Saturday, October 28, 2006

How To Get The Most Out Of Outlet Shopping

I spent the last weekend in Portland, Maine while on a quick vacation with my younger sister, Ellie. We drove up Friday, had a great time exploring, shopping and eating our way through the city. We woke up Saturday to a huge rainstorm, and while I was disappointed that we couldn't do any of the outdoor activities we had planned, I knew we could always go outlet shopping in Freeport, a town 20 minutes from Portland.

As much as I'm a shopping addict, Ellie hates to shop. She wears her clothes and shoes until they have holes (it sometimes borders on the scandalous) and my parents literally have to beg her to buy things (somehow, they have the opposite problem with me). So before my sister came for the weekend, my mom told me that I had to make sure she bought a few things before she came home. I knew that no one else was prepared for the challenge, and I rose to the occasion.

While we were shopping in Freeport, I followed a few rules to maximize our shopping experience. Here they are:

Try the outlet shops before going to the regular stores or buying anything online when the season begins. You'll end up spending less than you normally would by getting most of the items you need deeply discounted.

Decide how much you're willing to spend
overall, before you go. Stick to your budget, because it's easy to buy way more than you need because you're excited to find great deals. As my father likes to say, "you can go broke saving money."

Do some research online before you shop. Decide which stores you want to go to the most. When you get to the outlet mall, visit these stores first, when you have the most energy.

Eat a good breakfast
in the morning so you're not hungry when you get there. Hit your favorite stores first, and later when you're feeling a little tired and hungry, go have lunch. This will give you a boost of energy so you can finish your shopping.

Stay away from the regular-priced stores.
A lot of outlet malls are giving regular-priced stores real estate, and this will only tempt you away from the real deals in the outlet stores.

Find the factory stores. Most outlet stores are hit or miss, as they're filled with things that are no longer in season, couldn't be sold at the regular store or are damaged. On the other hand, true factory stores have their own line of seasonal clothing that is less expensive than the regular store, but retains the trendiness and high quality. Banana Republic, J. Crew, BCBG, Polo Ralph Lauren and Columbia Sportswear all have factory stores with great lines.

Load up on the basics at the outlet mall. Pick up basic sweaters, button down shirts, pants and skirts in bulk and get major discounts. If you make a trip to the outlets a few times a year, you won't have to hit the regular mall for basic items and you'll save a ton.

Look for big-ticket items. I've found evening gowns, winter coats, business suits and leather purses for extremely low prices at outlet malls. I'll never buy a suit at a regular store again.

Following these rules, Ellie and I had a very successful trip at the Freeport outlets. She doubled her current shoe collection to 4 pairs, and I convinced her to get a multi-purpose herringbone skirt, a button-down shirt and a leather purse. It wasn't much, but it's certainly a start, and I think my parents will be pleased that she won't be wearing holey clothes to Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Makeup Tutorial Videos

Most women simply don't know how to apply makeup. And why should they? Makeup doesn't come with instructions. Going to a cosmetics counter and requesting that they teach you to apply the makeup you're purchasing helps, but this can be uncomfortable. Makeup artist Elke Von Freudenberg has five videos on YouTube that are really helpful. They cover:

Applying primer

Applying foundation

Applying concealer

Removing oil

Applying powder

Elke doesn't just make it look simple, she gives you the fool-proof tips to recreate the look on your own. Hopefully she will come out with a few videos on applying eye and lip makeup, because 95% of makeup crimes are committed in these areas.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fall Fashion Trends: What Works- Cute Coats

I will not lie, I love coats. I already had 5 cold weather coats (not including a couple fleeces and 2 all-season trenches), when I was wasting some time browsing the Urban Outfitters store in Cambridge a few weekends ago and ended up caving on this beauty:

This coat has actually made me happy to hear that the temperature will be below 45. Not that happy, but a little bit.

I must not be the only coat-lover out there, because this season cute, interesting, figure-flattering coats are everywhere. If you've never paid much attention to your outerwear, now is the time to try something new. You'll be amazed how great it feels to wear something equally functional and fashionable, and so many of this season's coats look just as great with a sweater and jeans as with a cocktail dress.

Keep in mind, a good coat should last you at least a number of years, so be prepared to pay in the $100-$200 range.

If you're looking to invest in just one nice winter coat that will go with everything, get a longer coat (knee length is most flattering) in a more traditional style, like a peacoat or a trench.

Anything with a tie belt or vertical lines down the front (like in the picture above) will make you look slimmer.

Also, Loehmann's always has a ton of great coats that are majorly discounted, so they should be your first stop.

