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Friday, November 9, 2012

My Favorite Subject Again-Color

“It is important to be chic.” Roberto Cavalli

I guess that's what I mean when I say you should wear colors and design lines that flatter you, right? Mr. Cavalli says it more eloquently than I do. Anyway, the next logical step after last weeks blog about foundation would be about adding color....

Remember when you determined first shade and then undertone for your foundation color? You may have found that the undertone that works for your foundation is 'warm,' (which also means the colors you'll wear in terms of makeup will be warm) and yet you know you need to wear 'cool' colors in your clothing.  Or vice versa.  No, you've not made a mistake- and this isn't unusual. Yes, this means you won't exactly 'match' your makeup colors with your clothing colors, (as in matching red lipstick with red dress) but it may mean you'll create even more interesting combinations because you may have to get more creative.  Or maybe your makeup and clothing are in the same family- if so, there's still good information here on getting creative. 

I've suggested this before: if you haven't already, then go to your local art supply store and get yourself a color wheel. In my July 20, 'Colorful Perspective' blog I wrote about using your color wheel to choose makeup colors to wear with your clothing, or just how to combine colors for makeup. You can go to look at this blog to review or learn about different, classic color combinations- complimentary, split complimentary, and triad. Don't forget you can always combine one color with neutrals, as well. (But don't forget to pay attention to whether these neutrals are 'warm' or 'cool.') You can stick with different versions of one color…this is one way to deal with wearing opposite 'families' of makeup vs. clothing; a dress in a cool red, and a lipstick in a warm red, for example. I have this green dress I love; I look at the color wheel, and the split complimentary combination for that is green, red-orange and red-violet. I wear a pale, coppery lipstick (red-orange) and coppery-bronzy and brown eyeshadow (still in the red-orange family, the brown is a warm neutral) and often add in a warm, plum purple eyeliner (there's your red-violet.) I may skip the purple- you don't have to use all the colors in the split complimentary or triadic, just use it as a general guide.  Now, remember- with each color there are often very subtle variations that mean the difference between 'cool' and 'warm.' This green dress is a deep, cool forest green. And it's beautiful with the pale, warm copper. But let's say I wear warm clothes and cool makeup; I could make the dress a deep, warm green, and the lipstick a cool red-violet and probably skip the red orange altogether.  Or do a red-orange dress with the cool red-violet lipstick and a deep green and purple (from the red-violet) eye makeup combination…you get the idea. Work that color wheel!  If you do you'll find you come up with combinations you might not have thought of before that are really quite beautiful. One thing I've found is that I find combinations that I stick with- the 'copper' one, for example. I also like red lips and a neutral/pale brown eye makeup. (That's actually a standard classic.) Then there's my (warm) pink lip with gold/copper eye makeup, purple eye makeup with copper lip, and so on…and because I know my best clothing colors, and have chosen a small handful of these colors to stick with within my wardrobe, it's easy to decide which makeup 'palette' to wear with a given outfit. 

Ok, last notations here; you know how I'm always going on about how much contrast and intensity you should be wearing in your clothes? Well, same goes for makeup. Generally speaking, that is. (More on that later.) 

Whether you wear cool or warm clothes and cool or warm makeup- across the board, you have to stick with the contrast and intensity in your coloring or you won't look your very best.  If you have a big difference in how light or dark your hair, eyes and skin are, then you're high contrast. (Platinum hair,  black eyes and skin, or black hair, pale blue eyes and alabaster skin, for example.) If you have very little difference, then you're low contrast. (pale blond with alabaster skin and light eyes, or black hair, dark skin and eyes.) Whatever your contrast is, that's pretty much what your clothing and makeup should also be. Meaning, if you're low contrast, don't wear a dress with a bold, geometric black and white pattern. If you're high contrast, don't wear a pale blue, tiny, calico pattern.  If you are high contrast and wear too little contrast, you make yourself look drab. If you're low contrast and wear too much contrast, your clothes and makeup will wear you.  Now: intensity- however bright your coloring is is also how bright your clothing and makeup should be. No brighter (again, in general) or it'll wear you. Or- too dull and you again make yourself look drab.  When it comes to your makeup, you'll see right away if a color is too 'sharp' for you, or is too 'dull.' If it's too sharp (too intense) it will look harsh on you. If it's dull (too muted) it may almost be invisible on you. 

The preceding are all general rules; now lets get down to breaking those rules. Lets say you have low contrast/low intensity coloring, and yet you love to wear brilliant red lipstick every day. You have to find a lipstick that's firmly in the proper 'family' (warm or cool) for you, and in my experience, it has to be exactly bright enough and no brighter. Keep in mind that what looks bright on someone with muted coloring might be verging on muted for someone with high contrast coloring. And you may find you need to experiment fairly extensively with eye makeup - you may need to stick with pretty neutral, understated eye makeup, or you may have to do a black (or close to) eyeliner and heavier mascara to pull the whole look off. Either way, it's going to be a 'stronger' look in terms of makeup.  But that's the great thing about makeup- you can create illusions and make adjustments to what nature provided you with.  You can express your love of a more glamorous, femme-fatal look, or create an illusory 'no-makeup' makeup look. You can sometimes use your makeup to help you wear a color or look in clothing that you might not be able to without makeup. If you're clever about it you can make yourself look like you have more contrast in your coloring, push the 'intensity' of your natural coloring, and so on. 

That's the beauty of makeup. 

And on that note- I'm going to take a little break from my blog for the next few weeks for the holidays- I'll be back the first week of January….:-)

Happy Dressing!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pretty Is As Pretty Does II

“A girl should be two things, classy and fabulous.” ~ Coco Chanel

So now your face is clean and moisturized, all ready for makeup. You've already determined your skin type, so you know if you want an oil or water based foundation- next you need to determine what type of foundation you'd like to use. The most common are cream, liquid or powder.  Cream foundation is moisturizing- good for normal to dry skin. Liquid is probably the most popular, and is made in a huge variety of formulas- oil or water-based, sheer or heavy. I'd guess there's a formula for every skin type and preference.  There's also pressed powder foundation. Powder foundation by itself is good for normal to oily skin, and also has the advantage of being useful to set your liquid or cream foundation if you'd like a little more coverage.  Your choice will depend on personal preference and how well your makeup wears over the course of the day.  If you like a sheerer look you'll probably go with a liquid foundation or even tinted moisturizer; with a liquid you have the option of sheering it down with moisturizer or primer. This gives you more options- you can choose a slightly heavier liquid foundation and apply it more heavily where you'd like, and sheer it down where you need less coverage.  

