Saturday, May 05, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Fashionista writes an open letter to Sarah Jessica Parker in response to her strong defense of her poorly received line, Bitten. Great post and really interesting comments.

Beauty Addict has tips on prepping your skin before you apply self-tanner.

StyleBites talks about which shoe brands offer sizes 11 and up.

The Beauty Brains report on a recent study that showed that women who looked at pictures of models had worse body image than those who hadn't. Somehow I don't think anyone in the fashion industry will care...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Finds: Shirtdresses

Reading back through my archives, I realized just what a poor job I've done hiding my obsession with dresses. I try to be as unbiased as possible when it comes to my Friday Finds posts, highlighting as many different types of clothing and accessories for various body types and budgets. After my Dream Dresses post a couple of weeks ago, I vowed to pay more attention to other things, but I kept coming across these gorgeous shirtdresses and I found myself pulled back in.

Perhaps second only to my beloved wrap dress style, the shirtdress is one of the most universally flattering dress styles. Whether you have a straight, athletic body or are curvy and on the plus size, a well-fitting shirtdress with create an hourglass, feminine silhouette, creating a small waist in relation to your bust and hips.

It's also a very versatile style; pick the right color and a more conservative cut and you can make it business casual, but you can also go dress it up for a party by adding some funky accessories and a great pair of shoes. It's just so easy to look good in a shirtdress and adapt it to different situations...what's not to love?

Here are a few of my favorite shirtdresses on the market, organized by price:

Ruby Rox "Sailor" Shirtdress, Nordstrom, $35.90

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Belted Shirtdress, $39.99
I bought this dress yesterday and it's incredible (especially for the price). FYI though- the skirt is fuller than it looks in the photo and sizes run large (I normally wear a size 8 and I fit into a small). Definitely worth checking out next time you're at Target.

Style & Co. Linen Shirtdress, Macy's, $69.99

Lily Belted Eyelet Dress, Nordstrom, $98.00

Donna Ricco Dot Shirtdress, Nordstrom, $118.00

Anthropologie "Twigs and Branches" Shirtdress, $138.00

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ask Meg's Mom: Mother's Day Gifts

Last week, I announced that I've invited my mom to write a regular feature on the blog called "Ask Meg's Mom," whereby readers submit questions that my mom answers (I'll chip in of course), and everyone else is welcome to add their $0.02 in the comments. If you've got a question for her, send me an email, and I will relay the message. My mom is super excited about taking this on, so don't be shy!

Our first question comes from Sara, who writes:

Dear Meg's Mom,

I've had a rough year and my mom has been a huge source of support. To thank her for always being there for me, I wanted to do something special for her for Mother's Day, but unfortunately I'm on a pretty tight budget. Do you have any recommendations for Mother's Day gifts that will really show how much I appreciate her, without breaking the bank? Thanks!

Since it's Mom's column, I'm letting her pick the photos...

Mom writes:

Ah, the joys of Motherhood….There were the days when I could do no wrong in the eyes of my daughters. I was told I was the “Bestest Mother in the Whole World” and received pictures covered in glitter and a handful of fresh picked dandelions. And nothing could’ve been sweeter. Then there were the times when my daughters thought I was not only the “Worst Mother in the World” but never wanted to be seen in public with me. Mother’s Day gifts were purchased but perhaps out of obligation not a heartfelt sense of love and gratitude.

At this point in my life there is nothing I need materially. My favorite gifts were always the ones made by hand and given from the heart. I will always treasure the cards that took hours to decorate not minutes to buy. At this point in my life I think the best gift in the world for a mother would be time. Special time spent with her daughter. Time to do something together that only Mom would want to do. It wouldn’t have to cost a thing. A long walk in the park – uninterrupted time talking and sharing and really listening to what Mom thinks and feels. Working on a family photo album together – listening to her tell all those ‘remember when’ stories that you’ve heard a hundred times but never paid attention to. Helping her with a project that she never can seem to finish – no matter how boring it may be to you.

Because girls, when all is said and done, mothers won’t necessarily remember the expensive gifts that were given but I can assure you they won’t forget the special one on one times that were spent with their daughters. And when your mother is no longer in your life, believe me, you won’t be thinking of those gifts either but you will never forget the time you had.

