September 28, 2012

Favorites for fall!

 I don't plan on buying much for my closet this fall. But at some point at least some of the above items will become my fall 2012 "ones that got away." My favorite is probably the Kate Spade polka dot coat though the Marc by Marc Jacobs parka is also awesome.

September 26, 2012

See you in September (2013)!

As the weather cools the blogosphere is rumbling with enthusiasm over fall.  I too find the changing season to be exciting. Who doesn't love apples and pumpkins and sweater weather? But without my favorite wardrobe standbys to turn to, I expect this fall will feel decidedly different. Not better or worse, per se. Just different. Although I won't be able rotate through my usual fall wardrobe I also know that as a consummate sap, I will come to feel a great deal of nostalgia for what promises to be a very pregnant fall. Just as I already feel a lot of nostalgia for this time of year in 2010, during the lead up to my wedding date. Both periods came with anxieties of anticipation over all the various "unknowns." But ultimately the stress created from my anticipations remains a happy variety, with optimism over the changing shape of life to come. So while I might feel a lot of uncertainty over how my life will change once I am a parent, I look forward to it. One of the most important lessons I've learned from my family and my parent friends is that love multiplies. It doesn't divide and is not finite.

Philosophically, it seems fitting that fall's inescapable tropes of bounty and harvest correspond closely with the expansion of my and Chris's household. The reality of our scenario change in going from two to three is impending. And I still have so much more to do. But when I'm feeling frivolous, I go through my outfit photo archives to try and envision how I will wear some of my favorite pieces with a child in tow... assuming I am able to fit into them again someday!

September 24, 2012

Professorial Pregnancy part 2

I've tried to approach my pregnancy wardrobe with practicality and caution. It makes little sense to invest in a massive amount of money into attractive and yet temporary clothes. But logistically and as a person who works outside of the home, I need clothes that fit, that are comfortable, and that allow me to maintain some sense of visual academic professionalism expected by my students, colleagues, and supervisors. Thankfully, an academic professional context is fairly forgiving and I didn't need to acquire a rotation of maternity suits or traditional business clothing.

I knew all along I would need to buy actual maternity clothing. My Pregnant in Anthropologie series has been fun to execute, particularly during the second trimester and a few pieces still work for me at this stage. But my body didn't start off so "small" in the sense that I ever hoped or expected to forgo "maternity" clothes entirely. I admire those who can with the help of their own creativity, but I also think the possibility of pulling off a maternity-clothing-free pregnancy is body specific. And it is out of the control of the individual because every body adapts to pregnancy differently.

Accumulating some attractive pregnancy clothing wasn't something I expected to enjoy, despite my penchant for shopping. I resented the notion of spending on temporary clothing because I believed that "maternity clothes" were automatically not attractive. Thankfully, I was mistaken! I have managed to locate a number of pieces, designers, and boutiques that still feel very much in the style of pre-pregnant me.

Now that I'm in the third trimester, my body speaks of this pregnancy on my behalf. It announces itself to the world before I have a chance to confirm or deny. It needs no hand-on-belly "tell" for people familiar with what I looked like pre-pregnancy to understand what is happening.  This nonverbal announcement preceded by that period of "in between," can feel liberating for some. But I never forget that it is also separate and distinct from my own voice. And when you are a part of a smaller campus community, the fear is that your body will become fodder for gossip.

So far I haven't experienced much negativity with regard to my pregnancy but I have at times disliked the lack of control I have over this stage of visual "announcement." My maternity clothing has helped me to continue to feel like myself amid significant physical and emotional changes. So although I might have been able to get by with less by repeating much more, I am glad to have shopped carefully to secure deals on everything I've acquired.

To clarify, I will indeed be repeating my maternity pieces with some frequency, but I also need to admit that I've acquired more maternity clothing than I initially thought I would ever buy. This is due in part to gifts, sales, and stackable promotions at both mass and boutique retailers.  But I would be kidding myself to deny that the lack of control I've felt over my body's transitions has influenced my desire to shop, at times for retail therapy purposes. Clothing for me has always been a venue for exerting relative control amid otherwise stressful or challenging circumstances. My pregnancy has been normal and healthy but it is still a relatively new, disorienting, and temporary state. I don't necessarily recommend this method of coping, especially if there's not room in an ever-tightening budget, after all expanding one's family can be quite costly! But my maternity wardrobe budget has remained a lot smaller than what I have spent on myself in previous sale cycles and my partner and I are saving with even more aggression than usual, in anticipation of what's to come.

Although I dedicated discretionary funds toward temporary clothing, I do expect that many of these pieces will transition nicely into postpartum times. A number of the items are nursing-friendly. And at this point (other than a pair of cords) I don't expect I will need much else to get me through the rest of my pregnant experience. I'm glad to have pieces that enable me to still feel like myself while I'm in front of a classroom or attending committee/faculty meetings. Even if I look different from the outside and feel different on the inside, having maternity-friendly clothes with which to assemble professorial outfits permits me to maintain my professional self-esteem. For working moms-to-be, that absolutely is value-adding.

