Tag: Money

Forgive Me, Readers, for I Have Failed…BUT!

These are my confessions
Just when I thought I said all I could say
My chick on the side said she got one on the way
These are my confessions
Man, I’m throwed and I don’t know what to do
I guess I gotta give part two of my confessions
If I’m gonna tell it, then I gotta tell it all…
– Usher, Confessions II

So, Reader, here’s the bit where I confess that I have failed my shopping self challenge for the year.

Earlier this year I wrote about a goal of only buying 18 personal items throughout the year (with a few sensible caveats like socks, and that sort of thing). Well, I did really well at this for well over half the year but a grab bag of charity shop scarves and a vintage shopping binge have put me over my tally.

One of the culprits in question. It was 20 quid. It’s brilliant.

A few shameless attempts at reducing my guilt! I have only bought one item that is more than what I would have paid on the high street or a mid-range shop for its equivalent. A bunch of these items were a handful of pounds each, but did not fall into one of my protected categories and thus were tallied on my running spreadsheet regardless of cheapness–of course there’s a spreadsheet, don’t you know me at all?

But self-justification aside, I did have a bit of a moment of self-reflection. In fact, to speak truth, I had a nice little bout of emotional self-flagellation when I typed in my purchases and realized I had broke my goal, and decided to wallow in unproductive recrimination for the better part of an evening. Eventually more sensible feelings prevailed. I felt weak willed, but I also didn’t really regret any of the items I’ve spent money on this year. In fact, the sum total was less than 2% of our combined income as a family so maybe I had picked a silly goal to try and accomplish, or maybe my expectations weren’t reasonable? Or hell, maybe I am just weak willed and that’s the end of it.

I decided I could live with the minor guilt, especially if I set up a new self challenge instead. I’ve discovered in the past couple of years that game-ifying things helps me achieve goals and keeps me more accountable that sheer willpower alone. Working towards an established prize or even just being able to tick a box every day is a simple but effective thing for me. It’s a bit juvenile, but it works. X. and I keep one another accountable with our health and fitness goals because we are working towards a girl trip together if we meet them. Katarina I and keep up a regular chat chain of encouragement towards writing goals, whether about meeting a word count or just bouncing ideas off of one another. I have whole pages dedicated to lists and projects (of course I do) in my journal that I get the most ridiculous pleasure from in updating and refining. I’m so type A it’s silly. So, what could I do to reset my self-challenge in a really useful way?

We haven’t purchased anything for the house since these antique chairs, which I still think were a great purchase, for the record.

My one regret in shopping these past few months was that I didn’t feel like I had made any progress towards decorating our house which is still fairly basic in its furnishings. But finding the right trade off between an item that you like, that suits your space, and isn’t stupidly priced in London can be difficult and though we’ve liked the idea of different items over the past eight months, nothing compelled me to loosen our purse strings once.

Until the other day. I think I found it. A piece of furniture that matches our front room area, solves a storage need, has the right dimensions, looks gorgeous, is an upcycled vintage piece, and costs less than £350. Jeff and I discussed it and it seems to check all the boxes. I’ve messaged the seller to enquire about it and thus far the signs seem positive.

And so, kittens. I’m making a new bargain and documenting it here for you, the coterie, to hold me accountable. If this deal goes through, we are counting this piece of furniture as our mutual Christmas present to ourselves and the following Faustian pact will kick in:

  • I am locking up my wallet for the rest of the year. Nada, zilch. Not a single personal item shall I buy for the next five months. This will also count as my final spending freeze for my 101/1001 goal list.
  • I will finish paying off one of our credit cards in full, by the end of the year. Another partial 101/1001 goal!
  • I will prepare and pack lunches every day for the rest of the year, or lean on my cash allowance. Or starve, I guess…
  • I will extend my makeup no-buy challenge (which I have confessed to breaking) until June of 2019. Any replacement items I buy will be drugstore, without exception.
  • I will write about this project: regularly, fully, and honestly. No matter how embarrassing or confessional. Hell, I even promise to try and be funny about it!

