Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Small Idea

As a girl, you most likely own at least one tiny purse. It's what you use when going out at night, and a big bulky shoulder bag just won't do. Then again, maybe you take the chance, and risk knocking into someone's drink with your ginormous handbag. You know, the one that also doubles as an instrument for hitting unwanted suiters. (I've never actually done this, but I bet it's pretty effective.)

If either of the two scenarios above sound familiar to you, then I have something you just might find useful. I've been promoting the ID/business card case since sophomore year of college as both an alternative means to a wallet, or just as a neat way to store your important cards for quick access in the black hole of your handbag.

If you couldn't already guess, I happen to have a few small purses. And, as a girl that likes to carry her life around with her (Life = iPod, phone, makeup, money, metrocard, license), I struggle with fitting everything into my little bag. Or, for the times that I do decide to lug my duffel-like purse with me out to bars, I prefer to know exactly where to find the most important items.

While they can't accommodate an extremely large amount of cards (especially credit), I have been able to fit my metrocard, license, and at least a credit card or two in my ID case, pictured above. I would suggest that you could squeeze some cash inside, but it really doesn't hold much. When carrying a smaller bag, I use the case to store my cards and license, and have the bills I need loose in my bag, or in an inside pocket. This way, there is plenty of room for the rest of my things, as it's barely larger than my iPod nano. (Yes, it's true, the nano was also purchased with my teensy purses in mind. Is it that obvious?)

On an average day, when I carry my much larger purse, the case makes it super quick to access my metrocard, or even business cards if I need them. It sits in an internal pocket (almost any large bag comes with a few for cell phones) where I can see it, so I don't have to dig around the cavernous inside. Not to mention it fits easily in a pants or jacket pocket if you decide to ditch the purse altogether. But best of all, you get to listen to all your friends "Oooh" and "Aahh" when they realize how ingenious you are for thinking of such a cute and alternative way to use a business card case. Now, doesn't that feel good?

For a personal touch, find a metal case with room for engraving your name or initials. A monogram can be done by machine in only a few minutes in the diamond district, for about $12!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'Band Aid

I hate my hair. That is right, there are times that I have wished I had the guts and the self confidence to go ahead and shave my head. Okay, so that's a little of an exaggeration, but on those bad hair days when it seems like I just can't make it look anything near acceptable, I figure it would be easier if I didn't have any.

Humidity is my hair's kryptonite. If there is any hint of moisture in the air, my hair recoils in fear, and, as if under Medusa's evil stare, turns to hay. No amount of weapons can protect me, not a ceramic flat iron, not Frizz Ease, and while using Kerastase was the closest my hair got to perfection, the price tag was far from it.

In attempts to ease the frustration of getting ready on rainy mornings, I would tie my hair back in a messy bun, because a ponytail that turns from straight to coarse-like waves during my commute to work was the furthest thing from pretty. After awhile, however, I became bored with this routine, and was determined to find a way to turn my bad hair days into something along the lines of "just not as cute as usual" hair days.

One afternoon, as I was getting ready to meet my friend for a walk around Central Park, I had a hair epiphany. Okay, so like most things in my life, it was really a by-product of my laziness. See, I hadn't taken my regular evening shower, and as the walk was a last minute plan, I didn't have time in the morning to take one either. There I was, with borderline greasy hair, and no clue what to do about it.

So, I just started to braid it. Two pigtail braids. To hide the roots where the grease would soon show, I wore a headband. I had recently purchased the cotton one from American Apparel, and I slid that over my head. Sure, I kind of looked like I was going to work out, but I also thought it looked kind of cute. (The cute half was later confirmed when I tried my new look out at work, so wipe those "She's delusional" notions out of your head.)

And there began my slippery descent into the world of headbands.

For some, the headband may remind them of their childhood, wearing thick or thin bands of fabric adorned with glitter and/or bows, or the plastic ones with the teeth that left comb marks in our hair and excruciating pain behind our ears. Since then, the headband has evolved and has become more than just a way to tame the mane on humid days, but rather a fun accessory to add some color or personality to what may be an otherwise simple outfit.

Now that I have discovered their multi-purpose use, I have found many more ways to style my hair. While I have to pin many of them in (which requires wearing my hair in either a straight or side ponytail, or even a messy bun), the plastic ones look cute sitting atop my hair when it is worn down.

To get a similar look, here is my current list of head-wear favorites:

For a funky edge, I adore this plastic one by Marc by Marc Jacobs, but it's definitely a splurge. However, I found a great silver faux snakeskin one at Century 21 for less than $4!

