Saturday, March 31, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Fashionista has the inside look on Target's latest designer collaboration, Libertine for Target. While these outfits aren't really my style, the clothes look cheap (which they are, but isn't the point of hiring famous designers to make them look expensive?) and the style (like the Proenza line) is too teenagey, and I have a hard time imagining a grown woman wearing most of these clothes.

A few weeks ago, Steve & Barry's released photos of their upcoming Sarah Jessica Parker-designed collection to a number of fashion blogs. The photos received a ton of negative reviews by readers and bloggers alike, and the company responded by threatening to sue bloggers who didn't remove the images from their sites. There are rumors that they're going to redesign the collection and release it later this year. Blogs: 1, Crappy Retailers: 0. Read the full story (minus pictures, unfortunately) here.

The Stylehive blog always features cool finds, but this week I'm pining for this ultra-cute Parisian Wallpaper travel bag that retails for only $24. It makes a great gift, not that I have a birthday coming up in 11 days or anything...

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my annoyance with Calvin Klein's marketing campaign for their new fragrance, CK IN2U. A lot of people brought up the valid point that a fragrance should be judged on it's scent and not it's marketing alone, so here's a great review from Now Smell This, my favorite fragrance site. In other IN2U news, Calvin Klein will be introducing the scent into the virtual world of Second Life later this year, making it the first cyber scent. This is possibly the absolute dumbest marketing ploy ever.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Finds: Summer Cardigans

Last week I received an e-mail from a reader looking for summer cardigans:

dear meg,
this is a bit off-topic, but could you possibly run a piece on summer cardigans? they are surprisingly difficult to find, and as a college student (and a geographically isolated one, at that) i don't have a ton of time to spend shopping. just simple, flattering, black cardigans -- everything these days is a tunic, but i find that those are impossible to pull off with any amount of body fat.
thanks!

I have to agree with the anonymous commenter, it seems that retailers are tunic crazy and have pushed the homely cardigan to the back racks. But that doesn't mean they don't exist, and after a fair amount of searching, I've found a few great, reasonably priced cardigans that should work well for you this summer and even year-round if you layer.

Anthropologie "Darcy" cropped sweater, $88

Susina Cap Sleeve Pointelle Cardigan, from Nordstrom, $48

Frenchi Half Sleeve Cardigan, from Nordstrom, $32

BP Three Quarter Sleeve Cardigan, from Nordstrom, $38

Halogen Cap Sleeve Wrap Cardigan, from Nordstrom, $58

Charlotte Tarantola "Sally" Cardigan, from Nordstrom, $94

Gap Solid Cropped Cardigan, $39.50

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Contest Entry #7: Natalie

I just wanted to remind everyone that you have exactly one week left to e-mail me your daily beauty routine if you'd like to be entered in the contest for our fabulous prize, a $40 gift certificate to every beauty addict's crackhouse: Sephora!

One thing I've noticed about about a lot of entries is just how attached curly haired women are to their hair products. As someone who's gone both ways (my hair is naturally pin straight but I permed it for a few years in high school), I know just how hard it is to find products that keep curls frizz-free, moisturized and well-defined. And then you have a whole new set of products for straightening days, and before you know it you've got a whole drawer filled with just hair products.

Natalie, whose entry is featured today, seems to have found a good system for keeping her curls looking their best, but I'm curious to hear some of your favorite products for curly hair. Share your rec's in the comments!

Natalie, age 22

Okay, here's the rundown:

Skin: Normal to oily, prone to the occasional blemish, pores that I'd like to try and minimize. Can get quite tan in the summer but also corpse-pale in the winter.

Face: I first rinse my face with lukewarm water, then do a gentle scrub with Aveda Tourmaline Charged Exfoliating Cleanser - it's creamy with larger grained "jojoba" exfoliators, so it's not too harsh for daily use, which I like. Depending on the day, I might dab on some Clean & Clear to dry blemishes. I've varied on my face lotion for awhile - I always like to try new products, but my old favorite is Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle daily moisturizer. It's super light, which is great for the summer, and it really does leave your skin smooth. Lately, I've been trying Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Daily Regenerating Lotion, which is a bit denser and heavier. So I'll apply either of those, and then I'll apply my makeup over them. Probably about once a week, I apply Queen Helene Mint Julep mask, which I LOVE because it helps with my never-ending battle against blackheads on my nose, and exfoliate my lips with Smashbox Lip Exfoliator. I also do a more intense exfoliation with L'Oreal's Microdermabrasion kit.

