Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

The Beauty Snob raves about the NARS bronzing powder, and insists that it's the most natural-looking bronzer on the market. Apparently, it even looks good on us ghostly pale girls, so I'll have to check this out myself on my next Sephora trip.

Carol's Daughter is one of the most talked-about new beauty companies, and I'm dying to try some of their products. Christina at Bon Bons in the Bath reviews and recommends the "Lemon Ginger Mint Manicure In A Jar" (featuring three of my favorite scents), which you can check out here.

Kristen at Beauty Addict shares her love for spring's green and yellow eyeshadows, and shows how wearable and fresh-looking these colors can be.

Over at The Makeup Girl, Lianne reviews Stila's new plumping lip glaze, a plumping version of their beloved lip glaze that works without the stinging of other plumpers.

Ever wondered whether those teeth whiteners work? Elke von Freudenberg tries out the entire GoSMILE Complete Teeth Whitening System and has lots to rave about.

The Fug Girls are the most perceptive (and hilarious) celebrity writers out there, and their recent post on Vanessa Williams is one of my favorite.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who is Anna Wintour?

Anna Wintour is an enigmatic figure. As editor-in-chief at Vogue, she's a major power player in the international fashion world, and she's become a minor celebrity due to the popularity of "The Devil Wears Prada." Fashionistas praise her for her creativity and original vision (last year NYT reporter David Carr wrote "She does not put a finger in the wind to judge trends: she is the wind"), but she's best known for her supposedly tyrannical treatment of assistants and co-workers. Yet very little is known about her personal life, and it's hard to know where the truth ends and the rumors begin.

To be honest, I find it incredible that she's gotten so much attention (do you read anything about the editors of Elle or WWD in the tabloids? Can you even name them?) and I think that it comes down to the fact that she's a very powerful woman whose singular vision and perfectionism (two of the reasons she's so successful) is interpreted as "bitchiness" by those who are threatened by her. You don't hear male CEO's described in the same terms or held to similar standards. As Carr writes, "Male media stars can ingest illegal drugs, make obscene phone calls or hire prostitutes without apparent consequence, but the failure of a female media figure to say please when ordering coffee can lead to wholesale indictment." You can read the whole article here.

But the reason I've had Ms. Wintour on my mind is because yesterday's New York Times featured an article titled Citizen Anna, and as the incredible critic Cathy Horyn showed a side of the editor that hasn't been discussed before. I knew that Anna was extremely influential, determining trends, making or breaking designers, that kind of thing, but I had no idea just how much influence she has into other areas of the fashion world. She works as a headhunter, matching designers with labels, influencing label decisions at the corporate level and has promoting "labels of dubious design merit but with an obvious social or power connection", hurting her credibility. Regular readers of the Vogue family of magazines will recognize familiar faces (Tinsley Mortimer again??) and she's been known to help dress the socialites who end up appearing month after month in her magazines.

It's a little scary to think that one woman has this much power over every area of the fashion world. If designers feel pressured to design according to Anna's aesthetic, and fashion houses hire designers who Anna likes, this filters down into what's available to the average consumer at department stores and boutiques... it just limits the number of perspectives promoted and made available to the consumer.

The article brings up a lot of interesting aspects of Anna's personal and professional life that aren't normally discussed in the gossip-mongering media. I'm conflicted on how I feel about her, but there's no doubt that she's an extremely shrewd, capable businesswoman who will continue to exert influence over fashion for years to come.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Rise and Shine!

The last two and half years of college, I've successfully avoided taking any course that began before 10:30 AM. Sadly, that period of bliss came to an end last week, when I began my new semester with an 8:30 AM class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and a 9 AM class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At a small liberal arts college, you only get a limited selection of courses in each department, with no guarantee that they'll be offered any other semester, and these classes (one on contemporary American art, the other on the anthropology of contemporary Chinese art) were two that I simply couldn't pass up, ungodly hour and all.

I assume that those readers who are in the "real world" are scoffing at my complaints about having to wake up at *gasp* 8 AM, four days a week, and I understand where you're coming from. I've worked full time every summer since I was 17, and I've done the 9-6 thing (with commute), so I know it's really not the end of the world.

