Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday Links

The Fug Girls give their $.02 on the Jennifer Love Hewitt "cellulite scandal" and I couldn't agree more with their observations.

The New York Times
reports about hairdressers who'd rather not hear about a client's personal life while they work. If you pay Sally Hershberger $800 for a cut, don't expect her to sympathize with your guy problems, “They’re lucky if they get me to speak at all.”

Capitol Hill Barbie
gives Lancome's Hypnotique mascara a try, with less than impressive results.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Finds: Holiday Cards 2007

One of my favorite holiday traditions is buying holiday cards to send to family and friends. I've spoken before about my love for stationery, and in recent years there has been a huge increase in the number of paper designers to choose from. Last weekend I was browsing Urban Outfitters when I came across a set of beautiful cards by the Philadelphia-based letterpress design studio Bird and Banner. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find an image of the cards online, but they were unlike any holiday card I'd seen and I bought a few boxes on the spot. If you love artsy holiday cards but don't have a great stationary store nearby, there are a number of talented designers whose work is available online. Broadway Paper is a fantastic resource for better-known printers, and if you want something that's really one of a kind, check out Etsy.

Here are a few of my favorite holiday cards:

Snow & Graham Pine Cones Cards, $14

Style Press Hanukkah Presents Cards, $16

Broadway Paper Snowman Cards, $12

Elum Designs Hang a Star Cards, $12

Broadway Paper Peaceful Bird Cards, $15

Snow & Graham Birch Cards, $14

Broadway Paper Ornament Joy Cards, $15

Snow & Graham Partridge Cards, $14

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dressing For Sell Day

A few days ago I received the following e-mail from my friend Eliza, who just received a job offer from a fantastic economic consulting company:

Hi, my fashion-conscious friend!

I had a question that I need your help with. I'm going to visit the company that offered me a job tomorrow for a "Sell Day." I'll get a tour of the office, meet a few somewhat senior people, go out to lunch with a bunch of the more junior people, and then briefly meet with HR.
So, my question for you is what style of dress should I wear--a suit? Dressy business casual? I emailed someone in HR, but she never got back to me. Also factoring into this decision is that they told me to wear business casual to my second-round interview with them (weird, right?). Thanks for your help! You are a life saver!


My first question for you is how the people at the company normally dress, which I'm sure you observed during your interview. I would mimic whatever level of dressiness they had (if a suit is de rigeur, wear a suit, etc). It can be difficult if people at various levels or departments dress differently, but a good rule is to mimic the most senior people you met. That usually means leaning a little on the formal side, since execs tend to be more buttoned-up than junior level employees. You can always take off a jacket for the lunch with the younger people, switching over to business casual mode.

My instinct tells me that your company is probably business casual, especially since that's what they asked you to wear for your second round of interviews. Because consulting isn't a "creative" industry, I'd wear a conservative combo of black pencil skirt or dress pants with a colored sweater or button-down shirt. Closed-toe heels are a must and don't forget to wear hose and accessories that match. Don't wear anything too funky or fashion-forward.

Luckily, you have the job, so it's not like your outfit will make or break this meeting, but you of course still want to look professional and put-together. And importantly, your look should convey that you're a good fit for the company.

I'm jealous that you're getting wined and dined while the rest of us slave away at school, I hope you have a great time!

Anyone else have tips for Eliza for dressing for a "Sell Day" event?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Politics of Pampering

It's strange to step back and think about how the practice of paying others to massage, wax, wrap and groom our naked bodies has become so commonplace. A recent New York Magazine cover story by one of my favorite writers, Emily Nussbaum, explores the explosion of spas and salons, our shifting ideas about beauty, grooming and privacy, as well as the often ignored hardships of salon workers, who perform taxing physical and emotional labor every day.

She writes that, "twenty years ago, salons were a treat for the idle rich or for women playacting that role for a day. While a subset of socialites were groomed by hired help, for most other women—working women, stay-at-home mothers, young girls—a massage was an indulgence, a facial a luxury, a manicure the type of thing you did at home." Now these procedures are viewed as necessities for women who want to look well-groomed and put-together. Women's magazines (particularly bridal magazines) prescribe spa treatments as a solution to even the most mild beauty problems, while women who don't have weekly manicure and pedicure treatments are called out by other women for looking "unprofessional."

