Saturday, March 10, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

I've gotten addicted to Fashionista for its mix of fashion world gossip and hilarious commentary. This post on the irony of Tyra Banks' "I'm Fat, So What?" movement on her TV show is perfect.

The lovely Gala from Gala Darling has a great post this week on how to avoid catcalls and unwanted attention when you're walking in the city.

My favorite shoe style this season is the low wedge, which has been popping up everywhere, and is perfect for people who want comfort and style in a shoe (or if you're like me, are simply incapable of wearing the towering wedges that are so popular). Shop Happy shows off 11 gorgeous, colorful pairs, most for under $100.

Lost on how to wear that awesome Hermes knock-off scarf that's been sitting in your closet for years? My girl Winona at Daddy Likey shows how to wear a scarf many different ways.

The wonderful Christina at Bon Bons in the Bath reviews Benefit's famous Benetint and a smokey eye palette that actually tells you how to apply the colors (yes, it talks!), perfect for makeup klutzes like myself.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Finds: Cropped Jackets

Cropped jackets are perfect for those spring days when it's still cool enough to need a jacket, but you don't want to overwhelm the rest of your outfit. They're forgiving, easy to layer and flatter all body types. I think they look best paired with an extra-long t-shirt (so the jacket doesn't shorten your torso) and jeans, pants or a pencil skirt. Here are five great picks for under $50:

Forever 21 "Claire" Jacket, $34.80

Fred Flare "Debonair" Grey Mini Jacket, $50

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Quilted Motorcycle Jacket, $39.99

Forever 21 "Dolly" Jacket, $34.80

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Boucle Jacket, $39.99

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Whiteness Makeover

Last weekend I was watching "Do The Right Thing" (an incredible film that should be required viewing for everyone) when I saw Rosie Perez's name pop up in the credits.

"I don't remember seeing Rosie Perez in this, did she have a minor role?" I asked my boyfriend.

"No, she was Tina, the leading female character."

"Oh man!" I thought, "How'd I miss that?"

Here's a screenshot from the film:

And here is what Rosie looks like now:

There's some resemblance, but you can see why I wouldn't recognize her. I'm always a little disturbed when I come across a photo of a famous actress or model whose appearance has changed so drastically since becoming famous, but something about the change in Rosie bothered me more than usual. It reminded me of the experience I had re-watching Selena last year and how shocking it was to see Jennifer Lopez look so, well, recognizably Latina.

That isn't to say she's more attractive one way or the other, but it's pretty obvious to me that as her career has grown, she's lost most of her defining Hispanic features and to most eyes, appears Caucasian. Celebrity plastic surgery websites have speculated that J.Lo has undergone multiple surgeries to lessen her ethnic features (lip reduction, rhinoplasty to create a more aqualine nose, etc) on top of superficial changes like highlighting and straightening her hair and lightening her skin.

And she's not the only megastar who looks like she's had surgery to look more racially ambiguous. Both Beyonce and Halle Berry have smaller, more Caucasian-looking noses than when they began their careers. And let's not even get into Janet Jackson or Lil Kim. So why do these gorgeous, talented women feel compelled to drastically alter their appearances to look less racially definable?

An article in Sunday's New York Times doesn't answer that question directly, but suggests that minorities in film, television and music are at a disadvantage if they have strong, identifiably ethnic features, and those who are able to "pass" as racially ambiguous or white have the best chance at success. The article discusses the struggles Asian-Americans face in breaking into American pop music and can be summed up by the line, "Of all the factors that have shaped his career in a fickle industry, Mr. Lee said he is sure about the one that has hurt him most: looking Chinese." Far more than racial identity, it's appearing a certain race that has hurt minorities trying to break into the entertainment industry.

It appears to be a chicken and egg situation, whereby managers, producers, agents, talent scouts and casting directors tell actors and singers that they "don't look right" for a part, based on the belief that a movie or album won't have widespread appeal if the star doesn't look racially ambiguous or white. But is that true? If Beyonce had an afro or J.Lo kept her wide nose and thick lips, would they not be the crossover superstars and major sex symbols that they are today? I don't think movie studios or record labels are going to take that chance, and most stars are willing to go under the knife (or at least get a major makeover) to improve their chances of success.

I hate to think that the message Hollywood is sending girls and young women is that there are only a few types of beauty, and if you stand out too much, you won't be considered attractive or sexy. At a time when our country has never been more racially diverse and our access to actresses, models and singers of other nationalities is unparalleled, it's extremely disappointing to think that our ideal of beauty continues to be narrowly defined by Caucasian features.