But when you're in school, it's like your body morphs into "college mode", unaccustomed to having to move and think during the morning, and the thought of having to be up before 10 AM seems simply inconceivable. With a real job, you know that you don't have the option to go to work that day or sleep in, so you don't even entertain the thought of skipping. But unlike bosses, professors assume that you won't be in class every single day, and let it go if you're missing the occasional class (and if you luck out with a lecture class, they're even more lenient). So that temptation to unplug the alarm clock persists, morning after morning, as you make the conscious choice to do the right thing and drag yourself (in a version of pajamas, no less) to class.

My body is still adjusting to this sleep schedule, and my face has been looking worse for wear as a result. I've got darker circles than usual under my eyes, and my skin is more dry and ashy than usual. To fix this, I've been relying on a few products to keep me looking as refreshed and (cough) radiant as usual.

First, a cup of green tea to get me going. Everyone says that drinking water keeps your skin supple and moisturized, so I try to get in a couple cups with breakfast in the form of green tea, which has lots of added health benefits and just enough caffeine to wake me up. Refreshing flavors like citrus and mint are my favorite.

Second, use products with energizing scents. When I shower in the morning, I like my shampoo, conditioner and body wash to have strong, uplifting scents like citrus, ginger, pomegranate, tea tree and mint (though obviously not all at once). Leave the lavender, vanilla and light florals for later in the day when you want to wind down or smell pretty. Also, using cold water when you wash your face and hair will definitely wake you up, with the added benefit of shinier hair and smaller pores.

Third, find a good concealer to hide undereye circles and stress-induced breakouts. I'm a big fan of cream concealers (as opposed to liquid) because they have better coverage and lasting power. I like MAC's Studio Finish Concealer. And remember, the key to good coverage is layering concealer with powder (my favorite oil-absorbing powder is MAC's Blot Powder) , and always remember to pat it on, never rubbing.

Finally, use a nice tinted moisturizer to add color, reflect light and make you look more alive. Laura Mercier makes a fantastic tinted moisturizer that's attained cult status, but I've also heard great things about DuWop's Revolution Face. If you've never tried tinted moisturizer, go to your local Sephora and give it a try, you'll look and feel like you don't have makeup on, just naturally even-toned, radiant skin.

What you do with your makeup after that depends on how low or high maintenance you are. I like to curl my lashes (it takes 10 seconds but my eyes instantly look larger and more awake), apply a little mascara and swipe on a light, shimmery blush (NARS orgasm is my favorite), but I'm not a huge makeup person.

These are just a few little tricks I've found to look and feel better in the morning, but if you have others, feel free to share in the comments section. I think I'm going to go nap now...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Wednesday's Best of Blogs

If you haven't tried any products by The Savannah Bee company, you've got to stop by Bath and Body Works and try them out. I'm in love with their Clementine Body Wash, and Beauty Maven has a great review of their lip balm (the product that made them famous) and the Royal Jelly Body Butter here.

Everyone's guilty of occasionally overplucking, or falling victim to an overenthusiastic waxer, but Beauty Snob has a quick fix to help you get through it until your brows grow back: Paula Dorf's 2+1 Eyebrow Wax.

The fabulous Annie at Blogdorf Goodman reviews the newest Bond No. 9 fragrance, Bryant Park just in time for NY fashion week.

Bangles are big this season, and Shop Happy finds a great selection of bangles of all prices and styles.

Shu Uemera is always one step ahead of the trends, creating products (like the famous eyelash curler) that become instant cult classics. The Makeup Girl has the inside scoop on his new line of lipsticks, which promise to be just as good.

How to Wear Spring's Minidresses

A couple days ago, Alex e-mailed me with a question about minidresses.

"I've been seeing them everywhere, but I haven't found many affordable (under or around $100) ones, and I'm not sure what to wear it with. Any recommendations?"

Minidresses are very hot for spring, but there is definitely a right and wrong way to wear them. First, because they're so short, you want a dress that isn't hit you over the head sexy. Avoid a low cut neckline, and go with something a little more modest on top. Empire waist dresses are great for this because they aren't too fitted on the body, but still show some shape. If the dress is a little too tent-like, you can cinch the waist with a wide leather belt to show off your curves, but try it with a belt in the store, as it'll lose an inch or two on the bottom once you cinch it.

The great thing about minidresses is that you can wear them year-round. Paired with opaque tights and a cardigan or shrug, or underneath a turtleneck, they're great for the colder months. This is especially good for women who wouldn't feel comfortable wearing bare legs with such a short skirt: full length and footless styles both look super cute with minidresses.

