Wednesday, February 27, 2008

All Good Things Must Come To An End...

I've put off writing this post for a while, partly because I wasn't sure what I wanted to say, mostly because I didn't really want to have to acknowledge that I'd be ending the blog for good.

Last month I announced that I would be hanging up my blogging hat. Writing this blog and interacting with its amazing readers has been one of the most exciting and personally fulfilling things I've ever done in my life. FGB has opened my world up in ways I'd never have expected and led to opportunities I've only dreamed of.

These past few weeks I've dramatically cut down on my posting and I've begun to get a feel for what my life will be like after today when I stop blogging. There's a lot I'm going to miss about this incredible community and the enjoyment I gained from writing and expressing my thoughts on this page. But it also feels so refreshing to regain the freedom I had before I began dedicating 30+ hours a week to managing the blog. I've been able to relax and really enjoy my final semester of college in a way that I couldn't when I was up at dawn writing every morning, every week.

Because I don't know of any better way to express my gratitude to those of you who've contributed to FGB through your comments and e-mails, I want to simply thank you. Though I will probably never meet most of you, you mean a great deal to me and I appreciate the support and encouragement you've given me in the past year and a half.

Thank you.

I'm going to leave the blog up online, though there won't be any new posts after this. In a week or so I'm going to shut down the comments section though, not because I don't want to hear from you, but because I don't want to delete spam comments every day for the rest of my life. If you want to contact me, I'll keep fakinggoodbreeding@gmail.com running and I'll try my best to respond to your e-mail. If you're visiting FGB for the first time and are totally confused by this post, I encourage you to read through the archives or just check out my page of favorite posts.

Again, thank you.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekly Links

The Guardian highlights a photographer whose work investigates "modern fashion tribes," showing that people who aspire to look different often end up resembling each other. Via The Thoughtful Dresser.

The New York Times
looks at whether the media holds male and female celebrities to a double standard.

Beauty Addict
shares her expert tips for applying self-tanner.

The New York Times
explores the growing beauty trend of people forgoing shampoo.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Women's Magazines... So Little Changes in 50 Years

Do you ever pick up an issue of Cosmo, Elle, Lucky, Allure or any other women's magazine and get the feeling that you've read the content before? The same tips, tricks, photo spreads and "serious" pieces feel like they're recycled month after month, just with a new celebrity tacked on the cover.

In doing research for a paper I'm writing on feminism and women's magazines, I came across this article from a 1950 issue of the Atlantic Monthly in which British journalist Marghanita Laski complains that women's magazines simply rehash the same information each month. It's hilarious to compare her summary of the mags to the content of popular titles today, proving that very little has changed in the last 58 years.


Since I can't re-post the whole article, but here's a little excerpt. Again, you can read the full text here thanks to Google Books.

It is as much a source of amazement as of income to me that readers of the women's magazines have such an insatiable thirst for reading the same information over and over again, despite the fact that any one year's reading must inevitably give enough information about the technique of being a woman to see one through a lifetime. I have, then, no fear of spoiling the market, either for myself or others. Every subject in this symposium, given a snappy title and an angle that appeals to the editor, will still be worth a substantial fee.

Accessories:


The simplest are in the best taste.

Men like women to be in the best taste.


Broken Hearts:


Find a new interest.

Time cures all.

Men don't like women to ring them up.


Care of Face:


Remove old make-up with cream (dry skins), lotion (oily skins), or superfatted soap (if you must).

Then dab face with an astringent lotion.

Then pat in nourishing ream.

Blackheads are frequently due to internal causes. Drink lots of water.

Men are repelled by pimples.


Charm:


Charm is an indefinable quality.
Men like it.


Clothes:


Choose the clothes that suit you.

You can be perfectly dressed at every income level.

Little touches of white must be immaculate.
Diagonal stripes are slimming.

Invest your all in one good little black dress (or tweed suit).

Don't go for clutter but have lots of bits and pieces that will make one outfit do the work of ten.

Men like black satin, well-cut tweeds, floating tulle, utter simplicity, and don't notice what you wear anyway.


Culture:


Read good books sometimes.

Men don't like cultured women much.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Links

In what is one of the funniest and most spot-on reviews I've ever read, The New York Times' Critical Shopper visits Victoria's Secret.

Annie at Poetic and Chic reviews Dana Thomas' Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

Apparently more women (including myself) are forgoing perfume, much to the dismay of the beauty industry, according to the New York Times.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2008

A New Male Ideal?

Last week's New York Times had an interesting article on the changing look of male runway models.

Apparently, the Tyson Beckford body type (chisled muscles, classically handsome) has been replaced by the male version of "heroin chic," 6' tall guys weighing 140 lbs and measuring in with 28 inch waists. It took a while, but men walking the catwalk are now being held to the same freakish standards that female models have experienced during the last 15 years.


It's interesting to think about what kind of implications this trend may have for shifting ideals of male beauty and its effects on regular men. But first let's take a minute to think about how the skinny model trend affected women.

Hollywood takes its cues from the fashion world, and since runway models began shrinking in the mid-1990's, we've seen the average size of actresses, singers and starlets shrink as well. The media that perpetuate the celeb-crazed culture (which is strongest among young women) witnessed this and turned the weight gain and loss of a female celebrity into a news-worthy event. The message that thin=good is only further emphasized in the contrasting national debate over obesity. I think there's some validity to the idea that this constant discussion of women's weight and size has led to an increasing pressure among regular women to lose weight and meet a specific beauty ideal.

There are a number of reasons why we can't expect the this trend among male models to take off in the way that it did among women. The connection between the fashion world and Hollywood men is far weaker, and men's fashion trends change at a glacial pace anyway. Overall, there's far less interest in the fashion world among men than there is among women. And I think it's generally acknowledged that men are judged less on the basis of their looks than women are, giving them less incentive to starve to fit a certain ideal.

