Tuesday, March 29, 2011

This is a test ... (and a compilation list of what to have in your wardrobe)

To see if I can write coherently after being awake all night.

I finished Nina Garcia's book, "The Little Black Book of Style" Sunday night.

That makes four books I have to review for this blog, including the two Tim Gunn books, "A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style," and "Gunn's Golden Rules," and Rona Berg's book on makeup, "Fast Beauty: 1,000 Quick Fixes."

So far what I'm getting out of all these style/fashion/beauty books is that there are certain things that are given, but which the authors mention anyway, just in case you didn't get the message (and some of us haven't).

Bathing every day is a good thing.  However, you can skip a day when it comes to washing your hair, especially if you color it or blow it out every day.

Wash your face at least once a day, preferably at night, to get all the gunk off, like makeup and environmental dirt.  You can get away with rinsing your face in the morning; presumably it's still clean from the night before.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.  This goes for your face, your hair, your body.  I have trouble with this one, because my skin is not very dry to begin with, but I'm getting better at it.  Also, use at least SPF 15 sunscreen.

Use a face mask suitable for your skin type once a week.  Also, exfoliate your face and your body once a week.  But don't exfoliate right after you do your face mask.  It could irritate your skin.

Deodorant and perfume are our friends; but don't use too much perfume, since some people are allergic, or sensitive to odors ... and some people are just plain rude and can't keep their mouths shut and we don't want to offend them, do we?  No, we don't, because it would be much more fun to slay them with our charm.

That's it for the face, hair and body.  Everyone goes into it in more detail, but those are the bare bones.

As for style, everyone has a list of the basics that every woman should have in her wardrobe.  www.missussmartypants.com has an excellent list of basics that she runs for Spring and Fall (Spring 2011 is up now; you can get it if you join up).  But the main basics I have run across repeatedly, in my efforts to improve my style quotient are:

The white button-down shirt
The skirt - A line or pencil
Casual trousers
Dressy trousers
Dark rinse jeans that fit well and can be dressed up or dressed down
A dress that can go from day to evening, with a change of accessories.  Usually this is the Little Black Dress (LBD), but you can use other colors, too.  Navy is a good choice, as is gray.  Red also works well if you like attention.
A well-tailored jacket, to match the skirt, and if you plan on wearing a pants suit, it should go with the trousers, too.
A strong foundation:  Good foundation undergarments are important!  I speak from experience!  Give the girls the support they need!  You'll look and feel much better, more confident and dare I say?  Younger and more attractive.  Also consider investing in supportive shapewear.  This is not the area to save money.  Also, take care of your investment and hand wash your intimate apparel with baby shampoo (except your cotton panties, if you have them, and in my opinion, you should - wash them in the washing machine and dry in the dryer).  Thanks for that hint, MSP!  I've read that in other places, too.

You can add other items, like t-shirts, in classic white or colors, for casual or dressy wear, button-down shirts in other colors, and more bottoms in neutral colors for more versatility and a wider range of outfits.

As far as accessories go, you can never go wrong with a scarf, some jewelry, nice hosiery or legwear and socks.  I'm an 80's kinda gal, so I pay a lot of attention to my socks.  As for shoes, you want a pair of ballet flats for casual wear and a pair of heels, to go with your dressy outfits.  There are all kinds of rules about what heel to wear with what kind of pants, dress or skirt.  Everyone has an opinion on this.  My opinion is that you should check yourself in a mirror before leaving the house, if you have a full-length mirror (I don't), or ask a friend or whomever happens to be on hand their opinion.  Hopefully they will be nice, but honest and helpful.  I don't have a pair of heels, so I don't have the high-heel vs. flats dilemma at this point.  Heck, I don't even have an ironing board yet, so I'm not really in a position to pass judgment on what anyone else is wearing!

The handbag:  Another topic on which everyone has a different opinion.  Some people say, "Go for the It bag"; others say, "Don't buy the It bag."  Frankly, unless you want to be in hock to The Man for the rest of your life, I see no reason to spend more than $400 on a really good bag.  Considering that a good wallet will run you about $200, that comes to about $600 for a bag and a wallet.  If you buy from a reputable company, and it's high quality workmanship and material, that should be what you're paying for, not for a name.  If you have tons of money to burn, buy all the It bags you want, and spend whatever you want to for them.  Also, introduce me to your broker, please.

