Wednesday, August 24, 2022

August 2022 Shopping Reflections

It's a few days early for my end-of-month shopping reflections, but I'm pretty sure this is it for August. Things are starting to ramp up at the office again, alas, for what's hopefully the last big, but fairly extended push - this current busy period should last into at least early or mid-November - at work before my due date, so I probably won't be posting quite as frequently in the next few weeks. 

With my recently published first trimester shopping reflections, it's probably somewhat obvious that pregnancy has not been particularly great for my general goal of being more careful and minimalist-ish about my shopping. I didn't fully anticipate all the changes my body would go through, particularly if I wanted to buy more relaxed-fit non-maternity clothing in hopes it would work for at least some portion of the pregnancy. Navigating sizing for maternity wear, and trying to pick items and sizes that might work throughout the entire pregnancy, has also been difficult. And I'm still nearly four weeks off from the start of the third trimester, so who even knows how much harder things might get later on...

Anyway, I'm trying not to complain too much, but I think most people who've spent any time shopping for maternity wear would agree with me that the choices out there are dire, and are often quite overpriced for what you're getting to boot. Many of you have mentioned having that exact feeling! As I explained in my first trimester shopping post, I'm already very tired of shopping for and wearing maternity clothing. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

These days, between being busy at work and feeling too tired in the evenings to do much besides watch TV and window shop online, I do find myself spending lots of time looking at jewelry and accessories, in other words, non-maternity items I can still wear. I'm desperate to feel like my old, pre-pregnancy self, and browsing for jewelry and accessories seems like one way to try and get that feeling back. I keep reminding myself not to impulsively buy anything too expensive. (The recent state of the economy, with rent increases, inflation, and the performance of the stock market, all help keep me in check, along with the prospects of impending childcare-related expenses for our little bean and my hopes for my government job search, which would definitely come with a dramatic pay-cut if I were to be successful.) 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $369.18)

  • H&M MAMA Ribbed Nursing Dress, black - $34.99 - After spending tons of time browsing what feels like almost all the maternity wear options in the US, including bigger retailers like ASOS, Target, Old Navy, and H&M; dedicated maternity brands like Seraphine, Hatch, and Kindred Bravely; and smaller brands like Storq and Pact, I've found there doesn't seem to be much getting around relying heavily on "fast fashion" if shopping new in this market. Though it probably is plausible to depend exclusively on shopping secondhand. There are certainly lots of options on ThredUp. (I imagine most customers are in maternity wear for such a relatively short period, a few months at a time, that many end up with plenty of used maternity clothing still in good enough condition to donate or resell. That's even while factoring in that much of it isn't especially good quality or durable relative to the price!) Honestly, out of all those brands, I think H&M's been the best for more consistently offering relatively non-frilly, non-ruffly, less ruched, and less peplum-y maternity wear, with more options in cotton and not just viscose or rayon. A lot of the more basic and simple H&M maternity designs I'm most interested in do tend to sell out in my size, however. This dress is 95% cotton, 5% elastane. 
  • H&M MAMA Cotton Dress, black - $24.99 - And this dress is 100% cotton. For both H&M maternity dresses this month, I find the fabric noticeably thinner than I'd expect from a comparable item in H&M's non-maternity line. These are both simple black dresses for days I need to wear business casual (or something more formal, but business casual is the best I can currently do). I picked size L in both based on H&M's non-maternity clothes sometimes running a little smaller than, say, J.Crew or Ann Taylor, so my typical pre-pregnancy size in H&M can be L instead of M, depending on the item. These maternity size Ls are somewhat bigger than I need right now, but I'm expecting to grow plenty more in the bust and belly in the coming weeks, so I'm pretty sure I picked the right size if the goal is to have maternity items last through the end of the pregnancy
  • AGMES Pearl Stud Earrings - $163.31* - (also here) I mentioned having recently learned about AGMES jewelry from other stylish people a few weeks ago. This is a fairly small and subtle pair of irregularly-shaped freshwater baroque pearl studs on sterling silver posts, which are a bit more interesting than my usual round pearl studs. I don't think these are quite as eye-catching as AGMES's more typical designs, but because I'm still wearing face masks in almost all indoor public settings - can't be too careful while immunocompromised by pregnancy - I still can't wear bigger or dangling earrings without getting them tangled up in my mask straps. On a separate note, am I the only one who usually expects new-to-me jewelry to be a bit bigger than it actually is before I open the package? That's solely my fault and not on any of the designers or retailers, by the way. I'm just really not great at judging what small objects' size measurements will translate to in-person. 
  • Tibi Merino Wool Sweater Combo Pullover, black/multi - $145.89* - This is from Tibi's end-of-season sale on their Spring/Summer items. I sized up from my usual Tibi size to a L, and I think this top should still fit me when I get to the third trimester and the weather's cooled down. Design-wise, this is sort of a merino wool sweater in the front, and a cotton button-down in the back, both are halves of things I currently own and like from Tibi. 