But as much as it's become the norm, there is still something disconcerting about the power relationships implicit in these treatments. A large percentage of salon workers (particularly in nail salons in major American cities) are minorities, many recent immigrants without strong English. And you're paying them to provide a service that traditionally has been exchanged between female friends, sisters or mothers and daughters. As teenagers, many of us spent our sleepovers painting each others nails or applying home facials, bonding together through the escapism of beauty treatments. Once we reach our 20's, those practices become commercialized, and spending time with a friend often means going to a salon and having someone else paint your nails while you chat.

As Nussbaum says, "The first time I got a pedicure, I felt something similar: physical vulnerability, mingled with a lurid awareness of power—an Asian woman who didn’t speak English was kneeling in front of me, washing my feet. It felt distinctly slave and master. But that’s only true the first time you have a treatment like this. Pay once, twice, three times, and the aura of exploitation dissolves..." The same thing occurs for the women performing the services: over time the act of washing another woman's feet or waxing her pubic hair stops feeling demeaning and becomes normal.

Salon and spa workers must navigate this complex world of emotional etiquette, since they're expected to provide this big performance of warmth, care and concern, a kind of paid friend. A sociology professor quoted in the article talks about his theory that more women are getting spa treatments because they're looking for an emotional and physical connection that's lacking in their lives and want to be touched and comforted. A recent study cited in article found that the more expensive the spa or salon, the more likely it was that the clientele demanded "pampering" and other emotional services.

Like a therapist, a manicurist or facialist is someone you can spill all your secrets to, without worry that they'll be shared with others. You can expect that she'll listen, express support and refrain from criticizing. Most women would never consider sharing this kind of personal information outside of the safe confines of the salon, and since class differences make it unlikely that you'll run into your confidante outside of the spa setting, it's unlikely that you'll ever interact with this person when they're not massaging or waxing you.

I'm certainly not here to pass judgment on anyone who participates in this industry. I love getting the occasional massage, and I like to keep my toenails painted in the warmer months. But I think it's interesting to step back and look at these admittedly strange practices that have become so commonplace.

We engage in this kind of alternative universe when we step into a spa, where everyone acts as if they're old friends who share a history and exchange secrets (at least the client is sharing secrets, it would be "unprofessional" for the worker to state their true feelings about their work). We feel comfortable exposing ourselves physically and emotionally for a person who we'd never consider spending time with outside of this environment. And we try to forget the fact that the person rubbing our feet or painting our nails is doing it out of economic necessity, that their deep concern for our personal lives and physical comfort is nothing more than part of the job.

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Product Review: C.O. Bigelow Lemon Collection

I was recently contacted by a P.R. company about trying a few holiday-themed products from Bath and Body Works, and my interest was piqued when they mentioned that C.O. Bigelow would be in the mix. The winter air has been doing all kinds of crazy things to my skin lately, making it impossible to use anything but prescription creams, so I passed on the products to my friend Sidnie to try. Without further ado, I present her beauty blogging debut.

Meg is a kind and thoughtful friend; she buys me fruit jerky, listens to my lamentations about the mystery of men, and gives me useful fashion advice. Imagine my joy when she upped the ante considerably and asked if I would test some products for her. The perks just keep on coming.
For a girl who considers it a splurge to move from the Wet N’ Wild section of CVS to the more “upscale” drugstore brands (Meg recently persuaded me to move to the Olay cleansing cloths because I resembled a raccoon from leftover eye makeup) I jumped at the offer to test out a few C.O. Bigelow products, a beauty brand with a fantastic reputation that I'd never tried.

