Saturday, October 21, 2006

Fall Fashion Trends: What Works- Jersey Dresses

I'm not a fan of this season's fashion trends. I find the crazy proportions (leggings and skinny jeans with huge, oversized sweaters and coats) to be unflattering for 97% of women, and ugly on the remaining 3%. Ankle boots make women's legs look short and stubby, while chains and most animal prints are cheap and tacky. And please, people, who thought 80's fashions were worth bringing back?

But there are also some good trends, styles that are both fun to wear and flattering to normal women's bodies. This week I'm going to discuss these trends, and find versions that are moderately priced and accessible to everyone.

Today's trend: Jersey dresses

Jersey is a great fabric for women of all shapes and sizes. It drapes beautifully over body parts you want to hide and hugs curves you want to show off. It also works all year round, depending on how much you layer over it (layering being another key trend this season). Best of all, it's incredibly comfortable.

The key to choosing the right dress for your body is deciding which parts of your body you want to hide, and which ones you want to show off. It's pretty basic.

Want to create an hourglass shape? Get a wrap dress. Want to make your legs look long or draw attention away from your hips? Try a dress with an empire waist. Don't like your upper arms? Wear something with 3/4 sleeves like this. Want to highlight your cleavage without looking trashy? Find a dress with ruching at the bust like this.

Here are some other great examples of this trend, all for under $100:

BCBG Drape-Neck Jersey Dress

American Apparel Jersey Turtleneck Dress

Nordstrom Faux-Wrap Dress

Forever 21 V-Neck Dress

Bisou Bisou Deep-V Dress

Friday, October 20, 2006

Well-Heeled Women

If you love high-heeled shoes (like I do), one of the best things you can do is to regularly take them to get repaired so they stay looking fabulous for years. If you wear a pair a lot, it won't be long before the heel tips wear down, the back of the heel is scratched and the leather and soles start looking a little ragged. To save them before they start falling apart, take them to your local shoe repair shop and ask them what they can do. I'm always amazed when I return to the shop to pick up an old pair that look as great as they did when I first bought them.

A shoe repairman can also alter shoes by adding ankle straps to slip-ons, tightening or stretching shoes and boots, replace heels completely, changing the heel shape, and adding additional holes to straps with buckles (if the straps are to tight or too loose).

Once you find a pair you love, that look fantastic and feel totally comfortable, it's worth it to invest the money to extend their lifespan. A few small repairs every now and then are a lot cheaper than buying a new pair.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

When/Where You Can Call

New York Magazine had a great issue out last summer dedicated to "The Urban Etiquette Handbook". While I don't agree with everything they said in the article, I loved their guide to proper cell phone etiquette. I have a number of situations that relate to college students to add to the list, but check out the original here, it's a good read.

Talk all you want in:
Loud bars
Loud parties
Your car (if you're alone)
A cab
The lobby of a building
Your dorm room/apartment/house
The great outdoors (including sidewalks)
A sporting event

You can answer it, but be quiet and considerate of other people when you're in:
Busy public buildings (the campus center, cafeteria, etc)
Stairwells of academic buildings
Very loud restaurants
Moderately loud bars
On an airplane, bus or subway
In a waiting room
A store (and hang up or put it in your pocket while you're being helped by a salesperson)
Your car (if you're driving other people, and it's legal to do so)
A low-key party

Keep it on silent and don't touch it if it vibrates when you're in:
Class (if it's an emergency, keep it on vibrate and when it rings you can quietly and discreetly walk outside and take it)
A movie theater
A quiet or romantic restaurant
On a date, anywhere
Someone else's car (they're driving you somewhere, so don't be rude)
A dinner party
An elevator
A job interview or networking meeting
A museum
On a treadmill
In a public bathroom
During a commercial transaction
A concert or play
Meetings of any sort

Some iffy situations:

When you're in a one-on-one conversation or in a small group: It depends on who you're with. If you ran into your two best friends and you're just saying "hi", take the call. If it's someone you're meeting for the first time, a professor, your boss, or any non-family member adult who you want to like you, ignore it. If you're hanging out with friends, take it but go into another room.

When you're at work: Depends on the job. Watch what your coworkers do and follow their behavior. If you're in an open space with cubicles, where people could hear you, don't answer it. If you have your own office with a door and you'd feel comfortable if you boss walked by and saw you, answer it. In either case, make sure you don't talk for too long, or even flexible bosses/co-workers will get annoyed.