*Indicates that price includes sales tax. 

And that's it for August! Maternity tops are a category I really haven't shopped for enough yet, though I'm most likely going to put that off for as long as possible while the weather is still too hot and humid in NYC for anything but my lightest dresses. Once I do get around to it, however, I think Pact has a better range of more basic maternity tees with some non-ruched options and a decent selection of neutral colors compared to many larger retailers. 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Another Professional Milestone Gift to Myself

The Jennie Kwon Jadeite Equilibrium Ring.

Back in March, I mentioned that I thought I might get the chance to defend my first deposition as the first-chair attorney soon. I wasn't 100% sure this would happen - there were some potential complications with client preferences for more senior attorneys to do important things - but it ultimately came to pass. That's another professional milestone in the books, though one that doesn't feel quite so big or daunting as taking a deposition for the first time!

Ever since paying off my substantial - mostly for law school - student loans last year, I like to commemorate my professional milestones by buying jewelry for myself. For defending my first deposition, I took a few months to decide what I wanted. I ended up choosing this Jennie Kwon Jadeite Equilibrium Ring, which I've been wearing almost every day since I received it. 

I wasn't initially sure such a dainty design would work for me. With super-small or dainty pieces, I sometimes worry they might not have as much of a presence, or that they might not suit me as much as something a bit bigger. It turns out I really love this piece, and it makes me curious about potentially buying more Jennie Kwon jewelry in the future, especially because I now have some interest in slowly building a collection of stacking rings for daily-ish wear. (I'm somewhat influenced in this by @myjewelrydiaries on Instagram, she has a sizable collection of yellow gold rings that she wears in various combinations.) 

One other Jennie Kwon design I find particularly intriguing is the Diamond Wave Band (affiliate link), which I think might stack nicely with my engagement ring and wedding band. I also like the look of the East West Green Sapphire Equilibrium Ring. I love how sapphires come in such a wide range of colors! 

Monday, August 15, 2022

First Trimester Maternity Clothing Shopping Reflections

As promised, I've finally put together my first trimester maternity wear shopping reflections, for items I ordered in April and May, before I was ready to announce the pregnancy! Not all these items are explicitly labeled maternity wear, actually, but for the ones not so categorized, I didn't think I'd be able to explain them without pointing to the pregnancy. 

In general, I've found that my body has changed very quickly with pregnancy, much faster and just more in all the relevant ways and dimensions than expected. Heck, I think my bust went up a full cup size super-early in my first trimester. And now that I'm solidly in the second trimester - particularly as I get into the later weeks - the changes progress even more quickly and noticeably, and often seem to pop up suddenly. 

For instance, in week 13, practically overnight, there was an undeniable bump, albeit one that was pretty small in the mornings, until I got bloated throughout the day. Around weeks 18 to 19, suddenly the bump felt huge most of the time, particularly on weekdays when I walk to and from the office. After week 21, the bump was huge all the darn time. I can only imagine that because the baby is to grow exponentially in the next 18 weeks or so, from roughly a pound at 22 weeks now to something likely more than 5.5 pounds - maybe a lot more - the physical changes will continue to escalate more quickly than I can currently imagine!

I recently discussed how, until I got pregnant, I was worried I'd have tons of anxiety about body image and all the inevitable changes to my body from pregnancy. As it turns out, this pregnancy also seems to have rewired my brain to worry and stress much less about almost everything in life, so I haven't been too, too bothered by all this so far. 

