Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

The Fug Girls hilariously recap Larry King's interview with Paris Hilton. Via New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer.

Kristen at Beauty Addict reviews Famous Dave's Moisture Tan, a little known brand of self-tanner with a cult following.

Jezebel
has a first look at the new Erin Fetherston for Target Collection. I think it's hideous.

Winona at Daddy Likey has advice for avoiding the dreaded "tree trunk legs" look this summer.

And finally, I just came across this video of Kate Moss walking in the Fall 06 Alexander McQueen show in 3-D hologram form. I'm sure a lot of people saw it when it first came out, but I think it's one of the best and most moving examples of fashion as fantasy and a compelling argument for the why fashion is an art.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Liz Claiborne: 1929-2007

When I first heard about Liz Claiborne's death yesterday, my first thought was, "Liz Claiborne was alive until now?" That may sound terrible, but while I'm familiar with her brand and company (one of the most respected in a here-today-gone-tomorrow industry), I knew very little about the woman behind the name.

But reading the moving obituaries that have come out these past few days (this one by Eric Wilson of the New York Times, is one of the best), I'm frustrated with myself that it took her death for me to learn what a tremendous influence she had on fashion, and on the way that women work.

As young women accustomed to the concept of women working and expecting (if not always receiving) equal opportunity and treatment on the job, I think we often forget just how difficult it was for the women who had to figure out how to "make it work" as a female professional, with no model or mentor to follow. The simple fact that for years, the only appropriate office outfit was little more than a men's blue suit jacket with a shapeless skirt tacked on, over a blouse that featured a "women's tie." How demeaning it must have felt for these women to have nothing to wear but an ugly copy of a man's uniform, with no consideration for practicality, flattering a woman's body or making her feel strong, beautiful and worthy of respect.


And once designers began to reinterpret the women's suit into something more style-conscious and woman-friendly, the result was unavailable to most women due to high designer prices. Liz Claiborne came along and changed all of that, making affordable, stylish and feminine professional clothes for women who wanted to be viewed as equal to their male counterparts, without sacrificing their own personality and individuality. She also leveraged the versatility of mixing and matching separates, to maximize each piece's wearability, saving the consumer money and closet space.

Women were also drawn to the brand because Liz herself lived the lifestyle her clothes represented. Compared to the qualities we associate with most popular brands today, her mission of creating clothes for women who "weren't perfect," who wanted to express their creativity in addition to exuding confidence and professionalism, and to dramatically alter the stereotypes of working women as dowdy, unfeminine and unattractive, is very inspiring. She understood the needs of her customers because she had the same needs herself, as head of her company. Liz Claiborne, Inc. was the first company founded by a woman to join the Fortune 500 list and in 2005, annual sales revenues exceeded $4.85 billion.

People often refer to fashion as frivolous and unimportant, but I think Liz Claiborne's story is the perfect reminder of just how life-changing fashion can be. Every day when I get dressed for work and every time I'm shopping for a new skirt, blouse or suit, I'm in a position to think twice about the incredible number of options I have. The freedom I have to choose how I want to present myself to the world is one that should never be taken for granted.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Just Shoot Me

Fully aware of the high competition among college students for summer internships (particularly paid internships at great companies in desirable cities), I cast a wide net and applied to over 40 different programs. I scoured college career center internship postings and cold called companies, sending a resume and cover letter to every company that met my broad qualifications (based in New York City, in any field remotely connected to my interests). Even after hundreds of hours invested in perfecting my resume, personalizing each cover letter, writing additional essays, doing research on industries and positions, e-mailing alums for advice and getting to know the employees at my school's career resource center on a very personal level, I only got 3 callbacks.

Shockingly, one of them was for a program that I assumed was way out of my league, but that I felt was worth trying for anyway. CosmoGirl magazine sponsors an internship program every summer called Project 2024, where they choose 8 different female college students to work in 8 different industries (you apply to the industry of your choice), while the magazine pays for your housing, transportation and food expenses. I was chosen for the internship in advertising, and was given a spot in the internship class of a major agency, but there are also positions in politics, finance, law, environment advocacy, music, international relations and sports, all at prestigious companies or non-profit agencies.

