Saturday, August 25, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Finds: Fall Flats

Although flats never really went out of style, I've been delighted to see that they're more popular than ever this season. Perhaps retailers are finally realizing that women are looking for a shoe that's comfortable, attractive, and allows us to walk more than 50 feet without wobbling, developing blisters or pinching our toes. Whatever the reason, there are more beautiful, varied, often affordable styles of flats on the market than ever before.

I have nothing against heels. I actually wish that I could be (and sometimes pretend, when the occasion calls) one of those glamorous, sophisticated women who wears high heels every day and admits that she "doesn't even notice the heels!" Instead I feel uncomfortable, partly because I can't walk naturally in heels, have to focus as I walk (balance and grace are not two of my best attributes) and feel more self-conscious as I approach 6' (I'm 5'9" without shoes).

Flats are certainly not the answer to all my problems. As many have complained, most flats offer little in the way of foot support, and they can cause foot pain just as easily as their heeled counterparts. Some brands are better than others in offering support, but I often use insoles to prevent painful walking. And while it's not impossible, it is hard to find a truly dressy or sexy flat. For special occasions, I'll still turn to heels. Flats also don't connote the same professional power as a pair of tall, pointy black leather pumps, so when wearing a suit or dressing up for an important meeting, it's heels over flats every day.

Luckily, it's not often that I have to dress up for a formal occasion or wear a suit. Next month I'll start my last year of college, where the default outfit is a sweater, jeans, and a pair of flats, perfect for long walks in brisk New England. Last week I went to DSW to stock up on appropriate pairs, and I was quite impressed by the selection of styles. I've rounded up a list of a few of my favorite flats available online, all for under $100 (most for under $50).

Sam Edelman Buckle Ballet Flats, from Urban Outfitters, $98.00

Madden Girl Gravti Flats, from Zappo's, $45.95

Suede Color Block D'Orsay Flat, from Urban Outfitters, $48.00

Leather Knot Ballet Flat, from Urban Outfitters, $48.00

Rocket Dog Sydney Flats, from Zappo's, $44.95

Steve Madden 'Cannon' Suede Flat, from Nordstrom, $69.95

Fairytales Are True Ballet Flats, from Urban Outfitters, $28.00

Patent Mary Jane Ballet Flat, from The Gap, $39.50

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reader Question: Transitioning to Fall

I've been getting a lot of e-mails from readers asking about advice for transitioning their summer wardrobe into one that's more appropriate for fall. Retailers present the fall collections as if Labor Day marks a shift from summer to fall, when summer clothes are no longer appropriate or wearable. But as most of us know, September is usually too warm to pile on heavy sweaters and leggings, and we end up gradually adding warmer pieces to our outfits as the weather cools. I don't think there's any reason to give up summer clothes once fall hits, but there's a need to tweak outfits to acknowledge the seasonal change. Here are some of my recommendations for pieces that will help you seamlessly transition from summer to fall:

Layer cardigans and lightweight sweaters over summer dresses and skirts.

This Gap cardigan is heavy enough to wear all fall and winter, but it has a feminine, body-conscious shape that will look good over lightweight dresses. Here's a more traditional cardigan, which can easily be dressed up or down. A cable knit sweater is a classic fall piece that's easy to layer. And if you can afford it, a basic cashmere sweater will go a long way, in addition to being incredibly soft and comfortable.

Throw on a lightweight jacket over a tank top or sleeveless dress.

This swing jacket from Urban Outfitters would work over a tank or tee in September or a heavy sweater in December. 60's-style cropped jackets are definitely in this season, and this wool wrap coat is a trendy but practical option. I also love vintage-style coats in bright colors, like this one. Finally, you can't beat a classic trench coat, especially a double-breasted one like this.

Wear tights under skirts and dresses to keep legs warm.

My all-time favorite pair of tights are these reversible tights from Spanx. They're slimming, comfortable and they kept my legs warm even in January (another bonus is that they don't snag easily). Gray is a color that keeps popping up everywhere, and would be a great choice for tights. I'm also a fan of textured tights, like ribbed and cable knit styles.