Brightly colored accessories are huge for spring, and a great way to lighten up a winter wardrobe, so don't be afraid to spice up an all-black outfit with a bright yellow purse or a pair of red pumps. And speaking of shoes, minidresses work best with flats and wedges, two very popular (and comfortable!) styles.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Best and Worst Dressed List SAG Awards 2007

I had forgotten that the SAG awards were last night (who really cares about the SAGs anyway?), but when I came across the red carpet pictures this morning, I was so impressed by many of the outfits that I scrambled to get a post together. It appears that actresses are taking these minor awards shows more seriously, from a fashion perspective (as they probably should; their pictures will be in the tabloids either way and they might as well look good), and a lot of younger actresses are making names for themselves based on their consistently good "performance" on the red carpet. And following a trend set earlier at the Golden Globes, some of the best dressed, best looking women at the event do not have "traditional" starlet bodies or looks, which is really great to see.

Here are my picks for best dressed actresses at the SAGs:

Katherine Heigl has looked incredible on every red carpet she's walked in the past year, but sometimes I think her dresses are so "old hollywood" that they look a little stiff and serious for a young actress. Luckily, she's changed up her look this time, wearing a *gorgeous* grecian-inspired reddish-orange silk chiffon gown that's summery and fresh and very pretty on her curvy frame. Unlike her co-star Ellen Pompeo (see below), she looks happy, healthy and confident, and it really comes through in this outfit.

J.Hud's done it again! While I don't love the color of this gown (it's a little drab, even for winter), the cut and material are perfect for Jennifer Hudson's ultra-curvy body. She (and her stylist) really know what flatters her body, and this gown does just that, with a deep v-neck that shows off her bust, while the stretchy, floor-length material is forgiving around her hips and thighs and helps her appear taller and leaner. I can't wait to see what she has in store for the Oscars next month.

Pregnancy does funny things to women (I don't know this personally, but it seems to be true on TV and in movies). In Jamie Pressley's case, getting knocked up coincided with getting a stylist, taking care of her skin and hair and giving up on the tacky outfits more befitting her hilariously trashy character on "My Name Is Earl." She's looked better than ever lately, and this dress is truly a stunner: soft, feminine and as flattering as they get.

Everyone loved America Ferrara's Golden Globes gown, but I actually like this one more. The deep green is so pretty against her skin and hair, and I think the style is more flattering on her body. The empire waist and pretty detailing on the straps soften the look and draw attention to her face and body from the chest up. The dress is simple, elegant and youthful, perfect for a rising star like America.

And on to the worst dressed ladies of the SAGs:

You know the saying, "she's so beautiful, she could wear a potato sack and still look good?" The ultra cute, talented and likable Rachel McAdams proves that phrase wrong, wearing a Jetsons styled potato sack in a color that makes her pale, beautiful skin look pasty and dull. Aside from showing off her legs, the shape does nothing for her body (it doesn't have a waist, a bad sign). She's gotten a lot of flack for her hair, which I thought was kind of fun and cute, but it's not something to wear to an awards show. Luckily, Rachel can only go up from here.

It's really sad that Ellen Pompeo looks better in scrubs on "Gray's Anatomy" than she does on the red carpet. Honestly, I think she resembles some kind of alien with her scarily tiny frame, facelift-inducing tight ponytail, gigantic hoops and a halter dress that seems to be tied with some semi-precious stone formation on loan from the Museum of Natural History. The neckline actually appears to weigh more than she does, which is a very bad sign.

Do you remember what Marcia Gay Harden looked like when she won the Oscar in 2001 for her incredible performance as Lee Krasner in Pollock? You can see the picture here. It's one of my favorite red carpet looks ever; she looked drop dead gorgeous, and she knew it. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in this photo. She looks sad, and it looks like her breasts feel the same way. With these weird cups, mid-calf length and heavy brocade, this dress does nothing to flatter her body, making her look wider and shorter than she actually is. I'd make a joke about the appropriateness of this look for the "SAG" awards, but I'd feel too mean.

Sienna Miller wore this Marchesa dress (a shorter version, in white) a couple months ago and was photographed about a million times in it. I didn't like it when she wore it, but hers was at least short and had a nice shape, whereas Anne Hathaway's version is too heavy, with too much fabric and layering emphasizing weird areas (to the point where Star Magazine could reasonably put her on "bump watch"). I don't really know what's going on with the skirt (shorter layers are wider than longer ones and it just looks kind of haphazardly constructed), but Anne's lack of jewelry and accessories and boring, tight bun do nothing to emphasize her natural beauty.

