Tuesday, October 26, 2021

October 2021 Shopping Reflections

Work has suddenly gotten super-hectic again, so things will be more quiet on this blog for the next few weeks. Alas, I think October will also end up being another month without a reading reflections post, I'm probably not going to finish any books due to being too busy or mentally preoccupied with work. Oh well, I never had a goal for how many books I wanted to read this year or anything like that, though I'm a bit sad my brain isn't up to the task of enjoying reading for fun right now. 

Though actually, from my past experience billing fairly extreme hours from late 2019 through early 2020 - before the pandemic intervened and shut down my cases for a time - when my hours get past a certain point, I actually end up wanting to read for fun a lot more because it's one of the only ways my brain can briefly escape from thinking about work. I really hope my pace of billing doesn't get back to that point, and I don't even think it's likely given my current caseload, but who knows. 

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I guess it's also clear now that, unlike what I said in August, I actually do feel like shopping for fall/winter this year after all. That doesn't bother me too much, though if I get much busier at work I need to be careful I don't start shopping more impulsively due to work-related stress. There are definitely times when billing long hours makes me want to online window-shop more because of stress, and there are also times when it doesn't because I just don't have any extra time or mental energy left. It's hard to say which way I'll react until I'm in the thick of it. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Thinking About Tees

It's been a while now since I last purchased a new tee shirt, a gray linen v-neck from H&M (old, similar in other colors) back in June 2017 (unless we count my LinenFox "Mona" top from April 2019, which I don't really because it's dressier than a typical tee). I currently own three tees that I wear outside my home or the gym: (1) that H&M gray linen v-neck; (2) an Everlane white linen scoop-neck (old, discontinued); and (3) an Everlane black v-neck in cotton (old, similar) purchased around 2013 or 2014, before I started this blog. 

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In truth, tee shirts are not a mainstay of my wardrobe, even on weekends. Throughout spring and NYC's typically long summer - I've only just stopped wearing my summer outfits more often than not, in mid-October! - I generally don't reach for separates at all, I strongly prefer to wear dresses. Back when I started this blog, tees played a bigger role in my casual outfits for fall/winter when I wore more cardigans on the weekends. Since 2019 or so, however, I've preferred pullover sweaters rather than cardigans, so my tees only really get used for layering purposes, and thennthey're completely hidden. 

But during my recent travels - to Crested Butte, CO in mid-August and upstate New York in late September - where the temperatures and settings didn't suit my light summer dresses, but also didn't require sweaters, I found myself feeling like I'd outgrown the styles in my current tee collection. Back when I was buying those tees in 2017 and earlier, I avoided crew necks because I found higher-cut crew necks unflattering for my bust. Over time, however, as my proportions have changed somewhat with age and a few periods of significant lifestyle changes due to long commutes or the COVID pandemic, I'm actually finding I may prefer the look of a higher-cut crew neck over some of the alternatives. 

For a while now, I've been feeling like more typical or classic, somewhat higher-cut v-necks like on the Everlane cotton tee (similar) are just not flattering to my current bust and shoulders, at least to my eyes and because I'm a bit self-conscious about those parts of my body. That type of higher v-neck just feels awkward on me right now. As for my linen tees, both the very wide v-neck from H&M (similar in other colors) and the rather open scoop-neck from Everlane are just a bit too wide or open for my tastes now. With those tees' intentionally relaxed fits combined with their low necklines, both could easily shift around as I go about my day and accidentally expose my bra at times. They just feel sloppy to me now as a result, and so I'm not fully comfortable wearing them out by themselves anymore. Also, I think I'd prefer cotton jersey to linen as a material, the linen can feel a little less smooth on the skin. 

Long story short, I'm currently in the market for a few new tee shirts, maybe two or three total (one white and one black, maybe also one in gray). Though I feel like tees may be difficult to shop for online, since so much depends on how exactly a specific tee will sit on one's body, something very difficult to discern from store photography on mostly very tall, slim models. In the past, I've found that seemingly near-identical basic tee shirts from different brands can all fit me very differently. I'm currently thinking of starting with an ATM Anthony Thomas Mellilo schoolboy slub cotton tee in black (also available here; as recommended by Michelle) and a James Perse vintage boy cotton jersey tee in white (also available here). 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Stay at Mohonk Mountain House

Thank you all for your kind congratulations and well wishes about K and I's recent wedding! I can't reply to every comment individually, so I wanted to make sure to thank everyone. 

