Saturday, December 02, 2006

Find This Handbag

Emily e-mailed me last week with this question: "I fell in love with this Anthropologie purse, but it's way out of my price range. Can you find a similar-looking, more reasonably priced bag? Thanks!"

This is a gorgeous bag, I love the gold hardware and practical size, but it's the aged leather that's to die for. Unfortunately, with leather, you often get what you paid for. Unless you come across something way marked down, you'll have a hard time finding high quality leather for under $300.

Fortunately, there are some good imitations out there, and plenty of websites and stores where you can search for discount designer bags.

Banana Republic recently came out with a line of beautiful leather handbags. The "Sandhurst" collection is my favorite, and they have three bags that resemble the Anthropologie bag. The leather and hardware are high quality and they are as practical as they are stylish.

The square hobo bag is of a similar shape, color and size as Emily's bag. The extra-large shoulder bag has a nice scoop shape and I love the front pocket and adjustable strap. And if you're looking for a purse that'll hold everything when you're on the go (and still be comfortable), you should check out the saddle bag. J.Crew also has a nice washed leather purse that's worth checking out. All of these purses are in the $150-$300 range, less than half of the Anthropologie purse.

But if you're looking for something even more affordable, you should check out discount stores like JC Penney or Loehmann's and websites like Here are six of my favorites, all for under $170:

All of these bags do an excellent job of approaching the look and feel of the $698 Wheat Penny Caryall, but if you're dying for that worn-in leather look, you should check out local vintage stores. They're probably your best shot at finding super nice leather for a reasonable price.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Best Everyday Lipgloss

Last month I did a post on Stila Lip Rouge, a product that stains your lip the deepest, most beautful bright red. I've had a lot of fun wearing it around, but it's simply too dramatic for daytime and casual outings. As I discussed in the previous post, I hate lipstick; it never lasts, tends to dry out my lips and rubs off on my teeth, so I was looking for a new lip product that would give me the same red lips look I love, but would be sheer enough for any occasion.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given a free tube of Lancome's Juicy Tubes Smoothie Lip Gloss in Creamsicle. It's a very pale pinky peach color, goes on the lips smoothly and is very moisturizing. It has no sparkle (I hate sparkle in a lip color) but is very, very shiny. The best part though is that it actually smells tastes like a real creamsicle! It's subtle (you won't be tempted to eat it or anything), but it's definitely present. One of my biggest pet peeves about lip gloss is that they are often sticky and don't have much staying power, but I found that the Juicy Tube held up for many hours against my nervous habit of rubbing my lips together.

I loved wearing it, but I after I was photographed wearing it, I realized that the color was just not right for my skin tone. As I've said before, I'm pale (my foundation and concealer is always "porcelain", a nicer way of saying "ghost pale") and have light blonde hair, and the color was so light that it washed me out. I ended up giving it to my mom, who has slightly darker coloring and hair, and she also loves it. If you aren't super pale like me or are going for a nude lip look, you should definitely check it out.

But since I gave it away, I'd missed my Juicy Tube, and decided to go back to the Lancome counter and get it in a better color. I was playing around with pink and berry tones, but like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to this beautiful, bright cherry color. It looked SO bright in the tube, but when I tried it on, it was pretty without being overpowering. It's not a pure red (which is a little too intense for me), it looks pinkish-cherry in certain light, which stains your lips for a few hours after the gloss itself wears off. It also tastes and smells like sweet cherries. Mmmm...

Because it's a gloss, it's easy to layer, but even if you really slather it on, it's still wearable for daytime. It's perfect for my new French minimalist makeup look- tinted moisturizer and powder for flawless skin, eyelash curler and a swipe of lengthening mascara on the eyes, a subtle pink powder on the cheeks and shiny, red lips. Maybe French women don't actually look like this, but it's what I imagine they wear.

