Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekly Best Dressed Award- Gwen Stefani

Whether you like her style or not, Gwen Stefani is definitely a woman who has a unique personal style. She sets the trends, never following them. She definitely never dresses like anyone else, and you have to admire that, even if she sometimes chooses outfits that fall into the category of "kooky". Over the years, her style has evolved as she's grown older, but now that she's a mother and a successful businesswoman, she hasn't lost an ounce of rock star presence.


I'm not sure exactly where this picture was taken, but I think Gwen looks absolutely amazing. Her teased hair pulled back into a chignon is chic but still edgy, and her makeup is perfect. Her signature makeup style- bright red lips, flawless skin, well-defined brows and killer lashes, is perfect for special occasions, but Gwen is just so fabulous that she can pull it off anytime. If you want to recreate her makeup look, check out my previous reviews of Stila Lip Rouge and Lancome's Juicy Tubes Lipgloss. Keep the rest of your makeup minimal (except for some thickening/lengthening mascara, or if you really want to dress up, a pair of fake eyelashes) and you'll look incredible. Just remember though, you've got to wear this look with confidence, so if you don't have it, fake it!

On to her outfit... I wish I had a full-length picture of her, but I thought that her coat and accessories were so cool that it wasn't even necessary to know what's going on from the waist down. I think it's pretty obvious, but this coat is amazing. The black leopard print looks young and fresh (as so many animal prints fail to do) and the stark black/white contrast goes well with her dramatic hair and makeup.The 3/4 sleeves are very trendy this season, and dress up the coat. The semi-popped collar and v-neck draw attention to her face, and the leather belt gives her curves and shows off her waist.

Despite its dramatic print, this coat is actually very wearable. The key is to pair it with solids and not let other aspects of the outfit compete with the coat for attention.

Whenever I do a post about a celebrity's outfit, I like to link to inexpensive look-alike pieces. In this case, I spent a very long time searching for similar coats, but was only able to find two... at outrageous prices. The first is a to-die-for leopard print coat from Blumarine with feminine details like puff sleeves and 3/4 length sleeves...all for the reasonable price of $1,275. The second is from J. Crew and is almost twice as expensive, though in my opinion it lacks the charm and originality of the Blumarine coat.

This look also works very well with solid colored coats, though you do lose some of the drama of the crazy print. This Tulle coat is very affordable (<$100) and comes in a bright blue, with extra-large buttons and pockets. A classic double breasted coat in bright red, like this one would look modern and trendy with an extra-wide black belt and funky accessories. Also, this reasonably priced J.Crew coat comes in deep green and aubergine, with a universally flattering silhouette.

Finally, Gwen smartly keeps her accessories to a minimum, with stud earrings, a funky cuff bracelet and a gold chain necklace. But with a more basic solid coat, accessories are key for individualizing the outfit, just don't let your accessories and makeup/hair compete.

Be sure to check back next week for the best dressed celeb of the week! If you have any nominations, send a picture to fakinggoodbreeding@gmail.com and I'll post my favorite of the bunch.

Edit: I have been able to track down Gwen's coat, you can find it for $385 at Nordstrom.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Party Fashion Guide: Part 3- Accessories

Today's post is the final installment in my Holiday Party Fashion Guide, perfect for any holiday and New Years parties coming up. Now that you've got a gorgeous outfit, you're going to need some cute accessories to match. Here are a few guidelines for making the most of any outfit:

Shoes:

Black, always a good choice. Some people might think that black is a basic, unimaginative color, but it really doesn't need to be basic at all. You might want to look into these black shoes, many of which have very interesting details. Wedges are huge this season, and this black wedge is hot with a peep toe and gold and faux snake skin detailing, all for $25. This sexy strappy sandal would work for any season (just don't forget the hose, or your feet will freeze). Finally, here are two peep toe pumps, one in satin (very holiday appropriate) and one with a beautiful scalloped edge and pleated detail.

