What Is Casual Dress Code Even

It looks like I’ve been getting a lot of traffic on my “Should I Think Less About FIRE?” post. It seems like it came from someone’s email newsletter, but I can’t tell from whom? In any case, thanks internet stranger! And welcome new readers!

I know I’m on break, but I had a couple quick things I wanted to talk about with regard to my new company’s casual dress code.

First of all, “casual” pretends it is not a dress code, but it totally is. It mirrors what I think a lot of us had as school dress codes. As far as I can tell, casual means that one can wear jeans and T shirts, but that things that are more skin-revealing (even tank tops or off-the-shoulder looks which are trendy right now) or bodycon are really out of place.

Even within the realm of T shirts and jeans, some tees are normal and others are out of place. Lightly patterned tees (stripes, dots, little dog prints, etc.) are fine, but emblazoned words and three wolf moon-esque shirts are not. Also, fit is extremely important. Especially if one is literally wearing tees and sweats, the right fit is the one thing keeping wearers from being seen as truly unkempt.

Second of all, my business casual-leaning wardrobe is really close to feeling out of place at my current work place. I’ve been defaulting to my silk shirts and jeans and I’m worried it’s causing people to see me as too dressy to be technical? Like sometimes people don’t bother telling me things I can completely understand because they are “subtle”, but like I would really appreciate people to just tell me in order to perform my job thank you very much. Maybe this is just in my head? A projection of imposter syndrome, perhaps?

In any case, I think I’d be well-served to add a couple more pairs of jeans to my rotation and some non-silk shirts. I don’t really want to just wear tees, personally. Feels too informal. Some minimalist cotton or linen blouses, I reckon, but no button-ups because even as a bust size B, those tend to pucker like whoa. Recommendations welcome!

Third of all, I have a $50 credit to Saks through a new Amex partnership via my Platinum card. I can burn the credit between now and the end of the calendar year. It’s enough to buy maybe a third of a garment? Not really sure how and whether I’ll end up using this.

Alright, back to my exponentially increasing to do list!

Does your workplace have a “casual” dress code? What does that even mean? Any minimalist cotton or linen tops you’d recommend?

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All The Clothes I Bought In The First Half of 2018

After last year’s big clothing overhaul, I’m still basking in the glow of a nice, new-ish wardrobe. Honestly, I’ve found the idea of clothes shopping since to be kind of a chore, in part because I know I’ll have to get anything I buy tailored to make it feel as good as my clothes do right now.

And besides my wallet could use the break– I’m hoping to keep under $350 this year, but won’t be sad if I go slightly over. I also told JP from Fired Up Finance that I’d join her 12 items for 2018 challenge, so that’s another motivator for the relatively low key spending so far this year. Depending on how you count it, I’m somewhere between three and six items (do socks count? do duds count?). This does not include my wedding wardrobe, by the way, which I consider under its own separate budget.

Everything I Bought

Merrell Jungle MOCs – $80.00

MRL-R60801-01-yThese are, by far, my favorite shoes of all time. So comfy, good for urban walking and also light hikes through all sorts of weather. My old pair lasted me about a year to a year and a half, but I wore those shoes every. single. day. And they were probably still serviceable, though they were starting to develop some holes at the toes. If this replacement pair lasts me the year, I’ll be happy.

Mizuno Wave Paradox 3 – $53.13

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Over the past few years I’ve burned through quite a few pairs of Mizuno Wave Paradoxes which feels unfrugal but honestly I probably should be replacing them more often than I do. After burning through my stash and realizing that the original design is no longer being sold, I bought an updated though still older version from the same line which is designed for over-pronators like myself. They aren’t as lightweight as the original Wave Paradox, which were a dream, but so far I like them.

Silvertoe Socks – $28.29

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Bought a couple packs of Silvertoe socks to replace the thick, hole-in-the-sole pairs I’d inherited a decade ago from my parents. These are nice, thin, and feel appropriate for casual to business casual settings. No complaints so far.

Uniqlo Warhol Shirt – $9

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I was idling at one of the consignment shops in the schmancy part of town, and wasn’t feeling enamored by the selection and, more importantly, the prices. Everything was basically at the retail sale price (i.e. about as much as I could spend buying it new straight from the store). Also, they were selling heavy fall/winter wear in June which… why? But anyway, amongst the racks I found this Warhol-esque Campbell’s Beef Noodle tee shirt which was sold at the MoMA for a while. It’s soft, catches the eye, and serves as my one fun purchase of 2018.

