Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Talking Products: Hits & Misses in the Drugstore Cosmetics Aisle

Since I discovered stores like Aveda, Origins and Sephora years ago, I seldom venture to the cosmetics section of the drugstore or grocery store anymore. Lately, however, I've been drawn there by ads or magazine articles or perhaps the invisible force of Max Factor. Here are few things I've been test driving.

Burt's Bees Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil

There are many Burt's Bees products I like and use regularly (my daily shower would not be as happy without Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream and Citrus & Ginger Root Body Wash). But when it comes to lip balm, I've been a loyal Rosebud Salve user for years. But then a magazine ad for this Burt's Bees lip balm made me wonder if it's really wise to continuously put a petroleum product (petrolatum) on my lips. So I gave the Burt's Bees balm a try--and I'm hooked on it. It feels nice, has a pleasant taste, offers a hint of tint, and it makes my mouth feel smooth and happy. It's also a great base for lip color. (One should never paint lipstick onto a chapped canvas.)

L'Oreal Endless Lipcolour
Speaking of lipstick...lately I've been searching for one that really stays on, which is a bit of a switch from my usual lip tints and sheer lip colors I've been wearing for the last five years or so. But lipstick and I--we're old friends. In the '80s I went through tube after tube of a L'Oreal variety in Toned Up Taupe, a pinkish beige with a hint of frost. In the '90s I went more bright and bold--L'Oreal Colour Endure in Wild Violet or Kiss Me Red. Colour Endure was awesome. It wore well and and it felt great. I've still got a few long thin gray tubes of it in my vanity table, but I was told by Charlotte, a L'Oreal Customer service person, that they no longer make it. Unhappy news. Charlotte suggested I check out L'Oreal's website for an alternative, which is where I discovered Endless. It came also came in a long skinny tube, and, says the site, it offers a "tattoo effect" for your lips. I was game. I bought Never Ending Rose. It's a great shade for me and it stays on well, but my lips felt like the Sahara--dry dry dry and hardly kissable. I miss Colour Endure (which is available here and there online and on eBay). My relationship with Endless has ended.

Yes to Carrots Eyes and Face Makeup Remover
I read about a Yes to Carrots product in Jean Godfrey June's column several issues of Lucky ago. She loved the product. I happened to see a Yes to Carrots display one day as I was walking through Walgreens, and, since I was in the market for something new to wash my face with, I decided to give Yes to Carrots Eyes and Face Makeup Remover a try. I've been using a rather expensive cleanser. Or actually not using it. Generally by the time my day winds down--after I work, pick up Cheapy Jr., run random errand, cook dinner, clean up, get Cheapy Jr. to bed--the thought of pinning back my hair, getting out a wash cloth and waiting for the water to warm up seems really hard. For more than 20 years, I actually took off my makeup with Pond's Cold Cream. I loved how it smelled and it reminded me of my grandma. Once I found my current facialist, however, this was no longer allowed. (I had some seriously clogged up pores, whiteheads, etc. Mineral oil--not so great for the face.) And besides the washing my face thing being hard, I also missed the creamy loveliness of the Pond's. This Yes to Carrots makeup remover gives me that creamy lovliness, it makes my face feel almost as soft as Cheapy Jr.'s, and it's made from good ingredients like carrot juice, minerals and Dead Sea mud. I absolutely love this stuff. And I'll definitely be trying other Yes to Carrots products--I have a feeling their Body Butter will be awesome.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Shopping Weekend: Venturing to the Other End of The Mall

I generally stick to the end of The Mall near Macy's because there's a parking garage there that almost always offers rockstar parking, and it's near the Gap and Sephora.

Today I shopped at the other end of The Mall. (That's where the Aveda store is, and I got a haircut there during their charity cut-a-thon.) There are stores at this end that I like, but sort of forget about. I cruised through Banana Republic and got bored. (I like the Banana at my favorite outdoor mall much better.)