Body: For body wash, I LOVE method creamy body wash in Lavender Thyme. Smells amazing, doesn't strip my skin of moisture. Before bed or after a long day, I like to use Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy Body Wash in Sleep Lavender (okay, okay, so I like lavender a lot). When I'm sick, it's Johnson's Soothing Vapor Baby Bath. I use it like a body wash, even though I guess it's really not. The combination of the steam from the shower and the vapors really helps with congestion and relaxation. Immediately after showering, when my skin is still a bit damp, I apply Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream or Nivea Soft.

Makeup: I could probably write a dissertation on the variations of my makeup application, but I'll try my darndest to stick to the basics. For work, I usually stick to (in order of application):

Dior DiorShow mascara, two coats - the definitive "I'm wearing fake eyelashes but not really" mascara

NARS Orgasm or NARS Desire blush - I think both of these shades are pretty flattering on everyone...don't be scared by the color of Desire, a shocking pink.

Benefit Boi-ing concealer in 1 or 2, depending on level of paleness - the stuff is so creamy, and it doesn't crease (unless you spackle it on)

Benefit Benetint Lip Balm or NARS Orgasm gloss

Hair: Curly, tendency to frizz, dark brown and uncolored, tendency get a little dandruffy

Because my hair is curly, I always brush it BEFORE I get into the shower or comb it while I'm in the shower - I can't disturb the way my curls dry naturally, or my 'do would go to hell in a handbasket. I like to wash it with Biolage moisturizing shampoo and conditioner - this seems to be really moisturizing, and I really like the smell. Not gonna lie, that salon scent is probably why I like it better than other shampoos - I have yet to discover any shampoo that is life-changing; I find that it's all about the products I apply afterwards for me.

If I'm going to wear it straight, I'll towel dry, and then distribute Aveda Hang Straight through it, then blow-dry in sections and flat-iron. I don't think that Hang Straight necessarily makes my hair super straight - I think that's mostly the heat from the blow-dryer and flat-iron - but I think it protects my hair really well, and since I have curly hair, that's a big concern.

If I'm going to wear it curly, I let it air-dry for a bit, then apply John Frieda Frizz-Ease Silicone Gel and let dry. This product works better for me than anything else I've tried, and doesn't leave that gross crunchiness. Used to use Pantene Pro-V gel, but I think it has a high alcohol content and is drying.

Random products I love:

Cetaphil moisturizing cream (the kind that comes in the big tub) for body moisturizing

Nars Monoi Body Glow II (sans all the JLo/Beyonce-style body shimmer, which I just find impractical for my daily life). It smells amazing and doubles as moisturizer in the summer.

C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Shine and C.O. Bigelow Mentha Lip Tints in 1138

Ile de Tahiti Inu Body Lotion in Tiare Flower

Essie nail polish in LimoScene

AquaTanica Spa Sea Mineral Body Wash....

as you can see, I'm a little too product-obsessed. Anyway, hopefully someone will derive something useful out of this!

Mischa's Shoes

I saw this picture on one of my favorite trashy celebrity gossip blogs, Hollywood Rag, and my first thought was, "Well done, Mischa! You've stifled the urge to put on a plaid diaper, hippie maternity wear or accessorize with that trashbag of a man, Cisco Adler. You've succeeded in putting together an outfit that doesn't suggest you're totally insane."

And then I looked down...

"Sweet Jesus, what are those shoes?" And then I got it.



