Saturday, August 04, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

The New York Times has an article on Elle Magazine's big redesign, and to signal just how fresh and innovative they are, they threw Lindsay Lohan on the cover!

The Non-Blonde
tries Benefit's famous BadGal blue mascara and is seriously unimpressed.

Jack and Hill are stocking up on MAC's Flashtronic, which is surprising natural-looking and easy to wear for a MAC collection.

Daddy Likey shares her favorite (and most despised) self-tanners.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Finds: Hot Weather Dresses for under $30

I hate how retailers are always pushing shoppers to shop for the next season. This is especially bad now that the Christmas season begins in mid-November and lasts until early January, but even now, when it's pushing 90 degrees day after day, every store and catalogue is littered with fall fashions. I don't know about you, but the last things I want to think about right now are sweaters, leggings and anything made of corduroy, wool or denim.

Now that I'm done with my summer internship, I'm spending the next month at home in Michigan, bumming around and spending most of my days watching daytime TV (the 2-5 pm block of Ellen, Martha and Oprah is a must-see) and laying on a lounge chair in the backyard catching up on my pleasure reading. I don't want to spend a lot of time planning outfits, and my priority is staying comfortable and cool, so I'm drawn to light dresses for a fool-proof lazy day outfit. Lucky for me, stores are trying to get rid of summer clothes, so I was able to find a lot of cute dresses on sale, all for less than $30.

Lux Hollywood Dress, from Urban Outfitters, $29.99

Kimchi & Blue Flutter Babydoll Eyelet Dress, from Urban Outfitters, $19.99

Forever 21 V-Neck Dress, $24.80

Forever 21 Knit Babydoll Dress, $15.00

Trapeze Dress, from Old Navy, $20.00

Lux Knit Wrap Dress, from Urban Outfitters, $19.99

Thursday, August 02, 2007

CosmoGirl Shoot

A few weeks ago I wrote about my (then) upcoming photo shoot for CosmoGirl magazine, an honor I was given as a result of being chosen for their Project 2024 internship program (just to clear this up, I didn't work at CosmoGirl, I worked at an advertising agency, but you can read more about it here). At the time, I was freaking out a bit because they wouldn't tell me whether we were getting our hair and makeup done at the shoot, so I had to ask your advice for salons and makeup counters in NYC. Luckily Cosmogirl came through, and we had a lovely hair stylist and makeup artist.

I brought my camera along and took a few photos of the day to share with you guys. I'm normally not one of those bloggers who likes to post pictures of themselves looking cool in different outfits (it just feels weird to me) but I thought you might enjoy checking out the Hearst office and hearing what a magazine photo shoot is like. We weren't given the full star treatment (I'll continue waiting for my chance to make my Beyonce/Mariah/Barbara Streisand diva demands) but they did treat us well.

We met at the Hearst offices (the most gorgeous office building I've ever seen or been in) at 9 AM and took the elevators up to the 16th floor, where Hearst's photo studios are located. Hearst publications owns 18 major magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, O, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen and Town and Country and they do a lot of shoots in-house. The studio was quite small, with one small room for hair and makeup attached to a slightly larger room with a basic white set and enough room for a crew of 5 -10 people.

The other Project 2024 interns and I snacked on muffins and fruit while we took turns getting our hair and makeup done while the crew set up the computers, lighting and photography equipment. My first stop was with Shannon Grey Williams, a makeup artist working for Ford models. I tried to catch every product she used, but she worked quickly and was mixing so many different shades that I couldn't keep track of it all.

We quickly bonded over our shared love of MAC's Blot Powder (she says it's the best for keeping skin matte during photoshoots) and introduced me to a few products that are going on my must-buy list. After applying foundation and concealer, she used YSL Touche Eclat to highlight and brighten my eyes. They looked lovely, and she assured me that even with my limited makeup application skills, I could make it look good. For my blush, she layered NARS Orgasm over Benefit's Dandelion and Dallas, explaining that Orgasm works best as a last step, since it's so shimmery when used alone. She's a big fan of both Benefit blushes and used them on all of us, since the colors look pretty and natural on every skin tone and shade. She also used a couple different shades of Bourjois lip gloss, which gave a beautiful shine, lasted throughout the shoot and was never sticky.

Next I moved over one chair to Jennifer Brent, a hair stylist with Ford (she's been featured in a few of their YouTube videos, which you can check out here). She indulged my life-long desire for full, curly hair by backcombing and blowdrying my hair at the crown and then using a curling iron to loosely curl different-sized pieces. If you're wondering what the funny glove she's wearing is, it's to allow her to touch the curling iron without burning herself. As someone with more curling iron-induced burns than I can count, I was tempted to get one of my own.