To add a little sunshine to a rainy day, American Apparel has a few different styles in a large array of colors. Personally, I love both the shiny and the lame in bold hues such as fuchsia or turquoise.

If you are looking for function over form, in addition to the cotton one from American Apparel that first launched my obsession, Goody has "no slide" products that are great for working out or running errands.

For those that think incorporating headbands into their lifestyle may not sound very practical, exciting, or maybe it seems like too much of a hassle, just think: What would Blair Waldorf do?

I don't know about you, but I love a good Gossip Girl challenge.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Comfort, To a Tee

In my opinion, nothing says effortless style like the T-Shirt dress. It's simple, it's classic, it's easy, and most importantly, it's comfortable. I am the ultimate champion of comfort. In fact, twice in my life, once in middle school and again during sophomore year of college, I only wore sweatpants. That's right, sweatpants. Day in, day out. Sure, I was probably mocked behind my back, but I was happy.

With leggings having made a comeback, and dresses even more versatile than ever, it is now possible to be both fashionable and comfortable at the same time. The T-Shirt dress, to me, is the epitome of this melding between style and ease. You can dress it up or down, accessorize it however you want, and still feel like you are in your favorite tank top and jeans. My current obsession is from American Apparel. I've worn it to bars, to work, even just walking around on the weekends.

Normally I'm a little wary of American Apparel clothing, mostly because the quality control is just not there. But I don't have the easiest body to dress, and this looks great. I even bought a second in a different color (and that is not one of my usual shopping habits).

Here are some suggestions on how to style this multifaceted item of clothing:

For Work-
The dress alone may be a little short (depending on your dress code, and it also shrinks a bit in the first wash), so I would pair it with leggings or tights. Add a blazer and pumps, or a cardigan and a belt, for a more polished, professional look.

For Play-
Weekends are all about being laid back and casual. Add some layered necklaces or a chunky bracelet paired with metallic or jeweled flats. For an adventurous statement, nothing says summer fun like a bright pink lipstick. I have found the best selection from YSL, but any brand will do. Just have fun.

For Evening-
When going out for a night on the town, all you need to do is ramp up your accessories. Add a little sparkle with some cubic zirconium studs or dangling earrings (diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but certainly not her wallet's), or a sparkle-y cocktail ring (I have a great one from Express). Slip into some peep toe pumps or strappy sandals and you're all set.

Okay, I admit, adding high heels to the T-Shirt dress does take a little away from the comfort factor, but we can't always have our way, now can we? I am not going to lie and say that a four-inch stiletto is as easy to wear as pair of flip flops, but the truth is, they do look more fabulous.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clean Up Your Act

Despite what many may think, great style does not grow incrementally according to the size of one's wardrobe. More clothes does not equal more fashion sense. Knowing what you own and how it should be worn, is what puts you in a league of your own.

The majority of women are in a fashion rut. We find a few pieces we are the most comfortable in, and use them to create different outfits. I am guilty of this on many occasions, for when I find a dress that I love, I manage to incorporate it in as many looks as possible. As I purchase new items, I tend to favor them over older pieces, and my outfits, in turn, suffer. In order to avoid these predicaments, I have a few suggestions.

1) Try not to wear a pair of shoes more than once during the workweek
Okay, this requires a fairly substantial number of shoes, for which I admit to owning. However, if you are like me, I find that by making myself wear a different pair each day, I not only utilize more of my shoes, but I also am forced to be more creative with my wardrobe. The more shoes I wear, the more outfits I have to create!

2) Think outside the box
Changing up an outfit does not necessarily mean wearing a different shirt or skirt, it can require as little as updating your accessories. Try out a different necklace, or a bolder pair of earrings. Maybe add a belt. You can even channel your inner French chic by throwing on a silk scarf. Outfits without accouterments are blank canvases. Fling on some paint!! Get a little crazy.

3) Re-Organize your closet
I know I know, you think your closet is organized, and maybe you are compulsive like me and it is kept neat and clean. But I'm talking about organize. To like, the millionth degree. If you have seen my closet, you would understand why I am stressing that you rethink your strategy. This is a tough one though: it requires dedication to the cause. But trust me, once you are done, you will realize how much more you have to work with than you than you may have ever perceived.

