women secretly wanted" messaging to market a product that was, just by looking at it, absolutely not designed for all women. (The idea of someone my size wearing their bra is laughable. While I'm a bit of a size outlier, it's not that rare a demographic!) 

Except that I also secretly knew that if they made an item that looked great and if I didn't think there was anything else like it in my general price range, I'd probably still buy it. If I never ended up finding that Cuyana Tall Tote, I totally might have tried the Everlane Day Magazine Tote as a substitute, despite having misgivings about the leather texture. Seeing photos of this Everlane GoWeave Short Sleeve Mini Wrap Dress elsewhere made me think it might also fit that bill.

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Does anyone else remember mid-2000s fashion magazines telling us that wrap dresses, particularly the silk jersey Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses, were universally flattering? That turned out to be a lie. I think the implication was that the sizing was forgiving because the dress was so adjustable, and it'd be easy to size up to accommodate curves and tie it to make it fit at the waist and hide the extra fabric in how the dress wraps. I bought one on The RealReal (easy to find for good prices), and it is definitely not an easy item to wear. It's impossible to make it work-appropriate without a slip despite sizing way up for my chest and it's generally fussy and needs frequent adjusting throughout the day. I still like wearing mine out to a fancy restaurant or other special occasion (it's a fun, distinctive print), but wrap dresses are a challenging genre for me. 

Everlane's really hit it out of the park with designing this wrap dress, at least as far as I'm concerned. There's a separate inner tie that helps the dress stay put, and makes it easy to tie correctly with minimal fussing and effort. With the DvF dress, it takes a lot of adjusting and repositioning whenever I first put it on to try and figure out where I want the waist tie to sit and how to get it to cover the chest better. With this dress it's so much easier, and only takes one "try" or a few seconds. While I only tried this on at home and can't vouch for how it wears throughout the day, it feels secure and like it'd stay put. I also thought this was a very flattering fit, especially from the waist up, and this is extremely high praise coming from me for just about any dress, much less a wrap dress. The skirt length is work-appropriate on my 5'3'' height, hitting a bit above the knee. Between Elaine, Renee, and so very many others besides just yours truly, I think it's clear that this is dress can work well for a lot of different body shapes! (Some of those photos are of Everlane's longer length short-sleeve wrap dress, but from the waist up, it seems to be the exact same dress.) 

Sadly, I discovered this item long after it was released, and they don't have any size/color combinations left that I like. Yellow's not a great color for me, and they don't have my size left in blue or black. The material also doesn't feel breathable, which, to me, isn't a factor that's disqualifying by itself for a dress that I'd generally wear to the office. Most of my work dresses are synthetic blends that aren't particularly breathable, and it's not too bad even in summer if they're short-sleeved and a bit relaxed in fit, like this dress. So I didn't keep this dress because of size/color issues, though if I had the chance to get it in blue or black, I'd have seriously thought about it. I do think the $100 price tag feels a little high for the fabric, as I don't really love the GoWeave texture. The design is great, though, so I'm sad they don't have any size/colors left that I would want!