Duds – $39.50

I tried out some pieces from Grana but they didn’t end up fitting my body shape well. That resulted in a $8 restocking fee. I also tried buying a pair of Merrells used on Poshmark, but found that their sizing had recently changed. I ended up donating the slightly too small shoes and buying the pair I use now new, as described above.

Total – $209.92

Things I Want

I want to get some more casual tops, but am waiting to start working at my new job to see what the dress code is there first. Also some linen, because summer is hot and while silk is light and breezy, it shows all the sweat, all the time.

What clothes have you bought so far in 2018? What clothes do you want?

All The Clothes I Bought Last Year, Rated

Last year I did a couple rundowns of all the clothing I bought. Basking in the shine of newness, though, I feel like I didn’t really gauge the pieces. Well now, after a few months wearing these pieces day in and day out, I have some opinions. What’s worked for me, what hasn’t. And so I thought I’d revisit my clothes from last year. What was worth it? What wasn’t? I’ll be rating each on a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best). I’ll try to note how much I liked/disliked a piece for me versus thought it was high/low quality in general.

Here’s my rough, completely subjective scale:

  • 5 = Perfect piece, wouldn’t change a thing
  • 4 = Would recommend
  • 3 = This is fine
  • 2 = Not for me, thanks
  • 1 = Never again

In general, let me know if you have any questions on the pieces I list here. My primary goal is to have a reference I can turn to in the future to know what’s been good for me in the past, but I also would like this to be useful to others if I can. So, without further ado…

Tops

All My Silk Shirts – 4.5/5

I’m just going to come out and say it: silk is my perfect fabric. Breathable in the summer, insulating in the winter. Light. Appropriate for work and play. Just so good.

Of the shirts I bought, all but the white Boss shirt were of crepe de chine. The Brunello Cucinelli tank was actually a crepe-backed satin which, my god, was just an extra level of decadence I didn’t see coming.

I was surprised that between my Everlane and Equipment shirts, I actually prefer the Everlane pieces. The Equipment shirt is clearly of higher momme silk and the shirt’s design is lovely, but the buttons used for the shirt aren’t great. I love the big thick minimalist gold design on them, but the loop that attaches them to the garment is quite large, which causes it to jut out away from the shirt. This is not so noticeable on the front, but causes the cuffs to hang limply and look a little sloppy. Also, I’ve just been moving away from button-up shirts generally. Short of hunching all day, almost any shirt seems to pucker on me, and I’m only a 34B.

All in all, though, these are some really nice pieces and I’m glad I went the extra mile in getting them tailored. I can really see them being staples in my wardrobe for years to come.

Workout T-Shirts – 3/5

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TIL: Workout tees are like regular tees, but more expensive and show slightly less sweat. Fine overall, but not worth the premium in price over a regular old, ratty cotton shirt if all you care about is exercising (though you’d probably look better in these, I guess).

Bottoms

J Brand Jeans – 4/5

These are probably the best jeans I’ve ever had. In particular, the black cigarette jeans are holding up as good as the day I got them. The blue jeans, after a few washes (no dryers) are starting to loosen a bit, but not too bad. The fit around my hips through my thighs continue to be good. Nothing too substantial in the way of fading. Overall, pretty good.

Banana Republic Sloan Pants – 3/5

BR’s Sloan Pants are downright magical for about two weeks. Day 1 I would have rated these a 5/5 hands down. They feel nice and thick but look sharp at the office and are comfy as all get out.

But then you wash them.

Keep in mind, you’re not technically supposed to wash these. They are clearly marked as dry clean only. But, you know, dry cleaning’s expensive and I was curious if I could get away with it. Hahaha, no. The viscose in these stretch out like nobody’s business, including in cold water. They were pretty much ruined after a single wash. Whoops.

Great if you have a dry cleaning budget. Otherwise, skip this one.

Lululemon Align II – 3.5/5

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I wear these suckers every time I go to the gym (around 3x/week) and they’re holding up strong. Waist band is very comfortable, no sliding when I’m moving around including for squats which is great. The biggest annoyance for me is that they don’t breathe well, which leads to a little bit of overheating in intense workouts. Minus that, though, these are pretty great.

Dresses & Skirts

Cara Hansen Wrap Dress – 2/5

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Like a dress version of the Sloan pants, except it wasn’t marked as being dry clean only.

