Category: Style

Empties Update

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.” 
― Courtney Summers, All the Rage

Back in April, as part of my Style Month project, I shared several months worth of empties–the products I’ve used to the last drop. I remain pleasantly fascinated with empties videos or posts from other writers and of course, I’ve been on a bit of a kick when it comes to thinking and writing about consumption myself. So obviously as soon as I had hit publish on my last post, I began stockpiling items as I used them up for an update. Six months later, it’s time for an update!

I’ve bought very few new products in the last half year and so have been able to use up quite a few things to learn more about what I like, what I hate, what I swear by, and what I think is just not worth the money.

Not too bad, C., you may say. Seems manageable until you–

Oh god, what kind of monster am I?!

Skincare first! There were quite a few repeats in here as this is my second bottle of Sunday Riley Good Genes, at least my bottle third Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, my second Clinique All About Eyes Rich eye cream, and third Kate Somerville ExfoliKate scrub. All of these are beloved favorites, but I’ve made a commitment to use up much more of my own beauty stash before I allow myself to repurchase any of these items (particularly as they aren’t exactly cheap). You may be surprised to hear that I dislike a Glossier product, but their Super Pure formula is my least favorite of their three serums and I wouldn’t repurchase it. The Pestle & Mortar Superstar retinol oil was excellent, but I’m road testing a much cheaper version from The Ordinary which thus far I really like! Speaking of, I also finished off a bottle of hyaluronic acid serum from the The Ordinary displaced another Pestle & Mortar similar product as well. Quality doesn’t need to break the bank, kids!

Another bottle of Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser down. I already had a bottle of this on stand by that I purchased over the summer, but I’m ridiculously lucky and got two free additional bottles from attending the Glossier pop up earlier this summer, and then scored another back up as the G-team apparently mailed out some gift boxes as follow up to that press event later in the summer. Because they are freaking brilliant at marketing. Long story short, I haven’t had to repurchase this in a while, but I fully intend to when my stash runs down again. It’s a really good product, perfect as a morning cleanser or a second cleanse in the evening (if I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup and SPF all day). My evening cleanser for months has been the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing gel–a gel/balm formula that turns to oil on your skin. It dissolves most makeup and doesn’t strip your skin in the slightest. The Kiehl’s cleanser has been included in this stash for the sake of honesty. Technically it was Jeff’s product but I made liberal use of it in the shower and contributed to its demise–so into the bag it went! I’ve used up two masks, the Aesop Parsley Seed mask and Moisturizing Moon mask. I may repurchase them someday, but I want to try some similar products from other brands first…once my current mask stash is depleted. I definitely would not repurchase the Tidal cream by Sunday Riley–odd smell, nothing special as a moisturizer, and sparkly flecks in it to boot.

Hair continues to be my personal Waterloo, but here are some of the mane-taming products I used up recently, along with a couple of shower bits. I’m not precious about my bathing and use Jeff’s razors and bodywash without shame. In fact, I’m positive I missed at least two bottles of bodywash that rightly should have been included in this confessional but recycled them first. Oops. My eczema continues to wreak havoc on my scalp, hence the two different medicated shampoos (also probably not an honest reckoning), but I did manage to make it through two bottles of conditioner. A powder style dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner round off the pack. The powder smells wonderful but I would not repurchase as I’ve found a much better spray formula. All the other items, however, are pretty much my standard shower rotation and their replacements are in situ.

While we’re being honest, that comment about stealing Jeff’s face wash? Same for deodorant. I just don’t see the point of the pinker, lady-friendly stuff when he has a perfectly good can of product sitting on our dresser that I can swipe. The Certain Dri roll on, however, is definitely mine. Also in the spirit of full disclosure, this stuff is fantastic and when I use it regularly/properly, it’s a miracle product. I tend to pick up a bottle whenever we go back to the States. I also used up a No 7 make up brush cleanser from Boots (great product!) and a bath oil from Sanctuary Spa. I take a bath almost every night, especially in cold weather and prefer oils to bubbles…even if it means I have to scrub the tub more regularly. It’s a small price to pay for zen.