So, there, that’s how I’ll leverage my weak will for your benefit, ducklings. Let me know what kinds of posts you’d like to see now through the end of the year as I try to earn myself some furniture and engage in some new financial asceticism. I think I may like to open the (vintage!) kimono and write a bit more specifically about the things I’ve collected over the years and why. I may finally do a “shop my closet” series and get around to doing those Out of the Day posts I’ve committed to in my 101/1001 but have felt too self conscious to do. Perhaps you’d be interested in a tour of my favorite shops and markets around London, or you yourself may want to engage in some competitive goal tracking. Do let me know in the comments, I’m interested!

 

 

 

The Joy of Dupes

“Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” 
― Coco Chanel

I admit it, I can be a sucker for luxury. I work in marketing, I should know better! But because I do work in marketing, I also know the power that branding has and how a well maintained and reputation-earning brand can add zeros on to its asking prices and still be considered worth every penny. In other cases, however, no matter how attractive the brand, the underlying product can be lackluster enough that zeros should probably be knocked off.

Last year I did a month long money project in January where I tracked my spending publicly, and once a year for the past couple of years I’ve gone on a “no buy” where I complete restrict all personal shopping for several months. I’m in the midst of another one now. There are several posts on this site going back years where I catalog and document my attempts to be a smarter, more ethical, and less reactive consumer and it’s an ongoing process. Lately I’ve been on something of a mission to find cheaper versions of items I love over because while some things may absolutely be worth the pricetag, a lot (if not most of the time) you can find the same ingredients, experience, or emotional charge from something at a much better price point.

It’s not wrong to want and use nice things, or even to save up for a luxurious purchase if you can honestly afford it, but I do think it’s silly to do so when you can get an almost identical version of the product for a fraction of the cost. At what point does the idea of a certain product stop being worth the price tag?

Here’s a by-no-means-comprehensive list of some “luxuries” I’ve replaced with cheaper options recently.

Dyptique Feu de Bois (£45) / Muji Log Fire (£4.95)
The numbers here speak for themselves. Let’s step into the confessional booth for a moment: as a young adult I was an easy sucker for Dyptique candles, they are such wonderful smelling things that look and feel like something a grown up would burn in their home. When we were living in a shoebox with peeling linoleum floors, I bought these because they made me feel better about the cramped and ugly space we lived in. They are textbook aspirational homegoods and I fell for the emotional bait hook, line, and sinker. I repent. I have also found a practically identical scent for literally a tenth of the price and have repurposed the fancy glass remains of past candles as makeup brush holders.

Bite Beauty Pepper ($26) / Maybelline Color Sensational Velvet Beige (£6.99)
Last month I achieved that rare thing, finishing a whole bullet of lipstick. Thanks to discovering the Makeup Rehab Subreddit and several self challenges to finish products I have on my shelves instead of falling prey to the siren song of the latest launch, I have found ways to game-ify using products instead of acquiring them. A useful inversion of capitalism and marketing! But staying on point, when it came time to consider replacing it (and I did want to, as it was my only nude colored lipstick, if you can believe that) I considered repurchasing the same lipstick, before deciding to see if I could replicate it at the drugstore. No surprises, I found a near perfect match at that great British institution Boots. Even better, though, because I am a careful hoarder of membership points, I had accumulated more than enough to cover the cost of a drugstore lipstick. So not only did I find an equivalent item that costs a quarter of the price, in this case I got it for free.

Pestle & Mortar Hyaluronic Acid (£36) / The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid (£6)
Honestly The Ordinary probably has a cheaper version of any skincare ingredient you’d like to try. When hype about the Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum reached frenzy, it was wonderfully easy to avoid it seeing as I had a Vitamin C product sitting pretty on my shelves that cost less than £6–though full disclosure, the Drunk Elephant still temps me. I plan on trying a £5.50 Lactic Acid solution of theirs next to see if it can replace my Sunday Riley Good Genes serum (which costs a whopping £85 and which I have not repurchased in months for obvious reasons, much as I love the formula).