Ann Taylor Pencil Skirt – 3/5

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I’m not really a skirt person. As far as skirts go, this one is fine I guess.

Blazers, Sweaters, and Outerwear

Ann Taylor Blazer – 3/5

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It fits. I’ve worn it like three times. Meh.

Vintage Blazer – 2/5

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Why did I buy a light cotton blue blazer? I have no freakin’ idea. It wrinkles a lot and doesn’t go with any of my clothing. And the shade of blue is weird in that I don’t even think it matches with black. Is that even possible? Mine isn’t quite the same as the shade of the blazer pictured above, but you get the idea.

Theory Marled Sweater – 5/5

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I get so many compliments on this sweater. Really, the picture here doesn’t do it justice. It’s just so nice and the threads are thick and give it this nice luxe textured feel. Very comfortable, just the right level of chic for casual or business casual.

Patagonia Quarter-zip fleece – 3.5/5

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Comfy, practical, about what you expect from it. Polyester, so not very breathable once you get to the overheated indoors. Pills like whoa, but that’s par for the course for fleeces.

Coach Lambskin Leather Bomber Jacket – 4/5

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I love wearing my bomber jacket. Honestly, I probably wear it too much. I feel badass walking down the street in this, my black jeans, and some shades; the embossed lining feels decadent; and with my Patagonia fleece, I’m pretty much able to wear it down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit if there’s no wind (if there’s wind, all bets are off).

But as much as I love my bomber, it’s not perfect. For one, there are no side pockets. Which, even if it weren’t freezing cold and I wasn’t try to hide my hands away, I’d still want because I’m a fidgety person who can’t figure out where to put my hands when I walk. The torso is a little long for pear-shaped petite folk, which means the bottom will ride up an inch or two to snuggle right above my hips. Also, lambskin is a bit fussy, which I can see being annoying from the perspective of long term maintenance.

Undergarments

Bali Wire Free Bra – 3/5bal6570_champ

I’ve never found a bra that’s made me feel like I’m doing bras properly, but this one is comfortable so it’s my usual go to. Unfortunately, like most bras, after a few months they get a little sad. I don’t know. Is there such a thing as a long-lasting, supportive, comfortable bra? Recommendations?

Hanes Cotton Underwear – 3/5

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Cheap underwear, doing what it does.

Wolford Hosiery – 3.5/5

I got two pairs of Wolfords– one in denier 50 (black) and one in 20 (nude). They’re definitely less scratchy and more comfortable than your typical drugstore hosiery. And still holding up strong. Not life-changing, but decent.

LL Bean Silk Long Underwear – 4.5/5

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Wow, just wow! I was seriously impressed by how these long underwear kept my legs warm. They were very lightweight to the point that if they’re worn alone they’re sheer. But in spite of that they really kept my legs feeling toasty throughout the cold af winter. And they were nice and loose with a comfy waistband which meant they weren’t constantly riding up, riding down, pinching my legs, etc. Not quite as warm as a high end pair of thick fleece underwear, but far more practical for wearing all day under work clothes. My only wish is that these weren’t quite so sheer. I’d’ve loved to have been able to wear these around the house as pajama pants as well.

Accessories

WHBM Obi Belt – 2/5

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Look. This could be a brilliant statement piece for someone. That someone just needs to have a longer torso with fewer curves than I do. Due to the hard plastic siding and the thickness of the belt– a good five inches or so– it doesn’t meld well to hourglass figures. Also, I found little bits of light-colored suede from the other siding kept shedding all over my clothes. Such a shame. This one feels so aesthetically pleasing but is downright impractical in person.

Cambridge Satchel – 1/5

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I replaced the low-quality push lock on this bag three separate times and each time the new lock failed within a couple months. There’s a little rod as part of the push lock that seems to be glued in place. Once it comes undone, the whole lock falls apart, bits flying everywhere. Since replacement locks from Cambridge Satchel cost $25 a pop to be shipped to the US, I’ve just given up on this one.

Coach Willis Messenger Bag – 4/5

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This bag is built like a tank. The leather is super thick and the hardware is clearly built to last. And after the constant frustrations with my Cambridge Satchel, it is nice to have something with a turn lock that doesn’t look like it’s going to break anytime soon. But from a design standpoint, like most cross-bodies I wish it had a couple more notches higher up for us shorter folk. And with such an old bag, you’re wont to see a little edge fraying on the leather. Nothing deal-breaking, but certainly noticeable up close.

