Tag: Shopping

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.

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

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!

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.

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? 

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? 

“The Lip That Launched A Thousand Sticks”

“This is the first red lipstick that I ever bought.”
“So this is the lip that launched a thousand sticks?”
“…You’re really proud of that one, aren’t you?”
“Yep!”
– C. and Jeff

My love for lipstick is fairly well documented, but I was well into my 20s before I slicked that first wash of carmine on my face.

I wasn’t quite a tomboy as a kid, but I certainly wasn’t interested in makeup and fashion for most of my adolescence. A good portion of that was frankly bad old fashioned female-on-female disdain, I’m sorry to say. Growing up I always put a lot of value in my brainpower and based much of my sense of identity on my intelligence and interests rather than my personal appearance. This in and of itself is NOT a bad thing, but my major error was in simultaneously being harsh on girls who did put effort into their appearance. I too fell prey to the common but sloppy thinking that girls couldn’t be brainy and stylish at the same time, that to be interested in clothes or makeup was to be silly. It took me years to untangle that sort of black and white thinking around female identity and presentation!

The other reason I was so hesitant to really explore makeup in general and red lipstick in particular was because they intimidated me. Makeup was a skill that I didn’t possess and I was terrified of looking or feeling foolish in adulthood, as I often did with my early teenage forays. This is of course more or less a right of passage growing up, but to the young brain I think such fears are common. From time to time I dabbled with cosmetics, sometimes well but usually unsuccessfully. I particularly admired girls and women who worse intimidating slashes of red on their lips. They looked grown up, in command, at ease with themselves, and slightly dangerous–how I wanted to look and feel–but I never really bit the bullet and the few cheap drugstore lipsticks I bought usually languished barely touched in drawers for months before a move necessitated throwing them out.

I remember the actual image I saw that convinced me to just go for it, already. Here it is, I’ve saved the pin for years. I was working my first job after university at the time and remember being stunned at how pretty and simple the model looked wearing it–she wasn’t covered in a full vintage style slap, she looked fresh and chic. Aside from her obviously stunning red hair, the lipstick was her only highlighted feature, the only product doing any heavy lifting on her face. That doesn’t look so hard, I thought to myself. I bet I could do that.

Jo Goddard (of a Cup of Jo fame, the site where I spotted the image) was able to confirm the exact shade thanks to her contacts in the magazine world. The shade was Red Red Red by Clinique (which I think has been discountinued, or is at least as far as I have been been able to deduce, unfindable in the UK). I bought it the same day I saw that blog post, and wore it almost every day for months/years. Eventually I wore it down to the nub; to date it is still the only lipstick I have ever fully finished, but I still own the tube for sentimental reasons.

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I will never, ever throw this tube away.

That color became my totem for early adulthood. It was a silly, small thing, but it made a big difference in how I felt about myself when I slid the bullet over my lips. I was now a girl who word red. It gave me a sense of bravery, command, and self that I honestly didn’t have before I discovered that it was okay and not at all shallow, shameful, or otherwise silly to want to feel pretty. I coined the phrase, “Lipstick is armor,” during this phase, and I still mean it today. Much later on, lipstick has became a sort of brand item for me–a fact I realized when someone at my old job couldn’t remember my name to a colleague but described me as, The Girl With the Lipstick. My lip arsenal has grown by leaps and bounds since them, but I’m never without at least a couple on my person–different shades ready to be deployed as circumstances warrant. I could feel embarrassed by how many I own…but I don’t. They makes me feel beautiful.

Lipstick was a gateway drug into the world of beauty and make up, that strange place that in my adolescence I simply never felt brave enough to really enter.  The consequences have been, ah…pricey, but also really satisfying. I’ve made some beauty mistakes along the way, I’ve continuously experimented with different style personas, and I’ve occasionally laughed at my expense when the results don’t turn out great. I’ve had some hilarious misadventures in trying to find my correct foundation shades, and the skills required for a really killer smokey eye still escape me after years of trying. More than once I’ve left the house thinking I look fine only to catch sight of myself in a mirror hours later and think, I’ve made a huge mistake. That’s okay.

It’s just make up. It comes off. And if all else fails, I can put on a red lip with nothing else and still feel pretty damn great about the way I look.