Outfit details:
Maternal America scoop neck dress with floral tie waist
Wolford tights (which are surprisingly belly-friendly!)
Giuseppe Zanotti flats (current season version is sans captoe)
Kors watch

September 20, 2012

Emphasizing the shape of things

When the Bailey 44 column dresses were finally seeing markdowns at Anthropologie (cap sleeved here; tank here; scrolled here), it was just too hard to resist. I ordered what was available that seemed like it could fit a pregnant body without factoring in that 1. I don't really wear BRIGHT RED and 2. I don't really know if I want to "show" that much of myself. Being pregnant gives some women more body confidence than ever before because the body is doing remarkable things. But for me, on many of my more emotional days, my body feels unrecognizable. When your wardrobe is cultivated to emphasize a relatively small waist (the way the bulk of my pre-pregnancy clothes are), it can be a little disorienting to watch your waist change so much in such a relatively short time frame.

So in many ways, my Bailey 44 buy was an experiment. Incidentally, I was able to track down one of the purple versions which I tried and reviewed a while ago. But the red went back. I'm too much of a wallflower to pull it off, pregnant or not. We'll see if I wear the purple while my stomach continues to grow. If not, I am confident it will be a great piece for next fall!

September 19, 2012

Professorial Pregnancy Part 1: the body as a text

The professorial body is a text read and judged by student subjects as well as faculty and staff colleagues. So when that professorial body is both (cisgendered*) female and pregnant, it can feel as though all scrutiny intensifies. For me this sense of intensification has yielded both awkwardness as well as opportunity. In this (currently 3-part) series I will be sharing my ideas and experiences of being a pregnant professor.

When I teach I am often in front of the room, with students facing forward. I don't sit down much unless I am evaluating presentations or we are conducting the seminar/discussion portion of our meetings. In many ways it can be difficult to not feel as though I am on display. But through repetition and trial and error, I became used to display. Eventually, I didn't think too much about it.

I have written before about how I've tried to balance my stylish interests with academic professionalism, particularly as I transitioned from "student" to "faculty." And I've feared that if/when my clothing became a subject for discussion (even positive or complimentary), appearance ventured toward the realm of distraction. In most professional settings, when self-expression becomes too distracting it can pose untold problems to the professional.

When I found out I was pregnant and calculated that my third trimester would correspond closely with my fall semester, I became a little apprehensive. For me, this has marked yet another  professional context with which I am unfamiliar. And just recently, I began to feel confident and settled in my visual professional identity.

With no certain knowledge of how I would "carry," how my body would change, which parts of me would grow, etc., I took comfort in wardrobe. After all, wardrobe can be a venue for visual performative control, barring the usual budget realities and financial limitations. Part 2 will discuss this process of exerting control via wardrobe.

Above is what I wore on the first day of class.

Montserrat dress from Anthropologie
J. Crew Factory Cardigan
Anthropologie belt
ChloƩ zipper flats
Redraven Necklace (c/o); Kors watch; Starfish cuff

*To clarify, a person who is cisgender does experience less scrutiny than a person who is trans but being female is still the marked category within a binary framework for gender.

Functional vs Fashionable Technology

When I first began working at my current job, I was given a fairly basic laptop and very simple, utilitarian laptop bag that honestly thrilled me. I was so excited just to have a job, let alone one that was outfitting me with gear. Sure the bag was so functional that it bordered on hideous, but I carried it proudly to and from class whenever I needed it. Something about this pragmatic bag made me feel like a legit professional.

As the months passed and I felt more and more settled in my position, I thought about replacing that boring bag. Did I really need to sacrifice form for function? After all, I already posted about my love for clever yet practical tablet cases. I still haven't found a bag that will fit my work laptop, necessary accessories/cords, and miscellaneous course materials, while being comfortable and attractive. But the collaboration depicted above between Project Runway All Stars winner, Mondo Guerra gives me hope.

I've been watching Project Runway since its inception. Frankly, the main reason I watched the All Stars season was to root for Mondo and his vibrant, 60s-inspired designs. HP has partnered with Mondo for a design project that resulted in stylish, limited edition, tech-friendly Ultrabook™ bags. And HP has since launched a contest to decide what other fashionably functional tech-friendly bags to make next . You can vote for your favorite by going here.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

September 17, 2012

Designer Maternity Brands Reviewed Part 2: NOM Maternity Review

NOM Maternity Dress
NOM Maternity dress

As part two of my series on designer maternity fits, I will discuss NOM Maternity, which offers American-made pieces that look stylish, classic, and simple. I liked that overall, the designs don't scream "maternity." NOM clothing looks like regular, cool looking womenswear. It just happens to have extra belly room.

The quality of NOM in the two pieces I tried was mixed. The Maternity Ruffle Wrap Dress was incredibly soft and warm. The fabric was stretchy but thick with a brushed effect on the interior. This meant that a slip wouldn't be necessary, if not for the true wrap style (which always has me feeling a bit vulnerable). The tulip hemline looked attractive but also revealed more leg than I'm comfortable showing in professional settings. The ruffle trim was pretty but ultimately I returned this dress because of the length. For reference, I ordered a large and thought that I had enough fabric to wrap it tightly.