Neck gaiter – 3.5/5

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I like neck gaiters more than scarves because they keep nice and close to my body, which helps with heat retention during the most brutal part of the cold season. This cheap one I got from Amazon with reversible fleece lining did it’s job, though probably could have been a little thicker or had some other means of wind protection.

Patagonia Better Sweater Mittens – 3/5

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While I like that these convert back and forth between mittens and gloves, frankly they just aren’t all that warm.

Patagonia Beanie – 3.5/5

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Not much to say about this one. Nice and thick beanie, generally unassuming. Good for the 30-40 degree range. Does okay but not great in the wind.

REI Silk Sock Liner – 3/5

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These helped me not break out while wearing wool socks this winter. Not a lot of give or stretchiness, but not uncomfortable either. They did that job well without wearing through in spite of their thinness. At the price ($10/pair), I wouldn’t buy more than 1-2 pairs though.

Red Coral Necklace – 4/5

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Great statement piece though a bit heavy.

Shoes

Mizuno Wave Paradox – 5/5

848bcb09bb7a91c67c872ef31ffbeb73The only sneaker that keeps my overpronation in check while running.

Madewell Leather Sandals – 3/5

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Okay sandals. Not at all resistant to any of the elements and hurt after walking a bit. But for the price point, the quality is fine.

Tailoring – 5/5

The absolute best money I spent on clothes last year was on tailoring. Hands down, far and away, bar none, superlatives to infinity and beyond. Really, if there’s anything I learned last year: buy less, tailor more.

Any pieces you bought last year you’ve since come to love more? Less?

Window Shopping: All The Grana Edition

As I mentioned in my clothing roundup posts from last year, I feel like my closet is in a pretty good state. I can go through around three weeks without doing laundry and everything feels comfortable and just chic enough for casual situations and work. There is no absolute need requiring me to buy clothes for the next few months.

That said, sometimes it’s nice to window shop. Imagining what I could buy is like 75% of the enjoyment of actually purchasing an item. And with the internet, that’s easier than ever. I’ll probably have this as a series up here every once and a while to vent some of the idle shopping feelings. No links– affiliate or otherwise. I’m not trying to push anyone to spend where they otherwise wouldn’t.

Here’s what I’ve been looking at lately:

Grana Silk Ankle Pants
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After Xin’s post about these, I’ve been really itching to buy them for work. Imagine it: slacks but with an elastic waist band. And a loose comfortable fabric that breathes. My heart skips a beat just thinking about it. I think I can probably pull it off if I don’t tuck in my shirt, the elastic band look would not go over well with my supervisors. I also like the texture, a nice suede-looking crepe de chine. So often my modus operandi has been to use blouses as the interest piece, but it’s interesting to consider flipping the script. A crisp white button up with silk ankle pants? I can dig it.

Grana Round Neck Dipped Hem Dress

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One of the reasons I would buy Everlane clothing so much is that– barring their general problems with quality, their color game is just so on point. I am not into saturated jewel tones, so the muted colors suited me well: forest greens, brick reds, powder pinks. Grana, on the other hand, has much brighter colors: mint blues, fresh leaf greens, lavenders so vibrant you can almost smell them. It’s not loud exactly, but starting to speak in an outside voice.

The one color I cannot get enough of in Grana’s catalog is this coral though. Classic and cute. And the cut of this dress is just so gently flirty and versatile. I feel like it’s a very lady-in-a-commercial dress. She’s eating a picnic on the beach, twirling in the sunlight, stops by the cafe for a croissant on the way home. She reminds you that you’re young and vibrant, and that maybe you should have something in your closet that makes you feel pretty instead of put together.

As you can tell, I’m weirdly emotionally invested in this dress.

Grana Silk Loose Shorts

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Take all my thoughts about the coral dress and apply it to these shorts.

 

Grana Silk Bomber

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Completely impractical for my life, but also overwhelmingly cool. I like the idea of an all-silk outfit on a summer’s night. Clothes so light and breathable I can barely tell where I end and nature begins.

Equipment Liam Floral Top

Maybe it’s the three days of 50 F weather (after a week hovering near zero plus a bomb cyclone), but I’ve been really crushing on the florals lately. I love the contrast between the front and the sleeves. A blouse of just the sleeve textile would be too loud, of just the front too dowdy. This feels the right amount of off-kilter.