 

The Best Things I Bought Last Year

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

Inspired by Janssen over at Everyday Reading, I thought I’d run through a few things that I spent money on last year that sparked a lot of joy. Budgeting continues to be a big thing in the Small Dog residence this year and posts on this theme will continue to flow as I continue to think about consumption and responsible consumerism, as well as debt management. All of which I’m sure you guys find riveting.

That’s right, ducklings, come for the political angst, stay for the sensible money talk!

So, while I’m in the midst of a three month-long personal spending freeze to kick off the new year, here are the best things I bought in 2017.

Vintage Chairs

We took an apartment at the upper end of our budget when we moved into this place, negotiating a better rent rate in exchange for furnishing it ourselves rather than asking our landlord to do so. This has had tradeoffs. We live in the nicest place of our married life but have had to curtail spending elsewhere as a result; we have an amazing home, but are taking literal years in putting it together and saving up for big buys one at a time. But both of us were in agreement when we saw this pair of vintages chairs show up at one of our favorite antique stores that we wanted them. They were our only big budget item for our house this year but they’ve leant our place charm, personality, color, and a much needed place for people to actually sit. I love them.

Party Dress

It had been years since I bought a party dress that didn’t come in the LBD variety, but this past holiday season I had enough events to go to (with a broad range of dress codes) that an update to the wardrobe was justifiable. This dress was in my December favorites post, but deserves another shout out because I have definitely gotten my money’s worth out of this thing.

Lea Stein Brooch 

I picked this up on our long weekend trip to Paris with the glorious Caitlin and her lovely husband Jose. I fell in love with Lea Stein designs years ago and stumbled across an amazing shop in the Rue Jacob that sells vintage costume purely by accident. This was the only purchase that came home from Paris this year and it’s a wonderful bit of treasure.

Greek Vacation

Without fail, the best thing we spent money to me this past year was a week in Greece just the two of us. I’m very bad at relaxing, and this trip was a much needed reset. Even though we were crazy and flew into and out of Athens in less than 24 hours, we had a wonderful day in the city and an amazing six further days on Santorini with hiking, sailing, and an awful lot of food. It was amazing and has really helped me remember to prioritize time off better than I have before.

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!

What I’m Not Going to Buy – Inspired by Kimberly Clark

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”
― Yves Saint-Laurent

Kimberly Clark is a YouTuber I mentioned in my March favorites post. A drag queen who vlogs on beauty, consumerism, and social issues, her content is frankly right up my street! She’s most notable for her “Anti-Haul” series where, in contrast to other glam influencers who show off their (often extravagant) mass purchases, she creates fun and enjoyable videos detailing what she is choosing not to buy–and why. Her style is quintessential drag, humorous and hyperbolic, but often intermixed with valuable thoughts on brands and consumer culture.

I really like her take on being honest and blunt about wanting, buying, and enjoying products that are fundamentally unnecessary, but also honestly evaluating (in her opinion) when certain products or brands cross the line into downright ridiculous. Her catch phrase, “I don’t need it and I’m not going to buy it,” could save us all a lot of buyers remorse–and not just on beauty and style products.

And so, following the exposé of my stash, and in the spirit of glitter, big hair, and smarter consumption, here’s a list of things I’m not going to buy:

Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter and Glow Liquid Eye Shadow. Something strange has happened lately and I’ve found myself drawn inexorably to metallic cosmetics as if I were some kind of earthbound magpie. These things are outrageously high on shine and ever since swatching them on my hand to test both their reflective might (strong) and staying power (fairly decent for something so glittery), I have coveted them fiercely. But I’m not going to buy them. I have two semi-metallic shades of cream eye shadow that are more muted but still plenty shimmery and can work for both work or going out depending on how I use them. They would be tons of fun, but–in the words of Kimberly Clark herself–I don’t need them so I’m going to buy them!

Bobbi Brown City Palette in London. I fell for this compact due to the combined powers of an intense navy shade and the illustrated case that pays homage to my favorite city on earth. But pretty as they both are, even I must admit those are insufficient reasons to splurge.

