Tag: Style

Lipstick Usage: A Junkie’s Confession

“I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Big news, team, I’ve finished another full sized lip product this month. This is my third this year so far and means I’m two for three in my 13 by Halloween panning challenge. Progress!

I’ve said it before, and others have said it with far more eloquence, but we live in an age of conspicuous beauty consumption and it’s fascinating to watch whole media and production industries shift to accelerate our spending habits. But there is much less interrogation of the perish-ability of beauty items and how long it takes to use some of them. It took me months of almost single-product usage to use up these lipsticks…and I own at least two dozen lip products. The sheer time it will take me to use these items is daunting.

So. Damn. Satisfying.

In fact I can hand on heart say that I own years worth of makeup… and I don’t feel great about that. Earlier this year I made an inventory of all the beauty products I own and how much they cost to purchase. I still can’t share the number because even now I’m shocked by it. However, quantifying what I owned was a real wake up call and has helped me set (and mostly keep) spending challenges, and has motivated me to take more pleasure in using items than hoarding or collecting them.

Similar to clothing, I definitely went through a period in my young adulthood of not really knowing who I was (aesthetically speaking) or what face or image I wanted to portray to the world. I tried on a lot of looks, hoping to find myself in the mirror. I bought items that editors and bloggers recommended, shopped for the kind of girl I thought I wanted to be (rather than who I actually was), and frankly indulged in retail therapy. It was an expensive and frankly wasteful process to go through, and I recognize my own privilege in being able to afford it, but I’m grateful to have had the experience of learning a bit more about myself through the mirror of…well, my bathroom mirror. I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that I don’t care if everyone and their dog loves it, I don’t like NARS’ iconic blush shade, “Orgasm.” It has glitter in it, and that’s not my jam. I’ve learned that blue based red lipstick may make my teeth look whiter, but too bad. I loved orangey reds and if given the choices will always reach for the latter–and should probably therefore stop buying the former. I’ve learned that I don’t know how or care to contour my face; I am not a Kardashian. I’ve learned that I may love the idea of colorful eyeliners and pencils but I will not wear them and they are a waste of money.

I’ve learned that 90% of any successful and cohesive aesthetic as an adult woman seems to be confidence. I’m sure in retrospect that literally no one on earth besides me was paying significant attention to how my face looked on any given day, and that most of the angst and insecurity I felt was emotional energy spent that I’ll never get back. I’ve also learned that because almost know one cares about my face as much as me, I may as well have fun from time to time and actually wear colorful makeup or lipstick and enjoy the hell out of it rather than allow it to languish on a shelf due to timidity.

I’ve learned that no amount of product or pigment will compensate for poor health or self care. Good skin, an exercised body, and healthy food may not be as bold as red lipstick, but I will feel ten times better in them than any amount of the latter. A balanced emotional state and tended to mental health is not notably glamorous but it is infinitely better for my wallet. And I’ve learned that before I am allowed to buy anything, I must do the months worth of work to use what I have first. It’s been a mindset shift that has stretched into almost every area of my life as a capitalist consumer.

Beauty has taught me a lot, and I think that’s why I like to write about it and read about it as much as I do. It’s an interesting glimpse into an inner life with a very shallow surface and very deep through lines.

 

The Faustian Cabinet Has Arrived

“If you love something, it will work. That’s the only real rule.”
– Bunny Williams

A quick moment of apartment appreciation, minions. We’ve lived in our current place for two years and our lease is for a year more, after which we may either need to move or at least try to negotiate on rent a bit more. We struck a bargain when we moved in that we would furnish the place ourselves in exchange for lower rent and we have done so…very, very slowly.

I don’t like living in what feels like a barebones apartment sometimes, I’m ready for a home that feels intentional and grown up, with art on the walls and furniture bought to keep instead of disposable IKEA goods. Simultaneous and paradoxically to that, I enjoy the ease with which we have been able to move, be it to another country or a new apartment on short notice. Owning fewer possessions definitely helps with that!

