Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Posts Coming Soon

There has been a bit of a hiccup well multiple ones to be honest that has prevented me from posting. After all, when your return to America starts with vomiting on yourself and ends with nearly twisting off your knee cap in front of Bloomingdales - it is best to probably take a breather.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sayonara, Tokyo

The past few days have been awesome. I have been so busy getting in the last bits of sightseeing, shopping, and family obligations. The upside of cramming myself in a plane for the flight home tomorrow is that I will have 12 hours to get it all down. Meaning I will have a bunch of new posts waiting to be put up when I reach NYC.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Chanel By Any Other Name, Still Chanel?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the auberge of one of the great chefs of Japan. (Turns out there are some benefits to to family vacations besides the cramped quarters of the guest room!) I could regale you with the food, but seeing as you all weren't there I'm not sure you'd be that interested. After all, I'm the type of person that if I wasn't there to eat it - I could care less. I'm a bit self centered like that, but then again what blogger isn't?

What I do think you would all interested in is the fact that I was able to get my hands on a bottle of wine by Chanel. Well, not exactly. Chanel apparently owns a winery in France, and guess what? They had the bottle at Auberge Au Mirador a restaurant run by Chef Katsumata. This is a man who's cooking (according to my significant other) will ruin Paris for you. So, to say that the wine had to be up to snuff to even be considered as an offering by the restaurant is putting it mildly.

The wine was fantastic of course as I would not expect anything less. What was actually more interesting was the fact that the wine bottle itself neglected to mention its association with Chanel. In fact, it was the waiter that informed us that Chanel owned the winery.

Turns out the Wertheimer family that backed and continues to own Chanel bought the Chateau Rauzan Segla Winery in 1994. I guess this is why I always knew Chanel "owned" a winery. I'm not surprised that I never knew which, however, because as I said the label does not exactly scream Chanel. And yet after considering all the other wines this is one we chose because of the association with Chanel! What can I say? I'm blessed with indulgent hosts who were happy to let me have it as it would increase my fashionista street cred!

It is funny how far the reach of a brand can extend. Chanel is a fashion brand and yet I found myself influencing my culinary preferences. This is almost bizarre when you take into account that the brand as we know it today has way more to do with the reinvention of Coco Chanel's iconography by Karl Lagerfeld than it does the Wertheimer family's palette.

At the end of the day it was aspiration at work. Right now thanks to my monthly student loans I can't afford a Chanel bag or even be gifted one either. What I can have, however, is a bottle of wine associated with the brand. Textbook marketing/branding 101.

If it had been plastered with the double C though I don't think I would have been as interested. After all, I am somewhat of a wine snob and am not exactly a fan of nouveau riche predilections. This bottle of wine struck a unique balance that most co-branding opportunities fail to do: entice you with the branding association but sustain interest through quality in product as well as presentation.

Granted this move by Chanel in purchasing the winery was no more high fashion in concept than Jay Z or Diddy's foray into spirits game. Yet, Chanel was able to leverage this purchase into a unique branding opportunity. It piques consumer interest to hear that the wine is associated with Chanel and when it delivers it reinforces Chanel as arbiter of taste.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Some People Should Never Travel

Today I got up and was going to do a post on my experience with nail care in Japan. That got totally side tracked when I was browsing Jezebel and happened upon this gem of a post: This Goldman Sachs Lady Will Teach You How to Date Black Dudes. I like a good rubberneck as much as anyone so I checked out the the writer's site.

Her idiocy, unfortunately, went beyond the idiocy of referring to African Americans as "the brothers" in the same line as the Asians. She decided to do a whole breakdown on her visit to another place that is really near and dear to me: Italy. I have been visiting the country on and off now for the past 10 years more or less, and have friends there who have become family. So to say that I can get a bit protective sometimes is an overstatement. If I didn't love Japan and my Japanese significant other so much I could definitely see making it my home.

So, you could imagine how much this article really pissed me off. First off, one should not knock the language/culture if they have not made at least some effort to understand it. For example, Prego is almost equivalent to the US English's OK. If someone critiqued that as a quirk I'm pretty sure she would have looked at that person like they were insanely stupid.

Then she goes on to critique the Italian subway system. It is by no means perfect, but if you are holding the NYC subway as a paragon of transport you've got problems lady. It is rocky as hell, tends to show up whenever, and reeks of trash as well as other unique scents I'm going to chose not to dwell on at the moment. Fact is the Italian subways are cleaner, more efficient, and actually get you where you need to go without the need to go express at a moment's notice.

People like this should just never travel. They navel gaze too much and are unable to break out of their own me-centric POV. If they can't figure it out it is not because it just happens to be different it is because it is deficient. The whole point of her post was to discuss how differences can arise even if one looks the same, well I guess she made her point loud and clear here. We both are women, reside(d) in NYC, and have been to Italy. And you know what? We could not be more different. Mission accomplished.

