Beauty in a hurry: the five minute face

Some days, there’s not enough time to do much of anything. Breakfast is burning in the toaster, your phone is ringing, the cat needs to be fed, and you’ve got 20 minutes to be at work, 10 minutes away. That doesn’t mean you have to roll into work looking like you just rolled out of bed. Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Stick foundation

TOM-FORD-BEAUTY-Traceless-Foundation-Stick-in-Pale-Dune

The stick foundation featured above, by Tom Ford ($78 at Nordstrom), goes on easily and quickly, and you can blend it in a hurry. Now, for those of us who aren’t loaded to the gills with cash and/or smoking crack, Maybelline makes this budget-friendly alternative, or for darker skin tones, there’s this one by Black Opal.

2. Blush or Bronzer

blush

Take a big, round powder blush (not one of those wimpy things marketed as a blush brush) and hit the round part of your cheeks with a blush like this one from Physician’s Formula. Bonus: it contains ingredients that mimic the effect of endorphins to boost your mood!

3. Eyeliner

quickliner

Use a self-sharpening, twist-up eyeliner to go along your upper lash line. Don’t worry about the bottom, and don’t use a regular pencil, because chances are you’ll have to sharpen it. I use Clinique Quickliner for Eyes as my go-to.

4. Waterproof Mascara

mascara

I love trying out different mascaras, but for a rush job, you want one that’s going to give volume, definition, and curl all in one step, and a waterproof formula is going to reduce flaking and smearing later in the day. A mascara like this one will give you what you need in one coat, and it’s inexpensive–Walgreens runs buy-one, get-one-half-price offers on Maybelline all the time.

5. Lipstick

clinique-almost-lipstick-in-black-honey

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey is the perfect lipstick. It looks good on just about everybody. Slick this on, and you’re ready to roll.

Makeup doesn’t have to be super-complicated. If you’ve got the right products and the right tools, you can pull your look together even on the most hectic of mornings.

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Using statement pieces

We’ve all done it. You’re out in the mall somewhere, or thumbing through a magazine, or browsing a website, and think, Oooh, that’s pretty…but what in the world would I wear it with? Statement pieces are fun, but they can be tricky to build an outfit around. The thing is, when there’s one really bold piece you want to draw attention to, go simple with the rest of the outfit. (Also, if you’ve got a flashy statement piece, you can go inexpensively simple with the rest of the outfit–always a bonus, right?)

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This blouse came up as I was browsing Neiman Marcus today. Not my normal style at ALL, and very much a statement piece, but it spoke to me. The thing with flowy, loose-fitting blouses like this is that they need balance. That means, if you’re wearing a floaty top, you need a slim-fitting pant so that it looks intentional, rather than looking like your clothes just don’t fit. Normally, I’m not an advocate of skinny jeans, but that or a narrow-cut straight leg are what you need here. (Don’t go boot cut. That’s more fabric than you want with this look. Again, you want a narrow line.)  Now, the risk that skinny jeans pose is that they make the ankles look so very thin in comparison to the rest of the body that it looks like a person’s walking on pins. The best solution for that is to cover up the disproportionately narrow line at the ankle by putting a pair of mid-calf to knee length boots over them. With shapes like this, it’s all about balance.

Another example of a statement piece that needs to be the focal point of the outfit is this fantastic purse from kate spade new york. (No, that’s not supposed to be capitalized. If the bag you’re buying has it capitalized, it’s probably a fake–the brand is trademarked in all-lowercase letters.)

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With the bright pink and orange of this bag, if you put it with something similarly colorful, you’re going to get an outfit that’s eye-searingly bold. Rather than letting the pieces compete with each other, put it with a crisp white blouse and some khakis.

The key to wearing a statement piece is to pare down the rest of your outfit and let it make its statement. Coco Chanel once said that it’s always better to be slightly underdressed. Striking pieces can be a lot of fun, but wear them tastefully, and keep the rest of the outfit minimal.

Popping tags: How to bargain shop without looking like you did

Everybody wants to save money, and buying clothes can get expensive. Thrift shops and outlet stores can be a good option, but most of us don’t want to look dated or shabby. Here are some tricks to help save money while still looking sharp.