Have fun with metallics and sparkly details. Like most good things, metallics and sparkles are best in moderation, so don't overload on gold or silver accessories. One or two pieces will dress up your outfit, anymore and you'll look like a disco ball. Try to stick to one color, as gold and silver can clash, and don't forget to check that your jewelry matches your accessories. Another great thing about these styles is how well they dress up jeans or black pants, so don't just wear them on special occasions. These grecian-inspired gold sandals would look incredible with dark or jewel tones, while these gunmetal sparkle flats are perfect for dressing up tights and a mini. For a more formal outfit, these gold and rhinestone slides are a great option, and at 2 inches, you'll be able to mingle all night without foot pain. These sandals come in gold and pewter and have a rhinestone buckle.

Try festive colors. Is there a better time of year to wear red shoes? Have fun with red shoes in different shades and materials, but only wear one red piece at a time. You want to look festive, not elfin. These red silk sandals have beading and an ankle strap for support, while this red polka dot pair has a sweet 50's vibe. For a more elegant look, try these satin peep toes with a pretty bow. And if you want to go trendier, check out these suede closed-toe wedges with a scallop edge.

Bags:

Give smaller purses a try. As much as you might love an oversized, roomy bag for day, a special occasion calls for a daintier purse. Clutches are great because they're sophisticated and versatile (get one in black and you can wear it anytime you go out) and most have the option of a chain strap if you've got a drink in your hands. This pleated satin clutch is a classic, and comes in eight colors, while the quilted version comes in five. If you love lace, you should check out this clutch with a lace overlay, while this silk organza purse has a cool pouch shape. This beaded bag has an art deco vibe and would dress up any outfit. This black silk clutch has an elegant bow, while the black version has crystal detailing at the top. This metal mesh purse in gold or black is definitely less formal, so it'll look great for a more laid back party. And finally, this knit bag resembles the latest Marc Jacobs and Chanel bags, with a bubble pattern and chunky gold chain.


Don't forget to cover up! A light cashmere or pashmina wrap will keep your shoulders and arms warm (and don't be afraid to try brighter colors). A cardigan with pretty details, like ruffles, beading or sequins, is also a good option. Just avoid anything that's bulky or will hide too much of your outfit.

It's easy to forget about accessories when you have a dress you love, but a few interesting pieces can perfect any outfit. Don't be afraid to have fun with colors, materials and details that you might not normally wear; it's the holidays, and there's no better time to dress things up.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trader Joe's: Not Just for Two Buck Chuck and Luna Bars

This may be a little too much information, but in the past I've always avoided shaving when it wasn't absolutely necessary. Sure, it's tough to avoid in the summer, when I'm wearing shorts and skirts most of the time, but this time of year I need a really hot date to motivate me to dig up the razor. Okay, this is a slight exaggeration, but I certainly hate shaving. The time and concentration required to get a perfect shave, the potential for nicks, the post-shave dry skin... who wants to deal with all the hassle?

In the last couple of weeks though, I've changed my tune. I was shopping at Trader Joe's a few weeks back when I passed their beauty products and soaps in my search for my favorite cereal. Now, I'm a big believer in organic, free-range, hormone-free, preservative-free, locally grown, all-natural, blah blah blah foods, but I'm wary of any of those terms applied to my beauty products. I don't doubt that a lot of natural ingredients are effective, but I'm paying for all the R&D cosmetics companies pour into turning the latest and greatest technology into products that show significant results. Better living through chemicals, my friends.

But I digress... while I was browsing the many bottles of hand soap, I came across a large, bright orange tube of shaving cream. The fun packaging and promise of honey mango scent (I'm sucker for exotic fruity scents) made me pick it up, and when I saw the price ($2.99!) I decided to take it home and test it out.


As if it wasn't already obvious, I should mention that I've never given much thought to my shaving cream. I buy the Aveeno Shave Gel, because I have sensitive skin and hate the scent of all the Skintimate products, but I'm pretty ambivalent about it. But a couple days later when I was getting ready for a special dinner with my boyfriend, I decided to try it.

I'm used to using gel and foam formulas, but the Trader Joe's Shave is a cream, which you squeeze out of a plastic flip top, which makes for convenient application. It's thick and creamy (duh) and smells FANTASTIC, a mix of mango and coconut that reminds me of my favorite mango sorbet. Yum.