However, the older I get, the less satisfied I am with living out of suitcases. Our first ever apartment in Utah was starving newlywed accommodation, our first London apartment was a shoebox and not very nice, but this apartment feels like the first proper grown up place. I’ve enjoyed the process of putting it together, even if that process takes a long time and is constrained by the realities of budgeting and strategy. We bought a bed and a wardrobe when we first moved in, for obvious reasons. Over the coming months, our next purchase was a couch, which again is fairly standard. From Etsy we bought a coffee table and stools, from John Lewis a rug. After about a year we splurged on our fabulous vintage chairs and then closed our wallets again for a long while.

Furnishing is a balancing act. I’m a magpie who loves interesting, colorful pieces with personality while Jeff would be a Danish minimalist if he could. Smashing those two styles together into something that involves taste is a tricky, but I think we’re doing okay so far. He has his industrial tables, I get colors and patterns so long as the lines are modern. I get to do the majority of the selection, but he gets veto power so we don’t get overwhelmed with my magpie tendencies. It works. So when I spotted our latest piece online, I knew it would work too.

It’s a vintage piece, but one that’s been upcylced. It’s a muted dark blue, which goes with the blue-gray leather of the sofa, and the blue and white rug. The gold touches keep it feeling chic instead of just a solid block, and it’s deep enough to absorb a lot of items that heretofore didn’t really have a home in the apartment–thus tidying up mess and satisfying Jeffs desire for lack of clutter. I’m absurdly pleased with it and it really has helped me feel as if the front room is “finished” in some way. The only other thing I would want to do in this current apartment would be to frame and hang our art, but if that doesn’t happen until our next lease somewhere, I think could be satisfied.

As promised, this is my last purchase for the year (minus the usual things like socks, underwear, or unsexy items like toothpaste and shoe inserts) and any failures on this point will be publicly documented for shaming purposes. I’m fairly confident that being able to gaze on my growing domestic kingdom will help keep me in financial check. How could you not feel happy in a room that looks like this:

 

 

A Week of Outfits: Friday

Oh God
Could it be the weather
Oh God 
Why am I here
If love Isn’t forever
And it’s not the weather
Hand me my leather
― Tori Amos

I had my Duchess of Sussex knock off look all planned…and then I checked the weather report before I got ready. Thank god because after weeks of heat wave, we’ve taken a turn for the cool and rainy. I don’t mind this personally, as I usually feel much better prepared for cool weather than warm, but it did sort of scupper my final look for the week. White trousers in the rain? I think not, I’m neither an idiot nor a masochist.

And so, to the back up plan! And let’s go to the exact opposite of Duchess territory while we’re at it!

These are vintage leather trousers, they are completely extra, and they are fun. To go back to an earlier post on this series, when I retreat to my single blocks of color in dressing, one element of dressing I like to play with is texture. Texture is why I bought these vintage leather trousers-slash-almost-culottes-kinda, and it’s the same reason I bought my navy velvet trousers. They are totally different sensory experiences, but tactile components can add visual complexity to an outfit. The photo is not my best angle…but who cares!

It’s also fun to mix other components. Leather is a very tough material and is often considered quite masculine or even butch, so you can cut the effect by introducing hyper feminine elements. In this case, I paired it with a loose, pink silk shirt from Everlane and my trusty charity shop heels again. I doubled down with the pearl earrings. All of those pieces are more traditionally feminine and so the trousers become the star of the show. Again. I think I’ve realized I have something of a trousers fetish during this project…

This project has been more fun to do that I thought it would be. I still don’t enjoy having my photo taken, I still feel pretty dumb in front of a camera, and I still have to quell negative comments about how I think I look (yes, even after dropping 20 lbs in a year and a lot of other health victories). But it has helped me think about putting outfits together in advance, which always makes getting out the door that much easier in the morning. It’s made me think about accessories and jewelry, which I clearly need to use more often and in different ways, and it’s definitely made me want to shop my own closet more.

