I’ve got some travel coming up that I’m excited about. I’ll be headed to Europe and more specifically the Baltics. I’ve got plans for both Tallinn and Helsinki. If you are based there and want to hang out drop me a line and let’s get together.
It’s funny how longer trips act as a focus on what’s really crucial to get done. The care that goes into making sure your life (and the items in it) functional is constant.
I often put off errands and services with a “maybe next week” mentality. One week becomes one month and then suddenly I haven’t had my haircut since May and it’s October. So I’m packing a bunch of “to do” appointments to make care the care and maintenance of myself, my body and my belongings.
Even as I place orders for vitamins and find myself reorganizing the toiletries cabinet, I am reminded that the list of care and maintenance never gets any shorter.
There is always a dentist appointment or a salon visit. I’ve got a pile of clothes that need mending and tailoring that hasn’t been addressed since before the pandemic. Yes, I’m one of those types that thinks a tailor and a cobbler are crucial services for civilized living. I like to take care of what I own. That includes everything from my body to my boots.
I was doing some fall shopping today. I’ve got upcoming trips for work in the next two months for which I am excited to dress.
In my past life I worked in fashion. While I mostly worked with luxury brands, I did a stint in-house at one of the heritage American sportswear brands Ann Taylor.
American Sportswear or the American Look doesn’t refer to athletic or athleisure wear. Rather it’s specific historical movement in which American fashion designers freed themselves from British and Parisian norms of Saville Row custom suiting and haute couture
Sportswear is an American fashion term originally used to describe separates, but which since the 1930s demonstrates a specific relaxed approach to design, while remaining appropriate for a wide range of social occasions. The American Look included garments whose modesty, comparative simplicity, and wearability treated fashion as a “pragmatic art” which was lived in.
Sportswear was designed to be easy to look after and an expression of various aspects of American culture, including health ideals, democracy, comfort and function, and innovative design.
You probably think isn’t this just how clothing is made? Not until the Americans democratized fashion. Easy to wear and simple to look after separates (as opposed to matched suits & evening gowns) which could be mixed and matched into many outfits was it’s hallmark. It includes items like dresses designed to be easy to put on and wear in many social situations
American Sportswear was a unique style born out of burgeoning middle class wealth and a desire for more active independent lifestyles that included leisure time, a concept previously reserved for the upper classes. No ladies maids or butlers are required for a Claire McCardell popover dress.
Ann Taylor become a dominant best selling brand in the American Sportswear style beginning in 1954 and rose to prominence in the 70s and 80s. Unlike other designer who went for a slightly pricier market like Donna Karen, Calvin Klein, or Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor stayed true to the history of The American look by serving the aspiring middle class throughout.
It began by offering tailored dresses in its first store in New Haven. It’s name comes from the Ann dress which was its best seller. It eventually grew to become the choice for women balancing office jobs and home life.
When I worked there in house, Ann prided itself on quality fabrics in quality cuts. You could get fully lined wool suit jackets and silk blouses for under $250. A leather kitten heel could be had for $150. Those prices now recall fast fashion brands likes Zara and certainly wouldn’t involve cashmere or Italian leather.
But the great bifurcation of American classes had already begun. In 2010 when I was there a dwindling vestige of working girls and upward mobility demanded versatile clothing that still put quality fabric, pattern work, and cuts at the forefront.
There was demand for looking professional and not simply just being “trendy” as there were still professional women & financially secure housewives looking for polish over flash and seasonal novelty. Instagram was only just stirring and yes I was the one who put the brand on Facebook, Instagram and blogs.
I left for greener pastures. The pioneering brand president dedicated to revitalizing the brand was fired . Eventually Ann Taylor was bought by a private equity firm which just a few years later went bankrupt. The middle market of middle class women was dwindling. And hollowing out the margins for PE didn’t help much.
Now if you are looking for clothing in that price point of $150-$350 you will struggle. A suit jacket from other middle market brands like Theory now $850 for something with poor fit and no lining. You can pull off something that looks like a suit jacket from a fast fashion retailer but if you want natural fabrics like cotton, silk or cashmere the chances are good you have to trade up into the luxury market.