If you haven't already or are unsure about this, you need to determine your proper color foundation. Head out to your local mall or beauty supply store (with no makeup on, please) and plan on spending some time on this. You need to get this just right. If you don't, then I promise you nothing else you add will work.  Also, be picky about what you choose- like I said, it seems like there are an infinite number of liquid foundations out there, so if it's liquid you want there's bound to be one that seems to melt into your skin and make it look perfect. It may take time, but it's worth it.  And you'd be surprised how many stores will take returns on makeup- often big name department stores are very obliging about it all. So there's very little risk involved- just the investment of your time. Be sure to ask what their return policy is, and even write it on the receipt if you have a crappy memory like me. :-)

First you'll start with shade- this is how light or dark your foundation should be. Pick ones that you think are close, and put small-ish stripes of each down the side of your cheek crossing the jawline. With a little trial and error you should be able to tell right away which ones are the closest match to your skin.  You can also mix two shades to get a more exact match.  Remember- at this point we're only looking to find the proper shade.

Now we get to undertone- this means 'rosy' (cool or 'blue') or 'olive' (warm or 'yellow') or even neutral (between the other two) coloring to your skin.  Pick 'warm' and 'cool' versions of the shade closest to your skin, and again paint a small stripe of each on your jawline. If all has gone as it should, one of these should seem almost invisible on your skin. That's your color. If you have trouble then you may be more neutral than warm or cool. Most cosmetic lines will have a selection of neutrals as well. As with shade you can always mix colors to get a more exact match. But keep in mind that you may get tired of having to mix foundations every morning….

Application can be done with the same tools you used to apply moisturizer and/or primer- the reason being this makes life easier. Each time you use a brush for anything 'wet'- moisturizer, foundation, concealer- it must be washed to prevent potential bacterial growth, so if you use it first for moisturizer, primer and then foundation, you save yourself washing a second brush every day. (Yes, every day.) If you use disposable sponges obviously you'll use half as many. Some people like to keep things simple and use clean fingers- this is fine too. Whatever works for you.  You start in the middle, on the nose,  and work your way out, up and down. For every day wear all you need to do is just enough coverage. Many people don't need coverage anywhere but in the t-zone.  This might be a good place for the saying 'less is more.'  Unless of course it's more your style to do a more dramatic application…and far be it from me to inhibit anyone's personal style. By all means, do your thing!

On to concealer. Some like to put on concealer before foundation; I think it makes more sense to put it on after. The one you put on first is likely to be disturbed by the one you put on top- and where you put concealer is where you want heavier coverage, so to my way of seeing it you're better off finishing with the heavier coverage.  But ultimately it's up to you. Do what you're comfortable with.

Which brings me to the last, and what I consider a truly key step - setting your foundation and concealer with powder before adding your color. This is important because it means when you go to apply color in the form of powder- eyeshadow, blush, contour, highlighter, whatever- all will go on without 'grabbing' to your foundation. It means you have more control and can blend properly. If you've ever had issues with concealer settling into fine lines around the eyes, then try this- immediately after applying your concealer apply a very fine, translucent powder over it, and on your entire eye area, with a small, fluffy brush. I make sure to tap the brush off after dipping in the powder to avoid applying too much. For setting the foundation you can use the same fine translucent powder you used on your concealer and in the eye area, or a regular, tinted face powder, or a pressed powder foundation. Remember back when I talked about how pressed powder foundation can be used to set your foundation?  Well, here's where you'd do that. One nice thing about using powder foundation to set your liquid (or other 'wet') foundation is that you get extra coverage- meaning you may be able to use a lighter application of the liquid foundation and less of the powder to achieve more coverage yet with a more natural look. (Don't ask me how that works, but it does.) 

And here's a final note- if you haven't noticed, there's a hard and fast rule here- liquids, creams and anything with any moisture goes on first.  Once you add powder you shouldn't add anything else with moisture on top- if you do, you risk winding up with a gooey mess. 

Whew! Another looooooong blog….

Happy Dressing!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pretty Is As Pretty Does

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ ~ John Keats

This spring I took a Makeup Artistry class at Western Beauty Institute Makeup Academy, which I LOVED- and highly recommend. The class was excellent; hard work, tons of information, intense and FUN. And for the record, I must say it's also very well priced. 

So I thought I'd pass on just a few of the basics, adapted for everyday glam- from prep through foundation. Much of this is from my class at WBI, but is still only a fraction of what I learned. You'll probably already know most if not all of this- but if you learn just one thing, then it's been worth it.  

This week I'll be covering skin 'prep.' That's pre-make up cleansing and moisturizing, in case you didn't know. No need to start with makeup removal as you removed your makeup the night before, right? Right??  'Cause we all know that it's a sin against your skin to go to bed with the day's makeup and grime on your face…

To start at the beginning is to start with skin type. Most of us are aware of our skin type- dry, combination, oily, normal or sensitive. 

Dry skin tends to feel 'tight' after being washed and can look dull. It's best to use a gentle, creamy cleanser. (Avoid 'soap' for all skin types- soap is harsh and generally unnecessary.) Toner isn't necessary either- use it if you like, but you don't technically need it for good skin care. Dry skin needs a creamy, oil-based moisturizer after cleansing at night, and also during the day providing you use an oil-based foundation.  Combination skin has the afore mentioned dry characteristics usually on the cheeks, and is generally oily in the t-zone- forehead, nose and chin. You'll do best to find a cleanser designed for combination skin, and use a light weight oil-based moisturizer at night- if you use an oil-free foundation you'll need an oil-free moisturizer for daytime; if you like, you can avoid using moisturizer in the t-zone to reduce oiliness over the course of the day. For oily skin you'll want an oil-free cleanser and of course a light weight, oil-free moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin you know all too well that it may take time to find products that don't irritate, and that once you do find such products, it may be that after a while even those products irritate. Be patient, and be open to new products. The truth is that even usually non-sensitive skin can become allergic to a given product, so this is something we all need to be aware of.  If you have 'normal' skin, congratulations- you won the lottery! Use a gentle cleanser designed for normal skin and a light, oil-based moisturizer at night and either oil-based or oil-free moisturizer depending on your foundation. 

