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Best of 2014: Beauty Edition

I tried a lot of different beauty products this year. Working a good portion of 2014 with one hand (and it being my non-dominant one), it forced me to switch up my beauty routine. I also had a decision to stop trying to look young. While I still baby my skin and use products to prevent wrinkles and discoloration, I allowed myself to enjoy makeup trends that may not be the most youthful. I’m not ashamed of my age, and don’t want to miss out on fun trends and techniques that better fit my personal style because I’m trying to look younger than my driver’s license. Speaking of age, maybe it’s being 39 or maybe it’s the toll 2014 has taken on me but I feel my skin and hair has aged dramatically this year and that too affected the products I’ve chosen and ended up loving. So without further ado, the best beauty purchases I made this year:

best beauty buys 2014

Garnier Fructis Texture Tease Spray

I don’t like polished hair. More than once I have gone to my stylist with a picture of Fearne Cotton in my hands. I like that slightly rocker/just had sex tousled look but my hair is too fine, too slippery, too curly in places and too smooth in others to really make it work. I’ve tried all sorts of products to make hair look dirty and it just makes my hair look… dirty. I saw this video on Tammy’s blog A Loyal Love and decided to give Garnier’s Texture Tease a try. The pricepoint is low enough that if it’s a fail I won’t have too much buyer’s remorse. Well no remorse, I LOVE this stuff. It makes my hair look messy and dirty but in a sexy way, not an unshowered way. I can still manipulate my hair and it doesn’t look ashy on my dark tresses. I can’t make it work Day 2, it gets really gummy, but it’s still a favorite when I want to make next-day hair look purposeful or have a bedhead look.

Revlon ColorStay Foundation

I raved about the whipped version last year, well this summer I got the combo/oily skin version and it’s my jam, even more so than the hydrating version. I wrote about it here, but it deserves more rave.  It’s a touch thinner in consistency which I think gives a more natural feel. I also find the colors to be slightly warmer in the oil free version, better matching my skintone. This stuff stays put all day, through crying and sweat and allergies and rain.

TIGI Bed Head After Party Smoothing Cream

This product is great for smoothing the ends of my hair. When I curl my hair it can look a bit Shirley Temple; if I gently brush it out with a wood-bristle brush (love this one), it makes it natural eaves but the ends (especially when I’m in need of a trim) can get fuzzy. I put a tiny amount, smaller than a pea on my finger and rub it on my finger tips and grab each curl and smooth it. This will separate the curls without making them look greasy and helps them keep their shape. I also like it on the ends of my hair when I style it straight; it keeps humidity and frizz at bay and adds a touch of weight to keep the look polished.

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Glow Pads

I wrote about these here, but I don’t think I properly explained the awesomeness of these little pads. I was reading Man Repeller this early fall and she made a comment about how her dark circles were more prominent which meant her summer tan was fading. It was an aha moment and I realized I looked so exhausted because my tan had faded, making my lifelong undereye circles stand out. So I used one of these pads that night and the next morning I looked well rested for the first time in weeks. Not only that, when I use these pads, my skin is happy and it seems to clear up the little bumps I get on my chin. I don’t use these more than twice a week or else I look like a Real Housewife; I usually use them on a Friday night so the change in skintone isn’t as obvious to coworkers, and then another used on Monday night will keep the glow going with a subtle fade through the days. I use one pad, I do my face, being sure to swipe up into my hairline and over my ears, then get my neck, and do the whole décolleté using my bra straps and cups as a template. I then take the pretty-much dry pad at this point and do quick swipes over my hands and forearms. Then I wash my hands very well, apply my regular eye and night cream and go to bed. I don’t look fake, I don’t get streaks, and my skin is happier for it. Heads up, you can get 50-packs of these pads on Amazon for much cheaper than other sites; if you shop at Beauty.com (which I love because great GWPs and free shipping and cash back on future orders and combo your order with Drugstore.com) you can often get one of these pads as a free sample at checkout if you’d like to try before you buy.

OGX Coconut Water Conditioner

Another item I have already raved about. This was the only product I used to cleanse my hair until about mid-October when the weather finally went cold and my hair went from full and wavy to limp and straight. Still, I use this as an actual conditioner on my ends and Karl uses it as the sole cleanser on his hair. Great price, great smell, look forward to using it again as my main hair cleanser this coming summer!

e.l.f. Studio Mist and Set

I raved about this before but it really is a phenomenal setting spray for your makeup and the price can’t be beat. I received a similar spray from MaryKay during a partnership with them and while their setting spray works, smells better and has a finer mist and better quality bottle, it doesn’t compare to e.l.f.’s in regard to holding makeup in place through EVERYTHING. I keep the MaryKay for the work week and e.l.f for long days, nights out, and the summer heat and humidity.

