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Friday, November 22, 2013

On Not Being a Christmas Tree

“It's a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I'd be a drag queen.” ~Dolly Parton

Well, it seems the holiday season is upon us already. Not really sure I'm ready for this, but here it is anyway.

So in the spirit of the season, here are a couple of easy tips for dressing for the holidays. Holiday dressing tends to have a lot of 'bling' involved in it, so the rules are pretty much a direct result of that. The sequined tank, the wrap top with the silvery bugle beads, and so on.

The trick is to try to pick one 'show' piece- the piece of sparkly, shiny, colorful clothing- and keep the rest fairly stark or plain. Or you could have one stand-out piece of jewelry to showcase- this would be perfect for New Years, perhaps. Often the best 'backdrop' in these situations is to wear all one color in everything else. All black, or all cream maybe.  

Otherwise, keep the jewelry to a minimum if you're showcasing a particular piece of clothing that has the traditional sparkly, glitzy holiday theme going. It can become a bit tacky when you have too much 'bling' going on- unless there's a specific theme and relationship between the jewelry and clothing. If they're pretty much unrelated, and the clothing has the usual colorful holiday feeling to it, then both the jewelry and clothing starts to take away from each other. They wind up 'dulling' each other down, essentially.

Also, be aware of balance in your ensemble- be aware of what area is being highlighted, and whether or not that's good for you. If not, try changing it up a bit to make it work better for you.

And shoes- don't forget about adding metallic shoes now- this is the perfect time of year for it.  And for the most part, they wind up being pretty neutral; silver, gold, or bronze- one of them is bound to go with most holiday outfits.

Just like last year I'm signing off for the remainder of the year so I can get frazzled about the season without any other distractions. I should be back around January, so until then….

Happy Holidays, and Happy Dressing!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Time Traveler

"Time travel is such a magic concept." ~Matt Smith

A friend of mine is doing a project at college that requires her to study gender roles in the nuclear family of the 1960s. She and I go a ways back, and we both have an avid interest in vintage fashion, so naturally she focused some on the way the fashion of the era reflected the cultural changes that were happening at the time. The sexual revolution and civil rights movement changed life as it had been, and all the rules in fashion began to break down, too. Before that, each season there would be hard and fast rules- one example was hemline length; 'this season hemlines are up by 1.5".' And if you didn't change your hemlines (and whatever else was dictated) you were immediately identifiable as being 'out of fashion,' and thus just plain dowdy. In the 60's all that changed- there were mini skirts, maxi skirts, pants became much more acceptable, and so on. Suddenly women didn't need to wear white gloves, both men and women no longer had to wear hats. It seems to me that a sense of 'formality' ended for good.

The great thing about this rich fashion history combined with all this wonderful freedom is that we can go back and look at the fashion, makeup and hairstyles of those past eras and borrow what works for us- what works with your figure, your coloring and your aesthetic. If you're like me and have a particular era that you love (for me that would be the 1940's) you can borrow any and all of it, any way you like. Of course, it'll 'read' differently now than it would were you back in the era that you're borrowing from, but that's fine. When referencing a bygone era you really, really express a sense of confidence in your own sense of style, and you'll stand out from everyone else. 

Another idea is to only borrow only one or two things- a style of skirt, or maybe a hairstyle or way or wearing lipstick- from said bygone era that work exceptionally well for you. This way the elements you've chosen won't necessarily stand out as being from that era, rather they'll just seem like a unique and personal expression of personal style. 

You could go to Pinterest and start a board with the era you like, pin away, and when done pinning go and look at what you've collected; you may see things about your likes you might not have been aware of before.  It's all good insight. Notice if there are specific requirements to make a look work the way you want it to- maybe you really only like that 20's bob when worn with fairly heavy dramatic makeup. Maybe you like 1930's hats, but only with a certain hairstyle, and so on.  Even if it winds up leading you down an unexpected path, it's bound to be an interesting exploration.

Go on, find you inner time traveler…..

Happy Dressing!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Truth be Told...

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.' ~Thomas Jefferson

This week I had a little bit of a gestalt experience. While looking abysmally at a bag of clothes I finally admitted to myself that I'd never wear and had decided to try to sell on bay, I realized I'd not been paying attention. 

When I contemplate buying something there are usually two things that affect my decision aside from my knee jerk 'I want that!' reaction. First there's the little voice of caution that's always double checking on every purchase I make- then there's the 'gut' feeling I may or may not have about a given garment. 

The cautious voice in the back of my mind asks if I need this, if it's a good purchase considering how much I would presumably be wearing it, and if I'll actually wear it. The gut feeling is a more constant thing- more of a 'knowing.' It can be awfully soft, so I really have to listen for it- it asks not if I'll wear it, but tells me if I don't really like it or the print is just a tiny bit too loud or I don't really, really like that color, etc. 

The little voice of caution is always there, with every purchase- the gut feeling isn't- it's only there if it's something I really don't like enough to buy, but think I 'ought' to (buying to please someone else, for example) or if this is something I REALLY love. 

When I look at all the stuff in that bag I remember that I had that gut feeling about each and every piece- ranging from a quiet little 'that print is probably too graphic' to 'why are you thinking of this?  You know you really don't like it.' 

For me there's also usually a bit of a grace period- within the 30 days after buying it I usually have the opportunity to be honest with myself and go ahead and return it. That stupid bag of stuff is a reminder that over the past couple of years I got really lazy about listening to the gut feeling and being honest with myself, and having a healthier bank balance. No, instead I carried on with my self delusion and let it take up closet space that I really don't have to waste on non-working pieces. *Sigh*

Of course, this bag has been sitting there for….several months…..

Happy Dressing!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Beautiful Aspirin...

"Whenever I get a headache I take 2 aspirin and stay away from children like the bottle says."~ Hussein Nishah

I love the week before my period. Such fun. Especially the breakouts. They're the best. Because the bad mood, insomnia and total inability to think or remember ANYTHING just isn't enough. For some reason it's necessary to look like crap, too.

But I'm happy to say I've found another weapon for my anti-zit arsenal. It's called….an aspirin mask. Apparently this is an old and trusted mask, but I'd never heard of it before. (Of course, if you're allergic to aspirin or have reye's syndrome this isn't for you.) 

