Ask the Editor: Vol. IV, No. Nine

Jun 14, 2023

In this week’s Ask the Editor, the mailbag gets real.  Real personal.  Real authentic.  Real advice.  Everyone had direct questions and wanted direct answers.

Hi Abra,

Several of the influencers I follow are suddenly promoting Wal-Mart like they’re Waltons. Are they really wearing these clothes?  How did this start?  What is going on?

Do you have answers? Heather

Dearest, Heather…yes, I do have the answers you’re looking for.

In 2021, one of the primary affiliate linking networks started offering Wal-Mart as an affiliate option.  This was great for some of my rural influencer pals who live in places where the big box retailer is the only shop in town.  But shortly after Wal-Mart entered the chat the retailer started offering big sponsorships and bonus deals to influencers who would not be the normal customer.  Some of you may remember this debacle.

As a result of these partnerships, many women who would have only looked sideways at the building’s concrete facade on the way to Whole Foods started hitting up the online shop.  Ads beget sales, sales beget new partner deals, and new partner deals beget a changing aesthetic for the chain.  Suddenly, Wal-Mart’s clothes were actually cute, women with closets of Chanel bags and Hermes sandals said so!  (But seriously, some of the pieces are cute.)

In an influencing industry built entirely on fast fashion, the clothes sold at Wal-Mart are really no different than the clothes from Target, H&M, or Amazon.  Plus, most of the Wal-Mart pieces are inclusively sized.  And when you are from a town where Wal-Mart is the only shopping option (ask Kelly Clarkson and Helen Mirren about the glories of the Butte Wal-Mart), it’s nice to see that the clothes are getting a style boost from all this sponsored influencer content.

So am I shopping at Wal-Mart?  Yeah, sometimes.  And yes, those influencers are too.  The question is how much are they wearing the pieces.  Is it just for the photos or is it with some regularity?  There’s no way to know.

As for the pieces that I’m wearing, I bought this bag after seeing it on an influencer and thinking it was a cool summer bag for dinner dates and brunches.  But mostly, I buy workout clothes there.  I really love this wireless, high impact bra.

Abra,

I saw your Tweet about the funding for your position falling through. What are you doing for work right now?  I also work in a state legislature and every session the bill that pays for our committee staff is the last thing done and this is basically my nightmare.

Alysia

Yes, I am retired from politics.  Sort of.  My boss found a little money to pay me on contract to close out some projects, and in a few weeks, that will be done. I have a line on a few jobs (one solid offer if I don’t find something by September), but it’s weird.  I had a plan for my professional future and when the bill died, the plan died with it.

Belle:

I need a unicorn — a shoe for work that I can walk in that doesn’t make me look like my grandma.  Heel, flat, all are fine.  No Naturalizer, Born, Allbirds or Rothy’s, please.  Do these even exist?

Sorry if this isn’t enough guidance. Best wishes, Estella

No Naturalizer? What about a Naturalizer diffusion line made for women who aren’t yet grandma age but need arch support because we’re not 25?  I lived in these shoes in April.  You should have seen me sprinting through the Capitol in those block heels.  I loved them so much, I bought these for summer wedding season.  27 Edit is where it’s at.  They look cute and they don’t hurt.

As for winter shoes, I own these Blondo waterproof boots in leather, and I can run in them without pain or loss of balance.  I wore them with black pants a lot, probably too much.

Abra:

I recently stopped birth control and went back to having monthly periods. I haven’t had one since I was 24, I’m 37.  I forgot  how much this SUCKS.  This may be an overly personal question, but if you get periods, what underwear and tampons are you using?  I feel like my choices ballooned fifty times over while I was on flow hiatus.

Love the blog and hope you’re well. SHP

Yes, I get a monthly period.  And yes, they’re not great.  But I’ve never been good about taking pills and IUDs scare the s**t out of me, so I’ve stayed away from hormonal birth control.  So let’s chat about how I cope.

Since having Sloane, I haven’t had a single period cramp.  I think my uterus put up her out of office after I nearly died.  So I have no cramp advice to give, only empathy.

As for keeping things mess free, I switched to organic cotton tampons years ago and I am never going back.  My experience is anecdotal, but even before my daughter was born, I’d noticed my cramps seemed less intense when using the cotton ones.  I love the Cora brand most, but will buy the Honey Pot ones if Target is sold out of my brand.

Also, I need to tell you about the glories of period underwear. I was initially VERY SKEPTICAL that these absorbent underwear would 1) work and 2) not gross me out so bad I’d need therapy for my trauma.  But I goddamn love them.  They saved my life during IVF.

My favorite brand is Proof; I love the bikini with the scalloped edge which almost never VPL.  I also own these thinner Saalt briefs, which are very comfortable to wear and hold a lot of liquid.  And if you’re looking for a more affordable option, these Bali briefs are it (they also absorb light leaks).

Hi Abra,

I was flipping through your Amazon shop and saw a $26 lip balm.  Are you really using a designer lip balm?

Come on, it’s lip balm. 

My husband bought the Laura Mercier Hydrating Balm for me as a stocking stuffer last Christmas, and it’s my “going out” lip balm.  Basically, I don’t want to stick my finger into a pot of Medex when I’m in public, and this one fits more easily in my small purses.  It also works phenomenally well.

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  1. Hannah says:

    I switched last fall to a menstrual disc, and I love it! I liked the videos from Period Nirvana on Youtube, as well as their site. I started with a Hello disc, but sized down (personal/body preference) to the Saalt disc. I have friends that love their cups, too.

    Highly recommend a reusable product–no leaks, and you can leave it in for 12 hours without emptying 🙂

    • Aam says:

      Agreed on a reusable product. At least for relaxed days. Can always go the tampon route when you have a busier day out of the house.