Here are some great coats from $60-$250:

Classic styles:

Nine West Seam Peacoat
Via Spiga Petite Black Wool Walker Coat

Guess Wool Blend Vintage-Inspired Tweed Coat

bebe Swing Coat

American Eagle Graduate Peacoat

Rampage Wool Three Quarter Length Coat with Hood

Guess Wool Blend Walking Coat with Snap Front

Marvin Richards Wool/Cashmere White 3/4 Coat

Larry Levine Wool and Cashmere Blend Toggle Coat

Funky Styles:

Gap Mod Military Coat

Gap Tie Car Coat

Nine West Sunburst Down Jacket

Susina Babydoll Coat
Banana Republic 3/4 Sleeve Coat

Halogen Military Coat
Kenneth Cole Reaction Cashmere Blend Coat

DKNY Tweed Trench Coat

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"It's not you, it's me": How To Break up

My friend Ryan recently called me to ask for relationship advice. There's a girl he's been seeing on and off for the past few months, and although she's smart, funny, sweet and fun to be around, he's not attracted to her and has a hard time viewing her as anything more than a friend. I told him he should get over this, because she's really great, but he insists that he can't.

He wanted to go about breaking up with her by ignoring her calls until she got the picture or just being a huge jerk on their next couple of dates, so that she would break up with him. I told him that it's this kind of thinking that inspires man-hating by women all over the world.

Ryan's dilemma got me thinking about how people never want to take responsibility in relationships, especially when it comes to ending the relationship. They would rather look terrible in the other person's eyes than be honest about their feelings. But the key to any relationship is communication and honesty, and there's no better time to be honest (well, mostly honest) than when you're breaking up.

Tips for breaking up the humane way:

Before you break up with someone, take the necessary time to consider whether it's the right course of action. If you've dated the person for a while, you owe it to them to be honest about any issues you're having in the relationship. It's only fair to wait to break up once you've talked to them multiple times and they refuse to change.

If you have gone out for more than 4-5 dates, you can't break up on the phone or through e-mail. By this point you should have some attachment to the other person (and they to you) and it's only fair to speak to them in person.

Don't break up on or after a date, just call the person and set up a time and place where you can talk.

Choose a location that is casual, and preferably somewhere with a lot of people if you don't know the person very well and think they might lose it. If you would rather do it somewhere private (very important if the relationship has lasted a long time), ask to come over to the other person's house. This way you can leave when you want to, and it's more comfortable for them. Plus, you don't want someone driving home who's emotionally unstable. Hopefully you just want to be friends with this person, not get them killed.

If you don't want to stay friends, don't lie and say you do. If they ask specifically, say that you want some time apart first, and then you'll see if you think it can work.

Don't lie and say you're not ready for a relationship at this time if you are. When you run into your ex with your new girl/boyfriend, you'll really hurt his/her feelings.

When explaining the reason for the breakup, be as honest as you can without saying anything mean. In Ryan's case, I advised him not to tell her that he wasn't attracted to her. Saying this doesn't help anyone. Rephrasing it as, "I'm more interested in you as a friend than as a girlfriend" is much gentler and still truthful.

Make sure you say a lot of positive things about the person before you break the news about why you want to break up. Just be sure you don't go overboard on the compliments. He/she will respond with, "if I'm so amazing, why are you leaving me?"

If you cheated on the person, you should tell them. He/she may find out later and the earlier you fess up, the better. Also, however terrible the reaction is to this news, know that you deserve it. And you won't have to feel so guilty about it anymore.

Stay with the person for as long as they want to talk, but don't get suckered into staying the night and getting back together.

Under no circumstances should you go any further than hugging the person. Stick to your guns and don't let yourself be seduced out of guilt! It will only make things far worse.

Decide what you're going to do with shared belongings right away or you may never see them again. If the person wants some time, wait a week and call them back to work it out over the phone.

Once you've broken up, try not to talk to the person for at least a couple of weeks. Some time apart will give you a fresh outlook on the situation and you can decide whether you want to eventually try to be friends with the person or get back together. If you think you want to get back together right away, give it some time. This is everyone's response to a painful breakup and it's not always the best one.

Make sure you talk to your friends about the relationship once it's ended. Getting out your feelings and hearing things from their perspective, particulary the "we've been waiting for you to dump that loser for months" line, will make you feel better.

Be the bigger person and don't trash your ex to your mutual friends. He/she will hear about it eventually.

