The Fashion Magpie Self Advocacy and Caftans

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 103: The One on Self-Advocacy.

My Latest Snag: Le Maternity Swimsuit.

I am currently in sunny FL, making heavy use of my go-to SZ Blockprint caftan collection (and several of the other pieces mentioned here), which — UM CAN WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THEIR NEW COLLECTION?! I have this in my basket right now and am also loving this (shown above) and am wondering how many SZ Blockprint caftans will transform into a weirdo. Like, I can’t only wear caftans in the summer, can I? I guess everyone has a uniform? Ugh, they are the best. I had thought I might be able to squeeze by with non-maternity swim, but I am 26 weeks pregnant with my second child, which is basically the equivalent of 40 weeks pregnant with a first child. (Seriously, I can’t get over how much more quickly I showed this time around and how much bigger I am at an earlier stage!) I narrowed down the maternity swim options to either this, this (in the blue gingham), this, or this, the latter of which a reader recommended but which was sold out in my size when I went to order it (now fully restocked!) I ended up with the hot pink Target number. I went for inexpensive but fun because this is probably the only time I will wear a swimsuit this pregnancy. If you’ll be making greater use of a swimsuit while expecting, I also love this!

You’re Sooooo Popular: Snakeskin Boots.

The most popular items on le blog this week:

+These epic snakeskin boots. I am so envious of the chic peas who snagged these!

+A pretty, gauzey LWD.

+The chic-est shoulder bag in town. (Read more about the lovely founder of this label here!)

+A stunning maxi for a summer wedding or beach affair.

+Still dying over this skirt.

+A great everyday coat. Would wear with white jeans for a fresh spin.

+People lose their minds over these pens.

+A new favorite add-on for a gift for a new baby.

+Stylish color-edge lucite frames.

+A sweet corduroy jumper for a mini.

#Turbothot: On Self-Advocating.

Around Christmas, my father sent a check in my daughter’s name as a gift. Though we have a brokerage account set up in her name that we regularly invest in, at the time, we did not have a traditional checking account set up for her at our everyday bank. I came in with her birth certificate, social security card, and my ID, and asked whether I could deposit the money into our own account for the time being, thinking that we would re-route the money into her brokerage account or open a savings account for her as her guardians and deposit it in there, but knew I’d need Mr. Magpie present for the transaction. The teller called over a manager and I explained the situation, presenting my various forms of identification.

“Well, you really should set up an account for her,” replied the teller, looking down at me. He drew in an impatient breath and exhaled slowly, sizing me up. I felt as though I was a teenager that had been nabbed for pocketing bubblegum or something. I swallowed, and then I said:

“Thank you, but I’m asking a question with a yes or no answer. Can I deposit this or not?”

Maybe I was over-prickly in the interaction, but I have to tell you something: living in New York, I often find my shoulders hunched and my elbows out, against my own will. At yoga class a few weeks ago, the instructor told the entire room: “Relax your tongue from the roof of your mouth.” A band of laughter erupted across the room as we collectively realized that we had all been sitting there with our tongues glued to the roofs of our mouths (was yours just now, too?!), in a kind of perennial state of friction. A few days later, a friend of mine who had moved to New York from Italy said: “Some days I realize I am literally sprinting down the street on the way to work. And I have to stop and say, ‘Why am I running?’ And then I realize it’s the only way to keep pace.” New York is a daunting, fast-moving city with plenty of weirdos and aggressive salespeople and angry foot traffic, and you’ve got to stay on your toes and look out for yourself or you will be trampled in one way or another. In this particular occasion, I felt I’d been pushed all day long (physically and otherwise) and simply did not want to stand there and let a random person shame me into submission over something that was completely above board. I did not want his opinion on our financial decision-making. I simply wanted to know if it was possible to deposit the check or not. If it wasn’t — fine. I’d open an account at our next convenience.

As it turned out, the manager reluctantly permitted me to deposit the check. When I got home, I called Mr. Magpie, a bit flustered from the entire interaction. His response?