The fact is the great thing about traveling is that it not only lets you see and experience new places, but also lets you discover new things about yourself as well. When you let it that is and when people are unable or unwilling to that - they miss the whole point of traveling. That is the very reason why I truly believe some people should never travel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Japanese Hair Accessories: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest

One of the things i love best about Japan is their dedication to hair accessories. As all of my readers know, I'm very into head gear. The bigger and the more elaborate - the better!

As an early Christmas gift, I got to pick out some gifts in Tokyo. So of course, I went straight for the hair accessories. I literally wanted to headdesk when I saw the difference in the prices. Seriously, I would have to pay at least twice as much for similar quality and style in the US.

Even better, I love that the selection I've found here is way more daring than what I've seen for sale in the US. Don't get me wrong I'm a HUGE fan of jennifer behr and and, but I feel like here I can get as crazy as all get out with my hair accessories. That might be because what I wear is tame compared to the everyday gear of some of your everyday Japanese.

Enough commentary though - onto the accessory porn! Once again, i apologize for the quality in model and photo. I'm in Japan without my digital camera (or Adobe Creative Suite) and well its the end of a long day of trekking merrily about Tokyo.

This one is definitely a night piece. It is really dynamic and huge and perfect for when I go out. I tried to capture it in the photos bus alas an iphone and a bathroom mirror are all I had to make it happen. It is made out of satin which makes it super shiny and the bows are bendable, so it is totally customizable. Well to a point anyway!

This one looks way better when I style it correctly. I love the 20s flapper feel of it and lately I've been kind of obsessed with Boardwalk Empire. It is only fitting then that I should get my hands on an accessory that is reminiscent of that era!

The "plainest" out of the bunch this reminds me of a designer piece I saw quite some time ago. I think it was Lanvin? I seriously cannot remember for the life of me right now. Ah jet lag the gift that truly keeps on giving. I just love how it is able to be understated at a distance and when you get closer it hits you right over the head with the details. Don't you agree?

Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Land of Masstige the Limited Edition is King

Shopping in Japan is a one of a kind experience. Mostly because they have all the brands you'd ever want with a Japanese twist via limited editions. Seriously, this is a country where even the candy has limited editions by city.

The question then becomes how do you sustain a brand in an environment like this? In theory, this should make it more difficult to sustain a brand as the variants make it more difficult to maintain a unified brand front. Everything you are taught in branding and marketing is to make a consistent experience to ensure consumer comfort. Disruption in the brand equals discomfort supposedly, but I'd actually argue that it can as in the cases of the Japanese limited editions delight consumers.

This is a great example of how the limited edition is handled in Japan. This is Francfranc for Disney and as you can see here they developed some products around the 7 dwarfs. Now I'm a bit old for Disney paraphernalia, but these candles and candle holders are something I could easily see my self purchasing. Those bath salts to the left would also make a great gift for my more serious friends who are still kids at heart.

The trick about it is that it requires a better understanding of the brand than just the mass production and execution of key values. Japan has everything from Starbucks to Coldstone to Prada to Chanel and yet it is through the limited editions that they are able to claim the brands for themselves. And you know what that does? Generate more cash overall for the brands. This is because the Japanese feel they are being catered to and someone like me for instance is delighted by the fact that they can get a Matcha Latte at Starbucks.

In a time where the recession is pushing consumers out of the stores, marketers might want to take note here of the way the Japanese handle the limited editions. Simply slapping Lanvin's name on H&M gear is really not the way to go. Well in my opinion anyway, because granted I did go to H&M to see the collection but it was more for rubbernecking then purchasing. That hardly happens with the limited editions here, because you know what? They actually take the time to think of how the consumer will respond to the product beyond the brand association. It also eliminates masstige as the higher price points are balanced with extremely limited supply. Even moreso than those of the H&M collaborations. This results in making the overall shopping expierence more dynamic, interactive, and a heck of a lot more exciting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When Retail Therapy Goes Terribly Wrong

Yesterday was not one for the record books. If they ever do a lifetime movie version of my life I sincerely hope they leave that little episode out. I have never been so embarrassed/ashamed of myself in my life.

I had a major freak out in Isetan. Like to the point of almost breaking down in tears. A bit of context is probably necessary here. Isetan has this amazing plus size store, well it did anyway. I've been a couple of times so I was really pumped to be back in Japan and able to shop at the equivalent of Willa Wonk'a chocolate factory for plus sized fashion. (Isetan itself is a department store that has the style direction of Barneys, the penetration of Bloomingdales, and the white glove service of Bergdoff Goodman.) Unfortunately, the section I normally shop in had slim pickings and I could not shimmy into anything in other sections due to my bountiful bosom. I don't know if it was jet lag, all the family obligations (meeting people I don't know very is always taxing), or the language barrier. I just all of a sudden felt extremely overwhelmed and as a byproduct got extremely upset. So much so that I rushed out of the section and was extremely rude to the sales clerk. Ugh.

