Tag: Fashion

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The List

“Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing.”
—Alexander Wang

So, capsule wardrobes. The internet is awash in content about it and recommendations on how to do it about. Some people encourage as part of a minimalist lifestyle (a worthy goal that holds zero appeal for me, an unrepentant maximalist), some people as a way to push a reset button when it comes to style or consumerism (which I think is a great idea on the whole). Books have been written about this stuff.

I ignored most of it. My intentions were not lofty but deeply practical. The major desired outcomes were ticking a box on a goal list, and finding a way to begin packing now for a move that wasn’t happening for another month and a half. Any added benefits such as a reduction in stress or faff when getting out the door in the morning were gravy, as far as I was concerned.

The only advice I followed, which seemed fundamentally sound was simple: have a color palette. The idea was that if everything came from the same general grouping of colors, the chances of everything matching one another and creating easy outfits was much higher. Blue and white together are one of my favorite color combinations generally and especially for summer, so I chose that with black and green (my other favorite mix) thrown in for variety.

I was most dubious about this idea working with workwear, notoriously tricky at the best of times and hugely intimidating for a London summer where we might legitimately experience all four seasons in a single week (if not day!), but thus far it’s working great. I’m getting use out of my investment pieces and have enough basic, mix-and-match items to deal with the variance in temperatures, sun, and wet.

Some people include shoes or accessories in the list of items, but I couldn’t be bothered with that, nor did I see any point in listing items like sleepwear, activewear, or other specialty items. My list didn’t include items for my brother’s wedding, for instance, or the t-shirts I often sleep in (usually purloined from Jeff…). The only rule I gave myself, plucked more or less from thin area, was to try and restrict myself to 20 core items.

Notwithstanding the general laissez-faire and last minute approach to this project, I’m still a bit surprised that the first month of this project has sort of just whizzed by. This indicates to me that I still have too many clothes (which is not news), but also that my general project towards overall wardrobe streamlining is working. For a while in my 20s, when I was still deciding who I wanted to be and how I wanted to dress, I had a lot of things that would never have gone together no matter how hard I tried. These days, the mix between reliable basics and statement, personality pieces feels correct and more like “me.”

Without further ado, this is what my two month capsule looks like:

Tops (11)

  • White silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • White silk button up sleeveless top (Everlane)
  • White silk tank top (Everlane)
  • Black sleeveless top
  • Black silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • Blue and white polka dot silk shirt (Sezanne)
  • Blue cotton button up (GAP)
  • White linen shirt (found at a street market in Italy)
  • White t-shirt (Everlane)
  • Green cotton tank top (GAP)
  • Green and print silk button up shirt (& Other Stories)

Bottoms (5)

  • Black trousers (no clue)
  • Light blue jeans (Glassworks)
  • White jeans (GAP)
  • Navy pencil skirt (J Crew)
  • Navy shorts (GAP)

Other (4)

  • Black short sleeved work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Navy sleeveless work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Black and white print casual dress (J Crew)
  • White linen blazer (J Crew)

I’ll check in at the end of August and let you know how the project turns out, but I’m curious! If you have done a capsule, what did it look like? How did you build it? What were your rules, and why?

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The Background

“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.”
—Marc Jacobs

Alright, we’re doing this. We pulled the plug and we’re moving apartments at the end of the summer. We have a lovely relationship with our current landlord, and truly love our current address, but when doing some mutual goal setting we just couldn’t deny how much money we could save if we changed our circumstances and the inconvenience of moving did not outweigh that number.

I’ve written about this before, but I love the cleansing process that goes into moving. It’s psychologically freeing. Growing up, every two or three years, I got the chance to “start over” in some way, in a new place with a clean slate. It’s not a perfect process and you eventually learn what’s indelible in your personality after a few moves, but the process was really formulative for me personally. It also gave me a much cleaner perspective on “stuff” by having to evaluate what was coming with you to a new city or country and what would literally left behind.

It also made me a damn effective and ruthlessly efficient mover. It should surprise none of you to hear that having made this decision, I am afire with Type A energy to prepare for this move. Bolstered by a military brat’s encyclopedic knowledge on the subject of packing and household transfers, Things. Are. In. Motion.

