Monday, December 27, 2021

December 2021 Shopping Reflections

Pardon me for disappearing completely for the past two weeks! With all the Omicron variant-related news in NYC - including record-breaking numbers of new COVID cases several days in a row - plus some unexpected issues coming up at work right before my holiday trip to see my mom in California, I was feeling too frazzled to write anything. 

For people in NYC, it really feels like things took a sudden and abrupt turn on the COVID front. On Monday, December 13, I got a PCR test as a precaution before my workplace's holiday party, and things still felt pretty normal. I got my test results - negative - barely 12 hours later. By Wednesday, December 15, my colleagues using the exact same provider and testing site were finding that their PCR tests were taking four or five days to get results, due to dramatically increased demand. I'm fully boosted, as are all my close friends and family here in the US, but it's all still a bit nerve-wracking. 

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It also seems clear now that the long-awaited international business trips my team was hoping to go on in the next two months or so will not be possible. That's disappointing because doing the same work remotely by videoconference, across several time zones, is ultimately going to be quite logistically painful. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $607.54) 

  • Madewell Plaid Flannel Track Trousers - $68.60 - (also here) - This was a Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchase partially inspired by Kathy's recommendation. On top of the sale price, I also got ~$8 back from Ebates/Rakuten. I've only tried these trousers on at home, but they're very comfortable with their elastic waist, and I quite like the gray plaid pattern, it's a good neutral. Although these are not petite sizing or "short" length, they're still just right as full-length pants on my "short for my 5'3'' height" legs. Size small is a just-right fit on me. At this point - in large part because I heavily favor pencil skirts for my business formal suits - it's hard to imagine ever going back to wearing dress pants with non-stretchy waists. 
  • Tibi Tropical Wool Pleated Wrap Skirt, dark stone - $538.94* - (also here in black) - I'd been interested in this skirt for more than a month, after getting previews of it from some of Amy Smilovic's Instagram stories and Tibi's weekly "Style Class" videos. I was originally pretty sure I'd get this in black because I thought it'd match better with my black tights and many pairs of black shoes and boots, but I changed my mind when the skirt finally arrived on Tibi's website. This gray color just felt like it'd be more interesting and pretty. I love this skirt, the pleats move beautifully and I feel awesome in it, it's definitely the kind of thing I had in mind when I was looking for a really great wrap-style midi skirt. Though I think this sort of item - a midi skirt in a tropical wool suiting fabric - is somewhat niche and wouldn't suit all personal styles or wardrobes out there. 
*Indicates that price includes sales tax. 

And that's officially it for this year's monthly shopping reflections posts. I don't have as much to say about December's items as I usually do about my shopping in other months because I barely had them in hand for a week before I was in a tizzy dealing with a few surprises at work and packing for my holiday travel to see my mom. I think I might also be a bit slow in getting a year-end shopping analysis post together for 2021, but it'll definitely come around eventually. 

How has your December been? NYC has, unfortunately, seen an extremely dramatic uptick of COVID cases since December 13, so I suspect I'm going to be feeling frazzled for quite some time. My workplace has even reinstated some work-from-home flexibility through the start of 2022, which they'd only do if things felt quite scary. Anyway, I hope that everyone has been having a good end of the year holiday season and that you and your loved ones have been healthy and safe!

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Life Lately: Almost the Holidays

We only started putting up this little artificial Christmas tree in our apartment last year.

I personally can't quite believe we've almost reached the end of 2021. In some ways, this year has gone by so quickly, but in others, it feels like it's been an eternity. I can barely even remember the events of early 2021, particularly from the months before I was fully vaccinated. Now that I've been fully back in the office for nearly five months, I can also barely remember what it felt like to work from home full-time while COVID social distancing. 

My sister and I are planning to travel from the East Coast to visit our mom in California this year for the year-end holidays. Both of us have already had our COVID boosters, and my mom should have gotten hers as well by the time we arrive. When K and I know we will be trying to see our parents soon, we choose to avoid higher-risk indoor settings like restaurants or parties at friends' homes for two weeks beforehand. (But because I still need to go to the office every weekday, we also can't fully quarantine before our visits with our parents.) We continue to wear masks in all indoor public settings, and aren't currently dining out indoors. 

A few of my law school friends and I originally anticipated needing to do some international business travel in the near term, by January or February next year. Now, with news of the Omicron variant and additional international travel restrictions in various countries, those plans have become significantly less certain. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Personal Style Thoughts: Without Fails ("WOFs")

My Elizabeth Suzann Ella slip dress (mine is navy, not black) is one of my "Without Fails" or "WOFs".

For today's post, I thought I'd talk about some of the things I've learned from Amy Smilovic's Instagram stories about her approach to personal style, shopping, and wardrobe-building. Her style is definitely not the same as mine - it's a lot more fashion-forward, creative, and adventurous by any objective measure - but I believe her way of thinking about these topics can still be extremely inspirational to someone building towards a style that ends up looking quite different from hers. (Oh and keep in mind that my paraphrasing of her personal style concepts throughout this post - in the way I understand them - may not be completely precise and accurate to what she actually means to say.) 