Anything by Tom Ford, with the exception of the eyeliner pen which is genuinely great in spite of the price. Because when your brand charges $50 for lipstick, $110 for bronzer, and $80 for blushes…I expect your products to not only make me eternally young, but to do my laundry, clean my house, and file my tax paperwork in the bargain. No one needs to spend that much money on on this stuff. Nobody.

Glossier Cloud Paint. Like the liquid eye shadow, I definitely want this and am intrigued to try it. I don’t entirely worship at the shrine of Glossier, some of their products are a bit overhyped or underwhelming…but the products of theirs that I do like, I buy in multiples. However I’m not going to be buying this product, at least not any time soon, because I have a lot of blushes already. I haven’t bought all of them, a good number I was very generously gifted to review by a magazine, but the fact remains that I have a drawer full already and simply don’t need more at the moment.

Any more highlighters. Sephora can tempt me with all the glow they can bring to bear, but I own a handful as it stands. I can look dewy, bronzed, or downright gilded if I want to already, so I will be sitting on my hands every time I’m tempted by something shiny until I’ve used up some of my existing stock.

Most limited edition anything (fully acknowledging that my own shopping ban cheat indulgence was precisely that). In almost all instances, the “limited edition” nature of these items is to meant to enable markups on already existing formulas and products. Moreoever, more than one brand has rolled out a “limited edition” product to outrageous hype, only to have it become a viral success–at which point it behooves the brand to add the item to their normal roster anyway (a great example of this is Becca’s Champagne Pop highlighter). Which means that all you paid for (normally at some kind of mark up) is the urgency. There are new product launches all the time and it is a rare item that will truly fill a gap in your stash and be worth the higher price tag.

New Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. Full disclosure, I love these. I own two and could gleefully own more, but I’m sitting on my hands in defiance of their recent release of new shades because…I have an obscene amount of lip products already. I’m not buying another stick until I’ve used up my existing ones. So help me god.

Anything Kylie Cosmetics. I fully admit to an irrational prejudice when it comes to this family in general, but that’s just not a direction I want to send my money.

 

Your turn, ducklings. What is one thing (or a list of things) you want but have made a decision not to buy–frivolous or otherwise? 

My Makeup Arsenal

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”
― Gwyneth Paltrow

Here it is, I’m throwing open the doors on my current makeup stash.

It’s taken me a long time to build this sucker up and, as previously written, I’m fairly happy with it overall. I’m sure it’s a lot larger than some of yours, and I know for a fact it’s a lot smaller than others! But in spite of the time and expense, makeup and beauty in general is an area of life that gives me a lot of pleasure and joy, so I don’t make a lot of apologies for it.

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Eyes

The eyes have it…though I’ll readily admit this is the makeup area with which I am least proficient–though I’m constantly practicing for improvement and rare is the weekend that will find me without some kind of color experiment on my lids! My eyes are a very noticeable shade of green and I like to play them up. I have one palette containing some neutral shades with both matte and shimmer formulas by Nars (with one standout shade of blue for a kick), and another containing all matte formulas in warm, neutral shades by Viseart. I also have a tiny travel sized palette for when I need to hop on a plane or train with just one bag to my name.

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I’m not terribly keen on eyeliner, so the three I have are (ironically) a bit wild. Two are blue shades, the other is a shimmery gold, all by Urban Decay. They get most of their love and use on the weekend. Then I have a couple of Charlotte Tilbury cream shadow sticks in Bronzed Garnet and Gold Digger, and ditto Nars in Reykjavik and Aigle Noir for a basic smokey eye look that even I couldn’t mess up.

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For standalone eye colors not be to be found in a palette, I have two Charlotte Tilbury cream shadows in Marie Antoinette and Verushka (an “oyster gold” and an “minky-mossy” green respectively), one MAC shadow in Antiqued (a warm, reddish brown with shimmer) and a Laura Mercier shadow in Plum Smoke.