Currently there is a list of items that need to be thrown away or sold (farewell ironing board we have almost never used, you were purchased with good but flawed intentions). I’m starting to go through cabinets and cupboards for things that need to be eaten; no hidden hoard of dried pasta or canned beans is safe from this ruthless hunt. A large batch of chili has already been consumed with many more to come due to the sheer backlog of ingredients I’ve managed to unearth. I haven’t yet tacked that monstrosity of disuse that is our electronics drawer (or in our case, basket) but that’s on the To Do list.

And of course, both our wardrobes continue to be under review. Lest you think I’m the only clotheshorse in this family, Jeff is going through his stuff (with particular emphasis on work shirts) to evaluate what’s hopelessly stained or damaged and needs to go. The man appreciates his fashion just as much as me! We’ve both got items that have been gifted to us that we’re donating, we’re both going through the proverbial underwear and sock drawers to get rid of worn items, and just generally continuing to assess with a critical eye. I’m delighted with the overall state of my wardrobe, as I’ve written, but am still taking the chance to set aside some items to pass to my sister when we see her at the family wedding next month.

I was searching online for some plastic tubs for packing (as most of our prospective new apartments will have some kind of storage space – currently a major gap in our housing situation) when I had a bit of a brainwave. One of my projects is to do a couple of capsule wardrobes. What if I did that in preparation for the move and save myself a lot of hassle by simply packing everything else up?

In other words, what better time to start a new personal project, than in a ridiculously overbusy and crowded time where my stress will already be at a maximum!

Joking aside, I did it. I created a 20 item list, excluding occasion wear, athletic gear, and basic accessories, and decided I was only going to wear those items for two months: July and August. I was a bit hesitant to write about it until I was sure I could get the hang of it, but I’m nearly one month in…and it’s been fantastic.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about this week, kittens. In the next post I’ll go through the list itself, what I chose, how I chose them, and why. In the meantime, if you’ve ever tried this trend, how did it work for you? Let me know in the comments!

2019 Oscars Red Carpet Rundown

Kittens, it’s that blessed time of year again: when we argue vociferously in the comments over the gowns and getups of the Oscars red carpet! Praise be!

I have opined in recent years that some Academy Awards red carpets have gotten…well, boring. But scanning through the images as they rolled in over the past couple of days, I was actively bouncing in my seat with delight to see some genuinely interesting and groundbreaking fashion on the step and repeat. Old school glamour absolutely has a place and shouldn’t be discounted, but I think the current zeitgeist (and certainly my own preference) is for more originality and personality in both design and styling.

This year had it in droves, particularly in the menswear category, which my soul thrilled to see. Nothing is hotter than a well worn tux or suit, but what a dull life it is when no one revisits or reinterprets the traditional stand by. Meanwhile, the ladies played with shape, flirted with menswear, and broke out the jewels. What a feast for the senses!

The red carpet and many (not all) of the awards also served to underscore how much style owes to the niches. Black culture, queer culture, nerd culture…aesthetics and innovation come from tucked away corners of society, and seldom from the mainstream. To see Style expressed rather than Fashion rewarded (not the same thing) was deeply gratifying. In fact, given the diversity of style to choose from and the myriad of important cultural news, it was difficult to break down what looked “good” and bad” for a lot of the people I wanted to cover.

Difficult…but not impossible.

Scroll down for my top picks, headshakes, screams of terror, and bafflement. Then let me know what you loved/hated and why!

 

The Good

Glenn Close in Carolina Herrera

Bow down to a woman who is LONG overdue an Oscar (even though I’m delighted that Olivia Colman won because I think The Favourite is one of the best films I’ve seen in years and her surprise and joy at her nod and win were so lovely to watch). Apparently her train weighed close to 50 lbs and while that seems a chore to drag around, she looked every inch a queen. And watching her stanning for another queen? *Chef’s kiss*

 

Regina King in Oscar de la Renta

Such a simple look, such perfect styling. Every single quotient here is correct: chic, sex appeal, elegance, impact. A mere centimeter more or leg or jewelry would have changed the mathematics, but left alone this whole look just sings. I may also be biased but I also give accessorizing points for when Captain America (himself fetchingly attired in a blue velvet jacket–we’ll return to the boys later) rose chivalrously to the occasion to help her up the stairs.

 

Angela Bassett in Reem Acra

The Queen Mother of Wakanda accepts your humble offerings of praise. I would normally grade the wrinkling much more harshly but I mean…just look at her. Her face should not be legal.

