Monday, June 11, 2007

Faking Good Breeding

As a college student, cocktail parties usually mean boxed wine in red plastic cups, which is, I guess, a slightly classier alternative to your average night of beer pong. But last week I was invited to a real cocktail party, with real adults in a real apartment. My boyfriend Andrew is working as a summer associate at a law firm here in New York, and he was invited (with guest) to a cocktail party at a partner's home, a swanky Upper East Side apartment overlooking Central Park. With our limited experience (alright, let's be honest, NO experience) in situations like this, we were both a little anxious about making a good impression.

I was especially concerned because the party began at 6:30, after my first full day of work. I knew I'd have time to run home to my dorm, throw on a dress and nicer shoes and have a little time to fix my hair and makeup before having to grab a cab. On top of it being my first day (wonderful, but totally overwhelming), it had rained like crazy all morning, so my hair was a mess. When I walked in the door and looked in the mirror, I also noticed how dry my skin looked. Applying moisturizer over my makeup was not very successful, neither was desperately trying to blow dry my hair back to life. I prayed that no one would be close enough to notice either of these things, and ran out the door.

We walked into the apartment, which looked like an Architectural Digest spread come to life, and it was all I could do to not stand and gawk and instead focus on inventing mildly intelligent and interesting questions to ask. A pianist played as waiters circled with trays of elaborate, bite sized hors d'oerves and fancy cocktails. A photographer approached us, and noticing our (probably obvious) looks of awe, asked us to pose "like you own the place."

To keep my confidence up, I just kept repeating "you're an adult, you can do this!" in my head. And amazingly, people did treat me like an adult and someone who belonged there. Most people didn't even know that I was in college, so I didn't get the "college kid" treatment. It was a strange feeling having people think of me that way, and thinking of myself that way, but it was pretty empowering as well.

While I still prefer the type of parties where the dancing is a little dirty and the DJ's playing Justin Timberlake and Prince, I think I could definitely get used to events like this one (not that I'll have many opportunities at this point in my life). I've spent a lot of time on this blog talking about faking good breeding, but for once I actually consciously listened to my own advice and realized it worked.

One final thing: I need some advice from you guys. I'm not used to going to parties/events straight from a 9-5 job, and I was wondering if you had some tips for how to freshen up my look in a short amount of time. I was thinking that instead of wasting time commuting home and then going to a party/event, I should bring some makeup and my outfit to the office, get ready in the bathroom and go straight there. Any suggestions for perking up flat hair and dry skin in pinch?


Dana said...

How fun! I would not bring an entire other outfit, but would do something like: Wear the cute little dress with a shirt/jacket over it and different shoes to work and then swap accessories and remove shirt/jacket. Stash cute clutch in your work tote.

Try to find a cute/fast updo option - or even a nice, smooth pony - you can execute quickly and reliably. I live by light, leave-in conditioner to smooth and re-style (TIGI used to make one called Fast Fix that ROCKED but I cannot find it now, so have switched to - gasp! a pantene one that works for me and has a great scent, too). To smooth fly-aways, hairspray your fine tooth comb and finish your 'do. I can't plan to re-flatten or re-curl, so pulling it back is the best bet for me if I am not starting from scratch...

For make-up, I would be tempted to start over, with a pre-loaded cleanser cloth that takes water to activate. I have sensitive/dry skin and like the olay ones for travel, etc. There are still the small Evian atomizers around, if you want to get a shot of moisture without starting from zero - your other option might be to go lighter on the face in the morning, so you have less material to melt all day and can add more easily.

I think if you do the accessory swap, fast up-do and then spend the time on your face, you'll get the best impact for your time and have the least extra gear to cart around or park somewhere. You don't want to have to bring your luggage to work or to the party, so you want to keep your supplies to a minimum.

Anonymous said...

some tips- you can easily throw your hair up in a more-than-a-pony-tail way. try working at home when you have free time to see how a handfull of bobby pins can really change your look. also if you have access to a hand held blow dryer (maybe even the hand dryer in a bathroom), flip upside down and let the air blow the underside of your hair, this usually creates a good lift. If you bring some sort of styling wax or hair finishing cream, you should be able to pull off some curls just by adding a little product to sections and twisting it yourself.

Cate said...

quickest hair fix, if you're not a putter upper - flip head over, mist with a hairspray, zap with hot hot hot and then cool it off - don't flip your hair back over until it's cool. then gather all of your hair at the crown, comb it and pull it straight up, mist with hairspray and repeat the hot then the cold - don't let it down until its cool. mist your fingers with some leave in conditioner and run it through your hair. instant volume.
for your face, i would actually encourage you to mix your moisturizer and a touch of your foundation and blend all over. it will re-smooth your face, and then you can either leave it and go glowy or add some powder and go matte. a touch of eyeliner and some high-impact lip gloss (i like a bright berry and we have similar clothing) adds polish, and you're ready to rock.
i prefer a basic dress as a quick go to for a fast change. wear a jacket and pumps at work, and just ditch the jacket and switch to sparkly sandals and a clutch for out (no jewelry swap required!). good luck!