A quick note here: when it comes to moisturizers, primers and foundations, you'll do best to keep 'like' with 'like.'  What I mean is that if you're using an oil-free foundation, use an oil-free moisturizer/primer underneath. (I believe most if not all primers are oil-free.) An oil-based foundation works fine over an oil-based moisturizer. The point here: If you use an oil-based moisturizer under an oil-free makeup, your makeup is very likely going to 'break up' over the course of the day. Not good. I doubt there'd be a problem with using an oil-based makeup over an oil-free moisturizer, but generally people use oil-based foundations because they have dry skin. And why would you use an oil-free moisturizer if you have dry skin? It's been my experience that if you're using a powder foundation it doesn't really matter whether you use an oil-based or oil-free moisturizer. You may need to re-apply the powder sooner if you use oil-based moisturizer, though. Ok, on to eye cream. 

No matter what your skin type, you'll want to always use an eye cream. Paula Begoun said in 'The Beauty Bible' that eye creams are essentially the same as other moisturizers just repackaged as 'eye' creams. Whether you decide to play it safe and stick with an eye cream or just use a heavier moisturizer in this area is up to you. We always used an actual eye cream in class.  Apply to the brow bone area and under the eye. Never apply any moisturizer to the mobile eyelid- we were taught that this, interestingly enough, is the oiliest place on the face.

Next comes primer. Now, in my class primer was always used after moisturizer. I've been reading books by different MUA, (Make Up Artists) and several of them say they use either moisturizer OR primer. Just using primer might be a good solution if you have very oily skin. Either way, you do need something on your skin before makeup application- it just doesn't 'sit' properly without it.

As for how much moisturizer and primer to use- only just enough. Although as I said, you need either moisturizer, primer, or both on in order for your makeup to go on properly, you don't want so much that it interferes with your makeup. You can apply moisturizer and primer with your fingers, a brush, or even a sponge. This is entirely a matter of preference. If you use a brush or sponge you can go on to use it with your foundation, and then wash it after. It must be washed every day in order to avoid any potential bacteria growth. (Yuk.)

Ok- so now you're prepped. Next week, on to foundation. In the meantime...

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fashion Emancipation

“Being chic isn’t about following trends, it’s about setting them.” – The Chic Spy

Every now and again I get all serious, grown up(ish), business-y, and practical-like and decide I should be 'studying' fashion. Seeing as how I'm an image consultant and all, it would be a good idea, right? To know something about the industry I like to run my mouth about? 

And so for the next 10 whole minutes I scour the internet with great sincerity, focus and ferocious intensity, fully intending to begin my Fashion Industry Education.  This happened again last week, and well within the first 3 minutes I found myself watching a video of two young and enthusiastic fashion editors at the recent Paris fashion week. The format had them talking about their 10 favorite things about fashion week- they began rattling off clearly well-known names of the fashion world. And I didn't have the slightest clue what they were talking about.

Amazing. It was a new record. I had gotten all fired up to do this thing, and then felt utterly, completely defeated all within about 3.2 minutes.  I love looking at fashion imagery, but the sad truth is that when I read or listen to others talk about it I often feel like I'm listening to a language I don't understand.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that I don't know the history. Maybe some of it is because I'm really not into status or name dropping. Alright, the truth is all I want to do is look at the pretty pictures and then try on the pretty clothes, ok? So my intellectual development was arrested at age 5. Sue me.

I like color, composition, and interesting visual imagery. I really don't care who made it, or how much it costs. If it works visually, then it's good and I'm done. I don't care what's 'in,' what's considered 'hot' or whether or not it's 'cool' to like a certain artist or designer.

Even if I do someday manage to get to the point where I learn the language that is the world of fashion, I don't want to move away from my current standards. Because in the end, the crucial part is whether or not a thing works on you- does it flatter your proportions? Does the color enhance your coloring? Does it reflect your aesthetic, who 'you' are? And most important of all, does it make you feel good to put it on??

I would like to say that I know very well that a dress made for me by a couturier is going to fit better and look better than one I get at a low end chain store, but the truth is I've never had a dress made for me by a couturier, so I'm only guessing. (I think it's a pretty good guess though, don't you?) I do know that the better the fabric the better the chance that the garment will look and wear well. I also know from personal experience that if you spend the money for a well constructed garment it'll probably fit better. But in the real world we can't all afford the best there is, so we have to make do with what we can find and afford. 

So for now I'll just have to look at the world of fashion as an inspiration for what would work for me, and new ways to work with what I have access to. Viewed this way it's a wonderful visual feast to enjoy and from which to borrow ideas. The trick is to not be tripped up by thinking that because you may not be able to afford what you see out there in fashion la-la land you can't be chic. The trick is to see that as only a starting point for your imagination- your imagination and what you can find and afford. What you put together will be different than what anyone else would come up with. It'll be a reflection of you and no one else. And it just doesn't matter where these things come from, how old they are or what the label says. What does matter is that they flatter you and 'speak' to who you are. Put your own 'spin' on it and set a new trend...

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Free Addiction

'There are flowers everywhere, for those who bother to look.' ~Henri Matisse 

A while back my blog subject was on ways to help define personal style for those who have difficulty with this, or those who just enjoy spending time on it. I suggested creating a style board and filling it with pictures of what appeals to you.  

Since then I've become a total, hopeless Pinterest addict. 