 

Constance Wu in Versace

This is so darn lovely in its execution! This is a look where all of the impact is in the details from the perfectly fitted and hemmed basics (required for the red carpet but sometimes missing in action for some reason!), the hint of glimmer at the neckline, and the absolutely stunning pleating across the bodice.

 

Gemma Chan in Valentino

I can already hear the shouts in the comments, but hear me out! It was difficult to see all the wild and editorial deployment of pink and not think of the character of Villanelle from Killing Eve and her famous pink confection by Molly Goddard. That piece in particular and most of the costuming of that show was dubbed an exercise “dressing for the female gaze rather than the male,” a take with which I agree and which I think we are seeing more and more of. Gemma Chan’s red carpet choices have been a great example of this and her pink frock was no different. Here is a ludicrously beautiful woman who could easily dress “safely” in her professional appearances, but has chosen deliberately editorial choices instead, playing with silhouettes and shape rather than traditional movie star gowns. This is not a traditional or safe choice, which is why I think it deserves a top billing.

 

Tina Fey in Vera Wang

A personal best, hands down.

 

Michelle Yeoh in Elie Saab

If ever there was a woman born to wear couture, it is she!

 

 

The Less Than Good

I am devastated to report that all three of the leading ladies of The Favourite (by far my favo(u)rite film of the year), let me down on the style front.

 

Olivia Colman in custom Prada

I am not going to judge this woman nearly as harshly as other stars. Like many noted and treasured British performers, she is not a Hollywood machine product and has not “invested” in fashion as a mechanism for attention or acclaim the way, say, Emma Stone has. That is not a criticism, by the way, it’s usually stonking good business sense! But it not correct to judge her by fashionista standards. And no, it has nothing to do with age. Both Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep are Women of A Certain Age, both are ferociously revered and fabulously talented. Streep has not utilized fashion the way that Mirren has and their efforts must be evaluated differently. But I digress. I think the color of this gown is gorgeous, her hair and makeup are impeccable and personal, and I love the beautifully embroidered tulle in theory, but I didn’t love the placement of it. Had this been draped differently, I think I would have liked it much more. Her acceptance speech, however? Genuine delight!

 

Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton

This pains me because I love both her movie and her, but this looked like pan fried meat. However, her unabashed love for her winning co-star was an absolutely joy to watch, click the link above if you want to revisit it again and bask in the heartwarming glow.

 

Rachel Weisz  in Givenchy

This pains me even more than Emma because I don’t just love her, she’s literally one of my favorite actresses ever…but this is just bad. The hair jewelry is beautiful but does not suit the rest of the look, which I can only read as cardinal fetishwear. And that is a BAD mental image right now. Again, a mixture of elements which, on their own are interesting, but don’t gel together well for me.

 

Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen

I am sorry to disappoint on her big night but Lady Gaga for me was a case of so many individually good elements not being put together correctly. A structural gown with unexpected accessories is right in her wheelhouse, but the fabric didn’t seem to photograph well and had a wrinkled or unkempt quality in the shots I saw. And while her hair styling was an homage to Audrey Hepburn, whose iconic gems adorned her neck, the hair color and fake tan orange of her skin brought the look down. I am not a snob by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to style, but her particular mix of High/Low didn’t gel for me on her biggest red carpet night to date.

 

Charlize Theron in Dior

Sigh. I think it’s annual tradition at this point: Theron wears a Dior which I hate. She has a longstanding relationship with the house and is one of their brand ambassadors, but I have never felt they’ve done right by her. I feel the same way about Jennifer Lawrence, come to think about it… That necklace, however, is to die for.

 

Melissa McCarthy in Brandon Maxwell

Oh this pains me because I applaud trousers on the red carpet and live for a cape. But I did not feel that this iteration was an amazing deployment.

 

 

The Trends: Subverting Gender and Stereotypes

Pink Ladies

Helen Mirren in Schiaparelli – she can do no wrong.
Sarah Paulson in Brandon Maxwell – bad. Fire whoever pitched it.
Kasey Musgrave in Giambattisa Valli – not to my tastes but perfect for the wearer!
Maya Rudolph in Giambattista Valli – bad! Looks like curtains!
Marie Kondo in Jenny Packham – perfect! Sparks joy!