Yup- that's right- plain, uncoated aspirin. From the $1 store, from the drugstore, whatever. It's cheap and effective. Just google it- and look at for reviews. There's a million of them out there.

Apparently it works because it's acetasalicylic acid, which is chemically like salicylic acid, a very potent BHA -beta hydroxy acid. (I copied that directly from one of the many sites on which I greedily read about this cheapo trick- so don't quote me on that. It just sounded so authoritative I felt compelled to include it.)  Salicylic acid is traditionally used to treat acne. Not only does it work on acne and blackheads, but it's also a gentle peel, so it's quite the all around beauty treatment.

I've read a couple of different 'recipes' for this- either just dissolve a tablet in a drop or two of distilled water (I just used spring water) to make a paste. They say to use 1 for 'spot' treatments, or up to 9 for a full face mask.  Other recipes call for dissolving the aspirin in lemon juice, or witch hazel and adding honey, jojoba oil or yogurt; this helps to 'hold' the aspirin on your face as it dries, and helps prevent your skin from getting dry. I read where one blogger said that said she had success using the aspirin mask in conjunction with Noxzema 2% salicylic acid pads on a daily basis. For some of us that might be too strong- it just depends on how delicate your skin is and how bad your acne is.  If you're really interested in this then do some research of your own, and read what others say about their experiences in combination with their skin type, and use that as your starting point.  Again, you can apply to specific spots, 2x per day to make the offending spots disappear, or use 2, even 3x per week as a full face mask. Or, like me, both a weekly full-face mask and the whenever-needed spot mask.

I'm just so happy to have found such a cheap and effective solution that's so easy to find, too. Viva la cheap facials!!

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blending In

"Behind the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world." ~Marilyn Monroe

You might be surprised at which part of your eyeshadow application is really the most important.

It doesn't matter if you're only using one color of shadow or a terribly complicated, multi-colored palette- the most important part of the entire process is proper blending. No matter how beautiful a color is or how great it looks on you, it's going to look awful if it's blotchy or uneven. You're better off choosing fewer colors that you blend well than a complex palette if you don't have the time to blend properly. Good blending is the only way to achieve a sophisticated makeup application where colors blend seamlessly into one another and at the outer edges. 

For this you need a brush- but NOT the one you've just applied your color with. It should be a clean, dry brush; you can use this brush to blend all your colors- just buff the brush on a piece of tissue or paper towel after using a darker or more intense color to avoid 'muddying' the other colors. When I was in art school I was taught to experiment with brushes and find my own ways to use them. As far as I'm concerned, when it comes to brushes it's the same with makeup as with painting: whatever works for you is the right brush for the job. Most MUA will suggest a 'crease' brush for blending- and I find that works well for me- but if you've not done so before, try out a few different bushes to find what you like. 

You can blend after applying each color, or - especially if you have a more neutral/natural palette- you can wait until you have 2 or 3 colors on and then blend. Most of the time just a gentle buffing motion- back and forth, or around in tiny, quick circles, will do the job. Find the motion that works for you. Obviously the more complicated your makeup the more blending required. 

If you run into trouble blending a color at the outer edges remember you can always use a translucent powder or foundation powder with your blending brush to make things go more smoothly. You can also 'tone down' a too-heavy application or too-intense color this way, too.  

If 'blending' your eyeshadow colors isn't something you've paid a lot of attention to before you're in for a pleasant surprise. You may find you're a makeup artist in the making….

Happy Dressing!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dry Water

"When you drink the water, remember the spring."~Chinese Proverb
I have dry skin.  I have a genetic skin disorder that predisposes me to very dry skin, so anything I can do to alleviate this is a plus in my world. I've recently made an interesting discovery regarding this and I thought I'd share. Maybe it's news to you, maybe not. 

For some reason or other, a few weeks ago I started reading about drinking water and what is and isn't safe- this sorta segued into reading about the safety of the water we shower and bathe in. Turns out that lots of people say (and it seems logical) that our skin absorbs the chlorine and/or chloramine that's in our water supply when we shower or bathe. I read that the lungs absorb formaldehyde via the steam in a hot shower, as well. Lots of people also said that the chemicals we absorb via showers and baths are more damaging than when we drink that very same water. This doesn't seem nearly as logical to me, but an awful lot of people are saying it. An awful lot. 

For me, not treating our water with these chemicals conjures up images of dealing with lots of nasty 3rd world diseases, so until a better alternative is presented, I guess I'd rather deal with this on my end- via a water filter for my shower. 

I have the dubious distinction of being a renter, so a filtration system for my entire water supply really isn't a practical option. I read about what's called a vitamin c shower filter- the story is that vitamin c added to shower or bath water neutralizes chlorine and chloramine- unfortunately, the only way to remove the fluoride that I can see is one of the fancy filtration systems that just wouldn't be practical or maybe even possible as a renter.  And, you ask, what about baths? Just shuffle down to your local Trader Joe's (or local health food store) and buy a bottle of vitamin C crystals ($11 at Trader Joe's) and add a tiny amount to your bath and voila- your bath water is treated. As for the vitamin c filter for your shower- it's about $22 for a filter on, and this should theoretically last about a year. I assume that's for one person showering once a day- but don't quote me on that.

So I decided considering my skin issues, this was worth a try. It arrived and I installed it- I felt a difference the very first time I showered. I didn't realize that as a rule, for about 2 hours after a shower I'm usually subject to some pretty unpleasant itchy skin and general discomfort. This has almost completely stopped.  My skin isn't perfectly comfortable, but it's been less than a week, and it is does seem somewhat cumulative, so maybe there's more improvement to come. 

Not bad for a $22 investment. :-)

Happy Dressing! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

We're In The Lettuce!

Mirriam Webster's definition of 'well- heeled' : having plenty of money.

There are a few things that are always necessities when it comes to personal image- I would argue maybe more so when you're a bit broke. Whatever your current financial situation- whether or not you're in the position to buy new goodies, you need to have reliable, good shoe repair, a good hair stylist, and even if you have some sewing skills, a good tailor as well.