Finally, some make up! Er, kinda? It takes me quite a while to get through make up products, though you may remember my recent discovery of the MakeUp Rehab reddit community which has inspired a number of “use it up” personal challenges for me. If I do another post like this six months from now, I’m hoping to have a few empty makeup tins and pans to add to the pile. This time at least, I made it through yet another tube of Maybeline Full ‘N Soft mascara–my go to for years. Glossier Boy Brow did good service in the beauty wars and its replacement is already in rotation. I loved this hand cream from Elizabeth Arden and will definitely be buying a full sized tube once my seemingly infinite amounts of other travel sized lotions have served their time. Finally, I used up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil perfume which I loved but am happy to part with as friends after a four year run.

Your turn, kittens, if you feel up to oversharing in the comments. Do you keep track of items that you use up–if so, what and why? Is my fascination with personal consumption at all interesting or just weird? Let me know your thoughts, I’m braced for impact!

London Glossier Pop Up and Power Branding

“Touch your customer, and you’re halfway there.” 
– Estee Lauder

Excuse the dive into marketing, ducklings, but since that’s what I do for my actual job, I couldn’t do a post about this fun summer event without talking about some of the technical aspects of the company behind it.

You’ve heard me mention Glossier a few times around these parts and and probably also stumbled across it out in the real world too. It’s a beauty brand that launched in 2010 and proceeded to casually take the editorial and online beauty world by storm. From their initial launch, they’ve rolled out product after product and are apparently expanding their line to include more “lifestyle” aspects to beauty in the future; their next product is going to be a candle, for example.

Glossier is launching in the UK later this year and I cannot wait to finally (hopefully) be able to have regular access to the items of their line that I genuinely adore. A few weeks ago I actually got to go to a pop up shop event they threw in Marylebone which was an opportunity for UK beauty nerds to meet some of the team, and test products that they may have not been able to try before. For a company that doesn’t even ship to the UK yet, it was amazing to see how many people (my humble self included) showed up just to celebrate the brand, for lack of a better term.

Which is extraordinary when you think about it. There was nothing to buy, we just wanted to say hi to team members that (due to Glossier’s social media presence) it feels like their customers know personally, or enjoy a beautifully curated space.

Because Glossier, excuse my fangirling, is genius at what they do.

 

I mention the brand and the products separately because while inexorably intertwined, they are different things. Where Glossier has set the bar in marketing has been in the solid curation and dissemination of its brand: its visuals, the people it has chosen to make its promoters, and its products all go hand in hand. It’s no mean feat to make something that must at some level be very well and intelligently controlled look and feel effortless.

From a marketing perspective, I routine point to them as one of the most interesting examples of brand and marketing work I’ve seen in years and I honestly would give my right arm to work with them at some point. It’s probably the most out of reach freelance goal a girl could have, but true nonetheless. Entrepreneur even featured founder Emily Weiss recently, with some of the numbers around the brand’s rise to success. They are damn impressive.

 

It doesn’t hurt that most of the products are pretty great and priced so as not to break the bank. I think they’ve had a few missteps, but they seem to be in the spirit of experimentation so I’m often eager to try products even if feel like a bit of a needle scratch. For instance, I’m really keen to try their new Wowder, but I also feel like it’s a bit of a strange choice for a brand who built their look and core product offerings around the “dewy” skin look. However, I expect that they created this powder…because their customers asked for it. So, in the end, probably smart move.

The whole of Glossier brand really is based on this conversational element–between the customers and the business, between individual customers themselves. Which makes sense for a company that grew out of a blog: Into the Gloss. ITG/Glossier routinely crowd sources feedback on what products their customers want them to develop, what elements of those products would be important to them, and how customers would use them. They have one of the best and most thriving comment sections on the internet (delightfully BS and troll free), and a friendly but authoritative editorial voice.