  • Visit stores in neighborhoods that have money. Stores like TJMaxx and Marshall’s determine the inventory for individual stores partly based on the area demographics, so if the median income in the area of the store is higher, that store will get better items. That’s even more true of consignment and thrift stores, because people consign and donate where they live, and people who can afford to replace their things regularly tend to pass them on while they’re still in good shape.
  • If you’re buying in outlets or thrift stores, look for classics, not super-trendy items. Funky colors can really date an item. Pantone does their Color of the Year every year, and a lot of companies jump to produce in that color. That’s part of why two years ago everything was bright orange, and last year everything was emerald green. This year it’s a shade called Radiant Orchid. Statement colors come and go in a hurry, so it’s usually best to buy those in-season (and cheaply if you can). Likewise bold shapes or unusual stuff. It’s OK to do inexpensive pieces to make a statement (Target is good for those) while going classic with the rest of the outfit.
  • Look at how a piece is constructed. Are the seams even and straight? Does it hang on your body like it should? Are the teeth on the zipper plastic or metal? (Plastic can snap or warp more easily than metal, so it doesn’t hold up.)
  • Look at its condition, especially in a thrift/consignment/vintage store. If it shows signs of wear, put it back. That means stains, scuffs, creases in leather (especially common in purses and boots, and nearly impossible to get all the way out), tears, or anything else that makes it look less than new.
  • If you know what style and size fits you in an item, check for online specials. Old Navy runs specials all the time that give an extra percentage off the regular price for buying online. Not a great choice for blind buying, but if it’s a staple item in your wardrobe (for me, it’s the Perfect V-neck tee and the Sweetheart boot cut jeans) it can save you a good bit of money.
  • Look for rewards programs. DSW has a fantastic rewards program that gives you a $10 certificate whenever you spend a certain amount. (Shop with DSW in store, not online. They’ve made serious errors on my last two online orders, but the store staff at the location nearest me is always very helpful.) Lane Bryant, Kohl’s, and Sephora all have similar programs. If you have preferred retailers, get on their mailing lists. But do not fall for the “extra percentage off when you use your store charge” offers, unless you’re 100% sure you’re going to pay it off by the end of the month, because most of the time, you end up paying more in interest than you saved with the discount. I’ve also had excellent luck with MyPoints, which gives you points for every dollar you spend when you click through their site to one of their participating retailers, and gives you gift cards when you cash in your points.
  • Most importantly, ask yourself, Would I buy this if it weren’t discounted? If not, you don’t want it badly enough to need it. Don’t fall into the “but it was such a good deal!” trap, because you’ll end up with stuff you’ll never wear. Buy what you love, and if you get a good deal on it, that’s even better. But don’t buy it if you don’t love it.
  • A good selection of accessories can make the same outfit look different every time. Check stores like Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, and Aldo Accessories for details that are trendy without being spendy. For a slightly more exotic style, you can also find interesting items at World Market and Earthbound Trading Company (Earthbound doesn’t have an online store, but for local folks, there’s one at Concord Mills).

There are a lot of ways to save money without looking like the hipster on the corner, whom you’d mistake for homeless if he weren’t carrying this year’s iPhone and smoking American Spirits. With a little attention to what you buy and from where, you can pull your look together without paying a fortune.

Beauty Products I Love

There are some beauty products that are just acceptable, nothing special. And then there are some that are amazing. Here’s a quick run-down of a few of my favorites.