Now I'm totally throwing out my earlier suggestion of an actual physical board in favor of a Pinterest account for several reasons. First, you'll have almost instant access to way more imagery, from every imaginable source on the internet. Not only that, but it takes very little time and effort to set up your account, and voilĂ , you're up and running.  No buying a board, no finding somewhere to put it, buying/finding magazines or making copies from books… You can also alot small amounts of time on a regular basis to this with greater efficiency; as soon as you log on to your account you can start searching and 'pinning,' where as with an actual board you start by spending time getting out your magazines, cutting out pictures or printing out your imagery- not only is this more time consuming, it's also more expensive.  These magazines also take up a bit of space as well. Not to mention the smaller carbon footprint you'll be creating… 

Also- when you first set up your account you'll see an option for a 'pin it' button to add to your bookmark bar.  I suggest you install it. We'll get back to this later.

When you first sign up part of the initial process is picking 'boards' they offer; once your account is set up you'll want to start your own boards (and quite possibly eliminate theirs.) Lets say you want to develop a more defined 'casual' style; so you create a board titled 'casual style.' (I know, my originality can be mind blowing at times.) Maybe another board titled 'jeans.'  And 'shoes.' Now go to the search bar at the top and search for these things. First you'll see individual pins of whatever you've searched- if you see anything in particular you like, hover over it and you'll see the option to 'pin' it to the appropriate board.  In the 'pinning' process take note of where it came from- who's board. You might want to have a look at the board to see if you might like to follow this pinners board, or even all their boards. You can just click the image and look at the bottom to see where the pinner got it, and start exploring that way. There. You're on your way.  Also look at the upper left side of the page and see the option to select 'pins,' 'boards' or 'people' for whatever you're searching. Explore, 'follow' ones that have style that you like. 

You can start different ways; start with what you know and love already, and/or with what you are unclear on within your own sense of style. The important thing is to just keep going with it. I find that because it's so easy it's also relaxing. Remember the 'pin it' button you installed on your bookmark bar? Well, when you're on the internet and you see an image that you feel somehow relates to some aspect of your style, click on it and then click on 'pin it,' and stick it on the appropriate board. Most of the time you can pin; one problem I've encountered is pinning from Facebook.  In that case you'll have to download the image to your computer and pin from there.  After a while, as with the physical boards suggested earlier, you'll see your style sense begin to emerge. This can be quite exciting if you feel you don't have a sense of your own style. (You'll see you do have a sense of style and probably always did.) Or illuminating if you learn new things about your already established sense of style. 

After you've started following at least a few people you can log on and then click on 'Pinterest' at the very top of the page, and see what's been pinned recently on the boards you follow. You'll see at the top of the page, just below 'Pinterest' the option to choose 'following,' (this is what you get if you just click on Pinterest) 'categories,' 'everything,' 'popular,' or 'gifts.'  You can now happily 'repin' from their stuff, and look at the boards where they got their stuff. And of course you can search new things and go off on new tangents.

I've decided I must have become addicted to Pinterest because it's like shopping with an unlimited budget.  The bad part is of course I don't really have all the stuff, but that's also the good part cause I don't have anywhere to put it in my tiny, already bursting apartment. Or a way to pay for any of it, either…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Formal Education

'Say what you want about long dresses, but they cover a multitude of shins.'  ~Mae West

Formal wear isn't always a popular topic. Some of us enjoy dressing up, some don't. Either way it's a safe bet that even if you've avoided it thus far, at some point someone in your life is going to get married or die, and for both those situations you'll need the appropriate garments. Of course you can choose not to go to the events that mark these milestones, but that wouldn't be very nice, now would it?  So let's get to work and get you ready for any formal occasion that may cross your path. 

Assuming you don't want to spend a great deal, I have to point out that not bothering to think about this until the need arises is a very bad idea. 9 times out of 10 you'll wind up at the last minute throwing way too much money at it because you're just out of time, which means you risk being stuck with overpriced garment/s that you may not be crazy about… all because you were in such a hurry. So let's look at how you can avoid that particular little trap.  I solemnly swear I'll do my best to make this as painless a process as possible.

First determine your needs. How often do you do formal events? Once every 2 years? Twice a month? Somewhere in between? What types of events are you likely to attend outside of weddings or funerals?  What are you expected to wear to such events? Some people really don't do formals very often, and would do well with a couple of separates that can be changed up with accessories according to need. Others have events to go to on a regular basis- maybe it's work related, and they see the same people over and over and thus need a fairly large and serious selection.  Or they're lucky enough to have a social life that calls for the same.  Your needs have to be viewed within the context of your budget too; my belief is that you should spend the bulk of your money on what you wear the most- whatever you wear on a daily basis. So it follows that if you fall in the once-every-two-years category you shouldn't spend a great deal of your budget here. If however, you have a lively social life including lots of formal occasions (lucky you!) then you'll want to allocate more of your clothing budget towards it. 

After figuring out how much you think you should have, then taking stock of what you already have, you need to decide what to add.  A couple of things to keep in mind; first, if your weight tends to yo-yo a little bit, then either focus on things that can be worn at either your heavier or lighter weight- very good quality knits or bias cut garments are are a good way to address this- or make peace with having to have two formal wardrobes.  Second, if you have a micro-budget then you may need to be more open minded and think 'outside the box,' as they say. If that's the case then you'll do best to look for either very, very classic styles that won't become outdated, or go completely the other way- perhaps vintage styles, or strong, eclectic pieces that are 'timeless' exactly because they're so far 'outside the box.' (Bonus: here's an opportunity to express your style to the fullest.)

Regardless of your budget start by looking at the very best stores in your area; you don't have to buy, but do keep in mind that all retail stores have regular sales. If nothing else, try on what you like to get an idea of what looks best on you, and then you'll have a standard to measure  by. If you see something you love check when they'll have sales, mark it in your calendar and go back to look when the sale is happening. Also consider consignment shops- these are likely to have some very nice pieces in nearly perfect condition, and you may be able to negotiate price.  Last and definitely not least, also look at thrift shops.  This is where you're more likely to find the 'eclectic' pieces; vintage, or designer pieces that may need some TLC that would be worth the investment. Also keep online resources in mind- Ebay, for example, can be a good option if you don't mind the potential hassle of returning things by mail and other associated risks.