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Powders and Blush

When it comes to powders, this is an area that has grown a lot in recent years. I own a shedload of blushes, but should note right away that last year I was invited to review about half a dozen different blush products for a magazine. They provided me the blushes to use and review, which effectively doubled my collection–though some I’ve passed on to better homes since then. The fact still remains, I’ve got a lot!

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I’ve been in a bit of a neutrals “moment” when it comes to blushes for a while now. In my salad days I was a sucker for a bit of shimmer but as my tastes have changed, I’ve pretty ruthlessly cleared those out in favor of matte formulas. The one exception is Nars’ Orgasm blush which I bought years ago, fell out with, gifted away to family, and then was gifted back again as part of my product review opportunity. It’s sticking around until summer when I’m going to give it another proper trial. Now my blushes are all shades of nude, peach, and pink in a couple of instances that look fairly natural. My obvious standout is Nars’ Exhibit A, a bright orange red that looks shocking in the pan and gorgeous on the face (a light touch required).

I’ve also included my one bronzer from The Body Shop, which I’m still learning to use without looking ridiculous, a finishing powder by Hourglass in Dim Light, two highlighters by Becca in Moonstone (poured formula) and Champagne Pop (powder), and a translucent setting power by Laura Mercier. My latest edition to this family was my cheat item from my shopping ban, the highlighter form the Estee Lauder and Victoria Beckham collaboration in the shade Modern Mercury. It was ridiculous expensive, but I’ve been wearing it almost nonstop since I bought it. Regrets, I’ve had a few, as the song goes, but this isn’t one of them!

 

Foundation

When it comes to foundation, I’m much less ridiculous and I have two go-to products: the Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer in the shade Natural and the Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in the shade 5. Based on a lot of recommendations, I’m currently road testing the It Cosmetics CC cream in a “trial size” version to see if I can find a slightly cheaper mid-to-high coverage option in place of the Armani when it runs out (which I love deeply but it it is expensive). I also chucked in a cream highlighter by Becca in the shade Rose Gold which I tend to use as a blush, a Glossier highlighter in Haloscope, and two primers–one by Makeup Forever, and another by Givenchy. I was late to the primer game, but have been converted.

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Other Bits

In the bits-n-bobs section, I have my eyebrow products (one pencil by Anastasia Beverly Hills, and Glossier’s Boy Brow), one eyeliner pen (by Tom Ford, hideously expensive, but very good), and two concealers (Glossier Stretch Concealer in Medium for light coverage, Clarins Instant Light in 01 for fuller coverage).  My mascara is and for years has been Maybelline’s Full’n’Soft. It’s unfindable in the UK, but I stock up on a tube or two every time I go back to the States.

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Lip Stuff

And finally, the heavy artillery of the arsenal: my lipstick. I have…a lot.

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I break my stash down into light and dark colors (though that’s just for storage, I don’t really switch my shades in accordance with a season. I tend to just wear whatever calls to me on any given day).

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I also separate out my liquid lipsticks and glosses. I’ve only been into these for about a year and all of my liquid lipsticks are from Kat von D’s line, which I really like. My recent additions are two highly metallic glosses from Bite Beauty (who, you will notice, are by far my lipstick brand of choice). I don’t really like glosses, but I was drawn two these Prismatic Pearl Creme Gloss products (in Champagne Pearl and Oyster Pearl) like moths to a flame. They look like liquid metal on my lips. Practical, no. Gorgeous, yes!

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And there you have it. A 100% honest tour of my treasure hoard…er, minus whatever may be hiding in my purse that I might have forgotten to take out, now that I think on it!

I think it’s obvious why I think I don’t need any more until I’ve used up quite a bit of what I’ve got. But I admit it can be hard to ignore the siren song of a really beautiful piece of kit. Makeup makes me feel better, more in command of my presentation, like I’m not just able to highlight different features but different aspects of my personal based on what color I swipe across my lids or lips. More on that later this week!

 

Your turn! Do you love makeup? Loathe it? Is there a specific type of product you’ve either come around to lately, or gone off of entirely? Do you hoard a specific type of product and if so, why? 

