Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Off to Montreal!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I won't have any new posts up until next Monday, April 16th. I'm going on a short vacation to Montreal with my boyfriend, to celebrate my birthday (yesterday I turned 21!), our two year anniversary and a few other exciting things going on in my life right now. I decided that it would be best if I left my laptop at home, just so I can make the most of the vacation without stressing over writing posts, responding to e-mails and worrying about work. Thanks so much for understanding, I'll be back to regular posting on Monday!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Protocol for Getting Makeup Done at Department Stores

As I've mentioned many times on this site, I have only the most rudimentary skills when it comes to makeup application. I don't even attempt lining my lips or eyes, let alone fancy eyeshadow combinations or using shading to bring out or hide certain features. If I can make it look like my skin is basically clear and even, make my eyelashes and eyebrows show up and add a little color to my normally ghostly pale face, I'm a happy camper.

I think you readers have picked up on that, which is why I never get questions about makeup application. Last week, however, I did receive a question about having someone else do your makeup, which is an area where I consider myself an expert. If I have a special event to go to that I really want to look good for, I'll go to my local Nordstrom and get my makeup done by one of my favorite sales associates at Bobbi Brown or NARS. A lot of people, though, are freaked out by the idea of having this done, as there's no set protocol on how one goes about doing this, and what's the appropriate way to reimburse the person for their time. Here are a few tips for getting the best service when you're getting your makeup done at a counter:

First, you want to make sure you're getting your makeup done by a person you can trust. A good way to ensure this is to see the person's work beforehand, so ask your friends and family if they've had a good experience with a particular makeup artist or counter. If you don't have a recommendation to work with, go to a counter that you've had good experiences with and find the sales associate with the best makeup (or if they're working, the one doing the best job on a customer).

Still, your best bet is to build a relationship with an artist at a counter you frequent. If you're shopping and get great advice or just hit it off with a makeup artist, ask for her card and stop by her counter whenever you need products from that brand. Not only will this guarantee that you'll get a beautiful makeup job when you have a special occasion, usually she'll let you know about special offers and put you on the waiting list for popular products.

When you've got a person you like, it's important to make an appointment in advance. I usually call a week or two beforehand, and make the appointment at least a few hours before the event I'm going to. Try to get to the appointment a little early, and give yourself extra time in case it runs late.

I think it's best to take a shower and do your hair in advance, and come to the counter with a clean face, so the makeup artist doesn't have to waste time removing your makeup.

In case the makeup artist doesn't ask, be sure to explain what your outfit looks like, what kind of event you're going to and the look you're interested in, so there's no confusion about what you want.

Now for the difficult part... when the artist is done giving you a beautiful face, you want to make sure that you're reimbursing them for their time and effort. You have to remember that during the time she was doing your makeup, she could have sold multiple products to other customers, and most of the people working in department store counters work on commission. I think you should always buy at least one product that the makeup artist used (lipsticks or glosses are always good for touch ups later on). But don't waste both of your time by buying a product you won't use later on (or that you plan on returning). If she did a really great job, I think it's appropriate to tip ($10 or $15 is reasonable) and be sure to ask for her card, promising to come back next time you're shopping for makeup or need to get your makeup done again.

One final tip- check to see when guest makeup artists are visiting your local mall (you can usually get on a brand's e-mail list or just ask the counter what the schedule is), because many brands will send their national makeup artists (the people who do fashion shows, magazine shoots and red carpet makeup) to local stores all over the country to promote their products. Having your makeup done by one of these experts is an opportunity you don't want to miss- I've never felt so beautiful as the day I lucked out by getting my makeup done by a top NARS makeup artist for the Sadies dance my Junior year of high school. I could've married the guy who made me look that good. Seriously, these people are magicians.

Any tips I've forgotten? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Fashion and Cultural Identity

Thursday's New York Times had a very interesting article on the struggles of Muslim women in America who want to respect their faith while dressing fashionably. For the women profiled in this article, deciding what to wear each day has political and social meaning. On one hand, they must consider how other Muslims will judge their clothing, hair and makeup, but as young, working, urban women, they also want to fit in with the larger society, and use fashion as a form of personal expression. Muslim women face different expectations, and balancing these responsibilities with their own wants and impulses is very challenging. I can't imagine having to not only severely limit what I could wear, much less feeling like I had to choose between following my culture and religion. Even more, being perceived as a political enemy within my own country just for my choice of clothing is just mind-boggling.