If you have pale skin, you should definitely stop by a Lancome counter to try it out. When I got back from purchasing the new color (and kept finding excuses to walk by mirrors to check out my lips), I was flipping through the new issue of Lucky magazine and saw that it was mentioned as being a perfect shade of red lipcolor for light skin tones. The Juicy Tube line has also won a lot of awards from beauty sites and magazines, so don't just take my word for it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Holiday Party Fashion Guide: Part 1- Dresses

In the next few weeks, I'm going to talk a lot about holiday parties. I'll cover everything you need to know to look fabulous at every kind of party- from swanky cocktail parties to more subdued office dinner parties. Today's post will cover party dresses, which have become increasingly popular as party-goers prefer dressing up to the jeans, glitzy tank top and heels look of a few years ago.

The great thing about dresses is that they're simple (you don't have to worry about matching separates) and can be incredibly flattering on all body types, as long as you choose wisely. I've decided to organize this guide by body type, though as you'll see, many styles overlap and look good on almost everyone. Finally, in an effort to find pieces that everyone can afford, EVERY dress I mention is under $100.

Hourglass Shape: If your shoulders and hips are about equally wide and you have a defined waist, you have an hourglass shape. The key is to show off your curves, so you want to pick dresses that are fitted around the waist. A strapless dress like this one with a belt or bow around the waist, will draw attention to your thinnest part. Details like rouching or beading at the waist are also flattering, as seen in this gorgeous silk chiffon dress and you can't go wrong with a faux or real wrap dress in a stretchy fabric, like this one that will hug your curves.

Apple Shape: Women with apple shapes carry their weight in their torsos and usually have larger busts and smaller hips. While you want to highlight your cleavage, the key is finding a dress that will support you (or allow you to wear a supportive bra) so you're not falling out of the dress. A dress with pretty rouched straps like this one will allow you to wear any bra you want, while the v-cut will show off your cleavage. You also want to even out your frame with a wider skirt that will provide a counter-balance for your chest. If you don't want to show off your chest, try a scoop necked dress like this one with a gathered waistline and poufy (but still restrained) gossamer skirt, which will give you more of a waist. Here is another great dress that will highlight your waist and accomodate a larger bust. If you want to hide your arms, choose a jersey dress with loose kimono sleeves like this one. Stay away from strapless dresses (most will just squish your breasts and make them look kind of droopy) and choose heavier fabrics.

Pear Shape: If your weight is concentrated in your hips, thighs and butt, you have a pear shape. You want to find dresses that will hide your problem areas and draw attention to the upper part of your body. A strapless dress with a wider skirt like this one will do the trick, as will a dress with an empire waist and a-line skirt, like this or this. Another trick is to wear fabrics with some cling (jersey, stretch velvet, etc) that have a wide skirt, like this or this, so you can highlight your shoulders, chest and waist. Full or bubble skirts like this one can be fun and very flattering, just make sure the top is more fitted.

Athletic Shape: If you are flat chested, with narrow hips and a fairly thin all over, you probably have an athletic shape. The best way to make the most of your figure is to show off your shape by wearing fitted, body conscious shapes, like this stretch lace dress or this knee-length strapless dress. The other trick to making the most of an athletic shape is to use fabric to give your body curves, like these two strapless dresses with ruched waists and wide skirts, here and here. Strappy empire waist dresses (like this or this with ruching at the bust will make your chest look larger and show off your shoulders and arms. And if you want to stand out, play with volume by wearing a revised tent dress like this one that's fitted on top.

For Everyone: You can't go wrong with a wrap dress, like the Donna Ricco Petite Wine Stretch Satin Sheath Dress or this. The combination of a v-neck and a fitted waist is also universally flattering, as seen here and here.

With so many fun, interesting styles, you're guaranteed to find a knockout dress for your next holiday party. And with lots of inexpensive options, you don't have to be stuck wearing the same dress to every event this season. For more dress options, check out Nordstrom's and Macy's selections.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gift Certificate Guide

The holidays can be frustrating when you have to buy presents for people you don't know very well, or when you can't figure out what to buy the person who has everything. A great option in both of these situations is to get a gift certificate tailored to the person's passion. By doing so, you acknowledge their interests and allow them to make their own decisions about what they really want.