Find flats in darker colors and heavier materials or metallics, three big trends for fall.

Ditch your flip flops, sandals and heels in summer colors and prints for a pair of flats in fall colors and materials, like this flannel pair from Steve Madden. I'm dedicating this week's Friday Finds to fall flats, so be sure to check back later this week for more shoe recommendations.

Anyone else have tips for transitioning from summer to fall?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Help Meg's Mom!

A few days ago I went shopping with my mom to help her find some fall clothes. We have similar body types- tall, small waist, large shoulders and hips, with one (quite large) difference. To my sister's and my dismay, the "busty" gene skipped a generation. While Ellie and I sometimes have a hard time finding tops, shirts and dresses that we can fill out, my mom is desperate for clothes that hold her in and still show off her shape. Empire waist tops and dresses cut her off mid-boob, while blouses that otherwise fit perfectly won't stay buttoned at her bust and wrap dresses lack coverage in one crucial area.

We left the mall empty-handed (something I never do) and I vowed I'd help my mom find some great new clothes for fall. Google searches failed me and my friends didn't have many suggestions, so I thought I'd throw the question out to you guys.

Does anyone have suggestions for brands or stores that carry tops, shirts and dresses that accommodate large-busted (but not plus size) women? Should my mom resign herself to a life of tailoring everything? If you've got any tips to share, please leave 'em in the comments!

FGB RSS Contest Winner!

Yesterday was the last day of the FGB RSS Contest, and I'm happy to announce that reader Jill has won a $25 gift certificate to Sephora! Congratulations, Jill!

To learn more about RSS feeds, check out this post and to subscribe you can click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Are Fashion and Beauty Blogs Contributing to Overspending?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about recent articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that discussed a recent increase in demand for designer goods, even as prices of luxury items continue to rise. The articles discussed a tendency among buyers to justify buying high-priced items when a product is inexpensive compared to others around it (a $300 shoe looks cheap when next to a $1200 pair).

The same thing tends to occur within social circles- when all your friends casually talk about dropping hundreds of dollars on a new Coach bag, you start to wonder whether you're cheap for buying discount, or you start telling yourself that you "deserve" better.

With the rising popularity of fashion and beauty blogs and forums, women with similar interests are able to connect and discuss these topics to their heart's content. This world is a fairly small one, with many longtime bloggers and forum contributors often setting the direction of the dialogue, and with a number of blogs connected by networks, the same topics are often discussed at length by many people at once. When one blogger goes gaga over the newest Balenciaga purse or Chanel lipgloss, others tend to chime in about loving it.

Many, if not most, fashion and beauty blogs spend most of their time recommending products, often with no thought to the price or the likelihood that their readers could afford them. With beauty products, many bloggers get products for free from companies, so it's not as if they have to go to the store and pick up a $200 eye cream to review each day.

I realize that these bloggers don't expect their readers to buy every product they recommend, but after reading these raving reviews day after day, it's hard to resist believing that these luxury items aren't the norm. You begin to feel like you're the only one who hasn't tried the product, and the encouragements from other readers that it's "totally worth the price" certainly don't help your resolve to stick to a budget.

When someone wants something but knows that it's not right to buy it, they look for excuses to make it acceptable, and blogs that extoll these products give them the justification they need. One of my biggest pet peeves about a lot of blogs is the guilty pride women express in being frivolous. "It's gonna hurt me later but I caved on the Louboutin's because they're just so gorgeous!" or "The La Prairie cream is pricey, but it makes such a difference that it's worth it."

Obviously worth is a relative term, and I have no idea what the financial situations of these bloggers, readers and forum commenters are like. But with the average American carrying over $8,000 in credit card debt, I think it's a safe assumption to say that a lot of us are spending beyond our means to follow the latest trends in fashion and beauty.