My opinion on bags is that you should have probably three or four in rotation.  You can have a basic black dress bag for the fall and winter, a black casual bag for fall and winter, a dress bag in a light neutral color for spring and summer social occasions, and a casual spring/summer bag, or you can use your fall and winter casual bag year-round.  I have two good black leather bags, one hobo (casual) and one satchel (dressy) that I keep in rotation year 'round, with assorted straw and canvas bags I use for the warmer months.  I haven't found my spring/summer dressy bag yet, but I keep looking.  Also, you might want to consider a messenger bag or a tote bag for those occasions when you have to either schlepp a lot of documents (work, professional meetings) or go shopping or take a trip to the beach or pool, or the park.  L.L. Bean is known for their tote bags, and you can design your own.  It's a really great service - I have two tote bags I designed from there - a large tote bag for going to the market or the beach, and a small, zip-top tote for carrying around in the summer months.  It's canvas, but even in the torrential summer downpours New York City is known for, the items inside haven't gotten wet.

Well, that's it for today.  Hopefully I'll catch up on writing reviews.  Now that I'm retired, everyone sends work my way.  It's like once you say, "I have nothing to do!" everyone comes up with stuff to keep you busy.  I'm not complaining.  As a matter of fact, I have to get going.  I have a meeting to go to today, and I better start getting ready if I expect to make it there.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Wish Spring Would Get Here Already!

Winter refuses to leave.  It's nice and sunny out ... and 31 degrees.  I have the window open and I'm freezing.  I just want to air the joint out.  (Not the joints ... the joint!)  Please we have enough of that going on downstairs.  My downstairs neighbors like to light up and have friends over ... in the middle of the night.  So 3 AM I'm listening to pounding music emanating from the basement.  GAH.

It wouldn't be so bad if I weren't in the habit of waking up between 6 and 7 AM.  I used to be really neighborly and bring them their mail if I ended up in my box by accident, but now I figure I never know what I'm going to run into, so I just put it back in my mailbox with a note on it that it should go to their apartment number.  I can't be bothered.

But domestic complaints aside, as I said in my last post, I bought a boatload of stuff from Lane Bryant.  I also bought a sandblasted denim jacket from Coldwater Creek, a steal at $25.  Problem:  It's got a slight gap when I close the front buttons.  You know, the kind of gap that advertises, "My boobs are too big for this jacket, but I like it, so I'm wearing it regardless."  I had planned to get a Tencel skirt from them, and a sea blossom t-shirt (beautifully decorated with delicate embroidery, beads and sequins), but now I'm wondering - if this didn't fit, and it's their biggest size (24), will the rest of the garments fit?  Hmm, 'tis a puzzlement.

Anyway, my other worry today is that I'm picking up everything that I ordered at the Lane Bryant store and I'm concerned that a) it won't fit and I'll have to return it; b) it will look horrible on me and I'll have to return it; c) it won't go with anything else that I own and I'll have to return it.  I thought I planned the purchase very carefully, but you never know.  What looks right on the printed page can look awful in real life.

But really, if these are my biggest problems in life (they're not, just the ones I'm worried about right now), that's not so bad.  My REALLY biggest problem is health insurance, or the lack thereof, but who wants to hear about that in a style/fashion/beauty blog?

As far as size goes, I can take anything from a size 22 to a size 28.  In the last Coldwater Creek purchase I made, I bought 2 size 22 cardigans that were big on me, and a size 24 jacket that was also a little big.  So this came as a surprise.  I really like the denim jacket.  Hmmm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Morning You Sure Look Fine

As it happens, I wore the Foamy "Medication Side Effects" with Pilz-E to my therapy and psychiatric sessions last week, and everyone thought it was pretty funny.  My psychiatrist asked me where I got it.  I think he wants one!

Well, the MSP challenge is long over, and I'm back buying clothes again, this time for spring.  I bought a mosaic floral sateen A-line skirt from Lane Bryant, and two V-neck elbow sleeve t-shirts (I'm expecting them to arrive today or tomorrow).  That was last week.  This morning I bought a black sateen suit set - trousers, skirt and jacket, and a refined denim suit set - also jacket, trousers and skirt.  I also bought a purple cardigan to go with the mosaic floral skirt.  I am SET FOR SPRING!!!  BRING IT ON, HOT WEATHER!!!  I'M NOT SCARED OF YOU!!!  I AM PREPARED.  Even better, Lane Bryant had a coupon sale going on, and I got $75 off my first order (I placed two orders today, because I forgot to get some items the first time), with free shipping to the store, and I saved $25 off my second order, with free shipping to the store.  So really, I saved $100!  How cool is that?  If I had bought them all in one order, I only would have saved $75.  Is it wrong to feel like you got over on your favorite store?  They probably want you to feel like that, so you keep coming back.  It's like gambling - they give you a little win, a little tease, and they've suckered you in for life.  Well, with gambling, you don't actually have anything to show for your money, except a little extra cash once in a while.  With LB, at least you get good clothes.  And as I can attest, their clothes last a long time.  I only recently got rid of clothes I bought back in ... 2003?  2004?  And it wasn't because they wore out ... I realized the colors didn't look good on me.

