Friday, November 29, 2019

November 2019 Shopping Reflections

I bought something beautiful and handmade this month... But it wasn't for my wardrobe. 

My November shopping reflection posts always feel a bit premature, given that it's usually a safe bet that I'll probably be shopping at least a few online Black Friday sales. Especially given that I'm describing this as a "no-shopping" month, which may technically be inaccurate if I'll probably be making a Black Friday sale order or two later today. But my usual practice is to only document new additions to my closet once the final decision to keep or return is made, and that's not going to happen until December.

Because of how intense things got at the office - for both K and I, with no reasonably foreseeable end in sight now for either of us until a few months into 2020 at the earliest - I stopped having any real time or energy to stress-browse online shops towards the end of the month. Things didn't escalate to that point for me until late in November, but the orders I made earlier on simply didn't pan out. 

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For instance, I was reminded that many more interesting, "weighty" rings of a certain size - including, in one of this month's stress-browsing-related orders that was eventually returned, the Monica Vinader Siren wide-band ring - simply do not suit my fingers. And I also found that even if the bright teal color of that Vince mixed-media pleated skirt (also on sale here) - which I mentioned recently when I wrote about my fondness for Mrs. Coulter's costume designs in the new BBC His Dark Materials adaptation - was gorgeous, the skirt was also too long and voluminous for someone my height. One can tell just by looking at it that it would be extremely complicated to hem, given the draping detail and the pleats! I've had my eye on the J.Crew slip skirt in academic green instead, but it's been excluded from the last few rounds of sales on their site, and it's looking like it may be excluded from their Black Friday sale as well. (There is, however, a similar Madewell slip skirt in "smoky spruce" that is included in the Black Friday sale over there.) 

In the throes of my particularly hectic last week of work before the Thanksgiving holiday - our team had a very taxing Monday and Tuesday, and a busy weekend before that to prepare - I did channel those desires to stress-shop into one purchase of a beautiful and handmade thing, this Porcelain and Stone ceramic travel mug. I've mentioned this small, artist-owned company from the Boston area quite a few times over the years, and I own several pieces of her jewelry. I follow the artist on Instagram, and I had been intrigued by her Instagram stories about experimenting with making cups and bowls.

I do already have another travel mug of almost the exact same size, the JOCO 12-ounce cup, which has been perfectly functional for my needs. Given my "latte factor" predilections in times of considerable work-related stress, I've been using the JOCO cup frequently. I've also been finding that I'm forgetful enough about bringing my travel mug back and forth that it could make sense to have another, to keep one mainly at home and one mainly at the office.

Happy (belated) American Thanksgiving to all who celebrate it. This year, I'm thankful for many things, including the fact that my post-law school student loan balance has now dropped to five figures - even if only by the thinnest possible margin - for the very first time! (I've been making $3,950/month payments for a while now, which puts me on track to finish paying off my loans in the first month or two of 2022, with my 2.6% post-refinancing interest rate.) 

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Outfit Post: Neutral on Neutral

Jeans: Gap Mid-Rise True Skinny Jeans, dark indigo 
Boots: Sam Edelman Petty Booties, black (old, similar by Nisolo)

Winter weather has truly set in here in NYC! There actually haven't been too many days recently where I've worn wool-blend coats, because the weather jumped very quickly from trench coat temperatures to down coat temperatures.  

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This wool-and-cashmere blend coat by Polo Ralph Lauren is a generous birthday gift from my mom, circa two years ago. (We got it on sale.) I was surprised to find that the outer fabric is pure wool and cashmere - without any nylon, polyester, etc., as is commonly found in wool-blend coats at this general price point. When I first received it, I really loved how soft the fabric was - significantly softer than that of any other wool-blend coats I'd ever tried on - and I was probably a bit unduly impressed by that fabric composition because it was so unusual to me. At the same time, even if the fabric felt soft and lovely, I did notice it was thinner than that of most wool-blend coats. So I was initially a bit worried about this coat's eventual longevity and durability. (I don't think it's solely the fabric composition - rather, the lack of nylon or polyester - that accounts for the softness. I tried on this Fleurette single-button coat last year, which was pure wool for the outer layer, and it had more of that stiffness and structure one expects from a wool coat.)