Guests to the pop up went away with a goody bag of full sized products to tide us over until shipping commences later in the year–a nice change from sample size bits and bobs that many brands hand out for promotions. Another smart move, in my opinion. For actual beauty bloggers and editors, there was an event with Weiss herself and the Beauty Director of Glamour UK on another day (the video interview is quite fun, if you’re interested in all things skincare).

This is a brand I’m not just going to continue to buy, but I’m also going to continue to watch. I believe strongly in the power of branding and am fascinated by organizations, creators, and producers who do it well. Glossier is up there.

Treasure From Paris

“Adornment, what a science!” 
― Coco Chanel

It’s been a minute since our trip to Paris but I came home with a piece of treasure and a shop that needs to be shared.

First some background. I have discovered a deep and abiding love for costume jewelry that I can’t explain. Aesthetically, I love the delicate pieces that have been trending for a while; the barely there chains, discreet studs, airily pretty pieces that Cool Girls wear so effortlessly. And yet, in recent years, everything I have been personally drawn to has been brightly colored, oversized, loud, and just a bit wacky. Somewhere in my psyche is the soul of a supremely and gloriously gives-no-****s senior citizen who decorates her walker with rhinestones, holidays in places that her grandchildren consider “unsuitable,” revels in garish lipstick, and probably has disinherited all her relatives at some point.

It was at the start of this phase that I discovered the jewelry of Lea Stein, a French accessories artist famous for her plastic brooches in what have come to be considered some iconic shapes. My favorite design was her fox-shaped pin and I coveted one, while cursing the high prices that her pieces command for the genuine articles. I follow a number of sellers or traders in the antiques world, Etsy, and elsewhere specifically to keep an eye on what’s coming and going, with an eye to snagging a deal.

So, over the summer while walking down a gorgeous street, my spidey senses pinged unexpectedly. Out of the corner of my eye, some bright colors had flashed and once my brain had caught up, poor Jeff was nearly dragged across the street.

Meet Tiany Chambard on the Rue Jacob, a tiny but absolutely jam packed shop specializing in vintage costume jewelry. What had caught my attention was a display case in the window featuring an abundance of Lea Stein pieces.

I was ridiculous and failed utterly to take photos at the time of the discovery visit, but returned to at least capture the store front and give you a tantalizing hint as to what lies inside.

 

A wealth of goodness!

The shop carries outright kitsch to designer pieces and I could have gleefully spent hours in there–I fully intend to on my next trip to Paris–but on this visit, I was on a mission. Armed with Jeff’s laughing comment that if I found one I loved it could be my anniversary present, the lovely seller unlocked a cabinet filled with Stein goodness and allowed me to turn over each brooch until I found The One.

This was the only thing I bought in Paris this trip, and it’s been a long time since a purchase gave me this much pleasure. Come jacket season, this guy get the place of honor on my beloved 1950’s tweed.

The End of Style Month

“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”
– Diana Vreeland

Style Month is at an end and I’ve enjoyed writing about it from the perspective of consumption and choice. The comments have been fantastic and I’ve had a lot of fun. ButI didn’t accomplish everything I wanted with this particular project, largely due to the very happy fact that I got a new and unexpected work contract (hurrah!) but it’s given me a lot of ideas of how I want to do future month long projects or topic assignments. It frustrates me to have a “vision” for a project and not feel like I’ve seen it through, but looking back through my stats and comments, I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much engagement I’ve had with this series. Which means of course, I want to do another one at some point! Do let me know what you’d be interested in reading about and discussing; I’ve got a few ideas following your feedback from my Money Month project as well.