My take:

As much as any mother would enjoy a gift certificate to the spa, or a big bouquet of flowers, I definitely agree with my mom that you don't need to spend a lot of money to show your mom how much you care. For mother's day this year, my sister and I were planning on inviting a few family members and friends over and cooking a big dinner for my mom (Dad promised he'd do the clean up). Trust me, this isn't going to be a gourmet meal, but I think my mom will really enjoy getting to spend time with all of us without having to be responsible for entertaining people.

The goal of any gift you give, whether it's a physical present or just spending time with her, is showing your appreciation. But one great way to really get the point across is to actually tell her why you're so glad she's in your life and list the specific things you're thankful for. A nice card with a long message from the heart will mean more to her than any fancy gift, and it's an inexpensive and simple way to show you care. You can make a card yourself, but there are also some beautiful ones available at specialty stores. Here are a few great Mother's Day cards from Luxe Paperie.

Anyone else have suggestions for Sara?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stars Without Makeup...Right...

When I heard that People Magazine was doing a photo spread of a number of A-list actresses without any makeup on, I was intrigued. It's not that photos of beautiful celebs without makeup are hard to find, just open any gossip rag, or do a Google search for "celebrities without makeup" and you'll see that these images are a dime a dozen. Of course, all of these pictures were taken (we can assume) without the celebrity's approval, who are usually caught by paparazzi as they're leaving the gym or buying groceries. And in most cases, the resulting pictures are not very flattering to say the least.

So I was curious to see how far these women were willing to go to show their "natural" selves. It turns out, most of them didn't do much at all. Sure, no one looked as drop dead gorgeous as usual, but aside from a few freckles, I didn't see any visible imperfections. Am I supposed to believe that these women all have perfectly even skin tone, no bags or circles under their eyes, no breakouts or dry patches, NOTHING?

Eva Longoria, without makeup in this week's issue

Eva Longoria, paparazzi photo

I believe People when they say that they did not use makeup on the women. But as any perceptive person knows, photographs lie. Lighting, posing and blurring are easy ways to hide flaws and make anyone look more attractive, without applying a drop of concealer. Upload the shot onto Photoshop, and with a few clicks of the mouse, you can entirely change someone's appearance. After all that, we're expected to valorize these women who have the "guts to take it off," "who dare to go bare?"

The most frustrating part of the spread was the comments attached to each actress's photograph, each talking about how much they love looking natural, how they don't feel a need to impress anyone, how they've embraced all of their flaws. If that were true, why do they obviously go to such great lengths to look perfect the rest of the time? Why get so heavily made up for every occasion, why diet and exercise obsessively to stay ultra thin, why spend money on plastic surgery, $800 haircuts, stylists and image consultants if you're so happy with who you are, and have no desire to impress anyone else?

And if you're so comfortable with yourself, flaws and all, why not insist that the photographer take the picture of you as you really are, no fancy lighting or Photoshop touch-ups?

It frustrates me that our society pretends that we're so embracing of "natural" beauty, from images like these to the Dove commercials, which, as admirable as they are for showing the beauty of women of different sizes and shapes, were still created to sell you cellulite cream. Mixed messages abound, and it's hard to know what exactly we're supposed to accept (no makeup is alright, but you still need Photoshop, or being curvy is great as long as you have a beautiful face and no cellulite). And what is natural beauty anyway? If I stop going to the gym, shaving my legs and applying prescription skin creams, am I still beautiful? Was it wrong for my orthodontist to force me to wear braces, or my hairstylist to dye my hair?

I think this is something that our society is going to be grappling with for a long time, and I certainly don't know the answers myself. Feel free to give your $0.02 in the comments, I'd love to hear what your take is on all of this.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Swimsuits for Every Body: Part 2

In my first post on finding a swimsuit to flatter your body, I wrote about which styles and details were the most flattering for small and large chested women. Today I'm moving on to a much more daunting body part, the stomach.

Many women don't feel totally comfortable exposing their stomachs, leaving bikinis out of the question. But often if feels like you're forced to choose between an itsy bitsy bikini (yellow polka dots optional) and one of those awful floral printed skirted granny suits. Everyone wants to feel sexy, comfortable and confident when they're out on the beach or lounging by the pool, and neither the granny suit nor the string bikini fits the bill. Luckily, swimsuit manufacturers are picking up on this dilemma and are creating more tankini and one piece suits that use cut or materials that slim the waist, without sacrificing sexiness.

