Saturday, November 04, 2006

Learning From Celebrity Mistakes

Reese Witherspoon is one of my favorite actresses, so I was sad to hear that she was divorcing Ryan Phillippe, and even more sad to read that she DIDN'T HAVE A PRENUP. According to the Miami Herald, Reese made $30 million for just two films in 2005, while Ryan averages about $2.5 million per film (when he gets roles). California law states that the couple's earnings while they were married must be divided 50/50, so Reese is losing bigtime.

This whole drama is almost a replay of Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson's split last year. The two failed to sign a pre-nup before their marriage in 2002 (when Nick was the big star), which came back to really hurt Jessica in 2005 when they split.

I'm often shocked when I hear that people are against getting a prenuptial agreement, usually because they think that they'll never get divorced, that they're worried that discussing a prenup will kill the romance or that they assume that prenups are only for control freaks or wealthy people. This simply isn't true.

So, what does this mean to you? Well, first, celebrity splits can be pretty entertaining, but also, it might make sense to consider a prenup for yourself if you're considering getting married in the near future (which, alarmingly, more and more of my friends seem to be doing).

A marriage is a financial union and it's very important to get all of your financial information out on the table, so that it doesn't lead to conflict later on.

You can't ignore the statistics. The divorce rate is around 50%, and you can bet that everyone going through a divorce once assumed it could never happen to them. As Suze Orman writes, "Assuming total immunity in the face of 50/50 odds is acting way too moonstruck if you ask me."

All that said, prenups aren't for everyone- they can be expensive, unnecessary, and sometimes unenforceable in many states. It is, of course, important to consult with a lawyer first about whether or not it might make sense.

For more information on prenups, along with guidelines on who should definitely not get married without one, check out this pro-prenup article from Suze and more technical article from CNNMoney.

Friday, November 03, 2006

When Trends Go Bad

As you may have noticed, I'm not a huge follower of fashion trends. I like to buy clothes that are flattering and will look good for a long time, and if there's a trend I'm dying to have, I go to H&M or Forever 21 and pay $20 for something I'll wear 5 times. If you absolutely love having the latest and greatest, I respect you, but I want to show the following picture as a warning.

I have counted 8 current fashion trends in this picture, and poor Zooey Deschanel manages to mangle almost every one. I'm going to break down what she did wrong, and how you can avoid a similar fate.

Starting from the top:

The headband: There are tons of cute, cheap headbands out there, but you want to avoid one that is too little girl cutesy, even if it's meant to be ironic. A headband can really bring a look together and lets you do a lot of cool things with your hair, but stay away from ones with big, floppy red bows. This one and this one are much better options.

The hair: Bangs are big this season, but you have to be careful about two things. First, if you have very thick hair like Zooey's, you might want to stay away from bangs, because thick bangs and big hair will distract from your face. Second, if you do have bangs, get them trimmed regularly. Didn't her mother ever yell at her to keep her hair out of her eyes?

The shirt: Red and blue stripes seem to be everywhere, and I like them, especially on t-shirts. But Zooey's shirt is more "pirate wench" than "hip actress". Because it's baggy, off the shoulder and long, it looks particularly sloppy, and does nothing for her lovely figure. If you like striped shirts, try to find one that is 100% cotton and fairly fitted, like this one.

The purse: Slouchy hobo bags are great because of their versatility and practicality (you can wear them on your shoulder, they're usually pretty roomy), but this one appears to have been attacked by a bedazzler. There's already a lot going on in this outfit, so the detail-heavy bag only detracts and makes it all look messier. Find a purse with a little less "stuff" on it, like this or this.

The belt: This belt isn't awful on its own. But the weaving and leather detail have the same effect as the beaded purse: it's just too much. I would have chosen a belt like this. It's also important to remember to wear these wide belts closer to your natural waist and not your hips, so that you draw attention to the thinnest part of your body, and not the thickest (well, for me at least).

The skirt and tights: I like the combination of a denim miniskirt and opaque tights, but this skirt has a couple of issues. First, we can only see about an inch of it, and the color is so similar to the tights it's easy to forget it's there. Another thing to remember is that on normal women, there's a general rule that the shorter your skirt is, the wider you look (this is referring to anything above the knee). The reason is that the skirt hem will draw the eye to whichever part of the leg it hits, so if it's higher, people will notice the thicker part of your thighs, which is why it's ideal to wear skirts between 1-4 inches above the knee. If you're a supermodel and every part of your thigh is perfect, this does not apply to you.