Halloween Hos

This lovely outfit is called "Mac Diva Ho Adult Halloween Costume" and it also comes in lime green, in case you're wondering. Your husband/boyfriend and (I'm not kidding) child can get the matching "Mac Daddy Pimp" costume, which includes a full-length velvetine coat and matching wide-brimmed hat.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Halloween is just around the corner. I'd forgotten about it until I opened today's New York Times, saw this article and groaned.

While I loved Halloween as a child (you should've seen me in my "autumn tree" costume with multi-colored felt leaves sewn to my brown turtleneck and matching stretch pants), once I hit college I grew to hate Halloween. The sole purpose of the day for college-aged women is to dress up in the trashiest outfit possible, and for uncostumed men to gawk and freak dance with them at parties. Those of us attending college in New England know that by the end of October, temperatures drop into the 30's, and this is no place to be wearing next to nothing. The Cornell student quoted in the Times article acknowledges this with a laugh, "we're risking frostbite", but still plans on dressing up as a sexy girl scout.

Why is it acceptable for grown women to dress up as slutty children's figures? What does this say about our culture and the need women feel to fulfill a semi-pedophilic fantasy for men?

One of the things that bothers me most about this disturbing trend is that people have become so lazy that they've given up completely on creating interesting, witty or unique costumes. Many girls have given up trying to slutify normal costumes and just go out in lingerie. Where's the creativity in that?

I know a lot of women may find dressing up in revealing costumes to be sexually liberating in some way, and I respect that. But you have to ask yourself why you're doing it. As the article mentions, many girls and women understand being sexy to mean "being sexy for someone else". This is not the right attitude to have. Respecting yourself is one of the classiest things you can do, and it doesn't mean you can't be sexy or do anything wild.

Oh, and don't forget to throw a sweater or wrap in your purse, you don't want to freeze to death walking back to your dorm after the party.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Don't Shoot The Messenger

I hate you, Kate Moss.

And it's not because you're the biggest supermodel in the world. I actually find your fat-free frame and soulless gaze unattractive. It's not even because you are dumb enough to use and get caught with cocaine or because you're engaged to the biggest screw-up in Great Britain, Pete Doherty. It's because you somehow managed to convince the world that you are fashion's biggest trendsetter, and you used this power to mislead millions of unsuspecting women into believing that they should wear skinny jeans. After you were photographed everywhere in them, top designers made skinny jeans THE trend of the season and fashion magazine editors published hundreds of articles discussing how every woman, no matter her size or shape, can look good in these jeans. Kate, your power over the fashion industry is both enormous and mind-boggling, but I for one will not let it continue.

Newsflash America: SKINNY JEANS ARE UGLY. Not only are they ugly, they are completely unflattering. They make anyone with >1 ounce of fat on their hips, thighs, calves and butt look like a cow, and their shape only works if you have a flat, well-defined stomach, to keep your body from looking like an ice cream cone. They are a trend that will die once fashionable women collectively wake up one morning to realize the truth about the inherent ugliness of skinny jeans.

Readers, I beg of you, PLEASE don't succumb to this trend. If you completely disagree with me and absolutely love your skinny jeans, my only advice to you is to avoid having pictures taken of yourself in them. You'll only look back on them with embarrassment, the way that everyone over the age of 35 had to hide a decade worth of pictures because the 80's were just so bad.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gym Etiquette

I wouldn't call myself a gym junkie, but I do have a slightly addictive relationship to exercise- I just don't feel good without a 4-5 solid workouts a week. I've been to a number of different gyms in various states and cities, and I find that no matter where I go, I can't get away from people doing the same few annoying things. Here they are:

1. Talking on cell phones while using machines. As cell phones have become ubiquitous, people often forget that there is anything strange about talking on the phone in any location or situation, including while on the elliptical machine. My first problem with this is that for many people (including myself), the gym is a place where we can forget about the world (our work, nagging family members, obnoxious co-workers and fellow classmates, etc) while listening to music, watching bad tv and pushing our bodies to their potential. Hearing someone on the next treadmill loudly bitch about their problems on their phone for the entire 45 minutes of your workout cancels out almost all these psychological benefits. Unless it's an emergency, your phone should stay turned off and in your locker. If it is an emergency, why are you at the gym?