When we were all dolled up, the photographer called us into the studio and we began shooting. With my own experience sitting through 8 hour-long advertising photo shoots, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was relatively short and painless. CosmoGirl's photo editor and fashion editor were on hand to direct the shoot, while Jennifer and Shannon fussed with our hair and makeup between takes.

I can admit, with 100% certainty, that I will never be a model. Not because they aren't casting for girls with glasses, flat hair and cellulite, but because I cannot for the life of my pretend to smile and be happy for 45 minutes straight. 45 minutes is a very short time to be shooting, but it was all I could do to not look like I wanted to jump off the uncomfortable wooden box I was sitting on and find a couch to curl up on. It's not easy keeping the same position for a long time and I think my smile was only authentic looking about 20% of the time. Oh well.

After the shoot, the photographer, Chris Eckert, let us go through the images to see how we looked. I thought they were impressive, considering that it's not easy to get 7 regular girls who've never modeled to all look good at the same time. I'd guess that 90% of the shots won't work because someone was sneezing or laughing or blinking when the photo was taken, but of the remaining 10%, we looked pretty darn good. Here we are just fooling around on the set, the real photo was posed and will look much better. Despite watching 7 seasons of America's Next Top Model, you can tell I still have no idea how to pose (I'm on the far right).

One of the editors then offered to give us a tour of the CosmoGirl offices, where I got to peek into the beauty and fashion closets. Here's a look at just one of 4 shoe shelves:

Here's the beauty product closet:

And here's part of the office of CosmoGirl's beauty editor. She keeps all of the products for the future collections to herself and her editors while she works on features for upcoming issues. Jealous? I certainly was. I was dying to take a peek at the NARS and Bobbi Brown palettes, but we had places to go.

Then, we went up to the 44th floor for a beautiful lunch with the CosmoGirl editors and publishers, our bosses and a few representatives from Avon, who sponsor the program. The walls are lined with modern art (Chuck Close, Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra were just a few of the artists they featured) and the dining room featured an amazing view of Central Park.

Though I didn't get the Devil Wears Prada moment I was hoping for (the editor-in-chief seems too nice to scream at anyone for keeping her waiting for her Starbucks), it was neat to check out the offices and get to know some of the people at CosmoGirl. The photograph will be in the December issue of the magazine and I'll scan it and put it on when it comes out in mid-November.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Shopping Online vs Shopping at a Store

My boyfriend doesn't believe in shopping in stores. Like a lot of men, he hates shopping, particularly the hassle of digging through racks, having to try different sizes, pushing through crowds, waiting in line and warding off aggressive sales personnel. His solution to this is to buy everything online.

When I say everything, I truly mean everything. Clothes, tech stuff, books, movies, tickets, even drug store products and groceries. When he needed new dress shoes he ordered 3 different pairs from Zappo's, tried them all on and sent back the two he didn't like. He loves bragging about how much money he saved by getting free shipping and the time he can spend doing valuable things like watching basketball and playing video games instead of finding parking at the mall. The only thing he has to get in person is gasoline, but by the time they start selling that online we'll probably have no reason to ever leave our houses.

I hate the same aspects of shopping that he does, but I still prefer to do most of my shopping in person. I like the feeling of browsing through a store and coming across the perfect gift for a friend or something cool I didn't realize I needed (this probably is a good indication that I don't need it but hey, it serves a purpose). And there are a lot of stores that are experiences in themselves, like funky boutiques or glamorous department stores, where you can spend a lovely afternoon by yourself just browsing the wares and trying interesting things. I also love the satisfaction I get from finding the perfect top or skirt or sweater marked down to nothing, knowing it fits beautifully and taking it home to wear that night. When it comes down to it, I need instant gratification, and 2-3 weeks shipping time just doesn't do it for me.

That doesn't mean I haven't been converted to shopping online for a lot of things. Getting my textbooks used on Amazon has saved me thousands of dollars, and last summer when I worked in New York I fell in love with Fresh Direct, the grocery store that ships to your apartment. Netflix has way more movies than my local Blockbuster and Zappo's offers far more sizes than the shoe department at Macy's. I've set my account to mail me a new tube of mascara every 3 months because I always forgot to replace it until the brush got gunky. I've even begun buying about 40% of my clothes online, mainly because I can find out right away which stores are having sales and whether they have my favorite sizes and styles in stock.

But there are downsides to online shopping as well. Mainly, I'm usually too impatient to wait a few weeks to get my stuff and I absolutely despise mailing things back. If I've ordered from a company that has a physical store near my house, I'll return it there, but having to wait in line at a busy post office is about as fun as a trip to the dentist. It's also so disappointing when you've been looking forward for something to arrive for weeks, only to rip open the box, try it on and realize you have to take it back. Often by this time the store is out of the size you really need, so you're totally screwed.

