Style & Beauty

6 Shopping Tips to Look Good for Less

A couple of years ago, I quit my job at a large law firm in midtown Manhattan in order to attend a conservatory of theatre arts full-time. I showed up for my first ballet class with a leotard that was extremely high-cut and bright red underwear that was extremely not –let’s just say that I looked more like a baboon than a ballerina. I remember sticking my head out of the sweaty dance studio during that embarrassing first class and seeing the bustling high-rises across town where I used to have my own office and administrative assistant… an entirely different life!

Financially-speaking, breaking free of the “golden handcuffs” also had its own set of ramifications — some fun, others, less so. But I am happy to report that although “less money, less problems” isn’t exactly the corollary of “‘mo money, ‘mo problems,” I have been able to make do with less in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Predictably, I stopped taking cabs and bought a monthly subway pass, I learned to cook and ate out less, I drank more beer and less martinis, I said good-bye to my nail salon and hello to Sally Hansen. As someone who loves clothes, and living in a city like New York where there is a constant barrage of women wearing the latest designs, I realized that I had to figure out some innovative ways to keep my wardrobe budget in line without giving up on my style horse hobby.

1. Heighten your standards.

It may sound counterintuitive, but when I was making more any money, I had lower standards for purchasing clothes and accessories. If I looked good in two out of three angled mirrors in the changing room, I’d probably buy it. If the arch of the shoes didn’t perfectly follow my natural arch, but was otherwise what I had been searching for, I’d get it. As a result, I ended up with a lot of mediocre pieces in my closet, and a never completely satisfied shopping list. Now, I am much more firm about my “standards to buy”, and I’ve finally accepted that scouting for the perfect black leather handbag can take a very long time. I regularly reject items for not fitting perfectly, for having an unruly fabric, for not having all the features that I was looking for. This has cut down on a lot of unnecessary purchases.

2. Reduce your online shopping.

Visiting sites such as Gilt, Yoox, Rue La La, and the myriad shoe sites out there were a daily indulgence for me, and I didn’t really scrutinize my purchases because I often felt the adrenaline of these “flash sale” sites where, if you hesitate on an item for even an extra second, it will get sold out from under you. In order to resist the temptation of online shopping, I removed myself from daily email lists from these sites, and when possible, subscribed to their weekly mailings. This way, I naturally forgot about checking on these sites, and now might go on them on a monthly, instead of daily, basis. Online shopping is fun and you can often score really amazing deals –but at my current budget, it is too expensive to maintain as a habit. On the rare occasions when I do make an online purchase, it is a much more deliberate process.

3. Recognize quality over labels.

After ditching the online shopping habit, I reacquainted myself with brick and mortar stores such as Uniqlo and H&M. Some might argue that these stores skew a little younger, but there’s such high turnover, and so many different pieces, that I have not been reduced to dressing like a teenager. I have also been able to find great summer tops at Target and well-made underwear at Marshall’s and Century 21. The main cost here is probably time, and you do kind of feel like you’re helping a hoarder sort her clutter, looking for hidden treasure. In terms of quality, although I don’t quite understand the economics of it, I have been able to find a lot of durable, well-fitting, well-made pieces at H&M that are on par with, or even better than the fancier labels I was courting as a lawyer.

4. Transcend trends.

I used to be a sucker for trends. Studs? I’ll try ‘em. Platforms? Give me five pair! But being on a student budget, I no longer respond to every craving for the latest garb. Just like how you’re suppose to wait twenty minutes before you can tell if you’re full or not, I make myself sit back and evaluate whether I even like this trend or not.

5. DIY.

If I like really like a new trend, I try to see if I have anything that I can do to follow it. For example, last fall all the stores and fashionable people were beginning to wear those 1990s Elaine-ish peg leg pants –wide on top, cinched by the ankle. I saw them at Zara and really wanted to get a pair, but then I realized that I could easily convert my existing pants to give them this “new” silhouette. If I can’t DIY a trend, I tell myself to wait a few months. If I still like the trend at that time, then maybe I’ll buy it.

