Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Racked finds Simply Vera for Kohl's to be "simply awful."

Gala Darling has a guide to gift-giving.

New York Magazine's Fashion Week blog, Show & Talk counts down the top 5 runway falls.

The New York Times has an article on the science of skin.

The Beauty Brains discusses the difference between expensive and cheap conditioners (spoiler: there isn't one).

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday Finds: Trench Coats

Dear Meg, I'm going abroad to London for a semester, and I want to look chic and sharp. One thing I'm particularly concerned about is having a good trenchcoat that is both stylish and at least rain resistant. Do you have any suggestions (where to look, specific ideas)? I love colors, esp. red. Your style is totally classy and often extremely affordable, and I admire it a lot, so I would love your advice. Thanks so much!

I'm so jealous that you're studying abroad in London, but you're smart to do your shopping now, what with the harsh exchange rate and all. As I've mentioned before, I'm a self-described trench coat addict so I was more than happy to dig up a handful of stylish, affordable trenches. One thing I did notice was that the trenches are more conservative than in past seasons (if you saw my post on trenches in April, there were lots of patterns and bright colors) but a few of these come in colors other than basic beige and black. Bebe has a lot of trench styles in bright pinks, reds, yellows and greens, so I would check out their selection here if you're really looking for colors.

Sateen A-line Trench Coat, from Old Navy, $39.50
(Currently only available in XXL online, but you're likely to have better luck if you visit the store)

London Fog Double-Breasted Trench Coat, from Macy's, $99.98

Bebe Flared Trench Coat, $98.00

Gap Lightweight Trench Coat, $88.00

Via Spiga Double-Breasted Trench Coat, from Lord and Taylor, $103.99

Kenneth Cole Reaction Sand-Stitched Cotton Trench Coat, from Bluefly, $110.00

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Are Expensive Razors Worth It?

Back in July I wrote a post on the rising cost of beauty treatments and products how much I spend on beauty per year. Calculating the total was a scary experience, as I hadn't realized just how much every drugstore moisturizer and monthly pedicure added up. I don't get spa treatments, only replace my makeup when it goes bad and refuse to pay more than $20 for most beauty products I own (DiorShow is one notable exception)... how could it all add up to over $3,000 per year?

In the past month, I took a hard look on my spending habits, and have tried to think of where I could cut costs without losing too much in the way of quality products. Taking inventory of my bathroom, I noticed one item that's been sucking me out of about $150 a year, with no appreciable difference from its cheaper versions- my Schick Quattro Razor and its annoyingly expensive refill cartridges.

Each one of those cartridges costs $2.39 and I'll use them 1-2 times before switching to a new blade. I worry about bacteria growing when it's been sitting in my shower for a week between shaves and I find it's noticeably duller after each use. Yet, I've been shelling out about $10 a month for cartridge refills (this doesn't include the razor itself, which cost $10). I bought into the idea that more blades equals a closer shave, and that the "moisturizing strip enriched with Aloe and Vitamin E" made a difference in shaving-induced dryness and irritation.

But I have since come to my senses and started only buying disposable razors in bulk, where the price is less than $1 per razor. I still used my Trader Joe's Scrub and Cream Shave and my legs were no coarser or dryer than usual. I actually didn't notice any difference in the closeness of the shave.

But I'm curious what your experience has been. Do you find that fancy razors work better and are worth the extra cash?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Copyrighting Fashion

With the craziness of driving cross-country and moving into my dorm this weekend behind me, I finally was able to catch up on the weekend's news yesterday, and I noticed two related articles in Sunday and Monday's New York Times. On Sunday, Guy Trebay's article "Admit It. You Love It. It Matters," argued that fashion shouldn't be viewed as superficial, consumerist, elitist or anti-intellectual, but as a potent art and cultural form. As he writes, "clothes are ideas," ideas that are used as cultural, political, personal and creative expression.

This is an argument I've heard, and even made, many times. Yet when I read this article on the contentious issue of designer knock-offs and whether fashion designs should be copyrighted, I had a hard time viewing the designers as artists who deserve protection from others profiting from their creations.

Like all art forms, designers build off of each other's ideas, tweaking cut, color, pattern and proportion to create something new and different. As an art history major, I've learned how even the most original and prolific artists in history were constantly copying and engaging with other artists' work. Artists, composers, musicians, architects, filmmakers and designers do not work in vacuums, they need exposure to the work of others to find their own place in the cultural dialogue.

