Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs - Couture Edition

Cathy Horyn interviews Nicolas Ghesquiere on her blog On The Runway.

Next, Fashionista shows and explains couture.

The New York Times also has a beautiful slideshow of the behind the scenes action as the couture houses prepare for their collections.

Finally, Blogdorf Goodman highlights the beauty trends from the Christian Dior show. It'll be interesting to see what trends emerge in the fall in response to these over the top looks.

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!

Friday, July 06, 2007

My Thoughts on Blogging Integrity

Last week, after posting about my experience getting fitted for a bra, I received an e-mail from someone expressing interest in advertising their company on Faking Good Breeding. I do take advertising (a girl's gotta pay the bills somehow) but I was pretty shocked by this guy's request.

"Could you write a post about us, or place a link to our site in a post, like you did for the Town Shop?"

At first I didn't fully understand what he meant, because no one had paid me to visit and write about the Town Shop or to include a link to their store in a post. The story occurred as I described it: my bras didn't fit, I did a Google search for Manhattan lingerie stores and after reading and comparing reviews, I decided to try the Town Shop. I was pleased with my experience and thought the story was worth sharing on the blog, so I wrote a post, and in the interest of helping others find the store, I linked to their website. Simple as that.

The kind of "pay per post" advertising that this company requested is certainly not new, but it's something that I will never, ever do. Since there's a small chance that some readers might believe that I was doing that, I feel like I should write a post explaining my policy on how I deal with advertisers and PR firms.

Overall, I believe very strongly in integrity in my blogging. I view my blog as an extension of myself, and I want my posts to reflect the reality of my life (as I see it) as best I can. Obviously, I'm not doing journalistic reporting, and there are choices I have to make every day about what details to include or exclude from a story. Sometimes quotes or descriptions of people are slightly altered to improve the story as well as to keep the post from going on too long. My goal is to keep the depiction as true as possible, while also making it easy and entertaining to read.

If you read a number of beauty or fashion blogs, you probably notice that many people will be talking about the same product or brand at once. Usually that's because a PR firm is trying to promote a product or line and offers to send samples to interested beauty/fashion bloggers.

Sometimes bloggers will acknowledge that they were given samples for free, others review them as they would any product they buy on their own. I don't believe that I'm any "softer" on products that I've been given for free, but I always state in my review that I was sent the product, just in the interest of full disclosure. I'm perfectly comfortable writing a scathing review of a product I've gotten free, and like with all my product reviews, my decision to review is based on whether I feel very strongly about the product (positive or negative) and whether I think I'd have something interesting to say about it. I haven't written many reviews about products I've received for free for this reason- I'm just not going to write a review about something unless I really like it or really don't like it.

Brands - Longtime readers might notice that I'm not writing about beauty products as much as I used to, and it's because my current job involves working with a beauty brand. I'm not invested enough in the job and my relationship with this brand to not want to talk about any beauty products at all, but I've made a decision that it would be a conflict of interest to discuss any products by this brand. If I ended up getting a job with a beauty or fashion brand, I would have to make some tough decisions about whether there'd be a conflict of interest in reviewing and discussing that category at all. Luckily, I'm not at that point.

Advertising - I do allow advertising on the site, but only certain kinds. I have no problem with banner ads, Google ads and sponsored sidebar links, as long as they're not advertising a product or company that conflicts with my own beliefs (I wouldn't allow advertising of diet pills, for instance). I do not allow paid posts, paid links in posts or anything that affects the posts themselves, or prevents me from being 100% honest in my writing.

It's extremely important to me that you (all of my readers) can trust that I totally stand behind anything that's on the site, that the opinions and recommendations I give are uninfluenced by a company or individual with their own agenda. I write every post imagining that I'm speaking to friends, and while there are obviously some adjustments that need to be made when you're putting yourself out there on the internet, I believe the truth can and should still come through. I have too much respect for my readers to set my standards any lower.

If you've got any questions about my blogging policies, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Celebrity Sightings- Public or Private Information?

In the four summers I've spent living and working in New York City, I've only had one celebrity sighting. It was July of last year and I was shopping for lightbulbs at the East Village Kmart near my dorm when I saw Sandra Oh. She was taking the up escalator as I was going down, chatting with a friend, dressed as your average 30-something New Yorker. She has a unique face, so while there was no one else who made it obvious that they recognized her, I was certain it was her. Later on I did some research and found out she was living and performing in a play in the neighborhood, so it made sense she'd be there.