The boots: Except for the strange green color (green leather? not appealing), these boots are fine. High boots like these make your legs look longer and are great when paired with skirts during the fall and winter.

One final note: trends are fun to play with, but you don't want to go overboard with them, like Ms. Deschanel does here, or you come off as trying too hard. Remember that trends are defined by their short lifespan, so spend your money wisely by investing in pieces that will last a long time and hit up the discount stores for trendier pieces.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Is Primer Necessary?

Someone commented earlier this week with a question on primers and requested that I do a post on which products are necessary for someone hoping to look their best for a special occasion. I'll tackle the second part of that question in a later post, but I'd like to address the question of primers today.

First, what is primer? There are different kinds of primers (eye shadow primer, mascara primer, and most notably, foundation primer) but they all serve the purpose of providing a barrier between skin and makeup (filling in creases and pores, soaking up oil) so that your makeup goes on smoothly and evenly. It also helps your makeup last a long time because the makeup "sticks" to the primer and not your skin.

I do not claim to be a primer expert, because I don't use it myself, but I have read a fair amount about it and can give some advice on whether or not you need it and which products are well-liked.

Mascara primer often comes attached to or with a mascara, and it supposedly makes your eyelashes longer and thicker and the mascara stay longer, but I've heard that it often just ends up clumping and being a waste of time. If anyone has experience with a mascara primer that works well, please post a comment.

If you're sick of getting creased eye shadow (this is especially a problem with cream eyeshadows), you should look into eye shadow primer. A popular product is Urban Decay Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion. Beauty Addict recently reviewed it and reports that it passed every test, and is sweat, sleep and humidity-proof.

Foundation primer is the most popular, because as anyone who uses foundation knows, it's difficult to apply it evenly, make it look natural and get it to stay all day. Unfortunately, most good foundation primers require quite an investment, because unlike eye shadow, lipstick or mascara, it's often hard to find a good primer at a low price, so do your research before buying.

Blogdorf Goodman reviewed 40 different primers earlier this year and ranked them. You can read the wonderfully detailed reviews here and here. MakeupAlley also has hundreds of reviews of primers, so check them out before you shop.

So how do you know whether you need primer? If you wear foundation every day, are a stage actress, live in a climate where your makeup is constantly melting or are going to a big event where you will be photographed many times (your wedding, say, or the Oscars), you should definitely consider it. For the average woman who's pretty low-maintenance when it comes to makeup (I'd put myself in this category), it's not a necessity.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Packing For Weekend Trips

Normally, when I go somewhere for the weekend, I tend to pack half of my closet so that I always have backup outfits and appropriate attire if I get an unexpected invitation to a fancy restaurant or formal party (even if this hasn't happened yet, it might!). But in the last year I've made a concerted effort to down-size the amount of "stuff" I own, because I was dangerously close to becoming high-maintenance and I didn't want that.

So on Thursday night when I was preparing for my weekend in Maine, I packed everything I thought I'd need, and nothing more. I limited myself to a coat, a sweatshirt, 2 sweaters, a nice t-shirt, 2 pajama shirts, pajama pants, a pair of tennis shoes, a pair of dress shoes and a dress (we were going to a nicer restaurant so this was necessary). All of this fit in one overnight bag and a couple of hangers, and I was very pleased with myself.

While I had checked the weather beforehand and knew that there'd be rain, I didn't really think it through. Within the first hour of leaving the hotel, my jeans, tennis shoes and socks were soaked. Because I didn't bring extras, I was stuck, and there's nothing worse than cold, wet jeans and socks.

For once, I had the problem of not bringing enough clothes. The experience lead me to write a list of everything I should bring on future weekend trips, which I'll check out the next time I'm packing. Here are a few guidelines to follow so that you're never stuck with too few or too many clothes:

Consider what you'll be doing, and pack accordingly. This is pretty obvious, but in the rush of preparing for a trip, it's easy to forget to think through which clothes you'll need for each activity.

Check the weather before you begin packing. If it's going to rain or snow, make sure you have a waterproof coat, umbrella and extra pairs of socks, shoes and casual pants.

Plan on layering. A lot of times you'll leave your hotel in the morning when it's cold and won't get back until much later in the day when the temperature has changed, so you'll want to wear layers that you can add or remove depending on the weather.