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I ticked off a couple of minor 101/1001 goals and made progress on some long term ones, but the next month will be a bit more relaxed. Apart from my responsibilities with my new contract, we are planning a trip to Paris in June with friends that is where we are going to put our only big spending in May. I’m going to be continuing to build on my Money and Style Month themes by using what I’ve got, and doing a new personal savings/spending goal to knock out a whole credit card by the end of next month.

I have no idea how we are a quarter of the way through the year already, but in spite of some background stresses, and occasional bouts of imposter syndrome and anxiety, I’m really happy with the progress I’m making on so many of my goals!

What I Bought This Month

“When you don’t dress like everyone else, you don’t have to think like everyone else.”
― Iris Apfel

As we begin to wind down style month here, as promised, is an account of what I’ve bought since my shopping ban lifted. Though I’m not going to make a formal commitment (my next ban won’t be until next year), I’m going to make this the last round of personal purchases for a long time. Jeff is looking to buy a new suit and possibly a sports coat (his vice of choice), while I want to continue to shop my own closet the way I have been for the past few months. Now that I’ve done a few clear outs and a bit a streamlining to both my wardrobe and my bathroom shelf, I’m more happy than ever with what I already have. My trusty, long running list of items I’d like to buy has had a couple of ticks put in it, and even more items eliminated as I reevaluated my needs. Only three items remains, and in the case of all of them I’m happy to wait a few months before buying them.

And so, what needs and indulgences made the cut? Read on!

Bite Prismatic Pearl Creme Lip Gloss
A pure indulgence that I didn’t need, but wanted a great deal. I was as a magpie drawn to shimmer and I don’t regret it in the slightest!

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Phone photos don’t do these beauties justice. The shimmer is strong!

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Palette
My eye makeup stash had a gap I wanted to rectify: lack of color. While I had a few dashes of pigment in my supplementary bits and pieces, my eye shadow collection was overwhelmingly neutral. Since my eyes are green, I knew I wanted something with red and purple tones in it to play up the color, and I’d wanted this palette for a long time. Add a coupon code to the mix, and I snapped it up. And I solemnly swear not to buy any more eyeshadows until I’ve hit pan on what I’ve got.

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The whole thing was supposedly inspired by the tones found in Renaissance paintings. Which means that from the get go, it had my name written all over it.

A vintage faux fur coat
While Etsy-scanning I stumbled upon a coat designed in the 80s but looked like it was from the 20s and looked like something a flush bootlegger’s girlfriend would swan about in. I required it. Many thanks to Katarina who is coming to visit this summer; I enlisted her aid in conveying it to me when she does and she, darling that she is, agreed. Also, you’ve got a hint as to one of my perpetual style inspirations in the screengrab: Agatha Christie murder mysteries. That Interwar period look gives me life.

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I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to winter now!

Everlane tops and jumper
Everlane had one of their international shipping promotions and so I picked up some replacement t-shirts (all of my current t-shirts were a couple of years old and stretched or sagging in less than flattering ways). There are few joys quite like fresh cotton, whether new shirts or clean sheets! I also picked up a jumper and a summer top. I’d like to get a couple of their silk tops for work, but am biding my time until another international promotion comes around. I didn’t snap photos of these because, let’s face it, I’m not a style blogger and lack some of the basic skills!

Joy skirt
I’d wanted a mid length skirt for a while. I found one with both pockets and with a designed in a repeating pattern of lipstick tubes. I really don’t feel like I need to explain this any further.

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I mean, seriously, come on!

Apart from the personal purchases, the thing I’m really happy we bought this month are two vintage chairs for the house. We bought a very nice couch and bedroom set when we moved to our current apartment and new it would be several months before we could afford to buy anything else in furnishing it. The waiting has been boring and I’m impatient. But at long last we found a beautiful pair in the style we liked and in our price range. It will be another few months before we can buy our next piece, but these beauties will hold me over I think.