Here's a prime example of what I'm talking about. The blog Bag Snob wrote the following titled "Cheap Thrill of the Week" yesterday (emphasis below is mine):

Kooba Jackie Shoulder Bag in crackled laminated leather is full of interesting details; the ruching is tailored in by the double straps so it doesn't look a floppy messy plus it has oversized magnetic flaps in the front and the back of the bag, how convenient is that? The side pockets also have magnetic flaps for easy access to cell and valet tickets, even better right? You'll also love the price, $645, now I know to some of you this is not chump change but you have to admit it is easier to digest than the $2,000 price tag of the bags we usually review. Another thrill from Kooba is the clutch in pewter distressed leather; it is oversized so you can use it during the day but made of metallic grained leather which makes it appropriate for a glittery night out, the wrist strap has become a staple in oversized clutches and this one can also be tucked in. The best part is the $375 price tag. At eLuxury. Now what will you do with all the money you saved? You must splurge on the awesome and beyond amazing Burberry Prorsum Silk taffeta trench coat which will look gorgeous with either Kooba bag. Made of olive silk taffeta, this is the piece of the season from the House of Burberry. Fashion stylists and editors are scrambling to get this in the pages of magazines and on the backs of celebs. Lucky for you NAP still has a few sizes left. Grab it quickly before it sells out! Kelly said silk taffeta is not useful but I say who cares about useful when you look this fabulous! Another stand out coat is this mink wool and cashmere beauty , I can't wait for winter!

I'm not trying to pick a fight with anyone in particular, but I just thought this particular post was indicative of a larger trend within the fashion and beauty blogging community.

I'm certainly guilty of some of the same behavior as these other bloggers. While I try to limit the posts I write on products, I do think it's important to highlight reasonably priced items, and I do my best to stay credible by spending as much time talking about products I hate as I spend on products I love. And to be honest, it's a lot easier to do a post that links to pictures of pretty clothes than it is to write a 500 word article (which is also why I suppose a lot of bloggers do this). I only hope that my suggestions are helping readers make more intelligent shopping decisions, rather than just encouraging overspending.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reader Question: Pantyhose Etiquette

Colleen wrote me recently with a question about pantyhose...

Hi Meg,
Is it acceptable to wear pantyhose with slingbacks? I am starting my first year of medical school and need to dress professionally, and I have a cute pair of black slingbacks, but I don't think showing up in the hospital to shadow a physician without pantyhose would be okay. Plus I have super pale legs. Thanks! Colleen

Unlike most women, I love wearing pantyhose and tights. I know a lot of people say that they're old-fashioned and no longer a necessity, but I think they do a lot to make an outfit look more polished, make you look (and feel) thinner and eliminate panty lines. And unless you're Heidi Klum, chances are that you've got bruises or razor nicks or cellulite or freckles that can be made less noticeable with a pair of hose. I also think they're great for preventing foot pain, as I always get way more blisters when I don't have hose to provide an extra layer of protection between my foot and shoe.

I don't wear pantyhose in summer (unless I'm wearing a suit or dressed for an important meeting or interview, formal situations that call for hosiery) and I would advise against wearing them with open-toed shoes, unless you've got one of the toeless styles. But I think they'd be perfectly acceptable with slingback pumps, just as long as they're closed-toe.

Your daily dose of shoe porn.

If I were in your situation, I would definitely wear hose to work, slingbacks or not. I think that a hospital is one place where you're better off leaning conservative in your fashion choices. First, as a medical student, you're young and have to work extra hard to be respected and looked at as an authority by patients. And as I've heard from friends who are medical students and doctors, patients (especially older ones) can sometimes be wary of female doctors treating them. It's a sexist view that persists in our society that if you're a woman (particularly a young and attractive one), you're assumed to not be as qualified or intelligent as your older male counterparts in fields traditionally dominated by men. Pantyhose won't change someone's whole opinion of you, but it does make an outfit more formal and conservative and it may help you look more mature and experienced.

Finally, as a doctor you're also dealing with many different kinds of people, some of whom might be put-off by your bare legs in a hospital setting. Whether it's a hygiene thing or a matter of bare legs being more sexually suggestive, I would err on the side of caution and go with the hose.

What do you guys think?