Well, I had the Breakfast of Champions today ... you have to start the morning off right, and that means lots of fat, carbs, protein and caffeine.  I had a turkey and roast beef sandwich with mayo, washed down with diet Pepsi and Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream for breakfast.  I feel ready to take on the world.  Or at least my blog, LOL.

Well, that was too much excitement for me.  Time for a nap.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Result of the MSP Challenge to Not Buy Clothes for a Month

Well, I bought Intimate Apparel, and I bought pajamas.  I also bought a "Foamy" t-shirt.  I was going to wear it to see my psychiatrist, but I saw him Wednesday and I didn't have it on.  Plus, he really helped me out, so I don't think I should insult him.

I didn't buy clothes or accessories, aside from the above-mentioned items, but I bought a lot of products from The Body Shop, and my big splurge was spending $271 on bedding from The Company Store.  It arrived a couple of days ago, and it is gorgeous.  I purchased 100% cotton sheets, pillowcases and a duvet and duvet cover all in ivory, with my initials monogrammed in white.  I bought a Euro sham in khaki with my monogram in pink.  The monogram on the duvet was pink as well.  Alright, so I don't have the best sense of color.  I was going for a relaxing feel, and I figured ivory and khaki were the way to go.  I thought a little bit of baby pink would be cute.  It's not chic, but it's not like Diana Vreeland is going to be a houseguest anytime soon.

One thing I have been buying, after the challenge period ended on 2/26/2011, is shoes.  I've bought three pairs of shoes from Aerosoles.  One plain black loafer, one black croco print loafer, and a cream and tan loafer.  They have a great sale going on, so I only paid $34.99, $29.99 and $39.99 respectively for the shoes.

I still plan on going to Tip Top Shoes in Manhattan to get some Dansko clogs and maybe some dress shoes.  But that will have to wait.  Tip Top Shoes had a sale last month, but I didn't make it up there.  I've been loathe to leave the house in the winter weather.  It's warmed up considerably (wow, my dashboard says it's 31 outside!  Toasty!) during the day anyway - it gets up to the 40's and 50's.  This takes away my excuses for not going anywhere.

I have a plan to get some wardrobe basics:  A denim skirt, a black skirt, and perhaps jackets and pants to match.  Avenue has a sheath dress, suit jacket, skirt and pants that look good, but I never know with Avenue quality - it could be a good buy, or it could be a hot mess.  Lane Bryant has a really chic looking dark rinse denim pencil skirt, with a matching jacket, and a sateen series that comes in black, gray and tan, with a pencil skirt, trousers, and two styles of jacket - a 3/4 sleeve 3 button blazer, and a long-sleeve military jacket with patch pockets and a belt.  They also have a plain black pencil skirt, without a jacket.  I like jackets because they're so versatile, but in the warm months I hardly ever wear them (because I would roast in them!)  New York is pretty funny in the summertime - it can be temperate - 70's and 80's - or it can be viciously hot - over 100.  And as they say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity.

My shopping plan for these items is to go to the stores and see if I can try the items on before making a purchase.  Lane Bryant is having a 40% off sale until Sunday, which is pretty good, but the bank account is like, "Uh, no girl, I don't think so!"  All that shopping did me in, and now I have to stop.  I like The Budget Fashionista's solution to spending too much:  She suggests you use a reusable Visa or Amex gift card and put a set amount of money on it to use for shopping, to budget yourself.  When you run out of money on the gift card, no more shopping.  Or, set up a separate account for shopping and put a certain amount in it when money comes in - when there's no more money in the account, you're done shopping.

Well, that's all for tonight, or this morning, since it's

"Quarter to three ... there's no one in the place ... except you and me.  So set 'em up, Joe.  I got a little story you oughta know."

- "One For My Baby and One For the Road"