Saturday, November 03, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Finds: Winter Coats

Call me superficial, but one of my biggest fears surrounding global warming is the possibility that winter coats could become obsolete. My friends, a world without coats is not a world I'd like to live in. Luckily for me, despite experiencing warmer temperatures these past few winters, I was still often able to employ my lovely coat collection (all but my heaviest "snowstorm in New England" puffer, which, to be honest, I was happy to give a break).

Perhaps it's a bit early, but I'm already thinking about winter coats. I'm like a kid in a candy store when the stores begin stocking them, with visions of frolicking around campus in a bright and cozy wool coat filling my head. I'm a big fan of the coat trends this season: bright colors, bold prints (mmm houndstooth!), feminine cuts and interesting details (high collars, empire waists, pleating, over-sized buttons). Here are a few of my favorite coats, all for under $150:

Tulle Wool Houndstooth Round Pocket Coat, $113

Coffee Shop Short Wool Blend Melton Jacket, from Nordstrom, $88

Gap Wool Lady Coat, $148

Guess Fit & Flare Topper, from Nordstrom, $148

Lux North Country Coat, from Urban Outfitters, $150

Scooter Brown Houndstooth Jacket, from Nordstrom, $128

Tulle Vintage Wool Coat, $105

Gap High Collar Coat, $128

Thursday, November 01, 2007

From Character to Caricature: Tim Gunn for Macy's

Am I the only one whose heart breaks a teeny bit every time I see Tim Gunn hawking Macy's crap?

Related: Why I Hate Macy's

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Underwear Becomes Outerwear

A couple of days ago I was walking to class when I noticed that the girl in front of me (a fellow student) was flashing her underwear at me with every step she took. She was wearing a jersey dress that hit a few inches above the knee, but the slits on either side rose up to her hips, which, when combined with each gust of wind that passed her, caused her skirt to fly up over her butt. It was one of those situations where you know you're not supposed to look, but it was impossible to ignore the pair of walking bright floral undies just a few feet away. I considered stopping her to let her know her underwear was showing, but she was in my upcoming class, and if offended, I didn't want to have her glaring at me every day for the rest of the semester.

But perhaps I was wrong in assuming her "look" was unintentional, as a recent New York Times article proclaimed "underwear as outerwear" as a major trend. Designers like Marc Jacobs are incorporating lingerie as parts of runway outfits, while celebs often don see-through tops to show off pretty bras and popular TV shows show female characters in camisoles and slips in and out of the bedroom. Lingerie retailers have responded by offering bras and underwear with details intended to be seen through or peeking outside of clothes.

Trendy or not, this is a look that I've never found attractive in any form. There are a thousand ways to look sexy without appearing that you're trying too hard, and this practice reeks of desperation. It's a fairly limited look as well, since there are few places and situations where this could pass for appropriate as all. Even when the rest of your look is totally proper and pulled together, a frilly thong sticking out of a skirt or a bra peeking through a see-through top destroys the whole outfit.

I think there are definitely different levels of acceptability when it comes to this trend. If you can't get around showing bra straps under a tank top, at least wear ones that will draw as little attention as possible (i.e. avoid the hot pink push up with rhinestone studded straps). Same goes for low-back tops or dresses where the back of the bra might rise above the top of the garment. Of course, if the bra is going to be really obvious, in the case of a backless dress or tube top, try to find a bra that isn't going to show, like a convertible or backless bra.

The article also mentioned slip dresses and corset belts as articles of clothing that shifted from underwear to outerwear. I think that while these pieces both still harbor sexy associations, the fact that they're worn over other clothing, they don't have the same suggestiveness. Still, it takes some skill to pair correctly (I love the look of a corset belt over a menswear-inspired shirt or dress). And finding the right piece is key; no one wants to walk into a party in a slip dress and have people think she simply paired her pajamas with some heels and called it an outfit.

When it comes to underwear, I don't think there's ever an excuse for flashing it. If your dress, shorts, jeans or skirt shows your underwear, don't wear those clothes. A stray bra strap is one thing, but flashing your panties borders on vulgar.

But maybe I'm too strict... what do you think about the underwear as outerwear trend?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Product Review: Olay Total Effects Cleansing Cloths

For years, my cleanser of choice was Cetaphil, a godsend for anyone with sensitive skin. Along with my trusty washcloth, I used it twice a day with good results, it didn't exacerbate my acne or dryness (the bane of combination skin) and it was gentle enough to cleanse without irritating my allergies or causing any weird skin reactions. Compared to the harsh, irritating cleansers I'd been using before, I thought Cetaphil was like the second coming for my skin.