But there's a chance that this trend could have a trickle-down effect and have some permanence. Men connected to the fashion world are already feeling pressure to lose weight to fit the most stylish clothes (Karl Lagerfeld famously lost nearly 100 lbs in order to fit into a Hedi Slimane suit). I guess we'll just have to wait and see if regular guys across America ditch their oversized sweatshirts baggy cargo pants in favor of similar slimmer styles.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Monday, February 04, 2008

Reader Question: What To Wear To Paris In The Winter

Dear Meg,

I have a question: I'm going to Paris on a student exchange at the end of the year. It'll be fall going on to winter, and since I've lived in a tropical country for my entire life, what exactly does one pack? Could you suggest a few versatile clothes? And I'm especially concerned about shoes -- are boots a must, or will I be able to survive in my sneakers alone? I'm awfully clueless.

Thanks!


Eunice


Setting aside my jealousy that you'll be spending a semester in Paris, I can suggest a few items that I think will help you transition to the cold weather. I've never been to Paris, but according to my research, the fall and winter are fairly chilly and rainy, though not snowy, which is nice. You'll definitely want plenty of clothes that can hold up to wet, windy weather, preferably layers that you can add on or take off when you move in and out of buildings. You also want versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down,

My first suggestion would be to pick up a trench coat in a waterproof fabric, ideally at 3/4 length. A trench is classic, chic and will never go out of style, so your money will be well-spent. Here's an example of a basic one from MICHAEL by Michael Kors.


When winter sets in, even the best trench won't keep you warm, so look for some lightweight sweaters that you can layer. I love cardigans for this purpose, since they're so easy to take on and off depending on how you're feeling. Dress a cardigan down with jeans and a tee or cami or throw it over a cocktail dress if you're going out on the town. This cardigan is from Nordstrom BP.


Another great piece to have that will help you transition from warm to cooler days and can also dress up or down is a cashmere or pashmina wrap. You can wear it as a scarf, throw it casually over your shoulders or pair it with a formal outfit. Here's one from Nordstrom, though you can find them for much less at discount stores.

Moving on to footwear...

I think you'll definitely need a good walking shoe and a waterproof boot of some kind. If you're the kind of girl who lives in sneakers, you could stick with those for dry days, but for something more Parisian, look for a cute pair of comfortable flats, like these from Me Too


The same goes for boots: if you tend toward the sporty and casual, you could go with a rubber pair like these, but if you want something that's a little more formal, I'd go with a low-heeled equestrian style like these

Any of these items would be perfect for days spent browsing the Louvre, eating chocolate croissants and riding around with cute boys on Vespas. Have a fantastic time during your study abroad!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Links

Mrs. Fashion dissects "fierce".

Linda Grant, Thoughtful Dresser blogger
is on a quest for well-made, fashionable and ethically produced clothes in the Guardian.

Afrobella
reviews Cover Girl's Queen Collection.

Annie at Poetic and Chic
makes fun of "officially unofficial award-giving and mutual heavy petting that's running rampant around the blogosphere" and I couldn't agree more.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Transparency and Beauty Bloggers

Yesterday's New York Times had a very thought-provoking article on the lack of transparency among beauty bloggers, most of whom do not reveal when they've been given products for free from companies or refuse to review a product negatively, out of fear of harming their relationship with the brand. For those of us who've followed the beauty blogging world for a long time, this isn't new news, but it serves as a good reminder of why you have to always be skeptical when reading blogger reviews. I have written in the past about my own policy in regards to accepting gifts from companies and take the stance that it's dishonest not to tell readers how you acquired the products you're reviewing. Whether they still choose to trust your opinion is up to them, but at least you show that you respect them enough to tell the whole story.

Check out the article and my previous post on the subject and let me know what you think.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reader Question: Dealing With An Obnoxious Acquaintance

Hi Meg,

I need some help with a difficult acquaintance of mine. I have known her for the last two years through a sports club and have never really been on the best of terms with her. She is unbearably rude, loud and arrogant. She frequently chooses not to talk to some of the club members because they speak to someone who happened to point out her behaviour to her more than three years ago. My main problem is that when the entire sports club gets together, she basically ignores half the group, gives them cold looks or even goes so far as to make nasty comments about some of the people in the room, passing it all off a joke.

Unfortunately, there is no way to not invite her to these events as she is a club member and a girlfriend of a club member. At the club's New Year's Party, I was organising a game of Twister and asked some of the people at the party if they would like to join us. She rolled her eyes, sighed and commented: "Would someone giver her some f*cking vodka to shut her up?" to the entire room.
Unfortunately, the club has organised an event for the weekend which both she and I will be attending. I was wondering if you could give me some advice to deal with her rudeness. Should I politely ask her to stop being so rude, or should I just ignore it? One of my friends told me to start retorting to her comments about people when she makes them but I really don't want to be rude in return. Any advice you could give me would be appreciated.

Regards,
Diana

Wow, this woman sounds like a real nightmare!

I think you have a few options in addressing the situation, though I'm sorry to say that I think you should keep your expectations low and not expect her to change her abysmal behavior.

It's inevitable that she'll make another rude or inappropriate remark at some point during the weekend and I think that taking her aside and politely saying that you didn't like what she said, that it hurt your feelings or made you uncomfortable, etc. There's a small chance that she is totally oblivious to how others perceive her comments and has positive intentions. I've had experience with people who say rude things or publicly put down others out of insecurity and a desire to seem funny or powerful, and this may be her problem.

Unfortunately, she's probably just an obnoxious person who doesn't care at all what you or other people think of her. While ignoring her is frustrating, I don't think she would respond well to being confronted in front of others, as your friend suggested. I think you're right that it's wrong to meet rudeness with rudeness and the situation could quickly spiral out of control. In my experience dealing with people like this, you just have to come to terms with the fact that you can never change them, and just hope that they realize the error of their ways on their own. If she doesn't like most of the people in the club (and it doesn't sound like they like her either), hopefully she'll drop out on her own.

Does anyone else have advice for Diana?