Even visiting the bag floor couldn't cheer me up. Well that is until I saw this amazing piece by Celine (which I would love to share but I can't track down a pic and forgot to snag one with my phone). Clocking in at over 170,000 Yen (more or less 2K in dollars), it was love at first sight and hearbreak as well as I was lacking the funds to procure it. I'm really not one for french brands in the handbag department as I feel they are always just a bit to "much" for me. I like my handbags utilitarian for the most part and I'm a stickler for leather quality (the Italians seem to be the only ones to really get it right in my opinion). Though every once in awhile I will fall in love with a French one. Last time it was a Chloe and it was the ONLY Chloe I have ever wanted in my life. Stupidly, I did not purchase it (would have required selling a kidney) and then they went in a completely different direction design wise.

I'm planing on visiting a vintage store later on in Shibuya. I'll let you all know what I find! Maybe I'll even track down that Chloe I've been chasing for years. I might also stop by Roppongi and see if I can track down that Celine bag for the sake of all you guys back home. I would go back to Isetan, but I'm not sure my obviously oh so fragile ego could take it!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time to Face the Music

It has been a very long time friends. So long that now I'm getting spammers on my blog. The reason for my absence? A job came my way. Originally it was a freelance gig, but it grew into something more. While I'm thankful for the permanent gig, sometimes it is a bit trying as it is a start up. Lots of work for a less than stellar salary, but it is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor. So, who knows? Maybe it'll be the new SCDP?

I'm in Tokyo currently on break with my family. Wandering around Tokyo's Harajuku I realized how far I'd fallen in regards to personal upkeep. Holy christ I looked downright shabby even though I'd actually taken the time to dress and wear makeup. A luxury I haven't afforded myself in quite some time as I work from home as well as long hours.

My hair was just completely unacceptable. So, thanks to my trusty iphone I tracked down an English speaking and well respected hair salon in Tokyo. About an hour later, I had $65 dollars less in my pocket and a much improved hairstyle. It is a bit odd according to my significant other, but 20s chic in my opinion.

Living in NYC doing something like this normally results in you looking like your hair was cut with a flowbie. Doing it in Tokyo gives you a new lease on life. Worst or best of all (depends on your perspective) the process was cheaper, faster, and overall just better. I got a killer head/neck/back massage (much needed after my 14 hours of travel), and a faaaaantastic blowout.

Where did I go?

東京都渋谷区神宮前3丁目25−6 サンビューティ原宿 B1F
PH: 03-5411-5633

For those who can't read japanese or barely get by like me:

Watanabe Hair Dressing
3-25-6 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
PH: 03-5411-5633

Some people seem to have been less than pleased with their cuts there when I checked the reviews. It just seems to me that people (I've been guilty in the past) are not on their game when they get their hair cut. I had to ask for a bit of an adjustment, but other than that I was extremely clear on what I wanted. A key thing to make sure you accomplish no mater where you get your hair cut.

Well I'll let you be the ones to make the verdict whether or not it was worth it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's Friday Night and I Just Got Paid

Ok, not really. Today is Sunday and I got paid on Saturday for my freelance endeavors. Also, yesterday not today was the best day ever.

Still, it was an amazing day to be in NYC yesterday. It was the perfect day just to stroll about and drink outside. Normally, drinking for 12 hours straight would leave me with my head in a toilet that night and the better part of the next day.

The fates must have been on my side last night, because I'm not hungover at all. This in and of itself is leading me to believe I'm having a death dream or Inception moment. Oh well, either way I'm not complaining.

The best part about yesterday (besides the weather/getting paid) was the fact that I picked up my necklace from Lori Mclean. (It is the one on the right.) They kindly removed all the glitter from the inside that had become a gooey mess. Yes, I am that idiot that forgets to take her jewelry off before I get into the shower.

Incidents like that are why I get my jewelry maintenance very often. The other times they make their way to the jeweler as they are in dire need of a tune up. I wear estate/antique jewelery a lot and as such they need some TLC every now and again.

Sometimes, it is just a cleaning and other times it is for repair. This level of care is vital for prolonging the life of your treasures and it has to be taken seriously. I mean, if you are like me, god knows you shelled out enough for it!

Believe it or not the best guide to cleaning/maintaining your jewelry is on the Kays Jewelers website. They have some really great tips and some that will be sure to surprise you.
  1. "...[P]lacing your diamond in a glass of plain vodka has also been known to effectively restore its sparkle."