In Mischa's mind, it makes perfect sense...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Uncomfortable Party Situations

I haven't done an etiquette post in forever, but I was put in a difficult situation last weekend and thought I'd share the story. I drove down to Long Island last Friday to attend my boyfriend's grandfather's 90th birthday party (my first and perhaps last 90th birthday party). There aren't really any older people in my family (my grandparents have all passed away and my oldest relative is in his early 60's) and it was a little strange to be in a room where the average age was about 72. Between listening to stories about a woman's cat who is addicted to Animal Planet, answering awkward questions about my relationship with my boyfriend and watching two men argue over whose WWII service was more important, I definitely gained a greater appreciation for people who spend a lot of time with older folks.

After we finished dinner and the birthday boy blew out his candles (luckily there weren't 90), a strange thing occurred. One of the women sitting near us (who looked to be in her 80's) began to sweat and breathe heavily, and appeared to go in and out of consciousness. Andrew's grandmother was trying to comfort her and his mother worked to ascertain the situation, and ended up calling 911. Because everyone was sitting at different tables, and because the woman wasn't screaming or bleeding or passing out, most of the party guests had no idea that anything had happened. The party was ending and people were beginning to get up and leave, but soon the EMT's came in to help her, and by now most of us knew something was wrong.

What happened at that point was interesting because it illustrates a situation that occurs anytime a crisis occurs at an event or public place. About 20% of the remaining guests had no idea that anything had happened and continued what they were doing. 40% of the group acted like nothing was happening but snuck glances at the ill woman and hung around until they could find out how the situation would end. 30% realized what an uncomfortable situation this was for the hosts and left the party, while the remaining 10% scurried around asking questions and spreading rumors about what had happened.

Even though I knew there was nothing I could do to help, I asked anyway, and then asked if it would be best if we left. The hostess said that it would, and we got out of there.

You don't have to be at a party of elderly people for an uncomfortable situation like this to occur. I've gone to enough college parties where someone drank too much and ended up embarrassing his or herself while everyone stood around and watched. Other times, two people will get into a fight (not a fist fight, just a screaming match between a couple, usually fueled by alcohol). It's always an awkward moment- do you stay with the hope that whatever happened will go away and the party will continue or should you leave so that the hostess can deal with the problem?

I think that it's always best to ask the hostess (assuming she isn't the one who got into the fight or is dancing naked on a table) what they'd like you to do, but when in doubt, don't stay around and gawk as the situation deteriorates. The greater number of people who stick around, the more pressure is put on the host or hostess to correct the situation.

And of course, if you or your friend is the one who's sick or has had too much to drink or is getting in a fight, the considerate thing is to alert the hostess (if you can), thank her for the party and explain why you have to leave. I've had to drag friends who've had too much to drink kicking and screaming out of parties, but they've always thanked me the following day for saving them from publicly embarrassing themselves, or doing something they regretted.

But if you decide to stay, it's best to ignore whatever situation is going on and try to keep the gossip and whispering to a minimum, as it only makes things worse.

The woman who fell sick at the party checked out of the hospital that day and ended up being fine, but I learned a good lesson about how people react during an uncomfortable party situation, and hopefully I'll never again be one of the people gawking over or spreading rumors about the event.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Contest Entry #6- Pauline and G

I've gotten a lot of very interesting contest entries these past week, but one that I received today really caught my attention. In this entry, Pauline contrasted her beauty routine with that of her boyfriend's, and while I wouldn't consider Pauline high maintenance in any sense, it's funny just to compare how many more products she uses (and invariably, how much extra time she spends) than her boyfriend. Guys have it so easy...

One strange thing that I notice about a lot of guys' routines is that they use prescription products (for acne or dryness usually) but won't use an actual face wash or moisturizer. My boyfriend gave me a look of confusion when I first mentioned face wash, he thought that everyone just used bar soap all over. I think a lot of men feel like they're stuck with the skin type they're given and have no recourse against breakouts, dryness, irritation, etc. It takes a thoughtful sister, friend or girlfriend to introduce them to wonders such as moisturizer, spot treatments, conditioner, face wash and all of the other basics women take for granted. Knowledge is power, boys!