As part of my mom and sister's recent visit - our first time seeing each other in person in nearly two years - I treated them to a few nights' stay at Mohonk Mountain House ("Mohonk"). It was an extremely fancy outing, one I would probably have considered solidly out of budget were it not for spending $0 on travel in 2020 and the earlier months of 2021, after already saving up a substantial "travel budget" for that trip to Taiwan and Japan K and I were supposed to take back in April 2020. Mohonk was even featured as a location for an exclusive business conference in an episode of Billions, so that's how you know it's really fancy! 

It was maybe impulsive of me to go ahead and spend a large percentage of the money I originally saved for two weeks in Taiwan and Japan on three nights at Mohonk. But it'd been so long since I saw my mom and sister that I wanted to treat us to something special. And we all really enjoyed our time at Mohonk, the grounds are absolutely beautiful; the hotel is charming and comfortable; and the food is delicious and served in generous portions as part of the all-inclusive price of a stay. (Alcoholic beverages are extra, of course.) My mom and I aren't quite as accustomed to moderately strenuous hikes as my sister, and we still had plenty to do. 

One thing to be aware of when researching a potential stay at Mohonk: They currently charge 15% in service fees on top of the entire base price of the stay. They refer to it as an "Administrative Fee" in the fine print when booking, and note that it covers rooms, dining, (non-alcoholic) beverage, and room service. While they don't refer to this fee as a gratuity, they do note in the fine print that there's no need to offer gratuities or voluntary tips on top of these 15% fees. The fee definitely wasn't a surprise, it's quite clearly disclosed when booking. But if I wasn't used to significant resort fees from some other trips I've taken in the past, I might've felt a little sticker shock. 

COVID safety-wise, because most activities at Mohonk are outdoors, it's possible to make it an extremely COVID-safe trip. Guests and employees are all required to wear masks while walking around the hallways in the hotel. It's only if you choose to partake in indoor dining in the dining room that you'll spend time unmasked, and around other unmasked individuals. I actually know someone who stayed at Mohonk last summer, long before COVID vaccines were available, and back then all dining was apparently room service-only. These days, you can still choose to have all your meals via room service, and there's no extra charge as long as you order during regular mealtimes. 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Try-On: Madewell Balloon Jeans

Top: H&M Linen Tee (old, similar in other colors) 
Shoes: Kate Spade Croc-Embossed Loafers (old)

I've mentioned a few times now that I've recently become inspired by the way Amy Smilovic - the founder and head designer of Tibi - describes her personal style and the concept of personal style in general. (She discusses these topics on her Instagram stories and through "Tibi Style Class" live sessions on the brand's Instagram, also available on YouTube. Many fundamental parts of Smilovic's "Creative Pragmatist" personal style and her suggested approach to shopping and personal style are also summarized in this Coveteur article, which Kathy recently shared.) 

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I haven't yet had the chance to sit down and articulate what my personal style is using Smilovic's approach, which focuses on a list of core adjectives. Hers are "Chill, Modern, Classic." (I do like "Chill" and "Classic" for myself, but I think the way I interpret them is a little different than how she does, and I'm not sure either or both would make it onto my list of primary adjectives.) But I do know she has inspired me to think more creatively and expansively about what I might like to wear. I'm slowly becoming a bit more willing to think about designs or silhouettes outside my somewhat conservative and "safe" personal style comfort zone.

Separately, because people have been talking more vigorously for a while now about how skinny jeans may be on their way out for good - finally? I'm actually somewhat surprised skinny jeans remain so ubiquitous; I felt like I was already a late adopter of skinny jeans back when I first started wearing them in college in 2009, and obviously there have been many rounds of different jean silhouette trends in the decade since - I was already becoming interested in trying different, wider-leg denim styles, even before I first learned about Amy Smilovic. 

But because of the no-jeans, more "formal" business casual dress code at most of my workplaces, I simply don't need more than two or three pairs of jeans in my closet. (And the third pair is solid black and exists solely to sneak around the no-jeans rule on casual Fridays, hah!) Plus, because I'm quite short - 5'3'', but with shorter-than-average legs for my height - finding jeans that even fit properly off-the-rack is a major chore no matter what, before even starting to factor in more interesting, wider-leg silhouettes that definitely won't fit all body types the same. 

I've dabbled somewhat with looser-fit straight-leg jeans. In fact, my Uniqlo jeans (old, worn here) are technically straight-leg cigarette jeans. But in practice, I personally feel like most straight-leg jeans still look and feel quite skinny-fit or slim-fit on me. The Uniqlo straight-leg jeans may technically look different from my Gap skinny jeans (similarworn here) in photographs, but they still feel like the serve the exact same function in my wardrobe. When I look at them in the mirror and compare, they both feel like interchangeable slim-fit jeans to me. (It doesn't help that I bought both pairs in near-identical dark blue washes.) 