Elizabeth Suzann Linen Pants

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I’ve been searching for a pair of minimalist black linen pants for about two years. Lo and behold everything Elizabeth Suzann. I feel late to the game on this but I really like the lack of adornment on her clothing. It looks simple but versatile. But so expensive with a limited secondary market where clothes cost nearly as much as they are new.

 

Anything you’ve been window shopping lately?

All The Clothes I Bought This Year Part 2

This post reflects all my clothing purchases in 2017 after I wrote the post “All The Clothes I Bought This Year.” For the most part, I mostly got winter gear to help with the increasingly chilly season (curse you polar vortex!). There were a couple somewhat unnecessary vanity buys like my new leather jacket (gasp!) and a bucketful of tailoring.

Everything I Bought

Brunello Cucinelli silk tank (tan) – $46.50

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I got this from The Real Real to go underneath my slightly-too-sheer Hugo Boss white silk shirt. It’s also a nice addition to my wardrobe generally since I don’t have any other tanks or camis. It looks really powerful solo with my pencil skirt or with a blazer. Probably more expensive than I needed, but the delta between this (EUC) and a new lower-end silk tank was pretty small.

Patagonia quarter-zip fleece (navy) – $26.50

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This was a replacement for my old North Face shell which after five good years of service ended up twisting all up on its zipper. Being a fleece piece, it can’t exactly be worn alone especially since it gets windy out here. But it’s cozy and nobody blinks an eye when I show up to work with this and a T-shirt.

Coach lambskin leather bomber jacket (black) – $168.00

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Pure vanity buy. I was craving a quote-unquote classic piece and don’t particularly care for trench coats so I decided to go for a leather jacket instead. Seriously, I spent about a full month contemplating whether to buy it. Save for my loafers– maybe including my loafers?– this is the most expensive item in my closet. The leather is super buttery but thin (it’s lambskin so that was expected), so I can only really wear it when it’s in the 40-60 F range and not raining. Which in my New England city is, oh, approximately never. But it’s darn beautiful.

One thing I will say is that I got this off The Real Real and I was really disappointed in their team when checking this item. There were definitely more scuffs on it than the listing noted and there was a half-opened piece of nicotine gum in the pocket. Major ew. They outsource their customer service to Zendesk so I wasn’t particularly hopeful my note to them will reach their garment review team. Though I love the jacket and plan on keeping it, I do not plan on using TRR again.

Neck gaiter (black) – $10.00ng-teal_1024x1024

I lose about two neck gaiters a year so I don’t bother to buy an expensive version, else I’ll be saddened when I ultimately misplace it at a restaurant or whatever. Fleece-lined, does the trick solo or, even better, layered underneath a scarf.

Patagonia better sweater mittens (marled white/black) – $39.25

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A replacement for my old Isotoner gloves which, though they let me use my smartphone, fail miserably at keeping my hands actually warm in the freezing winter weather. I like that these can convert between mitten and fingerless glove style, makes it easier to access my fingers quickly during my commute.

REI silk sock liner (white) – $11.00

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These are to go under my thick calf-high Smartwool socks for the coldest days in winter. They’ll help with the itch from my wool allergy. Also, they’ll add an extra layer of insulation when the polar vortex comes.

Patagonia beanie (navy) – $26.50

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A slightly cuter replacement for my current beanie which looks like a nerdy winter helmet. Made with recyclable materials, which I love. Also covers and keeps my ears warm, which is a major win.

LL Bean silk long llbean.gifunderwear (black) – $50.50

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In previous years, I have used hosiery, thick fleece lined tights, and even yoga pants as an extra bottom layer during winter. All these were fine, but left a lot to be desired in terms of comfort under my trousers– so many layers left my legs feeling like sausage stuffed into its casing. I haven’t gotten a chance to take these for a spin since it hasn’t gotten below freezing yet, but they certainly are thinner and feel more flexible than what I’ve tried before.

Red Coral Necklace – $5.00

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Statement piece to jazz up my otherwise boring neutral-color wardrobe. The picture isn’t of my exact necklace, but it’s pretty similar with the same thick finger-like coral protrusions. I particularly like to layer this over my crew neck Everlane silk tops.

