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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!