The trick with this is to start early and keep at it.  Start looking as soon as you've decided what you need.  Schedule regular trips to shop- for this to work you absolutely have to look on a regular basis. At the retail stores and consignment shops you may want to see if you can leave your name and number with someone along with a description of what you're looking for, and have them contact you when something that might work comes in. But go on a regular basis anyway- you never know when you'll find something else on sale that might work just as well.  The point of all this dedicated hunting is to find what you need and what makes you look your very best for next to no money.  Or at least a whole lot less. We all want the most for our money, and the only way to get that is by being careful and planning ahead. 

This approach works well regardless of whether you're one who needs very little formal wear or quite a lot.  If you need only the minimum you can take more time between shopping trips; if you need more, you can schedule weekly trips. 

Also, one nifty trick is to catalogue what you have. Spend a little time trying your things on and see how many different combinations you can create with your basic pieces and various accessories, then photograph these combinations. Now hang these photos on the hangars with the pieces so that when the occasion arrises you'll have more options at your disposal. You can also write on the back of each photo when said combination was worn to avoid repeating yourself too often. 

One of the best parts about this approach is that it gives you the time to ensure you've picked pieces with flattering design lines and colors, and that reflect your aesthetic- which means you'll look and feel your best.

Happy Dressing!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Training the Monster

"The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves."  ~Steven Covey

Ah, back to the closet monster. Or rather, the monster I call the closet. 

One (boring) aspect of looking your best is wardrobe maintenance.  If you keep up with it it's not hard, and the payoff is well worth making it part of your routine.  If you've spent time and effort picking a wardrobe designed to make you happy and look your very best, then respect that effort by taking the small amount of time required to keep it in good condition.  For the most part your clothing will last longer, too- which means in the long run you'll save $$.  

If regular wardrobe maintenance is something you really loathe or just don't have time or maybe discipline for, then the first step to take  is back when you're buying your clothes. Check the label for care instructions- if it requires doing things that you're not going to want to do, then don't buy it. And only buy the best quality you can afford. In the end poor quality requires more fussing over and doesn't last as long, and thus winds up costing you more time and $$. Unless you have the time and budget for that, of course. In which case, waste and fritter away to your hearts content. 

So how does one 'do' wardrobe maintenance? A little investment of time and focus is required up front. First determine what needs to be done.  If you have a great deal of dry-clean-only items then you probably need to make frequent trips to the dry cleaners. Shoes need regular upkeep. If you have a large shoe collection, it will probably require more attention. Other accessories too- scarves need dry-cleaning or washing, purses need polishing and repair, etc. Jewelry also needs to be kept in good repair.  For washables you'll do best to schedule a regular time for laundry, and also time for ironing or mending if needed. Even if you have the most minimal of wardrobes you still need to do this in order to keep yourself looking your best.

Next you have to decide how often these things need doing. If you wear a lot of suits or other dry-clean-only garments, then maybe you'll need to visit the dry cleaners once a week or every 2 weeks. Shoe repair could be done every month, or every season. Don't forget to include any scarves or other accessories that need dry cleaning when making that trip. Take any purses, leather belts or briefcases in for repair and polishing when going for shoe repair. If you have your laundry done elsewhere, determine how often you should schedule this.

Now you need to schedule these regular trips in.  Set reminders for yourself in a paper or electronic tickler file- or, if you're old-fashioned like me, write it in your filofax. Write it in as many months in advance as possible- every single time it needs doing. It may sound silly to do this, but it's important. I don't know about you, but if I don't write it down I just don't think about going to my shoe repair guy until I put on that pair of shoes that needed to have it's heels redone like, 6 weeks ago. Also, be sure to have a checklist to go through each time so you won't forget anything.  It's a good idea to include alterations in this as well- no point in giving closet space to things that don't fit properly, right? 

So- you've thought about your wardrobe, and decided what needs to be done, then narrowed down how often it needs doing, and spent a whole 10 minutes max scheduling this regular maintenance in your calendar. Great! You're on your way.

Go to your closet and designate a spot to put all the items that need repair or cleaning- whether by you or professionally.  That way, as your month goes on you can set aside these things to be ready for your trip to the dry cleaners, jewelers or shoe repair shop. Also write down what needs to go in for repairs so you won't forget anything- including the things that you can't set aside because they've been in constant use. Don't forget to put things that need mending and ironing in your designated spot, too.  You can hang the list of things going out for repair/cleaning from one of the hangers, or in your filofax, or on your computer- just as long as you'll refer to it before you go.

Part of regular wardrobe maintenance is also regular re-assessment of your wardrobe. Try to weed out things that you never wear as you go along- if it's because it needs alterations, then set it aside to be taken in at the scheduled time. Also schedule in a general reassessment of your wardrobe once or twice a year. I know, yuk. But if you've been paying a little bit of attention to this each time you do your regularly scheduled wardrobe maintenance, then this won't be a big deal. And be sure to give yourself a reward for finishing this task.  Makes it easier to get through. 

A little bit of time spent every month will pay off in a better looking, more organized wardrobe- which makes you look better, and probably feel much better, too.

Happy Dressing!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Eyebrows Have It

"I had a lot of dates but I decided to stay home and dye my eyebrows." ~Andy Warhol

Let's talk eyebrows.

Eyebrows are very important to the face- I would argue that they're possibly the most important feature. As far as I'm concerned, eyebrows represent most of the character in a face. They are also the feature that most expresses our emotion.  Well groomed brows give a face a great deal of it's strength and vitality- without them one often looks older, tired and washed out. Good brows also give one a more 'polished' appearance. Don't believe me? Take a look at the pictures of the beautiful Angelina Jolie below- some not-very-nice person (NOT me) created a picture of her without eyebrows and indeed- she is not her usual gorgeous self without them. Some might say she looks downright scary.  

See? Told you how important brows are. You'll very rarely see a celebrity without her brows 'done.'

Doing your makeup- no matter how 'natural' the intended look- without doing the brows- is much like going to all the trouble to make a perfect pot of soup from scratch and not bothering to add any seasoning.  I see women all the time who've done complete makeup…except for their brows.  I just don't get this.  There's lots of different ways of doing them- from as naturally as possible to the over-the-top glamour puss stenciled-on look. That is where your personal style and aesthetic come in. Do whatever suits your style, just be sure not to overlook your brows.