“Jen — good for you. You advocated for yourself. You are a paying customer at that bank and you don’t need a straight-forward inquiry to be returned with self-righteousness.”

I share this because self-advocating is not a strength of mine and I would venture to guess that many other women struggle with it, too. It’s been hard-earned over the years, and not without heartburn and ample coaching — mainly, if I am giving credit where it is due, from the strong men in my life. The bank account incident was a trivial matter but it proved that I have come a long, long way from the more timid version of myself at 22, who would have sheepishly shrugged and left, face burning with frustration and shame. And yet I still have miles to go.

The interaction reminded me of a rule I set for myself when I was in the traditional workforce: never accept the first offer you receive when it comes to salary. This was insanely difficult for me at the outset of my career, but once I made it a hard-and-fast rule, I found it easier to abide by. It wasn’t “should I ask for more?” but “I owe it to myself to ask for more. I must.” My typical formula was: “I am so grateful for and flattered by the offer, but I would be doing myself a disservice by not asking whether you can increase the compensation package.” I’d often accompany the request with research on the “market rate” for the position (sometimes difficult to come by) or by my earnings in a previous role. I was stunned to find that more often than not, the HR team would circle back with a higher offer.

At any rate, some food for thought when it comes to advocating for yourself in matters big and small.

Do you have any tips on self-advocacy?

#Shopaholic: Le Camo Leggings.

+I am so in love with these leggings that I think I’ve got to order them now for post-baby Jen. So chic!

+I’ve never given mini play-doh before and I bought her this fun little Minnie set for our trip to FL. (More of the travel surprises I packed for her here.) Do any other parents get freakishly excited about introducing these classic toys to their children!? I’m probably going to flip out more than she will. Ha!

+I am so drawn to these cord boots. I have no idea why! They aren’t even my style! But I LOVE.

+These are on-trend and comfy for a vacation wardrobe.

+One of my readers (heyooo MK) mentioned that Amazon is a great source for finding discounted Loeffler Randall. Um, these are as low as $55 in select sizes and could be worn errrryday of the summer, and who doesn’t love a gussied-up espadrille?!

+Mini has nearly outgrown her current raincoat. I love this pink one with its navy striped interior but stopped in my tracks when I saw this cute (and super affordable?!) one on Amazon. I love those little striped grosgrain loop details and the contrasting-colored trim. The red or yellow are timeless — and I should really be thinking about gender-neutral colors with micro on the way! (Gap also has a good rain coat on offer.)

+Speaking of inclement weather, I am thinking of adding an umbrella to mini’s birthday gift pile. Dying over this and this. Toddler gear is so adorable!

+Love this shirt from Sezane’s new collection!

15 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for the follow-up to my comment! I definitely need to practice all of the above. The physical act of taking up space is so foreign to me, not just because I’m about 5-foot-nothing, but I (or we as women?) carry these gendered expectations about being “proper”, sitting a certain way, etc. Lots to undo there!

    I so appreciate how you engage with your readers and create community here… it’s why I keep coming back!

    1. This is too weird, Mia – I was just thinking of you and this comment I left on my walk with Tilly a few minutes ago. I was wondering whether I came off as preach-y in it. What I should have said is that those were things I learned that *helped* but I still to this day struggle to assert myself more often than not. And so I’m right there in the trenches with you! You are SO right that there is a lot to “un-do” in these lessons. Stretching out feels unladylike and I worried whether people would be like, “What the hell is she doing? She’s never done this before. Why is she sprawled out?” If they did notice, they didn’t bat an eye…!

