Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October 2019 Shopping Reflections

October has been fairly shopping-heavy for me. Things have remained consistently hectic at the office - outside of when I was on vacation - and I keep wanting to browse online shops late in the evening after work as a way of unwinding and de-stressing after a long day. Not the greatest habit, I know. It hasn't (yet) resulted in my actually ordering too many things to try on and potentially keep, but the risk is certainly there. 

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I'd say that one of this months' purchases, the Kate Spade "Lana" loafers in a croc-embossed "cherrywood" shade, was an indirect product of those work stress-driven online window-shopping impulses. As I explained last month, my sudden interest in the trend of colorful croc-embossed leather came about that way. At the time, a pair of shoes seemed to be the most likely way I'd indulge in that trend, in part because I don't currently own many shoes suitable for warmer weather; I grind them down so quickly with frequent - or unfortunately, sometimes with not-so-frequent - wear. 

This month's other purchases, though, have been much longer in the making. Starting last winter, because of an office policy change that put the kibosh on jeans for casual Fridays, I became interested in looking for a pair of black pants in more casual, comfortable materials. The sole purpose of these pants would be to wear on casual Fridays at work during the colder seasons. One idea was for something from an athleisure brand, possibly a pair of Athleta Wander pants or something similar. 

I never did get around to shopping for something for those pants last winter. Pants shopping is generally such a chore when one is quite short and also has shorter-than-average legs, such that most "petite"-sizing pants are still a little too long. I could never get up the energy to start trying things on last winter. And as soon as the weather warmed up, I lost interest completely. Now that the weather's cooling down again, it was time to resume the search. 

I had observed that solid black denim appeared acceptable for casual Fridays under the new policy, so that was the direction I ultimately went in. Between this month's purchase and the source of my current pair of skinny jeans (similar), it seems that Gap jeans fit me best. I also tried on practically every similar design at Madewell (the 9'' mid-rise skinny jeans in ISKO stay-black were my favorite of the bunch) and Everlane, but the Gap ones looked best on me by far. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $403.57)
  • Elizabeth Suzann Ella Slip Dress in silk crepe, navy - $225.00 - (discontinued) - This dress has been on my main shopping list Pinterest board more or less since I started using it, for nearly a year. But I currently have plenty of summer dresses for the weekend that are still in good condition, so there was no real room for ordering it anytime soon. Then the company announced that the entire Ella product line would be discontinued, so I felt like it was "now or never," if I wanted it. (I like the neckline on the Ella much better than the necklines on the replacement designs, the Petra and the Polly.) The Elizabeth Suzann ("ES") silk crepe is nice, noticeably thicker and a bit more substantial than the Grana, Madewell, Everlane-ish silk I'm more accustomed to. Texture-wise, the ES silk has a little more stiffness than the Equipment silk blouses I've gotten at significant discount in the past
  • Kate Spade Lana Loafers, cherrywood - $138.60* - I had a slightly strange experience when deciding on these: I originally ordered both this Lana loafer (Bloomingdales was price-matching a sale at Kate Spade) and the Darien loafer from Kate Spade directly, both of which were supposed to be the same "cherrywood" shade. But the Darien loafer was a completely different color! On both websites, the "cherrywood" shade looks like a deep, somewhat multidimensional red with uneven shading to give it texture. Instead, the Darien loafer was this one-dimensional, very flat-looking mauve shade, not remotely like the website photo. Whereas the color of the Lana loafer on the website is accurate to what I actually received. How very strange! Has that ever happened to you, where the sample photographed for the retailer's website must not have looked at all like the actual product? Another note: This may be my first pair of shoes with a leather sole - which does feel a bit fragile - so I may need to take these to the cobbler before I wear them out, and ask them to add a protective layer of rubber. 
  • Gap Mid-Rise True Skinny Jeans, black rinse - $41.97 - All I wanted from this purchase was a pair of solid black skinny jeans that fit me well and had no fading or distressing or other design flourishes. Because Gap skinny jeans appear to suit my height and body shape the best,  based on each time I've shopped for jeans in recent memory, this pair fit the bill exactly.
*Indicates that price includes sales tax.