I’ve written before about how I really have gotten to a place where I love my clothes. I can’t think of a single item in my closet that I don’t like–if I don’t like it, I don’t keep it–and even better, a lot of them have whole background and stories behind their purchase. I can explain why I bought an item, what was attractive about it, and how I like to wear it. Everything I own feels intentional. The vast majority of my closet is second hand or vintage items and in almost every case of buying something new, the item has been sourced from a transparent and ethical company. I feel good about what I own.

I’m happy to say that it looks like my furniture deal is going ahead therefore so is my Faustian bargain to not buy any more personal items for the rest of the year. Doing a project like this where I don’t just shop my own closet, but I write about it and try to articulate the way I use clothing better has been a great way to unofficially kick it off. I may do another week like this later in the year, when the cold weather has well and truly descended and I may need a jolt of inspiration again. But for now, I hope it wasn’t too boring to read about and I appreciate the indulgence.

A Week of Outfits: Thursday

“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy — but mysterious. But above all black says this: I don’t bother you — don’t bother me.”
– Yohji Yamamoto

And again proving myself a liar, today I went for simple all black. I’m a howling hypocrite.

There was a reason for the choice, however, it was because I had a visit to another client site scheduled, one that’s a bit less convenient for me to get to than my Monday trek was. Trousers, rather than a dress, were the way to go and frankly it had been too hot that week to cover both legs and sleeves, so a sleeveless top was a must. I don’t really have too many of those and they are all in black or white so this look was a bit of a foregone conclusion.

Then the meeting went and got cancelled at the last minute so my carefully chosen rationale was all for naught.

Going monochrome can be fun and gives you a chance to focus on other items rather than fabric color. In my case, I pulled out the big gold hoop earrings again and a bright red lip because why the hell not?

Wide leg trousers appeal to me on a visceral level, even though I’m sure there is some rule in some style book somewhere about how petite women shouldn’t wear them, and certainly not at the length I found these at this year in an LK Bennett sale for over 50% off. Sue me. If you go to my style inspiration Pinterest board, you will find it filled with  images of wide legged trousers, from photographs of flappers to Victoria Beckham. The vintage look appeals to me significantly; I love how a century ago women took a men’s piece and completely made it their own, and on their terms. I like the feminized “male” trouser of its day and though I do own skinny trousers and like them just fine, I’ve really gravitated towards voluminous pieces. It’s only in the past couple of years that I’ve felt confident enough to wear them. Maybe they do break some kind of rule for how you’re supposed to look or dress, but I love the way these ones look on me. I feel slightly like Katherine Hepburn, and that was exactly the point of them.

We’ve got to talk about the shoes. Because I was expecting to rotate through cars, buses, and trains all in a couple of hours, heels were also out of the question today. But these almost-flats are one of my favorite consignment store finds: a pair of Jimmy Choos at a fraction of the its sales price and barely ever worn. The metal detail at the front makes a fairly basic shoe feel fancier than it actually is, and the slight heel gives me a tiny bit of height while also feeling dressier than flats.

I love consignment shopping; exactly like thrifting, it’s incredible what you can find if you take the time to look and hold out for what you really want. I’ve found new or lightly used shoes by Jimmy Choo, Oscar de la Renta, Alexander McQueen, and Louboutin–all for pennies on the dollar. Ah, the shallowness of labels, right?

I used to work in an industry where the pros could look you head to toe and guess, with alarming accuracy, what your salary and net worth were because it was an industry where people deliberately telegraphed information about themselves with their clothing. I was always, always the most junior and lowest salaried person in the room in that world, but consignment shopping allowed me to blur that fact when I needed to. And now, older, wiser and in fields that fit me better and I like more, I still rely on a lot of the shallow but useful lessons learned from an earlier part of my work life about how much presentation matters. Especially in a city like London.

