Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs, Part II

So many great links this week! Here are some other choice pieces from fashion blog world.

By now, everyone's heard about Proenza Schouler's collection for Target, but did you know that you can pre-order the clothes before they hit stores? She's A Betty gives all the details here.

Back In Skinny Jeans writes about a new ad campaign by Nicoderm that attempts to motivate people to quit smoking (and buy Nicoderm patches) for the sake of preventing premature aging (as opposed to, you know, cancer). You can read Christina's full analysis here.

Marcy at Fantabulous gives us the lowdown on makeup expiration dates. Really helpful, but also guilt-inducing (a good 40% of my lipstick collection is from high school, probably should do something about that).

Shop Happy
features a swoon-worth array of colorful shoes for spring. The red and blue ballet flats are my favorite.

New York Times blog The Lede reports that Spain has decided to standardize all women's clothing sizes. I'm praying for this trend to spread to the U.S.; can you imagine how easy online shopping would be if you knew that every 8 fit the same?

Saturday's Best of Blogs, Part I

I really must say, I found so many great pieces this week that I've decided to split my Best of Blogs for this week into two parts.

First off, new blog Fashionista features Karl Lagerfeld in M&M form. He definitely has the hair and gloves, but with that waistline, I don't think he'll be fitting into many Hedi Slimane suits. And in other Chanel news, they also have a cool post on how to make your own Black Satin nail polish. Try it out before black nails go out of style!

Product Girl reviews Lush's new "Sexy Peel" citrus soap and I'm dying to try it for myself. What's more refreshing than a burst of citrus in your morning shower?

Beauty Snob shares her personal horror story with lash extensions. Just another "too good to be true" beauty fad to add to the pile.

Hate scratchy tags on the back of shirts? The fabulous Budget Fashionista mentions a great product for preventing the dreaded tag itch that comes with so many inexpensive shirts. Check it out here.

I don't know how I never came across her before, but The Bargain Queen is one of my newest must-check blogs. She had a great post on avoiding the most common shopping mistakes during the January sale season and how to determine whether something is worth buying.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Devil and Miuccia Prada

I watched "The Devil Wears Prada" for the first time last weekend (I know, shocking). While I had some issues with the film (I thought they gave mixed messages about whether women making their careers a priority is a good or bad thing, and I didn't like the implication that Andy was wrong for wanting to do her job well), I really appreciated the explanation the film gave for why fashion matters and should be taken seriously.

When Andy is first hired at "Runway," she thinksher lack of fashion awareness shows her intelligence and seriousness. In my favorite scene of the film, she laughs when the editors nitpick over a decision between two belts that (to her) look exactly the same. Miranda Priestly (the Anna Wintour-like editrix) turns to her and basically explains that no one is exempt from the fashion industry because couture designers and fashion magazine editors make decisions that trickle down and determine what choices are available to consumers at the mass market level, and that her clothes were chosen for her by Runway, not on her own choosing. In a later scene, Nigel tells her that fashion is greater than art because it's art that you live in, and can use to express yourself anywhere.

I can relate to the conflicting feelings that Andy experiences. Most people look down on those with an interest in fashion as frivolous, brainless and shallow. Ironically, our society also prizes people who dress well and possess a sharp fashion sense. When I tell people that I write a blog that covers fashion, beauty and pop culture, I can tell that most of them look at me differently, as if they've realized I'm not as intelligent or serious as they thought. But commit a fashion faux pas, and everyone is sure to whisper and gossip about you. It's a catch 22 that many women must wrestle with regularly (especially those who work in these industries).

Coincidentally, I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal the following day that discussed this very issue. WSJ fashion correspondent Alessandra Galloni interviewed Miuccia Prada about what makes "so many women squeamish about fashion" and "whether the pursuit of fleeting clothing trends [is] a frivolous one." Ms. Prada had a few great comments in response, which I thought I'd share.

"What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language."

"Buying a $5,000 handbag just as a status symbol is a sign of weakness. Daring to wear something different takes effort. Unfortunately, there are few women who dress the way they think, but it's happening more with the new generations. People are choosing, thinking."

"Wearing fashion is like decorating your house. Why aren't people embarrassed to choose beautiful furniture or art for their house? What you wear says even more about you than what you put in your home, or the car you buy or the trips you take. It's more basic, more personal."

"For me, dressing is a versatile instrument that helps you express what's in your head and you have many different things in your head -- a relationship with a man, with society. Sometimes you want to appear powerful, or serious or rich. All of us want to represent something. When you meet someone, among the instruments you have – like dialogue – you also have clothes."