It makes me grateful for the efforts of bloggers like Afrobella who continue to resist hegemonic beauty ideals, and for women everywhere who refuse to alter the way they look to meet someone else's standard of beauty. Hopefully Hollywood will follow in their steps and acknowledge the fact that beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Purse That Does It All

You'll find me oohing and ahhing as much as the next girl over beautiful designer purses, but when it comes down to it, I'm all about practicality. I don't need a purse that'll look good with a suit or even with business casual because I'm still in that lovely phase of life where wearing pajamas to work (aka class) is socially acceptable (and remember, I'm at a women's college, so there's nobody for me to impress). I can respect those girls who look stylish and put together for my 8:30 am class on Mondays, but I definitely don't have it in me to actually put on makeup and heels to sit in a dark lecture hall for an hour and a half (let me tell you, it's a good day if I can stay awake the whole time).

When it comes to an everyday handbag, I need something that can hold all my books, notebooks, laptop and assorted junk that I feel compelled to take with me everywhere I go (breath mints, powder, hairbrush, bandaids, tampons, you know the drill). It can't be leather because it will inevitably get pen stains on it and get scuffed on the bottom. And perhaps most importantly, the handles must be long enough so I can carry it comfortably on my shoulder, even when I'm wearing a thick coat and the bag is stuffed, so my hands are always free. In the past I'd go through a few tote bags year, but even the cute canvas ones would show their wear and tear, and the seams would split from all the weight I carried.

But last Christmas my ever-thoughtful mom bought me a purse that met all my needs and picky specifications and is cute to boot.

It's called the Lotus, made by Overland Equipment, and it comes in two different sizes and many different colors (mine is brown with lavender stripes and it appears that they offer new colors every season). For someone who carries a nicer everyday bag, this is a great option for the gym, running errands or traveling, but I use it on a daily basis. It's made of nylon and has sturdy reinforced seams and zippers, extra pockets on the outside and inside and is water resistant. I've worn it for three straight months and it still looks brand new. And for $45, it's a great deal.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Wearable Is MAC's Barbie Collection?

Like a lot of women, I have mixed feelings about Barbie as an icon of femininity. My complaints about her ridiculously unrealistic body are offset by the fact that she does come in every ethnicity and nationality and has tried hundreds of different occupations. Personally, I was always a Polly Pocket girl myself. But when I heard that MAC was collaborating with Mattel on a cosmetics collection based on Barbie, I couldn't help but get a little excited. Barbie is this symbol of womanhood to millions of little girls, and what's more girlish than dressing up in your mom's fancy dresses and high heels and letting your best friend smush coral lipstick and sparkly eyeshadow on your face? As adults, we still use makeup to transform into someone we're not, sometimes someone more feminine, sexy and daring than we normally are, which is why a line inspired by Barbie makes so much sense.

But let's get back to reality here. I'm all for dressing up and transformation and performance, but unless I'm going as RuPaul or Divine for Halloween, I'm not going to wear this much makeup at once. Sure, those models look beautiful in the pale greens and bright pinks, but how wearable is this collection for someone with, shall we say, less adventurous tastes in makeup?

I went to my local mall to find out. Like a lot of MAC's makeup artists, Amber was working a fabulous femme punk rock look, and was wearing the exact eye makeup seen in the publicity shots. She looked awesome in it, but I knew that this was not a look I could pull off. I told her I was interested in trying out the Barbie Loves Mac collection, but I wanted to see how it could work for everyday. I was a little skeptical, but she promised me that the collection, in addition to flattering every skin color (major bonus points for MAC on this one), is based around versatile colors that can be worn in many different ways.

Amber pulled over a high school girl who another artist was working on (the girl was getting ready for a dance that night) who had a smoky eye and pale lip created mostly by products in the Barbie collection. Okay, so Barbie can go evening, but can she do minimalist for a girl who only owns three eye shadows, all shades of light brown?

I always feel bad asking a MAC makeup artist to make me look "like myself, only better." I always half expect them to call up the Bobbi Brown or Clinique sales associate and get rid of me then and there. But my makeup artist was up for the challenge and found a number of products that were definitely wearable on an everyday basis. Here are a few of my favorites:

For eyes: I normally wouldn't wear a green eye shadow, but Springtime Skipper, a minty green with gold shimmer, looked so lovely when paired with an other fresh, springy colors that I couldn't help but love it. The Magic Dust, a soft frosted white gold shadow, was right up my alley, and looked beautiful both as a highlighter and on it's own. And while I'm totally incapable of recreating a smoky eye, I adored the look of the Moth Brown (smoky charcoal brown with grey frost) on another woman. It's definitely a must-try for anyone who loves a soft, smoky eye.

For Cheeks: Amber used the Glimmer Shimmer (a pearlized, light reflection lotion) in Loves Pink (midtone pink with gold shimmer) on my cheeks, and then brushed
Pearl Blossom Beauty Powder (a light pink with silver shimmer) on top. I liked the Glimmer Shimmer but have doubts that I'd be able to apply it well myself, but the beauty powder would look lovely over any blush, and provides a subtle, pretty glow.

