Follow by Email

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!