If you're a WSJ online subscriber, you can read the full interview here, it's a great read.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Weekly Best Dressed: Jennifer Hudson

I know I'm not the only one who has been delighted by the onslaught of media attention on Jennifer Hudson for her performance in Dreamgirls. I haven't seen the film yet, but according to the critics, she outperforms seasoned actors like Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and uber-diva Beyonce (though I don't know if she counts as a "seasoned actor" when she's best known for her roles in Austin Powers 3 and the remake of The Pink Panther). In her Golden Globes acceptance speech, as in every interview I've seen with her, she comes off as extremely grounded and grateful for all that's happened to her in the last year, and it's so refreshing to see an actress who seems like she truly means it.

Jennifer's not a size two but she exudes confidence and isn't afraid to show off her body, with a good knowledge of what flatters her. At the Golden Globes, she chose a gorgeous empire waist gown in navy blue, a color you don't often see on the red carpet. The deep v-neck is sexy without overdoing it, showing off a little cleavage and drawing attention to her hair and face (her makeup was flawless). The sleeves hide her upper arms (something a lot of us don't want to show off), while the knotting at the bust allows the skirt to drape beautifully over her lower body, a very effective slimming technique. The floor length skirt and train also serve to make her look taller and thinner. My only complaint was that the dress look wrinkled at the bottom, but otherwise she looks fantastic.

For a similar, but more casual look, check out this BCBG dress (above).

But my favorite outfit of hers is this to-die-for black satin cocktail dress. It's ultra flattering with carefully placed ruching that shows off her bust (in a non-tacky way) while minimizing her waist and hips. Because of it's thickness, velvet is also a very forgiving fabric, and if you find a velvet dress with a little stretch, it'll be comfortable to boot. The cap sleeves are cute and modern, the knee-length skirt shows off her calves, and her accessories match perfectly. Two thumbs way up.

Here are a few examples of similar cocktail dresses, perfect for a winter party:

And to see Jennifer perform a song from Dreamgirls (she's amazing), check out this video.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another Response to "Why I Love Beauty Projects"

The lovely Annie (my separated at birth blogging twin) at Poetic and Chic has written a wonderful response to my "Why I Love Beauty Products" writing project. I'd feel like I wasn't doing the post justice if I simply summarized it, so I highly encourage you to go and read it in full here.

The Best Facial Ever

Like every other incoming college freshman, I was scared to death that I'd be thrown in a 10x12' room with some anti-social weirdo with separation issues, or perhaps worse, a gorgeous, super smart, popular girl who was too cool to be my friend. Luckily, things didn't turn out that way, and I ended up hitting it off with my Jess, and we ended up spending two years as roommates and became best friends.

If that wasn't cool enough, Jess has an awesome family, who were nice enough to invite me to stay at their bed and breakfast two weekends ago. Yes, they are innkeepers, and they run a 19th century inn nestled in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachussetts. Talk about hitting the roommate jackpot! We spent the weekend hiking through the mountains, eating locally grown food in family-owned cafes, going outlet and boutique shopping and getting pedicures, chatting and catching up on gossip the whole time. Her mother (who formerly worked as a chef in a number of French restaurants before buying in the inn) even cooked us a huge lobster dinner, complete with multiple courses and finished with homemade coconut almond cheese cake (yum!). Each nigh I turned on a fire and crawled into the four poster bed in my luxurious suite, reading a page-turner until I fell asleep. In short, I was in heaven.

One of the reasons I came up that weekend was because Jess was preparing to go on a two week trip to Israel to visit with her hot Israeli soldier boyfriend, and I wanted to help see her off. A few days before she had called me and told me that she was nervous about going because her skin was really acting up and she was afraid her dramatic airport entrance would be ruined by a red, peeling face covered with breakouts. Her dermatologist wasn't going to be open, so she had made an appointment with a local facialist who was running a post-holiday special, and was crossing her fingers that her face would clear up in time for the trip. I told her that was probably a good idea, but was worried that the facial could actually make things worse.

See, I'm very skeptical about the effectiveness of facials. In my experience, I've always enjoyed getting the facial, from the massage to the masks, exfoliation and extractions (something very satisfying about this), but I always walked out with my skin looking a lot worse. Facialists will tell you that this is supposed to happen, which is why you should always get one at least a few days before a big event. But a couple days later, it didn't get much better, and at best I'd look as good as I did before I got the facial, never any better. Pretty frustrating for something so expensive.

