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Product Review – Afterglow Cosmetics

In the past year my skin has become quite sensitive. Hives, irritation and redness occur if I look at my reflection the wrong way so I have been on the lookout for beauty products that are free of known irritants while still making me… well beautiful!

Recently I was contacted by Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics and was very interested in trying their line. I have tried mineral makeup in the past with mixed results – some looked muddy on my skin, some made my face itch, and many seemed to get a weird ghostly glow in flash photography. Afterglow Mineral Cosmetics claims their line is free of synthetic dyes, preservatives and fillers; made with certified organic botanicals and even contains supposedly age-defying antioxidants such as grapeseed and pomegranate extract.

Afterglow Cosmetics was created by Kristin Adams out of need; she too has sensitive skin and found most lines irritated and caused her to break out. Afterglow Cosmetics is free of the following irritating ingredients found in other lines: paraben preservatives, bismuth oxychloride, synthetic dyes, talc, gluten, petrochemicals, cornstarch, FD&C and lake dyes, carmine, mineral oil, and GMOs. The line focuses on natural and organic ingredients, they never test on animals and their line is 100% vegan. They list all of their ingredients on their website and on the product packaging.

Wow, a product that is organic, vegan, free of weird ingredients and will give me a natural and beautiful look? Can’t wait to try it out for myself!

I decided to try out their Organic Mineral Foundation in Bisque, the Organic Glow Bronzer in Medium, and Natural Lip Gloss in Bella.

The packaging for the foundation and bronzer are similar to other mineral cosmetics lines – a tiny tub with a shaker cap so you can sprinkle a small amount into the cap of the tub, swirl the brush in it, tap off excess and buff onto the skin. The lipgloss came in a squeeze tube similar to Lancome’s Juicy Tubes. All packaging was well made, sealed nicely and was attractive and simple.

I tried the foundation with the traditional Swirl/Tap/Buff method with the Sephora Professional Bronzer Brush and found it went on well, didn’t get muddy, didn’t itch and seemed to blend nicely.

I wear C3 for L’Oreal True Match foundation and Beige in philosophy’s The Supernatural foundation and found Afterglow’s Bisque to be a hair lighter than these and a neutral (not too cool or warm) shade. Even though the color was a touch lighter than what I had chosen, it blended naturally and didn’t make me look ashen.

The formula gives a lighter coverage than Bare Escentuals – my freckles showed through, but it did even out my skintone. There was no weird shimmer to the line like many mineral products have, nor did it give me a false and matte finish. The more I layered, the more opaque the finish. The line suggested that those with dry skin mix the mineral powder with a moisturizer; I did that and found it went on well, ended with a nice soft finish and worked for spot coverage. This is a great choice for a lightweight sheer foundation or someone who is looking for a line that is gentle and humane, and I like the real variety of shades (seen at left and also available to view on the Afterglow Cosmetics website).

I was interested in trying out the Organic Glow Bronzer because I had tried Bare Escentuals’ “Warmth” and found it hard to use, dark and easy to get streaky (I admit, I am a klutz and I get ready each day over my bathroom sink with a limited amount of time). I also like the look of a bronzer on my skin as that I do not tan and am naturally pale. I have bought several bronzers over the years and have yet to find Nirvana. They are too muddy, too orange, too shimmery, too dark, too light.

This bronzer had a slight shimmer, but it didn’t make me look like a disco ball when applied (I used the Bare Escentuals Angled Face Brush). Again I did the Swirl/Tap/Buff method. It is not as dark or potent at B.E.’s “Warmth,” but it still was a bit hard to manage on a time crunch. It seemed to blend nicely, but after leaving the house my husband rubbed my cheek saying I had a line.

I liked the formula and the natural color better than the competitor, but still did not find Nirvana. However if you are looking for a mineral bronzer for fair skin, this is a good choice.

Finally, the lipgloss. Bella, is described on the website as a “medium cool berry pink.”

Honestly, when I saw the packaging, I thought I would hate the lipgloss. I don’t usually like tube applicator glosses and the color looked quite dark and opaque (more like a berry red instead of a pink).

I applied it… and the formula is different. Unlike a typical sticky goopy gel, this has a powdery/mineral finish and feels more like a hydrating lipstick. It gave shine – again, more like a hydrating/shiny lipstick than a traditional gloss. However unlike a typical gloss, it hadn’t disappeared after 10 minutes, my hair didn’t get stuck in it and it didn’t dry out my lips.

As for the color… I would describe it more as a “medium berry” hue. You can see it on me at the picture to left. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “cool,” more of a neutral pink that could work on most skintones. Anyway, it may not match the description, but I have fallen in love with it. It is unlike any other product I have tried – it slowly fades away like a lipstick, doesn’t leave lines, doesn’t bleed, doesn’t crease. It seems to hydrate my lips and keep them soft and the powdery feel is soothing. There is a slight simmer to the product, but this is totally wearable in the most conservative office environment.

All in all quite pleased with this line! Good quality, good ethics, good ingredients! Even better, if you are afraid to purchase the line, Afterglow Cosmetics offers samples of their products at very nice prices so you can try before you invest in a new beauty product!

UPDATE:
Just for you Wardrobe Oxygen readers, AfterGlow Cosmetics has offered $5 off your first online purchase! Enter “OXYGEN” at checkout.

Review: e.l.f Cosmetics

Who can resist makeup for a dollar? I have been trying for months since I heard of e.l.f Cosmetics (www.eyeslipface.com). I am the type who could drop some serious cash at Sephora (online or the shop), The Body Shop, a MAC counter or store or a fun cosmetics website without blinking. However lately I am trying to be good and frugal – I buy new cosmetics when what I have runs out (or gets snagged by the airport security checkpoint – ladies do not forget that Ziploc baggie with your next flight!). I research my choices so I don’t have to buy twice. I am trying to purchase quality, not quantity.