If you're over 30 or so take a look at pictures of yourself when you were in your late teens and early 20s- chances are your brows were more defined, stronger. Even at this early age it's important to tweeze the brow to give it shape, and to fill any gaps.  As we age most of us will experience thinning brows, so filling in the gaps becomes more important. Also as we age the shape may become less defined, and so may also need more attention. Take into consideration that as we age our coloring usually softens a little bit to quite a bit, so you have to adjust the color you use accordingly- if you have anything other than black hair - and maybe even if you do have black hair- there's a good chance you'll need to use a lighter color on your brows than you would have when you were in your teens or early 20's.  If you're one of the lucky ones who's brows haven't thinned, you'll still need to tweeze to maintain good shape, and trim where necessary.

Now let's talk proper definition of eyebrows.  Over the years I've come across two standard approaches, both of which are represented below. In both the starting point of the brow is determined by where a line going straight up from the outside edge of your nose meets your brow. And in both the end point of the brow is determined by where a straight line starting from the same place on the nose going past the outside edge of your eye again meets your brow.  Where they differ is in how one should determine where to place the arch. In the image on the left, one should start with the line again at the outside edge of the nose, go up past the outside edge of the pupil and place the arch where the line meets the brow.  The image on the right suggests while looking straight ahead, see where a straight vertical line going up from the outside of the iris meets the eyebrow.  On many people these two options are going to give you at least a slightly different place for the arch; one of them, or some place in between them, will most likely suit your face, and your style, perfectly. 

The way I was taught is to start with a pencil and define the shape- find your starting point, your arch, and your end point, and 'sketch' them in with short, gentle strokes. I have fairly soft coloring, and am picky about what pencil I use- the only one I like is one made by Anastasia- keep trying until you find the brand you like. The next step is to fill in any sparse areas- for this the easiest method is a powder. You can use one made for that purpose, or you may find that a matt eye shadow is a less expensive and equally effective alternative. Whatever works for you. This powder should be applied with a brush designed for the purpose; it's a small, angled brush available at beauty supply stores or your local Sephora. Or look online. At this point, should you find that you've gone too dark or heavy, you can use a spoolie- it's a little brush that looks exactly like a mascara wand and can also be found at a beauty supply store- or just use a clean toothbrush, and gently brush the brow to soften the pencil and powder to your liking. The last step is an eyebrow gel. This can be a clear gel just to help 'set' the eyebrow hairs in place, or one with color- which ever your prefer. Again, I like the Anastasia line of gels. For the budget conscious there's an old models trick; spray your clean toothbrush with a little hairspray and brush through your brows to set them in place.

If you're not familiar with eyebrow makeup you can go online and look up Anastasia, or go to a department store, beauty supply store or Sophora and ask about their products. Even if you find you don't need any new products it can be a good learning experience. It's time to shop, and play with makeup - woo-hooooo!!

Happy Dressing!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Not-So-Sweet Smell of Failure

"Fidelity - a virtue peculiar to those who are about to be betrayed." Ambrose Bierce

Earlier this week a friend and I were chatting and I got the idea that this week's blog should be about choosing personal fragrance. I have to admit defeat.  My efforts here have been what I can only describe as a 'fail.' 

As this is a subject I know little about I decided to do some research; I googled 'choosing your scent' and 'fragrance.' I came across article after article explaining the various types of fragrance families. Floral, citrus, woodsy, oriental, fruity, spicy, green…..all pretty much the same info.

Only one that I came across gave any help as to how to choose. There was a little test- this was an attempt to categorize your personality so as to determine the best family of fragrances for you. The only problem was that the multiple choice answers provided to the questions asked were not applicable to me.  Not surprisingly the end result was disappointing.

I have problems with choosing scent; I fall in love entirely too easily. I meet a lovely, deep, heady fragrance with vanilla, musk and white flowers . I have a monogamous, long term relationship with it. That fragrance becomes the ONLY fragrance I love. I swear lifetime allegiance. I am happy and complete with my 'signature scent.' I get downright smug about it. THIS IS THE ONLY FRAGRANCE I WILL EVER WEAR, FOR THE REST OF MY ENTIRE LIFE.  

Then I meet another fragrance- maybe a light, clean, citrus-y, woods-y one. And it starts.  Suddenly the old fragrance feels too 'heavy.' Too 'old lady.' I shrug uncomfortably after putting it on. I start picking fights. Forget to put it on every day. Finally I give in and buy the new fragrance, and the old one sits, unloved and forgotten in the back of the bathroom cabinet. And that bothers me.

I feel conflicted. The two fragrances are worlds apart- nothing in common. What does this mean, I wonder? What does this say about me? About who I am? Do I lack conviction? Am I shallow? Fickle? Perhaps I have multiple personalities??  AM I JUST PLAIN CRAZY??? Oh, the trials and tribulations I suffer over things like this. (Part of being such a deep and artistic person, you see.)

I wish I was one of these people who could just wear a fragrance in a totally unemotional way- they put on a fragrance according to whim- 'oh, today I feel like wearing a grassy scent.' How do they decide this? And what happens if they are going out in the evening, and changing to evening wear? Do they have to shower to get the other fragrance off, and then put on a more 'sophisticated' one??  And what does their closet smell like? A mishmash of all the fragrances they have???  You aren't going to dry clean a jacket or sweater after every time you wear it, right??  Sigh. Some mysteries are just beyond me. 

Or I'd love to be one of those people known for wearing one fragrance all their life- everyone knows that this person always wears it, and they're respected as having clear understanding of who they are, a veritable paragon of profound style....THEY don't break their commitment. Are they never tempted?? Do they ever sneak off for a day and just try every scent at the department store counter?? 

So, in the end I have no real advice on choosing a scent. I guess it's entirely too personal a thing in my book to put any sort of structure around it beyond a description of the various families I repeatedly came across in those articles.  WIth clothes it's different- if you know what design lines flatter your shape and proportions, and what colors flatter your skin tone, then beyond those guidelines it's all about your personal aesthetics- you pretty much can't go wrong. 