Coach Willis messenger bag (black) – $56.50

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Originally I was going to try to get the lock on my burgundy cross-body from Cambridge Satchel fixed. But this was the third or fourth tie it broke in two years and it costs $25 each time to get the push lock shipped in from the UK. At some point I might bring it to a cobbler to fix and then resell, but for now I’m going with a classic alternative that I know has already been through a couple decades of wear and is still going strong.

Tailoring, dry cleaning, repair – $191.50

This is how much it cost me to hem and take in at the waist four silk shirts and to dry clean and re-line my peacoat. Tailoring is expensive. It basically doubled the cost of my shirts. But now they fit slightly better. Worth it?

Total – $631.25

Next steps

Altogether I’ve spent around $1825 on clothes in 2017. That’s about six to seven times as much as I’ve spent in any other year. While I don’t regret spending that much– I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe and am still in a great place financially– I would like to ratchet it back to my previous spending levels for a good long while.

Now that I’ve finished filling all the holes in my winter wardrobe, I feel pretty set to not buy any more clothes until at least April 2018. I would like to set a budget for 2018 to spend no more than $350 total, or just below $30/month. That includes all alterations, underwear, etc. This does not include my wedding dress, for which I’d like to spend less than $250.

Insofar as I might upgrade my wardrobe next year, I’d like to keep it to cheap basic items. For one, I’d like to get a few V-neck cotton shirts (probably American Apparel or another good quality cheap tee brand) to replace my current suite of crew necks. I’d also like to streamline my work socks so I don’t have a variety of too-large-for-my-feet hand me downs making up half my food wardrobe. Lastly, a good tote bag or backpack would be nice as well. These are all minor wants though and– given how burnt out on shopping I currently feel– I think I can go without for a year or more.

What do you wear for winter? Have you purchased any clothing in Q4?

Does What You Wear To Work Matter?

I’ve been a bit of a fashion vlog binge lately. I’m mostly distracting myself from other stressors. It’s been interesting, though, to see how they talk about fashion. There’s a lot of good advice I’ve seen about clothing care and selection. But I keep seeing some concepts played out over and over and that have been bugging me. One such mantra goes something like this:

An investment in your wardrobe is an investment in your career.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Build your personal brand to get ahead at work. The first stop is in your appearance.

Translation: Our sponsors would really like you to spend more money on clothes.

When I first graduated college, I had no idea how to dress myself. As opposed to now, of course, when I have at least a half baked idea.

I always technically stayed in the realm of “business casual.” But, at the same time, I made some truly embarrassing clothing choices. Pants rippled atop my shoes and dragged at the heels. Cheap polyester button ups puckered at the bust and quickly discolored in the armpits since I apparently wasn’t aware of the concept of undershirts. I wore tons of unlined itchy wool, not realizing until a year later that I was incredibly allergic (“Oh, that’s why I’ve been getting all these rashes during the winter…”). There were many cheesy asymmetrical collared faux turtle neck tops. It was all kind of a mess.

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My workwear style circa 2012. Model pose included.

Flash forward to my first review, though, and you would never have guessed I was a fashion train wreck. I ended up getting a 15% raise, was on track to get a promotion (which happened a year later), and was generally on the good side of the people I was working with. All in my only-scraping-off-at-the-toe faux-leather loafers.

Nowadays, I have things slightly little more together in the clothes department. I plan my wardrobe around simple, quality, and comfortable basics. Silk shirts and slacks are my go-to. I finally have a suit. And I make sure everything fits. On the overall clothing scale I’d rate myself a solid 7/10. Good, but nothing flashy. But between then and now, I’ve noticed no real difference in how I am perceived based on my clothes. Looking at my own style changes and those of my colleagues over the years, I don’t think what we wear has made much of a difference at all.

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My workwear style circa 2017. 

When I look around at my office, folks usually do the strictly business/business casual thing. Everyone is professional, but nobody stands out as a particularly sharp dresser. It’s not like when I walk downtown, seeing all the finance guys in their custom made skinny-fit grey-blue suits, carrying their empty patent leather briefcases for show. The company wunderkinds, the young directors and rocketship-type upstarts wear the same slightly-too-large trousers as everyone else. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few folks who are a bit more fashion forward, but from the new interns to the CEO, sartorially I’d say we’re probably closer to The Office than Suits.

This is slightly exacerbated by the fact our office (as opposed to the company’s other locations) works mainly in the tech space. It’s pretty common that I’ll show up to a client meeting and be better dressed than they are in their tees and jeans. Frankly, our managers are lucky that I accidentally shrunk most of my old hoodies.