This outfit appeals to me because it’s simple and easy, but still has personality in spite of the monochrome and allows me to wear items that mean a lot to me and send certain signals effectively. The only thing I’d change about it is possible more or different jewelry, but I’ve barely started buying pieces that aren’t costume and growing that area of my closet is going to be the work of years. Maybe at some future point I’ll do a savings challenge around buying a really incredible piece of bling for myself…that would be motivation!

A Week of Outfits: Wednesday

“A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”
– Diana Vreeland

After that whole spiel about rarely wearing patterns, I pulled out THE pattern, my ducklings. The quintessential, ride or die, take no prisoners pattern: the leopard print.

As I’ve written, I strive for polish, but I also take effort and I don’t like to be bored. For better or worse, I’m loud and sometimes I like for that to come out in my clothes.

I’ve joked about it before, but I completely aim to be the belle of the nursing home in my old age. I want to wear bright colors and loud prints in my twilight and be tsked for dressing inappropriately for my age. When I conjure this image, leopard print has always loomed large for some reason. Somewhere along the line I decided it was stupid to wait for old age to have this kind of fun, and I think that’s when I decided trying to be “chic” was a fruitless effort for me, at least in the way the word is usually used. The word “chic” usually conjures an impossibly thin woman, often in all black or neutrals, with perfect hair. I like this woman, a lot in fact, but I don’t think I am her and that’s okay.

I love the brashness of leopard print, how gleefully in your face it is, but also how easily it can be tamed and managed. Not an easy task for literal wildlife, but perfectly doable. Jenna Lyons, formerly of J. Crew famously once declared that “Leopard print is a neutral,” and that’s exactly the attitude you need to take in order to make this loud shout of wildness feel like the easiest thing in the world.

It’s not stereotypically chic, but I like to think it’s still a little stylish in spite of my clearly still ever-present awkwardness. No one should have to wait until they are old and out of ***** to give to wear leopard print.

To keep the pattern the focus on the look (like unto color in my previous post), I opted for neutral black elsewhere. A black silk top from Everlane, a thin black belt that serves no purpose except to accessorize, and a desceptively basic mid heel black pump. More on that tomorrow. It feels less aggressive than a pointed shoe…and also I don’t have a pointed toe black pump and won’t until next year thanks to my new shopping restrictions. That feels like a very silly and basic item to be missing from one’s closet, but them’s the rules, kids. I also shunned my big hoop earrings of yesterday for a delicate, practically invisible gold chain and pearls again instead, and once again wielded my trusty Longchamp–which I failed utterly to include in photos.

Also very granny as an aesthetic: my new found love for mid and low heeled shoes. It’s difficult to love heels and be a Londoner. The cobbles are not kind to either your shoes or your poster as you fight to keep your balance and navigate uneven pavement. I love heels and I always will, but it’s astonishing how often I am choosing to forgo them in favor of something much more practical, to say nothing of comfortable. I think I’m getting old, kittens…but that’s okay because I’m clearly already dressing for it.

A Week of Outfits: Tuesday

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?'”
“The mood will pass, sir.” 
― P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

This was a day that I wanted to look colorful and summery but also well put together. And so guys…we need to talk about the color of these trousers:

We also need to talk about the continuous tragic failure to take a single photo I like of myself. The fact that I had to work late and therefore barely caught the fading light, glasses included, were not working in my favor! Ah well.

I tried to be a Cool Girl for years, one who could wear monochrome or all black, and do you know what? It bored me. I love black, it’s classic and chic in the right doses but I am simply not content to wear it alone or even try. Give me color or give me death. Indeed, give me too much color and keep your unasked for opinions or criticism to yourself.

Over time I’ve developed a sort of personal palette of colors satisfy my need to peacock, while still building a coherent wardrobe where I can mix and match pieces and maximize my items. I’ve learned what shades I like, which pair well together, and how to partner brighter pieces with neutrals so that the color itself is the stand out element of most of my outfits. By dressing in bold but blocked color, I feel like I’ve found a way to make my need to not feel boring meet my need to dress for a certain audience, particularly in my work life. I don’t often wear patterns as a result and prefer to add variety by using textures (tweed, leather, or velvet for example) or accessories.