Pauline, 20 years old

Skin type/color: normal/dry, medium/tan

Hair type/color: Fine, straight normally black hair. Currently, it's some version of auburn

Morning Routine:

Shampoo: Herbal Essence's Hello Hydration or Pantene Smooth & Sleek Conditioner: Hello Hydration Conditioner or Pantene Smooth & Sleek Conditioner
I like a little variety in my routine, and sometimes the very fruity smell of Herbal Essences is too much or just right.
Body Wash: Dove Moisture Wash
Face Wash: Clean & Clear Oil-Free Daily Cleanser
Face Moisturizer: Clean & Clear Oil-Free Dual Action Moisturizer, followed by Kiehl's Cryste Marine Firming (Eye) Cream
Body Moisturizer: Curel Continuous Comfort Moisturizing Lotion (Body, Hands, Feet)
I LOVE Curel, it's really the best and cheapest body moisturizer you could buy. It saves my dry skin, and repairs my dry hands and feet during winter in no time at all.

Makeup:

This routine varies daily. The amount and effort I put in truly depends on my mood and if I have something to do (of course),
Concealer: Physicians Formula Circle Rx™ Circle Control Concealer or Gentle Cover Concealer Stick
My under-eye circles are really noticeable, and I think I might have to splurge on MAC concealer of some sort. This is what happens when you don't sleep! I do like the coverage and feel of Physicians Formula, I just need something with more lasting power. Also, I definitely want something I can wear alone.
Powder: Everyday Minerals Mineral Powder in Medium Tan (Intensive Formula)
I tried using Bare Escentuals mineral makeup, but I just did not like the feel. My face felt grainy and it felt heavy on my face. I use Everyday Minerals because they offered a nice "Sample" kit, and I really like the texture (none!) and the different formulas available.
Eyeliner: I don't usually like using eyeliner, but if I do, I usually just turn any of my eyeshadows into a wet eyeshadow and apply it that way. It really lasts, and I don't get the extreme look of liquid eyeliner.
Eyeshadow: Cargo, Urban Decay, and Stila have become my favorites.
For every day, I like to use Cargo's "Windsor" as a base and "Georgia" as a highlighter. "Georgia" is a really nice light gold that I feel really compliments my skin tone.
Mascara: Tweezerman Eyelash Curler, Maybelline Volume Express Waterproof Mascara
I really like this mascara, even thoughi t's cheap, I feel like it really gets the job done. (I'm a Walgreens-Fanatic!!)
Lipstick: Revlon Smoothest Wine, Avon lipgloss in cranberry (I Think)
Lipbalm: The Body Shop's vitamin E SPF 15 lip balm, on really cold days I slather on Vaseline Lip Therapy

For male contrast, I've asked my boyfriend to let me in on his beauty "secrets" and found there to be none. It's pretty interesting to see the contrast between your boyfriend and mine, and I'm definitely going to work on some things, such as use of conditioner.

G, 19 years old

Skin type/color: Normal with Dry T-Zone, medium/tan

Hair type/color: short, straight, black, occasionally spiked

Morning Routine:
Shampoo: Herbal Essences' "None of your Frizziness", Sister's shampoo, enjoys Mandarin scent
Conditioner: (Does not use conditioner, feels that it's too feminine. I will work on that one...)
Body Wash: Dial Body Wash
Face Wash: Dial Body Wash
Face Moisturizer: Keri Advanced Moisture Therapy

Powder/Blush/Mascara/Lipstick: "no."
Lip balm: Vaseline Lip Therapy

Night Routine: "Brush my teeth, put on my jammies..." That's where it ends.

Makeup Remover: "No."

Prescription products: Hydrocortisol for some extremely dry spots, especially around the neck, daily use

Are Expensive Makeup Brushes Worth It?

A reader named La Sirena posted this comment on my post on L'Oreal's Bare Naturale from a few weeks ago:

"Hi, on the topic of mineral makeup, where should one buy quality brushes that won't break the bank!? I am in need of a kabuki [retractable, long-handled] and a secondary brush to cover up imperfections in the eye area and blemishes.

I have my eye on the "tools" offered by Lumiere... and I guess I could try ebay, but I don't really want to because I don't want to bother with paypal."