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Use What You’ve Got: The Psychology of Shopping Your Closet

“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’, what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”
― Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

Based on an unscientific gathering of stories from my friends, coworkers, and pals, I’m convinced we all have great stuff in our closets that we don’t use. There can be a lot of good reasons not to wear what we’ve got, which is a topic for another day, but today I want to focus on the bad excuses for not using what we already own. Or at least one in particular: the “I bought it special” excuse.

I’m going to push the boat out and just say that if you’re saving unworn items in your closet for “special occasions” (with exceptions of somer event-wear) you’ve wasted your money or let your emotions do your shopping for you. I used to be a particularly bad offender of this and would buy clothing that I wanted to wear…but never got around to wearing because I didn’t think I had the right occasions to do so.

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In some cases, I had indeed purchased irrelevant items, which was due to me not really having a handle on what my actual clothing needs were for my then-lifestyle. But in other cases, I’d purchased clothing that could be considered aspirational. It was a bit nicer than my other items, more dressy, a different style, or just out of my current comfort zone. I loved them, but I bought them thinking that I needed to wait for the “right time” to wear some of them, that they were “too good” for my day-to-day casual life, or that wearing them would require some effort. Hilarious since, in retrospect, what I was purchasing five or even ten years ago was fairly cheap all things considered.

I no longer subscribe to this way of thinking at all. Not only is wasteful as a consumer (many of my purchases of yore ended up sold, donated, or given to friends unworn at some point), but I simply don’t see the point in owning something if you don’t wear or use it. You’re missing out on a good deal of easy pleasure and contentment with your wardrobe, and often adding a lurking sense of disappointment, guilt, or sheepishness about owning things you don’t touch.

For example, a couple of years ago I’d saved up to purchase a nice work handbag which I’d researched, considered for a long time, and found an amazing deal on.  I’d bought it specifically to upgrade my professional wardrobe and knew how I wanted to use it with my existing clothes, but for a long time was afraid to take it out of its dustbag. What if it got scratched or smudged? What if I dinged the hardware? What if I scuffed it? I was so nervous about putting any wear and tear on it, that I failed utterly to use it. It sat, reproachfully, in my closet for months before I confronted myself about it.

Of course I would need to care for it more carefully than I would a cheaper item, but eventually I had to acknowledge that any bag, no matter how coddled, was going to show signs of use. That’s what happens with any item, even a well tended one. In the end, I decided I either needed to resell the bag, or actually use it the way I had purchased it to be used. I chose the latter. And then I went through my closet and ruthlessly applied the same rationale to another of other items. That Liberty scarf in the image above was another similar victim of overcaution. Originally bought to celebrate a raise, I had almost never worn it out of worry that I’d damage it in some way. There were at least five other pieces of clothing or accessories that had similar excuses attached to their lack of use.

Far from having nothing to wear–a common complaint uttered when staring mournfully into a wardrobe–I just hadn’t been giving myself permission to wear what I wanted…and already had.

I own fewer items of clothing than I did while at university and my early 20s, but what I own now is of much better quality. More importantly, everything is worn regularly, including my more expensive pieces. I’m willing to occasionally fork out for beautiful vintage or consignment designer pieces, but only if I commit to myself to actually use them. I’m no longer worried about wearing them out–I’ve learned to take better care of my clothing over all, and I’ve come to the healthier mental place of acknowledging that ultimately, as beautiful as they are, they are just things. I get more satisfaction from my treasured pieces by letting them see the light of day than I do from looking at them on a hanger.

Don’t get me wrong, aspirational clothing still has its place (I’ve found the adage of “dressing for the job you want” to be a useful one), but I maintain it is no good to you hanging in a closet. Use it. Your wallet will be grateful and your mirror will be flattering, I promise.

Your turn. Have you every had items languish in your closet? What were your reasons for buying but not wearing? Are there any items which could do with a bit more love? 