  2. "...[P]latinum is a strong metal but is susceptible to scratches."

  3. "Makeup, hair spray, perfume and other chemicals are very harmful to cultured pearls."

  4. "Also, unlike other color stones, opal is not internally solid but rather gelatinous....It is recommended to clean opals with baby or olive oil to prevent them from drying out."

  5. "Emeralds are treated with oils and waxes to improve clarity."

Now, I'm off to complete a stellar weekend by watching The Expendables. After all, being an 80s baby myself I'm obligated to go.

Friday, August 13, 2010

And I'm Back

I think I must not be getting any hits at all these days. I've been too scared to check! I'm back to posting now that my freelance gig is finally over. Seriously, it was one of the more challenging things I have ever done.

Essentially, I did something I normal do on a small scale and did it for a national scope. Can you imagine how long that took? My fingers are numb - I swear to god. Tonight is a lovely night to spend the spoils of my toiling labor though!

So, look out for more posts in the future

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What's Been Going On

When it rains - it seriously pours. I've had to take my laptop into Apple store for repairs (the monitor came off the hinge) and I got 2 gigs.

One, I'm thinking I'm going to have to turn down as my other gig is so time intensive. The one I'm thinking of keeping pays better and has the promise of future work. The former was more of a prestige job, meaning craptastic pay.

What does this mean to you dear readers? I'll only be able to post about twice a week until this project gets finished. So, look for sporadic yet still awesome posts to come until 8/13 when I'm free at last!

I have been working on one for tomorrow and hopefully if all goes well with the client I can finally finish it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'll Be Back

My mouth is still on the fritz and I have some things going on in the background. I should be up and posting on the regular by at the latest: Tuesday.

I'll let you all know real soon what is going on!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keds vs. Toms: There Can Only Be One

So, I feel like my face has been smacked with a 2 x 4 and I have officially run out of Vicodin. Please, all gods whether you consider yourself real or mythological let my dentist approve my refill.

My computer also had an accident and it looks like the monitor is about to break off. So, I am so not a happy camper right now. Like, I am even ignoring my dog because I seriously do not want to be bothered.

I do, however, have a question for you guys. I have to buy a new pair of knock-a-round shoes since my cat vomited on and ruined my favorite pair. (Seriously, what is up with my luck lately?) It is between a pair of Keds and Toms Shoes this time.

I normally do not wear sneakers. You all know that, but my feet have been killing me since I fell in that pot hole. They need a bit more support, so I have been seeking out sneakers that fit my long list of requirements. These ones somehow managed that. Now, how in the hell am I going to chose between them?

Keds - Champion Spectator ($60.00): I have a serious soft spot for Keds. I always will until the end of time or I die, whichever comes first. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed on the whole immortality thing via cyborg technology.) My grandmother loved them and wore them all the time when I was young. So, I mean how could I not be a little in love with the brand as well?

The shoes themselves are pretty interesting as they are a hybrid of an Oxford and a Ked. I love the leather accents, but cannot decide whether to go with black or red. I think the black ones look better, but the red ones are more interesting?

Toms - Aira Women's Cordones ($79.00): The reason I love this brand is that it all started with trying to find a way to put shoes the feet of the underprivileged. It works like this: the price of one shoe pays for the construction of two. Simple and effective - right?

I have, unfortunately, never really been a fan of their actual shoes. What can I say? I'm not a fan of the Espadrille. They have though recently introduced a style that has caught my eye - the Cordones. My favorite being the Aira Women's Cordones as I love the way the leather accents offset the shoe.

Trouble is I cannot for the life of me decide between the two styles. Also, I need shoes now! Well, not exactly at this moment as I've been home bound due to my extraction. I need them more so for when I heal up and join the human race once again.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wisdom Tooth Bonanza

My wisdom teeth are finally out. So, yeah no post today guys. Sorry, I know there wasn't one over the weekend either. Hopefully, if my face doesn't feel like I kissed concrete there will be a post tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friend Friday: Wardrobe Mix + Match

Katy Rose of ModlyChic has sent around another round of questions for the Friend Friday project. This week: Wardrobe Mix + Match!
  • What's your most versatile piece of clothing? How do you wear it?
    If I were to be honest - my leggings. I wear them with skirts, dresses, and tunics. Seriously those things see more action than any piece in my wardrobe.