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Letting Herself Go"

Of all the phrases frequently applied to women, one of the most frustrating is "she's let herself go." You never hear about a guy who's "let himself go," and I often find myself confused as to the real meaning of these words. It's usually intended to signify that a woman does not put as much effort into her appearance as she once did, that she's lost control over her looks and is subsequently less valuable or desirable. Yet the words themselves, taken out of context, suggest the kind of freedom that many of us would love to have. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the idea of freeing oneself from the expectations and pressures placed on us as women means that we've lost control of our identities and how others perceive us.

I got to thinking about this topic after reading this recent New York Times article discussing how looking young and trendy is considered by some to be "critical to every woman's personal and financial survival." What offends me about the positions of many of the women quoted is that they promote the idea that looking one's age is one of the worst things a woman could do to herself. To look your age is, in their words, "letting yourself go." It would be one thing if this message was coming from a man (I think a lot of women would be up in arms if it was), but to hear this from another woman is especially aggravating. As women, we should be fighting to reverse gender discrimination and change society's impossibly high expectations for how women should look and act.


Obviously one's looks play a big role in how they're perceived by others, but it seems that the woman who dresses to flatter her body, who looks put-together and appropriate, but who refuses to get dye her hair or get Botox or more drastic plastic surgery, is in no way "letting herself go." She's fully in control of herself and should be proud of how she presents herself to the world. And I won't deny that we live in a culture that favors youth, but it's not like you can really fool anyone as to your real age. Instead, most women who go to drastic measures to look younger end up emphasizing their age, and looking desperate and insecure. Somehow, I don't think those qualities will help anyone achieve more in their personal or professional life, let alone enjoy the things they have achieved.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Product Review: Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo

When my beloved Costco-sized bottle of Paul Mitchell's Shampoo Two ran out last month, I kept my fingers crossed that CVS would have the product in stock. I'm far too lazy to drive to my hair salon every time I want to pick up a fancy-schmancy hair product, so I take my chances with what's on the shelf at my local drugstore or grocery store. Of course, the selection varies greatly month to month (salon brands only show up in regular stores because a salon owner has decided to sell off extra merchandise to Target or Rite Aid, not because these stores order directly from Paul Mitchell, Redken or any other salon brand). I'm such a creature of habit that I would buy the same product forever if it was available, so the narrow selection often ends up leading me to try new products.

CVS didn't have my Shampoo Two, but since I've become quite loyal to Paul Mitchell (high quality products, nice scents, cool minimalist packaging), I looked around for an appropriate shampoo for my hair type that I hadn't tried yet. The strangely shaped bottle of Tea Tree Shampoo caught my eye, and I picked it up to take a whiff. I have to admit that I'm a sucker for anything with the words "minty," "tingly" and "invigorating" on the bottle, but I was particularly impressed by the shampoo's scent, which was more warmer and more complex than your typical peppermint patty-scented product. I haven't had the best experiences in the past with scented beauty products, since brands often attach a strong scent to a worthless product, hoping consumers will like the smell enough to ignore the fact that the cleanser/lotion/conditioner does nothing. But I decided to give it a try (I saved my receipt just in case).


The true test of the shampoo was whether it could leave my naturally oily hair and scalp feeling squeaky clean after a long workout, as the Shampoo Two did. I poured a quarter-sized dollop of shampoo into my hands and worked it into a lather. Right away my shower filled with the minty tea tree scent, while my head felt tingly and refreshed. When I washed the product out, I was glad to see that there was no need for a second shampoo, and even after putting in conditioner, my scalp was still tingling. It still felt nice and cool after I got out of the shower, and my hair looked great once I blowdryed and styled it.

My boyfriend, who's usually oblivious to subtle changes in my beauty routine, complimented me right away on how good I smelled, the scent still present a few hours after I'd washed my hair. But the true sign of how great this shampoo is came when I flew home to Michigan for the holidays and did something totally out of character. Instead of threatening my younger sister with a slow, painful death if she used my beauty products, I told her she should try my new shampoo next time she took a shower. She looked a little dumbstruck at the news, but eager to take advantage of my curious generosity, she went to take a shower. She came out raving about how nice her head felt, asking me where she could pick up the shampoo (for a girl who usually buys whatever is on clearance at the drug store, this was quite a step).

In reading reviews online, it seems that a lot of people with both oily and dry, dandruff-prone scalps have had positive experiences with this shampoo, though I would be careful if your hair is chemically processed, since it is a very strong cleanser. Like any strong scent, not everyone will love this one, and you might want to stay away if you wear certain perfumes or scented products, as it could compete. But more than a month later, I'm still in love with this product, and plan on ordering my next bottle online, just in case CVS is out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Reader Question: Appropriate Outfits For A New Teacher

Hi Meg!

I am in the education program at my school, and this past semester involved my first practicum, as an assistant to a high school English class. I really struggled with what to wear on these days--how low is too low? How conservative am I supposed to be? Taking cues from the teachers at the building didn't really help, because they featured a wide varieties of styles. I have a hard time finding advice for this, because while teachers are conservative, they do not, by any means, dress professionally in the sense of a lawyer or businessperson. I was wondering if you could offer some tips on being fashionable while staying within the boundaries of what is appropriate for a high school teacher.

Thanks!


Catherine


The topic of appropriate attire for a teacher is certainly contentious, as I found out after this post where a reader asked if a sheer blouse (with a tank under it) was acceptable for a high school teacher to wear to work. I can understand your frustration in deciding what to wear, since teachers are put in the difficult position of trying to look stylish and age-appropriate while still appearing professional and polished.

As my of my friends in your position have told me, it's especially challenging when you're young and working in a high school, since the age difference between you and your students is not very large. Your first priority in dressing should be to make sure your clothes convey a sense of professionalism to your students, their parents and other teachers, so that you will be treated with the respect shown toward older and more experienced teachers. That said, you don't need to ditch your fashionable wardrobe for dowdy separates from Chico's. Here are a few guidelines for dressing appropriately at school that I've developed with the assistance of my teacher friends:

1. If you have any thoughts that a specific article of clothing is too sexy, don't wear it. You can get into some really hot water if you show up to school in an outfit that a parent or administrator deems sexually suggestive, and you risk losing some of the respect of your students. That means no cleavage, bare shoulders, exposed bra straps, tight clothing or short skirts.

