Weekend Reads #26

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Last month Lizz Schumer from the New York Times gave me a call and we chatted about capsule wardrobes and business casual dress in the workplace (see below). At the end of our chat, she asked me what courtesy title I would like as the Times still uses prefixes (Mrs, Ms, Miss, Mr). A man isn't asked this question.  Whether he is 16 or 96, married or single or widowed, he is Mr. I know the default is Ms. as it's considered the neutral equivalent of Mr. But I took my husband's name, and the only way I am in a place where the Times could be calling me at home is because of what he and I have built together so I said Mrs. Woah, I never thought that would be such an issue! So many people reached out to me about that decision. My feeling is that as a feminist I have the right to choose how to be portrayed by society, which means it's just as feminist to call myself a Mrs as a Ms. I'd prefer to not use any of these titles at all and be known as people not by our gender, age, and marital status. But if they must be used, I say use the one that feels right to you, there is no wrong answer. Changing topic, this was a very exciting moment in my life and a goal I have had as a blogger. I've been mentioned in a few publications but the Times has been my holy grail. Thank you Lizz for the opportunity!

Sale Updates

We're in the season of sales, so I'll try to keep this section brief and to the point.

Weekend Reads

One of the biggest questions I get and the most popular search term people use to find Wardrobe Oxygen is how to navigate a Business Casual dress code at the workplace. The New York Times asked me and a few other fab women to share our thoughts on the subject.

Why a cashmere sweater can cost $30 or $2,000.

A few weeks ago, I began to notice that many of the Fall 2018 styles had something in common: they looked like things that Fran Drescher would have worn in the nineties CBS sitcom ‘The Nanny.‘”

A very powerful piece about the Sandwich Generation.

Another powerful piece, this time from Jenna Birch at Man Repeller.

Held hostage by healthcare: this piece resonated with me. Healthcare is the reason why I didn't quit my job sooner. When I looked for healthcare through the exchange, everything was ridiculously expensive (we're talking 2K/month just for catastrophic care) so we're on COBRA. But that runs out in May so I need to find a replacement. I'm glad that the ACA even exists, though it's not at all perfect. I know there are many in this country held hostage to toxic jobs or positions below their qualifications purely so they can have healthcare and so many who don't even have that luxury.

Karl introduced me to Parliament. We were in his boat of a station wagon that he painted tie-dye red, yellow, and blue. We were driving down Old 450 toward Annapolis; we were heading to the mall to order his tux for homecoming. The tape in the radio was Parliament, the windows were open, Karl was slamming the outside of the car through the open window to the beat and ever since there's been a place in my heart for George Clinton. So I gotta say, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece about Clinton by Brooke Bobb. The title makes you think it's all about sneakers but no, it's so much more delightful.

Who needs daytime soap operas when you can read about the drama between Mattel and MGA, the parents of Barbie and Bratz.

Have a love/hate relationship with your Instagram feed? You're not the only one; this piece by Sarah from Yes and Yes has some great ideas that may make you feel happier about it.

This Week's Reader Question

“Love your blog and appreciate that you include styles that come in a variety of sizes. I am 5’1”; I’ve been looking for slim comfortable pants that are not skin tight leggings (knit or ponte knit or I’m open to other options) to wear around the house for fall/winter, but still look presentable to run out for errands. I live in the Midwest where it’s cold and snowy which you can relate to. For a few years Talbots had knit pants they called yoga pants which were slim but not leggings and looked great with short Chelsea boots or sneakers. They’ve changed the style of them and they’re not quite as flattering. I’m retired and love my jeans but many times when you’re doing things around the house you want something a little more comfortable and not as restricting as jeans, if that makes sense.”

I think this is something many women would love to have.  So often it's either leggings or wide-leg knit pants.  However, a nice straight leg pant is something that is easiest to wear, and easiest to transition to street wear (and even workwear depending on your office culture). Below is a gallery of pants I found that I felt may do the job; while all the options are petite, click on the images as most come in other lengths and sizes.


For Your Entertainment

Karl and I were watching an old episode of Jools Holland and Mirel Wagner was on it. Her voice was so hauntingly beautiful I had to share it with you. Not a fan of the video, if you'd prefer you can listen to her on Spotify.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. We just got our bill for health coverage and the premium went down a little bit.
    Maryland took some measures to stabilize premiums this year so maybe you’ll find better options.
    The “can I afford to purchase health care” decision is one factor that goes into deciding whether being self-employed is a viable option.

  2. Ah, healthcare. My husband has had an unspecified RA variant for over a decade–the medication prescribed was originally $1200 a month back in the mid 2000s. It’s risen to almost twice that in 2018. When we had our child back in 2015, he’d just been laid off, and I’d completed a run in Washington state’s proud tradition of “consulting”–work 18 months, and then take a required six month break from the company you consulted for. This rule was put in place so tech companies can get around making permanent employees of the temp workers they hire for years at a time. Our ACA premiums were expensive, but because of the “pre-exisiting condition” call out, we were able to GET coverage. Pre-ACA, we would have been uninsurable.