But Christmas is around the corner, and I love buying fun and frivolous mini gifts for my friends. Good excuse to try out e.l.f Cosmetics! And if I am purchasing for friends and the prices are at or near $1 each, well can’t I treat myself too? So here are my reviews of the two goodies I purchased for myself:

Hypershine Mini Lipgloss Cell Phone Charms
How darn patootin’ cute is this? For $5 you get eight different lipglosses and a cap with a string that loops around the slot on all cell phones that lets you loop a cord. What girl wouldn’t want this for a night out when real estate in an evening clutch (or your pocket) is at a minimum?

The cap holds onto the glosses quite well and doesn’t get loose after switching colors. It’s sorta awkward to apply gloss (the applicator stays attached to the phone), but the convenience outweighs this issue.

The gloss feels more like a balm – not very sticky and seems moisturizing. A more natural gloss look. It holds decently for a non-sticky balm. The fragrance varies from Tinkerbell cosmetics sweet to almost smelling a bit like Play-Doh, though all scents are quite mild. The problem I find is that none of the colors are similar to what I usually wear. They are all pretty sheer, the red leaves a flushed pink look to the lips, the bronze is pretty over a brownish pink liner or lipstick. I found the purple and silver shades to be a bit too extreme for my natural lip look, but could be very fun for a night out or over a dark colored lipliner or lipstick.

In general, a fun purchase for $5 and a convenience for a night out, but nothing that will replace my current favorite glosses for every day wear.

Wet Gloss Lash & Brow Clear Mascara
For years I have been using the Body Shop Clear Mascara to tame my wild brows and keep my brown brow powder in check. I have gotten to the point where I am wiggling the brush like mad trying to get enough gel to get the job done. Time for a replacement! Even with my discount with The Body Shop (I am a consultant), I can’t beat $1. Already purchasing from e.l.f., might as well add this to my shopping cart!

Do note the description and title states “wet.” I had the fear that I would apply this mascara to my brows and look false and weird. No worry. It does show a bit more than the equivalent from The Body Shop, but does not look shiny or wet on the brows. It does a better job at holding brow hairs in place, without being stiff or sticky to the touch.

When applied to the lashes, it does add some gloss and a darker shade. Nothing extreme, but more definition than going au naturel. I am the type who wears heavy mascara when washing the car; I don’t believe I will be using this for my lashes any time soon.

There is a special brush on one side for lashes, and one for brows. I like this, so when I do choose to use it on lashes, the brush won’t be full of brow powder (my Body Shop brow gel soon looks beige from brushing over brow powder).

I find this to be an EXCELLENT buy.

Customer Service:
I found the site to be slow and a bit awkward. You can sign up and make your own account, yet my account wasn’t recognized for over a week.

I received a acknowledgment email soon after placing my order. In the email, it said due to high volume it could take up to 3-5 weeks to receive my order. And five weeks it was. I was so concerned, I placed an Outlook reminder on my computer for exactly five weeks from my order placement so I could call to complain. My order arrived the day before my Outlook reminder blinked.

The order arrived via US Post in a white padded envelope. A white glossy flyer encouraging you to order again, and your packing slip.

After placing my order, I receive almost weekly emails from e.l.f. offering free shipping and percentage discounts. I considered taking advantage for a few more last-minute gifts, but due to the slow delivery, I chose not to. I do plan on checking back in when my next makeup necessity is out of stock – for their prices and decent quality I can afford to replace a basic and invest in a splurge!

Being Colorful while Being Green

I believe it is important to care for our planet, and am always on the lookout for ways to live a greener life while maintaining a quality of life and of course, style. I haven’t written a Going Green post in a while, and realized I have been enjoying some wonderful eco-friendly products lately without reviewing them for you. This is a collection of things I have been loving lately that are not only green, but also quite colorful!

Scout by Bungalow
Last year, Scout by Bungalow sent me their Junque Trunk to try out; ever since I have been a major fan. I love the durability, the amazing colors, and the versatility. I use the Junque Trunk in my closet to hold clothes that are in need of assistance prior to wearing (ironing, button replacement, etc.). Now that I have a larger car, I am going to get another Junque Trunk to keep the trunk organized. I am also checking out the Rump Roost, which would be a perfect solution for all the toys in Emerson’s bedroom and the Original Deano which begs to be taken to the farmers market on summer weekends.

Scout by Bungalow was created by fashionable Washingtonian Deb Waterman Johns. Johns is also known in the DC area for Get Dressed, a wardrobe-and-home consulting company. Scout by Bungalow came to be when Johns was in New York and saw those big plastic vendor bags (often seen around DC being used to carry clothes to the laundromat). Johns then saw a similar (though obviously higher quality and better designed) bag by Helmut Lang while on a trip to Milan. Johns and her husband saw a niche for affordable, creative, fashionable and functional bags and started “Bungalow, House of Scout.” It was successful, and the brand began carrying a variety of storage solutions, insulated bags, and luggage. Scout by Bungalow’s durability and cute factor makes the brand a stylish and eco-friendly choice.

KeepCup
A big apology to KeepCup who sent me a cup at the beginning of this year and I am just getting to review it. The reason for the delay has NOTHING to do with the cup, for it is a major favorite and I often have to fight with my husband to get to use it. Why is KeepCup so awesome?

KeepCup is the first ever barista standard reusable cup and the number one choice for sustainable and stylish coffee consumption. Already making waves in Australia and the UK, KeepCup is ready to change the way US consumers drink their coffee on-the-go. BPA-free, lightweight, recyclable, and fashionable – KeepCup is available in 25,000 color combinations so you can design the cup that tells your story and, unlike other leading reusable cups on the market, is designed by a barista to fit under the heads of most espresso machines. Available in four sizes – extra small (4oz.), small (8oz.), medium (12oz.) and large (16oz.) – KeepCup proves that convenience, eco-consciousness and style can go hand-in-hand.