2. You're in a position of power, so avoid wearing anything that you'd lounge around in. Anything made of velour or fleece should be left at home. No sweatpants, sweatshirts, baggy t-shirts, workout gear, Uggs, Crocs, or clothing that's ripped, stained or wrinkled.

3. If you wear jeans on a casual day, they should be fairly formal looking and in near-perfect condition. Avoid jeans that are too baggy and skinny styles, and go for a dark wash with no sandblasting or kitschy details like jewels or embroidery. A trouser style or a bootcut is acceptable in my book. If you do wear jeans, make sure you compensate for the casualness by pairing them with dressier shoes and a more formal layer, like a blazer over a blouse.

Okay, so now that I've gone over the don'ts, here are a few examples of looks that I think would be perfect:

This is a very cute, young look, but your body is totally covered and the structured jacket over a button-down makes it professional enough for a school setting. From Ann Taylor Loft.

Okay, I have no idea why this Banana Republic model is dancing and footless, but I think her outfit is a good example of a basic work outfit of a bright blouse and belted trousers. You could add a cardigan or a blazer, or throw on a sweater over it if it's cold.

A printed jersey dress is another great staple to have (I'm a huge fan of wrap styles in particular). Another plus is that they can be worn in any season and they're very comfortable and forgiving. This outfit is from Ann Taylor.

Those are my tips, though I know my readers will have many more to add on. Anyone else have suggestions for Catherine?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Weekly Links

The LA Times has a very interesting article about the rise of Mary Kay within the California Latina community.

The Beauty Brains
discuss why getting rid of animal testing is a lot more difficult than many expect.

The Times (U.K.)
has tips for incorporating more bright colors into your winter wardrobe (via The Thoughtful Dresser).

Beauty Addict
raves about Redken's Volumizing Foam, which is on my must-try list.

The New York Times
describes this season's Prada men's collection as "read like the manifesto of a gender revanchist".

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Beauty and Success

It may seem obvious to acknowledge that there are benefits to being beautiful, and that they extend past gaining the attention of potential mates. People are attracted to and fascinated by beautiful people, and most of us would admit to being guilty of judging others on the basis of their looks before getting to know them. Science Daily had an interesting article a few days ago about a recent study showing that attractive people often receive better job positions and pay than average looking applicants. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the study found that women were more likely to give high status packages to attractive men than men gave to attractive women.

Unlike discrimination against people on the basis of their race, religion, sexuality, gender, nationality, etc, it's totally legal and often acceptable to discriminate people on the basis of their physical appearance. In positions that require the employee to woo prospective clients or sell a product, it's arguable that attractive people are more likely to impress others and convince them to buy from the company. This might be true, but it certainly feels unfair to those otherwise competent, qualified people who didn't luck out with the beauty gene.

While I wasn't particularly surprised to read that attractive people have an edge in the business world, I found it interesting to contrast it with another popular attitude about the intelligence of highly attractive people, namely that beautiful people are airheads, ditzes or dumb blondes. Television and movies teach us to recognize "the hot girl" as gorgeous but stupid and "the nerd" as intelligent but awkward and ugly. We might be attracted to beautiful people on both social and sexual levels, but I think most people would assume that someone with model looks lacks brains.


The Economist recently published an article reporting that studies have shown that there may be a link between beauty and high intelligence, and that allowing a person's good looks to influence your decision about them is not a bad idea. One study found a correlation between bodily symmetry (a marker of beauty) and general intelligence, while another had participants view photos of faces and guess how intelligent the person was, which a significant portion got correct. Beautiful people earn more money than average looking people, but also bring more revenue to their employers, making it advantageous for a company to hire the more attractive of two equally qualified candidates.

Just as in the Science Daily article, the studies discussed in this story concluded that men were rewarded more for good looks and penalized for unattractiveness than women (men characterized as ugly earned 9% less income than average men, while ugly women earned 6% less than average women). Researchers found that these rewards and penalties varied between countries, as Chinese men and women were penalized more for ugliness and rewarded more for beauty (with ugly women penalized as much as 31% in lower salaries), while attractive British men and women were rewarded only 1% for their beauty.

Finally, researchers found that investment in cosmetics and clothes didn't pay off in increasing one's salary, showing that "that the beauty premium generated by such primping is worth only 15% of the money expended."

Is this depressing news for everyone who's not a Heidi Klum look-a-like? In some ways, yes. I certainly find it disturbing that so much weight is placed on physical appearance, both in personal and professional situations, and that the lucky few who are born beautiful have a tremendous advantage in both areas. On the other hand, I think about how much control we actually do have over our looks. So few people really pay attention to how they are presenting themselves, and many beautiful people slide by on their looks without making the effort to look professional and put-together from head to toe. I would think that in most cases, a sloppily dressed, unprofessional looking beautiful woman isn't going to get a job over an impeccably dressed average looking woman. In response to the article's final point, I think you can throw all the money you want at pricey cosmetics and designer clothes, but until you recognize what flatters you, it's never going to help you look better.

Dressing sharply, looking put-together from head to toe, being healthier (not just in a weight sense, but when you live a healthier lifestyle, your skin and hair reflect it), carrying yourself with confidence and poise... there are so many ways to improve the way you present yourself to the world. I think about the fact that when I'm dressed to impress, feeling healthy and energized, wearing clothes I feel great in and having put time into my hair and makeup, I hardly resemble the way I look when I wake up in the morning. Anyone who's ever seen an episode of What Not to Wear can attest to the fact that a wardrobe/hair/makeup/confidence makeover will make you into a totally different person. While it's wrong not to acknowledge the fact that you can't change your genes or go from average to supermodel, I think everyone can reap (at least some of the benefits that attractive people gain in their professional and personal lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Confession Time...