This article does a pretty good job briefly summarizing most of the basics with Smilovic's approach. Smilovic describes her style - embodied in her brand Tibi - as "Creative Pragmatism", with the three elements or "style adjectives" of Chill, Modern, Classic each weighted equally. 

Her Instagram stories over time have given a lot more detail about what each of these style adjectives mean to her. "Chill" is seen in the silhouettes and overall look; it often also incorporates elements of functionality and comfort, including through the use of fabrics that feel good and move and flow well, sometimes in natural fibers or natural fiber blends. "Modern" is often where the fashion-forward design elements come in, and can also include mixing proportions and fabric textures in outfits, or using unexpected materials or details to add tension or irony to the item or look. "Classic" in Smilovic's framework is more difficult for me to pinpoint and articulate because I know she doesn't like things overly classic, it always needs to be balanced out by the other elements. 

To the extent Smilovic's style adjectives apply to me, I'm more Chill, Modern, Classic

That's extra-large font for the "Chill" because I love for things to be comfortable and thus functional, and I sometimes prioritize function over form with that interest in mind; a medium-sized font for the "Classic" because I err on the side of classic and conservative in many of my fashion choices; and I wish I could make the font for "Modern" even smaller because, in the end, that's not really an important style adjective for me. I do appreciate the more "Modern" and unexpected details in the Tibi items I've purchased to date, but overall that's not something I really seek out or need all the time, or in every outfit. Maybe I'd swap out a word like whimsical or fun instead of modern for my personal list? But those terms aren't exactly right for me either.

I haven't really been able to think of my own personal list of core style adjectives yet. Chill or easygoing is definitely one of mine, but I'm honestly not that sure about anything else. 

That's an incredibly long introduction to the main focus of today's post, which isn't even supposed to be about these style adjectives! Instead, what I actually wanted to write about today was Smilovic's approach to shopping and building a wardrobe. That part of her approach focuses on three types of items: (1) "Without Fails" or "WOFs"; (2) "In and Outs" or "IOs"; and (3) "Had to Haves" or "HTHs"

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Blog Thoughts, Year Seven

Just like that, it's almost Invincible Summer's seven year blog anniversary! Much like 2020, this year has really been something, for reasons completely unrelated to keeping this blog. Back when I wrote last year's "blogiversary" post, I had no idea that, a month later, we'd see an attempted coup. Events since then have also been... complicated. 

But I'm thankful everyone aged 12+ in the US was eligible to get a COVID vaccination by June or so, and that vaccine eligibility has since opened up here to children aged 5 to 11 for their first shots and to everyone aged 18+ for their booster shots. I'm also grateful that by now most adults in Taiwan - including my extended family members - have also been able to get a full round of a COVID vaccine. 

As I say every year, I continue to be so grateful to everyone who reads here. Even if blogging is sort of an outdated activity that isn't as popular anymore compared to the use of other, more current social media platforms, I'm still having fun writing this blog and reading other blogs. I'm happy you're here and I also hope that you're also able to find something to enjoy in my writing here at Invincible Summer. Thank you so much for your time and your presence. 

Now that I've been on Shopstyle's Cost per Acquisition ("CPA") model for a little over a year, I feel like it's safe to say my approach to writing about items and shopping hasn't changed for the negative? Or at least, I hope so. I was originally quite nervous because it felt like a big change for my Shopstyle compensation to go from a flat rate Pay Per Click ("PPC") to getting varying percentage rate commissions on actual sales resulting from my links (at no extra cost to the shopper). 

In actual practice I've found that, for a blog as small as mine, there's so much randomness to how many sales occur each month - and at which retailers - that I honestly don't think I'd even know how to reliably drive more sales even if I wanted to. From the limited Shopstyle tracking data available, even on CPA, I still make an average of two sales a month, though there can be a lot of fluctuation both up and down on a month to month basis. For the most part, those sales are not just of the L.L. Bean boots or the J.Crew Sophie and Juliette sweater blazers anymore. Nordstrom now accounts for most sales made through my links, but because of their liberal return policy, the sometimes lofty initial commissions I'm credited with are often adjusted downwards by significant amounts within a few weeks. 

Because of how long CPA commissions take to become finalized after retailers' return windows close, it's actually hard to say for sure whether my average monthly CPA compensation currently reliably exceeds my old pre-pandemic average of ~$15/month in PPC earnings (more like ~$32/month if you just average out my highest earning years in 2018 and 2019). Though my 2021 CPA earnings are definitely beating the ~$5 to $7/month I was getting in 2020, when Ann Taylor and J.Crew PPC earnings were temporarily disabled for months at a time, most likely due to bankruptcy restructuring-related issues. Furthermore, I definitely get fewer page views now than I did in, say, 2018-2019, so it's not really possible to do a one-to-one comparison of CPA versus pre-pandemic PPC earnings. 

Before jumping in to specific 2020 numbers, a quick note about taxes. As far as I can tell when entering the relevant numbers into Turbotax each year, I pay my marginal tax rate of ~40%+ on my blog-related income, which I continue to report on a Schedule C-EZ. To date, I still have not made enough from this blog in one year from any single source to receive any 1099s for blog-related income. (This is not to be taken as legal advice about the tax implications of blog-related income.)

Please follow the link below for a detailed 2021 blog income report. Thank you again for your support of Invincible Summer all this time!