Saturday, March 25, 2006

When You Can, Buy the Best!

Bargains are super! I’ll be writing about bargains constantly, but remember that a bargain is not necessarily something that is low cost on the surface. You’ll read about it again and again in fashion magazines and books, but you need to think about cost per wear of what you buy. A blouse that you pay $20.00 for that you wear once is expensive, while a blouse that you pay $200.00 for that you wear 20 times costs 10.00 per wear; wear it 40 times and it is $5.00 per wear, and if it is a blouse that you wear regularly over several years time, it can end up costing pennies each time that you wear it. Now, if you don’t have the $200.00 to begin with, this is moot. But if you wear the $200.00 piece (blouse, pants, whatever) to work often, it suits you, you feel good wearing it, it fits well, you’re better off buying that one instead of 5 cheaper ones. What you can afford depends on how you decide to look at your wardrobe.
You see a $400.00 blazer, and you fall in love with it. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Does this fit well? (This means at your normal weight, not that it’s a little tight and you’ll lose some. It also means that it will still fit if you gain 5 pounds.) Is it a good colour? Does this colour compliment your complexion? Is the colour slimming (if you need that)? Is the colour too trendy – will it look dated in 2 years? Does the colour complement other pieces already in your closet? Does it have details that will date it? Again, this has to do with trends. Does it have a trim that is terribly in style this year, but won’t be the next? How is it cut? Some styles, while they may reappear, can look very dated. Think of the extremely boxy large cut blazers of the ‘eighties. Is this cut in a classic style? How versatile is this piece? Can I wear it to work, to the theatre, on a date, over jeans? Ideally, it should go more than one place (and by the way, if it is something that you can wear while traveling that is really an extra plus). How well made is this blazer? Check the seams to make sure that they are ample and well-sewn; that the lining doesn’t wrinkle and bunch, that it doesn’t hang down too low in the back.
When thinking about accessories that can be expensive, the same rules basically apply. For handbags,
Versatile? Handbags should be able to go to work and out to casual affairs. Colour? How often can you carry this bag? Does it go with many of the clothes that you already own?
Do you look good carrying this bag? People forget that you wear bags also. Does this bag “fit” you or does it hang awkwardly when you try to walk and carry it? Does it add unnecessary bulk to your overall profile? How many seasons can you carry this bag? Remember that if it is white, for instance, you can carry it from Memorial Day to Labor Day – about 3 months a year. This is fine if you’ll be carrying it for several years. What is the design of the bag? Is it too trendy? Will it look dated in 3 years? Will you grow tired of it or is the design a classic shape? How well made is it? Check the straps for stray threads, the inside lining, the zippers to make sure that they slide smoothly. Is it a brand name that you can get repaired? Most brand names such as Vuitton, Dooney, Coach, Prada will guarantee their bags, and if you have a problem will repair them free or for a low charge. Some also will refurbish it when it starts to look “tired.” Does it hold everything that you need to carry with you? If it doesn’t, no matter how inexpensive, how much you love it, how beautiful it is, you won’t carry it often, and it will end up being a very expensive bag indeed.
Rethink what you mean by “expensive.” You may be spending money on that closet full of “nothing to wear” that could instead have gotten you a few designer pieces that you wear constantly and feel good in.
This Gucci bag will last a long time! Above is a drawstring Dooney that holds everything and is a real classic.
Very top is the great Coach Station Bag - it's been around for years and will be. I have one in my closet in navy that I've used since 1990 - and it still looks great!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dress Slimmer!

Everyone knows that certain clothes can make her look slimmer - but of course you have to find out just what clothes will do the trick for you. There are certain guidelines that you should pay attention to, but one thing that you must must remember is that none of these rules is correct 100% of the time. Case in point: double-breasted jackets usually aren't the most slimming that you can wear; however, when shopping with a friend's daughter (she was chubby) I had her try on blazers because they can hide a lot of body flaws. I would've bet against it, but the double-breasted style actually made her look much slimmer than the single-breasted style. It may have been the cut of these blazers, I don't know. But the major point is that although you need to know certain rules, you need to remember that sometimes they won't necessarily hold true. So, to look slim:

  • Wear jackets or blazers, not too short, not too long. A too-short blazer will actually accentuate a poochy tummy and a big rear; usually the longer the better although it you go too long, a jacket that curves under your bottom is not attractive or slimming. Usually single-breasted is the way to go (but read the caveat above) and dark colours, black, navy, very dark brown are best. In the summer, buy these colours in (unlined) linen and pair them with white or cream clothes or very bright colours if you're tempted to wear bright.
  • Wear a jacket that skims the body - not one that is a box. Ideally, it should be cut so that it curves in at the waist.
  • Do not wear your clothes too tight or too loose. Too tight, and rolls are going to show; too loose, and you'll be giving the impression that you're bigger than you really are. (Also, wearing clothes that are too tight will cheapen even a very expensive outfit).
  • Wear a bra that fits. Most women, oddly enough, wear bras that are too little. Get fitted for a bra; don't keep wearing the size that you wore in high school or college. Make sure that your breasts fit in the cups and do not bulge outside them, especially on the underarms sides.
  • Wear clothes that look longer or make your body parts look longer. If you are overweight, wear long pants or shorts, but not capris. Wear V-neck tops, tees, sweaters, or buy blouses where the top button can be unbuttoned to create a V.
  • Wear all one colour. Match a black top with black pants, red top with red - although usually the darker colours will make you look slimmer. If you have a colour that is a bright or pastel though that is your colour, and by that I mean that when you wear it, you always get very positive comments, by all means wear that colour even if it is bright or pastel. The good it does your hair, complexion, or eyes will offset the weight factor.
  • When you wear skirts or dresses, put a jacket over them if the style is right; then, wear hose and shoes the same colour if navy, black or brown is the colour of the outfit. If not, then wear matte natural coloured hose with a beige coloured shoe that is about the same colour of the hose. Do not wear shoes with ankle straps or sling backs where your heel hangs over or the straps digs into your skin creating unsightly bulges.
  • Unless you find a case that goes against the rule (and this will be rare), just say no to belts if you are quite overweight.
  • Wear the right panties for your outfit. You never want panty lines, but you especially do not want them if you are overweight. Buy seamless panties that fit correctly instead of gouging into your skin (in back and front).
Obviously, since all body types are different (you could be overweight with long legs, or short-waisted, long-waisted, etc.) you need to get to know yours well. There are many books out there that use body "types" and give examples of flattering ways to dress. Find your body "type" and dress accordingly! You'll feel better and look better.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Foundation For Beauty

What is one factor that can make a big difference in the way you look? Your foundation!
There are women who don’t wear foundation. They are making a big mistake! Why?
First, because foundation protects the skin. It’s difficult to find a foundation today that doesn’t protect the skin from the sun – and just because you don’t have a bathing suit on, or because it is 35 degrees outside – doesn’t mean that skin can not be damaged by the sun. Most of the sunscreens found in good foundations are not going to break you out, so you can use them without worry. Note that while you may assiduously apply sunscreen while sunbathing, if you don’t wear sunscreen on your face the other 6 – 9 months of the year sun damage can occur – while you’re driving, walking around town, exercising, chasing after the children . . . These may seem as though they are short intervals of sun exposure, but they will add up – and where the results end up is on your face!
Second, only foundation will give your face the chic, neat polished look that you need to make any outfit look good – and conversely, if your face looks good, it can make up for what you are wearing! Foundation evens skin tone, and almost all of us can benefit from that. It provides a base (or canvas as you so often read) that will help your blush and other makeup adhere to your face.
The foundation you wear should be a quality one and by that I mean you should probably buy it at a department store. There are some less expensive foundations, L’Oreal makes one for example, that you can buy at a drug store, but make sure that their coverage is good and the ingredients don’t break you out (of course this goes for the higher end foundations, too; I think it’s just more likely to happen with cheaper cosmetics). I do not subscribe to the school of thought that says that cheaper products are just as good per se; some may be, but they may not go through the same processes and have the same elements necessary to make a quality product. More expensive products have plenty of propylene glycol which gives the foundation “slip” making it easier to apply.
Unless you are prone to breakouts, you need to have at least one foundation that has lasting coverage, especially for travel. I use Estee Lauder’s Double Wear, a fantastic makeup that lasted through a flight (actually 3 flights) to India. It has a great finish, and once in India, in the summer, it was all I wore on my face getting in and out of auto-rickshaws in that very hot sun. I didn’t burn; I didn’t even tan! And it stayed on despite swear running down my face at times.
  • Using foundation that is too pink (go with a neutral colour unless you are very, very sallow).
  • Leaving a line around your neck or chin so that it looks as though you are wearing a mask (blend, blend, blend).
  • Wearing makeup that is the wrong formulation for your skin: if it's oily, you've got to go with water-based, dry, try a moisturizing base.
Experiment; don't expect to find the right makeup overnight. And ask for samples at department stores; if they don't have pre-made ones, most salespeople will make a sample of a colour or type for you. Usually, you can get enough for a couple of days so that you can see how it "wears". Foundation is expensive, but it's well worth the price when you think not only of how much better you'll look wearing it, but it's worth in practical terms.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Instant Status