  •  A good primer to go under foundation. They make your skin look smoother, your makeup adhere better, and your look last longer. My current one is Lancome La Base Pro, which is great partly for the fact that it’s colorless and thus works for every skin tone. For a slightly more brightening effect, light skin tones can also go for BeneFit’s That Gal, which has pigments in it that are supposed to work for all skin tones, but it’s been my experience that lighter tones are more visibly affected.
  •   A blush that’s not a powder! Powders are fine if you’re careful with them, but it’s easy for them to feel caked on, once you get primer, concealer, foundation, and then blush. If you’re wearing a powder-finish foundation, you’ll want to stay with the powder, but otherwise, it’s a good idea to have some options. One I like is L’Oreal Magic Smooth Souffle, which is an airy cream blush.
  • A massively volumizing mascara. My favorites are the ones with really fat brushes, like CoverGirl Lash Blast 24 Hour, which has enough brush surface area to carry a good bit of mascara, but has enough bristles to actually get some separation, which isn’t always guaranteed. Nobody likes clumps. If you have some issues with clumping out of that one, though, there’s another one in the Lash Blast series I’ve been meaning to try, called Clump Crusher. Feel like spending some money? BeneFit’s They’re Real! mascara is one I wouldn’t hesitate to drop the cash on again. If you feel like trying that and the primer I mentioned above, there’s a set with trial sizes of both available at Sephora.
  • Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. Seriously, there’s a reason that this one has a massive cult following and is the only color of Almost Lipstick still around. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t look good in this lipcolor. It’s neither too cool nor too warm, neither too dark nor too light. The color is sheer enough to work for any skin tone. I cannot say enough good things about this lipstick. Also, right now, Belk is doing a gift with purchase for Clinique that also includes their *other* top-selling classic, the Dramatically Different moisturizer. (The moisturizer is great, but use it at night and get one with some SPF for the daytime.)
  • Diptyque’s Eau Duelle fragrance. This is quite possibly the perfect vanilla. It’s resinous, dry, and a little spicy, without the cupcake feel that makes so many vanilla fragrances seem slightly childish. On my skin, which usually loses fragrances quickly due to a slightly higher temperature than normal, it lasts a good 5-6 hours. And while I’m all about bucking gendered marketing to wear what you like, this one is intentionally gender-neutral to begin with, from the scent itself to the minimalist clear bottle with its black and white label.
  • A good set of makeup brushes. This is a pricy thing (figure on at least $5 per brush, even at the big box stores, for something good), but it’s so worth it. You’ll need a foundation brush, a fan brush for blush or bronzer (trust me on this–it’s a lot more natural application than one of those big round things), an eyeliner brush, an eyelash comb, and at least one eyeshadow brush–a real brush, not a sponge applicator.
  • Most importantly of all: if you’re going to wear foundation, go to a cosmetics counter and have a professional match you up with a color that is perfect for you. This is the one detail that will be most noticeable if it’s not right and completely invisible if it is, so don’t be afraid to try multiple brands before making a decision. If you can, get a sample to try in other kinds of light, because the fluorescent lighting used in department stores isn’t ideal for color matching. Barring that, it’s a good idea to have the person at the counter do your makeup and let you walk around for a day wearing it so that you can see how it looks outside the store. If you only have one area where you can splurge, go for the best foundation you can, and make sure the color match is dead on.

These are the items that I’d recommend for someone just starting to explore their look, or someone looking for good, solid basics. You can always branch out from here, but this is a good place to start. Have fun with it, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

When NOTHING fits

If you can’t find anything to fit your body, altering the clothes is always preferable. But that’s not always an option. There are some workarounds that you can use, though, so you’re not stuck wearing clothes that just don’t fit. Note that on these, my solutions tend towards the women’s section, because “men’s” clothes are sized by measurements more than by arbitrary numbers.

For nearly all issues: Stretch fabric can go a long way toward making fit issues less obvious. A moderate stretch makes a fabric much more forgiving. Just make sure it isn’t clingy.

If your hips are much wider than your waist: The waistband gap is probably the most common issue out there. Small gaps can be helped with a belt, but Old Navy and Lane Bryant both make pants in varying fits depending on your waist-to-hip ratio, with the “curvy” fits having more hip room compared to the waist size. Also, if you wear skirts, an A-line is going to be much more forgiving of wider hips than a straight style.

If you can’t get the right length: Finding pants in a non-standard length can be difficult, but there are two solutions that have worked well for people I know. Style Snaps are adhesive snaps that go on the inside of the pants to hem them. Also, Land’s End offers free hemming services on many of their pant styles.

If shirts won’t fit your chest: I own several minimizer bras just for this purpose. They aren’t nearly as restrictive as they sound–they just give a smoother line. Also, if button-style shirts gap at the front, try wearing a nice camisole under them and partially unbuttoning them. Not a great choice for the office, but for everyday wear it works.

If your size on top doesn’t match the size on the bottom: Two-piece outfits are going to be much easier to fit than dresses or jumpsuits. Buy individual pieces in the sizes you need rather than trying to get one piece that fits both sizes.