6. Approximation.

Even if you decide to buy something on trend, there is no reason you need to buy it from the most expensive store carrying that trend! For instance, I really liked the loose satin tank tops that I saw girls wearing in the city. Instead of buying them at JCrew or Club Monaco, I found them at Target for under $20 each. With trial and error, I’ve learned that there are certain things that you can spend less on and still look great, such as jeans, t-shirts, willowy drapey tops, shorts, and summer dresses.

This article was first published on Corporette.

FILED UNDER: 6 Shopping Tips to Look Good for Less, Style & Beauty | Permalink

The Theory of Evolution of Boots

2000-2004  Bootcut Jeans



Bootcut jeans were all the rage in the early 2000s.


Around 2000, bootcut and slightly flared jeans became super popular because the wideness at the bottom of the pant leg created a nice hourglass figure, balancing out the hips.  It flattered both women who already had curves, and those who were trying to get some.

2003  Enter the Ugg

Uggs were first worn in America by west coast surfers.

In December 2003, NPR reported that the “must-have accessory” of the season was “a pair of Uggs… cloddish sheepskin boots from Australia first popular with surfers in the 1970s.  Now all of Hollywood seems to be wearing them.  And it’s not just a Southern California trend, either.  Retailers are selling out as far away as Toronto.”  NPR further suggests that Uggs, with their “flat soles and … shapeless, retro look” were a rebellious response to the pointy stilettos that were so popular in the early 2000s.  Indeed.  The appeal of any major fashion trend is that it is the anti-thesis of the prior trend.  Fashion is Freudian.

Now, look at the picture of the Uggs above.  Do you see how wide the calf section is?  Do you think it’s possible to wear your jeans over those boots?  Hell no.  You have to tuck your jeans into them.  And instead of relying on your bootcut jeans to create a curve, you use the width of the Ugg boot’s shaft to create the same bootcut jean’d effect, balancing out the hips and accentuating bodily concavities.

But, is it comfortable and fun to roll up that giant wad of thick jean fabric by your ankle and stuff it in a boot? Not on your life, missy.  In fact, the term “bootcut” refers to the fact that the calfs of the jeans are wide enough to fit over, not under, a boot shank (sure that’s a word).

2004-Present  Death of the Bootcut by Way of Skinny Jeans and Leggings

Skinny, rather than bootcut jeans, work best with Uggs.

It follows then that the rise of Uggs and Ugg-like boots makes the bootcut jean redundant, and skinny jeans and leggings become a more practical option for those who like to stick their pants into their Uggs.

2005-Present  Das Boot Era

One of the writer's favorite boots, with "ice-skate" lacing and a sturdy, "machinist" feel.

Immediately following this development, beginning on the East Coast and spreading westward across the United States, the Ugg backlash comes on fast and furious, and soon on-trend women everywhere are opting for more sophisticated, less oppressively warm, everyday boots.

And so began the world’s love affair with boots in general, beyond the world of Uggs.  Boots that, as of today, we are still tucking our jeans into, which is rather awkward now that flared (but not bootcut) jeans are tentatively making their way back into the closets of fashion’s vanguard –for fashion trendology is both a series of reactions against prior trends and yet, mindlessly repetitive.

Of course, within the Das Boot Era, there have been shifts from one favored style of boot to another, which I will outline for you below:

2005-2007 Boots that go up to below the knee with pointed toes and stiletto heels.

Classic boot of the mid-2000s -pointed toe, stiletto heel.

2007-2008 Ankle boots

Ankle boots --for those occasions when you want your boots at half-mast.

2009 Over the knee boots.

Never could catch on because fake leather looks so bad and real leather is so expensive the price points were too high for shoppers of the New Economy to embrace.

Over-the-knee boots were marketed as "the sexy boot" --what do you think?

2009-2010 Booties (a most disdainful term) which go below the ankle, but otherwise still resemble a boot.