I spent a whole lunch hour playing on the KeepCup site, creating the perfect cup for me (colorblocking – shocker!). I have a Small KeepCup which is perfect for that morning cup of coffee that I didn’t have time to consume before heading to the Metro; I also take off the lid and Emerson uses it as a “big girl cup” that has a nice gripper ring for her toddler hands, and is flexible and unbreakable – perfect for a big girl in training. KeepCups are non-toxic, food safe, microwave- and dishwasher-safe. Coffee and tea kept in the thermal KeepCup also stays hotter longer than in a disposable cup by at least 20 minutes.

tarte cosmetics
I know I have mentioned tarte before, but I don’t believe I have taken the time to properly rave about this beauty brand. tarte cosmetics specializes in good-for-you glamour, makeup and beauty products that are eco-friendly and cruelty-free. tarte cosmetics was created a little over a decade ago by Maureen Kelly. Kelly believed in cosmetics that could be high-performance and glamorous as well as healthy. tarte is a socially responsible company that cares about the environment, supports cooperatives in the rainforest, helps reduce environmental waste with sustainable packaging, creates eco-chic reusable components, and offers unique customer recycling initiatives.

Oh, and they make really fabulous makeup. I made the mistake this spring of not buying a replacement Park Avenue Princess Amazonian Clay Bronzer and instead going with a cheaper brand. One swipe and I was placing an order for more tarte. Not only does tarte’s bronzer look good, it does good with vitamins A, C, and E and is cruelty-free and also free of mineral oil, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances. I also love their Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara which lengthens, curls, and volumizes while being nasty-chemical free as well as cruelty free. Oh, and the package is recyclable! I also have their 24/7 Lip Sheer in my bag, and love it for a hint of color, dose of hydration, and necessary SPF when on the run.

Note: I did receive free product from KeepCup and Scout by Bungalow, however all opinions are my own as was the decision to write this post.

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Wednesday

This morning on Twitter I said I wouldn’t be posting pictures… but then I figured I can at least I can capture a crack-of-dawn shot in my office bathroom!  By the way, never noticed the little flower details on the tiles in the bathroom before… I work in a very old building in DC – we still have elevator operators!  Well the bathrooms look as though they had a makeover… in 1978.  Ah well, they are clean!

So today I dressed in the dark – I left the house at 5:30am and didn’t want to wake a single husband, baby, or dog.

Black ponte Jacket - Banana Republic Outlet
White tank – Caslon
Dark straight jeans – NYDJ
Oversized scarf - H&M
Pearl necklaces (two different ones) - Nordstrom
Gold Necklace - J. Crew

I let my hair air dry this morning and it didn’t look happy when I got to work so I threw it up with an elastic.  Makes me wish I wore earrings!

And this morning, I was THAT WOMAN, the person who puts her makeup on while riding the subway!  I KNOW!  But really with dressing in the dark and wet hair, I couldn’t wait until I got to work to do my face.  And at that time of morning, the train is pretty empty until we get into DC proper.  But a plus side… you get to see the contents of today’s makeup bag!

Yeah, this is an honest picture.  I love when I see people’s shiny new cosmetic bags with perfect new looking cosmetics inside.   This is a bag I got with a gift set from Tarte.  The gold-handled brushes are Trish McEvoy, which I have had for well over a decade.  The black handled one is from Bare Escentuals and is my fave bronzer brush because it gives such a light fluff of coverage.  The gray handled brush is from Sephora and was part of a Smokey Eye kit.

Today it’s the Max Factor Pan-Stik, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage, Tarte bronzer, Nars blush, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad, Cargo lipstick, DiorShow mascara, Shu Eumura lash curler.

I just headed to the bathroom and decided to take off the scarf – it’s so warm out, I feel too wintry and the outfit is still very cute without it, now you can see the fun necklaces!

Tuesday

I tried to get to work today…

My sister and my offices were open and we had a lot of work to do so we headed to DC.  For those who don’t know, the DC area received up to 30″ of snow over the weekend.  Yesterday (and today) the Federal government was closed as were most school systems in the area.  Yesterday my office was closed; my sister attempted to go in but the roads were so bad she turned around.
We got almost to the DC border and gave up and turned around.  The roads were horrible and the drivers even worse.  We came back to my house and made a makeshift workstation at my dining table.
All the necessities – cell phone, external hard drive full of music, lip gloss and baby monitor!
Anyway, today I put on a black scoop tee from Old Navy that I have had for about two years, my gray Caslon ruffle-trim cardigan, a few different silver chain necklaces, my dark Gap Long & Lean jeans, and my DUO “Bern” boots in tan (my makeshift snow boots).  Black quilted coat from Lands End and berry colored scarf from Ann Taylor LOFT.
Hair was washed and dried pretty quickly.  Makeup is Stila Illuminated tinted moisturizer blended with Estee Lauder Doublewear Light foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camoflauge and bronzer, Lorac shadow in Serenity, DiorShow mascara, Sephora lip gloss in Precious Pink, Tarte Indelible Wink liner.  It’s far easier to work from home when I feel slightly sassy!
They expect another 10 – 20″ in the next day or so.  I may be hanging out at home for quite a while.  In fact this attempt at going to work today (and a quick stop at Starbucks) was a welcome change for I was getting quite the cabin fever!

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

My Wardrobe Today – Wednesday

A very early morning today – dressed and left in the dark. So I didn’t have pictures, but felt the need to take some as that today I am wearing some purple to support Spirit Day.