If clothes don’t fit no matter what you try: Custom is a lot less expensive than you might think. eShakti offers custom sized clothing for your measurements that is priced comparable to department stores. If you prefer to shop in the men’s department, Modern Tailor offers a similar service, and their prices are also very reasonable.

A hard-to-fit body doesn’t mean you have to wear clothes that don’t fit. There’s always a workaround.

How to Dress Like A Grownup, Part 3: It’s In The Details

Have you ever been watching a movie and been completely distracted by one little detail, so much that it pulled you out of the story for a minute? “Wait a minute, he wasn’t wearing a tie when he jumped off that building! Why was he wearing one when he hit the ground?” There are fashion choices that can do that, too. Getting the details right will make all the difference in the world. Here are some minor-seeming items that can make or break your look.

1. Make sure the fabric on your clothes looks like it’s supposed to. Not just holes or stains, but if it wrinkles, make sure it’s ironed. If you have pets, make sure to hit it with a lint roller to get any stray pet hair off. (This is one I have to be really careful of, having two cats.)

2. If you have hair, make sure it’s neatly trimmed, even if you’re in the process of growing it out. (And if you don’t, don’t stress it. One of the most attractive men I’ve ever met had alopecia and was bald from head to toe. It’s all in how you rock it.) You don’t have to have it cut all the way back to the length you’re trying to grow out from, just enough to get any split ends and damage off, and to give it a cohesive shape. That goes for beards, too–even the Duck Dynasty guys didn’t look that raggedy until they were getting paid a lot of money to do so. You don’t have to be clean-shaven, but please, trim it up. If you dye your hair, make sure your roots are touched up. Nothing says “my hair color is fake” more strongly than having your natural color showing through at the roots, particularly if your natural color is much darker or lighter than the one you’re currently wearing.

3. Make sure your shoes don’t look dingy and that you’re not wearing inappropriate socks with them. White socks only go with sneakers. Sandals don’t get socks at all, EVER. Different types of shoes take different types of cleaning products, so read the labels. Also, if your shoes have laces, make sure the laces aren’t dirty. New shoelaces aren’t that expensive, and that’s the best route to go with leather or suede laces, but if you want to get any other shoelaces clean, soaking them in a solution of water and oxygen detergent (Oxiclean or one of its equivalents) works well.

4. Clean up your eyebrows. (Yes, I mean everybody. This isn’t just a woman thing.) You don’t have to go old-Hollywood drawn-on thin, but the Frida Kahlo look doesn’t look good on anyone. If it’s not something you’re accustomed to doing, it might not be a bad idea to get it professionally done the first time, and then just pluck the strays as they come up. You may find, as I have, that since having them professionally waxed is so much faster and easier, you prefer to go to someone to have them done. Just make sure you keep them maintained, even if all you do is keep them divided into two where they’re inclined to run together.

5. Take care of your skin. Use a cleanser and moisturizer that are appropriate to your skin type. If you wear makeup, it’s important not to sleep in it, because it blocks your pores. If you want to wear makeup but have mildly sensitive skin, you can get a quality foundation that won’t irritate from Clinique (in a department store) or Almay (in a drug store). If your skin is more sensitive than that, you should probably consult a dermatologist before wearing foundation, to rule out any skin condition causing the sensitivity. Also, make sure you’re replacing your makeup regularly. I talked about it here, but it’s important enough to be worth saying again. Use an eye cream, even if your skin isn’t that dry, because it’s the first place that wrinkles, and I know people whose eyelid lifts have been medically necessary, because the degree of wrinkling and sagging actually affected their vision. But if you do nothing else for your skin, wear sunscreen. Always. Sunscreen is non-negotiable, because aside from the wrinkling and discolorations that sun damage causes, skin cancer is no joke. Telling yourself that you don’t need sunscreen because you’re too dark to burn easily is dangerous, because so was Bob Marley, and melanoma (a form of skin cancer linked to sun exposure) is what killed him.

6. Keep a detergent pen in your bag, your pocket, or your car. (Spot remover, not bleach!) Accidents happen, and the last thing you want is to be walking into an important meeting with a Taco Bell drip on your tie.

