Saturday, September 22, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Jezebel posts a response to the WWD panel discussion on "The Lack of Black Image in Fashion Today", an extremely important issue, one that's arguably as important as the issue of body image and eating disorders.

Fashionista has the scoop on "The Golden Age of Couture," the new exhibition at London's V&A museum. Definitely worth checking out if you're in the area.

Beauty Addict reviews Bobbi Brown's new Metallics collection.

The Guardian's Linda Grant has a great piece about the disturbing trend of "dressing down" that's pervaded even the fanciest restaurants, theatres and opera houses. Via Manolo's Shoe Blog.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Fall 2007 Collection

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Target's clothes, particularly their Isaac Mizrahi and GO! International lines. I feel no shame or embarrassment admitting that my bag, coat or skirt is from a discount store, but instead feel a sense of pride in being able to pull off an expensive look for a small amount of money. A couple of months ago, Target released a lookbook for Isaac Mizrahi's Fall 2007 collection, and I fell in love with many of the sophisticated but still youthful outfits.

Unfortunately, Target doesn't release entire collections at once online or in their stores, so while about 50% of the collection can be bought now, I'm not sure when the rest will become available. There's no guarantee that any of these pieces featured on their website will actually be in your local store, and I've seen many items in my store that weren't online (the gorgeous handbag collection being the prime example).

If you haven't made it over to Target in a while, I'd highly recommend a trip, because they're offering a lot of beautiful pieces this season. Here are a few of my favorites that are available online:


Bell-Sleeve Cashmere Sweater, $49.99


Box Pleated Jacket, $49.99


Clutch, $14.99


Cashmere Cable Cardigan, $49.99

Frame Handbag, $26.99


Kacy Tailored Pumps, $26.99


Shawl-Collar Cashmere Sweater, Online-only, $89.99


Mary Jane Pumps, $26.99

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Trip to Gap Body

A while back, I wrote a post asking for underwear recommendations from readers and the response was fantastic. I looked at all of the brands and styles that were mentioned in the comments and decided to take a trip to Gap Body to check out their offerings, which many people rated highly for looks, price and comfort.

Initially, I went to the Gap in my local mall, not knowing whether they carried the underwear, and found out that Gap Body is a separate store with sleepwear, underwear and bras and swimwear that isn't stocked in normal Gap stores. I guess I had a vague idea that Gap sold this stuff, but never having seen it in person, I hadn't given it much thought. The Gap Body stores aren't nearly as common as the regular Gap's- there are only 3 such stores in the entire state of Michigan- but luckily it's all available online.

A few days ago I visited the store closest to me to try on some underwear, though I was quickly distracted by their clothes. It doesn't bode well for Gap that their Body collections are way, way cuter than their regular line. It was all very practical and comfortable, but feminine and attractive. Also, the quality seemed higher than that of the regular Gap clothes. I'm not lacking in pajamas, but I did want to stock up on a few more gym clothes, and had a hard time choosing. I ended up with a pair of basic stretch pants and a pair of capris, which were both reasonably priced and well made.

After my detour in the exercise department, I went back to the mission at hand. I made my way to the underwear section and felt a little overwhelmed by the number of styles. I hadn't expected the Gap to rival Victoria's Secret in variety, but they have an impressive selection. I focused in on the ultra low cotton hipster style, a cotton pair with a wide lace band and the ultra low ultra smooth cheeky style, a seamless stretch nylon pair. I took a look at the all-lace styles that many of you recommended as a cheaper alternative to Hanky Panky's, but I decided the cotton would probably be softer and more comfortable, and the hipster pair I tried did have a lace band. I also wanted to try the mesh styles, which looked great on the website, but decided against it when they weren't as soft as they appeared.

I was impressed by both pairs, though trying them on over my own underwear didn't give me the most accurate impression of how they'd really feel. I decided I liked the cotton and lace pair, because it was prettier and I tend to prefer cotton for its breathability.