As far as fragrance goes, I guess I'll just continue my angst-ridden journey…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, September 7, 2012

The High and Low of It All

“Being chic isn’t about following trends, it’s about setting them.” – The Chic Spy   

Women have always been adept at high/low dressing.  We know what this is.  You may not be familiar with the catchy name, but once you understand you'll probably roll your eyes and say 'oh, that. I've been doing that for years.'

High/low dressing is simply putting together elements that are from different ends of the 'status' (read $$) spectrum.  The Chanel purse with the wife beater from Target. The Christian Louboutin shoes with an armful of 'vintage' lucite (plastic?) bangle bracelets from ebay. You get the idea. Putting together things that you like together regardless of the perceived value or status of the various…variables.  I had an instructor in college who used the term 'jamming'- meaning to put seemingly incongruous items together, items which have very different 'meanings' attached to them.  Similar sort of idea, but the possibilities are more extreme.  I see high/low dressing as simply putting things together based on the visual appeal, and jamming as meaning a more pronounced, aggressive approach- visually or conceptually.

Used to be that when doing the high/low, one would do one's very best to disguise the fact. Bargain basement purchases were nothing to be proud of, and certainly not to be worn with the intent of making a fashion statement.  Maybe there were a few brave souls who indulged, but I'm pretty sure they were considered eccentric to the point of mental unbalance. 

The first time I'm aware of it being considered acceptable in the mainstream was at the 1998 Oscars when Sharon Stone wore a long, silk, Vera Wang skirt with a white button down shirt from Gap.  I would imagine there are other examples prior to this- I don't know- I'd love to hear Tim Gunn on the subject. (His new book is coming out soon. I have a pre-order in, of course.) Now examples of high/low dressing show up regularly in fashion mags, red carpet events and everywhere the rest of us regular folk congregate. 

Back before it was stylish it was done, one assumes, out of economic necessity.  Nowadays, if one does it with great confidence it doesn't look like an effort at economizing. To make it work as a fashion statement it must be done almost flamboyantly- make it almost more of a 'jamming' thing than your basic high/low dressing.  One of the most important parts to making it work is not making any effort to make anything look like what it isn't; in other words, don't try to pass of a 'low' item as anything other than a 'low' item.  If someone figures out that you're trying to pass a cheapie item off as some sort of 'couture' thing, the gig is up- and your credibility is shot to hell.  Better to just wear it with a total 'tude- stare them down as if to say 'yeah, I got a vintage YSL purse paired up with my Kmart sweater, you gotta problem with that??'  Not only is your credibility safe, but you may find you get more respect due to your obvious courage, and dashing sense of style, darling…

To me, this is the same as comparing what is considered classic beauty with that which is quirky and unique- both have their value and both are valid- but for me, the quirky often has more potential for personal expression and thus the potential to be far more interesting.

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pleasure Knows No Age

Taking joy in living is a woman's best cosmetic. ~Rosalind Russell

The other day I was at my son's karate class, on my laptop browsing a fashion website. Another regular was sat next to me quietly working a crossword puzzle. She peeked over my shoulder and we struck up a conversation for the first time.  Clearly she was quite the fashion enthusiast and loved the site.  Our conversation continued. Despite her obvious enthusiasm she kept saying things like 'it's not for me anymore' or 'I'm past all that.'   

???!!!  Excuse me??

As far as I'm concerned, you're only past it when you're 6 feet under. When you no longer wake up each day faced with the legal necessity of dressing.  When you can no longer spend far too much time scheming about how to finagle the money for that totally unnecessary pair of shoes out of your budget, or secretly plan on getting up before dawn for a sale where that pair of unreasonably expensive jeans will be 50% off….when you are no longer physically able to elicit any more pleasure from how you look, THEN and only then are you truly 'past it.'  Until that day there is still the chance to squeeze some measure of happiness from putting together certain colors, textures, concepts, sensual experiences or anything else you can get from putting clothes on your back. As long as that chance exists you cannot be 'past it.'

She brings a little boy to the karate lessons- I assume he's her grandson- and she's always quietly stylish and chic, despite what she said.  She's clearly far too lively to just give up like that. In my little world that's a total tragedy.  From what she says she has a closet bursting with clothes and assorted accessories from a career working in fashion.  I don't understand why someone wouldn't wear all the clothes and jewelry one has. Life is short, and not a dress rehearsal. Why dedicate all that space to the stuff if you're not going to use it??

Life is a bumpy road, and so much of it is spent trying so hard to please and placate others on so many levels. So much of it is ugly and bitter, along with the beautiful and sweet- all of it tied up in compromises with other people and situations that sometimes demand all too much of us.  Beyond certain basic requirements clothing is one of the few forms of pleasure totally dedicated to your whims. It's an opportunity to make yourself happy anew each day.  It's one of the few things in life that is generally better the more you indulge your preferences. It's calorie free and improves the impression you make on others. What's not to love? Why would one ever willingly give that up?

Our conversation finally ended when  we were made aware by another parent that our conversation had gotten so animated as to disturb the lesson being taught. (Opps.)  Now that does NOT sound to me like a woman who's 'past it.' 

What a shame.  Clearly I'm going to have to work on her……

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Over Easy, Thank You

"I have never known a really chic woman who's appearance was not, in large part, an outward reflection of her inner self." ~Mainbocher

I think I've been reading books on personal image since I first began to read, and every now and again, usually in the older books, I come across this concept- sometimes called French, sometimes European. In these books anything even vaguely European seems automatically to be seen as very 'chic.'  It's the idea of the extremely streamlined wardrobe with all personality being in the various accessories. I've been to Europe, and I suspect this 'concept' came about as a result of the closet size in most European abodes more than anything else. All that beautiful historical architecture includes NO room for closets. Regardless of the reasons of origin it definitely has its advantages.