Basically, I hit the jackpot for summer internships, as I get paid to intern at my dream job while CosmoGirl foots the bill for all my living expenses. If you're a college student attending school in the U.S., I highly recommend checking out the program, cause you never know if you might be qualified (the application is here).

Now one thing they didn't tell us when we applied and even when we were accepted for the program was that they would feature us (the other 7 program winners and myself) in the magazine. A couple of weeks ago I got a schedule that included a date for a magazine photo shoot. The editor explained that they would take a picture of all of us, list our names, schools and internships, and quote us on our experience, and it'll be featured in the December issue of the magazine.

Instantly, I had an image in my head of my mother ordering the issue in bulk and mailing them to every person she and I had ever met. I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my mom has printed off every single blog post I've ever written and organized them, by date and topic, in huge binders that sit in our living room. She's that kind of mom, and I love her for it, but this made me a bit anxious about looking good in this photo that will likely haunt me for the rest of my life.

The big question on the lips of all 8 of us was whether the magazine would be doing our hair and makeup, but we were all too chicken to ask. Instead, we pored over past issues that featured pictures of the Project 2024 interns, and from the look of it, the magazine didn't offer anything in the way of hair, makeup or photoshopping. Sure we're "real girls," but a little extra help would be nice, especially since our picture will probably run across the page from a Victoria's Secret ad, or something of the like.

So here's where you guys come in: considering that I'm on a fairly tight budget, what should I do to make sure I look my best for this photo shoot? There are over 140,000 CosmoGirl subscribers, and my mom will likely mail the issue to an additional 80,000 and I can expect to see the page framed and hanging in a hallway of our house for the rest of my life. I don't want to come off as vain, but a lot of people are going to see this and I don't want to be "that girl" with the crazy hair and bad makeup.

I was planning on getting my hair blowdryed at a cheapo hair salon, and then going to a department store or Sephora to get my makeup done. Does anyone in New York have recommendations for a good but inexpensive bloutout and a counter or makeup artist that will do a great job at a reasonable (ie, the cost of a few products) price? I'll also get an inexpensive mani/pedi, but that's about the extent of my pre-shoot grooming plans.

You guys have given me so many fantastic tips in the past and any suggestions or advice you might have would be greatly appreciated by myself and my seven equally nervous friends!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What Does Affordable Mean in Fashion?

While The New York Times, particularly the Style section, isn't known for its populist approach, a recent Critical Shopper column was particularly generous in defining what's affordable when it comes to clothes shopping. The reporter, Zarah Crawford, visited the Diane Von Furstenberg and repeatedly referred to DVF's signature wrap dress as "affordable" and "not high priced." Beginning at $325 and priced as high as $385, I was surprised that Crawford considered those to be reasonable prices for what even she admitted was a printed piece of silk with "less than perfect finishing."

I'll be the first to admit that the wrap dress is a classic; it's versatile, flattering and is unlikely to go out of style. But we're talking about a piece of clothing that has been knocked off so many times that you can buy a virtually indistinguishable copy (albeit, in a slightly less luxurious, but more forgiving material) for less than $100. I know, because I have four of these dresses myself.
So often I'm reading a magazine or blog and the word "affordable" is used to a piece of clothing or an accessory in the $250-$500 price range when similar items are available for much less. Affordable is one of those annoying words that don't have a real meaning, because it's different for everyone; what I view as affordable may vary greatly from what might be affordable to you in your financial situation. And if affordable only refers to something you can afford to buy, it doesn't mean that you should buy it (you might have more important things to spend your money on) or that it's a good value. Even this Carolina Herrera gown can be considered affordable if I move in with my parents and subsist on Ramen noodles for the next 3 months.

I think that most of us keep a mental list of what we're willing to pay for various items (what we consider affordable), based on our priorities and how much we've budgeted for clothes. Browsing through my closet, I realized that in the last year, I haven't spent more than $140 or so on a single item. I thought about my own price limits and how much I'm willing to spend on my clothes: $125 for dresses, $100 for jeans, $90 for shoes ($30 for sandals), $60 for nice tops and sweaters, $60 for skirts, $50 for bras, $50 on purses, $25 for "going out" tops and t-shirts, $10 for underwear. Granted, these numbers often shift depending on what I'm into at the time, but if I decide to spend more on one item, I usually have to spend less on another.