    The one piece that I wear a lot is a dress I picked up in Japan awhile ago. I wear it as a layering piece or on its own. (It is similar to this dress from Romeo + Juliet, except it is black with thin straps.) When I wear it as a layering piece I sometimes pin up the sides a bit so I can channel a bit of Belle into my wardrobe.
  • What one piece should every woman own?
    I know that the summer heat is bearing down pretty strong right now. Still, I'd have to say my one piece every woman should own is a blazer. A tailored fit makes it applicable for everything from a casual night out with the girls to a night on the town.
  • What Summer trends do you love because of their versatility?
- 1 (Size 0 - 12; $59.00) /2 (Size 0 - 10; $180.00) /3 (Size 0 -12; $24.99)
    I love the fact that rompers are back in style! I also love that they have gone beyond casual and there are some gorgeous more dressier options. It is a fun spin on an old childhood standby.
  • What's the most creative combination you've put together from your closet?
    Well, depends how you define creative. When I was younger and in HS I liked to pair plaid shirts, button up shirts, colorful stockings, platform Mary Janes, fairy wings, and a tiara. What can I say? I was a very unusual child.
  • If you had the guts you'd what items would you pair and then wear out in public?

    Right now it would be my bathing suit. Since, I quit my job I've been a bit of a homebody and put on some weight. So, it would take a lot of guts and inner fortitude to get me outside in it these days.
Any tricks to maximize your wardrobe? Leave it in the comments.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Painful Pursuit of Beauty

Jezebel recently ran a post called "Vaseline Crowdsources Racism With New Skin-Whitening App". Essentially, the app lets men see what their lives were like if they use Vaseline's male line of skin lightening products. Not surprising, there have been tons of products for quite some time geared towards Indian women.

I will leave it to someone more qualified to break down the issues of body commentary, racism, and socio-economic mechanisms. This post, however, left me with the question why we as females and consumers do this ourselves?

Putting our health at risk for a manufactured form of beauty is something oft reviled as in the case of Heidi Montag, but in the small scale we let things like this pass. Tanning is just as dangerous as these skin bleaching regimes and yet no one bats an eye. Yet, it is encouraged just the same. (Granted the motivations behind them are as different as apples and oranges.)

The sun can be just as detrimental to the body as the chemicals in skin bleaching creams. "UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sun lamps may cause skin cancer and can have a damaging effect on the immune system. It also can cause premature aging of the skin, giving it a wrinkled, leathery appearance." This is of course in addition to the possibility of weakening of the skin's inner tissues. The main difference being between the two is that side effects of skin lighting creams can be seen more readily.What is even scarier is that these effects have only become an issue because even the untrained eye can identify their impact.

Take Panya, a victim of skin lightening creams gone wrong, featured on Jessica Simpson's The Price of Beauty. As you can see the effects are devastating, especially when you consider how beautiful she was prior to bleaching herself. Tanning in the extreme is no better on the body, I mean look at what it along with time has done to her body.

Fact is even those like me that shy away from plastic surgery as well as the sun are still at risk. Why? I wear as much makeup and probably use as much hair dye as the next woman. Probably, more if I were to be honest. I also have no idea what is in these products, and just assume well if I spend more it has to be better? I mean we are beyond the days of lead in lipstick - right?

Nope. The FDA recently did a test and found trace amounts of lead in all lipsticks tested. These included brands like: Cover Girl, Revlon, Maybelline, Body Shop, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Burt's Bees, Peacekeeper, Dior, MAC, and Avon. So, it looks like ladies that even at higher price points we cannot escape slowly poisoning ourselves.

Oh and even though you may not see your favorite brand listed here it still might be harmful for your health. You might want to check out Skin Deep's Cosmetic Safety Reviews to see if your go to item is less than stellar. At least, the ones I could find that I use are only moderately hazardous. Yay?

It seems that none of us are safe in our pursuit of beauty. The fact that it is this difficult to suss out how hazardous our products are is a huge problem. The reason it is not being addressed with the same force as lets say the organic food movement is that people simply do not want to know. Anything that disrupts their own pursuit of beauty is ignored, because this desire to be attractive is so much more important.

I am sadly no better. You will have to pry my Givenchy Parad'Eyes Fluid Eye Liner out of my cold dead hands, which I guess is the problem. I know it is bad for me, yet I feel like I need it to feel confident and attractive.

Voting for change with my dollar simply will not work as I have no intention to switch products. There is something, however, I know I can do to work towards safety in cosmetics. I can sign this petition to encourage Congress to enact legislation for safer beauty products. And the other thing I can do is attempt to use my products more a bit more sparingly. Wish me luck on that one, I am sure I will need it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wisdom Tooth Explosion

I'm seeing the dentist this morning and if all goes well (meaning they don't have to do anything horrid) I'll post in the afternoon.

If not, if you see a girl on the train sobbing quietly with a swollen face that's me! So, please don't stare - I just have no tolerance for pain whatsoever.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Not to Wear: The Curious Case of the Romper & Me

Part of being fashionable is knowing what does and does not work for your body. If you are flat chested wearing a dress designed for the likes of Christina Hendricks is not going to flatter your figure. The reverse as well is unfortunately true. So, once again just because they make it in your size doesn't mean you should wear it!