The writer's incredibly lightweight and comfortable booties purchased from Target online.

The author's Aldo oxford style booties, which were harder to incorporate into her wardrobe than she'd imagined.

2010 Open toe boots.

Let us shed no more tears on this woeful blip in boot history.

Open-toe boots. For when you want to lick the earth with your toes.

2011-present Practical Boots

Death to the incredible platforms of the earlier Boot Era.  Death to the stiletto heels of 2005. Death to height! Now it is all about sensible stacked heels no more than 1.5″ in height and, for decoration, a couple of straps and buckles to adorn the calf area uselessly.

The author’s favorite boots, which used to turn heads in 2006 but now, in the midst of the buckle trend, seem all too common.

And so, Das Boot Era marches onward boldly into 2012!

Will its reign over Footlandia ever end?  My guess is yes, and moreover I would wager that its assassin will be none other than what first gave birth to it… the bootcut and flare styles of jeans.  Namely, as bootcut and flared jeans make a return into the mainstream fashion circuit, it will become impractical to wear bulky boots underneath these pants, so people will return to shaftless footwear, AKA shoes, once again.  Dun dun dun!!!



FILED UNDER: Style & Beauty, The Theory of Evolution of Boots | Permalink

I Just Found the Perfect Summer Shirt

A cool, easy-going way to enjoy the summer weather.

One of my favorite purchases this Spring/Summer was a trio of loose-fitting button-up shirts from H&M. I already had a vision of a thin loose-fitting shirt, unbuttoned at the top, sleeves rolled up, with the bottoms tucked into shorts. I liked the tom-boy aspect of this image, as well as the practical nature of such shirts: easy to keep cool in the summer heat, offers plenty of coverage from the sun, and no worries fitting into the shirt after a large meal!

So imagine how my pulse quickened when I saw a whole display of such shirts at H&M. I was just going to buy one, but felt torn: was I a classic white shirt girl, a preppy striped shirt girl, or a hip blue shirt girl? I felt like I was all three! Then I looked at the incredible low price, and decided to get all three.

Here, I went on my roof and took some pictures:


#1: Blue Stripes & White Shorts, The Prepster



I really like this shirt because you can spill all sorts of stuff on it and it still won’t look   dirty because it has stripes!  I wore it when I moved apartments this summer, and   it really took a beating and kept on licking.


#2: All White & Jean Shorts, The Everywoman



Amazingly, this white shirt washes clean every time, and didn’t get yellow-y over the summer.  I’ve worn it pretty aggressively all spring and summer and like its two sibling shirts, it has held up really well.  The collars don’t do funny things when you wash them, I never need to iron them even though they are 100% cotton, and the buttons stay on real strong, with conviction dammit!



#3: Industrial Blue & Red Shorts, The Hipster



This shirt looks good on my skin tone.  Sometimes I like to do the half-tuck in front.  I have had these shorts forever.  I got them for 99 cents.



And that’s a wrap!  Remember, look at each item of clothing independent of its label.  As far as baggy button down shirts are concerned, I really see no reason to buy a more upscale brand, I really don’t.

All shirts were $12.99 at H&M.

FILED UNDER: I Just Found the Perfect Summer Shirt, Style & Beauty | Permalink

My Favorite Sunblock and Why

My internet addiction + My fear of cancer = A great product recommendation for you

I know you’re busy, so here are the Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Sunscreen:

  1. The sun shoots out two kinds of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVB is what makes you tan and sometimes burn. UVA is what gives you premature wrinkles and skin cancer. So UVA is worse. This Means That: When you shop for a sunscreen, you need to make sure that that sunscreen is effective against UVA rays, not just UVB
  2. But it is a lot easier to make sunscreens that block UVB rays than UVA rays. In the United States, sunscreens do not have to specify whether their SPF number (Coppertone has an SFP 90) refers to UVA or UVB rays. This Means That: When you’re looking for UVA blocking sunscreens, you have to look beyond the SPF number.
  3. The Environmental Working Group has an amazing database of information about the effectiveness and potentially side-effects of a gazillion sunscreens. This Means That: you should click here to find out how good your current sunscreen is, and to comparison shop for a new sunscreen.