What is Spirit Day (taken from GLAAD site):

The idea behind Spirit Day, first created by teenager Brittany McMillan earlier this month, is a simple one, not dissimilar to the idea of “Spirit Week” held in many high schools, and can be summed up in three words: Everyone Rally Together.
Spirit Day honors the teenagers who had taken their own lives in recent weeks. But just as importantly, it’s also a way to show the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youth who face the same pressures and bullying, that there is a vast community of people who support them.
Purple symbolizes ‘spirit’ on the rainbow flag, a symbol for LGBT Pride that was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978. As one of the event’s Facebook pages says: “This event is not a seminar nor is it a rally. There is NO meeting place. All you have to do is wear purple.” Wearing purple on October 20 is a simple way to show the world that you stand by these courageous young people and a simple way to stand UP to the bullies. Remember those lives we’ve tragically lost, and show your solidarity with those who are still fighting.

So I apologize for the randomness of the pictures – hey, at least you get to see a bit of my office where I live for 45+ hours a week! :)

Looking through my wardrobe this morning, I realize I don’t own a lot of purple.  I have a Gap cardigan and matching ribbed tank from last year, but both are a bit too large now.  I decided to wear a simple outfit with a purple accessory.  Originally I planned on wearing the purple cardigan tied around my neck, but instead decided to wear a purple belt.

OxfordLands End Canvas
BeltOld Navy
Denim Pencil Skirt - Ann Taylor (no longer available online)
Black Leather PumpsNine West “Madeup”
Silver Cuff

As I mentioned, it was an early day for work so makeup was done in a jiffy by a dim light and hair was a rush.  I washed, conditioned, added my Suave root lifter and Tresseme heat protector and dried with a round brush. 

Makeup is standard:
Laura Mercier - Secret Camouflage
Laura MercierBronzer
Revlon - Colorstay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis
RevlonSuper Lustrous Lip Gloss in Nude Lustre
DiorShowMascara
TarteIndelible Wink in Plum (liner on top lash line)

What’s In My Bag?

This weekend when I was taking pictures of my haul from the Hobo International sample sale, I figured I should take some pictures of what is inside my own purse!

The bag of the day was my leather hobo from Sabina:

This is what I carry on a regular day – the only thing missing is my engagement calendar. Yes, I am living in 2011 and still carry a paper calendar (with small address book in the back of it)! Calendar missing because my husband was borrowing it to make sure he and I were on same page for the next few weekends.

  • I learned from my sister to keep everything in pouches for easy switching of bags and organization of tiny items.The aqua pouch (a freebie from an Estee Lauder gift with purchase) is for cosmetics, the leopard faux fur (bought at Arden B in the late ’90s) is for my “emergency kit.”  
  • The sunglass case carries my silver aviators from Ray-Ban – classic, lightweight, my regular go-to shades.  
  • The black box with the teardrop on it are my business cards – I got them from MOO and the box has little dividers so in there I can store my mini cards, my full-size cards, and my “real job” cards.  I also have a place to store cards I collect from networking events.
  • I always carry two memory cards – when my husband takes my picture in the morning I hand him one, he takes the pics, gives it back to me and I edit photos on my lunch hour at work.
  • Eclipse gum – it was on sale at the grocery store and I have a dozen of these packets everywhere.  I like that they can’t fall out of the case and get all grody on the bottom of my bag.
  • Two retractable pens so they don’t ink up the inside of my bag
  • SmarTrip card – a given if you live in the DC area.
  • A notepad to capture ideas, SKU numbers so I can go online and find it cheaper, and random ideas.  I have had this same notepad for years and love going through it and remembering different moments in the past.
  • My wallet – you can see the inside of it at this post.
  • Keys – I used to have a bigger keyring, complete with a flash drive but recently simplified.  House, car, office.  The rest are stored at home.
  • Camera and phone.  A given.
  • Not seen – my snack.  I usually carry a 100-calorie pack of almonds or a Weight Watchers bar in my bag to I don’t succumb to a high-fat treat in a moment of weakness, but had yet to replace from eating the last one a couple days prior.

The contents of the leopard pouch – hair thingies when I can’t take it any longer, a Tide-to-Go pen because I am always spilling on myself, contacts rewetting drops, Bliss Spa lotion (this has a smell that doesn’t make me want to gag), a lighter (I don’t smoke but back from my wedding coordinator days I carry one because there always seems to be a situation where one can be useful), BodyGlide (for days when my shoes or thighs are rubbing), Sephora comb (the BEST! My sister got this for me one year for Christmas and it doesn’t cause static like other plastic combs.), face wipes (they also take off makeup, and have even taken stains off clothes in a pinch), crayons (have toddler, will entertain).  I usually have a few quarters in here as well in case of an unexpected parking meter.

My cosmetics pouch, which is in need of replacement – Urban Decay De-Slick (for oil slicks without too much makeup), Philosophy The Supernatural in Beige (for long days as a makeup refresher – goes over other makeup without looking cakey), Colgate Wisps (I keep a toothbrush and paste in my office, but when out and can’t brush I always have a couple of these in my bag), Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Rose (works as a blush in a pinch), two Smashbox lip glosses (one bright pinkish red – Tease, one shimmery sheer pink – Radiant), black Avon eye pencil, DiorShow black mascara, Tarte Indellible Wink in black (black shadow on one side, liquid liner on the other).  With this kit, I can redo my face before an after-work event, freshen up my face mid-day, or easily take a day look and glam it up for evening.

***

Not too exciting.  I keep my purse pretty simple and organized, even more so now that I have a child.  With Emerson I often also carry a wetbag with some cloth wipes and a diaper in case of emergencies, a sippy cup, a couple toys, maybe a pair of mittens.  It’s far easier to keep her stuff separate from mine by having all my stuff compartmentalized. On a work day, I may also add a book, a small travel umbrella, and my travel mug after consuming my coffee (I put a page from the newspaper in it to keep it from leaking and then can compost or recycle the paper at the end of the day)

How do you keep your bag organized?  If you have a post about the contents of your bag, be sure to link to it in the comments!