Why is this important? When times get tough it can become trickier to look your best- so if you've done right by your wardrobe and invested in regular upkeep thus far you'll be in the best position possible; when you can't afford to replace the basics or update with some more on-trend pieces all you'll have to do is continue with the minimum maintenence. Yes, you'll be spending some money- but it should only be a fraction of what you'd invest in entirely new pieces. 

If, for example, you really need new shoes, but it's not going to happen right now, the next best thing is to have a great shoe repair person.  This is crucial no matter what.  Ratty looking shoes ruin an otherwise good outfit faster than anything else. You can't fake the shoes. That's where the term 'well-heeled' comes from- someone who's shoes are always in good repair.  My shoe place- - takes The. Best. Care. of my shoes, boots and purses and makes them look like new each and every time I bring them in. 

Say you have a great item of clothing that's in good condition, but is somewhat out dated to the point that you don't really want to wear it; figure out if perhaps there's something that can be done to bring it more up to date or towards something you'll love and wear- if so then trot it down to your tailor and see if they can make it a reality, and how much it would cost. It's free to ask, right? (If not, find another tailor.) I'm currently looking for a new tailor- my last one got robbed and they took my skirt (??!)….can't say I was terribly attached to that skirt, but still, it put me off….

As I'm always pointing out, you'll be better off investing in fewer, less expensive pieces that you have tailored to fit you properly than spending all your money on fancy, trendy stuff that doesn't fit well. 

And the last thing- a good hair stylist- I don't think I need to say much here. A great stylist will find the cut that flatters you the most and will work with your preferences- and I don't know about you, but nothing- NOTHING makes me feel like I look my best more than a great haircut.  If you can find a great stylist at Supercuts, good for you- stick with them. My experience has been that they let you call ahead and schedule with a particular stylist. Another option to consider is going for a very simple cut that should be easier to get done well at more places. 

If you care about how you look then these things are always essentials. If you're broke or close to, they can get adjusted down to just bare-bones maintenance. When you're in the money they should still come first before buying new anything- that way should your bank account take a down-turn you'll just have to spend the minimum for upkeep, and still look like your most fabulous self.

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fresh Blood

"If a man is not faithful to his own individuality, he cannot be loyal to anything." ~Claude McKay

I was channel surfing recently and stopped on HSN to watch Hal Rubenstein selling his new line of clothes and shoes- he asked a question that I think is key to accessing your personal aesthetics- 'what sets you apart?' This is an excellent place to start if you have no clue about clothes or fashion and have never given this sort of thing much thought, but would like to start. It's also a good starting place if, like me, you're just looking for a few new ideas for your wardrobe. 

Most of us have something we love- maybe for you it's the love of a certain color, a particular 'era' of fashion, a particular print, a particular item- maybe you wear a suit every day- maybe you're a fool for boots and own 50 pairs. Maybe it's a 'signature' thing- a certain color of lipstick you wear daily, or a particular piece of jewelry or type of jewelry you love. It could be a more abstract concept- only you can define what makes your heart sing. 

It doesn't have to be a huge thing that sets you apart. It may be very subtle, and in fact only something that people who get to know you will notice. Or it may be huge and hard to miss. What it does need to be is something that you like in particular that you want to accentuate. It does need to be something that you can, in some way, expand upon visually to create- or add too- a cohesive 'theme' to your overall look. 

Remember that you'll do it differently than anyone else will, so don't worry about choosing something unoriginal. And even if you do it to the best of your ability EXACTLY like someone else does, it's still going to be different on you-for lots of reasons. Still, I think it's important to explore what it is about it that you like and what you can do to personalize it as much as possible. 

Another thing to keep in mind is to give this some time- be willing to spend a little time researching if applicable (usually it is, and it's fun, too) and let said research take you off on unexpected tangents. Have a way to collect imagery that works for you- Pinterest, a notebook, a bulletin board…and pay a little attention to it each week; as you add to it, note if there are things in particular that stand out, if you see any 'themes' developing- try to define them and make sense of it. 

Keep in mind the goal is to define 'what sets you apart?' Or maybe it should be 'what would you like to set you apart, and can you make that happen, one way or another?' 

Happy Dressing!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Adventures In Fashion

"Adventure is just bad planning." ~ Roald Amundsen

I'm always talking about what a great idea it is to treat fashion like a smorgasbord to choose from- find stuff that fits in with your style, your personal aesthetic, and buy the less 'trendy' pieces when they're in fashion, and wear them your way, indefinitely.  Since I can't seem to shut up about all this glorious pattern mixing thing that's caught fire in the fashion world, I think it's time to follow my own advice, right? Of course I have no money to speak of right now, so this makes it a tad more difficult. So a plan is forming in my fertile, fevered little mind. 

I found a spot in my apartment where I can have a full on 'inspiration' board. This is quite an accomplishment for me; being a painter, I have more than a few paintings, and this apartment is the kind of funky little place that has an abundance of windows, so every available bit of wall space has a painting on it. I even have a painting hanging on a bookcase. But I nonetheless found a little space on the front of the linen closet in the hallway where I can put some cork board and start amassing pictures. I like Pinterest, but I want a more permanent collection for this. When the pattern mixing trend started it's full swing I saw a plethora of photos out there, and as I'm considering making this a more prominent part of my individual style and wardrobe, I think it warrants a more serious, permanent visual record of exactly what I like.  So I'll print out the best quality pics of the stuff that I love, tear pics out of magazines, etc, and over time edit out the less desirable stuff. This way I can take my time to decide exactly how I want to go about this. 

Another other part of this little plan of mine is to shop for stuff that I love when it's on sale- which, so far, I've not seen happening yet. Granted, I don't do a lot of shopping, but I don't think the 'fall' stuff has gone on sale yet. I need to familiarize myself with what's out there so that I can decide what I want to go for when it does go on sale. This will also give me the time to figure out how to come up with the money for any potential purchases. (Good thing I'm a creative person. )

And I'm not going to forget my beloved thrift/consignment shops, either. If I've found something I adore, must have, but it's too expensive, I can go looking for alternatives at said shops- and be open to finding other solutions, too. And I can be open to finding great prints to 're-purpose' via my sewing machine as well. If I love it enough, and can't afford it, I can even make my own version. Yes, I like this whole pattern mixing thing THAT much.