Next I hit the sale rack at J. Crew. They had lots of nice items on sale and tried on a bunch. I thought about a wrap dress and madras mini skirt but passed on them. (I bought a madras blazer from T.J. Maxx recently, and I fear I could easily over-madras.) I tried on several tops and concluded that J.Crew clothing is generally made for B cup and below. (Are the preppy all flat chested? Cheapy will never leave me for a J. Crew model.) I did buy a silk shirt similar to the one below. My friend had this one on when we went out the other night and I really loved it. The one I bought is the same cut but in a gold and white animal print. The print along with an an exposed zipper in the back add a little edge to the conservative boatneck cut. The animal print top looks fab with my destroyed jeans.

I also popped into Ann Taylor for a spell to check out the clearance. (The full price items at the front of the store were really icky. They have this whole white/turquoise/green/blue/lots of pattern thing going on and that I found quite unappealing.) They had a 75% off rack in the back of the store and I found me some paisley. (Much like rickrack, I have a soft spot for paisley.) So I went home with silk shirt number two, a button down in a brown and white paisley pattern. I can't find it online. It was on final sale for $19.99. The cut is really flattering (it's petite). And I recently decided I look really good in brown.

I also bought yet another clutch from an eBay seller. (The red one I got last week was kinda disintegrating so I got a refund from that seller and sent it back.) This one should prove to be quite nice, and it's a perfect neutral for spring--I think it will go well with my two new silk tops--and I really like that it's got silvertone accents instead of goldtone.

And check out how nice this bag is on the inside. It looks new.

My only other recent purchase was a pair of straight cut black pants from the Gap. I got them on Thursday when I took back some trouser jeans because I decided the rise was too low. I will be bringing these pants to a tailor, however, to have the waistline taken in just a bit. (They will join the three dresses and one pair of pants in need of hemming that have been in a shopping bag in my trunk for two weeks--it's hard to find time to go to the tailor). The size I purchased fits perfectly everywhere but the waist. I can literally take them off without unbuttoning them. The next size down was too tight everywhere except the waist, of course. But with a little nip, they'll be just right. Everyone should find a good tailor--proper fit is important, fellow shoppers!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hip Designers Did White Shirts for the Gap; I Tried Them On. Here's My Review

April 15th. The day our tax forms must be on their way to the IRS. The day Juno comes out on DVD and Blu-ray (cause how could you not know that if you've been in a mall or anywhere on the Internet). The day the Gap debuts their latest collection of cool-designers-do-the-white-shirt. I visited the Gap at The Mall today and tried on each and every one of them. (They are all $78 or $88.)

These four white shirts are all by Phillip Lim. I found the first one (top left) to be too boxy and too long (keep in mind I'm 5'2"). The sleeves are nice and I like the detail on the placket

The second one
(top right) made me feel like a fancy waiter. (Note to the Gap: I apologize if there's some Wild Violet lipstick in the vicinity of the collar of the shirt I tried one. It was quite snug going over the head.)

The third one (bottom left) was pretty cute on, but I'm really over this sort of babydoll cut. And having to attractively tie the tie at the neckline before I left the house would make me late for work.

The fourth one (bottom right) on a good day, sexy librarian; on a bad day unattractive school marm.

Of this group I like the first one (left) by Michael Bastian the best. I always like a Western cut and what's not to love about a shirt with snaps. It's nicely fitted, but it was too long for me. On someone a few inches taller than I am, this would be a great choice.

The second shirt (center) by Band of Outsiders
is just too much white shirt for me. If I was channeling my inner Lindsay Lohan, I'd grab some leggings and this would be a fab dress. Good sleeve length and good cut.

The white dress (right) by Three AsFour looks good on the model, but not on me, and probably not on most women who aren't 5'8" and a B-cup. It really shows off the shoulders nicely however.