So even though this Polo Ralph Lauren coat looks like it'd be a structured coat, it flows more gently over the curves of the body rather than holding its own shape as much, if that makes sense. It makes for a slightly different look than one might expect from what it looks like on the hanger. Because I'm on the bustier side of average, the coat does sort of flow down from the widest point of my chest, so the lines of it don't really nip in at my waist.  

As it turns out, although I've worn this coat somewhat frequently in the past two years, there haven't been any noticeable durability issues to date. Although the fabric feels less stiff and hardy than that of most other wool-blend coats I've tried on, I haven't seen any signs of wear and tear at all. Though I'm admittedly a little more careful with this than I would be with a coat of a darker color. 

I'm also really enjoying this beige Vince boiled cashmere funnel-neck sweater (gray version available at Shopbop). It's extremely plush and soft, and maybe even a little too warm for some of the temperatures we've had so far, when it's layered under some of my warmer coats. I've only worn this sweater a handful of times, but there's been no noticeable pilling as of yet. (Though I do expect some pilling eventually, as it's definitely in the nature of cashmere as a material, which I know from ample experience with other sweaters at a bunch of different price points.) The sweater is a bit intentionally over-sized through the body, so it does have a slightly boxy-looking fit all over. 

I thought this neutral on neutral combination of the coat and sweater - no desperate need for a scarf with that high funnel-neck - looked nice. Normally, I have a hard time finding camel, beige, or tan shades that look good on my skin-tone, but I think both of these colors work well on me, and they seem to work well together too. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Resoling my L.L. Bean Boots, Round Two (with Before and After)

via Unsplash

My previous post about getting my L.L. Bean duck boots (I wear the 8'' style with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate lining) resoled currently happens to be my single most popular post of all time. I'm a little surprised that my post performs so well in the Google search results about getting Bean boots resoled, but I suppose it's because relatively few people out there spend that much time thinking about - or, more importantly, writing about - this mundane bit of routine wardrobe maintenance! 

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When last I sent in my beloved L.L. Bean boots for resoling, it was after I had worn them frequently - almost every day of the week from December through March or April - for two years. Strictly speaking, because I grind down the heels of all my boots so quickly, I could have made a case for sending them in at the end of the first year. By the end of the first winter, the textured rubber on the heels of my boots had already been worn down so much that almost half of it along the outer edges - the part that hits the ground most heavily when I'm walking, I assume - was completely smoothed out, enough that my foot could slip and slide a bit on damp tile or marble, or if the sidewalk is icy. Nevertheless, I held on until the end of the second winter, after which the yellow rubber at the heels was completely worn through, and the dark brown rubber under the soles was visible, and also starting to get worn down. In short, it was clearly past time to send them in for resoling. 

Please follow the link below for "before" and "after" photos, and a quick note about the current price for resoling the Gore-Tex/Thinsulate Bean boots:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Style Inspiration: Marisa Coulter from His Dark Materials (BBC)

I am sometimes known for getting personal style inspiration from highly unusual places. Though I think, in this case, it's pretty easy to see why I'm inspired! Marisa Coulter from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series is not - to put it lightly - a nice person, but she is certainly compelling and complex. Although the 2007 movie adaptation of the first book in the series was not a particularly great success, I've always been fond of it, and I thought it was well-cast and that the set and costume design fit my vision of the story. From the two episodes so far, I think we can say the same good things about the new BBC series, and it's also a much more faithful adaptation of the source material. 

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I'm enjoying the series, though I think the pacing has been a little uneven. Episode one was an excellent start, but I was a little less sure about episode two and some of the revelations that they made far sooner than in the books. It's early days yet, though, and I'm so fond of the book series that there's almost no way I won't be watching every episode of this season as soon as it comes out. 