As we passed on the escalators, I remember looking at her and thinking, "Wow, Sandra Oh and I shop at the same Kmart." Never once did I consider saying something to her, especially since she was chatting with a friend, minding her own business in "normal person" mode. I also impressed that she wasn't too stuck up to shop at Kmart, and that no other shoppers bothered her (though they may have, I was only near her for a few seconds).

I generally don't mind that our culture is obsessed with celebrity. Certainly there are more pressing matters going on in the world than whether Nicole Richie is pregnant and Lindsay Lohan is going to jail, but I disagree with the naysayers who act as if our collective attention would shift from celeb gossip to world peace if the media layed off covering celebrities. I think that having the personal trials and tribulations of exhibitionist celebs as our watercooler fodder is perfectly acceptable, primarily because the celebrities in question (along with their handlers) make a conscious effort to make every aspect of their lives public. They go to the clubs where the paparazzi hang out, they get drunk in public, go without underwear or bras, date other famous people... and then think it's justifiable to blame the media and the public when we want to talk about it?

But what I don't think is fair is the recent trend of stalking celebs when they're living normal lives. Particularly in the case of celebs who make a conscious choice to keep their personal lives out of the spotlight. You see photos and reports of them in the pages of gossip rags, on celebrity blogs (even mine, I'll admit it) and on features like Gawker Stalker, where a Google Map points out the exact location in NYC where the celeb was seen, at what time and what they were doing. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't get pleasure from a photograph of a supermodel looking haggard without a touch of makeup on her face. Sometimes the reports are even comical, such as the case when someone reported seeing Elvis Costello buying 2 boxes of Tampax at CVS on 13th and 6th (presumably for wife Diana Krall), which was just hilarious in its banal absurdity. But I feel guilty for taking pleasure in having someone else's private life so deeply invaded.

If you're going to be consistent in keeping your private life private, I think you deserve to not be hassled and photographed by paparazzi and fans when you're making a late-night grocery run, taking your kids to the park or trying to buy your wife some tampons. When Britney, Lindsay, Paris or any of their cohorts complain about wishing everyone would leave them alone, usually directly after they've made fools of themselves at a high-profile, paparazzi-packed club or restaurant, I don't have any sympathy. But the Kate Winslets, Marcia Crosses, Julia Robertses, Jennifer Garners shouldn't have to open an Us Weekly and see photographs of themselves in sweats and sandals squeezing melons at the corner market under the "Stars, they're just like us!" headline.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Beauty Spending- What's Acceptable?

According to the New York Times it's not unusual for a woman in Los Angeles to spend $2000-$4000 a month on beauty products and treatments. Not $4000 per year...per month.

If I was a little shocked and annoyed last week that my beloved NYT would call Diane von Furstenberg "affordable", I was disgusted to read about these women who believe that spending up to $1000 a week on beauty is necessary for a woman over 30 trying to stay desirable in our youth-obsessed culture.

After running the "What's Your Routine?" contest earlier this year, I was unsurprised to learn that many of my readers, like myself are self-confessed beauty junkies. We feel genuine affection for our "Holy Grail" moisturizers, associate eye shadows with different stages in our lives and can passionately debate the merits of different mascaras. Our families and friends joke that we're "high maintenance" when we freak out over forgetting our makeup bag at home and shoot us looks of pity when we brag about scoring a limited edition lipstick.

But while I can't speak for everyone, I can't believe that even the product junkies among us would scoff at the idea of spending hundreds, let alone thousands, of dollars a month on our beauty habits. I know that the argument of "do you know what this money could buy for someone who really needed it?" could be applied to any amount of spending on non-essential items (clothes, accessories, beauty products), but I think this is just beyond outrageous.

As a college student transitioning from having mom and dad pay the bills to supporting myself, I was especially struck by a quotation from a financial analyst who pointed out that, "If you took that $100 a month you are spending on manicures and pedicures and invested it starting at age 25 in stocks that went up 10 percent a year, you would have over $500,000 by the time you were 65.” It really puts things in perspective when you start thinking about how those monthly or bi-monthly treatments (manicures, pedicures, hair coloring, facials, etc) really add up.

Because last week's discussion on clothes spending was so successful, I thought I'd throw out another question for you guys. How much do you spend per month, on average, on beauty products and treatments? How much is too much?