Going into November, the main thing on my mind shopping-wise will be holiday gifts for K and his parents. As I've somewhat sheepishly mentioned, my own immediate family takes an extremely unsentimental - but arguably practical - approach to gift-giving: The recipient selects their own gift, and might even go so far as to order it for themselves, in which case they receive reimbursement from the giver. K's family does holiday gifts the more traditional way, surprises all around. I enjoy participating in that family tradition, but it can be a little stressful trying to pick good and useful gifts. My gift selections for his parents have been a bit hit-or-miss over the years. I've had a few smashing successes, but also a few real duds, unfortunately.

Are you thinking ahead to holiday gifts for family and friends? Any good ideas for gifts this year? If you have a "business casual" workplace that observes "casual Fridays," are jeans allowed? I suspect that many business casual offices in various industries out there, in particular in non-NYC localities, generally allow jeans on at least some occasions. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Outfit Post: A Slightly Unusual Look

Necklace: Alighieri "La Fortuna" necklace
Necklace: Alighieri "Initial Spark" necklace
Dress: Elizabeth Suzann "Ella" slip dress, size M (discontinued)

Now here's an outfit I'm not sure I'll repeat: I originally wore it out of the house with a pair of black tights on, and it felt like a strange, extremely conservative-looking outfit from the waist down, since all the more modern, slightly edgier-looking details were only visible from the waist up. (I also wore my Alighieri "Surreal" earrings, which are the biggest pair of earrings I own, though they're not actually that big.) I still enjoyed wearing this outfit, it's very comfortable and relaxed, but it does feel like an unusual look for autumn weather. Silk slip dresses are just too associated with summer in my mind, and the dress does look a little odd with tights on underneath.

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This post also serves as a spoiler for this month's shopping reflections post, as this Elizabeth Suzann ("ES") "Ella" silk slip dress - recently discontinued - is new to my wardrobe. The company has now replaced the Ella series with two sets of designs, the round-neck "Polly" and the v-neck "Petra" families. I've had an Ella silk slip dress pinned on my main shopping list Pinterest board for most of this year, but I don't think I would have been ready to order one anytime soon. At the moment, I have plenty of other summer dresses in my closet that are all in fairly good shape, including ES's linen Georgia dress from June. It was only when I saw the brand's announcement on Instagram that they were discontinuing the Ella items that I decided to move forward, as it was "now or never." I received this dress just after I got back from my recent vacation. 

Adding to the relative conservativeness of this look, I had my hair up in a loose bun held in place by one of those Ficcare hairclips that I've been using all summer, since I bought them in June. I always feel very buttoned up when I wear my hair that way. (It's a very easy way to style my hair for work.) 

So yes, I'm not sure I'll be wearing this outfit again during the cooler seasons. I really wanted to try wearing my new ES Ella dress out, and this was the only way I could think to do it now that it's starting to cool down here in NYC. We're currently having a few weeks of trench coat weather here. 

Friday, October 25, 2019

Wedding Guest Dress(es)

Now that I'm back from vacation, it's time to hit the ground running again at the office. Among other things, it may soon be my turn to take an urgent international business trip. For some litigators, business travel - both domestic and international, and sometimes on very short notice - can be quite common, but it hasn't been a big part of my practice so far. Based on my current caseload, this should, in all likelihood, be a fairly isolated instance for me. I should get some airline miles out of it too, though probably not enough to get special status from any airline, given that this is likely to be my only trip this year! 

As part of my recent trip, K and I attended a wedding - and the attendant rehearsal dinner - at two swanky venues in the Los Angeles area. The wedding was definitely the fanciest one K and I have attended to date. The dress code was still standard cocktail attire for both events, definitely not black tie, but I still felt a little under-dressed. I wore the J.Crew dress with bows to the rehearsal dinner, and the Ann Taylor lace dress to the main event. Both are dresses I also wear to the office, and in the case of the J.Crew one, that happens almost as often as once every two weeks.