Here are just a few great slimming suits:

Body by Victoria Ipex Tankini Top, Victoria's Secret, $54 ($28 for bottoms)
I understand that this print might not be for everyone, but the bright vertical lines really elongate the torso. The sexy deep-v cut also draws attention away from your stomach (just don't be surprised if that attention goes to your breasts!)

The Miracle Bra Push-up Halter Tankini Top, Victoria's Secret, $44 ($38 for bottoms)
I just love this sleek and slimming suit. This is just one example of how you never have to sacrifice sexiness for coverage. One thing to remember about tankinis is that you don't want more than 3/4-1 inch or so of space between the top and bottom, otherwise you're drawing attention to a wide part of your stomach.

Magicsuit Firm Control Crisscross Shaping One-Piece, from Victoria's Secret, $130
Magicsuit uses a smoothing fabric that works much the same way Spanx do, eliminating bumps and lumps and creating a slimmer appearance overall. This suit also combines a very flattering "wrap" look that emphasizes your bust while making your waist appear thinner.

Calvin Klein Pleated One Piece, from Victoria's Secret, $70
You've heard it before: horizontal lines make you look wider and larger, vertical lines make you look long and lean. Calvin Klein adds both, using horizontal ruching at the bust to draw attention there, and slimming vertical panels along the sides. It also comes in a tankini version.

Anne Cole "Suddenly Slim" Double Strap One Piece, from Nordstrom, $126
Ruched keyhole detailing at the bust adds visual interest while an underwire bra and an extra strong nylon/Lycra spandex fabric (in black, no less) will hold you in and emphasize curves.

You've seen the good stuff, but let's move on to the examples of what doesn't work:

This apron top is the bathing suit equivalent of a muu muu. It might make sense at first to avoid anything fitted if you are self-conscious about your stomach, but having loose fabric like this only makes you look wider (and won't hold you in the way a tighter, stretchy suit will).

In the past couple of years, cut-out suits have taken off, with magazines promoting the style as "flattering on every body type!" This is wrong. If you have any hint of love handles, everyone's attention will be drawn to them.

I mentioned earlier that horizontal lines and details add width, and a suit like this that is nothing BUT horizontal lines (strips+ruffles+ruching+straight neckline) isn't flattering on any body.

If you've got other suggestions for swimsuits that flatter a large stomach, leave 'em in the comments!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Discovered and Forgotten

There's no question that we live in society that's obsessed with creative talent; just look at the abundance of television shows dedicated to "discovering" the next great talent in everything from singing to fashion design to dancing to modeling, not to mention slightly odder talents like hairstyling and "capturing the spirit of the Pussycat Dolls." Everyone loves a good rags to riches story, and as the popularity of viewer vote-driven shows has proven, people really like feeling that they've contributed to a person's success (and at an extreme level, they "adopt" a contestant and feel completely responsible for the person's success, but that's another post entirely).

All of this makes sense to me. But what I find really interesting is that once we've "discovered" a person and they're no longer filling our TV screens each week, we tend to forget about them and move on to the next up and comer. Just consider how many winners or runners up of these talent reality shows have gone on to succeed in their chosen career. Can you name the winner of every season of America's Next Top Model or Project Runway, or even American Idol? And do you know what more than a couple of them are doing now?

Even if you watched every season, the answer is probably no.

I was amazed when I recently read an article that listed the record sales of last season's American Idol finalists. Over 30.2 million households watched the final episode of the season, with 63.4 million votes cast in total. The majority of those votes were for Taylor Hicks, with Katherine McPhee not far behind. You'd assume that if that many people cared enough to vote for the winner (which costs money), they'd like the singers enough to want to buy their albums. Oddly enough, you'd be wrong.

Taylor's album, released in December of 2006, has sold 661,452 copies to date. Katherine's, released in January of 2007, has sold 298,507 copies. And this is one of the most popular television show of all time!

Still, the American Idol alums have enjoyed at least some degree of post-show success. Other winners have not been so lucky, as this incredibly depressing New York Magazine article on Project Runway winner Jeffrey Sebelia shows. And after 8 (!) cycles of America's Next Top Model, have we seen any of the contestants go on to real careers in modeling? The best we've got is Adrianne Curry whoring around on VH1 with her new husband Christopher Knight (aka Peter Brady).