Beauty Empties

“I adore artifice. I always have.”
– Diana Vreelance

When I first thought about doing these month-long blog projects, I had an idea I’d try to do something about beauty or makeup at some point and so I started collecting the bottles and packets of items I was using up. I debated trying to do some video content myself this month…but then my computer crashed and needed a new hard drive (a few other tech shenanigans behind the scenes also ensued) and I decided to put that goal off until another month. But I still wanted to do some kind of “empties” post, et alors, we’ve arrived!

I’m oddly obsessed with “empties” videos on YouTube. There are a lot of writers and content makers who are legitimate voices of authority in the industry (Caroline Hirons in particular springs to mind) and I have a number I trust to give good advice when it comes to skincare and makeup, so when they they tell me they’ve used certain products up, I pay attention. I’m also fascinated because from some of the anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered from some friends and internet pals of late leads me to conclude that we throw a lot of beauty products out because they goes bad before we finish them, we get bored before something is used up, or we just clear out our stashes periodically and anything that’s done its time is binned. Simply put, a lot of us can be fairly sloppy or casual consumers of our beauty goods!

Candidly, one of my projects this month was to throw away any makeup that had expired (as some of those products can be serious hubs for bacteria) and to give things that I simply wasn’t using to better homes. My little sister is awaiting a package of goodies from me as we speak! Also in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve picked up a few things this month which I’ll be documenting in a later post. But having done a clear out, and a couple of thoughtful shopping trips to replace what needs replacing, my goal now is to buy fairly little if any new makeup until I’ve used up some of what I’ve already got.

Also, since I stuck to my shopping ban faithfully (minus my one tiny little cheat courtesy of Estee Lauder and Victoria Beckham…) I didn’t buy any new skin care for several months and so was able to finish a lot of products that were already in my stash. My bathroom shelf is much leaner than its been in a long time, but that means I’ve got a nice little hoard to share of some of the things I’ve used up entirely in the last six months.

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I was surprised to see so many hair prodcuts in this stash as it typically takes me months to get through them…because I hate doing my hair. Every minute of the process. I hate washing it, I hate the time it takes to blow dry and style it, I hate the fact that the whole process is (for me) largely null and void the moment I step outside–all of it. This is unfortunate as I 1) really do want to look nice and hair is a big part of that and, 2) have eczema on my scalp which means I have continuous skin problems in that vicinity which requires constant care. Frankly, my hatred of hair care is probably related to this fact.

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There’s a lot of Glossier in here as I put in an order last summer when we were in the States and finally came to the end of it around Christmas. The serums I picked up at Christmas, however, and I’ve gone through both the Super Bounce and Super Glow formulas in record time. Bounce is a hyaluronic acid serum and though it seems to be a bit of an internet favorite, I won’t be repurchasing. I’m roadtesting the Deciem line at the moment, which includes an HA serum, but at the moment I think I’ll be picking up another bottle of the Pestle & Mortar HA serum when that runs out. I got through my first bottle of it in January and have not found anything I love quite as much as it yet! The Glossier Super Glow serum is a Vitamin C formula and I will be buying it in bulk as soon as I can get my grubby hands on a way to get it to the UK–it’s that good!

Speaking of buying in bulk, I’ve actually gotten through multiple packets of facial wipes (which most beauty editors and gurus worth their salt will tell you to stay far away from. Listen to their wisdom, kittens, but know that your beloved Aunt C. sometimes is just a lazy slob) and bottles of micellar cleansing water in the last six months. This is just indicative.

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The products above I’ve already repurchased since using them up (in December when shopping was permitted, of course!) and have every intention of picking up again when my current stash runs out. It’s taken me a long time to build an arsenal of products that I know work for me and when I find things I love, I tend to be loyal. I may still be fighting a losing battle with hair care, and may still fall victim to the slings and arrows of hormonal breakouts, but day to day, I feel like I’ve got my skincare game together.

Your turn! Are there any products you swear by? Do you repurchase old favorites or actively go out hunting for new ones? How long does it typically take you to get through your favorite items?