And so, in my day-to-day life, above a certain level of put-togetherness I see pretty much no correlation between style success and business success. Maybe this is true in more creative fields? Or I’m just not high enough in the corporate echelon for this to be an issue? I’m curious:

Have you found that your clothes have affected your career success? What do you wear to work?

 

All The Clothes I Bought This Year

As mentioned in my spending update, I have undertaken a complete clothing overhaul. Stylistically, not much has changed. But I wanted to replace pieces were just stretched, faded, stained, shrunken and generally worn. Also chuck all my blouses with breast pockets because they’re useless, saggy, and the flaps are a pain to iron.

Below I’ve summarized all my clothing purchases for this year plus some of the remaining items in my closet. Together, these pieces comprise my new “capsule wardrobe.”
tops.png

I am a big fan of silk shirts. They can be styled for work and casual wear and are great for body heat regulation year round. My go-to brands are Equipment (wonderful quality fabric) and Everlane (quality is only so-so but is cheaper, has better cuts for petites). Both brands have a lot of pieces with terrible boob pockets (avoid these!). I can generally find these in “EUC” aka “excellent used condition” for around $50 on the secondhand market.

The Hugo Boss silk blouse was a steal for $23. The back panel is just slightly too sheer, so I need to find a camisole or tank to wear underneath. But it is so well made and the button placket is just so delightfully luxe. I don’t know why, but when I wear it I feel very Young Pope, but in a good way?

Also, I bought a couple athletic tees. They are a bit more fitted since my usual T-shirts were falling all over my face during fitness classes.

Obviously, I love my neutrals: black, white, grey, cream, and blue. This round, though, I may have gone a little overboard. I do like color!– I was on the lookout for nice golden, brick red, forest green, and blush pink for more variety– but it was just easier to find pieces that met my criteria in, well, neutrals.

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As a petite lady, buying bottoms is a fraught experience. And in the secondhand market, you don’t always have the option to return ill-fitting pieces. The best way I’ve found to find pants without trying on in-person is to buy cropped (wearing them as ankle or full-length) and insist on double-checking inseam lengths.

Before now, I’ve never really been a jeans person. Like, I wore jeans. They were comfortable. But these J Brand jeans are something else. I feel comfortable, they actually fit, and they actually retain their shape through multiple days of wear!? Be still my heart. And they are so, so soft. I’ve been putting off washing them because I’m afraid of wearing them out, but about a month in we may be hitting the limits of that approach.

In addition to the jeans, I got some slacks for work to replace my stretched-out old ones and workout leggings from Lululemon, at full price no less. The range of motion I have in these is pretty great. And, yes, they pass the squat test. As far as I’m concerned, they’re definitely worth the premium.

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It took me a good three years at my male-dominated workplace before I felt comfortable enough to wear dresses. The red and cream lace dresses are not exactly like the ones I have– mine have something closer to an empire waist. I tend to like knee length since it transitions well between work, semiformal events, and casual day wear. Empire waists tend to be more flattering for my personal shape, elongating my (short) torso.

My new Cara Hansen faux wrap is the softest, most flattering dress I’ve ever worn. The model photo really doesn’t do it justice. I managed to find it at a local shop that sells independent designers and does minor tailoring in house for free!

blazers

I’ve added a couple blazers into my rotation to snazz up some of my outfits (also as part of my search for a three piece suit). They’re not perfect by any means– some day I’d like to splurge on a custom suit– but they are nice, versatile pieces to have.

The real winner here, though, is my new Theory sweater. I get compliments every time I wear it. Plus it’s thick, soft, cozy, and adds much-needed texture to my otherwise flat and boring wardrobe.

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No new jackets or coats, my current collection can get me through most weather. In an ideal world, I’d like to add a leather bomber jacket and trench coat, though.

underwear

This category is pretty uninteresting (read: I’m slightly embarrassed to be talking about my underwear).

The Hanes are shaped well enough, breathable, and have never given me issues.

I tend toward wire-free bras because life is too short to be constantly poked in the rib cage.

As for the hosiery, we’ll see if these Wolford tights live up to the hype. They are quite a bit slimmer than my old tights, and definitely smoother. I just worry about accidentally putting a run in them, though. For $50 a piece, I hope they last me a good long while.

accessories.png

I was inspired by Sherry from Save Spend Splurge and decided to get myself an obi belt to add a little interest to my skirt/dress. In the above picture you only see the cream side of the belt, but in fact it’s reversible; the other side is a lovely powder pink.