    • Amy says:

      Also came here to say this. The reusable disc made me skeptical but once I got used to taking it out (the key is to RELAX and *ahem* push like a #2 – don’t panic) they’re life changing and save so much money. Can also confirm testing it during *activities* and it works!

  2. Aam says:

    Hah, loving the Walmart discussion. My SIL and I were talking about this a lot over the last couple years when target’s styling was trash. Suddenly we saw fairly cute dresses at Walmart instead. Also, the presence of Walmart where there aren’t other shops is important! But yeah I doubt many of the influencers are actually wearing the stuff when they also have jcrew deals.

  3. Maggie says:

    I will never, ever, ever go back to tampons that are not 100% cotton. No leaks, no cramps, no struggles with insertion pain. I barely even notice my period anymore. It’s the wildest, most enraging thing, and I don’t think I would ever believe the difference if it hadn’t happened to me.

  4. Sara says:

    I’m on the Mirena IUD and don’t get my period anymore, but from ages 24 until I was 27 I used a menstrual cup. It took only a couple days to get used to, and you have to be comfortable with your body, but I can assure you I never had any bad outcomes and that includes in public bathrooms at work, concerts, etc. I highly recommend if folks are curious about them to try it! Farrr more comfortable than tampons imo.

    Also, I switched from gorgeous Freya Rose heels into Naturalizer Bristol pumps after my wedding ceremony and I danced in them ALL NIGHT. and I am a horrible heels-wearer and find them all unbearable after an hour normally. Call me a convert.

    Appreciate you being open about your work, Abra! Wishing you the best.

  5. Beth says:

    My favorite “period panties” for light-flow days are the Knix lace (on the backside only) briefs. They’re super comfy and the high rise ones feel like they hold you in without feeling like shapewear (and a little compression to combat cramps is nice).

    Sorry I didn’t link but my employer blocks most on-line shopping.

  6. Katherine says:

    For work shoes, I love Peter Kaiser mid-heel shoes. Super comfortable and just fine for long walks to meetings.

  7. Jessica Robertson says:

    Thanks for the insight on Wal-Mart, I’d started to see them crop up more, so it’s interesting to know the history. I also heard that Brandon Maxwell is now designing their in-house brands which might also contribute to why the fashion there has taken a step up.

    When I lived on the side of town closer to the Wal-Mart, I absolutely found gems when shopping there. Now Target is just more convenient for me (and hello drive up pick up)!

  8. Anna says:

    Can I just vent that I am crazy annoyed that all of the fancy organic cotton tampons come with plastic applicators? It’s so wasteful, especially considering some of them market themselves as environmentally friendly. I also don’t understand why so few cardboard applicators come with a tapered tip. When I lived abroad, even the cheap drugstore tampons had a tapered applicator.

  9. Erica says:

    For comfortable work heels, I love the Michael Kora Flex pumps. Each season they make different colors, materials (patent, suede, etc), and heel heights. They always have basics. These are the only heels I wear to work. They are so comfy, they hold up well, and they do not look frumpy. Typically they run about $100. Oddly, I have yet to find them at a Michael Kors store, but department stores like Macys or Nordstrom always have them.

  10. Ashley says:

    Chiming in on the work shoes question . . . I love pointed-toe flats. When I was in law school in SF they were my go-to shoe for going out at night where I would also be walking a lot. With the advent of ankle-length suit/trouser pants, I have found them to be perfect for work. Sam Edelman and Lauren by Ralph Lauren make them, and I have another slingback pair by a spicier brand (Dolce Vita?). You can also rock them with dresses.

  11. Rory says:

    The price on that handbag is jaw dropping. I was looking for a similar bag a year ago and couldn’t find one for under $250.

  12. Rachel C says:

    First, I love today’s post. It reminds me of 2012 blogs where the topics were vast and random.

    Second, maybe I’m being stupid, but I don’t fully understand how period underwear work. Do you wear them with tampons to absorb overflow? Only wear the underwear and nothing else? Wear them to work out on light days? And washing? Do you rinse in the sink after taking them off? Please, educate me!

    • Niki says:

      I won’t speak for Abra, but I wear Thinx almost exclusively during my now wonky permimenopause period cycles. I only wear them, no tampons, but my flow has never been HEAVY HEAVY. I put them in my regular dark delicate wash and the only thing I do differently is make sure that they have a sec to dry before I toss them in the hamper to avoid any stain transfer (this usually means giving them some time on the floor of my non-carpeted closet before hamper time). I do not wash them by hand or any other time than normal washer wash!

    • Belle says:

      On days one and two, I wear them as a backup. After that, that’s all I wear. I just toss mine in the wash with detergent on warm-cold.

  13. Nancy says:

    You weren’t kidding about getting real and it makes this a great post. Hard for me to imagine you stepping away from politics after all these years. A friend once congratulated me on having the courage to do the next right thing, a great perspective. All the best to you as you navigate this next phase, and thanks for the solid, engaging content you provide us, it is very much appreciated.

  14. Lauren W says:

    Has anyone tried the bean protocol? I have not personally but the theory is if you eat some beans every day, the soluble fiber helps flush the excess hormones out of your body and acne and period symptoms improve. I’d be curious if anyone had success or if it’s just an excuse to be gassy 🙂 Comfort wise, it’d be better to find beans that agree with your stomach if some do not.

  15. Maria says:

    Uniqlo has really great period undies too and quite affordable and durable at that!

  16. J says:

    Quick recommendation: Paula’s Choice makes a great lip balm! Simple stick, no color, no taste, smooth wearing, it lasts well, and it has SPF.

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