I think I'd need an intentionally very slouchy-fit or wide-leg design for me to notice they're a different-enough silhouette from my usual to be worth keeping. And I'd also like this new pair of jeans to be in a medium blue or light blue wash to add some variety to my current set of dark blue and black jeans. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Workplace Style Thoughts: Dresses and Skirts

My favorite work dresses before the pandemic. Currently, they don't suit me as well as they used to.

Now that I've been back in the office full-time for several months, I've been thinking a bit more about the continuing development of my workplace style. 

When the New York state government first allowed nonessential offices like ours to reopen last July, my office switched to a casual dress code for the time being. There's still no indication my supervisors have any interest in going back to our former business casual dress code, so in theory, I don't really need to think about my "work clothes" at all right now. But I actually do enjoy many elements of business casual clothing - though not business formal clothing, ick! - particularly in fall/winter, so it's genuinely fun for me to think about some categories of work clothes. 

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Before I really get underway with today's post, please note that I talk about certain body shape and weight changes I experienced while social distancing and working from home due to COVID. I won't go into specific weight-related numbers, but may otherwise be quite blunt about some of the other changes. I know that's not everyone's cup of tea. 

On Work Dresses 

Prior to the pandemic, I'd developed a very set work uniform. I wore the same sleeveless or cap-sleeve dresses year-round, mostly plain sheath dresses. (Though I was also extremely fond of my  past-season secondhand J.Crew "Presentation" shift dresses with bow details in different colors.) My favorite work dresses were two fitted sheath dresses with little rectangular faux cap-sleeve details, the J.Crew "Resume" dress and another from Ann Taylor, with the J.Crew Presentation dresses as close second favorites. 

In spring/summer, I wore these dresses with light linen or cotton-blend cardigans, mostly from Uniqlo. In fall/winter, I wore these dresses with heavier sweater blazers, in particular the J.Crew "Juliette" sweater blazers (sample outfit), but sometimes with the mostly-discontinued "Sophie" sweater blazer instead (sample outfit). (J.Crew has debuted various other designs to replace the Sophie,  including the "Eloise," "Camille," and cocoon and classic styles.) I also had other types of dresses, sweaters, and jackets in my work wardrobe to cycle in to my outfits throughout the year to create some variety. I almost never reached for separates on business casual days, instead I pretty much always preferred to wear dresses. 

By late 2018 and until the world shut down in March 2020, I'd definitely settled fully into a very defined work uniform. Almost every workday throughout the year, my outfit would be one of the same work-appropriate dresses with a seasonally-appropriate sweater or sweater-jacket, shoes, and other accessories. 

Since I started returning to the office more regularly around mid-June this year - and while we still have a casual dress code for the time being - I've been slow to return to my old business casual wardrobe staples. I've only dressed in one of my pre-pandemic business casual outfits maybe four or five times, when I had important videoconference meetings with a client. I've also worn business formal only twice, for videoconference depositions. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Our Courthouse Wedding

New-to-me things for the wedding, both past season items I bought secondhand, but in new condition. The pictured shoes are not the exact style I wore. My pair is the same color, but was originally from Nordstrom, so it has a slightly different horsebit detail.

As of late last month, K and I are officially married! We are absolutely thrilled. Though to be honest, married life also doesn't feel all that different from what came before. After all, we'd already been living together for quite a few years.

Like all couples getting married since March 2020, K and I made the best of things as much as we could, taking into account international COVID travel restrictions; local public health and safety; and our loved ones' preferences and comfort levels as to COVID caution and risk. Given all that, the best solution was obvious: an immediate family-only courthouse wedding now, with the big event and celebration - hopefully including close friends scattered across the US and some family members living abroad as guests - to occur... someday... when things are better from Delta, or from any other future COVID variant to come. Said big party would almost certainly not be happening any earlier than a year from now, and I think it might be even longer than that, maybe a lot longer. 

K and I put together our courthouse wedding in a very low-key and low-stress way, exactly as we preferred. My mom and sister were able to fly in, which was the most important thing. (His parents are local to the NYC area, so their attendance wasn't as much of a challenge.) The judge I clerked for was kind enough to perform our ceremony, for which I am deeply grateful. Thanks to Kristy's recommendation for Snappr, we were also able to line up a photographer, even though K and I - being utterly clueless about reasonable and appropriate timelines for anything to do with wedding planning - had waited far too late to start trying to book one, in the last three weeks before the ceremony (oops!).