So there you have it. This is what I mean when I talk about the buffet that is the world of fashion, and how to 'work it' for your own purposes.  

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, September 20, 2013

All Booked Up

Anyone who's read my blog more than once has quite possibly read how great an idea I think it is to plan in advance what you'll be wearing on a given day. My reasoning is that at the very least, one isn't at one's most alert in the morning and thus perhaps not quite as creative or expressive as later in the day. At the more extreme end, if you have little ones asking 3 million questions per minute and pulling on your pajamas, throwing oatmeal across the kitchen, etc, you probably don't have the time or focus to plan the chic and stunning ensemble you would were things calmer. 

I've blogged at least once about different approaches to wardrobe planning - a day in advance, a week in advance; using a notebook to jot down plans, using photos on cards to put in a file box, etc. This past summer I went through my closet and purged my old, worn out clothes, and stuff that I was sick of or didn't really reflect my style. The plan was to also come up with my own system for wardrobe planning, preferably a week in advance. It didn't happen over the summer- I guess the project just hadn't finished in my subconscious. Anyway- earlier this week my subconscious was apparently finished with it's creative process, and a 'system' popped into the forefront of my awareness, hence this blog. 

I started with a plain notebook. Ok, not so plain- it's gold. So shoot me, I like bling. It's 9" x 7¼- small notebook as I don't need a full size notebook for this. I got out all my paper crafting goodies to do this..

Next I made pages- two for each day. 

On the left page is a page with 2 clear pockets; in the pockets go my little photos (to be taken and assembled this weekend) of each part of my outfit for that day- say, dress, boots, sweater, jewelry, scarf, etc. I'll keep a small box with index dividers for each category to hold these photos.

The right page is blank, and covered with contact paper (I've developed an irrational love of clear contact paper.)  I can write the date and any notes on the contact paper with a wet erase pen; then for the next week I erase and start all over. How very 'green' of me, eh? I left lots of room on the right side so I can also make notes on any makeup, hairstyles or anything else that should pop into my (arguably eccentric) head as being important for that day. 

I wanted to have it totally done by the time I posted this blog today, but life being what it is with birthday parties, karate belt tests and school bake sales, I just didn't have the time this week. I'm still playing with ideas- ribbon around the page with the pockets, pretty inside paper liner, maybe a ribbon to close the book....who knows.

I do enjoy going over the top with my creative projects...:-)

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

All Mixed Up

"I'm not confused. I'm just well mixed." ~Robert Frost

This fall pattern mixing is back 'in.' I love mixing patterns. It's always visually interesting and a real opportunity for completely individual self expression.  

There's a little bit of an art to pattern mixing- Pairing two patterns that have similar intensity in color usually works. Or you can sometimes successfully pair two patterns that have one distinctive characteristic, such as the same exact color, or same type of pattern. Similar scale sometimes plays a role, sometimes not. The theme here is that the patterns need to visually relate to one another- somehow. Because there are so many ways to mix you can always find new ways to make things relate. Below are a few examples I found.  

I love Japanese 'street fashion,' and one thing they tend towards is pattern mixing. 

I hope you enjoy this as much as I do- 

Happy Dressing!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Red Lipstick Forever!

"I came out of the womb waving red lipstick." ~Rose McGowan

As always, things go in and out of fashion, then eventually come back around again. So it is with red lips, theoretically. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems to me like every season I see proclamations  in various magazines that 'red lips are back!' (for some of us they were never really out.) The truth is that they're a classic look, and thus are never really 'out' of fashion. So lets talk red lips.

I'd like to point out that everyone can wear red lipstick- you just have to find the right one. And there may only be one for you- or there may be a whole plethora of reds that you can wear. That's not to say that it'll necessarily be your best color, but if you love red lipstick (with some of us it's a 'thing') rest assured there is at least one out there for you. You just have to work with your coloring; pick a red that corresponds to your coloring- if your coloring calls for warm makeup, you need a warm red, and if your coloring calls for cool makeup, then you need a cool, blue based red. You'll know right away- the wrong one will make you look sick or just go 'flat' on you. You also have to take your contrast into consideration- if you have very dark hair and pale skin, or vice versa, (high contrast) you'll want a more intense red. If you have dark hair and dark skin, or light hair and light skin, (low contrast) you'll most likely need a slightly more subdued red. If you have low contrast yet 'brighter' coloring- say you dye your hair a fairly 'bright' blond, for example, and have light yet bright blue eyes, and a tan, you might need a 'brighter' red, too- but you'll probably need it to be a fairly light red, and possibly a softer application. Dark red probably won't work here. Red lipstick can be tricky, though- sometimes the unexpected looks great. If you've always felt you look awful in it, you may have just never found the right one. If you love red, then this is definitely worth the time and investment to explore. Now on to the technical aspects of wearing it…

Red lips always look fabulous…for the first ten minutes, until they wear off.

There are a couple of ways to avoid this. You can use a lip primer first, and apply the red lipstick right over the primer. If you apply lipstick with your finger you can get a very soft, almost diffused look. If you use a lip brush you have more control; not only can you apply the color very softly as well, but you'll also have much more control than with pretty much any other method of application. If you've got a steady, precise hand, you can apply it directly out of the tube. Personally I find I'm too clumsy to apply it properly straight out of the tube. I always use a brush.

If you want the color to be as true as possible, then consider using a little foundation on your lips first. This gives you more of a blank canvas on which the color is less influenced by the natural color of your lips. Also you have the option of creating a slightly different shape for your lips if you cover them with foundation first. 

Let's say you want a more intense, pronounced red lip. This is easy. Start with a lip pencil and line your lips. Then fill in the entire lip with the same pencil. Now apply your lipstick over that using one of the above methods. Using a pencil underneath provides a colored base that extends the wear of your lipstick considerably, as well as making the color much more intense. 