I thought it would be interesting to open up a discussion about spending limits and affordability, and I've got a couple of questions for you guys. What articles of clothing or accessories do you spend the most and least money on and why? And at what price point do you stop considering something "affordable?"

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and getting some different perspectives on the topic!

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Bra Epiphany

I'd been in denial for over a year and it was time to face the music. I needed new bras, and I needed them in a smaller size. An A Cup to be exact.

In the last two years I lost about 20 lbs when I decided to switch to healthier eating and exercise habits, and while it was great to lose the weight I'd gained since I stopped playing sports full time in high school, I was annoyed to notice that my chest was shrinking along with the rest of my body.

To understand why I was so distraught about trading down a cup size, you should know that I come from a family of full-busted women. My mother, grandmother and aunts all were well into D cups by the time they were my age, but unfortunately the boob gene skipped a generation and my sister and I were left with only half an hourglass. So I've always felt that I was unfairly given average/small breasts and spent my post-puberty years attempting to compensate with push-up and gel bras.

But last weekend, as I looked down and saw my bra cups flapping and straps falling off, I decided I needed to accept my boob shrinkage and get sized for a few new bras. Since I'm still fairly new to New York, I decided to do some research online to find a lingerie store known for great service and a huge selection of sizes, styles and prices. Time and again people recommended The Town Shop an Upper West Side lingerie emporium that has been around since 1888.

I hiked up to 81st and Broadway and entered the store, which, with it's crowded racks filled with basic, unsexy undergarments, hosiery and sleepwear, barely resembled the sexed-up Victoria's Secret most of us are used to. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, the store was buzzing with women of all ages, shapes and sizes (though I'm pretty certain I was the youngest in the room). I put my name down with a friendly saleswoman, and when a dressing room opened up, was escorted to the "NO MEN ALLOWED" area in the back of the store. The saleswoman assisting me closed the door behind us and asked what I was looking for.


I told her about my incredible shrinking breasts and asked for something, anything that would make my chest look fuller and more proportionate to the rest of my body. She asked me to take off my shirt, and then after tugging at my bra in various places, gave me a look of pity and asked, "how long have you worn a 36B?" "Since the 7th grade," I replied. She looked down and shook her head. "I'll be back in a minute, I think you'll like what I've got for you."

She returned a couple minutes later with 8 bras in her hand.

"You might not believe me, but you're a 32C."

"How the hell did that happen?" I asked.

"Like most women, your band was too loose and your cup was too small. You also weren't putting on your bra correctly and your breasts weren't in the right place in the cups."

She had me bend over, put the bra on over my shoulders, "vigorously shake the breasts" (her words, not mine) and then hook the back. Then she had me stand up, lift each of my boobs so they were properly situated in the bra, and adjust the straps. I just want to apologize to those who know me personally and may be disturbed by having that image of me in their head. I had to admit that the bra and my breasts looked and felt better than ever, and even without padding or gel inserts, they had a lovely shape and size. I ended up choosing two bras, a Wacoal iBra and a LeMystere Gigi bra. They were more expensive than any bra I'd previously owned, but for the incredible service I received and my new knowledge about proper fit and sizing and the quality and perfect fit of the bras themselves, I thought the prices were justified.

As I walked home, I couldn't help but check out the chests of the women around me (I swear, I wasn't trying to be creepy at all) and it was obvious that most of them were wearing bras that were either too tight or lacking support, and they didn't fit in their clothes properly. I thought about what it would do for them (not to mention my friends and family) if they were properly fitted for bras.

I've become somewhat of a bra evangelist as of late, randomly asking women I know whether they've gotten fitted before. Almost everyone I've talked to (especially women my age) have not, and I hope I've convinced at least a few of them to go find a real lingerie store (not a department store or a Victoria's Secret/Frederick's of Hollywood chain place) and ask for a fitting. I'd highly encourage the same thing for all of you, it's amazing how a good bra can make you look and feel so much better.