When discussing culture, whether in the context of assimilation or conflict, we often focus on identities, power and political control. When it comes down to it, though, culture is how groups of people live their daily lives. Fashion is how cultures groups express identity- the hijab (traditional Muslim head scarf) was discussed in the article, but it's certainly not the first article of clothing or style that has a politically charged meaning. Think back to the Zoot Suit, the British punk movement, the Afro, even the shift from dresses to trousers on women in the early 20th century... what we choose to put on our body (or do to our body in many cases, but that's another post) has political and social meaning.

Even more interesting is how groups adopt styles, shifting the meaning entirely, like when rap and R&B artists in the late 90's started wearing Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, symbols of Upper Class WASP America, or when anti-establishment punk is repackaged and sold to rich suburban kids at Hot Topic in malls across America. We rarely stop to think about how certain trends developed, and what their original meaning was, but designers and retailers consciously choose what to sell, and we (at least subconsciously) realize that we make a statement with everything we put on our bodies. And we still continue to judge and make assumptions about others based on clothing, hair, makeup, etc. You may not have to worry about being perceived as a terrorist when you dress yourself in the morning (in the case of the American Muslims wearing traditional clothing) but you can't forget that you're still being judged.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Review: Madonna for H&M

Although she hasn't been on the top of her game in a number of years, I still love and really admire Madonna. When you consider the many female pop artists who've been manipulated by family, the music industry and the media, only to fizzle into obscurity (or worse, drug addiction, depression, abusive relationships, etc), Madonna's successful three decade run is all the more impressive. She's been very smart about her image and career without ever taking the safe route, and she's done it all by herself, on her own terms.

Madonna rightly deserves to be considered one of the great fashion icons for the variety of styles she's embraced over the years and her willingness to take risks when it comes to clothes (cone bra, anyone?). On top of this, she has a wonderful playful attitude about clothes and embraces the escapism that costumes allow. So it seemed like a great move by H&M to have Madonna design their latest line, called "M by Madonna." A couple of weeks ago I stopped by my local mall to check out the new line, and here's what I found.

The collection definitely has it's hits and misses. I liked the strong, sleek lines of a lot of the pieces, and the "grown up" look of the collection (an aspect often missing from celebrity designer lines). Two of my favorite outfits were this black shirt/belt/pencil skirt combo and this cool white trench:

Regular readers know what a sucker I am for a trench, but this one is a real beauty, and I love that it's white, a color you don't usually see in outerwear. I like that a lot of the outfits present a sexy take on office wear (Madonna is quite the businesswoman herself), but some of them went too far into the realm of fembot secretary, like this outfit:

This is a little too office dominatrix for me, you just about expect someone wearing this to pull a whip out of their purse. There's definitely a wide range when it comes to the level of taste in the collection, as this um, catsuit shows.

Honestly, who but Fergie would be seen in something like this? Some of the pieces were also just not very flattering, like this minidress:

I like the disco-queen idea behind this dress, but I just can't see it looking good on anyone. It also brings me to a major problem with this collection, which is that in person most of the pieces look cheap. Of course, when you buy something from an H&M or Forever 21 you expect that, but when an outfit that is already bordering the line between trashy and sexy is made of low quality materials, there's not much going for it.

In addition, the pieces in this collection are not cheap. The trench retails for $99, a sweater for $79, a belt for $34 and trousers for $60. For those prices I would expect better quality than what H&M offers. Still, there are a number of pieces that are worth checking out in person (I definitely would advise against buying anything online unless you've seen it in the store, as the quality really varies). As of last week, the H&M near me still had most of the styles and sizes, but I've heard that stores are selling out, so if there's something that catches your eye on the website (which is awesome, by the way), go soon before they're all gone.

And if you haven't already seen it, here's the commercial for the collection, which is really entertaining.