Pink was everywhere on this carpet which was a bit unexpected. We haven’t been having a pink “moment” in fashion, but on reflection we are having a series of decidedly female and queer empowerment moments in culture. Perhaps this constitutes something of a bold reclamation of unabashed femininity after a few rough awards seasons shadowed by #MeToo and other hard truths. No longer trying to make it in a “man’s world,” some of the most empowering messages we are hearing about and for women involve harnessing femininity (if you are feminine or choose to present that way) rather than subsuming it to more traditional (masculine) styles or perspectives. In other words, some girls like pink and they are going to wear it because they enjoy feeling girly, regardless of their age. Deal with it. And give them their awards.

 

Women in Menswear

Amy Poehler in Alberta Ferretti
Awkwafina in DSquared 2 – and it’s pink!
Elsie Fisher in Thom Browne – age appropriate and fun!

In a similar vein, some girls want to wear suits. Cool! Wear the suits, darlings, you look fab in them! I love menswear on women and enjoyed how many iterations of it we saw this year, even if I didn’t love all of them equally (sorry again, Melissa!).

 

Let’s Hear it For the Boys (in Velvet)

And finally, boys just want to have fun too! Fashion and style are often dismissed as feminine (and therefore frivolous) interests. Bullshit! Style and self expression through clothes is fun to do and plenty of men enjoy this space. We should vigorously encourage them wherever we find men dressing well, because the results…damn.

Oh, and there was a lot of velvet too. But, priorities.

Chris Evans in Salvatore Ferragamo

Chris Evans in Salvatore Ferragamo 

There are many Chris-es in Hollywood. He is my favorite. I may have rewatched the footage of Captain America being an officer and a gentleman towards Ms. Regina King a few dozen times at this point. Because…damn.

 

Chadwick Boseman in Givenchy 

He has consistently pushed red carpet styling for men so of course he wouldn’t leave us bereft at the Oscars. A highly traditional tux jacket is elevated by being absolutely encrusted with beading and flowing elements reminiscent of north African garments. He and the whole cast of Black Panther have been giving us the most gorgeous, high fashion, Afrofuturistic looks possible for a year now and the red carpet is all the better for it. Spare us safe, give us damn style!

 

Nicholas Hoult in Dior

Hot damn. The best of all the stars from The Favourite in an unusual take on the tux–almost feminine in the interpretation of a train, which is apropos given he played a glorious fop.

 

Jason Momoa in Karl Lagerfeld

He’s…look, he’s messy. But this look overlaps nicely with the pink theme and the more “flamboyant” looks for men, so it had to be included as a notable mention. Even if it’s really messy. But still, those muscles. Damn.

 

David Olelowo in Etro

Damn.

 

Stephen James in Etro

Damn.

 

Henry Golding in Ralph Lauren

DAMN.

 

Best In Show

Billy Porter in Christian Sirano

My god what a stunning look and absolutely perfect for the wearer, star of POSE. The look directly references drag ball star Hector Xtravaganza, updated for both 2019 and the wearer. Christian Sirano was an excellent choice as designer as having earned a reputation for dressing bodies that the more traditionally minded fashion and film industries have not cultivated. This for me summed up the best of the red carpet and the award wins this year–unfortunately leaving the Best Picture win aside. What was once underground and transgressive can still be unique and deeply unconventional while being more accepted in the mainstream as glamourous in its own right. Queer culture demands that both truths can apply and I love it!

 

Come, kittens, let’s argue!

I Miss Style Blogs

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” 
― Anna Wintour

Quick question, those of you kittens interested in fashion, beauty and style: which bloggers and channels have you followed for years, and why? I’ve unfollowed a lot of style blogs over the years–not because I don’t like or want to support them as a medium, but because I’ve gradually found so many of them to be less and less interesting or unique. In fact, in retrospect, I think I have tended to unsubscribe in batches when I just get bored of certain sites. I saw too much repetition, too much similarity of content, and too many overlapping aesthetics. Instagram and other social media have compounded the problem, both in the fashion and beauty spaces and (off the back of a chat with Katarina), I’ve been thinking about this lately in the wake of last month’s Week of Outfits project.

Frankly, I miss the “old” style blogs of about a decade ago. The ones where (mostly) women and girls crafted unique and instantly recognizable fashion senses, sometimes with a lot of money but often without. I never begrudged them the odd PR gift or contract because I trusted them to blend the items they received for free into the style they had taken the time to publicly develop, curate and share.