As I thought about her question, I glanced over at my makeup bag and took out my brushes. They were all bought at Sephora or Target, none of them for more than $25, and I've had them for years. Despite hearing all the raves for kabuki brushes, I still use a regular powder brush to apply loose mineral foundation. And while I'm a huge klutz at makeup application (and granted, I don't try anything too ambitious to begin with), I've never had a problem with the cheapo brushes I use, so I didn't know where to begin in answering La Sirena's question.

So I thought I'd throw out her question to all of you, and ask a few others of my own. First, is there really a difference between the brushes you could buy at Target or Sephora versus the ones you'll get from a brand like Laura Mercier or Bobbi Brown? Does makeup look better when applied with a natural brush as opposed to one with synthetic hair?

Shu Uemura is known for their wonderful brushes, with some costing upwards of $270 for a brush with mink bristles. I think I could replace my whole makeup collection for close to that, so I can't imagine ever paying that kind of money for one tiny brush. But I've never claimed to be a makeup expert, so I'd love to know what you guys think.

And if you have any brush suggestions for La Sirena, don't forget to mention it in your comments!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lame Tips For Girls

I was browsing through Vanity Fair last week when I came across this article about a "sassy young Brit" who created a website where women can exchange tips on everything from beauty to relationships to home entertaining, parenting, dieting, you name it. Because I am a sucker for anything and anyone described as both British and sassy (it's a wonderful combination) I decided to go and check out the site, Top Tips for Girls.

There is no denying the presence of Britishness, but the tips are definitely lacking in the sassy department. Not to mention the useful, intelligent and creative departments as well. Take this top tip for instance (it was the 14th highest rated tip on the site):

How to prevent inner thighs from rubbing:

If it's a hot day, or you know you have to walk a distance with bare legs, and they chafe - apply a moderate to generous coating of vaseline to the area where your legs touch - works a treat! Top tip - keep one of those tiny vaseline tins in your handbag so you can re-apply while out and about!

Okay, that's just about one of the worst ideas I've ever heard. It's a hot day, you have a long distance to walk, your thighs are chafing and you think VASELINE will help?

I found the fashion tips to be the worst. According to my friends studying abroad, English women are the least fashionable in Europe (Italians are the best dressed, followed by the French). This is 100% subjective, so please don't send me any hate mail, but it may partly explain why these fashion tips are so bad. Here's one on "How to always look put together":

Choose clothes in the right size! There is no quicker way to look utterly frumpy than wearing things 4 sizes too big, or utterly slutty than by wearing things 2 sizes too small. Clothes really do look 100% better when they're fit to your body.
PS - If you're buying something you'll need to reduce to fit into -- DON'T!

This isn't a terrible tip, because one of the most common fashion mistakes is wearing clothing that doesn't fit. But if you're wearing ugly, mismatched clothes that fit, you're certainly not going to always look put together. And her PS about not buying things that need to be tailored is an awful tip. If I've learned nothing from watching hundreds of episodes of "What Not To Wear," it's that everyone needs to get things tailored, because most of us have bodies that don't fit perfectly into all kinds of clothes (especially formal items like suits, blazers, dress pants, etc). But I do love this tipster's warning that if your clothes don't fit perfectly you're going to look either "utterly frumpy" or "utterly slutty."

This tip was one of my all-time favorites for entertainment value. I was very curious when I saw the title of "How to look fabulous," because who doesn't?

Never, never, EVER wear ankle boots with a skirt that is shorter than ankle length.

I am strongly against wearing ankle boots in any capacity, but if you're going to wear them, for the love of god, do NOT wear them with an ankle length skirt. Who wrote this, a librarian stuck in 1992?

Some of the tips were actually pretty useful, like this one for "How to stop yourself from eating at night":

when the telly's rubbish all you feel like doing is eating right? well what i do is give myself a manicure-as you can't eat with wet nails! you'll stay slim and get gorge nails! even if your rubbish at nails it doesn't matter! good luck.