In keeping with the low-key and highly informal event we had in mind, I wore a casual J.Crew dress and pale blue croc-embossed Sam Edelman loafers. Both were from past seasons, and I purchased them secondhand in new condition, from eBay and Mercari respectively. (These items did not go into a monthly shopping reflections posts because I bought them solely for the wedding.) I also wore my gold J.Hannah Duet earrings

I swear I looked at practically every single white dress with the right level of formality from Nordstrom (after filtering out super high-end designer ones that were out of budget), Rent the Runway, Shopbop, and J.Crew and I didn't see a single thing I liked that was currently available for purchase or rent. So off to the secondhand market it was! 

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For shoes, my feet still haven't fully adjusted to wearing anything but sneakers or my trusty Fitflops - even though my COVID work from home days ended months ago, and I've intermittently tried to get back to wearing "real" shoes in the time since - so I definitely couldn't push it by trying to wear heels. I was only able to find a size 8 pair of the Sam Edelman loafers in my desired color on the secondhand market, not my usual size 7.5. But the size 8s were comfortable, and I'm starting to think it may be that my feet are actually an 8 now, and that's why so many of my old shoes from before the pandemic aren't comfortable anymore?

As with so many things these past two years, our wedding didn't look like what we would originally have wanted, were it not for the pandemic. But that's alright. We got all the most important things out of our day: we're legally married; our immediate family living in the USA could attend; we minimized the COVID risk associated with the event as much as we could; and we also have photographs of all of us together to commemorate the occasion. It was a good day and we got all that we really needed. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Social Media Habits

The view from the Appalachian Boardwalk trail near Vernon, NJ.

It's been an extremely busy past few weeks, between K and I's courthouse wedding and my mom and sister flying to NYC to attend the wedding and then staying for a week afterwards to spend time with me (after we hadn't seen each other in person for 21 months due to the pandemic!). More on all that later. And now - after taking PTO to enjoy my wedding and the visit from my mom and sister - I'm back at the office and needed to hit the ground running when I returned to work. 

Did any of you also start questioning your social media habits in a surprisingly big way after that lengthy Facebook and Instagram outage on Monday? In NYC's time zone, the shutdown started early in the workday and lasted until after I left the office around 6:00 P.M., which was really something. I'm not familiar with any other example of a similarly big tech company or website(s) ever having been completely down for quite so many hours.

I was perturbed to realize I felt noticeably... out of sorts... throughout the Facebook/Instagram outage. Both platforms are admittedly a sizable part of my regular routine with taking brief little "brain breaks" when I transition between tasks throughout my workday or during lunch at my desk. But I still had access to plenty of other social media platforms that are also a big part of my little workday breaks, e.g. Twitter, Reddit, Corporette comments, other blogs, etc. etc. So I really shouldn't have felt as thrown off as I did to not have access to Facebook or Instagram for a few hours.  

Outside of limited times when I know I can't mentally handle big recent news stories - this has only really happened when Justice Ginsburg passed - and so I need to stay off social media for a while to avoid seeing discussions about those specific topics, I generally don't think my social media habits cause problems for me. Sure, there are probably other, better things I could spend my time on, but I generally think I get lots of interesting and useful bits of entertainment, knowledge, and food for thought from social media, even if I do also waste a fair bit of time scrolling to find the uncommonly good stuff. 

I do rely on social media more than usual when my brain is too tired for more intellectually demanding activities. For instance, there's no monthly book post for September coming because I simply could not focus on reading last month, instead I've just been looking at social media before bed. But I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that. 

In terms of my previous view that social media was, at worst, a benign or neutral influence on my life, it likely helps that the pool of people who actively view or follow my social media presence - whether here at this blog, on Instagram, or on Twitter - is so small that I've actually never had even a single unpleasant interaction with someone engaging with me in bad faith on any of these platforms. I feel like this may be highly unusual in our modern internet age. On very rare occasions, someone was rude to me in response to my comments elsewhere, mainly on Reddit (and in one instance years ago, on The Financial Diet).  

But now that I know a few hours of forced time off Facebook and Instagram can noticeably throw off my day, I guess I have to reassess my previous view that my social media use doesn't have any noteworthy negative effect on my life. Clearly, I have at least some subconscious compulsion to keep checking both platforms throughout the day, and I hadn't fully realized that before. I'll need to ponder this issue a lot more, I definitely don't have any real answers at present.