Thursday, April 29, 2021

April 2021 Shopping Reflections

via Unsplash

And now I officially have two consecutive no-shopping months in the books! This is a first for me in the six years since I started tracking my fashion-related shopping every month here on this blog. 

I guess it's becoming clear to me that I probably won't become interested in browsing for anything new for my wardrobe again until my lifestyle gets closer to its pre-COVID normal: until I'm back in the office most days of the work week; can socialize freely with my friends; and might even contemplate dining at a restaurant again. I'm getting my second dose of the vaccine this week, but I'm not sure if I'll feel ready to fully resume activities outside the home immediately after I hit the two-week mark following my second dose. 

In terms of returning full-time to the office, I expect that to start up again not too long from now. My workplace has always been very old-fashioned about wanting people to work in the office. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken this long before they really started pressuring all attorneys to start coming into the office more! Judging from what I hear from my friends in the industry, I'll be back in the office regularly at least two months earlier than most biglaw attorneys in NYC or many other major markets.

I'm not sure if my supervisors will also expect a return to our typical business casual office dress code right away. (They'd dropped that requirement when the state government first allowed people to return to NYC offices last July.) At any rate, I probably won't start dressing in business casual again until I receive the explicit instruction to do so. It's been quite nice to be able to wear jeans to the office on the rare occasions I've needed to go in during the past year. 

Because my return to the office will likely be so soon, I'm not sure May will end up being another no-shopping month for me, even if I won't feel like online window-shopping again until my life is almost back to its pre-COVID era normal. Also, with the potential for some of my job interviews to be in-person - I have no way of knowing how fast any of the government agencies I'm applying to will go back in to the office full-time - I may want to buy myself a new suit soon. 

Follow the link below to continue reading, but please be warned that I briefly mention body shape and weight changes. I do so in vague terms that I don't think could cause offense, but I thought I should flag it anyway, just in case you wish to avoid that kind of thing!

I last bought a suit - a J.Crew Factory wool-blend set that is now discontinued - in October 2017. In the years since, my body shape has changed a bit - including from the new stresses (I tend to snack more when stressed) and sharply reduced physical activity caused by COVID social distancing - and my J.Crew Factory suits don't fit me well anymore. 

I'm quite picky about only wearing wool-blend suits because I've found - from reasonably extensive experience - that wool-blend suits regulate temperature better than all-synthetic ones. In other words, I sweat less and the blazers get less smelly less quickly when I wear wool-blend suits. Longtime readers may recall I'm also rather persnickety about various other details when it comes to business formal wear: I personally prefer skirts over pants so I don't have to worry about even petite pants being too long on my "short for my 5'3'' height" legs, and I also prefer two-button jackets over single-button ones for how they fit over my chest (but two-button jackets have become increasingly less common in recent years). 

Sadly, I don't think any moderately-priced retailers - I previously got most of my suits for ~$150 to $170 each, after taking into account commonly available sales and discounts - are really offering many wool-blend suits for women these days. J.Crew Factory's discontinued their wool blend suit that had been my go-to since late 2016, Ann Taylor Factory's suits are also all-synthetic, and Ann Taylor doesn't currently have a wool-blend skirt suit available online in a full size range. 

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J.Crew and Banana Republic may be the only retailers in that general price range that sort of have a decent range of wool-blend skirt suits available right now. And with each of them, I have some qualms about the offerings: The Banana Republic blazers look a bit too unstructured and like they're trying to be a bit trendy for my tastes. Their pencil skirt is also really odd, way too closely fitted and strangely long on their models, with an awkwardly-placed side slit. As for J.Crew, their two-button jacket doesn't seem to be available in petite sizes and is currently final sale-only, which definitely won't work. I might be willing to try their suit with a single-button jacket in a darker gray wool though, but the total price with a recently available discount was more like $300/suit. 

At this stage of life, I can definitely afford to spend more than the ~$150/suit I used to spend, even if I plan to take a 50% to 60% pay-cut with my next job. So the more expensive J.Crew suit is definitely an option, as is looking to other, more expensive retailers. 

Back when I was newly graduated from college and throughout my law school days, Theory seemed to be considered the most aspirational women's suiting brand amongst my peers. I always felt like Theory's designs wouldn't suit my more top-heavy figure, however, and I think my current chest measurement puts me close to the very top of their size chart for jackets. 

Brooks Brothers is also an option, but when I last tried to shop from them a few years ago, their e-commerce game was extremely poor. They ultimately weren't able to ship several item/size combinations that were supposed to be available, according to their website. If they still have the same issues now, I really wouldn't be able to shop from them for something like this, where I may need to try many sizes. (When I went in one of their NYC stores to make a return back then, I also saw they didn't really stock women's suits in-store.) 

Do people even still wear suits for job interviews outside of the legal industry? My sister works in tech and has interviewed for a number of jobs since 2016 - so she can keep increasing her salary - and she's definitely never contemplated wearing a suit, or even a blazer, to her interviews. And do women routinely wear suits to work in other industries outside of law and government? Maybe in some finance and consulting workplaces? 

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