Thursday, May 27, 2021

May 2021 Shopping Reflections

This was a fairly expensive shopping month for me, but also a rather boring one by any objective standard. Business formal is a big part of my life - in the sense that meetings, depositions, or court proceedings requiring business formal wear can come up anytime at work, sometimes with little notice - but I find all the components so incredibly dull and tedious to wear. It was only with great reluctance that I shopped for a new suit this month, after realizing in April that I would probably need a new one just in case any of my government job interviews in the next few months end up being in person. 

There definitely exist ways for women to be more creative about business formal. See, for example, how Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Pelosi dress at times. But with my budget constraints, personal style preferences (in which I don't even particularly enjoy wearing blazers), personal priorities about consuming less and about what types of clothes or accessories I'd prefer to spend on (so I'd rather keep fewer business formal items in my closet, which means I need to stick to conservative, boring pieces that can be worn in front of a jury, if needed); and relative lack of seniority in the profession (so my outfits need to err on the side of not drawing attention), it's not really in the cards for me to be able to push the sartorial envelope when I'm adhering to a business formal dress code. 

In other words, my design and style preferences for business formal have not evolved much since I wrote about my ideal law student interview outfit way, way back in early 2015. My budget for clothing, including workwear, has increased significantly since that time - and the general quality and types of styles available at many brands have also changed considerably in the intervening years - so my list of go-to brands is naturally very different now. And I don't think I was clear enough back then that I would swap in different-colored tops or more comfortable shoes - including loafers, wedges, or booties - and still consider the resulting outfits fairly conservative business formal that would still be appropriate for job interviews or court.

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I do think business formal style norms have changed a fair bit since I was last doing job interviews as a law student back in 2015. Among other changes, I understand that various jacket or blazer and sheath dress combinations - in either matching or contrasting colors - are totally common as women's business formal in most settings now. I would personally still refrain from wearing them instead of a more traditional suit in front of a jury, however, but most attorneys only rarely work in front of a jury, if ever. (I've never actually even been in the presence of a jury outside of my clerkship!) 

Fashion - (Total: $317.67) 

  • J.Crew Petite Parke Blazer in Italian Stretch Wool, heather coal - $235.17 - For this round of suit shopping, I initially ordered from both Brooks Brothers and J.Crew, but because Brooks Brothers didn't offer petite sizing in the fabric I wanted, I was quickly left with only J.Crew as an option. Particularly because I need to size up a fair amount - relative to my waist size and shoulder width - to accommodate my chest measurement, I quickly learned I absolutely need a petite sizing blazer. Any regular sizing blazer large enough to fit comfortably around my bust is also likely to be cartoonishly oversized on my arms (both in terms of length and circumference), shoulders, and waist. In other words, it's pretty clear I'd need too many alterations for a regular sizing blazer to be a feasible purchase purely from a cost of tailoring perspective, before even actually consulting with a tailor to determine whether it'd even be possible or reasonable to make all those changes. Between Brooks Brothers, Theory, and J.Crew, J.Crew was also the only brand to offer a more traditional-looking wool skirt suit in this darker charcoal gray-type shade, which I prefer over the lighter gray of my J.Crew Factory suit. I don't love that this is a single-button jacket, as two-button jackets tend to have a more sleek and fitted look on me. Because I'm on the curvy and busty side, this single-button Parke Blazer definitely doesn't look the same on me as it does on the model. 
  • J.Crew No. 2 Pencil Skirt in Italian Stretch Wool, heather coal - $82.50 - In my usual way, though I needed a petite sizing blazer, I preferred to stick to a regular sizing skirt. I also did this when I last bought a suit for myself back in 2017, that time from J.Crew Factory. Although this fabric is described as a "stretch wool" with 96% wool and 4% elastane (with a 100% polyester lining), I can't actually really feel the "stretch" when I'm trying it on. I imagine the elastane does help with making the suit marginally more comfortable to wear over a long day, but I don't think it makes the fit noticeably more forgiving than the same suit made in 100% wool fabric would be. I'd prefer if the waistband of this skirt was a little wider, as I think that would give this skirt a noticeably neater, more structured look when it's worn without the jacket. But that's a fairly small detail that really doesn't matter if I only plan to wear the skirt with the jacket regardless. 

Now that NYC is almost fully reopened and I know I'll soon be back in the office close to full time, my typical online window-shopping habits are starting to return. (I've already worked in the office three days out of this work week due to some issues that came up in one of my cases! But my workplace hasn't announced our formal return date yet.) So I think it may end up being quite a while before my next no-shopping month. 

I confess, I'm actually a bit unreasonably excited to be back in the mood to shop for jewelry again, since it's my favorite type of accessory in recent years. (As the COVID shutdown continued, the idea of buying new jewelry, which I only really wear outside the home, started to make me feel particularly sad.) For nearly a year now, I've been mentioning Alicia Goodwin's beautiful jewelry design work and her company, Lingua Nigra. Now I'm finally able to get in the frame of mind for making a purchase, maybe as soon as next month! Though I think I'm now leaning towards a necklace, rather than a pair of earrings, as I've realized I don't do well with bigger, more dangly earrings, I just can't stop worrying they'll get tangled in my hair or caught on something. 

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