Of COURSE there are still people out there creating beautiful images and good writing around style and beauty, but I’m surprised by how few writers and videographers I follow now than what I used to. There are plenty of stylish (mostly) women out there who do really good and thoughtful writing about style but the rise of monetization and blogger-directed PR has complicated the kind of writing I see. The beauty space is sort of notorious for this. You can tell exactly when the PR machine has kicked in for a new launch because quite suddenly every single blogger and YouTuber will produce content raving about a product or line at exactly the same time, usually using very similar language. NARS just launched a new mascara and every beauty blogger and their photographer boyfriend seems to have ended up in Ibiza for the press party. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their good fortune either…but I’m not going to watch a dozen vlogs of the same event featuring the same people and rave reviews of a product they couldn’t possibly have road tested.

In some ways this new reality isn’t massively different from the magazine model, but I think that blogs and magazines are different platforms in key ways and that has always informed the kind of coverage they did. For a long time, editors were seen as arbiters not just of good taste and style, but also good judgement and trusted recommendations. PR has obviously affected this too and it is increasingly easy to either see or at least make informed guesses about how PR money is influencing coverage.

I get it, it was always sort of inevitable that a full blown business model would emerge around “influencers,” and as I’ve said I don’t really fault the women who are able to make livings off of it. Good for them! I sure as hell don’t think I could do it! But I still miss that era of internet writing and visual display all the same.

A few writers and YouTubers I still follow these days include…

Audrey a la Mode – writes about and films content on “slow fashion” and thoughtful shopping. Because her style is fairly classic, she is able to really demonstrate the value of second hand shopping and building an intentional wardrobe. A lot of her outfits are straight from Town and Country at any point in the last 50 years, but her content has always struck me as very authentic and genuine.

Where Did You Get That – equally enthusiastic about vintage and ready to wear, her enthusiasm for shopping and style is infectious and, because she makes a point to mix old and new pieces and buy what she loves, she has cultivated her own aesthetic. She loves clothes and it shows.

Sea of Shoes – one of the OG style bloggers who is famously eclectic in her tastes, mixing couture and eBay finds.

The Anna Edit – a British beauty blogger who has since branched out into a lot of style and lifestyle content, but one I’ve followed for a long time. She’s another example of a blogger who has maintained what feels like a very authentic and consistent voice, which I like, and she also writes thoughtfully on mindful consumerism and how she makes certain business choices.

The Frugality – Alex is another British blogger who I’ve met and briefly got some work experience overlap with in my freelance days at Red Magazine. These days she a full time freelance stylist and writer, who blogs about style but also the London home she and her husband are renovating together with a newborn in tow.

I clearly have certain “types” when it comes to the women I follow. I am interested in self-aware and authentic women who like what they like without excuses, and are intelligent and intentional about their lives and respective styles. I am interested in women who have something to show or say, and not just sell.

So again, who do you follow in the “style and beauty” world, and why? What about their content speaks to you? Let’s chat in the comments.

A Week of Outfits: Saturday

“Black is the hardest color in the world to get right—except for gray…”
– Diana Vreeland

You have Katarina to blame for this project, ducklings, as this was an idea for a 101/1001 goal she suggested and I foolishly added it to the list. I then thought it would be a great way to write about some of my new goals around shopping my closet, avoiding new purchases for the rest of the year, and generally writing more honestly about my consumer habits.

Then, the stupid paranoia hit. I am terrible about having my picture taken (a side effect of that body negativity I wrote about the other day), and go out of my way to avoid being photographed because I always hate how I look in images. I think I’m hoping this project will help me get over that personal hurdle a bit. So I bit the bullet and dressed for the day one Saturday with the intention of kicking off this week-long project. Then, I took a look at my shots from day one and there we were, kicking off with an annoyingly unflattering image, given that I’m feeling pretty good about my my recent health and wellbeing progress of late. Anyway I present you a British day, blazing and gorgeous high summer, and myself, a column of gray and black.

Welcome to a week of outfits from me, your friendly neighborhood Emphatically-Not-A-Style Blogger.

The recent heatwaves have presented a challenge for many Londoners. Speaking for myself and based on the rigorous anecdotal research of my friends and coworkers, I can tell you that it turns out few of us have the wardrobe for this kind of heat. Most of the time, when you want this much sun and high temperatures for a sustained period, we leave the country for them! There is a reason Europe is effectively out to lunch for the month of August, this continent wasn’t built to deal with the heat and many of us flee for cities and countries with the infrastructure to cope or the topography to make the most of Vitamin D.