It goes on fairly translucent, so it's not as easy to see where you've shaved, but this is my only complaint about the product. My razor seemed to glide on easier, and though it may be in my head, it certainly felt like a closer shave. But when I got out of the shower, my legs felt amazing, super soft and moisturized, not raw and sensitive as they often are after I shave. They also smelled like mango/coconut (though this didn't last long). I also still had to apply lotion, but with my dry skin, I really have no choice.

I'm not going to go as far as to say that I *like* shaving now, but I have to say that I actually kind of look forward to it. I really hope that Trader Joe's comes out with more products with this scent, because I'm kind of addicted (I sniffed the tube about 5 times while writing this post, all in the name of accurate reporting).

If you're looking to upgrade your shaving product and have a Trader Joe's in your area, you should definitely check out their Moisturizing Cream Shave. It's good enough that I plan on giving some tubes to friends for Christmas gifts. Oh, and it's for men and women, so if you know a guy who could use a smoother shave, you could offer to share your tube... then again, for $2.99, it might be better to just buy him his own. You'll want to keep your tube to yourself.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Look Back at 2006: Celeb Fashion, Beauty, and Etiquette

As the year comes to a close, I've grown a bit nostalgic for all the things that have happened in 2006, from my own personal successes and failures to the events that rocked the world (TomKat wedding, anyone?). In today's post, I'd like to look back on a few of the best and worst trends, people and events within the three categories I most discuss here on Faking Good Breeding: fashion, beauty and etiquette. And the awards go to...


Best Fashion Trend of 2006
: Pregnancy is the new black. Move over starving starlets! This year's best dressed group was without a doubt the many pregnant A-listers who made maternity sexy. From Heidi Klum to Gwen Stefani, Marcia Cross to Maggie Gyllenhaal, these women embraced their bulging bellies and expanding cleavage instead of hiding under muumuus, and ended up rocking the red carpet and many best-dressed lists.


Worst Fashion Trend of 2006: Failure to Wear Underwear. It's tough being a starlet. Just ask Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. First, people expect you to like, show up to work on time. Then they get all up in your face when you're caught with a teensy weensy bit of cocaine and forget to eat for 3 months. Next, they want you to sit around the house all day with your two obnoxious babies, when everyone knows a 25 year old hottie should be hitting the clubs every night! There are seriously like 10 gazillion things to worry about, so how can one person be expected to remember to wear panties EVERY SINGLE DAY. Jesus, people, can you try to be a bit more understanding?


Best Beauty Trend of 2006: Pale is the new tan. 2005 was all about the orange glow, where stars such as Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham and Lindsay Lohan inspired the introduction of the term "tanorexic" into the English language. Luckily, like so many other disgusting trends, tanning has gone out of style, as stars recognized that oompa loompa skin was NOT hot and regular women woke up to the dangers of fake baking. Paris and Lindsay have since reformed their tanorexic ways (looking all the better for it) and breakout stars like Anne Hathaway and Bryce Dallas Howard are embracing the look that made Nicole Kidman and Marcia Cross famous. As a pasty girl myself, my fingers are crossed that this trend doesn't go out of style.


Worst Beauty Trend of 2006: Caked-On Makeup. Without a doubt, old Hollywood glamour is back, as stars of all styles are going for dramatic red lips, perfectly arched eyebrows, never-ending lashes and killer cheekbones. Yet for every star that rocked this look, 12 more forgot about the hollywood glamour part and just looked old, with caked-on, ugly makeup. Leading the pack is Christina Aguilera, who like a fine impressionist painting, looks uglier the closer you get, when you begin to notice her inch-thick foundation, clumpy fake eyelashes and painted-on brows. It may have been the release of pictures of Eva Longoria without makeup that led her to go way too far in the other direction, with matronly makeup last seen on the likes of Joan Crawford.