But just as Picasso and Bracht didn't copyright cubism and Brunelleschi didn't sue the millions of artists who used 3-point perspective after he invented it, it seems unfair that Diane von Furstenburg should get royalties on every wrap dress produced, or Miuccia Prada should get a check for every colored knee-sock purchased round the world.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is distinguishing the copying of clothes by discount designer stores like H&M and Forever 21 from copying by other A-list designers, arguing that when nearly every detail of a dress or handbag is reproduced, then sold at a huge discount, the designer's ideas are being stolen. Their real problem is that the factories that produce these clothes are able to churn them out and get them to consumers before the "real thing" arrives in stores months later.

The irony is that this has been a problem for artists forever, as there's nothing stopping an artist from viewing another's unfinished work and quickly painting a nearly identical version, or copying inventive techniques, beating the first artist to market and often getting credit for the other artist's innovations. Just consider just how many similar paintings of bathers or sculptures of Jesus exist... are they the property of just one person?

When it comes down to it, the CFDA is really just concerned about losing money and retaining their elite status. I think a large part of that is dependent on keeping their products exclusive and available to a select few. I don't think that the market for discount and knock-off clothes and accessories will ever come close to replacing the designer market, as there will always be people who want the best quality and the real deal.

Finally, I don't see discount store copies as truly identical products, as the quality of the pieces available at H&M could never compare to those off the Chanel runway. It's the equivalent of buying a Pollock poster or the real thing...they might look the same from across the room, but there's a very large and obvious difference, and people will gladly pay many times as much for the genuine article.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reader Question: Buying and Breaking in New Jeans

Hi Meg,

Like most women, I have trouble finding a pair of jeans that fit really well. When I buy my usual size, I find that they stretch a lot and I end up with a baggy pair of pants with a huge gap in the waist. Recently, I purchased a pair of jeans that fit a little tighter than I usually buy, thinking that they too would stretch out like the others (I always opt for denim with a little stretch) and be snug rather than overly loose. But now these smaller jeans just make ghastly rolls and gather around the thigh/butt area. Do you have any tips for buying jeans or breaking them in?
Thanks! Esther

As many of you have commented in previous posts, shopping for jeans is far more painful than shopping for swimsuits. My best advice is to try as many brands and styles as possible to find which pairs look and feel good on you. There really is a jean for every body, the key is shopping around. In my experience, I've found that once you get closer to the $100 point, the quality of the denim and the cut often improves, but you should only pay what you can afford. That said, don't assume that expensive equals better. Old Navy has a new denim line that has gotten rave reviews (I haven't tried them yet). Also be sure to check out discount stores like Loehmann's, which often carry designer brands marked down anywhere between 25-75%.

One big mistake that a lot of women make when shopping for jeans (or anything else for that matter) is fixating on the size. We've all experienced "vanity sizing" and have seen how much sizes can range between brands (my closet has everything from sizes 4-12). If you're trying a new brand, bring 3-4 sizes into the changing room to try, and don't be swayed by the number on the tag.

In the process of shopping for jeans, it's also easy to discount a brand because one style doesn't fit or flatter your body type. Try on multiple styles (and sizes) before you move on to a new brand. I wear the Lola Boot jeans by Lucky and I can't even squeeze into some of their straight leg and low rise styles in the same size.

When you've put on a pair that looks good, do a quick test by sitting, squatting, jumping and dancing around the changing room. I like to think I put on a fun show for the people who monitor the changing rooms for shoplifters. It might feel a little silly, but if you notice that they're pinching anywhere, that it's hard to lift or squat your legs, or that your butt shows at any point, you need to go up a size or try another style. Checking the rise is important, because as jeans stretch out, they'll hang lower and you can end up showing far more than you wanted. Personally, I've had the best luck with mid-rise jeans, which hit just at the top of my hips. I can bend over all I want and nobody is going to be seeing my butt.

In regards to your question about jeans stretching out or shrinking, my advice is to find a pair with some stretch. My favorite pairs have 96% cotton and 4% lycra, which helps them keep their shape and allows me to move without being skintight stretchy. I've found that jeans with spandex and elastene are too stretchy (my old pair had 3% spandex and they stuck to me like glue). If you find a pair that fits, take note of the fabric composition, as it'll help you find other pairs that will keep their shape and size.

Anyone else have tips for Esther or would like to share their favorite denim brand?