There's something I've been thinking about for a very long time and I think it's time to come clean with all of you. I have decided that I will stop posting on FGB at the end of February, and will slow down posting until then- probably down to about 2-3 posts per week (if you'd like to receive updates of new posts, I encourage you to subscribe to the FGB RSS feed or to receive new posts via email). The impetus for this decision came from a combination of things. I no longer derive the same pleasure and satisfaction from writing and managing the blog that I once did. A year and a half of waking up early every morning to write for an hour, then putting in many more hours into answering e-mails, responding to comments and dealing with advertisers and other site issues has made blogging feel more like a burden than a hobby. I made a resolution a few weeks back that I wanted to make the most of my senior year of college, and I'd love to have the freedom to just live my life without always worrying that I'll fall behind on my work for the blog.

This certainly doesn't diminish the fun, fulfillment and personal growth I experienced because of Faking Good Breeding. It's been the most important, life changing activity I participated in during my college career, and I've gained so much from my involvement with the site. The support I've gotten from readers is a constant source of joy in my life, and I feel so lucky to be part of a community of such intelligent, interesting women. Thank you for your kindness, and I appreciate your understanding of my decision.

Monday, January 14, 2008

How To Use Hot Rollers: A Tutorial

While the wavy and curly-haired ladies of the world slather their hair with anti-frizz products, spend hours blowdrying and straightening and constantly complain about their uncontrollable locks, those of us with the opposite hair (limp, lifeless and flat) invest time and money in the hopes of getting even the slightest bit of volume and bounce in our hair. This is the female hair conundrum- we always want hair that's the opposite of what we've got. When I wrote my post last week reviewing the Conair hot rollers that had given me the fullest, thickest hair I'd ever had, I was happy to hear that many of you were dealing with the same hair issues, and wrote in requesting a tutorial on how to use the hot rollers. I have to admit that it took a while of trial and error for me to figure them out, and I certainly don't claim to be a hair expert. I just want to share what I've learned works for me, since I'm pretty happy with the results I've been getting from my rollers. Here are my tips and a step-by-step guide for using hot rollers to get big hair.

One of the first issues I had when using my rollers was getting them to stay put once I'd rolled my hair. The little metal pins that come with the set don't do a great job keeping my rollers up, and I sometimes got creases in my hair from where I'd pinned them. I found a deal on Amazon for a set of roller clips (make sure that the clips are large enough for your rollers or they'll be worthless) that were far easier to use than those pesky pins. My one beef with the clips is that only 10 come in a set, while I have 12 rollers. I'll use pins or other large hair clips for the last two, and make sure to use them on the bottom layers of my hair, where the curls don't have to be so perfect.

So, onto our steps.

1. After you've showered, set out your clips and plug in your rollers, preferably in front of a mirror in a room that isn't too humid (if you've got a small bathroom that stays hot after a shower, you probably want to do this in front of a mirror in your bedroom). The humidity of the bathroom will prevent your curls from holding and you'll be sweating bullets from the combined heat of the room and the rollers on your head.

2. Comb your wet hair and apply a quarter-sized ball of volumizing mousse to your hair, making sure to get it at the roots. If you've got longer or thicker hair, you'll want to use a little more, shorter-haired girls use less. Comb the mousse through so that it's evenly distributed and then flip your head over and blowdry it upside-down (I do this while sitting on a chair so I don't get dizzy or tired). Once it's partially dry, use a large round brush to brush your hair while drying it (you're still upside-down), making sure to curl the ends a bit. Once your hair is totally dry (you need it to be completely dry or the rollers won't set) use your dryer's cool setting to blast your hair with cold air before you flip over.

Note: If you've got bangs, it's a good idea to dry those first while standing up, otherwise they'll be all funky.

3. Brush your hair a bit so it's not all over the place, and open your box of rollers, which should be hot by now. Take a piece of hair at the crown of your head (the one closest to your face) that's about 1.5-2 inches wide and not very thick and use your round brush to brush through it. While holding your hair in one hand, take a roller (grab it by the plastic edges, not the middle) and wrap the bottom of your piece of hair around it. Now lift your hair straight up and begin rolling the length of your hair around the roller slowly and tightly, until it hits your head. Secure the roller with a clip.


4. Continue rolling small pieces of hair, starting at the hair at the top of your head, then moving onto the next layer below that. Don't worry if there are small pieces that don't get rolled in, you probably won't notice them once the rollers are out, and you can always use a curling iron for touch-ups. Once all your rollers are in, go and do your makeup (preferably in a cooler room, since your face and head will be warm from the rollers and you don't want to sweat your makeup off).


5. Once the rollers cool (after about 10-15 minutes), begin removing them. Go slowly, starting with the bottom layer, careful not to pull on them. Once they're all removed, you can decide how much you want to brush them through (if you want very curly hair, only brush a little bit and very lightly so that the top of your hair isn't messy). Your hair should be very big right now, but keep in mind that it will fall down as the night goes on. If you notice any mistakes, fix 'em with a curling iron or brush through them. Also, if you really want your hair to stay, flip your head over and spray it lightly with hairspray.


One final note: Depending on your technique, you can achieve vastly different results from hot rollers. When I took these pictures, I was rolling quickly and kind of sloppily, didn't use any product and brushed through the curls after I took them out (my boyfriend and I were planning on staying in that night, so I didn't really care whether my hair was perfect). If you want tighter curls, don't brush your hair, and if you want ringlets, roll the rollers vertically instead of horizontally. The more you practice, the more control you'll have over the style. Good luck!