In this particular case, it is the romper that should be avoided if you are on the shorter/heavier side. Before you start lobbing rotten fruit at me, take a moment to hear my argument. I love rompers and am estatic that they are in fashion again. Yet, I'm totally gutted by the fact that I know they will not look good on me unless I drop some weight.

Being petite and plus sized creates this certain type of sihoutte where (if you are like me) you look compacted. Boobs and booty jut out at both ends without the height to balance them out. Factor that in with thighs that are a bit rubenesque and the romper just looks over extended.

I know its hot ladies, and one of the reasons the romper is so popular is that it seems "cooler". There are other ways to accomplish this - by lets say pairing this ASOS CURVE Jersey Bandeau Printed Midi Dress (US Sizes 18 - 24; $47.14) with a pair of stretchy shorts and a black bra with thin straps. The same level of freedom as well as breeziness is accomplished. Also, you get to rock a similiar look but one that flatters your frame better!

It is harsh reality to have my dreams of romper romps dashed, but oh well. I can at least admire them from afar.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stranger at the Party: A Gifting Guide

Despite being terribly ill this weekend I had to attend a birthday party at someone's home in Brooklyn. It was my husband's friend's girlfriend's birthday so I was sort of obligated to attend. In my opinion, these types of events are sort of unusual as far as etiquette is concerned. Especially, as in this case as I only know the girlfriend in passing.

Would bringing a bottle of wine enough I asked myself? Am I supposed to get a gift? If it was one of my ever dwindling set of friends, I would know the right answer right away to these questions. As I was unsure, I went with my default bring a bottle of wine and pick up a gift under $20.

Normally, my go to gift is some type of hair accessory. It fills all of my requirements for the purchase of a gift for a person you do not know well. It is compact, it is one size fits all, and is mostly in good taste. The key here is to try to score something of quality on sale or if you are me pimp that ex-intern discount I have at a certain retailer. (If going the former route shopstyle is your friend - use it!)

Any one of these would be a great item to grab, well if the party you are going to is for a girl that considers herself fashionable.

1. Amanda Pearl - Leaf Headband ($20.40; Originally $68.00): This twisted wire and black sateen leaf headband is sure to please. It is simple and yet has a bit of an edge with the raw hem.

2. - heart ($15.00): I love this piece for reasons beyond it being a sequined heart. It is twofer - a hair clip and a pin! This keeps the options open for the intended, which is great when you are giving a gift to someone you do not exactly know well.

3. TopShop - Flower on Ribbon Headband ($6.25; Originally $25.00): It cannot get more vanilla than this white flower accompanied with a white ribbon. Sure not offend, but stylish enough to please the next one this is a no brainer.

These, however, are not guaranteed to fit the bill if the guest of honor is not female or is not a fashion die hard. What? People might have interests outside of fashion? I know crazy right, but I'm all about being prepared for all occasions. (Take my super detailed zombie outbreak attack plan for example.)

What do you do in this particular case of emergency? Take a tiny fact or something you noticed, and run with it. This will help you find the perfect gift or one close enough to at least peak the interest of the intended.

So, you have heard them mention something that might indicate that they are a greenie? Here are a few products sure to titillate and if they flop are at least conversation pieces.

4. MapTote - New York City ($15.00/$25.00; Natural/Organic): Everyone and their mother has a re-usable grocery bag. But do they have one with a map of NYC on it? I think not!

5. Move Collective - Bobble Filtering Water Bottle ($10.00): Greenies from all ends of the spectrum will instantly fall in love with this piece. It reduces plastic consumption by being a re-usable water bottle, and it actually increases its functionality with a built in filter! It is made of BPA free RPET (recycled plastic), and it along with its packaging can be recycled.

6. Flip & Tumble - Produce Bags ($11.00): One of the hardest ways to be green is at the supermarket. Produce bags are only available in plastic and hence not reusable really. These bags made of polyester are one designer's answer to that problem. Five are included in the pack, and even better you can wash your veggies inside them due their mesh construct.

Or maybe you heard them talking about Top Chef? Then these items are definitely going to intrigue their DIY cooking inclinations.

7. Crate and Barrel - Herb Keeper ($19.95): Not all of us are blessed with backyards or even a windowsill that can support an herb garden. More often than not when I'm forced to buy from the supermarket the leftovers tend to go unused. Then they go bad, but this Herb Keeper would change all that. This is a slam dunk as what cook wouldn't want to prolong the life of their herbs?

