Monday, November 22, 2021

Reentry Thoughts: Wardrobe and Personal Style Changes

I'm interested in getting this Tibi skirt when it eventually becomes available. My outfits with it would look a little different, though.

Please pardon me for disappearing completely for nearly three weeks! Work really ended up taking me by surprise, it's been fire drill after fire drill in my professional life lately. That can be difficult, but overall I'm glad things are finally returning to a pre-pandemic level of busy at the office. My caseload in particular saw considerable COVID-driven disruptions for well over a year - that wasn't true across the industry for all litigators, I got it worse than most - so I'm ultimately happy to have more to do at work than in most of 2020 and the earlier part of 2021. 

As of late last week, I've now had my third shot of the COVID vaccine. Minimal side effects this time, not even a sore arm near the injection site. It's kind of wild to think that, as late as March 2021, I had no idea how quickly I'd be able to get my first shot. Fast forward to now, and it's easy for basically any person aged 18+ to get their Pfizer or Moderna booster in NYC, as long as it's been at least six months since they finished their first full round of the vaccine. Very recently, NYC authorities expanded eligibility to include the entire group, with no need for any qualifying health conditions. (I'm less familiar with the booster guidelines for Johnson and Johnson.) 

I've been fully back in the office since mid-July, and may even be back to doing some international business trips as early as next January or February. Many court appearances in NYC are back to being in-person and various other in-person meetings are also happening, at least on the litigation side. Suffice to say, I feel like my working life is almost entirely back to pre-pandemic "normal", except that we still wear masks in indoor public settings - which I'm perfectly happy to do - and we try to keep events with an indoor dining component to a minimum. 

Now that I've been fully back in the office for several months, I have some thoughts on how my wardrobe needs and preferences have changed, after most of my outdoor clothes and shoes went almost entirely unused during my more than 15 months of COVID social distancing. One big - and possibly temporary - factor causing these changes is that my workplace still allows a casual dress code for now, a pandemic-driven change from our previous business casual dress code. 

More desire for my outfits to stand out. Longtime readers would probably agree that my pre-pandemic personal style was somewhat conservative or "classic", and generally not very adventurous. I did always like color, some jewel tones and some brights; I was interested in the idea of busy prints if I could find the right one, which was rarely; and I occasionally bought some highly whimsical things. But overall, I think the my overall wardrobe leaned heavily neutral, and some could even call it boring. 

These days, I feel a desire for my outfits to stand out more or demand a bit of attention. I think you'll see what I mean when this month's shopping reflections post goes up. After over a year of mostly just staying home, I guess part of my brain wants to make up for lost time and wear some fun and exciting things when I go out. (Even if I mostly only go out to the office or to pick up lunch, hardly exciting destinations.) And yes, I think my newfound interest in Amy Smilovic and Tibi's approach to personal style and "creative pragmatism" does play a role in generating this desire. 

My new financial situation - after finally completely paying off more than $190,000 in student loans, mostly from law school, this July - is certainly also part of what's driving this change. There's no denying I've allowed myself some lifestyle inflation in terms of what I spend on my wardrobe in the months since I finished repayment. Keep in mind that in the last 12 months of repayment, I was generally paying ~$5,000/month to my student loans, every single month without fail. So if I double my wardrobe spend suddenly - say from the average of $3,984.66/year in the past three years to around $7,969.32/year - the total new spend would still be less than just a single month's worth of student loan payments. So I don't really see a reason to resist this specific desire for lifestyle inflation, as long as I'm not over-consuming by buying too many brand-new items at retail that I could never possibly use.  

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Shoes, what to do about shoes? I've never really been a shoe person. I don't really "get" shoe trends, and it's definitely an area where I heavily prioritize function over form. If a pair of shoes aren't comfortable for walking around NYC - I get ~6,500 steps in just getting to and from the office and picking up lunch, and ~12,000 steps when I run an errand or two before or after work - then there's no point, I want no part of them. 