Products Mentioned in this Post:
Conair CHV14J Instant Heat Jumbo and Super Jumbo-Sized Rollers
ConairPro Pro Clips

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Eating Disorders, Body Image and Thin Women in the Media

Back in December, when I was busy finishing finals, wrapping gifts and eating as many cookies as I could bake, the Daily Mail reported on a recent study showing that the brains of anorexics are "wired differently" from those of non-anorexics. As one of the researchers stated, "This means they react and think in different way to the ordinary person and that they are likely to go to develop anorexia regardless of whether they have been exposed to images of superthin models." He went on to argue that if images of thin women in the media were to blame, "we'd have hundreds of thousands of anorexics." The article concludes by encouraging readers to stop blaming supermodels for eating disorders.

I somewhat agree with these statements, but I think the underlying sentiment is very off-base. People often forget that anorexia and bulimia are psychiatric disorders that individuals don't just "catch" after suffering bouts of low self-esteem or growing out of an initially healthy desire to lose weight. Anorexics are often told just to "snap out of it" and be happy with their bodies, though their disorder is something they have very little control over. There's a reason why so many individuals with the disorder remain chronically ill their whole lives, despite the debilitating physical and mental side-effects.

I think the media, with its tendency to focus on the extremes of every debate, often ends up concluding that either the idealization of super-thin women is the cause of eating disorders, or that eating disorders are biological and cannot be blamed on the fashion or publishing industries. The media is always either contributing to a deathly illness or totally blameless. But I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Certainly looking at a picture of an unhealthy model will not lead you to develop anorexia. But if you already have an eating disorder and you're constantly bombarded with messages saying that thin is beautiful, sexy and desirable, it only reinforces your beliefs.

Eating disorders affect only a small percentage of the population, so perhaps it's more useful to discuss this issue in terms of how the media's portrayal of women's bodies influences the self-image of the millions of women who don't have eating disorders. Does our society's obsession with thinness, our glorifying of women whose bodies are closer to gaunt than the picture of health, the very specific type of beauty celebrated in magazines and movies, encourage women and girls to have a healthy relationship with their bodies? I certainly don't think so.

There are many women out there who argue that it's ridiculous for anyone to compare themselves to supermodels or starlets, that they've never done such a thing and have always been content with their bodies. If this is you, I say that you're very lucky. Because in my experience, most women experience some kind of body insecurity at some point in their lives (if not their whole lives), and compare their regular selves to the "perfect" women they see in magazines and on TV. They want society to consider them beautiful, but when they don't resemble any of the "beautiful" women they watch and read about, it's difficult not to compare yourself and decide that you're not good enough.

I think we also spend a lot of time discussing other women's looks and comparing them. Whether you're at the cafeteria talking about how good another girl at work looks since she dyed her hair and lost weight, or sitting at the nail salon flipping through US Weekly with a friend and commenting on how bad such-and-such celebrity is looking, we talk about other women in these terms all the time. The media, with the barrage of stories about losing the baby weight, reporting on every pound gained and lost by actresses and constant analysis of the bodies of famous women, certainly doesn't do anything to discourage this type of conversation.

I think that even the most confident and self-assured women have moments of doubt sometimes, days where they don't feel good about how they look. All the studies in the world might show that you won't get an eating disorder from reading Vogue, but that doesn't mean that people don't feel a little less beautiful when they look at the perfect bodies of supermodels and actresses.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Underwear Debate Rages On...

After reading a post on Jezebel, I read an interesting article in yesterday's Times (U.K.), in which Caitlin Moran wrote a hilarious, scathing attack on the unfortunate, unflattering "knickers" worn by most British women. Moran's call to action is to replace the thongs, briefs and bikinis that she describes as "little more than gluteal accessories, or arse trinkets" with underwear that actually fits our behinds. She blames fashion companies for not providing more attractive full-coverage underwear (not every panty with more than two square inches of fabric should resemble those hideous flesh-colored "granny panties") and argues quite persuasively that men really don't care either way.

I'm in total agreement and I'm curious what your take is on the topic. Have we been brainwashed by Victoria's Secret and other lingerie companies into believing we're better off in skimpy panties than more sensible, well-fitting underwear that actually looks good under clothes (what you wear for when your clothes are meant to come off is another post)?

If you're looking for more lively discussion on the topic of underwear, check out my earlier post titled "The Case Against Panties".

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Product Review: Conair Instant Heat Jumbo-Sized Rollers

For a tutorial on using hot rollers, check out my post here.

While my sister was blessed with thick, dark, full-bodied hair that looks good even when she doesn't shower for 3 days straight, I was not so lucky. It takes a shower, a blowdry upside-down and some work with a round brush to get my flat, thin hair to look alive. By mid-afternoon it's sunk considerably, and a liberal coating of Psssssst is necessary if I want it to look good for a night out.

I know that a lot of women would love to have stick-straight blonde hair, but proving the rule that the grass is always greener on the other side, I spent most of my life wanting thick brown curls, hair that was full and bouncy and quirky. In high school I experimented with dying my hair different colors (including pink after a botched home dye-job) and I permed it for 3 years. The combined effect of perming and coloring every few months literally fried my hair, to the point where it began to break and fall out. I decided it was time to accept my natural hair, boring as it was.

But that doesn't mean I stopped trying to fight my hair's natural inclination to play dead all day. After a lot of trial and error, I've finally found a routine and a good haircut that makes the most of what I have. And I'm pretty happy with how my hair looks most days, but there are plenty of times when I still yearn for something more fun and interesting.

For the last couple of years, I've curled my hair with a curling iron before going out with my friends or boyfriend. The curls added a little bounce, but the roots were still always flat, and unless I used a ton of product, my hair was usually straight by the end of the night. But a few months ago I bought a set of hot rollers on sale from Amazon, hoping they'd do a better job giving me big, full, movie star hair.


Because I didn't want tight curls or perm hair, I bought the Jumbo-Sized Rollers from Conair and gave them a try before a the first big party of the semester. After I blowdried my hair, I put in the rollers and let them sit while I did my makeup. It was early September and about 90 degrees in my un-air-conditioned room, making for a less than pleasant experience. I didn't know how much hair to put on each roller, or what areas to start with, and when I took them out, I found a number of creases and kinks in my hair, in addition to a few weird curls. But I had some hard-core body and fullness, and I was able to smooth the funky pieces out with a round brush and hairdryer.