Revlon LacquerBalm in Enticing

Revlon’s Just Bitten BalmStain in Romantic has been my go-to for quite a while, and I regularly use many other colors and consistencies of these chubby lip crayons from Revlon. But none held my heart like Romantic did… until Enticing. Enticing is a more intense, higher pigment red with a glossy finish. I like it alone for a more polished version of bitten lips – red, glossy, but not too perfect. However it is an awesome product layered over a matte lipstick or stain. I love the Revlon matte lipsticks and will wear Enticing over them to increase the pigment and add shine without losing longevity; Enticing will wear away gently and naturally leaving the lipstick below and preventing a ring around the lips or completely bare lips come the end of lunch.  You can see this combo when I was featured at Style IT.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Mousse

I wrote about this product here, and it is still my favorite brow product. I no longer use the brush that came with it, feeling that it gave too harsh and obvious a line; I now use my Trish McEvoy 32 Eyebrow Brush because it has shorter, stiffer bristles letting me get in color without a harsh obvious line. This color stays put until I wash it off with soap and it looks very natural.

Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder

Yep, I tried the contouring trend that was hot this year. I didn’t want to look like Kim Kardashian or someone from the ‘80s, but wanted to try a more subtle version. Everyone had been raving about this powder and I found it new on eBay and decided to try it (you can also find it on Amazon). I watched a couple YouTube videos and did contouring… and looked ridiculous. Completely lovely for a photo, but insane IRL. However, I really came to like the Banana powder. On a normal day, I apply foundation and then use this over the foundation under the eyes and it diminishes puffiness and darkness without looking cakey or false, and I think it does a better job than concealer. I apply it with the MaryKay Liquid Foundation brush because I had it and it was clean when the powder arrived in the mail. And I continue to apply it in that manner because the brush is soft and fits under my lower lashes nicely while blending the powder beautifully.

So I’d like to hear from you, what were your best beauty buys of the year?

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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Showing the Love: Isaac Mizrahi Beauty

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

It’s no secret that I adore Isaac Mizrahi and have been a fan for years. I love his use of color and how his looks are feminine but full of fun and energy, and how he designs for real women. Researching for this post I found this quote by Mizrahi, “…One of my goals as a designer has always been to get my customer to look in the mirror the right way. I don’t want her to buy this because it’s a big fantasy, but because she will look in the mirror and think she looks good.” This goes right along with my thoughts on fashion and personal style and what Wardrobe Oxygen is all about, so when I was contacted by his brand I was uber psyched and asked if they would like to host a giveaway this month.

true isaac mizrahi beauty cosmetics

Issac Mizrahi recently teamed up with True Cosmetics to launch TRUE Isaac Mizrahi, a line of skincare and colorful makeup. “I am so happy to be launching a beauty line. I love color, and now I get to share my passion for it in this new and exciting way,” says Mizrahi. Housed in elegant gold packaging, the 144-piece collection is cruelty-free and infused with blends of green and white teas, marine algae, Vitamins A and E. I love that the shades are named after Mizrahi’s favorite Hollywood icons and New York locales.

The shadows in this line are made with a special ceramide complex that help smooth the eyelids so powder never creases, while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. I love the Eyeshadow Trios compact which comes in three color combinations for a bold runway-ready look. The Pure Lipcolor comes in eight creamy, long-lasting shades that will hydrate and protect your lips while delivering bold color. I’m partial to Audrey Red which would bring a much-needed pop of color to a gray winter day yet still look fresh come spring. There’s 20 shades of the Nail Lacquer available, and the formula claims to be water resistant, chip resistant, and fade resistant. While I’m a classic red nail gal, I’m drawn to the dark navy shade of Jean Blue.

If this collection sounds as good to you as it does to me, today is your lucky day. One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win their color choice of the Eyeshadow Trio, Nail Lacquer, and Pure Lipcolor. I think so many pieces from TRUE Isaac Mizrahi sounds fabulous but thought these three pieces would let anyone of any skin tone or type enjoy this prize. Enjoy, and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen + TRUE Isaac Mizrahi Beauty Giveaway

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.

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.

Giveaway:
The giveaway is now closed and the winner notified.  Thank you for entering!