As time has gone on, my skin switched from combination to dry (with occasional breakouts) and I found I needed a cleanser that moisturized better than the Cetaphil. I was also sick of having to lug the bottle and a washcloth whenever I traveled and was curious to check out the cleansing cloths I'd seen on the shelves of CVS. After browsing the long aisle of beauty products, I settled on a box of Olay Total Effects Cleansing Cloths, since I'd had such great luck with the Total Effects 7x Moisturizer in keeping my dry skin in check.

The product promised to remove makeup, so I decided to skip my makeup remover that night and test the cloths on a fully made-up face. Following the instructions, I got the cloth (which looks more like a soft piece of construction paper when dry) a little wet and rubbed it together to let it foam up before applying it to my face. One side of the cloth is textured and did a nice job exfoliating, while the smooth side was great for removing my eye makeup. When I finished washing, I inspected my face and was happy to see that my makeup was totally gone and my skin looked and felt soft, clean and hydrated. Instead of having to hang up and dry my washcloth (which I tried to switch every few days to prevent bacteria growth), it felt great to just throw out the cloth and be done with it.

To put the moisturizing promise to the test, I waited a half hour before applying lotion and checked to see if my skin was getting tight, dry or cracked (as it often does if I don't slather on moisturizer within 5 minutes of washing). My skin still felt normal after waiting, and I noticed that my skin felt softer and more moisturized all day long, without having to reapply lotion later in the day as I often did.

The cloths are pretty large and after realizing that I didn't need the whole thing to clean my face, I began cutting them all in half to get twice the use out of each cloth. Half a cloth is more than enough and it's great to get a full month of use out of each $7.99 pack.

One thing I love is the ease of traveling with the cloths, as opposed to a regular liquid cleanser. I throw a few in a Ziploc bag and I'm good to go for a weekend, no worrying about spilling or taking up extra weight in my suitcase.

I would recommend this product for just about any skin type. I've found that since I began using them, along with heavier moisturizers, my acne has basically gone away. This could be in part because I'm growing older, but I think that I was overdrying my skin before, which only exacerbated my oil glands and made my acne worse. It's difficult to find a product that's truly moisturizing but not comedogenic, but this fits the bill.

Has anyone else had good experiences with cleansing cloths? What's your favorite cleanser?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Breast Cancer Sells

Am I the only one who's totally sick of having every "pink" product shoved in my face for all of October? Every magazine and blog I read won't stop talking about how I can purchase my way to a cure for breast cancer, much in the same way we were led to believe that buying (RED) would save Africa, or buying a "green" McMansion will stop global warming. While it's important to raise awareness for these urgent issues, the message is wrong, and misleads people into thinking that small acts of consumption are enough to fix large, complex problems.

There was a great article on Alternet recently which discussed the ways that breast cancer was discussed in women's magazines during National Breast Cancer Month, where much of the coverage was "offensive, superficial, misleading, or flat-out wrong." From articles listing "10 Good Things About Cancer" (your new boobs will be perky, you'll get lots of cards and flowers, etc) to giving inaccurate information about mammograms, they simplify information about risk factors, often leaving out the potential risks of the potentially carcinogenic products advertised in their magazine. Redbook offered a "cheers for a cure" sparkling wine ad, conveniently forgetting to mention in their editorials that alcohol can increase risk for cancer.

Women's magazines and websites also like to sex up breast cancer. The above advertisement puts a supermodel face (not to mention lingerie-clad bottom) to the issue, while the editorial pages are filled with young, pretty and uniformly white faces of breast cancer survivors. The nitty gritty details of what it's like to live with cancer every day or undergo painful treatments are left out in favor of highly dramatic stories about a beautiful young woman considering a preventative double mastectomy. And can we deny the fact that because this is a cancer affecting one of the sexiest body parts (as opposed to colon, kidney or lung cancer), it's treated differently, with ample opportunities for pretty photographs? Perhaps this is one of the reasons why breast cancer gets so much air time despite the fact that it's also National Domestic Violence Month... who wants to see pictures of bruised and battered women when you can show skimpy models in "pink" gear?

I find myself sympathizing with the Buy (Less) Crap movement, which argues that consumption is not the most reasonable response to stopping human suffering. I think the "pink" products are worth considering if you go into a store intending to buy something similar, or allow the "pink" status to sway you to purchase the product which donates money to a cause you support. But often it's not clear just how much of your purchase will go to the advertised foundation, and when it comes down to it, buying "pink" simply cannot compare to donating directly to the cause you support.

If you find yourself buying products like these as gifts, I think it's worth reconsidering the purchase and instead making a donation in your friend or family member's name. In my own experience, I've found that donations make the best gifts, and people are rarely disappointed that they didn't get another mini lipgloss collection or polo shirt when they know that your money went toward making an actual difference.

What do you think?