It's as if the process of discovering is fulfilling enough that we no longer feel compelled to contribute to this person's success. Maybe the way that the networks draw out these competitions and then ensure that the winner is plastered on every magazine, newspaper and talk show ensures that we're so sick of the person that we won't want to buy their album or their clothes. But most likely, our short attention spans simply make it hard to keep caring.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mineral Makeup Comparison: Everyday Minerals

A while ago I wrote about my experience with L'Oreal's Bare Naturale, my first foray into the booming mineral makeup industry. While application was easy as pie and my skin looked naturally beautiful and glowing, I had a terrible reaction to an ingredient (readers have suggested that it's probably talc, but I can't know for sure) and had to hand over my case to my "skin of steel" mother. I thought this signaled the end of my relationship with mineral makeup, but so many of you wrote in and suggested other products that were less irritating, and I've spent the last few weeks ordering samples from various companies, which I'll be reviewing in the coming weeks.
The first brand I tried was Everyday Minerals, which was recommended by Emma, Sparkler and Amanda. Everyday Minerals has a great selection of colors, which are divided between cool, neutral and warm tones, and formulas, which vary according to what kind of coverage you want and whether your skin is oily or dry. For my ever-shiny skin, the customer service rep recommended that I try the Intensive formula, which controls oil and provides a near-matte, long-lasting finish, but also included a sample of the Semi-Matte, for days when I need less coverage.

I tried the Semi-Matte first. As I've mentioned before, I am a total klutz when it comes to applying makeup, so one of the factors used in reviewing each of the mineral makeup products is ease of application. I've gotten the "swirl, tap, brush" motion down, but the quality of the product definitely determines how easy it is to blend the product into your skin. The semi-matte went on easily and blended into my skin with little effort (having the exact color match certainly helped, I had Sandy Fair).

While the color was great, the coverage left something to be desired. The Semi-Matte gave a light coverage, which helped even my skin tone a bit, but wasn't enough to cover a few small breakouts, undereye circles and redness. I had to apply concealer and layer my MAC Blot powder over it to even everything out. It also left a nice glowy look, but with my oil-prone skin, glow turned to shine in about a half hour. If your skin is normal to dry and you don't need a lot of coverage, the Semi-Matte would probably be perfect for you, but it didn't cut it for my high-maintenance skin.

The next couple of days I decided to try the Intensive formula, whose name kind of scared me. The coverage was definitely a few steps up from the Semi-Matte, but concealer was still necessary on a couple of spots. I'm probably expecting too much from a foundation (especially a powder one) to want to cut concealer out of my routine, but at least I didn't have to use much. Intensive definitely doesn't give you the glow that Semi-Matte does, which was good for my skin, but I still needed powder within a couple of hours (and I used a mattifyer under it).

One problem I had was that the Intensive seemed to settle around (but not in) my pores, which made them stand out more than usual. I'm not sure if that's because the color was a little light (I used Fair, which is lighter than the Sandy Fair) or I'm applying it wrong or what. Should I be using primer or something? Anyone with suggestions, let me know!

I found that layering the Semi-Matte over the Intensive gave me the best coverage and appearance, matte with a little glow, very natural and pretty (and this nearly eliminated the pore problem I was experiencing before). I haven't had any breakouts yet from using this, it lasts for a long time and the price is fantastic, $12 for 8 grams.

My other issue with Everyday Minerals is that their packaging isn't very good. The plastic isn't very strong and you have to really turn the cap tight to keep it from falling off. When I took it on a recent trip, the top came loose and I had loose powder all over my products and makeup bag. And while it's set up like any other loose powder, it takes a lot of tapping on the back of the container to get the powder out, and you have to do this a few times to get out enough to cover your whole face. This is certainly preferable to having way too much come out at once, but it's a little annoying.

Still, for the quality of the minerals, the affordable price and the confidence of knowing your skin is less likely to freak out when you apply it, Everyday Minerals is a good line that I recommend for certain skin types. It's definitely not for someone who needs a lot of coverage, but if your skin is already pretty clear and even (and on the dry side), I'm sure you'd be pleased. Of course, I still have many other mineral foundations to try, so be sure to check back in the coming weeks when I compare a number of other brands.