Another aspect of lining and filling with a lip liner is that it gives you more options; you can use a slightly deeper color to add depth to your lipstick, or go lighter to make it 'brighter.' You can change the color a little as well. If you have a red that you love that's maybe a little too orange or too blue for your coloring, you can correct this somewhat with a lip pencil underneath. (Using a lip pencil to manipulate lipstick color is also applicable to all lipstick colors, as well.)

I love red lipstick. I have more reds than any other color…and am always looking for more…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, August 23, 2013

No More Granny Flats

"No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly." ~ Oscar Wilde

A friend of mine asked me if I had any tips about wearing flats- she says she never, ever, ever wears heels. So I thought that'd be an excellent subject for my blog this week, especially as flats are so in fashion right now. So I did a little research, and these are a few guidelines that sort of 'resonated' with me.

In general, avoid style-less, 'sensible' flats- if you want to look good, that is. If you WANT to look dumpy, by all means- pseudo loafers with crepe soles are a great idea. Go, grandma! I'm all for expressing your own personal style, but I just cannot get behind the 'dumpy granny' look. Sorry. There are just too many really good looking, stylish flats out there to excuse the 'dumpy' look.

When it comes to pants, flats on the plain side (but not dumpy!) are the only kind I'd do with leggings- if you must. If you're wearing flats and leggings it looks best if your top is tunic length, too. It's best to keep the hemline above the top of the shoe if you're wearing skinny pants with your flats. If it falls below it just looks messy. Capri length pants always look good with flats. Another thing to keep in mind is to exercise great caution regarding wearing tight pants with flats- this is a potential land mine. First, when you're wearing flats your legs look shorter- add to that the fact that tight pants can make you look 'wider'- and voila! You've just added 10 extra (visual) pounds!  If you're wearing flared jeans or pants, go with a pointed toe rather than rounded. It just looks better. And no pleated pants with flats. When it comes to pleats, you need at least a 1" heel here. At least.

On to skirts. An ironclad rule here: any time you wear a knee length or longer skirt with flats, your gonna look all grandma. It's just the way it is. If you need to wear knee length or longer and can't do heels, look at kitten heels- you can find some really low heels that still look feminine, chic and stylish. If you feel like you're showing too much skin with a shorter skirt, then consider wearing tights in the same color as your skirt. Sandals are a different matter- they go with pretty much any length skirt. So, if you don't want to show too much skin, wear knee length or longer during the summer with sandals, and shorter skirts with tights and closed toe flats when it's cooler.  Also another option is almost flat boots with a knee length or longer skirt- 1" or more. Riding boots, maybe?

If you're open to a more 'alternative' statement, another option to consider is flats with a platform- you can often find platforms without much or even any additional heel and they can look great with skirts and pants. Also platform boots- looks good with skirts, skinny pants and leggings- again probably best with a tunic length top. These give you the illusion of additional height without the heel. 

Everything you put on is an opportunity for self expression- have fun!!

Happy Dressing!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Less Is More

"Our lives are a sum total of the choices we have made." ~Wayne Dyer

The other day my friend apologized for dragging her feet about setting up our first consultation, saying she hated even looking at her closet, and just dreaded dealing with this on any level. Probably everyone's felt this way about their wardrobe at some point.

The whole purpose of my business is to make it so you get a little trill of pleasure every you open up your closet, or even think about getting dressed. It isn't about adding more complexity to your wardrobe or further complicating the process of getting dressed- it's actually about paring down the excess you already have, and simplifying your entire approach to your wardrobe choices. My goal is to help clients develop a clear set of criteria by which to make their choices so getting dressed becomes a pleasurable, streamlined, almost effortless process.

There are 3 parts to my approach; first comes pinpointing not just colors that look good on you, but the top 3-5 colors (plus neutrals) that are the very, very best for you, and will consistently flatter your coloring. Next we narrow down to just a handful the very best clothing design lines based on your proportions. Last we translate your personal aesthetic into tangible terms- stylistic choices in how you put together what looks best on you, and the accessories you choose, all reflect who you are and what makes you happy. 

So every time you get dressed you have the confidence of knowing you look your very best because you're wearing your very best colors and design lines, and the way you've put them together and the accessories you've added are all about your aesthetic. And everything is simplified- better and fewer choices. You ONLY have in your wardrobe what works for you, on every level. 

Even if you aren't up for hiring me or another image consultant, if your wardrobe is out of control and you approach it this way you're bound to make improvements. Because whatever your style, whatever your circumstances, whatever is going on in your life, everyone should have that little trill of pleasure every time they open their wardrobe.  I know that in the grand scheme some consider this  unimportant, but in a life that so often forces unhappy compromises, having one whimsical, nonsensical, irrational source of pleasure is completely worth taking advantage of. 

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Trendy Brenda

"We're so trendy we can't even escape ourselves." ~Kurt Cobain

I was in an odd mood this week, and did something uncharacteristic for this blog; I looked at 'fall 13 fashion trends' on  Maybe this being uncharacteristic of me is wrong seeing as how I'm an image consultant. I probably should be completely aware of each and every trend as they appear on the horizon, but it seems I have a very short attention span. (A little bit OCD, perhaps.) I'm very much interested- no, obsessed- with what I like, and have absolutely no interest and hence no awareness of anything else. What can I say? I am what I am. 

I guess that goes a long way to explaining my approach to personal image- I believe in seeing what each trend has to offer to you, not buying into it regardless of whether or not it suits your personality, aesthetic or body's proportions. I believe in treating each trend as a smorgasbord from which to pick and choose. I'm also not big on the concept of treating fashion as something quite so 'disposable'- I think you should only buy what you love, and wear it till it's worn out or you're sick of it; and if you really love it but are tired of it, just put it away for a while. Then you have the joy of rediscovering it later….

So, the trends I liked were punk (revisited,) a 'neo' noir, an eclectic fur extravaganza, and some lovely menswear inspired duds. 

Say you're a bit ambivalent about a trend and don't want to commit- one option is to use what you already have if possible and add small and/or temporary touches to work the trend; like makeup and costume jewelry, for example. That way you can decide if you like in enough to add it to your wardrobe repertoire on a more permanent basis.