2. Women with inadequate chest support. Far too women wear bras that fit and provide sufficient support for exercising. On top of drawing a lot of extra attention to themselves at a time when they probably don't want to be watched, they are putting themselves at risk for developing back problems. No matter what exercise you're doing, your breasts shouldn't really move if you're wearing a good sports bra. For women with a more "modest" bra size, a cheap shelf sports bra in a material that wicks away sweat is fine. If you're on the more "substantial" side, I envy you, but you need to invest in a more supportive bra. has a good list of sports bras for curvier women.

3. Parties on the mat. I think it's a good idea to go to the gym with friends, as many people find this to be a great motivator. What often ends up happening though with groups of women is that they spend a long time chatting in betweenm before or after exercises, particularly on the mat while pretending to stretch. As anyone who's visited a gym during peak hours knows, there is a real estate game at work on the stretching mat. Everyone wants a space that gives them some privacy and room to move around. But when 3 girls take up half the mat while they gossip for 20 minutes while everyone else has to scrunch together, it's not fair. If you do go to the gym with friends, try to be conscious of how much space you're taking up. Also, for the same reasons as the cell phone rules, try to keep your voices down so that other people can focus on their work out or alternatively (and I'm not saying this is me) whether Flava Flav is going to finally get rid of evil New York this episode.

4. Dirty hippies doing cardio. This is a problem that may be limited to Northampton, Massachusetts, Ann Arbor, Michigan and other places where white people with dreadlocks and women who refuse to shave are the norm. I used to have the bad luck to share a similar gym schedule with a woman who did not shower. She and I both preferred the treadmills that face the window, and it seems like I always got to my treadmill 5 minutes before she showed up and took the one next to mine. I would spend an hour breathing out of my mouth because her stench was so bad. So, if any dirty hippies are reading this (which seems unlikely, but hey, who knows), do your fellow exercisers a favor and shower before you go to the gym, even if you don't shower the rest of the time.

Stick to interpretive dance for burning calories.

From Gawk to Glance

Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, or stuck in some form of public transporation, I can't help but stare at someone. It might be a cute guy, a women with something I covet (gorgeous hair, amazing shoes, an incredibly attractive boyfriend on her arm) or someone looking/doing something creepy (I'm particularly lured in by victims of bad plastic surgery). Often we just can't help it, and that's ok, we're only human. But there are a few basic rules you should follow so that you don't make someone uncomfortable or embarrass yourself.

First, limit yourself to 2 seconds of staring. This lets someone think that you weren't actually staring at them on purpose. I have a hard time following this rule if someone is doing something that bothers me, as I like to glare at them until they notice my disapproval. But I've realized that glaring often doesn't accomplish anything. If someone is doing something rude in the first place, they generally are too oblivious to notice the hint and stop the behavior. Somehow it still makes me feel like I'm doing something though... it's something I have to work on.

Don't make faces when you stare at someone. As much as you may want to wince when you see something like uggs on any person who isn't shoveling snow, try to keep a straight face. You can still feel sorry for them, just don't show it.

Be discreet. Guys, don't stare at a girl's face, then look down at her chest, then look back up. Same goes for the slow "checking you out" glance down and up a woman's body. It's not flirtatious, it's creepy and will make her feel self-conscious.

If you do want to flirt with someone, look them in the eyes and smile. If they smile back in a genuine way, you can assume that they're welcoming your advance and are open to talking to you. If you say something and they ignore it or look uncomfortable, abort mission.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Eyebrow Know-How: For Men

Why does Bert look unhappy? Beyond dealing with Ernie eating crackers in bed, Bert possesses a rather unfortunate unibrow. Then again, Ernie's complete lack of brow hair isn't much better. One thing is clear, though- both of our Sesame Street friends are sadly uninformed about the options available to men when it comes to eyebrow grooming. Knowledge is power, so here's what you need to know about taking care of any unslightly eyebrow hair.

Very few women or men can get away with ignoring their eyebrows. Even a little upkeep can make a huge difference in your appearance. If you're not sure whether your eyebrows need some cleaning up, ask a woman you trust for a second opinion.

Start by brushing your eyebrow hair upwards with a clean toothbrush or your girlfriend/wife's eyebrow brush (see previous post). Trim off any hairs that extend past the top of your natural eyebrow line with a pair of nail scissors.

Once that is done, take a good pair of tweezers and pluck the hairs that fall between your eyebrows. Remember, your eyebrows should start directly above the inner corner of your eye.