But back to Jess. When I finally reached Great Barrington, MA, after a 10 hour drive from Detroit (raining the whole time, no less), I was pretty shocked to see her. When she walked out to help bring my things into the inn, she looked incredible. I knew she was happy to see me, but her face was actually glowing, her skin tone even and perfectly smooth. Her skin wasn't perfect, but it was pretty close.

"Didn't you tell me on Wednesday that you thought your face was falling off? What happened?" I asked. "Oh man," she said, "You wouldn't believe how bad I looked yesterday. But this morning I had that facial, and it was amazing."

She wasn't lying. My skin hadn't been looking to hot either, between my allergies acting up (the Anthelios incident certainly didn't help matters) and the lack of humidity in my parents' house, not to mention the holiday stress. When Jess told me that the spa was having a special where you got an hour long facial, followed by a full Jane Iredale makeup application for $45, I was in. I still harbored some doubts about how much the facial could do for my skin (especially because I'm so sensitive), if Jess's had really improved such a huge amount, I had to try it for myself.

We went to Sebastian's Salon (the best link I could find- it has their address) in Sheffield, MA and I met Christine Kirchner, the facialist. I always love talking with estheticians, since they're usually beauty product lovers and have tried or been trained in a lot of different lines. Interestingly, Christine got her B.A. from Williams College before becoming a licensed esthetician. After graduating from beauty school, she was disappointed by the training she received and decided to get certified to give Dr. Hauschka treatments, which use different techniques and have a more natural, organic philosophy about how to treat the skin.

The Dr. Hauschka facial is great for those with sensitive, acne-prone skin (like mine) because the products contain only all-natural, non-comedogenic and non-irritating ingredients. They don't do a facial massage (because it requires using oil on the face) and the head massage is applied with a powder, so that your hair isn't greasy when you leave the salon. Also, because all Dr. Hauschka estheticians undergo the same intense training, you can be sure that you'll get the same treatment everywhere, at the same high quality. She described many of the other differences between Dr. Hauschka treatments and traditional spa treatments, but I was so relaxed that I spaced out and can't remember what she said.

After the facial was over, she applied Jane Iredale makeup (which I'd never tried before, but LOVED) and my skin seriously looked better than it ever had. After I explained that the Jane Iredale and Dr. Hauschka products were a little out of my price range (okay, a lot), she sent me home with a generous bag of samples, which was especially nice of her.

The reason I didn't write this post earlier (it's been almost two and a half weeks now) is because I'd been waiting to see how long my skin would look perfect. And I mean literally perfect.... for two full weeks I didn't breakout once, had no problems with dryness and my skin tone was really even. It was a post-Christmas miracle. Even now my skin is still far better than usual, though I'm getting the occasional flare up.

I sound like a new convert, but next time you want to treat yourself to a facial, I highly recommend that you try a Dr. Hauschka treatment. And if you're vacationing in the Berkshires, stay at the Windflower Inn in Great Barrington, and tell them that Meg sent you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tuesday's Best of the Blogs

I've seen silver reptile on shoes everywhere, and Shop Happy has a great list of cute pairs here.

Blogdorf Goodman
reports on a scandal involving an offensive e-mail from the CEO of hot new nail polish company Koibox. Hell hath no fury like a beauty blogger scorned.

The fabulous Style Bakery presents the ultimate bra guide.

Coquette finds *the* perfect pair of peep toe flats and I'm totally jealous.

Design*Sponge finds the prettiest, most original Valentine's Day cards here and here, perfect for that special someone. I love the first and last cards in the first post, but the last card in the second is my absolute favorite (hint, hint).

Everyone's favorite science nerds, The Beauty Brains, report that wrinkle creams have been found to be ineffective for minimizing wrinkles. Scandalous!

Dolce Vita Shoe Sale!

Thanks to the fabulous Shop Happy, I learned that chic boutique Dolce Vita is having a blowout shoe sale, with discounts of up to 80%! And this is not one of those sales where they only have the ugly green color in a size 5.5, they've got tons of everything. Go check it out!

Here are a few of my favorite pairs:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Gwen Stefani Does It Again

I've expressed my love for Gwen Stefani before, but the woman has topped herself yet again. Who else could pull off a dress that appears to consist of horizontal strips of plastic sewed together?

Gwen's sense of style is incredible. Paired with elegant accessories, hair that's totally glamorous without looking stuffy and soft, barely-there makeup, she somehow manages to make this futuristic cocktail dress look downright refined.