Fashion has bifurcated in the social media fast fashion age. And what constitutes a luxury brand isn’t particularly luxurious in its fabrics or patterns. Just it’s price points. You can go cheap or you can go for pricey but the struggle to find something that is actually a decent garment meant to last has become much worse.
I’d tell you where I did my shopping but I’m afraid the brand might not be long for this world just like Ann Taylor. It’s eponymous designer is in her seventies. And she prefers a technical fabric to a natural fabric so has been able to maintains her price points. If you DM in private I’ll tell you. If I needed a decent suit jacket I don’t think I could find one at a middle class price point anymore. The bifurcation is here with us to stay.
Much to my surprise, tomorrow it will have been one year since my husband and I moved from Colorado to Montana. It feels like the time absolutely flew by. We achieved quite a bit on the homestead in just a year here.
We installed a solar grid so we can be off the power grid if we chose. We repaired our well pumps & installed a top of the line water filters. We installed air conditioning because sadly that’s a thing you need now even in the Northern Rockies now. We replaced the roof on the barn and the house. We furnished the living room, dining area, and a full guest floor (come visit seriously). We built out a gym in the barn. We set up a small hydroponic system for vegetables and herbs.
That feels like a lot to when I write it out, and yet oddly it was a purchase we made just yesterday that made me feel like we’d settled in. We bought dishes.
Yes, dishes as in in plates and bowls. We bought a proper nice set of matched china. It took us an entire year of living in our first home, but we finally have something to serve our guests on.
This may require some context for the significance. We got married at city hall without anyone present. We didn’t have a registry or any kind of celebration, so we didn’t get a single gift like a serving platter or soup bowl.
It turns out if you don’t do things the traditional way, neither friend nor family will bother with the rituals of gifting midrange china to celebrate what used to be a major life milestone. I don’t think we got so much as a congratulations card let alone a teacup. Not that we’d asked anyone to do so.
Our kitchen reflects this ten years later with a hodgepodge of Ikea ceramics so chipped and mismatched it’s become a running joke. And while we are clearly willing to invest in substantial equity building activities, spending $500 to acquire dishes felt insane.
Heirlooms don’t really get passed down anymore so it’s just a consumer good. To be fair, we also thought spending the equivalent of a year’s college tuition on a wedding was a waste so maybe it’s just how we prioritize. We invest in things that will be worth more over time like company stock.
I think there has been a persistent fantasy about how millennials rely on their Boomer parents that has just never really been true for my own experience. The grind to build enough stability and cash to own a home can be nearly impossible when starter homes in middle tier cities are over half a million dollars. Letting go of things like weddings was a small sacrifice in my mind given the challenges of earning enough.
But I’ll admit to feeling a little surprised that even getting a hand with your kitchen necessities wasn’t something the older generations wanted to help the younger ones with. No wonder my generation is a bunch of workaholics with no kids.
If you own parents forget to send celebratory tokens, what hope do have for maintaining any of the social fabric of past traditions? We may as well accelerate as fast as we can into the future if we can’t even rely on the past for dishes.
Being valuable for your data has always been a bit of weird feeling for individuals. Because you on your own may have experienced quite varied mileage on being remunerated for your skills, contributions and other ineffable qualities.
We value athletes and business executives and the extremely beautiful and the particularly intelligent and getting paid to be any combination of that is bound up in dumb luck and how you compete in an economy with other humans.
Individually we are all quite unique. But the ways in which we are packaged, marketed, sold and controlled by our social, national and family contracts and norms can make it feel like we are put in boxes. Demographics.
Some professions are very refined at saying what facet of a person is worth something to another person responsible for selling, let’s say, designer clothing or commodity groceries or financial services. We call that cost of acquisition.
The adage in my age of the internet was always “if you don’t pay for the product then you are the product.” And that insight has tainted social media from the start. Even if it was a great deal for all the free users of the social website who didn’t mind using something for free because they couldn’t monetize their attributes at that scale. Generally unless you were in a small class of power users social media didn’t make you money and you weren’t that valuable.