For example; the 'neo' noir look- if you have a pencil skirt you can add high heels, if you have a vintage style top that works, use that- if not, just a basic top. Add some classic jewelry, 40's glamour makeup and a pretty, noir-esqe hair do and you'll be right on trend. 

A punk 'interpretation' relies heavily on makeup. A pale face, usually heavy eye makeup, lipstick and a heavy dose of rebellion with the hair. (W/o the rebellion you're veering into Goth, IMO.) Doc Martins were standard with punk, but lots of different boot styles could work here. Pairing a classic, conservative piece of clothing with something so 'anti-establishment' that it's downright rude is a classic punk statement.

Not sure how to approach the (hopefully faux) fur thing- if you happen to have some, then get it out and wear it with gusto. You could always buy a fur scarf or hat if you don't want to make a huge purchase. It's a little harder to do this one without the investment.

Maybe you're like me and love the whole menswear idea- I love plaids and pinstripes and suchlike. Here's a trend that that relies on some real classics- you can have a few pieces in your wardrobe in basic, classic styles, and they'll never go out of 'fashion.' You can put them away for periods of time to bring out and reinvent anew each time the trend comes around again. You sort of can't go wrong with investing a little bit here- and also keep in mind you may find good quality, classic pieces at thrift shops and consignment stores.  

Also, If you pay attention to the trends and fads that are out there you have the chance to buy the things you love when there's the most variety available.

Happy Dressing!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dark Shadows

"Glitter is my makeup of choice." ~Kesha

Black eyeshadow is quite the potent little tool in one's makeup kit, yet is so often overlooked. Used in a sheer wash it can be very subtle, or used in a more opaque way it can create much more drama.  Alone it creates big drama, while under other colors makes for less intense, sophisticated drama.

Depending on your eye shape it can create added dimension for your eyes when used in the crease and outer corner. Worn with soft neutrals you'll most likely use a more sheer wash of black, and blend carefully. When using black along with stronger, more intense colors you can go heavier with the black. 

It can also be used layered under other colors- one example is the classic 'smokey' eye. When layering you'll probably have better results if you either use an eyeshadow base, or apply your black powder shadow using water to create a more intense base. A black pencil (or any other color pencil, for that matter) is also very good to use as a base if you don't have a black shadow. Then layer your other color(s) over the black. Again, whenever using black you do have to blend any edges very, very well, or it looks really messy. Either that, or get good at creating a perfect sharp line. 

When you use black in the above methods with other colors you greatly expand your eyeshadow options; in a sense you at least double your entire collection of shadows. Of course many colors can be mixed for unexpected and often beautiful results- but this post is all about black shadow. When you layer a black shadow under another color you are using the black as an 'underpainting.'  This is definitely worth trying when you have a  color that's maybe a bit too bright for your coloring, or that maybe overpowers your eye color, making it go dull; a black shadow underneath, sheer or more intense, may alter the bright color just enough to make it work for you. And, if you do have low contrast, soft coloring and find that black is just too intense for you, you can use brown, taupe or gray in exactly the same ways outlined above.

All black shadows are not created equal, either. There are dense, rich ones, sheer, dusty ones, ones with big silver glitter, little gold glitter, iridescent glitter. Some are black with a purple cast, or green cast, or bronze cast. Some are not quite brown, not quite black- rather somewhere in between. All have their uses. And you can find them at every price level- many of the really inexpensive drug store brands may work perfectly for your needs. If you like working with black shadow you might want to start a collection of different ones- maybe sheerer and/or a brown/black for day, and some with more intensity and glitter for evening.

As mentioned above black shadow must be applied carefully and blended well or it can look messy. Also be aware that there's often a lot of 'fall-out' with black shadow. There are different ways to deal with fall-out- you can do your eye makeup first, before foundation and concealer and simply wipe off the fallout with moisturizer and then apply foundation and concealer and the rest, or if you've already done the rest of your makeup you can put lots of loose, translucent powder beneath your eyes and simply brush off the fallout along with the excess powder when done. Or, when you're done use the brush you applied your foundation with to wipe over and clean up the fallout. Some people like to hold a keenex under the eye while applying shadow….there are probably endless ways of dealing with fallout. 

For ideas on how to work with black shadow, look on Pinterest and youtube. Endless inspiration there!

Happy Dressing!

Friday, July 19, 2013

"The Slobbification of America"

"But if Fashion Were Easy, Wouldn't Everybody Look Great?" ~ Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn coined his famous, pithy phrase 'the slobbification of America' as an articulation of a phenomenon that's been happening over the past 50 years or so. In terms of our personal appearance, we've been 'devolving' into slobb-dom. The reasons, I'm guessing, are the introduction of synthetic fabrics, and advances in technology making clothing manufacture easier and thus cheaper, to name two of the more popular excuses. 

But 'casual' isn't synonymous with sloppy. 

-sloppy: slovenly, careless <a sloppy dresser> <did sloppy work>

-casual: informal, natural <a casual conversation> <casual clothing>

Casual means informal, sloppy means slovenly. So casual doesn't mean throwing on whatever is clean(est) then heading out the door. It does mean clothing that's generally more relaxed and/or comfortable, often with less embellishments or pronounced style. 'Casual' can be considered a 'style' in and of itself- and I'm always a champion for people expressing their own style with their clothing. 

It's not really a fine line, either, so don't go there- casual done well is a million miles away from slovenly. The difference is time, effort and care. If you want to live in jeans and have the lifestyle that allows it, then go for it. But make sure you find jeans that fit and are flattering. And put tops with those jeans that are equally flattering. Yes, it takes more time to find the more flattering options, but it takes the same amount of time in the morning to put the good 'casual' clothes on as it does to put the 'slovenly' stuff on.  It all boils down to how you choose to present yourself to the world. And if you present an image of self respect, you're more likely to be treated with respect. More importantly, it feels good to know you look your best.

So here's a few suggestions to get you started on a successful casual wardrobe- either as your entire wardrobe or as part of your overall wardrobe. 