Ruth Wilson plays Mrs. Coulter very well, especially when she's being rather scary. I also really love the costume designs for this character, which focus a lot on rich textures and colors and these almost monochrome tone-on-tone outfits. As she tells Lyra: "The clothes you wear determine the way people see you." And Mrs. Coulter certainly dresses to be a striking figure who can't be ignored. 

I particularly like all of the blues and greens that she's been wearing in the show so far. They're colors that appear frequently in my collection of runway, red carpet, and otherwise more-fabulous-than-real-life fashion inspiration photos. I'm particularly in love with jade or teal shades this year, and well, it seems to be a trendy color right now! J.Crew, for instance, has a ton of items in a teal "spicy jade", and the "academic green" shade is also similar. 

The first screenshot above was particularly in line with items I've been thinking about recently, as I've been really struck by the idea of teal skirts in more satin-textured fabric, whether a pleated skirt or a slip skirt. J.Crew has both a pleated midi skirt option and a slip skirt option in that academic green color; Madewell has another slip skirt option; and Vince also has a pleated mixed media skirt in a similar color, which happens to be on sale in a few places. All these skirts are polyester or mostly polyester, though, which I prefer to avoid for anything that might be worn in warmer weather, even for more floaty, flow-y skirts that wouldn't be too constricting. (I'm very fussy about wearing more breathable fabrics during our very hot and humid NYC summers.) And while I've been really into the idea of silk-looking slip skirts since this summer, I do wonder if they're a short-lived trend that's destined to look a bit dated as soon as the trend goes away. 

Have any of you been watching the new His Dark Materials series? What do you think? It's my absolute favorite children's book series. Though I must confess that much of what was happening in The Amber Spyglass flew completely over my head until I revisited the series years later, while I was in college. 

Monday, November 11, 2019

Life Lately

I did in fact end up taking that whirlwind international business trip I mentioned. The entire trip - flight time and waiting time at the airport included - took up a little less than 48 hours in total. What an adventure! The travel-related exhaustion didn't really catch up with me until the weekend. 

Here are some of the small things that have been on my mind recently:

Money-Related Podcasts

I've been listening to a few new-to-me personal finance-oriented podcasts lately. My preference in this genre is for podcasts that talk more about the personal stories behind how different people manage their money or how they got into a particular financial situation, rather than about more technical details or how-tos. Essentially, I enjoy content like the more money-centric episodes of Death, Sex & Money. In that vein, I've been enjoying the recently debuted She Makes Money Moves by Glamour and iHeartRadio and also the This is Uncomfortable series by Marketplace. There was also a brief season of the Refinery29 Money Diaries podcast, which is also pretty good, though it's from quite a while back and was over too soon.

Out of the episodes I've been listening to in the past week or two, the most unique and fascinating one was probably this recent Death, Sex & Money episode, about someone who got into the debt collection business, found she was quite good at it, and was eventually prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General. The ultimate conclusion of that prosecution was a settlement that included a lifetime ban from the industry and a multi-million fine that she can never hope to pay off. Very interesting, though the interview subject is not the most sympathetic figure, I don't think.

Ring Wearer

Prior to my recent engagement, I'd never spent much time wearing rings. I must say, it takes a little bit of getting used to. I find that it bumps against hard surfaces - mostly my desk - somewhat frequently, and then I worry about whether I might actually damage the stone. That makes me glad I never bought one of those opal rings I was thinking about a few years ago, as I probably wouldn't have taken good enough care of it. I sometimes look at used opal rings on TheRealReal, and I've seen stones that aren't looking too well. For instance, this one had a noticeable scratch!

I also found that I prefer not to wear my ring during long flights. On one of my many recent flights, my finger swelled so much that the ring got stuck! (I'd eaten a fair bit of salty food that day, and it was a red-eye flight, which makes it a bit easier to get dehydrated during.) The swelling went down after we landed, and I was able to take my ring off shortly after without resorting to any special tricks

Monday, November 4, 2019

Link List: On a Business Trip (or Not)

I recently got to hang out with my friend's adorable husky while I was on vacation. Those scratch mark-looking things on the floorboards aren't doggie claw marks, they're an intentional design choice made by a previous owner of the home! I was not the first person to ask about that...

