Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

A reader sent me a link to this Wired article on what's inside a bottle of L'Oreal's Sublime Bronze self-tanner. I'm slowly but surely trying to learn what cosmetic chemicals do what, and this provides a full breakdown. Thanks, Stephen (and Stephen's girlfriend)!

Capitol Hill Barbie is loving sheer lipstick for summer.

I'm already a fan of the latest blog in the Manolo empire, Manolo for the Big Girl. It's a fun, interesting read for any woman of any size and I'm glad to see that someone is finally taking fashion for plus-size women seriously.

And finally, The New York Times has an interesting article on blaming mothers (Dina Lohan, Lynn Spears, Kathy Hilton, etc) for their celebrity children's outrageous behavior.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reader Question: Underwear Recommendations?

On last week's post about Victoria's Secret's courting and brainwashing of the underage consumer (link), I received the following comment:

Well, that's all well and good, but now where do I get attractive underwear that:

a) won't fall apart in the wash
b) is comfortable
c) attractive!
d) not about exploiting the newfound hormones of junior high creatures, which it really is all about.

Now, I recently underwent a bra epiphany, but I have to confess that I've been wearing the same underwear for years (not the same pair, thankfully).

They're the low rise bikini style by Felina. I originally bought them because they're always on sale at Nordstrom for 3 for $24, they're made of soft microfiber and they're cut low without being too low. Why I kept buying them each year, never trying other brands, I don't know, because they really are nothing special. They're not seamless, they ride up in certain clothes and even in fun colors, to call them attractive would be a stretch.

So anonymous, I'm in the same underwear boat (oh, if there were such a thing!) and I'm hoping readers will be able to help us both. I'll add a couple qualifications to your list, such as the fact that I despise thongs and refuse to wear them, and that I won't pay more than $12-14 for a pair of underwear, unless you can promise me that it will last FOREVER. Bonus points for seamless styles.

Got a suggestion? Help a couple underwear-confused girls out and leave a comment!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Fashion Gods Get Their Way

Fate exists, and I've got the dress to prove it.

A couple of weeks ago I was taking a walk through the East Village one evening, enjoying the gorgeous weather, when something in a shop window caught my eye. A bright blue vintage (or at least vintage-looking) 1950's-style cocktail dress was hanging in the window, the exuberant color contrasting beautifully with the modest cut and flowy silk chiffon fabric. The store, called Pink Olive, was closed and I had places to go, so I decided I'd stop back another time.

A week later I was returning from brunch with my boyfriend and as we bickered over something silly, I saw the dress again, still unsold and beautiful as ever. Too consumed in my argument, I didn't stop but again made a mental note to return during business hours.

It was a busy week and I never had the time to go back to the store, until a few nights ago, when my friend Sara and I were catching up on gossip and taking a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood. I remembered the dress and made a point to stop by the boutique. It was 7 pm and the store was empty, but the owner invited us in to browse. I made a beeline for the dress and tentatively asked what size it was and how much it cost.

To be honest, boutiques scare me, as the nice ones are always incredibly overpriced and the bad ones sell the same crap you could buy at any Macy's. It's hard to find your size in a brand you're unfamiliar with, and they can't compete with the selection of a department store. Also, I often get an elitist vibe from a lot of boutiques, like there's a coolness standard one must meet before being allowed to browse the racks. And when it comes to vintage stores, nothing ever fits because apparently every woman living before 1970 weighed 110 lbs. For these reasons and others, I didn't get my hopes up that the dress would ever be mine.

The owner, an incredibly friendly and bubbly woman named Grace, gave me the background on the dress. She found it in a thrift store upstate, it was definitely from the 1950's and it's the only one she found or seen. It was a size 6 and priced at $120 (higher than what I'd normally spend, but very reasonable in my eyes). I went into the back room to try it on, and lo and behold, it fit perfectly. I walked out to model it to Sara and Grace, who by now had heard my whole spiel about being obsessed with the dress for 3 weeks.

They oohed and ahhed as I did my best supermodel impression and we all agreed that the fashion gods must want me to have it, because everything came together perfectly (the credit card gods may not have felt the same way, but I'll deal with them later).

With the dress officially mine, Sara and I spent some time browsing through the store and chatting with Grace. She'd just opened Pink Olive 3 months earlier, realizing a lifelong dream of owning her own boutique. She'd previously worked as a buyer for Saks, Bloomingdale's and Barney's. The store carries a mix of vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories, seasonal clothes by young designers, and gifts for women and kids. It's the kind of place that you want to browse through for hours, as Grace did a beautiful job choosing and arranging interesting and unexpected objects. The prices are also reasonable, most items ranging between $40 and $150, but with a lot of things priced under $30.