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A Brow Beating: Reclaiming My Eyebrows

Above, you can see my brows in their natural glory, never before waxed or plucked or powdered. I never did anything with my brows, they seemed fine to me.  Cut to Junior year of college when I went to visit my Sophomore-year roommate at her new apartment. She was always so stylish and well groomed and as soon as I walked in the door she exclaimed, “Those brows have GOT to go!” For an hour, we sat facing one another on the living room floor next to the sliding glass door for natural light as she tweezed by brows into oblivion. It was 1995, the era of the pencil-thin brows and she made me look modern and quite groomed. I’ll admit, I sobbed when I got home and saw 90% of my brows were gone, but within a week I felt tres chic and kept my brows waxed into crisp perfection for many years after.

And now it’s 2014 and everyone wants thick brows a la Cara Delevingne. For those who have only been waxing, threading, or tweezing for a couple years you likely have an easy time getting back to a more natural look. But for those of us who have been removing brow hair for decades may find it’s hard to change our brow style with the trends. Though I am only 39, I find the grow-out phase for my brows slow-going, and I will likely never regain the thick rectangles of brows seen in the photos above.

Therefore, I am working with what I have, and looking for products to enhance, groom, darken, and give the look of a fuller brow without looking painted-on crazypants. What I have tried, and what I have liked?

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara (clear) and Brow Powder
In the past I swore by dark brown Maybelline brow powder; I can’t tell you the name because the lid is missing, the back label has faded away, and when on travel it’s wrapped in foil to prevent coating everything with brown dust. I’d apply it with a Trish McEvoy brow brush, which was stiff enough to give a natural look but soft enough to not have brow powder all over my face. Once applied, I’d hold the color and brows in place with Maybelline Great Lash Mascara in clear. I did this combination for over a decade; it filled in light spots, it made my brows look a bit longer on the outer edges, and it held up well enough. However, it wasn’t enough to get the very sculpted and thick brows that are hot this season and anyway I was ready to buy a new product and toss the ratty old powder compact!

Anastasia Beauty Express
This seemed like perfection – powder for color, wax to groom, a brush to do it all, stencils to help me have a crisp modern shape and even a shadow to enhance my brow bone! The Petite Arch stencil seemed like the best fit and even used it to know which stray hairs to tweeze but keep the fullness. I used this kit for a couple weeks. I asked friends what they thought of my brows and they said they looked fine, but I kept looking at myself in the mirror and feeling like a Muppet. So I asked the most honest person I know, Karl. He said he was glad I asked because he thought my brows looked fake and angry. I tried the other stencil shapes, I tried the product sans stencil, but without the stencils the powder wasn’t any different from my old Maybelline method. So I moved on.  But do know, this is a pretty spectacular product and a nice price; check it out somewhere like Sephora where you can try out the stencils before purchasing.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse
I read about it on one blog, found a beauty vlogger use it on YouTube, read online reviews and thought this may be just what I was looking for. It’s a creamy waxy product, sort of like a pot of liner, and it comes with its own spooly groomer/brush combo. No stencils, no fancy tips on creating perfect brows. I use the brush that comes with it, pat it into the pot and then start in the middle of my brow to draw the outer edge towards my hair. I then go to the inner half near my nose and do a combo of smooth line and feathering to add thickness and a natural look. The product sets after a couple of minutes and doesn’t budge all day, even if you wipe sweat off your brow or get caught in a rainstorm or anything else. I also find the color (I chose Medium Brown) to look quite natural.


What do you feel about the latest brow trend? What product/s are you using to groom and shape your brows?

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Tuesday

I bought this dress as a final sale from Banana Republic.  I think it cost me something like $20.  I bought it while pregnant, thinking it would be the right size postpartum.  I got it… and realized it was too big.  It’s an XL, even though I may be XL in some places, I obviously am not for this dress.  I think next time I may wear it with a belt.  If that doesn’t look good, I will have to donate this to a taller, larger-boned friend.

But the dress is the most gorgeous shade of ultraviolet and a super soft merino.  And what a lovely floppy neck!  It’s rainy and ucky out, and I feel just as cozy in this as I did this morning padding around in my pink leopard-print pajama pants!  With it are my black leather boots from Ros Hamerson, silver chain from Ralph Lauren, silver hoops and cuff.
I don’t know if this happens to any other woman.  You put on your lipstick, and then you put it in your purse for touchups later in the day.  Then the next day you’re rushing to get ready and you realize that because you have been putting your lip product in your bag all week, you now have no lipsticks or glosses in your makeup case!  Well this happened to me this morning, so you see a chalky pink pencil that I put on to help my Laura Mercier Pink Champagne adhere longer.  Pink Champagne was applied in the car once I parked at the Metro, before hopping on the train. 
As for the rest of my makeup, it’s Estee Lauder Doublewear Light foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage concealer, Nars blush in Orgasm, Pop beauty shadow palette for brown eyes – the celadon on lids, the black in crease and along lash lines.  A bit of Avon Luxury liner in black, and Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes! mascara in black.
I have tried a ton of new products lately and have been quite the slacker on reviews.  However I do have to mention one product I have recently used that I adore.  For the past month I have been using the Olay Professional Pro-X Anti-Aging Starter Kit.  This kit has a night cream, eye cream and SPF 30 day moisturizer. 

I have been using it almost every night (yes, I must admit I sometimes pass out before taking off my makeup) and every morning and have seen a big change in my skin.  Compare my skin above to my skin here, a month prior.  You can see that the wrinkles in my forehead and around my eyes are less pronounced, my age spot on my cheek is a bit fainter, and even the little bumps I always have on my chin are clearning up.  I bet the change will be more obvious in another month.  I am known to have reactions to harsh chemicals and salycitic acid, but I haven’t had a single reaction to this line and the eye cream doesn’t irritate my allergy-prone, contacts-wearing eyes.

The kit isn’t cheap, but it has been a month and I still have 1/3 of the day and eye creams and probably half of the night cream. This kit is worthy of repurchase in the full-size containers.