Among other things, that means basically all heels are off the table. I do keep a pair of Sam Edelman pumps with a 2.5'' heel (old, similar) for certain job interviews and other limited business formal settings - basically just if and when I work on jury trial(s) someday - and I still have some 2.5'' wedges in my office. Otherwise I basically don't ever wear shoes with a heel higher than the ~1.5'' heel on my trusty old Sam Edelman Petty booties. 

As I started going back to the office more starting in June, I quickly found that my old shoe wardrobe wasn't quite cutting it anymore. Shoes that used to be perfectly comfortable - including my Sam Edelman Loraine loafers and Marc Fisher Chang loafers - caused blisters on my ankles and made my toes hurt, even though those shoes never did that when they were brand new and hadn't been broken in yet. But because we had an unusually long summer and were still on a casual dress code at work, I was able to postpone worrying about needing more comfortable shoes pretty much until October. I just wore my old Fitflop sandals (similar) in the meantime, while the weather was still warm. 

These days, though, my shoe wardrobe is definitely not quite working, especially because the Marc Fisher loafers still aren't comfortable again, even if I've now worn them several times since June and July. My trusty older pair of Sam Edelman Petty booties in the softer leather - which I bought back in 2014 before starting this blog - may also be starting to show signs of eventually becoming too worn out to continue reheeling and resoling, as the synthetic lining is starting to peel. I think they have at least another season and another trip to the cobbler in them, and after that, we'll see. 

Separately, my aforementioned newfound desire for my outfits to stand out more may also extend to wanting more interesting shoes. My possible new inclination towards more attention-grabbing, less purely classic and conservative shoes is almost certainly inspired at least in part by Amy Smilovic and Tibi's approach to shoes. Though, in general, actual Tibi shoes are often too fashion-forward for me, and maybe also a bit too expensive. (Because they're such a small brand, Tibi also tends to make shoes only in limited runs that sell out quickly because they can't order that many units at a time.) 

Renewed interest in separates. For quite a few years now, I've almost exclusively worn dresses in summer for casual wear and all year long at the office, at least when I wasn't social distancing due to COVID. Pants and skirts just didn't play a significant role in my wardrobe, particularly at the office, though I did like to wear jeans on weekends throughout fall and winter. 

Recently, though, I've generally become interested in putting together outfits with pants and skirts again. Separates give a lot more opportunity for experimenting with different proportions and combinations than my usual workwear dresses do, so they can make for more interesting outfits. Though I'm also finding that because I don't have a great variety of tops and tees - particularly tops that aren't meant to be tucked into a pencil skirt with a suit - I don't necessarily have that much to work with. (But I'm also not in a real hurry to buy more tops either.)

Maybe I'll end up changing my mind on separates once my office dress code rules switch back to requiring business casual, and blue jeans become persona non grata at the office again. At the moment, however, because I'm still able to wear jeans to the office, I'm having fun with trying new outfit combinations at work.  

Things I'm (surprisingly) not interested in at the moment, specifically jewelry and handbags. I can't quite believe I'm currently inclined to thinking about shoes, but not about jewelry or bags. That's quite a reversal for me, because I love jewelry and was definitely always far more into handbags than shoes!

In terms of jewelry, I still find all of it appealing to look at, and I'm also somewhat eager to experiment with earrings. Alas, while I still need to put on and take off a face mask many times throughout each day, wearing fun earrings is just not compatible with my lifestyle right now. I really hate when my mask straps or strings get caught on my earrings, and I worry about accidentally pulling an earring off. So only studs or small closed hoops really work for me right now. 

As for handbags, I guess I still don't really feel like switching up my handbags too often while the pandemic is still going on in the background. Plus, I continue to be totally enamored with the two handbags I bought this year, the Celine Seau Sangle from August and the secondhand Balenciaga City from July. The City is perfect for all of my weekend outings, and the Seau Sangle has been good for most days at work. So I simply don't feel any interest in thinking about potentially adding anything else to my handbag collection at the moment, I'm still completely satisfied with what I have. 

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