So here is what I propose:

Take everything out of your closet. The sweaters from the shelves, the dresses and pants from where they hang, do not stop until your closet is completely void of clothing. Once cleared out, start grouping items, first by color, then by likeness (black pants with black pants, black dresses with black dresses, and so forth). While doing this, you should be making a mental note of your inventory, chucking those pieces you will not wear again.

(TIP: Do not be hasty! I have been known to be tempted to throw out clothing I had not worn in years, but found myself-- in rediscovery--wearing them now with much more frequency)

I was not kidding when I said I was compulsive. Personally, I like to see my clothes in color order (rainbow, preferably), grouping items staring with blazers, then long sleeves, short sleeves, skirts, dresses (long sleeve, short sleeve, tank)...etc. I fold sweaters and jeans on the shelves, tank tops are in my dresser, stacked by color. I believe that seeing your clothes along with like colors allows you to truly appreciate all the possible combinations.

If you are feeling adventurous, move on to your shoes. Shoe racks are key, especially the stackable kind (if, like me, you need as much capacity as possible). When I first attempted to organize my massive collection, I grouped my shoes by color and then by likeness. However, I currently have them the opposite, first by kind, then by color. Flats with flats, pumps with pumps, booties, boots, and so on - then as close to color coordination as possible. Wedges are best to keep on the bottom, then flats above, and pumps on the top. I have found that the shoes sit better when stacked this way. To me, fashion and organization is an art. I am an artist.

Now, if you were me, you would be feeling extremely satisfied right now. Give it a chance, I promise you will see a much broader range of possibilities. If you can't, well, then maybe you have a shopping problem, and the only therapy I am familiar with, is the retail kind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flea Markets: Not Just For Floridians

When I hear the phrase "flea market" I conjure up fond memories of visiting my grandmother in Florida, taking day long trips to the indoor flea market. Once there, I would pick up puffy-paint splattered Keds, plastic watches, costume jewelry, and other random goodies I once thought made me cool. As I got older, the allure of the flea market faded, and I sourced my fashion choices from more mainstream retailers.

Between growing up in suburban Maryland and going to college in the Midwest, flea markets were not a common weekend destination. However, upon moving to New York, brimming with a plethora of street fairs and open air flea markets, my latent desire for bargain prices and one-of-a-kind pieces was rekindled.

In the summer, there are what seems like a million street fairs to choose from. Take a short walk around your neighborhood and you'll be sure to encounter at least one. Most of the time, however, the best part of a street fair is....well....the fare. With an abundance of smoothies, fruit, and funnel cake, you can easily inhale your weekly calories in a mere 20 minutes.

One summer, spending a day walking around the Upper West Side with my cousin, we stumbled upon the Greenflea flea market on Columbus Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets. Within a few minutes of our arrival, it was clear to me this was not the kind of flea market I was used to patronizing. Where were the tan grandmothers? Where were the wearers of fuchsia lipstick and fanny packs? What I did find, however, was a wonderful selection of artisan booths, vintage clothing and accessories, and random decorative nick knacks.

On my first visit, I picked up a beautiful little charm necklace by Belle Costes - delicate yet funky - and for only $55. Okay, so that is not super cheap in the grand scheme of things, but for a one of a kind necklace that no one else has or will ever have, I think it's a great deal. And despite having purchased it over two years ago, I still get compliments every time I wear it.

My second trip to Greenflea was with my parents, about a year later. We had wandered upon it and I convinced my mother and father that it would be worth a look. This time, I managed to walk away with another Belle Costes necklace, one with a chunkier antique look, that could be warn two different ways.

A little pricier at $65, I thought it was a steal. Another great vendor at the market, were the leather craftsmen of De Palma. Both my mother and I scored some fabulous handmade leather belts at $75 each.

One of the best things about splurging a little on one-of-a-kind pieces, is that it provides a unique addition to your outfit. And if there is one thing I adore, it is getting the opportunity to answer the question "Where did you get that?" with "A flea market" (but antique store, European country--or any other foreign country for that matter--will do). Nothing says personal style like owning something that is as completely individual as you are.

Finally, on my last visit to the flea market, I came away with my most bargain of finds. All fall season I had been dying for an oversized costume jewelry cocktail ring, and had my eye on this fantastic crystal studded Kenneth Jay Lane Tiger.

Unfortunately, at the ridiculous price of $198 (although I stupidly turned down an $85 price tag at a store where the tag was missing and the sales help were clueless), I was not about to purchase it. Luckily for me, I found the perfect alternative at the flea market, for the low price of $18, and am guaranteed to not spot another sporting my vintage piece.