Did I mention that I'd sell my soul to have hair like that? Any takers?

H&M Spring and Summer Collection 2007

Are the 50's, 60's and 70's back? According to H&M they are. Kathryn at The Budget Fashionista posted that H&M had released pictures of their 2007 Spring and Summer Collection. And I couldn't wait to check out the goods.

There are a lot of retro styles I love, especially the feminine shapes of the 50's and the proportions of 60's Mod dresses and coats. The 70's and 80's.... not really my cup of tea. And there is a lot of 70's in this collection... I'm talking Polyester leisure suit/pajama combinations, like this one.

And high waisted jeans, like this:

That zipper has to be 6 inches long! I had finally convinced my Mom to get rid of all of her high waisted granny pants, and you're telling me they're back in style? Ugh.

And I don't have words to describe this catastrophe in pink... is that fabric faux suede?

But there are some very cute pieces in the collection as well, like this coat:

H&M must realize that this piece is going to be popular, because it's definitely pricey by discount store standards. I'm not sure how good it would look on (do you need to be in that pose, wearing no skirt or pants for it to look so cute?), but I'll be looking for it.

Love the proportions here, and pairing with a modern pump is so fresh and pretty. But it's a tough look to pull off for anyone with wide hips. Another one I'll have to try for myself.

Yet again with the high waisted shorts! From the waist up, this look is great. I love an ultra-feminine cardigan paired with a basic tee and shorts or jeans, so simple and chic.

Like every H&M collection, this one has a few duds and a few stunners. I'll be interested to see what else they offer in stores (hopefully fewer tunics, faux-suede and polyester). You can check out the rest of the pieces in the collection at the H&M website. As with all discount stores, the key is making it to the store close to the release date so that all the good stuff hasn't been picked over.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Review: Olay Daily Facials Deep Cleansing Clay Mask

For a relationship to survive, each person must be willing to compromise. As someone who's naturally bossy and stubborn, this lesson was a tough one to learn. But now, I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

For instance, last week I told the story of how I gave my boyfriend a beauty product makeover, turning a Dial bar soap guy into a La Roche Posay devotee (two long years, but boy, was it worth it!). Still, it takes a lot of convincing to get him to try something new, especially something he perceives as "for girls," so when I picked up an Olay face mask that I was dying to try, I knew I'd have to approach the matter very carefully.

"I was thinking about watching a movie tonight, are you up for "The Usual Suspects?" He asked, a hopeful look on his face.

"Hmm..." I thought, "action/suspense film, not really my genre. But I like Kevin Spacey, and I'm pretty sure he'd be willing to try the mask with me if I watch the movie, so I'll agree."

"Okay, but can we try this face mask after the movie? I think you'll really like it."


Score! I was tired that night and the movie, while pretty good, was putting me to sleep. That was until the last 5 minutes when a HUGE plot twist shows that the movie was leading you to believe one thing, when the truth was in fact the opposite. The fantastic ending really makes the movie, if you haven't seen it, I recommend renting it sometime.

But back to my mission: I'd put in my end of the deal, now it was his turn. I explained what a face mask was and how it worked and what it does for your skin, then we took turns putting it on in the bathroom mirror.

"Oh my god, we look like the Blue Man Group," he said. I'd avoided mentioning that the mask was bright blue. Andrew's in grad school and lives in a dorm with communal unisex bathrooms, so we had to do some stealth sneaking around (very appropriate after the movie) to avoid running into anyone with our blue faces.

The mask comes in a medium-sized tube, and for $7, you definitely get your money's worth. It goes on smoothly, isn't too thick or too runny, and feels very soothing on the skin. You only need to leave it on for 5 minutes, and then wash it off with a washcloth, very simple. I was a little concerned that it would dry me out, as my skin has been on the dry side lately, but I was happy to see that my face didn't feel tight at all when I took it off, and my skin looked brighter and more refreshed. Pores definitely looked smaller and my skin tone was more even. Pretty incredible for a drug store product.

With his untrained eye, Andrew couldn't tell the difference in his skin after taking the mask off, but he said that his skin looked and felt much better the next couple of days. I've started applying the mask as a spot treatment anywhere I'm breaking out, and because it's not drying, you can use it as often as you'd like.

I think that anyone with oil-prone skin would enjoy and appreciate using this mask, and for $7.99 at your local drug store (and even cheaper in a 3-pack from Amazon), what's there to lose?