My favorite white shirt is not available on the Gap website so I had to copy this group picture to show it to you, fellow shoppers. It's the second one in on the right--the one cut like a tank with one spaghetti strap and one thicker strap. This shirt was really flattering. I love the cut and the asymmetrical snap placket. I would have purchased it except for one thing: there's no way any brassiere of mine can go under this little number. Material Girl generally needs some support, but I'll go hippie when I need to. But, come on--under white? This looked terrific on the mannequin who had no nipples. Otherwise, ladies, we'd be giving the world a little more boobie info than it needs.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Shopping Weekend: Vintage Florals for Spring, Cheap Accessories, More Shoes

Despite the fact that weather here insists on dropping below 60, it is indeed spring. And I indeed continue to work on my spring wardrobe. Here a bring you a few recent acquisitions.

First, I won an auction for a vintage Saks dress from a favorite eBay seller--because it's really adorable and because a like the ideas or florals for spring as recently seen on the runways. (Check out, for example, the odd shapes and crazy colors and patterns of Balenciaga.) The dress and jacket got (which fit me like a glove) are bold, but in a cute '60s shape. Both items have amazing rhinestone studded buttons, and the dress is finished with a blue velvet belt. The cropped jacket I'll wear on it's own over a t-shirt and jeans (once they get back from the dry cleaner. I'm sure these have been packed away in some old lady's basement in California for a couple decades.) The blond model below showcases all the item sold by the Timeless Vixen eBay store. They post new fantastic vintage dresses and suits every Friday and all auctions start at $24. And they often make a mint, many items going for upwards of $200. (This outfit set me back $118.)

I'm also thinking bold jewelry for spring. (But, then again, I'm always thinking bold jewelry.) Check out this necklace below--an eBay steal for $2.25. I can't wait to wear this.

My problem collecting clutches just won't go away. I got this red woven clutch (leather doesn't seem very springy to me) with a lucite handle for $9.99.

My loyal readers know I've been really loving all the yellow in the stores this season, but I often lament that I look like crap in yellow. I think it would be fine on my feet, however. I'd recently purchased a pair of uncomfortable yellow camper pumps from Zappos that I had to send back. I still had some Zappos gift certificate left over from my birthday, and in a total impulse purchase on Friday night I bought these super yellow pumps by Volatile. They arrived yesterday and I really love them. (They don't look quite as yellow in person as they do online.) Cheapy Jr. is not a fan of this shoe. When I test drove them yesterday he kept insisting I take them off--until I pointed out that they are the color of a DHL truck. Then they were good. (The boy loves delivery trucks. Me too.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Shoe Shopping with Cheapy: DSW

I'm starting to think I might have to change my husband's blog persona from Cheapy McMeiserberg to Spendy McShopalot. He keeps planning dates that involve shopping. Last weekend it was boutiques; this weekend evening shoe shopping. (This was after an day of Old Navy with Cheapy Jr. and shopping for an office furniture. We were almost getting to the point of too much retail even for me.)

Cheapy/Spendy has a habit of over-scheduling. His Saturday night plan: babysitter arrives at 6:45; we go taste wine; hit DSW and the Gap at one shopping center; go to Aveda and Macy's at The Mall; have dinner.

We tasted wine, shoe shopped, and went to the Gap for 10 minutes. Cheapy had no idea how long it can take to wend one's way through the two-floor expanse of our beautifully lit and well stocked DSW store.

Cheapy bought two pairs of shoes for himself, one by GBX (his Favorite Shoes Ever!) and one by Timberland. I must say I like Cheapy's taste in footwear. (I happen to think there are not a lot of attractive options when it comes to men's shoes. The lack of footwear options is one of the many reasons I'm happy to be a girl. That and I don't have to shave daily, take out the trash, or walk around with a penis, but I digress.)

During our evening of shopping at DSW, Cheapy had a shopping milestone: It was the first time in his life he's ever purchased two pair of shoes on the same day. (I also think it's the first time he's ever purchased two pairs of shoes in the same year.)