Cate said...

okay i can't type this morning. in the first part of my comment im talking about a blowdryer, and we have similar coloring, not clothing. yeesh.

juicefairy said...

The only "cocktail party" I was ever invited to disappointed me because it ended up being the beer funneling drunken frenzy that you were referring to but in nicer clothing. But it sounds like you went to the real thing. Sounds like fun.
Sometimes I will wear a slightly dressier outfit to work but play it down with flats and minmal accessories. Then right before I leave I hit the bathroom and switch shoes & jewlery, and freshen my makeup. I would suggest those biore blotting papers to elimiate oily day skin.

Couture Bowl said...

A rainy work day can be hellish on anybody's hair. I keep a can of Bumble Bumble spray on shampoo at work so I can spritz/freshen up before a work event. It really brings lift/volume to hair and super quick/easy to use.

"Psssst Instant Spray Shampoo" is the same just less expensive.

Anonymous said...

I pack a clutch, dangly earrings, a nice top, and heels with me; it all fits into one bag and isn't too much to carry to work. My hair is too crazy by the end of the day to do much with it, so I put it back in a high ponytail. I have combination skin, so right before I leave, I usually dab a bit of moisturizer where I see dry spots, use blotting paper to get rid of shine, and touch up my blush. A dab of lip gloss and I'm good to go. :)

Rapunzel said...

For a great moisturizer that works over make up, i LOVE CO Bigelow Rose Hydrating Gel Treatment. It soaks right in and doesn't disturb my make up. The best way to freshen up make up in a pinch is to have a cream palate in your purse. I can't live without my Fresh palate in Memoirs of a Geisha. It has a pink cream blush that is so blendable that i can apply it directly to my cheeks, a pearly pale pink cream eyeshadow that wakes up my eyes, and a lipgloss. I don't think they make this palae anymore, but if you stash away a cream blush and an eyeshadow that you can smudge around your eyes with your fingers, you won't have to worry about great lighting, brushes, or broken or spilled powders. Stilla also makes a great eyeliner/eyeshadow duo that's all in one pencil and is super easy and quick to apply.

The easiest way for me to dress up my hair quickly on a bad hair day is to put it up. i create elegant volume up front by making a slight bouffant. I pull the top section back like i would when pining it half back, but i push the section forward to creat a little pouf and pin it with a small clip or bobby pins.the volume at the crown of the head helps soften your face when you have an updo and works favorably if pictures will be taken. Then I put the rest of my hair into a bun or a french twist, again securing with bobby pins.

A cocktail dress is the fastest and easiest way to dress up. If you're at the office pick one in a jersey or some material that doesn't wrinkle so you can just throw it in your bag. Keep your elegant earrings inside your clutch and pop them on before the party. That's really all you need to look chic along with great shoes and a great little bag.

sparkler said...

If I know I'm going out after work, I always carry:

• Mascara
• Lip Gloss
• An eyeshadow pencil
• Powder (the Neutrogena Mineral Sheers powder is great for on-the-go touch-ups)
• Curl Refresher Spray (I have curly hair, so...)
• Perfume

I also have my "to-go" salon: A little jewelry gift box filled with small claw clips, bobby pins, barrettes that match my hair color, a few extra soft elastics and a fabric headband. It's small enough to carry in my purse, and I can fix almost any hair emergency with it.

As for the moisturizer... this is a weird tip, but it works for me. Thayer's Witch Hazel toner (I get mine at the Vitamin Shoppe and use the formula with lavender) does a great job of freshening skin. It adds a touch of moisture, and gets rids of that "gunky" feeling my skin gets after a long day without leaving it dry. A quick swipe of that and a dot of moisturizer if needed should leave you in good shape.

sparkler said...

Here's a link to the Thayer's toners:

Adam Polselli said...

Haha, I love that you totally had to "fake good breeding." Not that you aren't well bred, but... you know what I mean. Sounds like you pulled it off like a pro. Glad you had fun. :)

Melissa Street said...

Hi! I just discovered your blog and thought I would respond to your question. First, I want you to know that I am a professional make-up artist in California and so the advice I am going to give you is strictly for make-up. If you want to freshen your make-up after a long day at the office or take your look from Day to Night then I must recommend that you visit a website called -- this woman is a make-up artist to Hollywood Stars (like myself) only she developed her own cosmetic line and let me tell you -- this is the best line I have ever used. She simplified the world of cosmetics into a very easy "palette" form. All you need to do is pick one -- her clients include Sharon Stone, Brittany Murphy, Kate Beckinsal, Scarlett Johanson and Lindsay Lohan. So, if you love the way those actresses look in films and in magazines then go to her website. Also, she has a ton of vlogs on her website that will show you how to use her product and she has many "trix" of the trade that will help you with all of your make-up woes. Check it out -- you won't be sorry!