And since you were the product being marketed and sold, other people who market and sold other things (advertising if you will) generally found it was in the best interest of a social media business to make sure there was plenty of flavors of you the user (perhaps SKUs or stock keeping units) on hand so if an advertiser wants to buy access to say a late thirties professional woman with a high net worth, she is online and can be shown an advertisement.
It helps to have active users like that readily available so she might be enticed to buy a $5 sparking water laced with drugs and sugar substitutes. Yes I went to Whole Foods today.
So it’s a mystery to me why you would implode the vast and intertwined delicate tapestry of entrenched network effects so that you can instead deliver less access to the network whose major value is keeping specific demographics on a website for extended periods happy and engaged. But I am not Elon Musk.
As the age of artificial intelligence trained on reams of user data (available via API or application programming interfaces) gets going the owners of the social web are scared they are getting screwed. Reddit shut down access which is a real blow to Google whose best type of search for niche answers has been amending “Reddit” at the end of a query.
If Elon Musk is selling a dopamine drip of content and access then shutting off the tap is a baffling decision. And I’ll admit I got off the internet today because the strain of whatever is actually happening at Twitter (rumor is server issues and back end chaos and unpaid bills) meant none of my tweets would send.
I quite hope this will be better tomorrow as I rather liked the old system of my data and attention for access to the great wide open feeds. And I actually paid $8 for my account. Can’t imagine what everyone else is experiencing.
So I am giving myself permission to take it nice and easy on this blog post today. This morning I ordered an enormous number ($150 or so) of creams, unguents and lotions as well as a number of anti-histamines from a German apothecary in the hopes of gaining some relief.
I take multiple antihistamine already but I got a fourth (it’s Claritin in the US. A got a corticosteroid cream, something called Zugsable or black cream (it smells like tar) and a Linola Fett cream which appears to be like Weleda skin food without the fragrances. Plus some melatonin as I’m not sleeping so great with this itching. They tossed in some cosmetics as well which I will definitely put to use. And that’s all she wrote today.
I’ve been on the road all week for work (and a little bit of play). I flew an overnight transcontinental from Seattle to Frankfurt Tuesday evening into Wednesday which is yesterday for America but with the time zone change feels like two days. While I am not jet lagged (a surprise) my Whoop recovery is the worst I’ve ever received. I got an recovery 8% score. And I feel basically fine
Usually when flying overnight I take an Ambien and immediately pass out. Better living through chemistry right? Plus I’m not naturally social. Instead I was doing face masks and debating White Lotus theories over a pretty decent seared tuna.
When I landed in Frankfurt I felt quite energetic and pushed through the afternoon with ease. Or maybe it felt easy as I had several cups of coffee. I thought I’d nailed the flight even though I knew I didn’t get enough sleep.
Once I’d settled into my Airbnb, I checked my previous night’s biometrics I realized I’d only recorded four hours of sleep and my HRV had dropped into the low teens. Maybe I’d made a mistake not “force quitting” myself into a hard sleep on the airplane with a downer.
My average HRV is usually in the forties which isn’t all that impressive to begin with (I’ve got a spinal condition called ankylosis spondylitis) but I hadn’t expected all my biometrics to go flashing red quite so badly when I felt mostly fine. My guess is that the 8% reflected a significant amount of stress and I’d simply not flushed the adrenaline and cortisol out of my system.
I’m keeping it low key today as a consequence. I was up at 7am European Central Time and went grocery shopping to stock the apartment. Getting sunlight is crucial and while I plan to keep EST hours mostly while I’m here it felt good to be up and about.
I managed to fit in some work, did a load of laundry, got some Ethiopian food for lunch and still feel like I can manage a work day. It’s now past 5Pm in Germany and America is just waking up on the west coast. My husband just texted me from San Francisco so it’s time to finish my day and start the day with everyone else.
Many moons ago, I ran an advertising network for independent publishers. Our niche was lifestyle content like fashion & beauty. It was in the early years before social media had gotten beyond blogging and someone like me could be considered an influencer. During these halcyon years, I was loaned a Tria laser hair remover device to review on my own blog.
If you aren’t familiar with the basic concept, you can permanently remove hair by killing the hair follicles with laser light. It works well if you are fair skinned with dark hair. I don’t recall exactly the terms of my original use but my ambition was modest. I wanted to shave my legs less.