The cotton hipsters normally run for $10.50 a pair (more than I'd pay for a pair of underwear) but were on sale for $6 each if you bought more than four. I loaded up with 8 pairs (choosing colors was difficult, they had a nice selection of "adult" colors, none of this hot pink with neon green polka dot crap that's all over Victoria's Secret) and bought the two workout pants as well.

Not that I'm surprised at all, but everyone who raved about the Gap undies was spot on- they're the most comfortable pair of underwear I've ever owned, they're cute and, amazingly, they don't ride up (even after an hour of aerobics). Great stuff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Should Bloggers Accept Gifts From Companies?

When I first read that Chanel has been wooing beauty and fashion bloggers with extravagant gifts, even offering 12 bloggers a free trip to Paris to visit the Chanel apartment, offices and perfumery, I was jealous. Who wouldn't love a free vacation to Paris, complete with red carpet treatment by one of the most fabulous and iconic luxury brands in the world? It's a beauty and fashion lover's dream come true.

I mentioned this fact to my friends one night, who surprised me by acting far less excited about the prospect of free trips and over the top gifts in my blogging future.

"You'd let yourself be bought like that, just for a free trip to Paris?" One responded, eyeing me with disdain. "You talk about wanting to be above the corrupt relationship between magazines and advertisers and complain about blogs that spit out press releases verbatim, but you're willing to accept over the top gifts from companies looking to buy positive reviews on your site?"

I sat back and thought about it. They were totally right that accepting gifts like that means getting involved with a corporation in a way that compromises my integrity as a blogger, and the pride I have in giving my readers my honest, unbiased response to things. I wrote a long post about my thoughts on blogging integrity a while back (you can read the full post here) and I've given more thought to my own policy about accepting free products from companies.


In the past, I justified accepting free products for review by saying that I would not allow my reviews to be affected by the fact that a product came from a PR firm and not the department store. In fact, I've written as many (if not more) negative reviews as positive ones. If I didn't feel strongly about a product I was sent and didn't feel I had much to say about it, I wouldn't review it. And I always pointed out in my reviews that a product was sent to me by a company, in the interest of full disclosure.

Lately though, I've been rethinking whether this is the best policy. Certainly, it does allow me to review far more products than I would otherwise. But as of now, if I'm given the opportunity to try a product for free, I'm going to ask for a sample size, since that's what I'd get if I went to Sephora myself. And of course, I'll still point out what I've gotten for free, since I think that's important information to share.

And as much as I'd love a trip to New York Fashion Week or Paris or anywhere else in the world on a company's dime, I've made a personal decision not to accept any such offers, as I really do think it really interferes, even if just at a subconscious level, with a blogger's ability to stay impartial.

I'm actually a little surprised that there hasn't been more discussion about this issue within the fashion and beauty blogosphere. Last year when Microsoft sent tech bloggers free top-of-the-line laptops as a promotion for Windows Vista, a huge discussion erupted about the ethics of bloggers accepting gifts from corporations, with most readers and bloggers arguing that Microsoft's actions were equivalent to bribery. Most bloggers turned down the free laptop, and the promotion ended up backfiring for Microsoft, making headlines in major newspapers.

The fashion and beauty blogging community isn't nearly as large, vocal or influential as the tech bloggers, but I still find it disappointing that in the year I've been blogging, I've never seen this issue discussed at length by any other blogger, and unless it's specifically brought up, readers rarely question whether a blogger may be engaging in a conflict of interest by accepting free gifts and reviewing the company's products.

Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion, but I'm really curious whether these issues matter to you guys as readers of fashion and beauty blogs. With an increase in the reach and influence of blogs of all types, I think we're going to see more and more of this type of marketing from corporations.

Do you believe that bloggers should be held to the same standards of journalists in that they should be open about any conflicts of interest when they discuss a company or product? Does it change your opinion about a blogger or individual post when you hear that they have accepted gifts from the company they're reviewing?