Fall Fashion Trends: What Works- Flats

As a tall girl (I'm 5'9"), I'm thrilled by the newfound popularity of flats. I used to hate being tall, and although I've come to embrace it, I still try to avoid towering over everyone else. Flats used to be boring- you had your choice of ballet flats or slip-on sneakers, but this season there are flat versions in tons of different styles, materials, colors and prints. You no longer have to sacrifice style for comfort.

And until October 30, Nordstrom is offering free shipping on every pair of full-price shoes. So stock up!

Here are some great styles, from $40-$120:

Everyday styles:

Jeffrey Cambell "Love" Ballet Flat

BP "Edie" Flat

Lacoste "Papillon" Flat

BC Footwear "Addict" Slip-Ons

Work-ready styles:

Steve Madden "Brinkk" Skimmer

Nicole "Fairfax" Flat

BCBGirls "Slyng" Skimmer

Matisse "Sable" Flat

Going Out styles:

Steve Madden "Bunni" Pump

N.Y.L.A. "Charli" Flat

These are just general guidelines, and a lot of these shoes change categories when they're in a different color. Anything metallic or animal print is great for going out, but isn't approporiate for work. If you're wearing something sparkly or metallic, it should be the only the only sparkly or metallic article of clothing or accessory you wear (not counting jewelry). It's fun to add a little sparkle, but overdo it and you'll resemble a disco ball.

Brightly colored flats look great with jeans or an monochromatic outfits. Although I advise against it, if you do choose to wear skinny jeans or leggings, flats are a must. Heels, particularly stilettos, will make you look silly.

Making Your MySpace/Facebook Profile Job Friendly

Facebook and MySpace have become fixtures in the lives of millions of people, most of whom are under the age of 30. But as many people are aware, Facebook recently made the controversial move to open the site up to the general public, where it had previously only allowed people associated with specific high schools, universities and companies. What does this mean for the average college kid? It means that your mom, your boss and a company recruiter can all "friend" you and see your profile. And you thought pedophiles were an issue...

Many recruiters were already using MySpace and Facebook as part of a background check on applicants, as discussed in this New York Times article. Facebook's strict profile viewing rules (you could only view someone's profile if they were in your network) allowed students to think of the site as a safe space, where they could post any information about themselves that was, shall we say, not "mom approved". This includes pictures of people engaging in illegal activities and groups that promote these same activities ("I drink on days that end in Y").

If you have a Facebook or MySpace profile, now is the time to clean it up. You don't want to be denied the job of your dreams on the basis of a drug reference or a few scandalous pictures. I'm not advocating that people strip their profiles of all individuality and humor, just that they take away anything obviously damning.

Here are a few tips for making your Facebook or MySpace profile "recruiter/boss friendly":

-First, you can always set your privacy settings so that people outside of one network (your college, for example) or all friends cannot view your profile. If you absolutely insist on keeping "the man" out of your profile, consider this option.

If you don't want to make your profile competely private, here are some ways you can clean it up:

-Remove any pictures where you are obviously drunk and/or high. If a beer funnel or bong is in your hand, it has to go.

-Remove any pictures where you are naked, almost naked, or are around lots of people with little to no clothes on.

-Leave any groups that promote illegal activities, seriously politically incorrect political viewpoints or fall under the category of "WAY too much information". Even if it's semi-ironic, like "People who choke bitches and slap hos", it still looks bad.

-Get rid of any of the previously mentioned activities from your interests and quotes.

-Don't write any notes or blog entries about the previously mentioned activities.

For everything else, just use common sense. Keep in mind that most companies are super sensitive to any politically incorrect or potentially offensive viewpoints and actions. If they think you might say or do something that would get you fired, they definitely won't hire you in the first place.

Fall Fashion Trends: What Works- Plaid

Plaid is associated with Scottish people, punks, lumberjacks and grunge rockers. I am none of these things, but I love this season's plaid trend. Designers are using the pattern in unexpected styles and colors that are definitely worth trying out. Plaid is also one of the best patterns for fall and winter coats, since it looks great on thick wools and tweeds.

The key to pulling off plaid is to pair it with other solid colors and avoid mixing prints. Plaid is a very bold print, particularly when it's multi-colored, and it will dominate the outfit, so pair it with complimentary solid pieces. The exception to this is with scarves, because you generally only wear a scarf with a coat and you don't see the outfit underneath. So make sure you pair the plaid scarf with a solid-colored coat, gloves and hat, but you don't have to worry about it clashing with anything else.

Unless you want to look like a cowboy, stay away from plaid button-down shirts.

Also, avoid wearing anything plaid that's made out of polyester, or you'll look like you got your outfit at Hot Topic. Actually, I take that back. Avoid anything made out of polyester, no matter the color or print. It looks cheap and disco in a bad way.