Review: Clinique Almost Lipstick and Colour Surge Butter Shine

I've previously discussed my dislike of most lip products, but in recent months I've gotten into a few products (stains and glosses, mainly) that have softened my stance a little. After browsing through the reviews on Makeup Alley, I came across a cult product I'd never heard of: Clinique's Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. It's the most reviewed lipstick on the site, with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5 (extremely high when you consider that 508 people with different coloring and preferences chipped in with their two cents). It's a sheer berry wash that supposedly looks good on everyone and feels great on the lips, with no lipstick taste. On Saturday I had a few errands to run at the mall and decided to stop by the Nordstrom Clinique counter to give it a try:

As I settled into the chair and the sales assistant applied the lipstick with a brush, I couldn't wait to see how it would look and feel on my lips. "It looks nice on you", she said, a little unenthusiastically. When she handed me the mirror, I pulled it close to my face for full inspection and was a little confused. "I can't really tell the difference, maybe I should try applying it directly from the tube." She handed me the tube and I layered more color on... but still, little more than a nice shine. It did feel good, similar in consistency to my favorite lip balm, Blistex Lip Medex, but for $14, I wanted a color that would actually show up.

The sales assistant understood what I meant, and recommended that I try one of their newer lines, the Colour Surge Butter Shine Lipstick. The mention of butter in the title was a turnoff (butter on my lips? yuck), but the colors looked beautiful in the tubes, so I decided to try a few. She first applied the Raspberry Rush, a pretty berry with cool tones that's great for day time. Next we tried something brighter and more summery, the Fresh Watermelon, a bright pinkish-red watermelon color that is balanced by the relative sheerness of the lipstick, so it's not overwhelmingly bright. Finally we tried Cranberry Cream, a rich berry red that was really beautiful (regular readers know what a sucker I am for red lipcolor). Because the second two were relatively close in shade, I decided to pick up the Raspberry Rush and Fresh Watermelon, although I'm tempted to go back and get the Cranberry Cream.

Not only are the colors in this collection very pretty and wearable, but I think it really stands out for a sheen that falls somewhere between a high-shine gloss and a regular lipstick, in a formula that is incredibly soft and comfortable on the lips. It feels just as smooth as lip balm, and is equally moisturizing, thanks to the gel formula which includes shea butter (the inspiration for the off-putting title), and left my lips moisturized for a few hours. The color also stains a bit, so it has nice lasting power. One final bonus is that the casing is designed to look and feel like stylized bamboo, in Clinique's signature silver material. It's very sculptural and is fun to hold in your hand.

If you're looking for something that is truly barely-there sheer color, check out the Almost Lipstick, because although it wasn't right for me, it clearly has large following. But if you're looking for something with a similar consistency but more color and staying power, definitely try the Colour Surge Butter Shine Lipstick the next time you're near a Clinique counter.

One final note: I think the collection and the colors I chose were pretty popular, because every Clinique counter in the mall was sold out of them (I ended up ordering them online). Amazon has the line in stock, just in case a color you like isn't available in your local stores.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Gym Clothes I'd Wear If I Weren't So Lazy

I'm a pretty dedicated gym-goer; I find that when I make excuses and avoid going I end up sleeping and eating worse, and I just don't feel as good overall. I'm a hard worker, but when it comes to what I wear to the gym, I'm as lazy as they come. I always wear an old, oversized cotton t-shirt and a pair of mesh shorts from my high school swimming days. With my hair thrown up in a messy bun and my face makeup-free, you can imagine my confusion when I see other women at the gym with cute matching outfits and perfectly made up faces. Don't they get flushed and sweaty after a hard workout and realize the futility of trying to look presentable while also burning calories? And who's there to impress at the gym anyway?

But lately I've been reconsidering my position on workout clothes. I still totally oppose the sports bra and short shorts look (too flashy and distracting), but I've been coveting some super cute capris, tanks and jackets that I've seen around the gym. I'm certainly not going to sacrifice comfort, but maybe it would be nice not to look like such a bum at the gym. I would even feel more comfortable going straight from the gym to run errands or grab dinner. So I did a little searching and found that there are a lot of options for girls who want to be comfortable and covered but still look stylish and chic at the gym. And many of these pieces are versatile enough to wear with other casual outfits.

And no matter what you wear, make sure you have the support you need with the right sports bra. Here's a great guide to check out.

For a blast from the past, you can read one of my earliest posts about gym etiquette.