1. Know your best colors (see Feb 3, 2012, "Color, Glorious Color" for more on choosing your colors

2. Know your proportions (see March 23, 2012   "Derrère Delusions,"
and April 27, 2012 "Smoke and Mirrors" for help in this area)

3. Last, know your style. (See February 24, 2012  "Style Freak" and June 21, 2013 "A Pretty Little Addiction" for ideas.)

These three variables- color, proportion and style- can make or break your 'casual' image. Pay no attention to them and believe me- it shows.

By far the easiest way to maintain a good casual wardrobe is to keep it simple. Choose only a couple of styles for both tops and bottoms (hopefully all pretty much interchangeable) and only in 3 or 4 of your best colors, and stick with that. Beyond that, keep everything in good shape- proper laundering and folding or hanging before those pesky, image-busting wrinkles set in, and replace what needs it, as it needs it. And keep it small- buy less, wear more often, and again, replace as needed. This way you'll not only look better, but also avoid wasting wardrobe space, having a messy closet that's like a black hole, and you can stay in line with current fashion, if that's important to you. If not, then you just give yourself a way to avoid getting bored with your clothes.

The hardest part of this plan? Letting go of that ancient, favorite, sloppy t-shirt….well, maybe keep just that one thing for when you're by yourself at home, not going anywhere at all…

Happy Dressing!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cheap Chic

“Fashion does not have to prove that it is serious. It is the proof that intelligent frivolity can be something creative and positive” ~ Karl Lagerfeld

A few weeks ago I blogged that part of my plan for this summer was to go through my closet and get rid of the old, and worn out, and everything I was just plain tired of. For the past few days I've been stuck in bed with a nasty little cold/flu combo, so that's just what I did. It was an interesting experience. Maybe because I'd been planning on this for a while I had, in my subconscious mind, been going through everything in the closet and deciding what was to go and what was to stay. It must have been something like that because the moment I started it just flowed- I knew exactly and without hesitation which things were going in the 'out' pile. And may I say, it felt wonderful. 

For the past year or so I've been getting tired of my wardrobe. I knew I wanted a new 'look,' but I wasn't sure what I wanted that to be. The other problem is that now I've got myself on this lovely budget there's just no $$ for an entirely new wardrobe for me. Not even half a new wardrobe. *Sigh* But as I went along I realized that I'd apparently developed a plan for what amounted to a pseudo-new wardrobe, anyway. I say 'apparently' because all this seems to have been going on subconsciously as well.  (I find my subconscious rather frightening sometimes.)

The new plan is based on something I've talked about in this blog in the past- I like to call it the 'European' approach. From what I've seen in Europe, they have tiny closets- compared to ours, anyway. This would logically mean they have fewer clothes as a result. So this 'European' approach of mine is to have a smaller, harder-working wardrobe, and have almost all your wardrobe personality in your accessories. 

For me, this meant paring down. Like most Americans, my wardrobe was entirely too large to begin with, anyway. It was all fairly organized, but still, too much. Truth is I had fallen into the all too common trap of only wearing a small percentage of what I have- not necessarily because I didn't like the things I wasn't wearing, but because I'd simply gotten into a rut, and wasn't using my imagination with how I was dressing. So as a result there's been lots of perfectly well fitting, good clothing, in my best colors, taking up prime real estate in my closet not earning it's keep. And therein lies the secret to my 'new' wardrobe.  

As I have a lot of black clothes (and who doesn't?) I settled on that as my base color. Now the majority of my clothes are black. I have a few dresses, skirts, pants in prints and/or color, (I jettisoned all but my absolute favorites) and as for suits- one print; one neutral, the rest black. These pieces I think of as 'base' pieces- the backdrop for the real personality in my wardrobe- the accessories. I have a few casual jackets that I think of as 'accessory' pieces because they're pretty strong statement pieces by themselves. So my accessories are my casual jackets, shoes, boots, scarves/ruanas, purses and jewelry. I'm also going to think of my makeup as an accessory, too. Why not? I'm a makeup artist after all, and I'm always trying new things- might as well use it as an accessory, right? In any event, I won't look like a Greek widow because of all the color with my accessories. This 'new' wardrobe is much sleeker and maybe more sophisticated than before. Which is just fine by me. 

I reorganized it all too- now I can put together an outfit much more easily because now it all fits in my closet (I knew someday my son would actually want his closet back.) I think it's easier to get out of the using-only-10%-of-your-wardrobe rut if you re-organize; you're forced to 'see' more of what you've got if it's all rearranged. So now when I lay out my outfit the night before, I'll pick my accessories first- jewelry, scarf and/or jacket, shoes and makeup- then decide what 'base' of clothes to put it all together with. Before I'd usually pick the dress or ensemble first- then the jewelry and any other accessories based on the clothes. I think that's what most of us do. But since now my focus will be on the accessories, and the 'base' clothes are there to accommodate them, it's like a new wardrobe…sort of. So far I'm finding I have endless options, and most of them are outfits I've never put together before. And it seems I have quite the range- I can go all minimalist, or totally over-the-top. And all because I had too many clothes, and not enough money for a whole new wardrobe. 

How' THAT for some cheap creativity? I'm calling it 'recession chic.'

Happy Dressing!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Insider Scoop

"I love glamour and artificial beauty. I love the idea of artifice and dressing up and makeup and hair."~ Dita Von Teese

You're putting on your makeup one day and you notice you've used up the very last droplet of your foundation. You trot to the store after work that day to get more only to discover they don't have it. To your horror you discover that it's been discontinued. Nooooooooooo!! It took you 3 years to find a foundation that didn't change color on you or make you break out, and now they discontinue it. How dare they!!

So now what? Do you have to go through another 3 years to find the perfect match? Maybe not. 

I do love the internet. I'm a hermit, so social media is often my entire social life. Not only that, but I can get information without having to actually talk to anyone. Score!!  Ok, that was me showing my antisocial tendencies. Moving on.

When faced with the above situation you can turn to the internet to benefit by the experiences of others. And these others are often total, complete makeup fanatics- they're the friend you turn to when you have a question about make up. They know all about it- they've tried it all and thus know what they're talking about. They're the ones who've been wearing makeup since they put on their first training bra, and wear it every single day, even if they're only going to the mailbox. In short, you can read make up reviews. 