My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Monday and Tuesday

Back at work and back to wearing things other than yoga pants and faded hoodies… I still have a bit of a cough but otherwise feel back to normal.

Yesterday I wore ivory tropical wool trousers from Talbots, a black sweater shell from Ann Taylor Loft and an indigo merino cardigan I picked up for a steal from Marshall’s.  Black city boots, pearls and diamond earrings that my husband bought me back when he was only my boyfriend.  Pretty basic makeup and hair (forgot to take a picture).

Here’s my ultraviolet merino dress from Banana Republic.  I decided to be daring and I threw it in the washer and dryer, hoping it would shrink.  It did, just to the perfect size.  Good thing because it looked dumpy with a belt and jsut too allover big to wear outside of the house again.  I paired it with my chunky silver necklace from Ann Taylor, black tights and new black pumps.
These are the “Napoli” pumps by Franco Sarto.  I wanted a very simple black pump, but with a rounded toe and slight platform so they looked current yet classic.  These fit the bill.  I slipped some Footpetals in them and have survived the day thus far in them.  I think they run a tad big – I ordered 8.5 and they were too large, the 8 felt snug but the leather stretched nicely to have a good fit.
Hair is next day, just smoothed with a round brush and dryer and a touch of L’Oreal EverPure Anti-frizz Serum.  Makeup is Philosophy Color Correctors in Light, Nars blush in Orgasm, Tarte lipstick in Hatha, Tarte shadow in Sweet Valley High, Body Shop shadow in Granite, Tarte Lights, Camera Lashes mascara in black.

New Year, New Contests!

Happy 2008 everyone! To celebrate this new year, I will be offering a contest a week for the month of January. Five contests of goodies to help you feel more beautiful, polished and stylish!

The first contest is the Tarte We Wish You Health Skinvigorating Discovery Kit. This kit is a $50 value and contains some wonderful products from Tarte:

Inside Out Gloss:
-Acai & green tea extract help strengthen capillary walls, reduce epidermal irritation, and enhance skin’s clarity and radiance
-Grape seed extract and Vitamin C help accelerate production of natural elastin, protecting skin against free-radical damage and restoring skin’s clarity
-Vitamins A, E, and K act as antioxidants to give you that healthy glow
-Lychee extract promotes long-term skin hydration and chamomile extract soothes skin and helps to counteract redness

Lock & Roll Creaseless Eyeshadow Duo:
-Vitamin E enriched cream shadow glides on eyelids smoothly and evenly
-Finely milled crushed mica in the powder shadow adds luminosity and creates depth and dimension to eyes

Clean Slate Face Primer:
Silicone-based formula contains natural ingredients to help keep skin fresh and healthy.
-Avocado oil to moisturize
-Echinacea, rosemary, and hibiscus oils to soothe.

Lights, Camera, Lashes! 4-in-1 Mascara:
-Lengthening: Rice bran, carnauba, and candelilla wax extend the length of lashes.
-Curling: Synthetic film formers hold in curl.
-Volumizing: ProVitamin B5 treats and thickens.
-Conditioning: Organic compounds derived from natural olive esters coat and treat lashes to protect against breakage.

Send an email to me with “Tarte” in the subject and your name and mailing address in the body. This contest is open to all – international readers are included! Emails must be received by 11:59 PM on Tuesday, January 8th 2008. The winner will be notified on the 9th and the kit will be mailed out that same week. As always, email and mailing addresses and names are never shared, sold or distributed.

Good luck, and keep visiting to see what the next freebies will be!

Little Bits of Luxury: Fragrance

When I was in high school, we stayed with my parent’s friends for a night on the way home from a vacation. I don’t remember much about the trip except the downstairs bathroom in their home. For décor, they had a goldfish bowl on the back of the toilet and it was full of perfume samples. I loved that idea, and as soon as I got home, I made it my mission to have something similar. Over 20 years later, I have filled a vase with perfume samples, and am ready to upgrade to a goldfish bowl.

At first, it was all about the look, but as I received perfume samples with orders (I never begged for them from perfume counters, they just came as gifts with purchases or friends would hand me a couple they didn’t want), I started checking them out. See, I used to be a perfume addict.

It started in elementary school with some fragrance I picked up in F&M that had a purple, orange, and pink ombred glass bottle that likely smelled like cotton candy. We went on a school field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the boy I liked told me I smelled good. Oh, the power of fragrance!

Through my school years, there was Benetton Colours, Sunflowers, Escape, Dune, White Musk, and whatever I could afford at the drugstore. Many gave me headaches but I soldiered on, thinking that fragrance was the finishing touch on my personal style. In college I dabbled with patchouli, but stuck mainly with Opium, which I felt was mature and unique and sophisticated. After college I worked for Express (which is the same company at Bath and Body Works and my discount worked there) and then The Body Shop (home of White Musk), so I spent many years smelling like fruit and flowers.

When I left retail, I swore I would never again smell like a Yankee Candle. I started buying fragrances… a lot of fragrances. Chanel N°5 was a classic so I bought it, but then realized I don’t want to smell like my mom (she’s a die-hard Chanel N°5 fan). I tried other Chanel fragrances, the scent with the actress I love in the commercial, the scent that the musician I love says she wears, the fragrance sold by my favorite cosmetics line, the fragrance in that magazine’s gift guide. I loved the look of all the glass bottles on my dressing table, but I ended up being someone who never wore fragrance because I was spending a lot of money and not ending up with anything I liked for more than a week or two (or else I would hug someone and they’d say, “Is that Gucci Envy?” making me realize I smelled like perfume, not me).

So I did what I should have done a long time ago – I started using those little testers I was collecting. Who cared if a couple of the vials were empty or close to it? This gave me a chance to test drive a fragrance without spending more money. And while I was at it, I decided to get rid of all those perfumes. Did you know people will buy partially used bottles of perfume on eBay?