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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.

Quality vs Quantity – My Current Makeup Faves

This morning as I was “putting on my face” I realized that my beauty routine has drastically changed over the past couple of years. While I still find it important to look good every day, I have found ways to streamline the process so I have more time for my family. As with my closet, I find it is easier to do my makeup each morning if I have fewer options. Just three years ago, I had a drawer and train case busting open with pots, potions, lotions, and creams. Now, I can fit the majority of my cosmetic collection into one makeup bag. I also find that before I used to hop from brand to brand; now I keep re-purchasing products that get the job done – work well, are reliable, versatile, quality.

It’s important to look for quality instead of quantity in regard to fashion, but I agree it also holds true for cosmetics. And like clothing, quality can be found at any pricepoint. Below are the products I use on a daily or at least weekly basis, help me create my daily face, and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day.


I reviewed this before here and here, but now I am on my third tube of this product. It’s a great pricepoint, it blends perfectly into my skin while still covering skin irregularities, it doesn’t make me break out, and it doesn’t melt away by lunchtime. I can wear a light layer over just-moisturized skin for more of a tinted moisturizer look, I can also apply a heavier application to really cover up and give a flawless face. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s reliable.


This is my HG of concealer (reviewed here and here). I first tried it with Laura Mercier’s Flawless Face Kit (review of kit here) and became a convert. Secret Camouflage kept my pregnancy under wraps the first trimester by hiding my pallor and dark circles. It made me look like Super Mom the first year of Emerson’s life by covering the ashen complexion and bags under my eyes from lack of sleep and stress. And now, it keeps me looking more even, yet not overdone.

If I apply with a brush, it hides most anything without caking; applied with a warm ring finger, it blends effortlessly to provide daily medium coverage. It doesn’t fade or melt through the day, and the choice of two colors lets me create a perfect tone for dark circles, redness, zits, or the weird little stretch marks on either side of my mouth. It also lasts forever; I have been using this for almost four years and am only on my third compact (and the first one was a mini size).

I got this as a sample from Sephora in 2008 (review here) and haven’t yet needed to buy an actual full-size of it. I only use a very tiny bit – shake it into my palm, swirl a large domed brush and buff onto the face. It will give a more finished look to my face, take away shine, set my concealer and foundation. Doesn’t get cakey, doesn’t settle into pores, just makes my face look natural yet matte.


This stays in my purse for touch-ups throughout the day. Like the MUFE powder, it doesn’t add a layer of stuff to my skin, just gives a natural matte finish. The compact is utterly gorgeous so I don’t mind whipping it out of my bag. It also lasts forever; I broke my old one a year ago and my current one isn’t even anywhere close to showing metal.


It’s the bomb. It layers great – can have a subtle flush for casual days, a stronger color for certain outfits. A touch of shimmer that doesn’t really show, just makes the skin look dewy. It also lasts forever – I have been using this blush exclusively for six years and just got my third compact of it earlier this year. I have written about it before here and here; I still believe it is the perfect blush for me.


Reader April got me addicted to this product, and addicted I am (you can read my past review here). I wear a light touch on my cheek bones, inner corners of my eyes, brown bone, and bow of my lip. It makes my skin look young and plum and dewy. A little goes a VERY long way – I only tap my finger once on the compact to get enough for a cheek. It’s super shimmery in the compact, but on the skin (especially under foundation), it’s very natural and subtle highlighting. April, can’t thank you enough!


I have raved about this shadow before, and I have to again. It’s perfect. A matte ivory for highlighting, a shimmery golden khaki that is a perfect neutral, a gorgeous olive that makes for a fun colorful smoky eye, and a deep dark chocolate that is perfect for contouring; I have also used it with this brush or wet with a liner brush to be eye liner. All that, and the color lasts all day. The only thing I find fault with this product is that the khaki color crumbles when you get to the pan – the rest of the colors hold up but I usually have the khaki fall out before the other colors have been fully used.


I have been using the same compact of this color for six years. The cover has disappeared, there’s a bunch of holes in the product where I have hit the pan, but I bet I’ll be using it for at least a year longer. I use it with the Trish McEvoy brow brush, which is not too stiff, not too soft, and gives a natural fill to my brows.


I use this as my brow groomer. I always used Body Shop because I worked for them and got it cheap. Once I left that company, I looked for the cheapest clear mascara on the market and that day it was Maybelline. I am about ready for a replacement tube, but have been using this one since I was at my last job (four years I guess). I never use it on my lashes; mascaras and liquid liners should be replaced after a couple months but I figure this is just like gel for my brows and it’s not so bad.