I was the kind of woman for whom one cool breeze would make my freshly shaven legs prickly. I needed to shave daily to keep things smooth and I found that to be inconvenient from a cost and time perspective. So I set out with this handheld laser zapping my lower legs every two weeks. I did this for a total of twelve sessions. And fuck it if I wasn’t surprised that it worked.
I went from having daily dark hair growth on my legs to maybe having do a proper shave once a week to get rid of the light fuzzies. I remain astonished it worked. Sure it took a couple months of use and it’s not perfect but I’ve regretted not using it on other areas ever since. It really cut down on shaving. So recently I decided to buy one. Yup, I spent $499 on a laser to remove hair.
It’s my intention to laser off the hair on my armpits and my “undercarriage” if you will. They call it a bikini area but let’s be honest. I want to have a permanent Brazilian wax. I am going to laser my lady bits and my back door. Assuming I can reach it myself.
I’ll happily answer questions about this as I go about the process. Some of what I intend to do is beyond what’s recommended but thanks to Reddit and gossip I’m pretty sure it’s entirely possible. So feel free to ask me. Or not. Up to you.
Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Newton’s laws of motion work for people in motion. I swung into my day and once a Julie is in motion she tends to stay that way.
I want sure how I would feel being in New York City. I’ve technically been back to the city since we left but this felt like my first real trip back to the city. And I remembered what it felt like to have my days packed. Full of things to do and people to see.
I felt energized. Maybe even just a little bit optimistic. Like being in motion was a worthwhile state to maintain. I enjoyed it. I expected things to feel maybe busier or louder or overwhelming and instead it felt normal. Like I’d always lived life bouncing from one thing to the next.
And to be fair a lot is happening. Balances of power are shifting. Plans are being hatched. People are planting seeds. There is a palpable sense of springtime hope but it’s a bigger than that. People are excited to see what happens next. And a city is a place of serendipity when the weather is good. And I could see some joy in being at old haunts.
We’ve got change on the horizon and some of us are excited to be players in the great game. Which is always a nice feeling. A lot is shifting and changing and we bandy about words like apocalypse and disaster. But maybe we have a hell of a good time finding our way out of this mess. I felt like maybe I could see a sliver of how it might play out while strolling in Manhattan.
I recently decided to boot back up my Instagram account. I’d let it lay dormant for almost five years. A lot has changed since I stopped using it. I’ll withhold judgement on whether it is for the worse or not. Right now it’s mostly just modestly confusing. I feel like a beginner again.
Many of them are relatively sophisticated with templates that help you overlay text, audio, music and advanced video techniques. Being a creator these days requires a fair amount of sophistication so I’m not surprised to find $10 a month editing applications.
I am struggling to find to find the joy in the experience. It feels like like a lot more work to make visual content than written. Now, I grant that it didn’t feel easy writing at first either. Twitter was stop and go for me for years.
But Instagram is a more natural place for some of my interests like cosmetics and shopping. I want to give it a fair shake. And maybe I’ll find joy in the space with some time. But becoming fluent in the language of Instagram’s visual literacy makes me feel stupid. But I guess that’s what it feels like to be a beginner again.
I really missed the cold and snow while I was in Prague. You might be confused. Isn’t Prague known for its cold winters? Well maybe not this winter. As it turns out, the unseasonably warm winter in Eastern Europe is good for the energy crisis on the continent, but bad for someone who prefers the cold.
Thankfully we’ve got a massive snowstorm bearing down on the Gallatin Valley that has a polar vortex of arctic air coming along as a chaser. We are expected to get a foot of fresh powder over the next 24 hours and then extreme cold (another -30 with the wind chill situation) will hit us on Sunday into Monday. Looking out on our back porch we have some accumulation but it has been melting earlier.
I also did a massive grocery run yesterday as in addition to the storm we have a houseguest coming up. The receipt was so long I had to take a picture of it surrounded by a partial haul as it’s practically CVS length. Our guest is gluten free so I did some stocking up on options for him, along with a bunch of snacks because why not?