But I must admit I find shopping for maternity wear extremely annoying. Part of it is I'm frustrated that I've proven not good at predicting all the body shape changes I need to take into account when buying non-maternity clothes with more relaxed fits which I thought would work for my pregnant body. Also, it certainly caused consternation that many of my pre-pregnancy predictions for how long I'd be able to wear my looser-fitting clothing from my existing wardrobe turned out quite wrong. I didn't expect that basically my entire collection of business casual dresses, especially those secondhand J.Crew Presentation dresses - which are not too snug in the bust and have lots of room otherwise - would be uncomfortable and essentially unwearable by week 7 or so. 

Furthermore, I find that the value for money and variety of designs available in the maternity wear market, at least for US-based customers, is significantly worse than I'm used to as a customer. I guess I've become super-picky about my clothing throughout my years of keeping this blog and spending lots of time thinking about - and sometimes overthinking - my shopping and what works for my lifestyle and my personal style preferences!

There's so much viscose and rayon jersey in maternity wear, materials I'm definitely not fully opposed to, but that I don't prefer because of a history of unpredictable issues with durability, unexpected shrinkage, or other trouble when machine-washed. (Keep in mind I'm pretty careful with my laundry, washing only in cold water and generally in a mesh bag to protect the clothes; I also never put viscose or rayon items in the dryer either, I always air-dry.) Many of those viscose or rayon maternity items also feel quite overpriced - especially from Hatch Maternity, ouch - even if I try to shop on sale. 

Also, I find many common design elements in maternity wear... dispiriting. (I know, I know, I'm starting to sound whiny, and maybe a bit unreasonable.) I generally hate ruching and peplums. I don't like empire waists on tops (though I'm okay with them on dresses). I'm not fond of super-stretchy items that will feel like they're stretching tightly over the curves of the body. The prints that are available tend to be quite dull and generic, particularly the florals. The colors available can be limited and sometimes... odd. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Life Lately: Back From Vacation

One of K's photos from beautiful Grace Bay Beach in Turks and Caicos.

I just got back from a lovely and rejuvenating vacation or "babymoon" to Turks and Caicos, and am now settling back in for several more extremely busy months at the office before our little bean arrives. Today's post is a grab bag of a few smaller, non-pregnancy related things that have caught my attention recently. 

I greatly enjoyed this Harper's Bazaar article about the history of Tibi as the brand reaches its 25 year anniversary. There won't be too much new information here if you've followed the company and its founder Amy Smilovic for a while, but I still find the story of Smilovic's complete reinvention of the brand around 2011 fascinating. It's particularly interesting because Tibi was first founded with its original more preppy, print-focused aesthetic - so different from the brand's approach to design today - in 2008, around when I first became interested in fashion (though I didn't have any sense of my personal style and just read about what was popular in fashion magazines and other blogs). Many brands I remember from back then are no longer around.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

Speaking of things I first came across in part because of my interest in Tibi, here's another jewelry brand somewhat in the same design vein as Smilovic favorite CompletedWorks (also here, here, here, and here): I recently learned about Agmes Jewelry (also here, here, and here) from fellow Tibi fan TheCreativeClassicist, who in turn discovered it in part because of new J.Crew head of women's design, Olympia Gayot. Agmes is somewhat similar to CompletedWorks in that both favor very contemporary, more sculptural designs. Some Agmes pieces I like can be found in the widget below: 

These days, I find I have many ideas for longer-form posts, but not much time and energy to write them because of my long hours at work. Among other things,  I haven't really written about personal finance or money for a long time. 

One big idea is for a post about K and I's experience with negotiating and signing a fairly straightforward and simple prenup, which then became a postnup - a distinction that generally doesn't make a significant difference under New York law - due to getting time-crunched in the weeks before our courthouse wedding last year. Throughout the process, I did learn that some of my original assumptions about prenups were a bit incorrect. 

In general, I feel like many people around my age in the US have a fairly accurate sense about how prenuptial agreements generally work and why both people entering a marriage might want one. For instance, when the topic comes up on r/MoneyDiariesActive (e.g. here, here, here, here, and here), most replies are in the zone of reasonably correct. There aren't too many people whose views are completely off-base. People do sometimes forget that because prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreements are contracts, they can be negotiated and customized to a potentially very large extent by the parties. Thus, relatively few things are inherently true about all such agreements. 

Entertainment-wise: This year's Formula 1 racing season has been incredibly dramatic, but often not for happenings on the racetrack. K and I continue to derive tons of amusement from following the sport. 