Five Tips For Defining Your Style

“ASSISTANT ARCTURAN PILOT: Why don’t ya tie a knot in your hanky like everyone else?
ZAPHOD: Style friend, style. Now come on I gotta go.”
– Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

Far from a fashion plate myself, I found myself thinking about what advice I’d give to someone putting together a wardrobe or trying to figure out their own sense of style. Then I second guessed myself because there are whole magazines devoted to this question, what the hell did I have to offer? But given the context I’ve been thinking and writing about style for this project, I thought I’d give it a go anyway. Based on personal experience, here are my Five Tips For Defining Your Style

 

You do you, boo. You can spend a lot of years and money trying to look like someone you are not, and your lack of comfort with yourself will show. However if you spend a little time and energy to learn and understand what clothing you like and why early on, I think it is easier to own your own tastes rather than trying to prioritize society’s or someone else’s. If you know what you genuinely like to look like, that’s what you will end up buying. And if you genuinely like your clothing, you will wear it and avoid buyer’s remorse.

Consider your lifestyle and be reasonable about it. There is nothing wrong with the occasional aspirational purchase–so long as you can afford it and you actually use it (more on that in a later post). But it is the height of folly to buy either items or multiple products that you are simply not going to wear. When I started working full time, I found myself continuing to buy more casual clothes that were better suited to university lectures than the workplace. It took me a while to really get it through my head that five days out of seven were now going to require a new level of formality and that 5/7ths of my budget and closet (metaphorically speaking) needed to reflect that. Having gone back and forth between full time and freelance all my working life, I’ve had to make multiple mental shifts when it comes to my lifestyle and how I need to dress for it.

Don’t compare your wants, needs, and preferences to anyone else’s–not even those you’re drawing inspiration from. And don’t try to force your tastes to match theirs. There may be a friend, family member, or influencer who you really admire and have found value in following. Great! But don’t therefore assume that because they have prioritized certain items in their wardrobe that you have to make the same choices to achieve similar style results.

I fell into this trap a few years ago when starting to build a work wardrobe after leaving university. Many of the women whose professional style I admired wore a lot of skirts and so I too ended up buying a lot of skirts…and frankly not wearing them often enough to justify the purchases. I realize in retrospect that I was trying to recreate the professional but feminine looks that the women who influenced me had mastered, but my mistake was in trying to go against my natural preferences to do so. For me, ease and convenience are high priorities, and most skirts I bought seemed to come with some added discomfort and minor frustrations–waistbands shifting about during the day, constantly retucking shirts or rearranging leggings or tights beneath them, having to coordinate multiple items of clothing during a rushed morning, and so on. These are really small inconveniences and preferences, but they added up to mean that I wasn’t using the items I’d spent good money on; I defaulted to other items in my wardrobe. The long term takeaway as been that at heart I am a mostly trousers kind of girl and that’s okay, but that I still like more traditionally feminine looks from time to time. The solution has been to invest in a handful of dresses; single pieces that achieve the look I want are more manageable to me than multiple pieces that require coordination and more effort.

Pinterest isn’t silly. I say Pinterest but all of social media can be really useful in helping you figure out what you gravitate towards. I’ve talked about this a bit already, and I stand by it. As with my skirt story above, I think it can be easy to mistake what you think you want to look like for how you actually feel most comfortable and stylish. Spending a little time really examining your aesthetics and preferences can save you quite a bit of time and money. As a consumer, I think it can also help train you to admire beautiful clothes or makeup without necessarily coveting it–thereby avoiding impulse purchases simply because a favorite blogger bought a similar piece, for instance. Done well, social media can be an excellent visual research tool for first admiring certain looks and, over time, learning what about them appeals to you specifically.

Take inspiration from stylish people, and remember Amy Poehler’s wisdom, “Good for her, not for me.” I follow a lot of minimalists who have monochromatic wardrobes and styles. I also follow bona fide fashionistas with closets for days and shoes for years. Neither of these options represent me and my own preferences, but I admire people who have a handle on their own style, and I often have picked up tips or tricks from people who have curated a “look” for themselves which bears no resemblance to my own. Remember my defining premise: style is the choices we make and why. Go forth and enjoy other people who like different things than you! You’ll be surprised at what you discover interests you and pick up wisdom about self-presentation along the way.

Broadly summarized, I’d say that to define your own style, figure out what you value, clothes-wise, rather than what stuff you think you want. This sense of value can be characterized by anything from comfort, convenience, color, or messaging, to level of care and upkeep, trends, and price tag. Prioritize your purchases accordingly.

 

Your turn. Have you “figured out” you sense of fashion or style yet? Has it changed over the years? Is this an area you want to invest some time and attention in the future? Talk to me about how you put your closet together!