8. DIY - S'mores Kits (Price Varies): SHIM + SONS made the one pictured, but step by step instructions can be found here. This is the gift that keeps on giving, especially if you buy gourmet ingredients to kick it up a notch. The leftovers are for you to feast on!

9. Nordic Ware - Microwave Popcorn Popper ($8.99): I know this might not look like much, but this is a powerhouse of culinary potential in a very mundane package. It allows you to cook popcorn without using oil in minutes within the microwave! Also, better yet it allows you to make gourmet popcorn in your very own home! I highly suggest printing out some of gourmet recipes to go along with the gift to make it pop.

Ok maybe all you know about them is that they are we say in my family a "booze hound". Unless you know their poison of choice, I always suggest staying away from buying them alcohol. Accessories are a much safer and often more appreciated route.

10. The Curiosity Shoppe - Cork Screw Driver ($15.00): I am not sure how well this will work in every occasion, but if you are like me and break the cork this will be a lifesaver. Also, it is one hell of a conversation piece. People will be trying to open random things all night with it!

11. artecnica - alia bottle stopper ($12.00): Normally, bottle stoppers are pretty boring constructs of plastic and metal. This one would definitely class up the majority of wines from places like Trader Joes, and probably take a decent bottle down a couple of notches. But who cares - you have a flower growing out of as Micheal K. puts it the "sweet nectar"!

12. Suck UK - Key Bottle Opener ($14.00): This is what dreams are made of when you are trying to brown bag it. Or, are at a party and cannot for the life of you find the bottle opener. Either way the recipient of this lovely key chain is bound to be someone's knight/lady in shining armor sometime in the future.

Or maybe you heard them once locked in heated debate over which is the better New Who Doctor? Then any of these nerdilicous products will be sure to peak their interest.

13. Suck UK - USB Drive "Mix Tape" ($20.00): At 64MB it stores about an hour of music - as much as would be on a cassette back in the day! You can scribble all over it just like when you used make mix tapes. (Yes, I am old enough to have made a mix tape. I was mature for my age - that is it, yeah.) The geeky intended I'm sure will love the fact that their data can kick it old school.

14. Think Geek - App Magnets ($12.99): This can be a bit dicey if the person is not a mac head. But everyone and their brother has an Ipod, so it is a safe bet they will get a modicum about of enjoyment out of it. And if they don't, now they can pretend they do!

15. Fred Flare - Pac-Man Bandages ($9.00): Everyone loves Pac-Man. I mean Google even put it on their splash page for a day! It had every geek's technolust in overdrive, well that I know anyway. (Also, little known fact is that it is still up and playable here.)

Maybe you heard that they have a blog aka meaning they love to write. Then what better way to show tribute to their writing than a gift that encourages it? I mean writers love nothing more than to have their egos stroked - do they not?

16. Moleskine - Mini Notebooks ($6.99): Each of these 3 notebooks come with 64 pages for your intended to fill. Literati have used these for ages to record their ruminations on life, so why not give your giftee a shot?

17. hammer & daisy - mini notebook ($6.50): This notebook allows you to chose the cover! No matter the option you chose, each one will have about 20 pages at its owner's disposal.

18. paperwink - twenty ten lined notebook ($4.50): This one is a bit larger than the others. Its 40 pages are meant for those who have deep thoughts just like Jack Handy, but only relating to 2010.

For everyone else, there is always the iTunes gift card or certificate. That way they can ensure their account isn't being hacked for at least a little bit.

Got any great gift ideas under $20? Leave them in the comments.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sizing Standards in Fashion: Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Find me a match!

Vanity sizing is one of the most horrific things ever to hit the market. It makes online shopping nearly impossible when you are not familiar with the brand. I mean yeah a lot of brands have easy return policies, but what do you do if you are under time and/or finacial constraints?

At times, it even turns in store shopping expierences into a marathon of wardrobe changes as you try to find the right size! I mean is it just me or is it insane that even brands with their own dedicated stores do not have standardized sizing? How is that in any way shape or form contributing to an enjoyable shopping expierence?

I mean it would seem simple enough for brands to make standardized sizes across the board for at least their own items. They own the store and control where it is sold. Unlike, lets say brands that are forced to rely on retailers to sell their wares. And yet, we still have the problem where you can walk into a store that sells only its own wares and wonder what size am I?

Unfortunately, I do know one of the reasons why this occurs and is so hard to prevent. Companies (especially global brands) outsource production to factories all over the world. These factories have different machines and standards of production. As such, the fits are not standard and this is how we find ourselves in a world where even brands lack universal sizing throughout their collections.