I've actually worn this same style of Ann Taylor dress - I own two, in slightly different shades of blue and with slightly different lace patterns - to the last five or six weddings K and I attended, over the past three years or so. There was nearly no overlap between the guest lists at most of those weddings. Though in any case, I don't think significant guest list overlap would have caused me to change my mind about wearing the same dress each time.

We attended the last few weddings before this most recent one in fairly quick succession, and then there was a long gap between events, of well over a year. By the end of that string of weddings ending by early 2018, I was starting to get extremely bored of those Ann Taylor dresses. I started wanting to look for a more interesting or colorful formal dress, though that search never panned out. For a time, I searched halfheartedly, but my interest in the project quickly petered out when it proved to be difficult, and not that much fun. Given that we had no other wedding invitations on the horizon, there was also no urgency associated with the search.

This time around, I felt bored of this Ann Taylor lace dress after attending just this one wedding.  And we do have at least three weddings we're invited to in 2020...

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Spoiler alert: I don't think I'll ultimately end up buying a new "wedding guest dress" this time either. That's mostly because the same factors that made the search so tedious and annoying last time are still in play: I'm extremely fussy about which designs I think will work for my body type. There's a pretty long list of design elements that will cause me to reject a dress out of hand, and I also need, at a minimum, for a non-strapless bra to be completely covered. I'm also generally very picky - maybe unreasonably so - about what colors or prints I think might look good on me. And for this purpose, I also prefer to avoid any print on a white or cream backing, as well as any light color that could look close to white in certain lighting, cutting down the universe of potential dresses even further. Then, there's also the question of whether a possibly workable dress design actually fits and looks good on me, which is no easy feat because I'm quite short - generally too short for most "regular sizing" midi and maxi-length dresses to look right -  and am also on the curvier side.

Altogether, given my restrictive preferences and some of the popular trends in party dress design in recent years - for instance, those Self-Portrait lace dresses that were popular for a time definitely don't work for me, nor does basically anything that looks like it could come from Reformation's "wedding guest" dress selection - I think it's no surprise that I find this search rather painful. In fact, I find the wedding guest dress search nearly as painful as the search for a pair of jeans that I actually like and that fit (a process I endure only when absolutely necessary, complaining all the while).

All of this is to say that I might have unreasonable and unrealistic preferences for this specific genre of dress. On top of that long list of restrictions, there's the limits of my budget to think about as well!

Ultimately, it's also consistent with my "minimalist-ish" values to stick with the perfectly adequate wedding guest dresses I already have. It isn't even like I didn't have other options in my closet all this time, including that Anthropologie dress featured in my first ever monthly shopping post, or that Diane von Furstenberg ("DVF") wrap dress from my second ever monthly shopping post, among many others. (Both those alternatives are out of my closet now: I resold the DVF dress back to TheRealReal not long ago. And with the changes to my chest measurement during the intervening years, I no longer fit in the Anthropologie dress, so I'll need to find it a new home.) Nonetheless, I still reached for the Ann Taylor dresses to attend all those weddings in a row, over various other options, because I ultimately felt more comfortable in those dresses than in any of my other possible choices.

So that's probably that for this potential purchase, I'm pretty sure. I really do like looking at various colorful and pretty dresses (the more intricate and opulent the better, really, given most of what catches my eye when it comes to larger-than-life or high fashion runway inspiration). But when it comes to what makes sense for me in real life, it's pretty clear that I favor dresses with a simpler, more staid look for this purpose, and that I prefer having a wedding guest "uniform" I keep reaching for - the same dress over and over - with some variety and novelty coming from my choice of accessories, and sometimes shoes. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Link List: On Vacation

personal photo taken from the Santa Monica pier

Thank you all for the well wishes and congratulations in response to my previous post! K and I are incredibly excited to be taking this next step together. (Actual wedding planning work is going to need to wait at least a few months, though, due to what we each have going on at the office.) 