Alright, now let’s put the attention back on me.  When I was eighteen, I developed an allergy to sunscreen. It would make my cheeks look really red, like I was blushing –I was already a chronic blusher at that time, so the last thing I needed was a permanent taint. My doctor told me that commercial sunscreens made by the big cosmetic companies such as Coppertone, Oil of Olay, and so forth, were not very good because those cosmetic companies just bought cheap reject formulations from research firms.

Or something… too long, didn’t listen.  I was a teenager!

So I started reading ingredient lists on sunscreens and I was able to, by trial and error, find the one sunscreen in Canada that did not give me red face. The thing is, it contained a substance that is common in Europe, but not legally allowed to be sold in America!

So after many years of flying back to Canada to get my sunscreen fix, I decided to look into more local options. Lo and behold, I founded the Environmental Working Group’s database, and I decided to pick the best overall sunscreen as determined by the working group for 2007, the Solar-Rx SPF 30, by Keys Care.

Look at the delicious ingredients:

According to the EWG, Solar-Rx tested well for UVA protection:

Compare that with a Coppertone sunscreen:

So it’s safe and effective, but is it easy to use? Or will it have a consistency like clay, take forever to rub into the skin, and leave a white chalky layer on your skin?

That is a great question because I also bought another sunscreen that came equally highly recommended by the EWG, made by Badger W. Company. Using that product really felt like I was smearing putty onto myself. So much tugging and pulling! If we’re trying to prevent premature wrinkles here, then it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to torture my skin everyday in this way. Furthermore, post-application, the sunscreen left a filmy white residue all over my skin. I looked like Stay Puft:

The Solar-Rx, on the other hand, is smooth and creamy, kind of like Greek yogurt.  It spreads easily on the skin.

Here are all the other good things about the Solar-Rx SPF 30:

  • The smell is very light and completely fades away after application.
  • It has a moisturizer in it, saving you the step of applying moisturizer under your sunscreen. I use it on my face everyday of the year.
  • It does not leave a white film on your skin.
  • It works very well as a primer under make-up.
  • It’s not the cheapest sunscreen, but it’s reasonably priced.

Here is one precaution:

It’s not waterproof. So if you’re sweating a lot or going into water, then you’ll need to re-apply all the time. In fact, last summer on a particularly hot day of sunbathing, I had to CONSTANTLY re-apply the Solar-Rx on myself for the whole time.  People lie out in the sun to relax, but that was the busiest I had been for a long time.

Well, good-luck out there, and don’t get burned!

FILED UNDER: My Favorite Sunblock and Why, Style & Beauty | Permalink

This Japanese Wash Cloth Will Change Your Life

Did your washcloth win an invention prize?

That’s right, the Salux Japanese Wash Cloth is an award-winning wash cloth.

It’s so fancy, it comes with instructions.

SALUX Instructions (color variations in original):

1. Keep your body wet. Soap the wet SALUX cloth… watch the lather grow.
2. Keep SALUX away from the direct flow of water, otherwise soap suds on it will be washed away.
3. Idea for cleaning the entire body.
4. Special texturing stimulates skin and blood circulation.
5. After washing with SALUX, rinse thoroughly. Fast drying… Hygienic… durable.

None of those steps are a joke.

1.  You will literally watch the lather grow with your mouth hanging open.  And after you’re done your shower, you’ll probably feel an urge to show a family member all the suds on your shower walls.  It’s crazy!

2.  However, if you try to soap up your SALUX while standing under the shower head, you will not generate any soap suds.  You’ll feel like you’re scrubbing yourself with a plastic shopping basket from your local grocery store.

3.  The SALUX will scrub you silly even if you, like me, are too lazy to scrub yourself.  All you have to do is move it up and down across your skin, and your SALUX will descend upon your epidermis with the force of a thousand wild stallions.