      Thank YOU for reading along and sharing your own hesitations/anxieties/hang-ups/triumphs/etc. I am 100% confident hundreds of other women have read your comment and nodded right along!

      xoxo

    2. I didn’t think you were being preachy at all! I love learning from others’ experiences — though we are all on different paths, there’s so much we can share with one another. Thank you for the post-post script! 😉

    1. Hi Cara! I would say that they run fairly large/roomy. I noticed that the ones I ordered from the J Crew collaboration ran a *little* bit smaller, but they’re still designed to be voluminous. The one I ordered from the SZ Blockprints site ran even more dramatically voluminous. I wore both of mine comfortably with a 6.5 month bump in FL! xo

  2. I struggle with advocating for myself, too, both in the professional and sometimes, in the personal realm. I’ve lately become more protective of my free time and making decisions about how I want to spend it. On a personal level there have been times in which I had to say no to a social obligation (with a healthy dose of guilt initially), and later remind myself that by saying no to one thing, I’m able to say yes to another thing that is more important to me. On a professional level though, it is much harder. I have been told by others close to me that I undermine my skills, and I love the phrasing you used: “I would be doing a disservice to myself…” I’m going to keep that in my back pocket! On a related note, I have just started the book “Playing Big” by Tara Mohr … I’m not usually into self-help books but so much of what she writes about speaks to me, and she does talk about self-advocacy and not being afraid to “take up space” in your world.

    In response to MK’s comment about Amazon above — oh my goodness, I have those same thoughts about my reliance on Amazon and its impact on local businesses too. I would say we have maximized our Prime membership probably tenfold and then some, ha! Especially after being a mom — the convenience and pricing has been unparalleled particularly when my baby was in a phase in which she absolutely HATED her car seat and going anywhere was miserable for me. Shopping Whole Foods via Prime Now was a godsend! But now I am trying my very best to visit our local bookstore and kids’ bookstore, at least… but so often, convenience wins. What’s a tired mama to do?

    1. Mia, I so feel you on this — I, too, utilize Amazon Prime all.the.time. and even occasionally order books from Amazon, which makes me feel guilty as I both (a) work in the publishing industry and (b) have a surfeit of wonderful independent bookstores in my area. I try to support the indies as much as I can, but I’m human and slip sometimes! Anyway, I think being cognizant of the downsides of Amazon is important, even as we remain customers … it’s a complicated issue!

    2. Hi Mia! I totally hear you — it can be really hard to change perspectives on this and to begin to feel as though you aren’t being brash/rude/annoying by sticking out your elbows a bit. I’m not exactly sure of the scenarios you have found yourself in, but three professional “tricks” that helped me A LOT on this front were:

      a. Actually physically taking up space. This is something an aunt encouraged me to do after a long conversation on this topic. She said she’d noticed that men literally sprawl out in shared spaces/conferences rooms — spread out, have their hands behind their heads, have a knee across their lap, lean back in chairs. It’s subconscious but it signals ease and assertiveness. “I belong here. I take up space here.” Next time you are in a meeting, try it — try stretching out a little bit. Even try putting your hands behind your head, interlacing your fingers. I know it sounds wacky but I think you’ll be surprised by how different you feel. I believe this is all part of a philosophy around “power poses,” which you can google…

      b. If stating something as a declarative (“I will not do that”) is too uncomfortable, try it as a question. This has been my go-to move for.ev.er. It isn’t as assertive but sometimes it’s just the only way I can get myself to speak up. I’ll say, “Would you mind if I tackle this tomorrow?” or “I’m wondering whether you think it would be better to have Sandra look at this?” or “Can I suggest we put this off until after the meeting?” Whatever it is — somehow phrasing it as a question feels more polite and collaborative, but few people know how to say “no.”

      c. Rehearse a couple of phrases at home until you’re comfortable saying them IRL. I used to do this ALL THE TIME. I’d literally stare at myself in the mirror and practice asking for a raise or a promotion or even an extension on a deadline. On the flipside, I unfortunately had to fire several employees (literally the worst thing you ever have to do — awful), and I was nerve-wracked and gutted. I’d rehearse my words in the car ride, to my husband, in the mirror, etc, until they felt like they were a part of me and I could get them out without stumbling…I still do the same thing if I have to have an awkward conversation with someone!!