7. Watch how you smell. You don’t have to wear fragrance, but make sure that your breath is fresh and that you’re wearing deodorant. Also, if you do wear fragrance, be very careful of how much you wear. A person who’s not close enough to touch you shouldn’t be able to smell you. For most scents on most skin, 2-3 sprays is plenty. If you find it’s wearing off before the end of the day, reapply, wear it over an unscented lotion, or wear it on your clothes rather than your skin. Don’t put on more in the morning thinking it’ll make it last longer. It won’t, and you’ll risk bothering those around you, particularly if you’re around people with asthma or allergies.

8. Labels are OK; big logos are bad. I can’t stress this enough. Companies pay good money for advertising. You shouldn’t pay them for the privilege of advertising their product. Part of pulling off the “I’m successful enough to afford expensive things” is “I’m successful enough to afford quality and confident enough in myself that I don’t have to shout it to everyone.” Conspicuous logos make it look like you’re trying too hard. Don’t be a billboard.

These little things make a world of difference in how you’re perceived. No matter how well you dress, it’s all in the details.

How to Dress Like A Grownup, Part 2: Does it Fit?

One of the most important things about putting your look together properly is having a good fit. So I’m going to talk to you a little about how to be sure your clothes fit properly.

It should go without saying that anything that shows your underwear is out. That means sagging pants, super-low rise jeans (those went out of style a long time ago anyway, why do you still have them?) and anything tight enough to show a panty line. Also, if your t-shirt comes down below your pants pockets, it doesn’t fit. Tunic styles notwithstanding, standard shirts shouldn’t hit more than a couple of inches below your waistband.

Pants or jeans should stop at the top of your foot while you’re wearing the shoes you’re planning to put with the outfit. Too short and they look outgrown; too long and you look like a child playing dress-up in a parent’s clothes. Either way, it’s important to know what length you need. If you wear heels, get another pair or two of pants that are longer, especially to wear with your heels. If you’re short and can’t find pants that are short enough, either get them hemmed or get friendly with a sewing machine. Barring that, there’s iron-on hem tape that you can get that will hold lightweight fabrics temporarily, but don’t count on it being a permanent fix.

Your pants shouldn’t gap at the waist. This happens a lot with people whose hips are significantly wider than their waists. If you can’t find a fit to accomodate your shape, taking them in at the waist is an option.

The thing about dressing a body that doesn’t fit off-the-rack sizes (hips fit one size, bust/chest fits another size, waist is something else altogether) is that you’re not going to be able to put an outfit together that’s all the same size. Take me for example. My hips are the largest part of my body. My bust and waist measurements both correspond to a smaller size. I live and die by separates rather than dresses. That way I can buy the size pants/skirt that fits my hips, take in the waist, and buy a top in the size that actually fits my bust. Don’t buy the smaller size and think you’ll squeeze into it. You won’t. Say no to muffin tops, gaps at waistbands, and sagging thigh and crotch.

You know those horizontal ripples that you sometimes get across the front of your shirt? That’s the fabric pulling because the shirt’s too small. It’s especially conspicuous in button-front shirts, where the front placket (that’s the part where the buttons and buttonholes are) will have gaps instead of lying straight and flat. It’s OK to go up a size. The number on the tag is just a number.

If you require a bra, make sure it fits right. The band should go around your body straight across. If it slides up in the back, it’s the wrong fit. If an underwire digs into your armpit, the bra doesn’t fit. Your breast tissue should all fit into the cup, no spilling out of the sides or the top. A bra to be worn under clothing (as opposed to a just-for-fun bra, but that’s a different story) should give a smooth look under your clothing and be of a color that doesn’t show through what you’re wearing over it. (I’ll come back to this in the color article, but if it’s a “close enough to skin tone not to show under light colors” shade, it’s perfect for underwear, but don’t ever wear it as clothing.) I know it’s awkward to do, but going to a lingerie store (not Victoria’s Secret!) or a nice department store (someplace like Dillard’s, Lord and Taylor, etc) and getting actually measured to find your bra size can be very helpful. It’s been quoted that something like 70% of all wearers are in the wrong size bra, and having the right one will make all the difference in the world.

Finally, accept that some things just aren’t going to look good no matter what size you try on. No one piece of clothing can be flattering on everyone.Don’t be afraid to change your original idea when it becomes impractical. If you get good quality clothes in a good fit, then a few high-quality outfits will do much more for you than a million cheap, ill-fitting ones.