For Lips: I thought my makeup looked very nice, but when Amber was finished applying everything, I was absolutely mesmerized by how beautiful my lips looked. First, she lined them with Dervish (not a Barbie product), then applied Sweet and Single, a neutral silvered plum lipstick with multicolored pearl. She topped it off with Sweetness, a light baby pink lipglass with (more) multicolored pearl. Multicolored pearl, where have you been all my life? My lips were pink and sparkly without going over the top, the color only a bit darker than my natural pink. Depending on how much gloss you applied and how dark the lipstick underneath was, you could really ramp up the effect, but for me it was just right.

While I was really impressed with the collection, I have to admit that I didn't need all of it and ended up only purchasing the lip glass, which I've had a lot of fun playing with these last couple of weeks (except when I wore it while eating a sandwich, that was kind of gross). I have to give MAC props for creating such a versatile collection (I had my doubts, believe me), and I'd encourage you to go check it out at your local MAC counter, because it won't be around forever.

Did anyone else try some of the products in this collection? I'd love to hear what you thought about it!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Trench Coats for Spring

Hi, my name is Meg, and I'm a trench coat addict. Naturally, I was really excited to hear that trench coats are "in" this season, but I didn't need the stamp of approval from fashion editors and designers to wear one of my many trenches. I wear them in all weather, and I admit to sometimes getting excited about the prospect of rain so I can show off my coats in all their glory. But really, have they ever gone out of style? Every time I wear mine, I feel like Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. There are certainly worse actresses to feel like.

When I was browsing through Nordstrom's outerwear site (as I tend to do when I'm looking for a pick me up), I came across these two beauties:

Two very different looks that reflect different parts of my personality, but both are stunning in their own way. Unfortunately, they're just a bit out of my price range (ha), so for now I can only pine.

But if you're in the market for a trench and on a limited budget, there are lots of great offerings this season, many for under $100.

This is a classic trench that will never go out of style and will instantly make any outfit look more put together and sophisticated.

You don't often see empire waist coats, and with pretty ruching at the bust and arms, it's sure to stand out.

I love polka dots and this trench comes in black or dark brown.

With big buttons and cargo pockets, this coat is a little mod, a little nautical and very trendy.

The piping on this coat adds polish and professionalism.

And finally, don't be afraid of a little color in a coat! Bright red and oversized white buttons are a great combination and you'll be sure to stand out on even the dreariest days.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where's Paris?

In an unusual move, The Associated Press published a story last week in which one of their writers, Jocelyn Noveck, discussed the venerated news organization's decision to not report news related to Paris Hilton for an entire week. Noveck writes that the AP's editors wanted to see if anyone noticed, or cared, about the lack of new about Paris, and not surprisingly, there were no deaths, mass riots, not even any complaints from the Parisites (Parisians? whatever her fans are called).

Some people were a little disturbed at the idea that the AP was "tinkering with the news," but what is a news service if not the gatekeeper of news, determining what is and isn't worth reporting? Noveck brings up the point that news sources tend to take an attitude of "if everyone else is covering it, why shouldn't we?" and seeing as celebrity news is the main force driving magazine sales, it was inevitable that even the most highly regarded news agencies would fall into the trap.

You can make the argument that with all the truly important things going on in the world, the AP (or The New York Times or any other major newspaper) shouldn't be wasting their time on Paris or Britney or Tom and Katie, but there's clearly a huge market for celebrity news, and even respected sources can't ignore the impact of celebrities, who shape our culture in innumerable ways (good or bad, that's up for debate). What they can do is choose to ignore celebrities and stories that are not newsworthy, and let the gossip rags continue to bestow quasi-celebs (the Brandon Davis's and Kristin Cavallari's of the world) their 15 minutes of fame.

Still, I can sympathize with the editors who are forced to determine whether the release of a certain American Idol contestant's scandalous photos counts as news, considering that nearly 40 million people watch and care about the show and far fewer care about the anti-Putin protests in St. Petersburg. Questions like "who counts as a celebrity these days?" and "if x many people want to know about it, does that make it newsworthy?" are difficult to answer, and I think that's why coverage varies on which celeb news makes it to the major papers and what's ignored.

I don't really have any suggestions for a system that determines who and what should be reported. But hopefully newspapers, magazines and blogs can try to break out of the bandwagon trend and simply stop reporting on celebrities who aren't famous for anything more than a gift for self-promotion, and simply stop talking about them when their 15 minutes has passed and the world is ready to move on.

And finally, for the love of all things holy, I'm calling for worldwide prohibition of any further discussion related to Anna Nicole Smith and her death, children, lovers and legacy (*puke*). Thank you.