Other than that, I’ve been spending an annoying amount of money repeatedly replacing the lock on my Cambridge Satchel cross-body. The purse itself is wonderful– after two years of daily and rough use, the leather is still in great condition– but the push locks are complete garbage. After breaking three separate locks, my plan now is to go to a cobbler to see if they have better hardware I can use instead.

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Each year, I buy one to two pairs of Mizuno Wave Paradox shoes for running. Since it’s starting to get chilly, I probably won’t be outside too often. and I regularly go shoeless in my fitness classes, so I may be able to get away with just the one pair this year.

My tried and true everyday shoe is my pair of Merrell Juncle Mocs. They are comfortable, resistant to pretty much any type of weather, and, uh, gorpcore is in, right? Once I get to the office, though, I switch to my Everlane loafers.

The other shoes in my closet are most activity-specific: the wedge sandals are great for cocktail parties, flat sandals for summertime strolls, and the nubuck when I want to feel my bunions. Just kidding, though I do still need to stretch those out for a more comfortable fit.

Duds

There are a few pieces I bought this year that I’ll be giving away in the near future including:

  • Elie Tahari silk dress ($31.50) – While a beautiful pattern, the cut was supremely unflattering on me. It made me look both formless and bulky on top– not a great combination.
  • Ann Taylor black silk knit short sleeve ($16.50) – Bad, bad quality. Dye faded almost immediately.
  • Madewell dark navy patterned pants ($26) – I actually quite liked these pants, except they were 100% with no elastane which means they stretched out a lot after a single day of wear. I got a few months of mileage out of these, though, so it wasn’t a complete waste.
  • Return fees ($28.50) – Various shipping and return/restocking fees for items I didn’t end up keeping.
  • Amanda Uprichard cream silk blouse ($49) – Remember the blouse for my suit outfit? Well, I accidentally put it through the wash (because I’m terribly lazy with my silks I just throw them in the machine as “delicates”) with a cheap bright red scarf I got as an “extra” in one of my Poshmark purchases. Bad move! The dye from the scarf ran and now there are bright red stains on the back and sleeve that, after two rounds with the OxiClean, I can’t seem to get out. Whoops.

Total amount wasted on duds? $151.50

Total Spent

table

graph

I think the graph/table more or less speak for themselves. I clearly have an average item price I stick to and it’s around $40 a piece. As I’ve mentioned before, in previous years I spent around $200-300 on clothes, so this is 4 to 5 times what is normal for me. I don’t plan on repeating next year though; I don’t think I could justify another re-haul so soon.

Just for the record, these are not all of my clothes. Of course there are a number of items I wear that are not included in the above photos like: shorts I wear only in summer or indoors, all my cotton T-shirts, various undergarments I bought prior to 2017, and jewelry including my statement piece necklace and engagement ring.

What Do I Still Need?

Unfortunately, every time I jump down this rabbit hole, I realize something’s missing from my collection. Right now, my wish list includes the following:

  • Nude silk tank top – to wear with my cream Hugo Boss shirt or by itself
  • Leather bomber jacket – classic look for a classic lady
  • Collection of Anvil T-shirts – five years ago I bought a batch of Gildan tees that haven’t aged a day. Which is kind of a bummer because they all are neck-strangling crew cuts that I want to switch out for a more flattering, softer V-neck look.
  • Trench coat – not sure when I’d actually wear a trench, but they look nice? (this is obviously low on the priority list)
  • Leather tote purse – sometimes I want to carry things bigger than my purse without breaking out my company-logo’d backpack
  • Real belt – something to sit at my hips, ideally in an interesting print. Possibly snakeskin.
  • Streamlined socks – I may still be wearing some of my parents’ old castaways
  • Jewelry – I have some good classic pieces now, but I want to funk it up a little bit. You know, do with the accessories what I can’t with the base layers.

There are also things I need to do to take care of my current clothing items, like:

  • Basic shoe maintenance, resoling, stretching
  • Get my Everlane silk shirts tailored for slightly better fit (adding darts)
  • Relining my pea coat, which is currently torn. Maybe I can put in something funky / upgrade from polyester.

Once all that’s completed though, I’ll be done clothes shopping.

Probably.

I hope.

What clothes did you buy in 2017?