      These were probably not entirely what you were talking about but you led me down a path…

      xoxo

  3. It’s sometimes so hard to be your own advocate – I’ve struggles with it at times too. What’s helped me though is figure out what my desired outcome is and how upset/annoyed will I be if I don’t achieve it versus what it will “cost” to achieve said outcome. Sometimes it’s too much deliberating (depending on the situation), but it’s often served me well. As an aside – I’ve never encountered such problems when trying to deposit the baby’s checks into my account!! I’ve even been able to do it through mobile banking apps, which I surprised me. Just had to write her name on the back, print and sign my name, followed by “parent”, and add my account number. I’m actually having a much harder time finding a high yield savings account that will let me open an account in my daughter’s name. It seems to be nearly impossible – the only workaround seems to be to open one in my name and name her as a beneficiary. So, I’m looking for other options that will let me deposit random sums of money, let her take out money without (too many) restrictions when she gets older, and will maximize returns. (We have investments for her too, of course, but are just looking for somewhere to keep “fun money”, if that makes sense.)

    Hope you are having fun in FLA! I rarely think to look on Amazon for clothes – will have to start!

    1. So interesting on your experience with depositing checking accounts! So it WAS just a pushy old man?! HA! Glad I stuck up for myself even more now. I like your calculus on this front more generally, though: will the benefits outweigh the mild cost of discomfort?! I just put this logic to work when asking for a resolution to a customer service issue I’d encountered. I could have let it go but I put my foot down. JENNIFER, WE GOT THIS!

      xoxo

  4. Warning on LR on Amazon, they’re generally not the same quality as the ones you’d find at a department store or the like – price reflects quality (esp for the leather boots) unfortunately and I have no clue why! Unless the seller is actually LR and it has good ratings I’d say buyer beware. And I say this as an employee!

    1. Lew, this is so interesting — thanks for the warning!! I’ve only ever purchased LR sandals on Amazon, oddly — and have found the quality to be what I’d expect from LR (I just checked my most recent purchase and it’s now back up to $395, full price, whereas I got them for $80 a month ago…hmm…) — BUT, this is excellent advice and I’ll think twice before purchasing any leather boots. It’s a good idea to investigate any deal that seems too good to be true — thanks for the reminder!

    2. Thanks for the heads up! A reminder that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is…

  5. Ahh, there is so much to comment on here! First: hope you are having the best time in FL. I am so on board with a closet of caftans for summer and that one in the top image is now on my spring/summer wishlist!

    Second: Mr. Magpie was spot-on in his response to your situation at the bank. It’s true that so many of us — me 100% included — need reminders to advocate for ourselves in all aspects of daily life! It’s something I routinely discuss with my therapist, and I’m glad you’re putting it out here as well. I also love that you tied in salary negotiations here, as I know it’s been a stumbling block for me in the past. I recently changed jobs and stuck to my guns re: my desired salary, and my new company came around after a bit of back-and-forth with an offer that felt comfortable to me. I’m so very glad I did that — sometimes it’s easy to underestimate our worth to employers! (I don’t find that the men in my life struggle with this as much … so interesting to think about this.)

    Finally, the tip about Loeffler Randall — yay! I never really care about seasonality in footwear (unless it’s a super trendy piece, and typically I shy away from those unless they’re under $200 or so — as much as I love those snakeskin/white Ganni boots!!), so finding good deals on Amazon is always a plus in my book. Except for when I’m considering the impact of Amazon on small businesses … ugh. Hard to square my usual stance on this issue with my utter reliance on the convenience of Amazon! Maybe fodder for a future turbothot? 🙂 xo

    1. I love this! Will need to give it some thought because if I am being honest, at this lifestage, I prize the convenience and cost savings of Prime over most else given my current living situation and the fact that I am looking after a little one (almost two!). Thanks for the nudge!

      And thanks also on the self-advocacy points. So glad you stood up for yourself. I’ve been consistently astounded by the favorable outcomes I’ve had when standing up for myself! xo

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