This is my favorite liquid liner, hands down. While I have Indelible Wink from Tarte and like it, I love Maybelline. The little brush gives me a perfect line, makes for an easy side swoop, and it stays on ALL DAY. No flaking, no smearing, no fading. This is a hardcore product, but it’s reliable and for me, very easy to use. Need to replace this every two months or it starts to thicken and is hard to use.


I ask for this as a Christmas present and will treat myself to a tube if I get a bonus at work. It’s expensive, it doesn’t last long, but gosh it’s perfection (mentioned here). Thick, lush, long lashes. No flaking, no smearing. Gorgeous. It’s just so pricey. I keep trying to find a drugstore or cheaper equivalent but have yet to find it.


I wrote about this here. It’s still a favorite. While I love it alone for pretty flushed lips, I have been using it with my longwear red lipsticks to keep them soft and slightly shiny between applications. Smells good, looks good, feels good. I have tried other colors but don’t like them nearly as much as Rose.


I currently own three different colors but have tried about a dozen of them over the years. Great price, great shaped bottle, perfect applicator, nice feeling gloss that stays on… as long as any standard gloss. I can’t justify spending more on a fancier brand of gloss – Revlon has the right formula, and a great selection of colors.

What are your tried-and-true beauty products? What is out there that I am missing?

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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

Thursday

What an icky foggy morning. I walked out the door and the air felt like soup. No wonder my hair was acting so crazy! The traffic was AWFUL because in the DC area, you can have a drop of rain and people are slamming on brakes left and right, skidding into medians and freaking out all over. This fog made people either speed and dart between cars, or slam on their brakes in each valley and go about 20 MPH. A 30 minute commute ended up taking almost an hour. Thought I’d share some lovely shots of MD 295 for you…

Black and ivory print synthetic wrap dress from Ann Taylor. A couple weeks ago I saw a friend who is a manager for Ann Taylor and she was wearing this dress and I LOVED it on her and went back to my computer and ordered it same day. It has been sitting in my closet for a bit… I am not sure if I love it on me. I am always wary of bold prints with all my curves. I have gotten tons of compliments today, but often people compliment something that is eye catching more than flattering. Not sure about this one…

With it, red patent croco peeptoe pumps from Enzo Angiolini, my silver hoops and cuff. I considered wearing my ivory cami underneath for work-appropriateness, but said forget it – it ruined the line. It’s not like I am popping out, just a bit lower of a neckline than I usually wear. Oh well, I’m in a cube, who’s gonna see me?

Hair is second day. Last night I showered and didn’t bother with putting it up, but didn’t try to get it all wet so it was 50/50 resulting in weird curls and fluff this AM. I hit a few pieces with the curling iron and used the iron to straighten my bangs, then added some BioSilk and left it as-is.

Makeup is L’Oreal true Match concealer in W4-5, laura Geller Fabulous Foundation in Light, a touch of Chanel pressed powder in Natural to set, Nars blush in Orgasm. Lips is Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush gloss in Strawberry Fizz.

Smoky eye – it has been a while. Body Shop’s eyecolors – Slate on lid, Soft Black in crease and along lash lines. A bit of black Eye Definer from The Body Shop along lash lines, curled lashes and a few coats of DiorShow mascara in black.

Product Review:
Laura Geller Phenomenal Foundation – I got this as a sample from Sephora. Thrilled to find it was a great match to my skin (a rarity with samples) and that the container had enough for 2-3 wearings. However, I don’t think I will wear this stuff again.

It smells like acrylic paints and has a similar consistency. It did not blend in well, not with fingers, and not even with a moistened cosmetic sponge. The coverage was very obvious, though I applied with a light hand. And I can feel it on my skin – it feels the way colorfast lipsticks feel – a bit heavy, a bit dry, a bit… THERE. And four hours after application, it still has the weird paint smell. It does stay well, it has buildable coverage like the website claims, but it gives a very false and “done” finish that I do not like for myself or on any woman that is not on the stage. I bet it is long-lasting – I still have the same coverage I did this morning and I don’t feel it has caked, creased, faded or smeared… but it doesn’t fell good. it feels like the first foundation I tried in middle school and well, the cosmetics industry has made great strides since the 80s. there are many more foundations on the market that are long-lasting, smooth and provide good coverage while feeling and looking more natural.