My first bottle of Burberry London on my dressing table in 2006, and my thinning fragrance collection.

And so, I came upon Burberry London. I didn’t like the bottle (who puts beige fabric on a bottle? It gets so grody looking after a few months!), I didn’t like the brand (I’m not plaid and trench coats, this brand doesn’t speak ALISON!), but it was the first perfume that I didn’t tire of, didn’t give me a headache, and didn’t smell like every other woman in the room. When I wore it, I rarely got comments on my fragrance, only when I hugged people, and no one ever asked what I was wearing but just said I smelled good.

For over past eight years, I have worn Burberry London. I stopped for a while once Emerson was born because I feared it would affect breastfeeding, but now it’s part of what Alison Gary smells like. I spritz it three times in the air and walk under it; when I am going out at night I’ll do a fourth spritz and then another spritz on my wrists. The older I get, the more liberal I am with my fragrance, as it has become part of my signature. And since I have one solitary scent, the cost isn’t as bad. And yes, I have purchased unused and tester versions of Burberry London on eBay for a fraction of the retail price (if you try this, go with sellers with great reviews that detail the quality and authenticity of fragrances, often fragrance companies will sell their overstock or extra testers for a nice price).

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Revlon: My Secret Weapon (and a Giveaway!)

Products for this post were provided by Revlon. All opinions are my own.

As a blogger as well as a full-time working mom, I sort of feel like a super hero. Having a child has taught me how to work on less sleep. Working and managing a blog has made me a maestro of time management. Having a happy family and successful career is thanks to being a multitasking rockstar. But all of this is thanks to secret weapons I have gathered over the past couple of years.

One of my best secret weapons is having a uniform. It’s clear from this blog that I don’t wear the same thing every day, but with time and experience I have pared down silhouettes and color stories to make getting dressed each morning far simpler. I no longer fight my figure or lifestyle, but shop to incorporate these two first, current trends second.

The same comes with my beauty routine. My secret weapon of a uniform is just as important with my cosmetics. I do the same exact face every single day, and then add variety with one simple change of eyes or lips. I recently shared how I switch up my beauty routine to incorporate eye color, but this fall I am a bigger fan of keeping my eyes uniform, and adding punch with my lips. I really like my lips, and I find making them the focus gives the look more impact, and really puts my uniform secret weapon to good use!

Revlon recently sent me three of their Revlon ColorBurst™ Lip Butters to add to my beauty routine. I’m a mega Revlon fan, and have used their ColorBurst™ Lip Butters before and have enjoyed them so I was thrilled by the gift. Available in 20 fabulous shades, the Revlon ColorBurst™ Lip Butters are a buttery balm with shiny color. The hydrating mango, Shea and coconut butter formula boosts lip moisture by 156%; in a study 94% of women felt lips were softer, smoother, and instantly hydrated after using Revlon’s ColorBurst™ Lip Butters. I love this product because it feels so good all day, wears quite nicely, gives great shine without stickiness, and is one of those products you can put on sans mirror and look amazing.

The three colors I received were Pink Lemonade, Peach Parfait, and Berry Smoothie. All three are wearable shades of pink that would be flattering to many skintones no matter the season; I was especially thrilled to receive Berry Smoothie because I owned it previously but lost it on a vacation.

Berry Smoothie–it’s like my lip color, but better.  Not too pink, not too mauve, just a more polished me.  I love wearing this color on weekends and I keep it in my purse for quick touch-ups during the workday.

Peach Parfait – A great way to try the coral lip trend without too much intensity.  For someone who prefers cool tones, this is a very flattering peachy shade.  A hint of shimmer, this is a great lip color to balance a bolder smoky eye.

Pink Lemonade–like the beverage, sweet but with an edge.  The tube may make you think this is a teenybopper pink, but the color is quite flattering to all ages and looks great with flushed cheeks and defined lashes.  It’s also a great topcoat on lip stains for a bit of shine and necessary hydration.

With a uniform of same face, cheeks, and eyes each day, there’s the time and money to be more daring or creative with your lip color. I love that I can get ready in just a couple minutes because I have perfected my uniform face, and I love that a switch from a dark stain to a bold lipstick or a fresh glossy balm like Revlon’s Lip Butters can completely transform my look.

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Review – Hobo International Sample Sale

It’s great living in the DC area – access to amazing FREE museums, living within an hour of three major airports, one of the best concert venues in the country (I love you 9:30 Club!), all the convenience and options of a major city, yet close proximity to the ocean, the bay, wineries, and farmland.

However as a blogger, I sometimes feel left out when I get all these emails from PR folks telling me about great sample sales taking place in New York, London, and Los Angeles. What about DC? Where’s OUR sample sales?

Well Hobo International is based out of Annapolis, Maryland and I found out they had a sample sale this past weekend. Score! I adore Hobo bags – they are stylish without being trendy, well made, and fit my personal sense of style. I follow Hobo on Twitter and the week prior to their sample sale they had a Twitter contest where a few followers could win 50% off their entire purchase at the sale. And moi? Winner winner chicken dinner!

Annapolis isn’t too far from where I live – I actually passed my “bachelorette pad” on the way (lived in Annapolis prior to moving in with my husband). My mom, Emerson, and I arrived about 20 minutes prior to them opening the doors for the sale and there was a good dozen of folks ahead of me. These were serious shoppers – women in sneakers, sans purses and handbags, ready to shop. I probably would have been better off without a toddler in tow, but I didn’t have anyone to watch her and Emerson is pretty chill in chaotic situations and don’t mind crowds.

The sale was well managed – many Hobo International staff on hand to pass out shopping baskets, answer questions – one even offered to watch Emerson so I could shop! Instead, my mom and I took turns – one would watch Emerson while the other would do a mad dash around the sale, toss things in the basket. We would switch, and then while watching Emerson, could look through what we picked up, decide if it was purchase-worthy and put back that which we decided against keeping.