He was on a shoe-shopping high. He was so excited about finding a GBX shoe that he wanted to walk around the store and look for shoes for me. Somehow I walked out with the closest thing DSW had to stripper shoes. They're Michael Kors does stripper shoes in ivory patent leather with a bit of a vintage feel. They're just like the ones pictured below except instead of cork, the heels and platforms are navy and ivory striped. They're very tall but very comfortable, and I let Cheapy talk me into them despite the fact that they're ankle straps and I hate ankle straps. (I'm actually thinking about taking them to a shoe repair and having the strap shortened so they become slingbacks. I love slingbacks.) The fact that these are so light in color, however, makes them an acceptable ankle strap for someone my height. In black or something dark they would cut my leg off at the ankle. The ivory blends enough with my anti-tan that they work. And I've got a perfect pair of shoes to pack next time we go to Vegas.

P.S. Cheapy is still really excited about his shoe purchase. He told me he was in a good mood all day because of his new shoes. He was excited that he got a couple of compliments on them. He said several times throughout the day he took a few moments to just stare at and admire his shoes. I think he's starting to understand me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lunchtime Shopping Trip: Anthropologie

On Monday, a co-worker (who was wearing a very nice outfit) tipped me off that stuff was dirt cheap at Anthropologie. Today my friend and I popped in during lunchtime to check out the discounted racks. (I was really in need of some retail therapy and some whole grain goodness--we hit Whole Foods for lunch post shopping.)

There were indeed many many good items on sale. I left with a cropped cardigan in a berry shade (below in green) and a gray embellished tee that I've been hoping would go on sale.

I think I certainly would have found a few more tops if I'd had more time than my lunch hour.

This was not my nicest Anthropologie shopping experience, however. The associate monitoring the dressing room was often missing, so I'd have to stand, my armload of potential purchases growing heavier, waiting for an room to be unlocked. Maybe it's because the store was so empty, but still.

Then the associate who rang me up had trouble with the register and had to start again. Okay, that happens, computers freeze, and that's fine. Then I told her I had my own bag and she gave me the look. I get this look all the time when I whip out my nylon totes at clothing stores. The I'm-sort-of-
confused-and-you're-sort-of-odd look. It's normal to bring bags to grocery stores--no one thinks twice. The stores encourage it with nickels off or raffles (some day I'll win that Trader Joe's gift card--I haven't acquired a bag from that store in a year and a half). But at clothing stores, shoe stores--
pretty much anything in The Mall--they look at me like I'm a weirdo.

Besides the look, I have to tell you that this chick was the worse clothing folder I've ever seen employed at a retail store. She pretty much dumped my items in a heap and wrapped some tissue around them.

The worse part of the shopping experience, however, was that my friend, well, she had to go to the bathroom. And of course they sent her out of the store. I've been in this particular Anthropologie store a number of times and heard shoppers ask for a restroom only to be sent to Coldwater Creek (ew! I will never be old enough to shop there). You know, Anthropologie, if I'm going to patronize your store and pay $88 for a t-shirt, the least you could do is offer a lovely place for me to tinkle.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Boutique Fashion Show Date with Cheapy

Cheapy put Cheapy Jr. in the jogging stroller and took off on a run to the downtown area of our tiny city. A few minutes later, I got a phone call. Cheapy had found the perfect place for us to begin our Saturday night date: a Jackie O.-inspired spring fashion show at a neighborhood boutique. Go figure! (I'm starting to get that Cheapy likes boutiques way better than The Mall--woo hoo! It didn't hurt that there were free drinks.)

Needless to say, I was in on his plan. I picked out my outfit: an asymetrical black silk cap-sleeve top, a bronze and silver metallic shrug, and my sad Gap jeans. (I really need some decent denim. But that's another post.) I abandoned wearing my Poetic License two-tone metallic mary janes because it was chilly out and the event was outdoors, instead wearing my standard black Rockport boots.