Best Etiquette Trend of 2006: Gay? No big deal. It's not like homosexuality just became acceptable in 2006, but the "outing" of celebs (with no major career ramifications) and the discussion of gay identity on popular television shows suggests that we've come a long way from Ellen Degeneres's infamous Time cover. Doogie Howser (I mean, Neil Patrick Harris) proudly announced to People that he is "a very content gay man", while Grey's Anatomy cutie T.R. Knight stated that "I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me." Former 'N Syncer Lance Bass is often photographed at red carpet events with his partner, Reichen Lehmkuhl. On America's Next Top Model, the announcement by contestant Michelle Babin that she was bisexual wasn't even given the reality tv drama treatment, and on Project Runway, gay and straight designers openly joked about their sexuality. While this certainly doesn't suggest that homophobia is no longer an issue, it's great to know that the media isn't treating homosexuality as such a big deal anymore.


Worst Etiquette Trend of 2006: The racist/anti-semitic tirade. As Michael Richards and Mel Gibson learned, few things can ruin your career and devastate your image more effectively than a long, alcohol and drug-fueled racist or anti-semitic rant (caught on tape, of course). Second only to Borat, these two guys did more than anyone to prove that bigotry is still alive and well in America, but also how socially unacceptable such views are.


Best Dressed Celebrity of 2006: Angelina Jolie. For a woman who once bragged about having sex in the limo on the way to the Oscars (with Billy Bob Thornton, no less), Angelina has definitely cleaned up her act in the past few years. Now in her role as super-mom, one-woman humanitarian machine and half of the hottest Hollywood power couple, Angelina has solidified a personal style that is classy and sophisticated, without losing an ounce of her sexiness. Whether she's running errands in jeans and a t-shirt or walking the red carpet, Angelina always looks fabulous.


Worst Dressed Celebrity of 2006: Britney Spears. Does this come as a shock to anyone? I catalogued her downfall in an earlier post, and I ended on an optimistic note, hoping that all the negative publicity would drive Britney into the arms of a gifted stylist, who could help her rebuild her image. Alas, things have only gone downhill in the few weeks since I wrote the post, and while I didn't know it was possible, Britney has managed to outdo herself with this Frederick's of Hollywood-esque lace number. All I have to say is, "thank god she remembered panties in this one."

So friends, there you have it, my picks for the best and worst in fashion, beauty and etiquette for the year 2006. So much has happened, and I think I can safely speak for all bloggers when I say that I hope that 2007 will have as much drama, excitement and flat-out ugliness as 2006 did. Then again, are celebrities ever boring?

Thanks to ProBlogger for the original idea of doing a trends/year in review post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide: Charitable Gifts

2006 has been quite a year for philanthropy. Earlier this year, Warren Buffett announced his plan to donate over $30 billion of his fortune in shares of Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, breaking the record for the largest charitable donation in history. This summer, the Live 8 benefit concerts successfully pressured G8 leaders to double their planned levels of aid to Africa from $25 to $50 billion by the year 2010. And I'm sure you've seen the celebrity-fueled commercials for (Product) Red, in which consumers are encouraged to buy special products from top brands that donate a proceed of the profits to a charity founded by Bono to raise money to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Also, yesterday's New York Times Magazine featured a cover story by ethicist Peter Singer which made the case for increasing charitable donations by individuals.

The question of how much one is obligated to donate (in both time and money) is debatable, but I think that everyone can agree that we have a duty to give back and help society in some way. And during the holidays, a time of such crass consumerism, it's especially important to step back and be grateful for what you have, and consider whether your values match up with your actions. One way to address this is by donating to organizations that address issues that matter to you.


In addition to donating time and money directly, giving charitable donations in another person's name is a fantastic gift option. So often, people give and receive gifts they don't really want or need. Gift-giving becomes a chore, and people end up with a lot of stuff they don't even know what to do with. But by making a donation to a charity that you and the recipient support, you can be sure that people will be grateful. You'll both feel good about helping others and they'll admire you for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Your best bet is finding out what organizations the other person already supports, and contacting the group about making a donation in your friend's name. Another option is deciding among your family or friends that you'll make charitable donations instead of exchanging gifts this year. And if someone asks you what you want for the holidays, responding with a request for a donation to your favorite charity is sure to please the gift giver.