I'd love to get a discussion going on the topic, so leave a comment and tell me what you think!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reader Question: Conservative Shirts and Blouses For Work

Dear Meg,

This week I'm starting my first "real job" (meaning I plan to be there more than a year) as an attorney at a big-name Washington, D.C. law firm. The legal world is pretty conservative when it comes to fashion. Take that sartorial caution and add a layer of D.C. dowdiness, and you might anticipate my question... Basically, I need to dress absolutely professionally, but I don't want to look old before my time. More specifically, I plan to wear suits on an almost-daily basis but would like to be able to take off my jacket and still look presentable to a senior partner. Can you round up some ideas for professional-but-attractive tops/blouses to be worn under suits by a late-20s lawyer?

And just to add another complication, I would like to keep the prices relatively low (around $50, perhaps) because $100k-plus of student loans and a husband in business school are going to take a huge bite out of my salary.


Thanks,
Kathleen

First off, congratulations on completing law school and scoring a great job! You seem to have a good grasp on what's appropriate for your conservative work environment, so I won't bog you down with guidelines for what not to wear. Your point about wanting to look presentable without your jacket is a good one, as I think it's important that you feel appropriately dressed at all times.

I've included a couple of sleeveless tops in my list below, and I'm not 100% sure whether they would be considered acceptable in your office during the warmer months, but you could always throw a cardigan over them if you don't want to wear your jacket all day long. Take your cues from senior women in the firm, and if you ever question whether something would be appropriate, play it safe.

Banana Republic Silk Pleated Cap-Sleeve Top, $68.00

Ann Taylor Loft Sweetheart Neck Knot Front Top, $39.00

Tesori Faux Wrap Top, from Nordstrom, $64.90

Ann Taylor Loft Flocked Dot Tie Neck Shirt, $44.00

Ann Taylor Silk Sleeveless Blouse with Tie, $68.00

Ann Taylor Loft Tie Neck Sweater, $49.00

Ann Taylor Knot Front Shirt, $78.00

Sunday, September 16, 2007

2007 Emmy Awards Best and Worst Dressed List

Since I began this blog, I've watched every major awards show (even the Golden Globes!) in order to fully assess the fashions for my post-show best and worst dressed list. Regardless of the fact that photos of each star are posted online within minutes of their arrivals, I felt it was important that I watch the entire show to get a better idea of how everyone looked, which is really the whole point of it all. Does anyone even care who wins the awards anymore?

This year, I threw in the towel. I didn't watch. And chances are, you didn't either (only 16 million tuned in last year). Ryan Seacrest as host? Performances consisting of "a song and dance tribute to this year in TV" and a Christina Aguilera/Tony Bennett duet? Sorry, but even I have better things to do with my time. Like watch a marathon of "Friday Night Lights" on NBC.com. It's one of the best new shows of the past few years, yet was totally ignored by the Emmy voters and likely to be canceled soon. And don't even get me started on Emmy's treatment of "The Wire," which is probably the greatest and most ambitious television show EVER, but doesn't seem to hold as much sway over Emmy voters as masterpieces like "Two and a Half Men." After four unbelievable seasons, it's still waiting for a nomination.

But enough griping. Awards shmawards, let's talk about the clothes!

On my best dressed list...

The last few years, Heidi Klum has been pregnant for every major awards show, and if she thought that we forgot how hot she is without a bulging belly, she's certainly succeeded in reminding us that even post-baby, she looks better than ever. The deep ruby is a perfect fall color that looks beautiful against her skin, her hair and makeup are effortlessly pretty and that dress...is...amazing.

Minnie Driver's gown is the perfect marriage of cut and color, and it flatters her body, skin and hair beautifully. Yellow (especially goldenrod) is not an easy color to pull off, but she does it well. Also, a lot of women seemed overdressed or poorly dressed for the show (The Emmy's aren't as formal as the Oscars) but Minnie hits it on the head by dressing formal but not at all stuffy.