A few online clothing stores offer free overnight shipping, and sometimes even free shipping for returns, which is like the best of both worlds. For other brands, though, I think I'll stick with what's low-tech for now.

What do you prefer?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Are Women's Magazines So Much Dumber Than Men's?

If you've ever read through an issue of Esquire, GQ or Men's Vogue and thought, "this is just like my favorite women's magazines, only a lot smarter," you're not alone. Lately I've found myself getting more excited about picking up the latest issues of these popular men's mags than my own Lucky, Vogue and Glamour.

Why are men's magazines consistently better?

Where these magazines succeed is in the merging of style and substance, pairing beautiful fashion spreads with really intelligent, well-researched articles about current events and pop culture phenomena. And they don't take themselves nearly as seriously as women's fashion mags do, prioritizing humor over pretension.

Every year I pick up the latest book in the "Best American Magazine Writing" series and notice how many articles were plucked from men's mags, with no representation from women's publications (with the exception of columns by Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue's resident food writer). These mags regularly publish pieces by famous authors (Tom Wolfe, Stephen King) and have award-winning journalists on their masthead. They don't see a conflict between placing a 15 page article on Iraq next to a gadget guide or a profile of a hot actress. And they're often really funny (at least GQ and Esquire are) in the way that those "Most Embarrassing Moments" stories never are.

Sometimes I wonder what the publishers of mainstream women's magazines (your Vogues, Cosmopolitans, Luckys and Marie Claires) really think about their readers. Do they believe that women are simply uninterested in having to think while reading their magazines? Do they think our attention spans are too short for a long, thoughtful article?

Or that when profiling a celeb, we'd rather just hear about her favorite mascara than what she thinks about the treatment of female actresses in Hollywood? Maybe it's just that they assume that if we want something deeper, we'll look to newspapers and news magazines to get it... I'm not really sure.

I gathered a few recent issues of popular men's and women's magazines to test my hypothesis. I left out fluff titles like Maxim, Stuff, Lucky, Cosmopolitan, and the like, as these are not publications that aspire or claim to provide their readers with substance. I chose two of my favorite men's magazines, GQ and Esquire, and two of the better women's magazines, Elle and Marie Claire. After reading through all four and thinking back to my many years of reading all kinds of women's magazines, I noticed the following trends:

Men's magazines take on a much wider variety of important issues (political, social, cultural) and are willing to do serious investigative journalism.

The July issues of GQ and Esquire feature a number of well-reported investigative pieces on topics as varied as Al Qaeda's presence in Muslim Africa, prisoners rights at Guantanamo Bay, the man suing Google to take down YouTube, Ave Maria, Florida, the newly developed all-Catholic town banning pornography and contraception, gang violence in Long Island and the 13 Russian journalists who have been murdered since Putin took office 2000. And these are just the long (more than five pages) pieces. And even if it's not journalism, Esquire should get some credit for featuring a 20-page, uninterrupted exclusive novella by Stephen King.

Marie Claire had a good piece on the trend of American women outsourcing their pregnancy to surrogate mothers in India and a short article on hoarders. More typical, though, is a photo spread of supermodels boasting about their favorite charities, photographed by Helena Christensen. Elle fared similarly, with a longish piece on partial birth abortion and an article on Princess Diana's cultural impact. When it comes to "serious" pieces, you're most likely to find plastic surgery exposes, articles about celebrities doing volunteer work and how it changed their lives, first person rape stories and anything intended to scare you ("The ten things your gynecologist never told you!"). Gag me.

Women's magazines miss out on opportunities to inject more intelligent information in their articles.

Reading through Marie Claire and Elle, I was struck by how many times I'd read an article and wonder why the writer failed to dig a little deeper to get more insight out of her subjects. In an Elle interview with Bruno Frisoni (designer of Roger Vivier), no question is longer than 7 words. In it, you can find out information about the famed designer like the fact that his favorite band is Blondie and his least favorite food is tripe. For a serious fashion magazine, this is pretty sad.

Marie Claire had a piece on Eve, arguably the most famous female rapper, and asked only one question regarding the recent controversy over Russell Simmons' comments about removing the misogynist and violent elements from rap music. They skimmed over the fact that she's succeeded as a woman in a male-dominated industry, barely touched on her music and spent a lot of time talking about her beauty and style.

And in Elle's cover story on Sarah Jessica Parker, no one thought to ask about ethical questions surrounding her line for Steve & Barry's, or her hypocritical remarks about "real women" having no access to fashionable, well-designed clothes, when her own line most closely resembles what you'd find on the sale rack at Old Navy.

These magazines have access to important people, but they prioritize giving their readers silly anecdotes about a star's love life or a few facts about her beauty routine, instead of delving deeper into the issues surrounding the person.