Maybe I’ll do a separate post on my palette and talk through the colors I’ve chosen to build my wardrobe around, but it will shock no one who’s spent more than five minutes on this site to know that emerald green is one of them. Green is my favorite color and has been for the whole of my life. My engagement ring is an emerald (smart lad, that Jeff). My wallet is a beautiful green leather one with my monogram on it. If I catch site of a perfect emerald shade in anything in a shop, I will immediately gravitate towards it; my perfect hue is something between the richness of an precious stone and the brightness of a kelly green. It can be a hard shade to get right but when I find something in it that works, I will also find a way to incorporate it into my life, so help me god.

Such an item were these trousers by Boden, last seen in my July Favorites post here. I fell in love with them fast and hard, waited for them patiently to go on sale, and took them to a quality tailor to get them hemmed when I finally pulled the purchase trigger. Remind me, kittens, at some point we need to also talk about the importance of tailoring! I regret nothing. They are bold and not an item to pick if you want to be subtle; I love them.

I paired them with a simple black top, the same black and white LK Bennett shoes from yesterday (found brand new at a charity shop for a mere 20% of their purchase price), and my trusty black Longchamp bag again. I wore my vintage gold hoops because they felt equally bold, but otherwise, the focus on this look is the color of the trousers and I kept my makeup neutral to keep it there.

I’m really happy with this outfit and I can even think of of ways to winterize it when the weather gets cold. It may be the height of summer but when you’re talking about Britain, you need to face facts that it will get cold and dark again at some point. And if colorful trousers make the summer heat bearable, you can only imagine how I feel about them in the unrelenting gray of winter.

A Week of Outfits: Monday

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” 
― Coco Chanel

Back to work!

I picked this look because I needed a simple but serious outfit for the day. I had meetings at a client site that involved me getting up early to get ready, traveling, and needing to arrived in a polished state. I had to lug around several devices, project folders, and notebooks without overwhelming me so I didn’t want to bother with an outfit that required a lot of elements. I needed a single item solution and so: a power dress.

This dress is from MM LaFleur–a brand I’ve written about before with a huge amount of love and satisfaction. I own five dresses from them in total, bought over several years, and would like a couple more at some point. This brand is on the pricier side, ranging from about $150-250 per item as a general rule, but I have found them to be solid investment purchases. I’ve spent some additional money having each one tailored and I have never worn one of their pieces without being complimented for looking nice.

Finding simple ways to feel much more put together is something that’s become important to me in recent years, especially as I’ve leveled up in my career. Clothes are an important way of communicating messages about yourself, and I try to be in control of my messaging.

I mentioned before trying to incorporate more dresses into my wardrobe and there is a reason for it: simplicity.

It’s very fashionable to look “effortless,” look being the operative word. The amount of women who look simultaneously great while not giving two ***** is not a vast number in my experience, and the most “effortless” looking women I know actually have to expend an awful lot of energy to achieve the appearance of nonchalance.

Effortless is not my aesthetic, but more importantly, it’s not my reality. I am a person who has to expend effort in order to look the way she wants, especially in a professional setting. I also confess to admiring “effortful” style quite a bit. I like fashion that clearly took some thought, wit, or creativity to put together, in the same way that I admire women who look polished and well groomed. All of these things take time, energy, and whatever amount of money we are willing and able to put towards them. I aspire to polish whenever possible. However, I’m also naturally lazy, not very self confident (physically speaking), and not particularly gifted when it comes to the finishing touches that allow some women to achieve that finished look.

Well-tailored work dresses allow me to put on a single item of clothing and fairly basic accessories (charity shop shoes in this case, a pair of earrings that were a present from my father, and a trusty old Longchamp bag that fits my gear and still allows me to look professional), and feel fully outfitted. I’m then able to spend the rest of my preparation time focusing on the “polishing” bits for when I need to feel serious and be taken seriously.

See? Very serious.