Okay, this whole column is about snobbery, so if that totally turns you off, move on now. However, it is something that we all have to deal with, and some of us more than others. If we are older, overweight, have a certain accent perhaps, or are traveling out of our element, there are some fashion elements and purchases that can confer status (a higher status that is) just by our wearing them.
1. A Hermes scarf:
I always take one with me when I travel; the scarf is not only versatile (you can cover your head in a mosque or church or just when it is more seemly) but it seems to be recognized almost wherever I go. It can instantly make a black t-shirt and jeans or black twills look more polished and put-together, making you look more polished and put together. If you are scruffy from traveling, wearing one while shopping seems to mean that I am treated better by salespeople.
Buy one with a black border if that’s your basic, with cream inside, or a navy border if that’s your basic. I have one of each as well as one that is very, very light so that it looks more summery. And please, please, buy a genuine Hermes from a Hermes store – do NOT buy a fake. You can usually spot these easily, they will not last, and you will not have the same mental boost of confidence that you get from having a real one. If you care for a Hermes, you’ll be passing it on to your daughter and grandchildren. Buy a used one, if need be, but make sure that it is authentic first.
2. A good versatile bag:
Of course, one universal bag that always confers status is the Vuitton bag, but again, you have to make sure that it is a real one. The best thing about a Vuitton is that you can carry it with anything; the worst thing, of course, is the price. But once again, these last for a very long time. You can buy a Vuitton bag used, also, but make sure it is genuine. Some real Vuitton bags are made in the USA, so that does not mean that it is a fake. Look for the trademarks on the bag, the hardware, and especially look for the tag inside the bag, usually at the bottom side sewn into the seam with the number on it. Counterfeiters are getting smarter though, so buy from a reputable source.
Other good bags are high quality Gucci, Fendi, and also Longchamp and Prada (Prada is great). If you travel abroad, I do not recommend carrying Coach or Dooney bags as their status is not as readily recognizable and they may mark you as American (in some places, I’d just as soon people not know my nationality). Obviously, the more expensive the bag, the higher the status.
3. Shoes:
They need to be real leather or suede and they need to be well-kept even if they are worn. I’d suggest that you have at least 2 pairs of expensive shoes that fit you well in your basic colour (mine are black). One pair should be heels that are plain enough that you could wear them everyday (but you don’t necessarily), but in a style that could be dressed up. The other pair should be flats – a comfortable walking shoe.
When traveling, please don’t wear high, high heels in an airport; they look silly and so will you. People will think that you are an inexperienced traveler or that your taste is inappropriate.
And if you travel out of the country, please, please don’t wear white tennis shoes unless you are actually playing tennis. In fact, don’t wear tennis shoes to travel in – wear your good walking shoes that should be just as comfortable (my loafers are actually more comfortable than tennis shoes and they are easy to slip off and on).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

New Hair Product I Recommend

Okay, I have to admit it: I have grey in my hair - much more than I want. And it isn't a lovely silver grey; it is what I call an iron battle ship grey and does not blend well with my reddish-brown hair. I do have it coloured regularly, close to my natural colour (only better) by a wonderful hairdresser. However, I travel often and usually out of the country. I have tried to carry my hair colour with me that I got from my hairdresser, but it is a pain, and when I was in India once for 6 weeks, even using Lisa's haircolour, I ended up with some very different results (was it the way they applied the colour? was it just the "Indian atmosphere"?).
I'd seen the Nice 'n Easy root touch colour advertised on television, and when I was suddenly called out of town for a week at a really crucial point in my hair's growth (one inch roots; I'd put off going to have it done), I knew it was time to give it a try. The result: it is wonderful! I went from looking like some kind of strangely coloured skunk to my usual hair. I wasn't sure what colour to get; my hair is a reddish-brown colour, but I was afraid the light red colour might have too much red, so I settled for the dark blonde. I remembered from long ago days that a blond "rinse" as we called them then always made my hair look red. The dark blonde worked! It blended beautifully, and the whole process took less than 25 minutes from reading the instructions to rinsing and then washing my hair. The only caveat: if you have a lot of hair as I do, then you may want to buy more than one. I have long hair and needed to do not just my center and side parts and around my temples, but underneath as well because I wear my hair up and in a ponytail and I didn't want the dark roots showing around the nape of my neck.
The upshot is that I can't wait to travel with this! If I'd had these when I was driving around Spain and Portugal for over a month, I would have felt a lot better about the way my hair looked!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Don't Go To Bed with Your Make-Up On

Okay, this is a "Do as I say, not as I do" post. I am terrible about going to bed with my makeup on; yes, it is terrible, even at my age when I am not really prone to acne (although anyone is suseptible). Do I really even have to go into how bad it is for your face to go to bed with all the dirt and grime and pollution of the day on your face? I thought not. But more importantly, you also miss the chance to let your skin breathe, and get moisturized.
I had a friend who hated to wake up in the morning and see her face"naked"; she left her makeup on at night because she really thought that she looked better the next morning with the residue of last night's makeup. If you feel this way, wash your face, then put your eye makeup on and some lipstick, too (a good moisturizing one-maybe slick some vaseline over it). You won't have that blank look that many of us with pale faces have in the morning, but you won't have harmed your skin.
If you hate to wash your face with soap and water because you splash it on your clothes or pajamas then you need to buy those wonderful face-wipes (I think Oil of Olay makes some and maybe Pond's); be sure to get the ones that do NOT require you to rinse your face with water afterward. These are so wonderful; they are quick, neat, and disposable; they are not very expensive, and they are also wonderful if you travel much.
Clean your face at night; it will love you for it!

Cluny Grey Jewelry