If there are any stray hairs above the top of your eyebrows (on your forehead near your temples), pluck those too. You want a clean line defining the top of your eyebrows. Tom Hanks is a good example of this; no extra hairs crawling up his forehead.

For men with more "serious" eyebrow issues- long, curly hairs going in every direction and thick, dark brows that resemble caterpillars with no clear seperation between them, a trip to the spa is in order. Guys, if you do have crazy eyebrows, don't feel bad because you're not alone.

Martin Scorsese's status as one of the greatest living filmmakers does not excuse him from his societal obligation to keep his facial hair from taking over the rest of his face. For cases like these, the only solution is waxing. These days, every major city has at least one men's spa, but if there isn't one near you, don't feel bad going to a traditional spa. An eyebrow waxing should cost you less than $20. While it's good to trust a professional, make it clear exactly how much hair you want removed, lest you end up looking like this:

Eyebrows like this look unnatural, and anyone with them appears to be trying way too hard. Whether you pluck or wax, your eyebrows should be neat and natural looking.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Eyebrow Know-How- For the Ladies

Changing the shape of your eyebrows can dramatically change the look of your face. You want eyebrows that are a nice shape, natural but neat and pretty. If you have thick eyebrows or your natural eyebrows lack shape, you should go to a professional to get them waxed, as it'll be very time-consuming and difficult to achieve a good look on your own. Waxing is only slightly painful, and while it does cost more than plucking them yourself, you don't have to do anything between appointments and you don't have to worry about messing them up yourself. Just make sure you go to a spa or a very good salon that you trust, and explain to the person doing the waxing what you want.

If you do choose to pluck your eyebrows, here are some tips:

Make sure you have the right equipment: a good pair of tweezers is essential to good eyebrows. They will save you time and will hurt far less than cheaper brands. I like tweezers with a slanted head, and these are a good pair:
Tweezermans Slanted Tweezers

If you're sensitive to pain, hold a piece of ice up against your brow for a minute to numb the area.

Before you begin, take a toothbrush or brow brush and brush your brows upward so that you can see the shape better.

Then, take the brush and hold it upward, placing one end at the side of your nostril so that it forms a straight line up to the inner corner of your eye. With eyeliner, mark off this line, as this is where your brow should begin. Take the brush and move the top end to the outer corner of your eye, with the bottom still touching your nostril. This is where your brow should end. Mark it.

Sit near a window so that you can see well. Pull skin taut and begin plucking the hair between your brows. Then pluck all stray hairs below the desired eyebrow line. Remember to follow your natural shape, as this will be the most flattering

Whatever you do, do NOT try shaving your brows. You will have a 5-o'clock shadow and a lot of irritation in a very sensitive part of your face. It's generally a good idea to keep razors away from your eyes anyway. I also advise against home waxing, as it's very difficult to create a shape you want without taking off too much hair, plus it's painful. Leave waxing to a professional.

Once you've finished and have a shape you like, fill in any gaps with brow pencil or powder. This is especially helpful for women with blonde hair (like myself) who want to define their brows a bit more. Make sure you use a shade that matches your hair color and that you apply it with a light hand. Set your brows by brushing them with a brow brush or putting a little pomade on them. This will keep them in the shape you want all day. Here are a couple of products I like for defining and shaping brows: Anastasia Perfect Brow Pencil and Smashbox Brow Tech.

Here are some examples of good and bad brows:

Kate Winslet: Fabulous shape, thickness and color. Arch is noticable but not too pronounced. Not too thick or thin for her face. Brows look totally natural.

Brooke Shields: Her thick eyebrows are her signiature feature. These would be too thick on a woman with smaller or more delicate features, but they work on her. If you want thicker brows with a less defined arch, be sure to keep them neat and in place with a brush and clear eyebrow gel or pomade.

Lonelygirl15: This is not an eyebrow shape found in nature. The arch is too high and too far to the side of her face though and the gap between her brows is WAY too large. This makes her nose look larger and her eyes too far apart.

Pamela Anderson: Overplucked mess. They look completely drawn in (or worse, tatooed in). The gap between the brows is a little large, but overall they aren't too bad as far as placement is concerned, they're just way too thin and shapeless.

No matter what you do, err on the side of thicker brows. If you overpluck too much, your hair won't grow back and you'll be stuck with two thin lines for eyebrows for the rest of your life.