But for now, I'm currently on vacation, and hanging out with some of my good friends here in sunny California. And while I'm on vacation, I'm making some time for blogging too, because writing here is definitely one of the things I do for fun.

via Architectural Digest

1. // Now this is something I only came across because another reader over at Kathy's shared it in the comments of Kathy's recent post about buying backups or copies of beloved items. I had not heard of the artist Michelle Oka Doner before, but I find her signature dress, pictured above, to be incredibly chic. (Her home and studio are also much the same.) I certainly love the idea of having one favorite and versatile dress made in multiple fabrics, to be worn in all kinds of settings and contexts.

2. // There was a recent purported biglaw attorney's Refinery29 money diary that attracted a bit of attention on r/blogsnark - more than it did even on the actual Money Diaries-focused subreddit - because the author was a bit of a character. In terms of whether this diary is realistic (or whether some major key pieces are missing), I'd personally peg this one as a bit less feasible and/or more likely to be omitting some serious family wealth than that CNBC alleged double-lawyer family finances graphic that was making the rounds a while back, and that I fussed about.

3. // When I was a teen and very young adult, it felt like Forever 21 was unstoppable. During my high middle school and high school years in the suburbs - and even during my Boston-area undergraduate years - Forever 21 felt a lot more accessible and ubiquitous than international fast fashion giants such as H&M or Zara.

So it was a bit surprising when I learned that, actually, Forever 21 has not been performing well for years now. They recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Though when I sit down and really think about it, it makes sense that Forever 21 has been overtaken by more social media-savvy brands. I'm no longer of an age to be in the target audience of either Forever 21 or any of its successful direct competitors, but even I had a distinct sense that there are many brands out there that are better about marketing over social media.

4. // A few blog links to share: I was excited to hear that Franish is making a return to blogging! Her approach to blogging was very influential to me when I started writing here. Among other things, my monthly shopping reflections series was originally inspired by her monthly "Budgeting Bloggers" link roundup back in the day. I always enjoy reading about Adina's creative endeavors. And I always love seeing Jane's photography, and these pictures from the annual art show at Rookwood Cemetary are particularly intriguing. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Thousand Times Yes

K and I first met right at the start of my 1L year, but it wasn't until a year later that we became good friends. The more we talked, and the more I learned about K, the more I marveled at his kindness and his conscientiousness, and at how well we seemed to understand each other. I found his good-natured sense of humor incredibly charming, and before I knew it, I had the biggest crush. A few months later, when I found out that he felt the same way, I couldn't have been happier. 

In the years since, we've traveled together, gotten to know each other's families, and taken care of each other when times were hard.

There's no one I'd rather build a life with, and I couldn't be more thrilled for us to take this next step together. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

K's Birthday Dinner at Shun

Around a month ago, I treated K to a birthday dinner at Shun, a newly-opened restaurant from chef Alain Verzeroli. The food was absolutely delicious, and also really beautiful to look at, and the service was great. Portions were also a bit more generous than what I expected, based on past experience at similar restaurants. We ordered the four-course prix fixe, but would definitely have been full on three courses instead. 

To the left is a seaweed roll, and to the right is a miso roll. Both were absolutely delicious, some of my favorite breads ever.

One standout feature at Shun is the bread. During our dinner, they served us three bread courses. The seaweed roll and miso roll pictured above were the first bread course, and both were delicious. This may be somewhat sacrilegious but I'm not typically a huge fan of bread. I don't dislike it, but at most restaurants, I'm satisfied with a small piece. And I often wouldn't really miss it if there wasn't any bread served. I'm saving room in my stomach for the rest of the meal!

But the bread at Shun was amazing. This seaweed roll and miso roll were both among my favorite breads that I've ever eaten anywhere. Both are savory and unique in different ways, the seaweed one is a bit saltier than the miso. If I had to pick between the two of them, I liked the miso one better, but both were delicious. I started with the seaweed roll and was telling K it was the best bread I'd ever had, until I tried the miso roll.