Dressing for work has been a chore. Almost everything I have that’s appropriate for the office feels too hot or too covered up for the thermostat, while the few summer items I own are almost strictly casual or weekend clothes. Juggling necklines and hemlines while also trying to not sweat through your clothes on an overpacked Tube on your commute is a puzzle. I’ve started taking a bus into central London just to avoid the worst of the crowding on hot days, with its accompanying irritation and smells.

I love cold weather clothing and it’s easily where I’ve invested the most money over the years. But this year I had to dip into my original goal of only purchasing 18 items (since exploded) to pick up some summer appropriate shirts and trousers…because I truly didn’t have enough hot weather options to put together presentable work outfits. I felt a bit silly but there it is.

Weekends I’m better equipped for, as I said.

I’m trying to wear dresses more often in general, so last Saturday I pulled out an old J. Crew jersey dress that I picked up years and years ago. It’s short enough to keep cool but has a crew neck which keeps me more comfortably covered and feels modern and sporty.

I own only two pairs of sunglasses, both of which I bought years ago and spent a bit more money on, on the theory that I’d take better care of nice ones than cheap crap. So far that’s proven a wise move and I’ve had these for nearly five years with nary an accident to report. In the summer I wear these aviators by Tory Burch and in the winter, I have a pair of Jackie O style frames from Ralph Lauren

Accessories are a hodgepodge. The trainers are from Muji, the necklace and bag are both vintage. I’m thinking of doing a whole post just on my collection of vintage and second hand pieces, and some recommendations for finding good deals and steals throughout London, let me know if that would be of any interest or just frivolous and boring.

The hair is straight up laziness personified. On hot weekends I often let my hair air dry rather than putting my head under an unwelcome blast of additional heat from a hair dryer, and the results are either charming and almost-French-girl looking…or scruffy. Today felt scruffy, alas. I slapped on some concealer, mascara and a bit of loose powder, all by Glossier, and a Bite lipstick and called it A Look.

Jeff and I spent the afternoon in Southwark. We wandered around Bermondsey Street and Borough Market before picking up groceries and heading home. And that’s Day One of Outfit week.

Lest any of you think I’m taking this or myself to seriously…

I still have no idea how to take a nice photo. Prepare for a week of ham and cheese, friends!

#NationalLipstickDay

“Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.”
– Elizabeth Taylor

Raise your favorite fistful of weaponry high, girls and fabulously unbothered guys, for today we celebrate our adult safety blanket, our liquid courage, the exclamation point we wear on our faces. Today is National Lipstick Day!

The Lipstick Effect

Sometimes I’m so hilariously on-type as a millennial that I have to laugh. I definitely am part of the post-2008 Great Recession generation of adults who graduated into a bit of a financial wasteland and so turned to buying smaller “luxuries” instead of bigger purchases like houses and and cars. Sorry for killing those industries, boomers! The lipstick effect is a real thing and I wonder how much my generational timing has played into my love of it as a product. Would I still love it without the perils of financial instability looming over me? Probably. Would it be a small symbol of disposable income, a measure of control over my appearance when bigger ticket items are utterly beyond my reach, a talisman of bravery against a world in which I felt small and disenfranchised and poor without that backdrop? Likely not. Lipstick as I like to say, is armor.

Scarlet red lips don’t appear in nature but they are almost uniformly agreed to be fabulous. Nude colored lipstick promise a “your lips but better” experience for the more demure. Either way you swing, lipstick is designed to make you feel like you can choose and put on a better version of yourself. Someone bolder, someone more polished, someone who doesn’t care how other people look at her, someone who insists that other people look at her and see what she wants them to see. It is a fundamentally frivolous purchase, a bit of artifice in a plastic or metal tube, but also a delightful and powerful collective fiction.

I love the stories about the importance of beauty to Britain under rationing in World War II. Apparently Hitler was anti cosmetics which was just one of may reasons for British women to eke out that tube of contraband as long as possible. Women were encouraged to keep glamorous (with the usual sexist overtones) but there was a recognition that choosing to look as you wished to, to portray yourself to the world as you wished to be seen or saw yourself at your best, was fundamental to morale. It doesn’t take a war to want to feel that way.