4.  The texturing is a lot more prickly than a normal shower pouf so if you have cuts and stuff, becareful.

5.  I’ve been reading that regular shower poufs and exfoliating mittens are breeding grounds for bacteria.  I believe it!  But the SALUX is literally a piece of woven plastic and there’s no room for anything… organic to grow.

I ordered mine from an online retailer through Amazon.  But beware! There’s a SALUX SCANDAL going on these days, where certain retailers will send you a FAKE SALUX that’s actually made in China and not this gentle pastel green color but a harsh, fluorescent green!  So do make sure to look up the credibility rating of the SALUX retailer you end up buying from.

Holy shit, I think I spend too much time on the internet.

FILED UNDER: Style & Beauty, This Japanese Washcloth Will Change Your Life | Permalink

2011 Oscars Red Carpet Extravaganza



I know what Scarlett Johansson was going for.  A really made-up dress to show off her famous curves, and a pleasant contradiction with windswept, beachy, hair.  But the light and dark shades of the maroon dress really distract from the shape as a whole, and looks messy, unkempt, and worst of all, frumpy.  A dress like that is hard on the arms –pale February arms especially– so you should be a little bit more aware about where and how you are placing your arms on camera.  Bad dress.  Also, dude, you need to learn how to walk in heels a little better!  You make the red carpet look like it’s made out of ABC gum! (That’s “Already Been Chewed,” for those of you who haven’t been in public school for a while…)

Anne Hathaway

She is wearing a Valentino that the company insists on calling “archival.”  And voilà, a new term is born for describing the things at the back of my fridge.  Here, the proportions of the strapless dress do not fit will with Anne’s proportions.  As a result, the dress starts too low on her chest, and has a sad droopy, deflated look.  The texture of the dress looks like a coarse cheap satin material, like a bridesmaid dress for your worst frenemy.  And okay, matching “statement” red lipstick might work in theory but Anne has a small face with big lips (and a beautiful smile), and the super red lipstick with the super red dress over accentuate her best feature to her detriment.  Also, the back of her dress looks like a second woman dressed in a red dress crouched down to tie her shoe laces, and the two of them got glued together.


Natalie Portman

I’m not wild about this eggplant color.  It’s kind of old, but not in a sophisticated way.  It’s a color that Ms. Krabapple might wear on a blind date.  The cut of the dress with its empire waist and pleating makes sense, I guess, because she’s pregnant.  But I don’t like Natalie’s stylist’s pregnancy dress picks.  Even though she told New York Magazine that she helps Natalie’s wardrobe avoid “pregnancy cliches,” both this dress and the Golden Globes dress were totally predictable, uninventive, and blah.  I think a great stylist would dress her the way Heidi Klum dressed when she was pregnant, which is to wear shapes and cuts that are not only flattering, but surprisingly flattering.  Angelina Jolie also wore some great gowns during her pregnancies.  Did anyone else think that Natalie was on the verge of (sad) tears when she was being interviewed on the red carpet?  Where is her ballet dude?

Women Who Get It

Look at these slightly older women in their later thirties and early forties.  See how they look pulled together?  I don’t love their dresses, but the dresses work with their body types.  I find Sandra Bullock’s and Gwneyth Paltrow’s dresses too geometric and 1990s in a bad unintentional way.
Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz’s dress looks like a dramatization of a quickly spreading wine stain.  But regardless of what they’re wearing, all three women look happy and comfortable, and that’s what counts the most.  Everyone picked colors that work well for them, and hairstyles that are tried and true for them.  Unlike some less mature starlets, they don’t play the “let’s see how gaunt I can get” game.
None of these ladies have wildly fluctuating weights (Mandy Moore, Hilary Duff, I’m looking at you); they have been these body shapes for well over a decade.  Thumbs up to the positive correlation between increasing age and beauty!

(Photos from

FILED UNDER: 2011 Oscars Red Carpet Extravaganza, Style & Beauty | Permalink