Since then, I've gotten the hang of how to put in the rollers, with better results. After taking out the rollers, I look like I have four times as much hair as before, very feminine and glamorous but still natural looking. The key is using small pieces of hair at a time and starting at the roots, rolling the roller tight and securing it with clips instead of the crappy pins they give you. I really hate hair products (they tend to make my face breakout and the fragrances irritate my allergies), so I usually don't put anything in my hair before using the rollers, but I think I'll start to experiment with mousse if I want my hair to stay big and dramatic for more than a couple of hours.

The rollers add about 5-7 minutes to my routine, which really isn't too bad for special occasions. I recommend practicing with them a couple of times if you've got a big event coming up, since it does take a little while to get the hang of it. But I've never received so many compliments on my hair since I started using them, so the extra work is definitely worth it to me.

Anyone else have suggestions for creating full-bodied hair?

EDIT: Some people requested before and after photos. I was reluctant to post these, since I've seen how cruel commenters can be when bloggers post pictures of themselves, so please refrain from making any personal attacks about my looks.

Here I am (on the right) after I blowdryed my hair for 5 minutes when I was running late.

Here it is after blowdrying my hair completely dry and then putting in the hot rollers (I left them in for about 15 minutes and took them out. I didn't put any product in my hair, which probably would have made it bigger at the crown (teasing does the same thing but I'm a little reluctant to try that).

Products Mentioned in this Post:
Psssssst
Conair CHV14J Instant Heat Jumbo and Super Jumbo-Sized Rollers

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fake Handbags- A Big Deal?

When I read the Bazaar magazine was sponsoring a campaign to ender counterfeit handbags, called "Fakes Are Never In Fashion," I was more than a bit skeptical. How convenient, I thought, for a magazine whose advertisers are primarily the fashion houses producing luxury handbags, to come out and create a campaign encouraging consumers to avoid fakes and buy "the real thing." I found their statement "Profits from these counterfeit sales fund organized crime including drug cartels, child labor, and even terrorist organizations" vague and a little manipulative. Through the program, Bazaar is holding a contest where readers can mail in their fake bags and enter a sweepstakes to win a $1ooo luxury shopping spree. And I laughed out loud when I saw the link to an online store where you could "enjoy safe shopping for quality luxury products."

Most of the articles listed under the "Arresting Developments" portion of the site are worthless, but I did come across one that actually backed up the claim made on the main page about profits going toward terrorist organizations and organized crime. This recent New York Times column by Dana Thomas cites members of Interpol and terrorism experts who insist that the profits from sales of counterfeit goods often do support these groups. Many of the companies who produce these goods also use child labor, who earn less than $60 a month on average.


Most consumers purchasing a fake handbag think of the act as only hurting the luxury-goods makers, who very few have sympathy for. In reality, there is a chance that your money could go toward an illegal organization, though there's no way of knowing whether that will happen. Experts don't seem to know exactly how much money the counterfeiting industry sends to these groups, though one professor quoted in the article stated that "profits from counterfeiting are one of the three main sources of income supporting international terrorism.”

Bazaar makes it clear that the only solution to this problem is to buy luxury handbags instead of the far cheaper fakes on the street. What they fail to mention is that it's been found that some luxury brands use cheap Chinese labor or ship illegal Chinese immigrants to Italy to produce the goods. The workers producing the real designer bags get paid just as much as those working on counterfeits. Other brands will have 90% of their product produced in a Chinese factory, with the final details put on in Italy, just so they can keep their "Made in Italy" label. The article doesn't suggest that luxury brands funnel money to illegal organizations, but they certainly aren't the model for ethical corporate behavior either.

Personally, I don't feel comfortable buying a fake handbag, but I could certainly never justify spending money on a real luxury one either, especially after learning that a purse that cost $120 to produce is marked up to $1200 in stores.

What are your thoughts on fake handbags? And do you think the "real deal" is ever worth the price?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Saturday Links

End of the year lists abound!

Lisa Armstrong of The Times lists her 10 fashion rules for 2008.

The Fug Girls
have their own list of celebrity style mandates for 2008.

Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun
lists her favorite beauty products of 2007.

A former Vogue editor talks about changing her style after leaving the fashion magazine (via The Thoughtful Dresser).

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Finds: Best of the Nordstrom Post-Holiday Sale

I was lucky enough to receive a couple of Nordstrom gift cards from family members who know me (and my love for the Nords) a little too well. I found a lot of great pieces on sale when I hit up the mall a few days ago, and I just realized today that the bargains extend to the website as well. If you're like me and wait for the sales to visit the admittedly pricey department store, now is a good time to stop by or check out their website (the same amazing service extends to online sales as well).

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the online sale:

flounce tbd Two Pocket Sleeveless Dress, discounted from $118 to $69

Coffee Shop Belted Trench Coat, discounted from $98 to $64
GUESS? 'Philadore' Pump, discounted from $98 to $48

Classiques Entier High Waist Pinstripe Skirt, discounted from $148 to $58

Maggy London Silk Chiffon Dress, discounted from $138 to $81

To The Max Belted Smock Dress, discounted from $96 to $63

A Common Thread V-Neck Jersey Top, discounted from $174 to $68

Mary L Couture Sequin Sheath, discounted from $268 to $133

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Reader Question: Dealing With a Moody Boss

Being the second to last baby in the family, it's not often that I'm asked for advice by my older, generally wiser family members, so I was really flattered to get the following e-mail from my cousin Tim last week:

Hey Meg,

As you know, I just graduated from the college and moved to Atlanta to start a new job. Unfortunately, my boss is always in a bad mood. She brings her personal life with her when she arrives at the office. She is over-stressed and takes some of her anger out on me and another employee. She has her good days and her really really angry, stressed, upset bad days. How do I tell her to take a chill-pill and relax? Let me know what you think Meg.