My Love Affair With Lipstick

I was growing into my love for it towards the end of my university years, but it was in young adulthood that the flirtation really blossomed into a love affair. We’ve been very happy together ever since. I own too much, but I wear ever single bullet and tube I buy regularly because I love the whole experience that goes with it. I love shopping for it, testing out shades, seeing how I feel in them, hoarding them like a dragon over my gold, and picking one every day that will make me feel great to wear.

You can’t accidentally fall into lipstick, it is an intentional product. Unless you are supremely gifted, you have to pay attention to apply it correctly, and you often have to “touch it up” throughout the day to keep it looking tidy and at full strength–unless you have mastered the art of not caring whilst still achieving effortless, chic status. In which case, DM me, I have a few questions. Personally, I love whipping out a small mirror in the afternoon for a quick once over. I usually find it reassuring to be reminded that I have a little extra something on my face that feels positive, pretty, and powerful.

It’s become “my thing,” part of my brand, for lack of a better word. At a previous job, a man from another company who I had only met once previously was discussing our meeting to a colleague and forgot my name. He struggled for a moment before describing me as, “The woman, the one with the lipstick.” I was not the only woman in this meeting, nor the only one with lip product on her face. Mine had stood out somehow. Good. I’d chosen it for exactly that purpose and it worked.

I don’t wear lipstick for other people and certainly not for male attention. My husband knows how lipstick makes me feel and he’s not above kissing me while in my full warpaint. He is perfectly able to wipe off any excess; it doesn’t hurt him. He is also wise enough occasionally divert a kiss to my cheek or forehead (or at his most adorable, my nose) while lovingly and teasingly saying, “I don’t want to smudge you.” He gets it. And as for anyone else, I don’t wear it for them; I wear lipstick because I feel better with it on.

Lipstick, like shoes, always fits. It makes an old T-shirt and a comfortable pair of jeans into an “outfit.” It is a pocket sized personality beacon. It is a blatant claiming of space and attention, even and perhaps especially just for yourself.

Lipstick is Armor

I made a friend several years ago who didn’t necessarily share my love of lipstick. She had a minimal beauty style that suited her to the ground and she preferred to wear things that made her complexion the star of the show. She always looked fantastic.

One day over lunch we were swapping stories and tidbits of information, and somehow we got on to the subject of beauty. We complimented one other’s taste (because women loving women is the best) and she asked me about lipstick because she noticed I always wore it. I laughed and gave her a truncated version of this post: how it makes me feel to wear it and how I know it’s just wax and pigment that it somehow, genuinely makes me happier and braver. She got it too.

“You know, I have a lipstick drawer somewhere,” she said after a moment. “I never use the stuff, but I love knowing that it’s there. Just in case. I may need it some day.”

 

A Jacket Interlude

“Miss Rhode Island, please describe your idea of a perfect date.”
“That’s a tough one. I would have to say April 25th. Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”
– Miss Congeniality, 2000

Deploying the First Lady is something the Trump administration does rarely but damn effectively. She really is an under utilized resource, and like many others I don’t know if this is down to personal preference or genuine strategic thinking to keep her PR value high.

So, with that in mind,  let’s fight about this jacket. I’m pretty well convinced this is intentional and strategic. Melania Trump, a former model and genuinely well dressed and shod woman, knows how to use fashion. See also, her pussy bow blouse during “Grab ’em by the pussy” week, her choice of stilettos when visiting a flood zone which may or may not have been practical but certainly got people talking, her excellent (and I mean that sincerely) handling of the French president’s state dinner including her style choices, and so on.

There is a reason we watch First Lady fashion and while it’s far from the most important thing to talk about right now, it’s not insignificant or incorrect to talk about it.

The jacket in question.

Is this a signal of disdain to immigrants? Is it a signal of disdain for her own husband and his policies? Is she supporting the administration? Is she trying to embarrass it from inside the house? Is she triggering the media? Is she pandering to the media? It’s aggressively ambiguous and open to interpretation. I’m almost perversely tempted to tip my hat to this EXPERT trolling/attempt to seize control of/disrupt the narrative, and I have no idea what her intentions are.

I wish we could all let go of the silly idea that she’s a beautiful-but-dumb woman trapped in her marriage. She’s long been willing to play second fiddle to her diva partner but she has never, ever struck me as unintelligent. She’s also not lived in Trump world this long without learning how to use its tricks and The Art of the Headfake is a classic Trump move. It’s wild to think that if her husband were half a subtle as she, he might be twice as effective. Dreadful thought.