Finding My Fashion Sense (a work in progress)

“Style is knowing what suits you, who you are, and what your assets are. It is also accepting it all.”
– Bianca Jagger

Lo these many years ago in my early 20s I decided to sit down and figure out what I actually liked and wanted to wear, as opposed to trying to follow trends or simply copy looks I liked on other people (which invariably never looked as good on me). It was a surprisingly frustrating exercise. It took a few years in all honesty, and I ended up going down a few blind fashion alleys, and frankly spending more money than I should have, along the way. But I was sick of owning clothes I didn’t wear because I’d bought them liking the idea of the pieces more than the pieces themselves…which was ultimately my personal breakthrough moment.

Liking and owning are not and need not be the same thing. I’d gotten them dangerously confused–something I think it’s very easy to do in our culture. Indeed, we’re kind of trained to. Just because I liked something didn’t mean that 1) I needed to own it or, 2) that it would necessarily suit me anyway. I didn’t really know what I liked, and as a result I was flailing–stylistically as well as financially or practically. Dividing aesthetic appreciation from my consumer urges helped get poorly planned or whim purchases off the menu; I then decided that I needed to figure out what my tastes actually were before buying more stuff.

I made a Pinterest board where I pinned fashion images that I liked, as opposed to items I wanted to buy.

Gradually, some noticeable themes started to emerge from the inspiration images I collected. What I learned over time is that I like masculine inspired tailoring in feminine clothing, neutral basics paired with colorful or standout accessories, high impact glam for special occasions, and a noticeably vintage vibe running throughout. Got it! If that’s how I buy, I know I’ll be pretty happy and get a lot of use out of my clothing. So it was and so it has remained.

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This image is my fashion totem: comfy jeans, impractically dramatic fur coat, excellent lipstick. Done. It me, kittens, at least in my fantasy life.

I’ve never read any good style advice that didn’t boil down to, “Know thyself,” but I think if we are honest, that’s more difficult than it appears at first blush. Lots of us go through multiple identities or personas in our life–high school cliques, groups of friends, career moves, family changes–which means that who we are is constantly shifting. Sometimes we deliberately decide to explore new facets of our personalities, which may prompt a change in aesthetics. Sometimes…we just feel bored or frustrated with ourselves and an easy way to feel different it to choose to look different (let’s share tragic haircut choices in the comments, shall we?). And sometimes, our tastes simply change. Mine have shifted several times over the last decade. And even though I’m pretty happy with my wardrobe now, I’m fairly sure it will evolve again at some point as my professional or lifestyle needs shift.

Committing to examining and developing your sense of style can be an exercise in radical honesty, it forces you to really define what you like but also why you gravitate towards it. You may encounter some uncomfortable truths. When I was first freelancing full time, I spent several months in full schlub mode and there was a period of time where I could spend whole days in my pajamas if I wanted to, which I often did. It ended up having a knock on effect on my health (it was easy not to exercise) and confidence (it was hard to feel competent with perpetually messy hair). When I woke to this cause-and-effect, I made a switch and deliberately discarded or repurposed my lazy loungewear so that wearing it simply wasn’t an option. A minor change, but one that has had long term positive benefits for both how I look and feel in the mirror.

Examining your style can also open up some positive doors or new facets of your personality you want to explore and bring to the fore. Stay tuned for the story of my love affair with lipstick next week! Once you discover what you like (what you really like), I find that a lot of the imposter syndrome, self consciousness, or indecision that often comes with getting dressed in the morning melts away. If you genuinely love what you own, whether it’s trunk fulls of designer labels, or well loved jeans and t-shirts, I think you are much less likely to be concerned with what other people’s opinions are on the subject of your presentation.

Get to know yourself. Like yourself. Dress the part. It’s a formula that works for me, even though the first element of it is constantly in a state of flux.

 

Your turn! Have you ever tried to define your own sense of style? What tools helped? Could you sum up your fashion sense in three words or an image like that of the Great and Good Katherine Hepburn?