Here are gift certificate options catered to the interests of (hopefully) everyone on your list:

For the Fashionista: Girlshop

For the Foodie: Zingerman's

For the Music Lover: iTunes Store

For the Design Nut: Elsewares

For the Chef: Williams-Sonoma

For the Book Lover: Amazon

For the Technophile: Newegg

For the Movie Lover: Netflix

For the Beauty Addict: Sephora

For the Prep: J. Crew

For anyone who doesn't fall into one of these specific categories, or someone you truly know little to nothing about personally, you can't go wrong with an Amazon gift certificate. Now that you can get almost anything on Amazon, you can be assured that the recipient will be able to use the gift certificate for something they'd like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Boot Guide: Part 2

Yesterday I posted about a variety of boot styles that look great on everyone, and when and where you should wear them. Today's post is quite the opposite: boots that are so ugly and unflattering that they should never be worn, except at Halloween, when you're alone inside your house or outside shoveling snow. With that said, I present you with the ugliest boots to ever grace the earth. Due to the offensive nature of the following shoes, this post is deemed not safe for work or the presence of young, impressionable minds.

Ankle Boots: First popularized in the 1980's, though like their cousin and frequent collaborator, the Robin Hood boot, they may go back as far as the Middle Ages. Ankle boots are often seen on the likes of such fashion icons as Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton. You may have seen them on regular women, paired with the equally unflattering leggings or skinny jeans. Other than being hideously ugly, why are ankle boots so bad? Because they make your legs look shorter by cutting you off at the ankle. Unless you're trying to look shorter, choose a pair of knee-high boots, pumps or wedges.

Super Slouchy: I'm not completely against slouchy boots. I even recommended a pair of slouchy Steve Maddens in yesterday's post. But like most good things, slouchy leather is best in small doses. It can add a laid-back vibe to the rest of your look (don't ever pair these with anything dressy). The downside is that if you go too far with the slouching, your leg will appear to be melting.

Uggs: Really, what is there to say about Uggs that has not already been said? They're a favorite of trash queen Paris Hilton. A general rule I like to follow is, "if Paris loves it, stay away." This applies to clothing, accessories and boyfriends. Hear that Mary Kate? But back to the Uggs... look, I'm a casual girl at heart. Most days I dress as comfortably as possible: jeans, tennis shoes, etc. I can understand the appeal of something waterproof and furry, particularly in winter. But there are better options for cold weather footwear, both in form and function. Do something nice this Christmas and donate your Uggs to the homeless.

Fur Fest: Is that a muppet on your leg? Oh, those are your shoes! Of course.

Robin Hood: Like its equally ugly cousin, the ankle boot, the Robin Hood style is simply costumey, and has no apparent aesthetic value. And when I mean costumey, I mean that it is the shoe of choice if you're performing the title role in a production of Peter Pan, or participating in your local Renaissance festival.

Crazy Prints: I imagine that Cher wears boots like this when she is shopping for groceries or walking her dog. And that doesn't bother me at all, because she's Cher, and she can wear whatever the hell she wants. Which brings me to another celebrity fashion rule: if you can imagine Cher wearing something, don't wear it.

Lace Up boots: Edwardian meets dominatrix. Only appropriate at gay pride parades and festivals and leather bars.

Thigh Highs: Remember the movie Pretty Woman, with Julia Roberts? She actually wore these boots on the movie poster. She sure is cute... oh wait, she's supposed to be a prostitute! The thigh high boots and spandex miniskirt is the red flag. Unless you're working the streets, avoid this style.

So there you go ladies and gentlemen, the boot hall of shame. If you recently bought a pair in any of the previously mentioned styles, dig up your receipt and return them. If not, shove them in the back of your closet and you'll have an easy outfit for next Halloween- fashion victim.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Boot Guide: Part 1

I think that there are two kinds of people in this world, those who love boots and those who wish they could. I have to confess, I am of the second variety. As much as I love shoes, I'm not a huge boot fan. In fact, I've only bought one pair of boots in my life and I hardly wear them because they give me blisters. Plus, boots are just so expensive, they're the kind of investment piece that requires research, you have to make sure they fit well and look good and are versatile to justify the price.

But, because boots are huge this season, and because I'm going to try to make my current pair work for me (hello, Dr. Scholl's!), I'm devoting the next couple of posts to boots, which pairs work for what occasions, and which pairs you should always avoid. Today I'm going to talk about boot style that work for everyone.