Meg asked me to try the Bigelow Lemon Blends Hand Treatment and Hand Soap, which promise to be the ULTIMATE (the all-caps was their choice, not mine) in hand care. The hand care regiment promised to leave my hands feeling “renewed, soft and supple” and consist of a “Moisture-Rich” and “Skin-Brightening Formula”. The Lemon Blends come in a variety of combination scents, but I tried Lemon and Pomegranate. I think this combination is perfect for the winter- when you see a variety of lotions and soaps that come in the same holiday variety, like “cranberry”, “pine”, the always nauseating “sugar cookie” and innocuous “winter snow” and “angel kisses” (do those things have a scent?) this seems like a refreshing break from the ordinary for the holiday season especially.

I used the soap right before bed and then dutifully slathered on the lotion, which is pretty light. I prefer the scent of the soap to the lotion; the later smells a little like a Sweet Tart when you first put it on, but the scent quickly fades to a less abrasive and more lightly-sweet scent. I have really dry skin, especially on my hands- by no means “supple”- I also have an oral fixation that could rival anything Freud diagnosed and chew my nails to the quick. I did notice a small difference in the look and feel of my hands, but it certainly wasn't heavy enough to make a real dent in my dryness. In my experience, products that are marketed for their scent rarely outperform the basic, boring Curel and Olay moisturizers.

The skin “brighteners” were not plainly noticeably- I couldn’t have caused a car crash by waving or anything- but I was less plagued by alligator skin after slathering it on. For truly troubled winter skin like mine, one would have to use some sort of hard-core salve, but these products certainly made a perceptible difference and more than anything they are a nice treat.

I am also totally guilty of conspicuous consumerism- the simply chic bottles stamped with “Bigelow” reminiscent of old-fashioned apothecary jars were always a little joy to see peeking out of my cubby in our communal bathroom. They’d be a wonderful stocking stuffer- I immediately thought of my mother who always does dishes by hand- the soap alone would be great to keep next to a kitchen or bathroom sink. They’d also be a really nice hostess gifts- reserved for those you are truly grateful for or are truly trying to impress.

One great thing is that you no longer have to travel to New York to get C.O. Bigelow products, since Bath and Body Works is stocking a lot of their collections. These are a big step up from the regular scented B&BW lines, and it's worth checking out next time you're doing some holiday shopping at the mall.

Next week I'm going to finish my stint as guest poster by reviewing the C.O. Bigelow Soda Fountain Mini Mentha Lip Shine Trio, so be sure to check back!

Monday, December 03, 2007

E-Mail or Paper Thank You Notes?

If I had to write a list of my favorite things in the world, thank you notes would probably rank pretty high. I love receiving them and writing them, saving the thank you notes others have written me and collecting different types of stationery and then deciding which design best matches the person I'm writing to. Nothing beats opening your mailbox and finding a beautiful, thoughtfully hand-written note on top of your bills and junk mail. It's a simple gesture that can really brighten a day.

But in a world where high-speed internet sets the pace of things, sometimes it's hard to decide whether to send an e-mail or paper thank you note. If I'm thanking a friend or family member for a gift or their help with something, I'll always go with the paper note, since receiving it a few days later isn't a big deal. Recently though I've been in a few situations where I thought it was more important that the recipient receive the thank you ASAP, and sent an e-mail instead.

Two events in the last week stand out, and I was hoping you guys could offer some advice as to how you'd handle these situations. A few days ago I spoke on the phone with a very successful alumna from my college who I'd contacted to discuss careers. She was generous enough to take an hour out of her very busy day to talk about her experiences and give me advice. Up until our phone call, we'd communicated through e-mail, and I was afraid that if I didn't send a thank you note to her within the next day, she'd assume I wasn't going to write her one, and may be less inclined to pass along my resume or talk to me more in the future, even if she did receive a physical card in 3-5 days.

Then yesterday I had a job interview and decided to e-mail my interviewers thank you notes that night. I figured that they were probably going to decide on my application in the next day or two and that I should take advantage of any extra boost a thank you note would get me.

In both cases, I considered sending physical cards in addition to the e-mails, but since my e-mail thank yous were fairly long and encompassed just about everything I wanted to say, I thought it would be superfluous to follow up with a card.

What do you usually do to thank someone? What about in professional situations?