My favorite makeup review site (so far) is Makeup Alley  You sign up, (so far they've never sent me any junk mail- I've been signed up for a year) and then browse reviews to your hearts content.  I like that you can change the way the reviews are presented- you can choose by rating, by how many reviews the products have received (often they're in the thousands) or by how many reviewers would by the product again. You can also go to the left margin and choose 'top picks,' 'most reviewed,' 'most popular,' I also have the option for 'MUA top pics,' but I think that's only available after you're signed up- not if you're a MUA or not. You can also choose to read reviews on a specific brand. They've got it all covered, from every angle. 

The great thing about this site is you'll see high end, 'makeup artistry' brands next to drugstore brands next to high end department store brands. Surprisingly the really, really cheap stuff often wins out over the expensive stuff. You'll quickly learn which products are worth spending the money on and which are just as good in the $5 version. And people are generous with the reviews- the best often include pictures of themselves wearing the product and descriptions of their own skin color, skin type, hair color and such. They'll talk about what they've used in the past and how the product being reviewed compares. Luckily for us, these make up fanatics are SERIOUS about this stuff. Which is great seeing as how this can translate to some big $$ savings.

There's also, though I don't think they have as many reviews. And I'm sure there are lots of others- but I have yet to find one I like better than 

So if your favorite makeup has been discontinued, or you just want something new, or to learn about a certain kind of makeup you don't know much about, go all girly and read some make up reviews.

Happy Dressing! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Nailed It

"I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe in pink." ~Audrey Hepburn

I've never been able to wear nail polish on my fingernails. Never. This has always made me unhappy. I can wear it on my toenails, no problem. But whenever I try it on my fingernails first the polish chips, then starts to peel, then the nails themselves chip and peel. When I go to take it off, my nails are also horribly dried out and I know from past experience that it'll take weeks for all this damage to grow out. So several years ago I simply gave up conventional polish. Completely.

Of course, on some shopping channel, or beauty store, there's always some new, fantabulous formula, GUARANATEED to make any nails grow and look beautiful- and I fall for it. I buy the new magical elixir and of course it never, never works. But I keep it. Takes me a good year to throw it out. Don't ask me why- I guess I just don't want to admit to myself that it's not working, and that leaving it in with my cosmetics isn't going to somehow, magically make it work. I never gave up hope.

Finally, FINALLY I've found a nail polish that I can wear on my nails. It's a 'natural' polish called Mineral Fusion (link below.) I've been wearing it now for a couple of months, so I'm quite sure about this. I put it on, it actually stays on my nails without chipping as much as conventional polish. That's right, it has more staying power than conventional polish- at least it does for me.  I cook every day, and seeing as how I don't have a maid I have pots and pans and dishes to wash. I'm not good at remembering to use my rubber gloves either, so my nails are exposed to harsh dish soap and water every single day. Yet they don't chip or peel, and when I take the Mineral Fusion polish off, my nails aren't chipped, or peeling, or dry. They're just fine. 

I did a little research and read that the chemicals in nail polish considered most likely to cause the kind of damage I experienced are formaldehyde (!) toluene and dibutyl phthalate. Mineral Fusion polish has none of those, and also doesn't have camphor. Maybe it's the toxic cocktail these ingredients make together, or maybe it's only one of these ingredients that cause all the problems for me- I don't know. I do know I feel better knowing I'm not putting that stuff on me anymore. And I can now wear nail polish. Sweet.

So now I own 8 colors- and growing. They have it all. Reds, oranges, pinks, purples, greens, blues- even yellow. Sheer, cream, glitter, metallic, opalescent, foil- I mean, they've got it ALL. (BTW- my experience with the 'foil finish' Rockin' Ruby is that it's matte. Maybe that's what 'foil finish' means-?) I'm a happy camper. I also like their acetone-free polish remover.  They're available at my local Whole Foods market- if they don't have a color I want, I can order it, no shipping charge. Or you can order from their site-

Mineral Fusion; Minerals on a mission

They have an entire line of natural cosmetics, skin and hair care too….uh-oh…..

Happy Shopping, and Happy Dressing!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Pretty Little Addiction

“An over-indulgence of anything, even something as pure as water, can intoxicate”~ Criss Jami 

In the last few months I've become a bit of an addict. First it was Pinterest. For a while it was nonstop pinning for me- it's sorta like shopping for free. The upside was I didn't have to pay for or find a place to store anything I 'bought'; the downside was that of course I didn't actually have the items. But then it could be argued that I don't always inhabit reality as much as others do, so maybe that's not so important.

Since Pinterest I've focused my addictive attentions on Youtube- specifically makeup tutorials, mostly by pro MUA (make up artists.) If you're not that comfortable with makeup this is a fabulous way to learn. Tutorials are the next best thing to having a MUA do your makeup for you- you get to see exactly what they're doing, how they're doing it, and listen to them explain every aspect of it. And you can watch it over as many times as you want. 

Wayne Goss is one I keep coming back to, partly just for the sheer volume of videos he produces, mostly for his clear, simple explanation of technique.  I've searched for books by Mr. Goss, but I couldn't find any. Another that I love is Robert Jones, also for producing prolifically.  He has several books out.  Another great one is Pixiwoo- a lot of great, basic makeup techniques too. I adore Rae Morris, but she's not posted a whole lot of videos :-(  One channel that's great for new trends and news in fashion as well as makeup is the 'daily mix.'  There.That's enough to get you started. (I like to have company with my addictions.)

One thing I've noticed is that MUA constantly contradict one another- this technique is THE ONLY way to do this- everything else is crap. Often you'll see in their demonstration what they're talking about, and why. Yet another MUA will do it the 'crap' way, which of course according them is THE ONLY way to do it. The take away for me is that you pick and choose between all the techniques and find what works for you and fits in with whatever else you do. I think it's invaluable to see so clearly that there's no 'right' way of doing it. It's an art, and as such is totally subjective, and in the end it's only makeup, and you can wash it off it it doesn't work. In the process you learn tons, too. 

And with that, I'm off to look at reviews of makeup brushes on youtube….

Happy Dressing!