Note that all of the following refer to are knee-high. I'll discuss other styles (ankle, thigh-high, mid-calf) tomorrow.

Stacked Heel Boots: This style is classic, flattering on all body shapes, and works just as well with jeans as with a dressier skirt (just don't go too formal with these). The stacked heel is sturdy and will keep you from wobbling. Here is a great pair from Sudini and two very cute and very affordable pairs from Naturalizer here and here.

Flat Boots: Boots with flat or very short heels are definitely the sturdiest and most comfortable, and are great if you're going to be on your feet a lot. Just be aware that they look the most casual, though they look fantastic with tucked-in jeans. Here is a very stylish pair from Franco Sarto and this is a super functional, waterproof boot from Me Too.

Pointy-toed Boots: This style is definitely the sexiest and looks best with skirts (just make sure you don't pair them with a miniskirt unless you're wearing thick tights). They're appropriate for work if your office dress code is "creative business casual" and are perfect for a night on the town. Just be careful with a thinner heel, as you your ankle and foot will have less support. Here is a gorgeous Stuart Weitzman pair, a very sleek Via Spiga boot and a Nordstrom pair with a super cute kitten heel.

Platform and Wedge Boots: Platform and wedge heels have a fun, funky 70's vibe, but a lot of this season's pairs still look very modern. If you want height but want the comfort and stability of flat boots, try a platform or wedge style. They're on the casual side (not work appropriate), but they're stylish enough to wear going out. If you want a very high heel, try these platform boots from Michael by Michael Kors. If you want something funky, try these Steve Madden wedges with slouchy leather detail. And if you're looking for something practical but still stylish, try these Steve Madden boots.

Rain Boots: Just because the weather is awful doesn't mean you can't still look chic. If you like prints, check out these Jeffrey Cambell wellies. For boots that will keep you dry in rain, sleet or snow, try this pair from Steve Madden. And if you're the kind of fashionista who doesn't want people to know you're wearing rain boots, try these super cute boots from Tretorn.

Today you've seen the good; check back tomorrow for the bad and even downright ugly, as I cover the styles that are unflattering on everyone (as you might guess, Uggs make an appearance).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide- Homemade Bread

I'm a devoted reader of the New York Times dining section; reading about food and cooking and restaurants in New York lets me vacariously experience the best dining in the world. I even have a mild crush on Frank Bruni, the fantastic restaurant reviewer (alas, he is gay and in his 40's). But because I'm not much of a cook and have zero skill as a baker, I generally just skim over the recipes, never venturing to try one on my own. This is the New York Times, not Rachel Ray, so I think I have reason to be a bit intimidated.

But when I came across this article about easy to make bread, I was intrigued. Making bread is normally so time-consuming and difficult that hardly any home cooks ever make it, and I'd certainly never imagined that I could successfully bake a loaf that was good enough to justify the time and effort it takes to make it. This recipe is different because it requires no kneading and only a few ingredients; the trick is letting the time do the work (in all, the dough sits out for between 18-20 hours).

So I decided to give it a try once I was home on Thanksgiving break, with the help of my Aunt Nancy, who served as the resident bread expert (she's the only family member to have baked bread before). I did it all by myself, all three extremely simple steps, and I'm happy to say that my first foray into bread baking was a success. It felt good to know that I didn't screw up something that (supposedly) a four year old could make.

The loaf was beautiful, with a thick, crispy crust and a wonderfully soft and airy interior. It looked (and tasted) as good as any basic bakery loaf, but because it was warm and fresh out of the oven, it was even better. I ate half the loaf and napped the rest of the afternoon, in carbohydrate bliss.

If you are inept in the kitchen and want to impress your friends or family, I recommend you try this recipe. It would make the perfect hostess gift next time you're invited to a wine and cheese party, a dinner party, or any holiday meal. It's also a very thoughtful thank you gift for anyone who's done something special for you. If you want to make it extra-nice, include a jar of preserves or honey.

Make sure though that you tell the person that you (seriously!) made it yourself, as they'll assume it was bakery-bought. This bread is so good though, no one will ever suspect that the whole thing only took you about 6 minutes.