We also recently took advantage of a few months of free Apple TV+ through one of K's other subscriptions, and it's been fun watching some of their shows, in particular Foundation and For All Mankind. The writing quality on For All Mankind can be uneven - it's an alternate history about the space race with very long time-jumps between seasons, which can cause some issues with character development - but we've still been really enjoying it so far. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Skincare Reviews: Some Mineral Sunscreens for Body

During our recent Turks and Caicos vacation - in which K and I spent basically all our daylight hours relaxing on the beach, with several dips in the ocean throughout - I tested out three different mineral body sunscreens. In trying to research "reef safe" and mineral sunscreens before our trip, I found myself quite overwhelmed because there were so many brands out there, many of them smaller or less well-known than what's typically available at many US drug stores. So I figured I might as well review the ones I tried, in case that information could possibly help anyone else!

Please note that my reviews here are subjective and not particularly scientific. I'm basically going off my personal observations from using each of these sunscreens for the equivalent of around two full beach days each, ~10:30 AM to 6:30 PM, switching between them as I ran out of one or the other. (Many mineral sunscreens aren't available in super-large packages like the drugstore brands.) 

Each day, I reapplied sunscreen roughly once every 2 hours, or a bit sooner if I thought more sunscreen than expected had washed off during one of my quick ocean swims. So I was generally applying around 4 times a day, and maybe a fifth time on my shoulders and arms, spots that felt like they got more sun exposure. Additionally, I wore a straw sun hat - albeit one that'd gotten a bit floppy and squished from somewhat careless packing - and also tried my best to stay as covered as I could under a beach umbrella whenever I wasn't in the water. That beach umbrella definitely wasn't perfect protection because of how the angle of the shade changes drastically throughout the day with the sun's movement.  

I may not have picked the best or most popular brands of mineral body sunscreen available in the US. I didn't have much time or mental energy for research before our trip because I'd been so busy at the office. Every time I searched  Google for the "best" mineral or reef safe sunscreens, I felt like many websites had drastically different lists of recommended brands or products. Plus, I was nervous about buying any fancier, Sephora or department store-priced mineral sunscreens if I didn't have someone I personally know make the product recommendation. Thus, I ended up sticking with things sold at Target, which maybe limits one's options too much in this product category. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

My biggest worry was that, with many mineral sunscreens, one often sees at least one or two extremely negative reviews. Think something like "this sunscreen doesn't work at all, we still got badly burned wearing it" or "it was impossible to blend into my skin" or "this had a really off texture that made it difficult to use." If any of the sunscreens I picked turned out to have issues like that, it would have been a disaster with the kind of high sun exposure beach vacation I was planning. Happily, there weren't any big problems, all the sunscreens I tried were reasonably functional. All three also had no noticeable scent or fragrance. 

Though one warning, I generally found these mineral sunscreens were not very waterproof, with sometimes very visible signs that they were washing off, potentially after an extremely brief swim. I think this may be a common issue with many or even most products in this category, compared to many chemical sunscreens?  

Friday, August 5, 2022

Pregnancy and Body Image

via Unsplash

Before I got pregnant, I was worried I'd constantly be extremely anxious about all kinds of details, including but not limited to the health of the baby; my health; everything I needed to do to get ready for baby's arrival; starting to plan out future childcare for after my parental leave; money and the many expenses associated with raising a child; how to parent and take care of an infant, etc. etc. In reality, "pregnancy brain" has, for me, seemed to come with a pervasive sense of calm. 

My mind feels newly hard-wired to not worry excessively about much of anything, really, particularly things that aren't immediate concerns or that aren't meaningfully in my control. Among other things, I've faced our recent busy period at the office with minimal extra stress or anxiety, I've become really good at taking it all a day at a time and being almost absurdly zen. That's quite out of character for me! 

I'm admittedly noticeably below average when it comes to Type-A personality tendencies relative to my typical law school classmate, and to most other attorneys who started their careers in biglaw. But historically, I still tend to get highly anxious about almost all of the many super-stressful things that come up in litigation practice and my work.

Please note that, as the title suggests, today's blog post is all about body image and will also mention some things to do with weight-related numbers and pregnancy symptoms. Along with that comes the usual important disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional, so please keep that in mind whenever I discuss health-related details. But I am guided by the advice of the team at my OB/GYN's office.