Here's my take:

Regular readers of the blog know that my beauty philosophy is basically that I don't believe in spending a lot of money on skincare products, because the stuff you can get from a drugstore is just as effective as the pricey stuff, and if you have any particular skin problems (acne, dryness, aging), a prescription from a dermatologist will do a lot more than any tube of Cream de la Mer. Same goes for haircare, since the ingredients in Pantene are essentially the same as those in Kerastase.

When it comes to makeup, I think spending more can be worth it because you're purchasing something because the color, texture and scent appeal to you, not because it will or won't get rid of your wrinkles any better than another brand.

As far as treatments go, that's another personal decision based on how much you have to spend (though there is a limit). It can be argued that going to a fancy salon will get you a better cut and color than a Supercuts, but I'm not convinced that a $80 haircut will look worse than a $400 one. Shop around to find a great stylist at a price you can afford, as there are good and bad people at every salon. I think the same goes for manicures and pedicures, and I think there's no reason to ever pay more than $50 for a mani/pedi.

According to every doctor I've ever spoken to and every article on the subject, spa treatments like facials won't actually do anything to improve your skin. Their purpose is to relax you and make you feel better, and while you might see short-term results, they won't change your skin for the long-term.

So what do I spend in an average month on beauty?

About $100 on skin, hair and body products. $30 for a pedicure (I don't get manicures). $20 on makeup (usually replacing a staple in my collection). $75 on a haircut (I don't color). I don't wear fragrance (I have allergies and sensitive skin) and I probably go for a spa treatment once or twice a year, so I'll add $15 a month for that. Shaving is expensive, so add $12 for razors. And because I use prescription skin products, my copay comes to about $30.

Grand total: $282.

Honestly, reading that number freaked me out a bit, as I thought I was being pretty frugal about everything and it's higher than I expected ($3,384 per year!). When I graduate in a year and try to live on a meager advertising salary in pricey New York City, I'll probably have to cut back. Or start a "Support Meg's Beauty Habit" fund through the blog. Scary thought.

So, what about you?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Saying "Goodbye" to Discounted Designer Fashions

Fashion magazines are always glorifying outfits that successfully combine high and low pieces. Pairing designer with discount supposedly ensures that you're spending money on pieces that will last a long time, without wasting money on trends that go in and out of style with the season. I find myself nodding in total agreement as I read article after article praising this fashion philosophy. It makes perfect sense, both from a financial and stylistic standpoint. Problem is, every time I try it, I fail miserably.

Because I can't afford full-priced designer clothes, I'm drawn to the sale racks of upscale department stores and discount designer sites like Bluefly, where you can view page after page of beautiful clothes, shoes and accessories massively discounted. Browsing the site, I'll come across a fabulous dress, handbag or top that's marked down 50%, from a brand I thought I'd never be able to afford, and it happens to come in exactly my size. "It's fate!" I exclaim. Even discounted, the item is usually more expensive that what I'd pay, but I tell myself that I'm getting a great deal on a high-quality item that I'll wear to death, thereby justifying the price. I click, I pay, it's mine.

But when that item arrives and I've worn it for a day, my previous excitement is often lost. It never looks as good as it did in the picture, and I find myself making excuses for imperfect fit or coloration. And the thought of spending outside my tight budget leaves me with a guilty feeling in my stomach, as I consider what else that money could've been spent on.

I don't know if it's biological or socially ingrained, but it seems that most women gain an incredible amount of satisfaction from scoring a major bargain. We get swept up in feeling like we've uncovered something secret and hidden, and the sense of accomplishment that accompanies privately knowing that you got something for next to nothing (although there's nothing private about bragging to all your friends that you scored a pair of Jimmy Choo's for $90). There's also something to be said about the power of branding that affects even the most jaded consumer when she finds a luxury brand on sale.

As this happens, we stop considering the factors that normally guide our purchases, like staying within our budget, making sure the clothes fit and flatter our bodies and ensuring that we're getting the most for our money.

I'm sure that there are saavy shoppers who have conditioned themselves to not be affected by the lure of a brand name and the siren's call of "final sale." Unfortunately, I'm not there yet, so I'm giving up on discounted designer items. I've got too many barely-worn clothes and accessories hanging in my closet that I can't bring myself to give away because I still feel a sense of accomplishment for scoring a deal, but also a lot of guilt for spending outside of my means on something I never wore. For now, I'm sticking to designer collections for Target and H&M for my designer fix, and I think my under-filled wallet and over-stuffed closet will thank me.