As you read this, I might be on an international business trip, or I might not. I won't know if I'm actually taking this trip until the eleventh hour, less than 24 hours in advance of the flight (for which a refundable itinerary was booked).

It's a bit difficult to explain how this scenario came about. The work I would be doing is legitimately urgent and important, but it might also not ultimately be necessary, depending on how certain things turn out. One can understand why I've generally been a bit stressed, and also a bit too preoccupied to write much of great substance here! 

I've had so many ideas recently for more long-form posts, including about the legal industry - with a particular focus on the quirks of biglaw - and about personal finance. But, alas, I also have no time to write for fun. And sometimes, when I manage to put together a substantial draft for one of my bigger ideas, I lose steam when I get to the last few paragraphs. Maybe I'll be able to write more when things finally calm down again at the office, but there's no real chance of that until December at the earliest. 

1. // This may only be of interest if you're curious about fashion/lifestyle blogging as an industry - all signs point to it being a somewhat fading segment of social media-based business, when compared to ones based more on Instagram or other social media platforms - but I really enjoyed Carly the Prepster's recent interview on the Bad on Paper podcast. This also wasn't the first time that Carly has been refreshingly transparent about the business side of her work, she's done a few detailed posts about such topics, including a very recent and candid Q&A. Oh, and back in the earliest days of r/blogsnark, she did an informative Q&A there too, which included some details about her yearly revenue at the time. (I also linked that r/blogsnark Q&A back in late 2016.) 

I related to a lot of what she said in her podcast interview, maybe to the degree where it's a bit weird that I feel that way, since our backgrounds and professions are so, so different. Anyway, I highly recommend the podcast episode if you're interested in fashion/lifestyle blogging as an industry.  

2. // Speaking of other topics I have so many thoughts about that I could write an entire other blog post - or two - about them, if I only had the time: I recently got off the library waiting list for Jia Tolentino's book of essays, Trick Mirror (affiliate link), which I loved. She's a brilliant writer, and I adore just about everything she publishes. I hadn't realized that she and I are basically the exact same age, and so we had some of the same internet-based experiences growing up. (Did anyone else also make their own websites on Angelfire or Geocities back in the day?) Though of course, she's a lot more eloquent in describing those experiences than I am, and she was also consistently more savvy and hip about everything internet and pop culture-related than I was. 

One of the essays in her book was excerpted into that "Athleisure, Barre and Kale" article in The Guardian, which went a bit viral. Among other places, people discussed the essay at great length over at Corporette and r/blogsnark. Having read both versions of that essay, I think the book version is much better, and is more clear in addressing the deeper themes she's getting at. 

3. // I enjoyed this article over at The Fashion Law about consumer fatigue with regards to buying large quantities of clothing and other changes in the clothing retail landscape. Are these trends - particularly the apparently increasing popularity of clothing rental services - ones you've noticed amongst your friends and peers?

I do know that a lot of clothing companies, including Ann Taylor - of all the unlikely places - have dabbled in trying to start a rental service. I've also had friends who've briefly tried things like Rent the Runway Unlimited when they had quite a few different weddings to attend in quick succession, but I don't know anyone who would use a clothing rental service in the long term. 

Did any of you read Jia Tolentino's The Guardian essay when it was first posted? What did you think? I noticed that reader responses were a bit more divided than I expected, though I do understand why. I also didn't find that particular piece as brilliant and sharp as I usually find her other writing, in part because I couldn't relate to being a frequent consumer of barre classes (I took a few classes once, and loathed it) or athleisure (doesn't fit my lifestyle, or my tastes in clothing). Though I do eat an excessive and embarrassing quantity of Sweetgreen, so I can vouch for how her description of the spirit in which a NYC office-dweller might opt to go to Sweetgreen is... disturbingly accurate. And if you listened to Carly's podcast interview, please let me know what you thought!