    Recently the RA variant issue has vanished–we are greatly. But we are forever vigilant about healthcare.

  3. I remember back in the early 1970s when Ms. was so new not everyone even knew how to pronounce it. My 50ish male boss asked me, “Does Ms. mean they are single, married or divorced?” My 20 year old self told him, “It means they don’t think their marital status is any of your business.” He walked away still confused.

    I’m surprised that anything other than Ms. still survives, but to each their own.

  4. From a reader who emailed her comment:

    Re: the question from the retired woman who asked about everyday jeans

    I have 6 pairs of these pants from Marks and Spencer. Someone even called them dress pants when I had them on one day. They don’t have elastic tops or ties but they sit nicely at my waist and are comfy enough for airplanes. I’m 5 feet tall. They aren’t petite but when hemmed they hang properly.


  5. Aww, you’re quite welcome! And let me thank YOU for this great blog and community you have created. I stop by here everyday for a pick me up and inspiration.

  6. But I didn’t come after your husband, I just asked what title he would use. And his title doesn’t reflect his marital status because men received respect because they were adults irrespective of marital status, unlike women. And the issue wasn’t really with married women, they were the top of the pyramid, it was the lack of respect given to unmarried women, who could be 50 years old and still referred to as Miss. I read the NYTimes article and the Mrs didn’t really register with me, but I was definitely annoyed with the argument in in this post, both for not recognizing the historical lack of symmetry (tons of wives have done a lot to contribute to their husbands’ successes but we wouldn’t change the husband’s title to reflect that, I think what we would generally want is some sort of acknowledgement of their contribution with a byline or co authorship or whatever. And the stuff reflective of choice feminism, which thank goodness has grown stale since it’s heydays in the 90s. I think one of the fundamental aspects of feminism to think hard about the gendered array of choices offered and the weights assigned to them, rather than just applauding that a woman chose something.

    1. You’re right. And I want to thank you for persisting, coming back, not letting it go. It would have been easy to be annoyed with my response and just go away, but you came back and you showed me how I was wrong. I really appreciate it, and I hope others have also read your comments. It’s Sunday morning and my brain isn’t at 100% so this isn’t the best reply but honestly, thank you.

  7. So Karl’s efforts don’t get reflected in his title because he’s a man. Feminists fought for the Ms designation so that women wouldn’t be publicly defined by their marital status either. Mrs is on its way out, along with Miss, and it’ll be awesome when it happens. You can have better and worse choices, just because you chose something doesn’t mean that it can’t be criticized. Your explanation on this post “I chose it so it must be great” is weaksauce. It sounds like Charlotte in Sex in the City yelling “I choose my choice!”

    1. It totally can be criticized and honestly, if I had a chance to do it over I’d likely pick Ms. I do feel in 2018 it’s great we have options, something we wouldn’t have if it weren’t for trailblazing feminists before me. I put myself out in the public, therefore I open myself to criticism and never expect everyone to agree with me. But you came questioning my husband in the previous comment which is what got me riled up.

    1. He says he’s my photographer. When people ask what he does for a living he says he supports my business. He was the stay at home parent so I could kill it at my job, he does the laundry, he makes this family run. No need to go there. If there was a title for married man he’d use it.

  8. Congratulations on The NY Times article! Interesting, when I read Mrs. (versus Ms.) it evoked something Father Knows Best for me. (This from a 57 year old Mrs.!) But I applaud your reason

    1. I agree. Mrs. sounds unprofessional to me and is unrelated to taking someone’s last name. But a woman who is in the NY Times definitely gets to define herself on her own terms so you go, Alison! Nice job.

  9. I find it refreshing that you call yourself Mrs. You honor both your marriage and your husband (so over the use of the word partner). Loved the NYT commentary you contributed to – I find you have the most practical and realistic approach to capsule wardrobing for a “corporate” position. Machine washable is essential in my field (hospital medicine) and the pieces you offer and style meet that necessity but are still sharp and professional looking. Very much enjoy your blog.

    1. “So sick of the word partner.” I use
      the word partner to avoid outing myself in situations which might be unsafe. Your comment comes from a place of privledge and ignorance. Language is important.

  10. On the subject of comfy pants; I agree that Lands End has some great options for the shorter woman. I have the yoga pant, the starfish staight (a cotton option) and the active 5 pocket. The latter is my favorite because pockets! I don’t need any more pants, skirts or dresses without pockets in my life. Be aware I found the petite size of all these pants have a longer than average rise on me.

  11. With regard to the reader question, check out the ponte pants from Uniqlo. They are awesome! They are comfortable like sweatpants but look great with heels for work. Plus they are only $20! I was skeptical at first because I didn’t think they would look professional but I went into the store and tried them on and I am a total convert. I have them in black and navy and am considering buying the grey.

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