Bring a few mix and match items
so that you can re-wear clothes with different outfits. I find it's helpful to pack around a few colors. I made sure that everything I brought this weekend would look good with my black coat, purse and shoes, which made getting dressed super easy.

Don't bring new shoes that haven't been broken in, you want to be comfortable and not worrying about foot pain or blisters.

Bring a nice outfit, unless you know for sure that you won't be going anywhere nice (if you're camping, for instance). Try to pick something that won't wrinkle or take up much space. You never know what might come up.

Also, try to go light on the accessories and limit yourself to two or three pairs of shoes that go well with what you've packed.

What you pack depends on who you are, where you're going and what you're doing, but the best advice I can give is to think carefully about what you really need, and try to avoid bringing anything that's not necessary for a short trip. Happy packing!

Being Inclusive During Group Conversations

My boyfriend is in law school and we often go on double dates with his friends, most of whom are also law students. I enjoy getting to know his friends and their significant others, but I've grown increasingly frustrated with one aspect of the experience, which is that people are almost always oblivious to any outsiders in a group (and as someone who isn't in law school, that outsider always happens to be me). The first couple double dates we went on, I was mildly annoyed that I had to listen to the rest of the group talk about classes, law firms, campus gossip, etc while I had nothing to add, and that no one noticed that I had nothing to contribute to the conversation. Even when we both made an effort to steer the conversation towards topics that everyone could discuss, the same problem continued to occur.

When people are in a group with others who are "in the same boat" as them (students at the same school, members of the same club, employees at the same company or in the same industry, etc), they tend to gravitate towards discussing their shared situation, instead of putting in the effort to get to know a new person. Whether people are lazy, self-centered or simply unaware, I don't know, but it's certainly rude to ignore someone.

If you find yourself in a group with at least one person who is an outsider, try to include them as much as possible. Here are a few easy ways to do this:

Beyond asking them basic information about their life, point out any similarities between this person and other members of the group. Ex: "You went to UMichigan? Dan is from Ann Arbor." And then Dan and outsider can talk about Michigan football, their favorite local restaurants, or whatever else.

Ask follow up questions. My personal favorite is "how do/did you like that?", as it allows someone to give an opinion on something, and provides plenty of opportunities for additional questions. This question also works for just about anything, and lets a person talk about him/herself at length, which everyone enjoys.

Address the entire group when asking fun or general questions, so that everyone can chime in. Examples: "Did anyone see Marie Antoinette? I was thinking of going this weekend.", "Anyone doing anything special for the holidays?" or "Has anyone tried that new Thai restaurant?".

If the similarity holding a group together is religious (they all attend the same church) or political (they got to know each other working on a campaign), it's important not to put the outsider on the spot so that they feel compelled to discuss or defend their religious or political views.

If you're the outsider in one of these situations, don't stay silent. Do your part to bring up new conversation topics, and to ask people specific questions about things that interest you. A lot of times people want the opportunity to discuss something different and they'll appreciate your effort.

I'm going on another double date this weekend, and if I have to hear about law for 2 hours, I might just die of boredom. Hopefully by employing some of these techniques, I'll get to know these people better and we'll all enjoy a more interesting, varied conversation.

Creative Halloween Costumes

Last week I complained about the popularity of slutty Halloween costumes, and how no one tries creative costumes anymore. If you have a Halloween party this week and you're still seaching for a costume, you're in luck, because New York Magazine just published a "How To Dress Like Suri Cruise and 32 Other Pop Culture Targets" guide in the recent issue. My personal favorite costume ideas are Naomi Campbell, Hugo Chavez, Truman Capote, Suri Cruise (a fantastic alternative to all those peapod costumes for babies, and a great date costume for adults), Jeffrey Sebelia and KFed and Britney (be as trashy as you like and you still fit the part).

I loved the idea of tainted spinach, but I would have used deflated green balloons glued to my clothes, with an Earthbound Farm logo on your chest.

They also suggested MySpace page, and one of the best costumes I ever saw was "The Facebook" where a girl connected two sandwichboards and wore them like a vest, decorating the front one with all the details of a Facebook profile, including her own picture and pictures of friends at the bottom.

I missed all the Halloween parties on campus this weekend when I was away in Maine, but I wanted to be "The Bride" from the Kill Bill films, complete wth a yellow and black tracksuit and plastic sword. I guess it'll have to wait until next year.

I do have the plastic sword though, and I'll be walking around campus tonight looking to decapitate anyone wearing a ho costume.