I'm glad to see that Americans are not the only one who fall prey to the "bad tv makes me want to pig out" phenomenon. Unfortunately, it's not very practical to paint your nails every day, and let's be honest, between "American Idol" and "I Love New York," I'd be changing my polish 5 nights a week.

I'm being a little tough on "Top Tips For Girls," because a number of the tips were pretty creative and practical, but overall I was disappointed that I didn't learn more new things. If you want useful tips for all areas of your life, read a magazine like Real Simple or Martha Stewart, where "experts" test them and can give educated advice. Honestly, you can bash Martha all you want, but there's no denying that the woman knows her stuff and gives great tips.

And of course, what is Google for if not searching for the answers to random specific questions? You're far more likely to find an answer you can trust from a website written by an expert than a collection of tips from regular people.

What do you guys think? Any rabid "Top Tips" readers want to defend the site?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Contest Entry #5: Andrew

My family always doubted that there was anyone in the world who owned or knew more about beauty products than me, but telling them about your entries has certainly taught them how wrong they were (and I've certainly learned just how much more there is to know, and how many products I have left to try). One thing we got to talking about was how my love of beauty products changed the habits of my family and friends, many of whom are using and enjoying products in ways they never have before.

For instance, for decades my mom never bought anything other than drugstore makeup and beauty products; she found the idea of spending $60 on an eye cream frivolous and vain, and was far too busy raising my sister and I to worry about how her makeup or hair looked on a daily basis. Since I've gotten older and introduced her to the joys of nicer products, she's totally changed. All it took was one trip to a Bobbi Brown counter to teach her how makeup can be transforming, easy and enjoyable all at once. Now that she takes better care of her skin and uses higher quality makeup (along with colors that flatter her), she looks younger than she did 10 years ago, and it's clear that she feels more confident about her appearance and is able to enjoy pampering herself in a way she never had before.

I wanted to know whether any of you have had similar experiences with people in your lives. Sure, your friends and family might roll their eyes every time they see you break out a beautiful compact or lug a backpack full of products to a weekend vacation (I swear, I don't know anyone who would ever do something like that!), but have you found that your influence has led them to change their behavior, possibly for the better?

My mom is a great example of that, but the person with the biggest shift in opinion on beauty products is my boyfriend. I'm sure a lot of you have similar stories of introducing products into the lives of your boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers and friends and I thought it might be fun to compare the beauty routines of these men.

I asked my boyfriend to write down his daily product routine, which I decided to use for today's post. I'm curious to hear how his routine stacks up to the guys you know (particularly significant others, who are the easiest to influence). Does anyone's significant other use almost as many products as they do? And was this all your influence or did you find him that way?

Andrew, 23 years old

Skin type/color: prone to dryness, pale

Hair type/color: short, wavy brown hair, sometimes prone to dandruff

Morning Routine:
Shampoo: Phyto Phytosylic Shampoo
Conditioner: Dove Moisturizing Conditioner for Dry or Damaged Hair (works great. I used to never use conditioner, but Meg told me that civilized people use conditioner. it definitely helps my hair)
Body Wash: V-Tonic Beauty Bar (also excellent. far better than the generic Dove bar I used to use)
Face Wash: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (does the job well, and doesn't dry my skin a lot like stronger face washes)
Face Moisturizer: Olay Active Hydrating Cream (definitely feels a bit girly, but it works really well. one of the only moisturizers that has worked consistently for me)

Powder/Blush/Mascara/Lipstick: I'm a dude
Lip balm: Blistex Lip Medex (cheap and very effective)

Night Routine: I always make sure to wash my face and apply moisturizer

Makeup Remover: see above re: makeup

Prescription products: I have duac and retin-A, along with hydrocortisone for extreme dryness, but I almost never use them now that I consistently wash my face and moisturize.

Comments: This routine works really well for me. It's a little annoying to have to do twice a day, but it keeps me feeling clean, keeps my skin reasonably smooth, and honestly isn't too bad. The Phytosylic Shampoo is a bit expensive, but it lasts a while at least, and it is the only one I've found that works really well. All in all, I really like my current routine.