After about 30 minutes (time flies when you’re running around like a mad woman, surrounded by leather goods and other mad women!) we were DONE. Emerson had been fantastic but was starting to whine and I didn’t want to torture her any longer. We had collected a nice haul and felt accomplished so my mom took E to the car and I headed to the register.

And now on to the most important thing – my haul:

Emerson likes the pretty pink belt

- The Libby in Pumpkin
- The Penelope in Maroon
- The Bartola in Stone
- The Sadie wallet in hot pink patent
- The Valentina clutch in cobalt patent
- A belt that perfectly matches the Penelope (same leather and same hardware)
- A skinny hot pink patent belt (not on site)
- A skinny mint green leather belt (not on site)

My mom got a handbag, a belt, a wallet, and a little business-card holder/keyring combo thingie. Our purchases combined came to just over $200! How utterly insane is that? Seriously folks, if you live in the Annapolis area, this sale IS worth attending. Some items were previous seasons, but you can see three bags I got (and possibly my mom’s – can’t recall the style) are current colors and styles on sale on the Hobo International site.

As soon as I got home, I switched all my purse essentials over to the Penelope – here you can see how much this bag holds – a full-size book (which I will be reviewing soon), my “Diane” wallet from Hobo, sunglasses, camera, SmartPhone, engagement calendar, cosmetics bag and more!

Keep tabs on Hobo International via Facebook or Twitter and you will know when their next sale will take place!

P.S. I met a blog reader at the sale!  So hectic, no chance to really talk.  However it was great to meet you! :)



Note: Everything written in this post is my own opinion – I did not receive compensation to write about Hobo International, and was not asked by them to write. I attended this sale purely as a customer and paid for everything I received at the sale.

Updating Your Wardrobe for Spring 2008

I love the 80s; some of the most fun in music and even in fashion. I am one who does not flush with embarrassment when I see a picture of me decked out in mall bangs, puffy socks and shoulder pads. I thought at the time, the look was fun and colorful; fashion took risks. You could wear Versace, or you could wear vintage (though back then it was usually just a Joe Shmoe thrift store find) and still look totally tubular.

That doesn’t mean I like the resurgence of metallics, shoulder pads, boyfriend blazers, leggings and skinny jeans in weird washes. It was fun… 20 years ago. Not it makes the most chic of women look like a fashion victim.

So how can you get the new look for spring without looking like a leftover valley girl or a fashion victim? Here are some of the trends for spring that can work with most any wardrobe and survive more than one season of style:

Watercolor Brights
These aren’t quite the Crayola hues of the winter; they are a cherry spring version. Instead of orange, try tangerine. In place of emerald, a leaf or Kelly green offers pop without overkill. Instead of red, try hibiscus (has a pink undertone) or Chinese red (has an orange undertone). Yellow will also be a big color for spring – keep it bright and clear. These hues aren’t muddy, they aren’t neon, they aren’t muted. They have the pop of 2007’s primaries, but a feminine and sunny twist to them.

How to Wear Them: With almost anything! They are being shown paired with pale gray, black, denim, white and optic prints. Jazz up your boring suit with a silk knit tank in tangerine, consider a green handbag for the season (quite an unexpected neutral), or a pair of yellow flats to brighten up jeans or a black and white print skirt. I love the look of a basic khaki or tan with a bright crocus purple or a strong pink for the warmer months and am glad this is a combo easily achieved with this trend.

The Dress
Hooray, dresses are still quite en vogue for this spring! Almost every figure can find a dress that flatters, and nothing says spring more than a feminine frock and a pair of sweet flats or kitten heels. As for style, most anything goes. The day dress is still popular, with styles varying from the figure-flattering wrap in soft silks and jerseys to more structured s-line, sheath or polo-inspired styles ending right above the knee. After five, look for a return to femininity with frills, lace, sheer floaty fabrics, goddess-inspired cuts and a second year of the maxi dress going strong.

How to Wear Them: The day dresses can easily be worn now with tall boots and come warmer months with shoes that fit the style. If it is a structured style, a flat or pump will be a great choice. For the evening dresses, a feminine shoes with delicate styling and some skin (your peeptoes are still stylish) are the way to go. The skinny belt is still a strong look; try one in a metallic or black patent leather over your simple shifts to add a feminine flair. For solid-colored dresses consider a statement necklace or a scarf as your sole accessory – both are available in almost every price range at your favorite boutique right now.

Prints
The winter was a lot of solid colors, fashion has rebelled with a spring full of all sorts of prints. Love animal prints? You’ll be happy to know that there seems to be zebra prints in many stores already. Scarf prints and Pucci-inspired patterns are all over the place, and colorblocking is a very strong trend.

It is also the return of the floral print, and stronger than it has been in many years. Designers are mixing different patterns of florals, adding them to shoes, dresses, skirts and even the linings of coats and purses. These are not Little House on the Prairie calico buds; the look varies from luscious and full cabbage roses and flowers picked from a Victorian garden to modern-art inspired graphic patterns.

How to Wear Them: Like all honesty, this look isn’t for everyone. Printed cardigans and boxy short jackets add style to a simple tank and jeans; a skirt can add fun or femininity to wardrobe staples, and I love the a-line shifts where everything else is simple – minimal accessories, simple shoes, fresh face. Colorblocked styles can be quite flattering to the figure, but keep in mind that the light colors in a pattern will jump out so make sure they are not located where your least favorite body part is. If you wear a pattern, everything else should be solid and simple. The stronger the pattern, the less jewelry and cosmetics you should wear.

Yellow and orange dresses by Banana Republic; red and white print dress by Diane von Furestenberg via Nordstrom; skirt and jacket/shorts outfit by J. Crew; blouse by Kenneth Cole Reaction via Nordstrom