The second NOM dress I tried had a cowl neck with ruched seams on the side of the waistline and was called the Hawthorne. In the model shots, it appeared as though the black version was longer than the gray (which was the color I wanted). I hoped this was a fluke. But when the gray arrived it was not only quite short but also pretty sheer. I ordered a medium and it was snug. I should have gotten the large. Thank goodness for favorable return policies. I sent both back and received a quick refund.

Both of the NOM pieces I tried were poly blend dresses with a good amount of stretch. Of the two, I preferred the quality of the wrap dress. But the lengths on either dress were a dealbreaker for me. And I'm only 5'3"! I would size up in this brand for length. 

September 14, 2012

BellaBlu Maternity OOTD

While I had a bunch of favorite brands pre-pregnancy, none of them really offered much in the way of maternity clothing. Occasional partnerships between DVF and a mass maternity chain gave me something to hunt for on ebay (as the retail prices were still too steep to justify) but overall I felt like I was starting my wardrobe research from scratch.

There's a learning curve to this new-to-me genre of merchandise and figuring out fits and quality standards for each brand has proved difficult when there aren't many brick and mortar options. Thankfully, a number of online boutiques offer detailed information about the brands they carry, easing the burden of building a work-appropriate maternity wardrobe.

BellaBlu Maternity is one such boutique. They carry lots of special, occasional, and professional maternity clothing in addition to plenty of casual maternity and nursing friendly pieces. A number of designers are stocked there with baby bags, baby clothes, and nursery items rounding out the selection.

In exchange for providing an honest review of my customer experience, they gifted me the above dress (called Iron Gate) by the maternity designer, Olian. For reference, I am wearing a large and find the fit below the bustline to be very forgiving. The fabric is comfortable and stretchy. I love this dress for its 60s-inspired graphics, the mixed print bib and hem details, and the flattering tie-waist. This dress is in the running to be what I wear to one of my baby showers! It feels very me in the pre-pregnant sense because so many of my favorite dresses of all time mix graphic prints. In my experience, I found BellaBlu to be a fantastic one-stop spot for discerning customers in the family way. Ground shipping (which for me, was lightening fast!) is a flat fee and they offer a 14 day return policy (with some wiggle room, as stated on their site).

Bonus bump shot:

Outfit details:
Iron Gate Maternity dress by Olian (c/o Bellablu Maternity)
Hue tights
Nine West pumps

September 12, 2012

Designer Maternity Brands Reviewed: Part 1 (More of Me Maternity)

The most frustrating thing about dedicating one's ancillary budget toward maternity clothing is that you know its use-value is temporary. My typical rationale of evaluating the "cost-per-wear" really goes out the window if the period of time during which I can wear something is constrained by biology. But knowledge of the impracticality of an "investment" pregnancy wardrobe doesn't mean I don't want to look like myself just as being pregnant doesn't mean I've stopped caring about clothes.

I've tried to make a lot of non-pregnancy clothes work with mixed results. Sadly, my favorite tent dresses that I had hoped would still fit became too short once a belly was "Winnie-the-Poohing" everything upwards. But jersey knits have been fantastic. Do I think I can command a classroom wearing cotton t-shirt maxi dresses from the Gap? Not really. And definitely not for an entire semester. So in my final days of summer break, I began cobbling together a "pregnant professor" wardrobe to ease my anxieties about being in front of a bunch of post-adolescents with a visible bump. So far, things have gone well. I didn't anticipate how much more easily I would feel out of breath while lecturing and moving around. But I think I look the part of prof through my occasional huffs and puffs.

Recently, Amazon has been running decent clearance sales on some fancy maternity clothes that seem campus-friendly. I also happened to have a 20% off clothing coupon (given when you opt in to receive their clothing emails), so with free Prime shipping and free returns the risk of ordering some new duds seemed low. I picked some clothes from a variety of unfamiliar but supposedly reputable maternity designers. I will be going through each brand in separate posts over the next few days and hope it isn't too much drudgery for the non-pregnant crowd. I put the first review of the above dress under a cut for that reason.

The one really good thing about maternity clothes being a temporary necessity is that A LOT of people sell off what they bought on ebay or in consignment stores once they are done with pregnancy. So there are deals to be found if you are willing to search the secondhand marketplace in addition to sale stalking.

A caveat*: of course everyone "carries" differently so my suggestions regarding the periods of time during pregnancy when these garments will be useful will vary depending on your own belly. I am currently in the beginning of my third trimester of pregnancy. The dresses I am keeping are ones that I believe will fit me through parts of the third trimester and into postpartum (nursing) times.

September 11, 2012

Kate Spade picks from the Neiman Marcus extra 25% off sale

I spy a lot of fantastic deals on previous season pieces by Kate Spade and other designers on the Neiman Marcus website. They received an influx of clearance goods and many of them are an additional 25% off (through Wednesday, Sept. 12th)! Although (if I remember correctly) it was technically a spring season piece, I could easily see this beautiful beaded black dress making the rounds at holiday parties. And this plaid skirt will complement any fall wardrobe.


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