Gap Cropped Plaid Jacket

Gap Plaid Mini Skirt

Coffee Shop Double Breasted Plaid Coat

Forever 21 Plaid Jacket

Albert Nipon Plaid Tweed Walker Coat

Banana Republic Plaid Scarf

Urban Outfitters Wide Plaid Headband

No Such Thing As "A Healthy Tan"

Kristen over at Beauty Addict had a great post today about the new American Academy of Dermatology report on the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer.

It amazes me how so many women (and men) knowingly put themselves at risk for cancer when there are so many safer alternatives. Beauty Addict recommended a few of her favorites, but you can read thousands of reviews of self-tanners here.

If you are simply vain and willing to accept the risks of indoor tanning because you think your skin looks better dark, consider that 90% of the symptons of premature aging (mainly wrinkles) are caused by the sun. You may think you look good now, but you don't want to look like this when you're older:

I tried to find a picture of a female celebrity who had aged poorly, but unfortunately, they've all had a ton of plastic surgery to cover it up. But even with the plastic surgery, you can still see the poor quality of many women's skin, such as Victoria Beckham here:

After years of spending full summers outside (I swam competitively for 12 years and lived at the pool) I've jumped on the sunscreen bandwagon and now wear sunscreen with a high SPF every single day, summer or winter, rain or shine. My skin looks much healthier overall and I've grown to like my paleness. And hey, if Nicole Kidman can pull it off, why can't I?

My personal favorites are Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Face Cream
and Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock with Helioplex. You can read more reviews of sunscreens here .

I've seen far too many pretty girls in their 20's with the leathery skin of 45 year olds, and that's enough motivation for me to slather on the SPF every morning. Oh yeah, and there's that melanoma thing too...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pinup Girl Lips

As much as I love beauty products, I've never been one for lipstick. I think it goes back to my Freshman year of high school when I had my makeup done by my hairdresser in preparation for the Homecoming dance and she put the brightest, most shocking red lipstick on me, to match my floor-length sparkling red dress. I should mention that I have always had large lips and I had braces at the time, so I resembled a gawky teenage Ronald McDonald in drag. It was not pretty.

Since then, I've bought a number of nude and pink lipsticks and glosses, but I don't feel much for any of them. I put on lipstick before I go out, but by the time I've had a drink or finished my first course at dinner, it's gone. And I hate not being able to kiss my boyfriend because I don't want to ruin my lips.

But as of late, I've had a semi-obsession with 1940's and 50's style. As a student at one of the Seven Sisters, I subconsciously (ok, consciously) long for the days when buses full of Ivy League boys pulled up to the dorms every weekend night bearing flowers and gifts and people got dressed up and went on real dates. I've been wearing a lot of shirt dresses and fuller skirts, and my boring nude/pink makeup just doesn't look match the super-feminine look I'm going for.

I knew I needed something dramatic, so I made my way to Sephora last weekend in hopes of finding something that would make my lips pop and and not require re-application every 20 minutes. I tried on a lot of lip stains, but they were runny, the color was uneven and they were very difficult to apply. Eventually I came across this little product,

Stila Lip Rouge in Pucker

As you can see, it looks like a felt-tip marker. I thought this must have been some Freudian marketing strategy to remind women of when they played with makeup as little girls, but then I tried it and realized that it was just some smart packaging. Stains are liquid, and by putting the stain in a felt tip, you can be far more precise in your application. The downside of this is that it takes a little time to cover your lips evenly, as the tip isn't very thick.

It was definitely worth the effort though, because I ended up with pinup girl bright berry red lips. I couldn't stop making faces in the mirror, it was amazed by how different my entire face looked. But because the stain is matte, I needed a gloss to set it. I tried a few and ended up loving Smashbox Lip Gloss in Crystal. The gloss is super-shiny and very moisturizing, which combats the drying effect of the stain.

I had a big event to go to that night and I felt incredibly confident and sexy with my shiny red lips. The color lasted all night (I still had a little on the next morning) and the gloss only needed to be reapplied a couple of times.

A couple things to remember: if you're at the store and want to try this product, put a little on your hand first, because once it hits your lips, it ain't going anywhere for at least 4-6 hours. Also, the brighter colors are very dramatic, so if you wear them, play down the rest of your makeup. I didn't wear blush or eye shadow so that the focus would stay on my lips.