Start with the extreme, streamlined wardrobe- we'll use the ever popular and sophisticated all black.  In and of itself not terribly interesting, but it has the advantage of being easy to assemble- it doesn't require a lot of time or effort. Done right it's also a very strong, personal fashion statement.  It's also safe if you're color blind, or just feel overwhelmed by the concept of combining colors. Or just hate shopping. With all black all you need worry about is design lines. You don't need to buy very much at all- if you buy fairly good quality fabric you should be able to dress many garments up or down with accessories according to occasion. Also, since it's all one color, you'll be able to mix and match all pieces, so that's taken care of. VoilĂ - tiny wardrobe. 

If the idea of this kind of simple wardrobe appeals to you, there are other options to explore; all black and white (if you can wear that much contrast,) shades of all one color; all denim and white, all denim and black, all shades of cream and tan, and so on. You get the idea.  It's all about simplicity.

For now we'll stick with the all black option. So, you have your terribly chic, teeny-tiny, streamlined, all black wardrobe. Now we add accessories with the simple goal in mind of relieving all that black and creating interest.  The black background now becomes your 'canvas,' so to speak.  Now you get to express your aesthetics, your mood, etc. You can choose all one color accessories, as every other color 'goes' with black. You can decide on a 'theme'- all nautical accessories; all accessories with a 'circle' theme; an Indian influence, a certain texture, etc.  You can choose a 'style'- today (or maybe every day for you) you'll do vintage- all 1950's.  Maybe it's bohemian for you. Or a pronounced status image. Some might like handmade jewelry, and the all black wardrobe serves as a perfect backdrop. As always, I'm sure there are more options than I could ever dream up. 

This idea, by the way, is also very handy when  you're in the process of losing weight. Especially with the all black concept.  Buy very few garments in your current size, rely heavily on your accessories that don't need to be replaced as your size changes, and when ready, buy the minimum in the next size down. See? Clever. 

The only downside to this concept is that if you don't really work the accessories to their full potential you risk feeling constrained with all that black. (Or whatever color you've chosen.) It can quickly go from 'chic' to 'severe' or 'boring.'  You have to shop for new accessories on a regular basis to keep things new and interesting- much like you would otherwise with shopping for new clothes each new season. Some of the differences are you don't necessarily need to try them on, size isn't an issue, and you can get away with spending considerably less than you would for new clothes.  Or you can splurge- the accessories in this scenario will be showcased by the simple backdrop, so theoretically they can have more 'impact.' 

Anyway, it's just another option. Even if it's not for you, it may be just the thing on a day when you're feeling overwhelmed by life, and just don't need to make any more choices.  It's also a great space-saving way to pack for traveling…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Beautiful People

"It's difficult to speak to beautiful people. No matter how much you pretend otherwise, you always want them to like you."  ~Doug Coupland

Ah, The Beautiful People.  They always seem to look great. Skin glowing, usually physically fit, clothes always flattering, hair perfect- even if it's not all in place, somehow it still looks great…

The Beautiful People are The Beautiful People because they have an entire team of people behind them who's job it is to make them look attractive. They aren't necessarily born any more or less beautiful than you or I, they just have advantages that many of us don't. They justify the expense and time involved in maintaining their image because they wish to be one of The Beautiful People.

They, unlike us, don't schlep home after a long day, open the perhaps dilapidated, too-small fridge and stare at the 1 wilted celery stick and 2 carrots thinking 'I'm just too tired to cook healthy tonight.' They have someone who thought out a healthy, well balanced meal plan for them and then cooked it for them. (And I'd bet good money that our BP didn't have to clean the kitchen after, either.) They sometimes have things like a gym in their house; maybe even their own trainer who shows up and gives them motivation when they have none. They probably have a stylist who chooses most of their clothes for them based on their proportions and coloring and current fashion- and I'm pretty sure their wardrobe budget will be a tad larger than mine. Just a bit. And that hair- they go to the salons I drive by on occasion and stare at- the ones with the 'if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it' facade. They spend hundreds on the cut and color- and they have it done on schedule, too.  No letting your roots go because you're just to busy here. Not to mention the regularly scheduled facials, massages and other spa goodies…

Why, you may be wondering, am I wallowing in the inequities between the haves and the have nots??  Well, do you remember what I said early on- 'They aren't necessarily born any more or less beautiful than you or I, they just have advantages that many of us don't.' Of course this is true. My apologies to any Beautiful People who may have the misfortune to come across this blog and are Deeply Offended. 

This line of thinking leads one (me, anyway) to the idea that anyone can, within certain boundaries, become one of 'The Beautiful People.'  Ok, so you may not have the resources to hire a chef, a stylist, a personal trainer, spend thousands per year on your hair and even more on clothes (those are the 'boundaries' I was talking about) but I will point out that there are ways pretty much anyone can do the basics with whatever they currently have. 

To be one of the Beautiful People you must be healthy. Period. And healthy is not a size, shape, age, or color.  It's treating your body with respect and care.  It means eating healthy and getting regular exercise. You have to eat, so presumably you buy food.  So, buy healthy foods and take the time to put together balanced meals. You don't have to buy a gym membership to exercise- just go outside and walk for 30 minutes a day. It also means regular upkeep on the basics of grooming.  When you buy clothes make sure the design lines are flattering and the color makes your coloring look wonderful, and also that it reflects what you want your image to say about you.  You should be able to do these things without spending any more money than you are now.  The one thing they will possibly require more of is self discipline. Perhaps more than our BP has to muster on a daily basis, but there you go- that's life. Besides- self discipline is a fabulous reward in itself. 

Still want those spa goodies, but have don't have a spa budget?  Find a local massage school that does massage for the general public.  I have one just down the street where I can get a 50 minute massage for $20.  I can't do this as often as I'd like, (that would be every day) but it's a luxury I really, really enjoy. Are facials your thing? I know of a beauty school not far from me that does a basic facial for $20, and a fancy-schmanzy one for $40.  Is your crowning glory your obsession? Don't be shy- when you see someone with a cut you like ask them where they got it. Hair stylists will sometimes negotiate.  Keep at it and eventually you'll find a stylist who's great at the cut you love at a price you're willing to pay.  

All these things take time and effort- but what's a little self discipline in exchange for becoming one of the Beautiful People?

Happy Dressing!