I think big awards shows can be difficult for young actresses, as balancing formal attire and a desire to look youthful and sexy can be difficult, but Kristen Bell really shows how it's done. Her full length turquoise and purple gown was flowy and flattering, while a strapless top kept it young and sexy without showing too much skin. I liked that she kept things simple with minimal jewelry and upswept hair, it kept her from looking older than her years. I don't know how high Kristen's heels are under that skirt, but I gotta give the designer credit for making this 5'1 starlet look about 8 inches taller.

I've said some mean things about Ellen Pompeo's awards show outfits in the past, but she's really redeemed herself in my eyes this time. First, let's talk about the hair (click here for a close-up). This is not a style you normally see on the red carpet (or anywhere else for that matter) and she took a big risk for trying it, but I think it looks really fresh and modern. The belted dress is a nice nod to the fall trends and her gold tassel necklace is really interesting, but I'm still stuck on the hair, which elevates a pretty but boring dress to "wow" levels.

Speaking of hot haircuts, Mariska Hargitay is rocking the Posh (close-up here) and has a fabulous, super flattering gown to boot. I was surprised to see a lot of women wearing black this year, but unlike most of them, Mariska's dress wasn't overly heavy for September or drowning in details (I'm looking at you, Kyra Sedgwick!).

I know I'm going to get some flack for this one, but I think Vanessa Williams looked gorgeous in this feathered seafoam green gown. The skinny yellow belt at the empire waist, the pulled back hair and that subtle but unbelievably pretty shade of green all kept the feathers from overwhelming the dress and the wearer as most similar dresses tend to do. I don't know that every woman could pull it off, but Vanessa has the confidence, grace and regal stature to wear the dress, instead of allowing the dress to wear her.

Honorable mentions also go to Mary Louise Parker, Portia de Rossi, Rashida Jones, Teri Hatcher, and Felicity Huffman.

And now the worst...

If you read the celeb weeklies or blogs, you know that Hayden Panettiere has been on a mission to get photographed at every possible moment, dressing up for Starbucks runs, showing up at every party, screening and premiere and upgrading her wardrobe from that of a high school cutie to globe trotting fashionista. Yet, despite the best efforts of Hayden and her overworked publicist, people don't really know her (I had to check the spelling of her last name twice). So my only explanation for this dress is that she's trying her hardest to get noticed, and frankly, she succeeded. My only hope is that this dress can one day reach it's full potential as the curtains it was created to be, though it's hard to guess who would want to own anything in that hideous shade of peach.

Jaime Pressly's gown suffers from a number of ailments, including but not limited to reptilian fabric, a strange floral pattern, unnecessary sleeves and one of the strangest examples of drapery that I've ever seen. My guess is that she's trying to hide a post-baby belly, but the result is far worse. I actually have no idea what's going on with the top part of that dress, but there's no question that it's ugly.


Rebecca Romijn is one of the hottest women in Hollywood (just check out her recent campaign for Bebe, or her performance in Ugly Betty). Yet she looks downright matronly with this cotton candy pink flapper gown, which washes out her skin and hair and does nothing to highlight her fantastic body. I think a lot of stars who are defined by their sexiness have a hard time moving away from overtly sexy outfits and go too far in the opposite direction, and Rebecca's a prime example of this. Her makeup and hair certainly don't help matters, adding about 15 years to her face.

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss needs to run, not walk, back into the arms of Narciso Rodriguez, the designer who has outfitted her in numerous lovely, figure-flattering gowns over the years. Julia has a great body, but this dress emphasizes all the wrong areas, leaving her looking frumpy, lumpy and short.

Jenna Fischer does not look happy here, and I can't blame her. Her dress looks like first semester fashion student's interpretation of "autumn." The voluminous dress and giant bow overwhelm Jenna's frame and hide every curve of her body, while the pukey color and gold brocade are depressing to look at. I predict the weeklies will be calling "baby bump" on this one, which is, sadly, the last thing you want to hear when you're not pregnant and nominated for your first Emmy.

(Dis-)Honorable mentions go to Kate Walsh, Debra Messing, Christina Aguilera, Kyra Sedgwick, Lorraine Bracco and Ali Larter.

Who were your favorites? Least favorites?