As if I needed another reason to spend money on beauty products, I think I may be hooked on lip stains. Who knew that having a little color on your lips could make you feel this good?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fall Fashion Trends: What Works- Wide-Leg Pants

Volume is one of the big trends for fall, but too often, women who attempt this style end up looking like a deflated balloon, as Kate Beckinsale shows us here:

The key is to use the volume to your advantage, so your clothes still retain a sleek, body-conscious line. One of the best ways to make this trend work for you is with wide-leg trousers. They hide any extra weight in your hips and thighs while making your legs look long and your waist thin by comparison. These pants instantly make an outfit look more expensive and put-together. They also evoke a 1940's era American elegance that is both timeless and refreshing.

It's important to remember to offset the volume by wearing a fitted top, and these pants look great with sweaters, button-down shirts and even basic t-shirts, for a more relaxed look.

You want a pair that sits on your hips, isn't too baggy around your upper thighs and butt and doesn't have large front pockets. And if you can, try to find a pair with a crease. This will minimize your hips and make you look longer and leaner.

Make sure that the pants aren't too flared, or you'll look clownish. It's also very important that they are long enough so that they almost touch the ground when you wear heels, but aren't dragging if you decide to wear flats. If your pants are too short, you won't get that slimming effect, and if they're too long they'll look sloppy.

Here are some great pairs for under $100:

Wardrobe Wide-Leg Stretch Denim Pants

Frenchi Wide-Leg Trousers

Max Studio Broadcloth Wide-Leg Trousers

Max Studio Petite Black Linen Stretch Pants

Forever 21 Mahoni Trouser

And because I just couldn't help it, here are a few pairs that are way out of my price range:

Marc by Marc Jacobs Wide Leg Pants

Marc by Marc Jacobs Sateen Tuxedo Pants

Diane von Furstenberg 'Kathlene' Wide Leg Pants

Following Up

Whether you attend an organized networking reception, meet someone through a mutual friend or family member, or chat up a stranger, you want to follow up on any encounter where your career is discussed, and someone offers to help you out in any way. This is always a tricky situation, because you don't want to come out and ask for a job, but you also want to make it clear that you want any advice or connections this person can give.

There is a right way and a wrong way to write a follow-up e-mail in this situation.

Wrong way:

Hey Mr. Buffett,

You probably don't remember me, but we met 2 weekends ago on the Long Island Railroad. We talked about your job and what I want to do with my life, and you said you could help me out, either by finding me a job or putting me in touch with someone who can give me a job. This is really important to me, because I'm graduating soon and if I don't have a job I'll have to live at home and work at the mall, and that is definitely a waste of my private, east coast liberal arts education. You asked me for my resume, and I attached it to this e-mail, but please don't hold it against me that I don't have much work experience. Anyway, it was great meeting you, if you could help me out I'd really appreciate it.

-Stupid Frat Boy

Okay, I'll admit that no one would actually write a letter like this, but a lot of real follow-up letters suffer from similar kinds of common mistakes. What are the common mistakes here? To start, it's way too casual. Your e-mail has to have a respectful, professional tone. Use "Dear So and So" and "Sincerely", and avoid slang or talking too much about yourself. You also want to compliment the person and show how appreciative you are that they offered to help you at all, but don't go over the top by going on and on about how wonderful and fantastic they are. Sucking up won't help you. You also don't want to ever explicitly mention getting a job from this person. While your goal may be to get a job, you have to act like you just want to learn about what someone does, and get advice from them about how you can succeed in your field of interest. It's also important to contact someone as soon as possible after you've met them. The longer you wait to e-mail them, the less likely they'll remember you.

Right way:

Dear Mr. Gates,

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come and speak to Anonymous College students at the Alumni Networking Reception today. I really enjoyed meeting you and hearing about your experiences and advice related to entering the anonymous industry.

I've attached my resume, and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have. I would greatly appreciate any additional advice you may have related to graduate school or my job search, or suggestions of people I could contact who might be good resources. Thank you again, I hope the rest of your weekend at Anonymous goes well.



This is an actual e-mail I sent out on Friday. It's not perfect, but I spent a long time working on it so that it would have the right tone, and it's professional without being stiff and boring. The first paragraph focuses on thanking the person and expressing interest in them and what they talked about with you. The second asks for nothing more than advice and suggestions of people who could serve as resources. Resources for what, you don't have to say. The person you're writing to will understand what you mean. It's important to end on a friendly note, thanking them and personalizing the note a bit- I knew this person was visiting his daughter at my college and would be here for the whole weekend.

Most of all, don't forget that in most cases, people will be happy to hear from you, or at the worst won't care. Successful professionals are often interested in giving advice and assistance to young adults- sometimes out of a natural desire to help, and sometimes just because it makes people feel important to be seen as a mentor. Either way, you benefit.