It's a fun little store and Grace is an extremely personable woman, and if you're in New York, I'd highly recommend stopping in for a look. Pink Olive is located at 9th Street and Avenue A, at the end of a long stretch of boutiques on 9th. It's a great area for window (or real) shopping and there are a lot of great restaurants in the area.

Now all I need to do is start finding excuses to wear my new dress... cocktail party, anyone?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Appalled by American Apparel

I'm so conflicted on the topic of American Apparel.

They've got a lot of things going for them. First, you've got hundreds of different styles of cotton basics (t-shirts to dresses to tights to lingerie and more) in a multitude of colors for reasonable ($15-$45) prices. They're more fashion-forward and body-conscious than what you could get at the Gap, and with an online store and physical stores in most major U.S. cities, it's easy to stock up.

Unlike most of the discount retailers, they've got an impressive track record of progressive environmental and labor policies, producing their clothing in sweatshop-free U.S. factories, paying their employees fair wage and offering them great benefits. They brag about recycling fabric scraps and using organic cotton, and in general seem to be more committed to these issues than nearly all mainstream retailers

And yet....

They totally creep me out with the weird, barely legal horny hipster vibe that's inescapable on the website and in the stores. The company's signature look are amateur-looking washed-out photographs of non-professional models in suggestive poses and outfits. These images are plastered on the walls of the store, fill pages of magazine ads and are used on the website next to product descriptions.


The voyeuristic quality to these ads, along with the feeling that you're looking at a real girl (a young one at that) exposing herself to the camera and not a jaded professional just feels dirty to me. They look more like they were taken by her boyfriend after a night of drinking than they were intended to run in national magazines or fill billboards. It's obvious why people are attracted to this approach, but personally, feeling creeped out doesn't make me want to buy more clothes.

The ads are also part of this general vibe of hipster superiority that makes browsing through their stores nearly insufferable. It feels like a giant contest to out-cool everyone, and if you're not interested in participating, you don't belong there.

To add to the creepiness factor, American Apparel's CEO Dov Charney proudly admits to having sexual relationships with his employees and has been sued multiple times for sexual harassment. Longtime Jane readers will remember a profile of him in a 2004 issue in which he masturbated in front of a Jane reporter. Charney takes many of the advertisement photos himself, finding models on the street instead of going through casting calls. In a Business Week article on the company, former employees call American Apparel, "a company built on lechery," with senior managers pursuing sex with junior management, and awarding those who consented with promotions and gifts.

For these reasons, I haven't set foot in an American Apparel store in years. Lately though, it feels like everywhere I go there's an American Apparel window assaulting my eyes with mannequins wearing those hideous gold and sparkly leggings.

I don't know what's more offensive, having to look at those leggings every day or the soft-core advertisements plastering the city.

How do you feel about American Apparel?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Even Attempting Good Breeding

My boyfriend Andrew and I were enjoying Saturday brunch with another couple we're friendly with when I witnessed what I'm nominating as worst etiquette breach of the year.

The girl, who I'll call K, was telling a story when her boyfriend, who I'll call S, stopped her mid-sentence.
"You've got something in your teeth."

She was a little caught off guard, but immediately closed her mouth and ran her tongue over her teeth. Unsuccessful, she rolled up her napkin and tried to use it as a toothpick, as he shouted out instructions about which teeth the offending piece of food was lodged in between.
"More to the left, you just passed it!"

She kept picking, but when it was clear that it just wasn't coming out, he leaned in and stuck his finger into her mouth to try and get it out himself.

As I looked on in horror, Andrew pretended to be searching for something in his wallet, too grossed out to watch. After what seemed like hours, S finally caught the piece of food and pulled it out of K's teeth. Relieved as I was that the show was finally over, I called the waitress over to bring us the check. We were finished with our meal and I really didn't want to spend any more time with these people. But it wasn't over yet.

For their grand finale, K turned to S, stared lovingly into his eyes and thanked him for helping her. "Oh baby, you know I'd do anything for you," he replied. Then they started making out.

This traumatic event combined two of my biggest pet peeves, public grooming and PDA. I'm a big fan of personal space, and on top of protecting my own, I get grossed out when other people are all over each other. And public grooming is rampant; on the train today I watched a woman apply a full face of makeup (including eyeliner! that's some serious skill). I know what it's like to be crunched for time in the morning, but do you have to recreate your bathroom routine during my commute?

I thought I'd throw the question out to all of you- what's your biggest etiquette pet peeve and what's the worst etiquette breach you've personally witnessed?