Although I am not advocating that you spend your life savings on a fabulous wardrobe, I have nothing against a few splurges here and there for items no one else is going to have. However, it is possible to find great unique pieces for a price that is easy to swallow. Personal style is priceless, but while our creativity may be limitless, our credit cards certainly are not.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Perfectly Polished

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a collector.

As a child it was Barbie dolls, Breyer Horses, stuffed snimals, My Little Ponies, and Trolls. As an adult, it has progressed to shoes, accessories, tank tops, and nail polish. While my obsession for finding the perfect polish has evolved in the past four years, I can trace it back to 8th grade, when the Hard Candy brand was introduced into my cosmetic frame of reference.

I remember it clearly: a glossy spread in Sassy magazine (my favorite!), showcasing the beautiful array of pastel colors. I begged my mother to order me the green, blue and purple, convincing her that I just *had to* have them. After weeks of waiting, they finally arrived from California, but to my dismay - after they had already begun being sold in Nordstrom's. I also had colors from Delia's, Wet 'n Wild, and sometimes - in High School - I even coordinated my nails to the current holidays (a variation of greens and whites on St. Patrick's, pinks and reds for Valentine's Day, blues and white during Hanukkah, and so forth).

Once I moved to New York, and discovered my love for frequent manicures and pedicures, my addiction to nail polish resurfaced. If I found a new color I liked, I would proceed immediately to Ricky's or the nearest Duane Reade to purchase it. I have never counted how many polishes are in my collection, but they fill a makeup case, a full drawer in my organizer, and a display shelf.

To me, nail polish is just another accessory. In about a half hour, you can change your look from classic to trendy, preppy to punk - and it's completely non-committal. My recent obsession is a little louder than your average manicure; I'm talking neon nails. Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Orange: You name it, I've worn it. I suggest heading over to your nearest Ricky's and picking up a bottle of "Mattese" in one of the many neons in their collection.

An instant makeover for $4.99? That's what I call a "bright idea."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Wrap it up already!

So here is a trend I'm already over and it has seems to only just begun reaching full swing: the Keffiyeh scarves.

Sure we've all heard the phrase "The Personal is Political" but I don't think that was a commentary on personal style, so I'm a little confused how this political statement has turned into...well...a fashion statement. And not a very cute one at that.

Despite being dedicated to finding my own individual style, I know that it is impossible to not spot a girl in the H&M dress I happen to be wearing, or find myself purchasing a pair of ubiquitous Tory Burch flats (even if mine are in leopard). However, if I had a dollar for every time I caught someone wearing this scarf in one day, I would be one very wealthy woman. Doesn't anyone think it looks like you're wearing a picnic tablecloth around your neck???

Personally, I'm fine with my Marimekko for H&M scarf, and have yet to see anyone else with it.

Skinny Jeans

No, I'm not talking about the pair of jeans that hides in the back of your closet from when you used to be 10 pounds thinner that you keep there just in case you get back to that "goal" weight. I'm talking about what I like to refer to as "denim leggings." What is funny though, is that I never thought twice about jumping on the leggings bandwagon 2 years ago, but when it came to skinny jeans, I was deathly afraid.

I am not going to lie, I have big thighs. I am not sure if I always had big thighs, but I can not seem to remember a day beyond middle school that I did not feel they were larger than I would have preferred. Nonetheless, I dressed them appropriately and never thought twice about it. Until skinny jeans came into the picture.

Now that I think about it, I may have stopped wearing jeans around the time when flared and boot cut went out and skinny took their place. I switched over to dresses and leggings and forgot about the 5 pairs sitting--untouched--in my closet. I kept promising to buy a new pair when I had an extra discount, or I lost a few pounds. I never lost those few pounds.

For some reason, however, last weekend I decided to take a risk. I tried on almost every pair of skinny jeans I saw hanging on the racks at Bloomingdale's, and prepared myself for disappointment. Shockingly, when I put on Seven's "Roxanne" style, I realized I looked cute! My hips and thighs didn't look oversized compared to my ankles and feet! The stretch meant that my legs weren't suffocated by denim! The waist wasn't too tight or too big! It was a skinny jean miracle.

So there I was, two years later, purchasing a pair. And I have to say, I'm more than mildly excited.

EXTRA TIP: To get denim hemmed on a budget, check out tailors on the Lower East Side. Most do it while you wait, and can cost as little as $4!!