By the time our babysitter arrived and we got to our fashion destination (Romauldo's for men/Kennedy's for ladies) we had missed the show, but the bar was still open as were the boutiques.

I found the sale rack in Kennedy's and came away with a Tracy Reese black silk tunic at 40% off. It's hard to see the details in this photo--a problem with viewing black clothing online--but it's got a pleated ruffle down the front and interesting seaming that gives it a really flattering shape. In the back, it closes with a shiny crystal button at the neck. (Why does the model have such bad posture?)

Cheapy and I found the clearance in the men's store as well. They had a shelf full of gorgeous $300 cashmere sweaters at 75% off. A sales associate got us in a conversation about his cashmere sweater philosophy: He advises men to start with navy blue and charcoal gray, move on to olive green, then begin to branch into other colors. I was enjoying this conversation immensely, happy with my purchase in hand which Cheapy paid for since I couldn't fit my wallet into my vintage clutch. Cheapy, however, was in pain. I'm fairly sure he would have gone into a retail-induced freak if he wasn't on his second beer. Too bad--he would look so nice in the navy cashmere.

He did spy a tie he liked for something like $145. It was black with purple paisley and made of buttery soft textured silk. He called it "Johnny Cash in Vegas," a fab description.

These boutiques were doing quite the business during the event, stuffed full of men in pink Bermuda shorts and blue blazers and women in $600 shoes. I saw a tall brunette with thick bangs, a thick ponytail and skinny jeans purchase a pink satin bomber jacket for $640 which she immediately began wearing. (I it found interesting yet a tad gaudy.)

Although I missed the spring fashion show, I picked up a guide which listed all the clothing the models wore. My favorite item on the list: Dion pink/blue pocket square: $40. I once saw an interview with a fashionable rapper that I'd never heard of say a man leaving the house without a pocket square is like a woman leaving the house without lip gloss. Ponder that for a bit.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Saw Sarah Jessica Parker at The Mall

When I got to the office today, my coworker, most casually, asked, "Are you going to The Mall today to see Sarah Jessica Parker?"


(Note: I'm not a fan of yelling in capital letters, but in this instance it couldn't be helped.)

It seemed SJP was appearing at Macy's, signing bottles of her fragrance Lovely. Of course I got online to get the scoop. I called the Sarah Jessica Parker hotline. (I kid you not--that's what they called it.) Tickets gone!

Fear not fellow shoppers and SJP fans. I soldiered on. SJP appeared at noon. I left the office at 11:36 (not before asking my coworker if I should change my shoes. I was only half kidding) and zipped home to grab my Canon. I sped to The Mall, running several red lights. I got rockstar parking in garage by the men's store (the secret best place to park--don't tell everyone).

As soon as I walked through the doors, I saw the line.

Hundreds and hundreds of people who purchased $150 fragrance gift sets in pink canvas bags. I walked past them all and slipped into I.N.C. past the security dude up to the railing and staked out a spot mere feet from where SJP would appear in less than 15 minutes.

Okay, I have to tell you--I was really excited. I could actually feel my heart beating faster. I think my palms may have been sweating a little. I weird guy waiting next to me with a camera and his mother asked me how long I've been a fan. "Since Square Pegs," I told him. He looked confused.

Finally I heard cheering. More cheering...there she was. This was not a celebrity sighting, people. This was the celebrity sighting. I felt like Chris March on Project Runway about to tear up. I took a picture of her shoes.

I think her fragrance is aptly named--she was indeed lovely. Sweet and friendly. Fabulous hair. Darling dress. Her wheelchair-bound elderly kindergarten teacher came to the event and SJP hugged her and talked to her and was so gracious. She smiled for every photo. She chatted. She's left handed like me.

It was practically religious. All day I was filled with SJP joy. My almost daily Sex & the City reruns viewing suddenly has new meaning.

I almost wish I liked perfume.