Miss you, cousin. Take care.

Tim

I can definitely sympathize with you, Tim, as I've had a few bosses like this myself. I think sometimes it's harder to deal with a boss who's happy one minute and lashing out the next than a boss who's just cranky and mean all the time. You can never predict how she'll respond to something you've done, and it sucks to have to be on edge all day, walking on eggshells in the hope that she won't explode.


That said, I think you do have a few options for trying to remedy the situation. Next time she overreacts, wait a few hours and send her an e-mail asking if you can speak to her about your job performance. How you broach the subject is really, really important, so choose your words carefully. I think the best approach is to begin by telling her how much you enjoy working at X company and how you've learned so much in the months you've been working there, etc. Then tell her how you're sorry that Y happened (the situation she yelled at you for that morning or the previous day) and ask if there's anything you can do to improve your job performance. You could say that you're really trying to be a better employee and learn the ropes, and that you feel bad when you make mistakes, but you'd appreciate it if she could give you more constructive criticism so you don't repeat the same mistakes.

I know this isn't the most direct way to tell her to "take a chill pill," but as a new employee, you're not in a position to criticize your superior, so the most you can do is show her that you're trying your hardest, and hopefully she'll recognize that she's being too hard on you. The other issue is that nothing you can do is going to make her less moody, angry or stressed. You can't change who she is, you can only do your best to be a good employee. Keep in mind that things are likely to get easier as you work at the company longer and get to know her and your job better. You'll make less mistakes and she'll grow to appreciate your lovable personality (as your cousin, I can attest to this). And if that doesn't happen, you could always talk to human resources about switching departments or teams (but only after you've been working for longer).

Does anyone else have advice for my cousin Tim? How have you handled bosses or co-workers who take out their stress and personal problems on you?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Resolutions for 2008

I'd forgotten that I'd written a post listing my New Year's resolutions for 2007 until I came across it while browsing through my archives last week. Like most people, I made a list of general resolutions without measurable results, and while I kept it in the back of my mind for a while, by March I'm sure I'd mostly forgotten what I'd written. It was fascinating to look back on what I'd resolved a year ago, to see which resolutions I'd successfully accomplished and which fell by the wayside.

It was a really good exercise to look at the list and think about my progress in accomplishing my goals. Aside from the last few weeks, I've kept a healthy lifestyle all year, and I do think I definitely improved in being more generous and open-minded (though I still have a way to go). And since I do have a job I'm really excited about lined up for after I graduate (so exciting!), I can cross that resolution off the list. But I have to admit that I failed in improving my patience, which has always been a struggle for me. Trying to be more patient and understanding is definitely going on this year's list as well.

2008 is going to be a very exciting and challenging year for me, full of major life changes. I'm graduating from college in May and will be starting work in July. I'm going to be a financially independent adult with a real job and real responsibilities, in a new city I'm unfamiliar with. I'm going to have to learn how to manage a long distance relationship with my boyfriend (Boston to New York, not so bad), make new friends and find a semblance of balance between my professional and personal life. It's all a little overwhelming and slightly scary, but also incredibly exciting at the same time.

Posting my New Year's resolutions somehow makes them feel more concrete, and since many of my friends and family members read this blog, makes me more accountable. If you're serious about making changes in the new year, I highly recommend writing them down and sharing them with the people you love, remembering to keep them in a place you'll remember to check, just so you'll be reminded of them throughout the year. Keep your resolutions realistic, and think about small steps you can take to accomplish them. It can be harder with more general goals, like my resolution to be more patient, but I'm writing a personal list that includes all the situations where I know I'm too impatient, and how I could act better during those times. I've found that identifying the problem areas and then making a list of steps to take to improve makes meeting my goals far easier.

Here are my resolutions for 2008:

1. Improve my financial literacy. I'm not nearly as bad as many other college students I know, since I've read some books and blogs on personal finance and have taken non-credit classes in the subject, but I want to make sure I totally understand every financial decision I have to make in the next year, so that I can make the best choices. For someone who's as math-phobic as I am, it can be a little intimidating at first, but I know that I can get it all down before I graduate if I really focus on learning these important skills.

2. Make the most of my final semester of college. I have absolutely loved my college experience thus far, and I want to make sure that I leave in May with no regrets. After graduation, my friends will be relocating to jobs and schools all over the world, and I want to spend as much time with them as possible. I also want to get more involved in all the activities that are unique college experiences (especially those that are unique to Smith). I know I'll be ready to leave when May rolls around, but it would be so great to leave feeling like I've accomplished and experienced all that I wanted to.

3. Become a more patient person. I can give myself credit for becoming more patient in 2007 in at least one area of my life, my driving, but that's mostly because I was a bit shaken up after getting into a 5-car accident in May (I wasn't at fault and luckily no one was injured). I still find myself getting frustrated every time I have to wait for something, and this unnecessary negative emotion isn't benefiting me in the slightest. Hopefully 2009 will find me to be a more mature, patient person.

4. Being nicer in general. Because I'm very hard on myself and a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a perfectionist, I can often be too hard on others. I want to be more understanding and show more kindness in my interactions with others, and not always hold everyone to such a high (and often impossible) level.

5. Keep a balanced life. I pride myself on having a very balanced life, of staying on top of my work, engaging in extracurricular activities, making time for my friends, family and boyfriend, and for making time for myself and respecting my own needs. But I know it's going to be a lot more challenging once I enter the real world, where I have much less control over my environment and it will be harder to plan my days and weeks (I hear that bosses don't give out syllabi, shocking, I know). I'll need to improve my flexibility and keep my stress levels under control, while not letting one area of my life overwhelm the others.

These are my five main resolutions, though there are a number of tinier, more specific resolutions pertaining to different people and situations. Unlike last year, I do plan on printing off this list and posting it near my computer, just so I'm regularly reminded of the (very public) announcement I made to keep these resolutions. I'm so excited about starting 2008 and I wish you all a happy new year!