One thing to remember is to be sensitive about asking others to donate to organizations that may come in conflict with their own religious or political views. If it's someone you know well, you probably already know where they stand on various issues, so this shouldn't be a problem. But you may offend a pro-life acquaintance by making a donation to Planned Parenthood, or an atheist with a gift to the National Christian Foundation.

Another issue that comes up when you're making a donation in another person's name is how much to give. With most gifts, the person only has a vague idea of how much you spent on them. With a donation, they'll know the exact amount. I think you shouldn't feel compelled to spend any more than you would have on a traditional gift. Of course, knowing that your money is going to help others might motivate you to spend more, but this is certainly not expected of you.

Before you give, be sure to do research on the organization you're interested in. One of the best sites for this is Charity Navigator, which independently evaluates thousands of charities in order to "advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace." If you don't have any idea where you'd like your money to go, check out this reference guide to the highest and lowest rated charities, organized by type. You might be surprised at how certain charities spend their donations.

Based on my own experience, making charitable donations in other people's names is one of the most thoughtful and appreciated gifts you can give someone. Whether you're motivated by an ethical duty to give back or simply want to impress a friend with your generosity and selflessness, giving and requesting charitable gifts is a great idea for the holidays.

Also, as an additional bonus, your own charitable gifts are deductible if you itemize their tax deductions. The tax savings will vary depending on your income, but can be a sizable benefit in many cases. Here is an excellent article about the tax rules for charitable giving.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

J.Crew, What's Your Deal?

I've always had a strange relationship with J.Crew. Except for the hit-you-over-the-head-with-preppiness stuff, I like their clothes. I flip through the magazines and wish I was as effortlessly put together as their models, who all look like the pretty girl you can't hate because she's actually sweet and funny (ugh).


See what I mean?

But I've had 2 serious issues with J.Crew. First, their clothes never fit me. I'm convinced that all their fit models are 5'4", with no hips, short legs and big breasts. Sadly, this is not my body type. When J.Crew was all the rage from 6th-9th grade (at least in my school), I vehemently denied this fact and continued buying their clothes anyway, too-short pants and too-baggy shirts. They were cute, but not flattering in the least.

My second issue with J.Crew is that their prices were always set a little higher than what I was willing to pay for a given piece, but not so high that I'd never consider it. If I saw a shirt and decided it was worth $30, it was $42, sandals that should have been $12 were $20. It was like they were reading my mind, and were playing a sick joke called "Will Meg Cave?" This drove me nuts.

I hadn't spent much time at J.Crew in the last few years, but during a trip to the mall a couple of weeks ago, I saw a few cute things in their window and decided to check out what they've been up to. I really liked what they had- so many pretty clothes and fun accessories; I was impressed.

Then I looked down and started noticing price tags. Wool mini skirt for $98, fleece hoodie, $68, jeans for $115? Was I in the right store? These were basics! Back in the day (like 2000) I remember their prices usually ranging between $30-$80, with coats, suiting and boots in the $100-$200 range. Now they're selling cashmere coats for $2000, silk dresses for $300 and shearling totes for $595.

It's obvious that J.Crew has decided to go far more upscale than their somewhat mid-priced competitors like Banana Republic. They're trying to appeal to an older customer with so many luxury materials and fewer entry-level pieces (like the canvas totes, bikinis and flip flops my friends and I coveted in the 8th grade). I have no idea how successful this has been for the company, so I can't comment on whether it's a smart business move, but as a consumer, I have to say that I'm a little annoyed. There are a lot of women who want reliably well-designed, high quality clothes for reasonable prices, something between the Forever 21 or the Gap and a luxury brand like BCBG or Anthropologie. There are way too few stores that fall in this middle ground (and are available nation-wide).

I'd love to hear what you guys think about J.Crew's rising prices. Are you buying their new high-end stuff, going to other stores to pick up basics, or sticking with J.Crew, higher prices and all? I find it hard to stay away, so I think I'm going to hit up their sale racks or outlet stores if I need the J.Crew fix.