Men's magazines present superficial topics in more intelligent ways than women's magazines and insert humor into serious topics.

Women's magazines turn on their "we're journalists!" sign near the back of each issue when they attempt to tackle "important issues." There's nothing funny in these articles, and the writers' voices are so dramatically different from the earlier pieces on lipstick trends and cellulite cream that it can feel as though you're reading a totally different magazine.

Men's magazines seem to put the same amount of effort into short, silly articles as they do into long, serious pieces. Often the first 30 pages of GQ or Esquire are just as entertaining and readable as the meat of the magazine, and they have actual writers contribute to the short segments on gadgets, fashion and sports. Just compare the ratio of words to pictures in the early parts of a women's and men's magazine. It's incredible to see how much space the women's magazines waste by refusing to spice up these sections with humor and good writing.

Humor is subjective, but I challenge anyone to name a mainstream women's magazine that's as funny as GQ or Esquire.

One thing I'll miss about Jane was it's humor and laid-back style, which was so refreshing compared to the stuffy, ultra-serious attitude of most women's mags. I don't think men's magazines have the same fear that they won't be taken seriously if they're funny, and use humor liberally in all sections of the magazine. Everyone likes to laugh and it makes reading these magazines a far more enjoyable experience.

I'm not going to pretend that GQ and Esquire are perfect. This issue of Esquire had one of the worst, most nauseating celebrity profiles I've ever read (Slate agreed with me on this), and there are more photographs of hot, nearly naked women than I'd like to see. And generally, the articles accompanying these hot, nearly naked women suck because they attempt to be serious and high-minded, when really it's just a guy going on about how dumbstruck he is to be in the presence of someone as mind-bogglingly gorgeous as Angelina Jolie. In general, men's magazines are conflicted (as conflicted as most men are) in how they view women, and this can be frustrating to read as a woman.

But I still can't fathom why women's magazines don't aim higher and I'm curious what you guys think. Do you think the failure of Jane has taught publishers that trying to be different and offering their readers more substance only leads to loss of advertising sales and drops in subscriptions? Are most women happy with what they're given in mainstream magazines? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Road Tripping

Last Friday was the last day of my internship, and seeing as CosmoGirl wasn't too keen on the idea of paying for my housing for an additional week while I hung around New York City, I had to drive back to Michigan yesterday. It was sad to say goodbye to the city and my friends and co-workers, but it felt good to be going home. I made it home in time to catch the end of a family reunion at my aunt's house, and between the 11 hours of driving and the 4 hours with extended family members I haven't seen since the old days, my brain is a tad fried.

If you've ever driven by yourself for longer than 8 hours, particularly through the Midwest, you know what it feels like to reach that point where you're kind of high from the monotony of driving, and the most random thoughts pop into your head and sound absolutely brilliant and everything that's not brilliant is hysterically funny. Around hour 9 of the trip, I jotted down the following ideas on a Post-It with the intention of forming them into a really great post for today. Hindsight is 20/20, but I thought these were humorous enough to share with you all.

Idea #1

Amy Winehouse totally looks like the lovechild of Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange!

My apologies to those of you who aren't Harry Potter fans. I sympathize with everyone who's in the "it's a children's book, idiots!" camp and wish I could be laughing with you at all the lemmings, but... I was sucked in and couldn't stop myself from ordering Deathly Hollows the day it was released!

Idea #2

Isn't it funny that Kelly Clarkson's latest hit is called "Sober" and Carrie Underwood's is called "Wasted?" Isn't it a coincidence that during the season of upbeat hits, we've got two songs about alcoholics trying to quit drinking? Then again, if I had to pretend to like Ryan Seacrest 3 nights a week for 6 months, I'd probably hit the bottle too.

Idea #3

Is Eve the new Gwen? While no one will ever interfere with my adoration for Gwen Stefani and her amazing sense of style, I am loving Eve's latest look in the "Tambourine" video (not to mention the song). I had ignored all those annoying press releases from MAC about what products Eve wore in the video and which are her favorite, blah blah blah, but after listening to the song at least 7 times during the drive, I broke down and watched it when I got home. Sure, it's a 3 minute commercial for MAC, but it's a damn beautiful commercial, and Eve (makeup, fashion, everything) looks incredible. You can watch the full video here. Just one warning: it's frighteningly catchy, so expect to be humming the song all day.

I promise I'll be back tomorrow, complete with intelligent, coherent thoughts and arguments on important issues concerning womankind everywhere. If nothing else, this exercise has taught me that I should probably focus more on my driving, and less on capturing my genius thoughts on paper when I'm sleep-deprived and stuck in traffic on the Ohio Turnpike. Happy Monday!