The reason I decided to bring this whole sizing issue up even though there really is no ready solution is because it impacts my life every time I shop. Last weekend, my husband and I recently got into an argument in Uniqlo over sizing. I picked up a pair of leggings marked LG and was sure they would fit. He was unsure as it said it was intended for those withe a 32 inch waist. To put it simply, I swoon at the thought of being that slender! Back and forth we went. I told him let's just buy it and see what happens. I got home, put them on, and guess what they fit! He apologized, and said the only reason he argued is that he did not want to me upset if they did not fit as the sizing measurements did not match my own.

As you can see from this example alone, being plus sized has made clothes shopping quite the creative enterprise. I've had to figure out what brands give me breathing rooom and what items can stretch literally and figuratively to meet my needs. I live for those moments when I can feel "normal" and buy something in a fashionable store. So, when brands add vanity as well as lack of standards in sizing into the mix it makes plus size shopping painful.

Why exactly is it worse than what straight sizes have to go through? At least, more often than not, you have the opportunity to try something on in a store. The majority of plus size merchandise has been pushed out of brick and mortar outlets and onto the Internet. Sure more stores have popped up, but it has made sizing so disparate. Like for example, I can be a size 12 in some items and in others a 22. It makes absolutely no sense, but this is the world we live in.

One way to combat it is to know your measurements. As much as it is a groan worthy expierence to assess one's girth, it can also be a really freeing expierence. You can look at size charts and know whether something will fit you! Well, to a point that is really.

What you truly get out of it is knowing that a number on a tag doesn't define your size.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I gots the black lung pop.

Tomorrow, I'll have a pretty good post. Today - sleep. My body decided to take a sabbatical from being awesome to be a petri dish.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What to Drink: Domaine Barnes Buecher - Dry Reisling

Another short post today guys. I thought I was getting over my cold turns out it was just lulling me into a false sense of security. I'm not sure if it is the heat or what, but I feel like insanity.

Though in attempt to feel more human I'd like to share something from better times. Recently, my significant other and I went out to dinner at Frankies 17 (17 Clinton Street; between Houston/Stanton) in downtown NYC. The food was amazing par usual, but what was even more suprising was how good the wine by the glass special tasted.

Rieslings are normally really sweet wines, and do not get me wrong I adore sweet. What sold me on this wine in particular, however, is that it was a dry Riesling. I didn't even know such a thing existed! The taste was nothing short of amazing.

- NOTE: This is the 2004 Label

Light and only ever so slightly sweet, Domanie Barmes Buecher Riesling (2007) is perfect for summer. Especially, on days like today when the heat practically demands you imbibe an ice cold beverage as a distraction. If you would like to find a store near you that sells this fantastic wine try Wine-Searcher, wineaccess, or snooth. It retails for $13.99 - $24.99, or you could save yourself the trouble and just stop by Frankies 17.

Hopefully, I will be better by tomorrow. I just think this heat is taking it out of me. Every time I go outside it gets 10x worse.

Thoughts on this wine or any other that might be perfect for the summer? Leave it in the comments.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What to Wear: Couture for the Everyman

Ah the 4th of July sales in NYC. It is the one time of year that the stores are almost empty and yet you can still nab a good deal. Imagine my surprise as well as intense frustration then when I simply could not find anything to buy.

My first and last stop was Bloomingdales. I excitedly headed straight to the plus size section and nothing fit right! The merchandise assortment was all sorts of terrible - even more so than usual. The Amanda Uprichard pieces they had even manged to disappoint. So, I made my way to the "straight" section as I have been able to make it work for me from time to time. Unfortunately, all of the sale items were for the most part in XS - M thus making it a no go. Feeling overall defeated, I decided to give up shopping for the rest of the day.

I was just so worn out by the fact that I can never seem to find something that fits me in a store. Being plus sized makes it hard enough already, and then throwing being short into the mix just makes it damn near impossible. I was wallowing in the fact that mass fashion let me down, until it hit me - why not have something made just for me. Granted I knew there was no way I could afford couture, but you know what I can afford - ETSY!

So, I hopped on the computer and spent the rest of my July 4th browsing Etsy hardcore. Here is a roundup of the best designs I was able to find. All of these items can be tailored to your measurements for the most part (plus or straight), and more likely than not be altered to suit your needs.

1. Sweet Shirt ($79.90) + (2.) Full Circle Skirt ($169.80): I absolutely love this take on Audrey Hepburn's wardrobe in Roman Holiday. It also has a perfect blend of whimsy and maturity which makes it wearable for a breadth of age ranges. The other plus is that this outfit will look amazing on anyone. Be you: short/tall and plus/straight!

3. Tulip Dress ($199.80): Surprise, another retro inspired piece. Yet, it still manages to be modern with the updates made to the silhouette. Even better, this shape is currently trending! Though this dress will still au courant even when the fad is over due to its superior design.

4. Winter Fashion Vest Dress ($179.80): Just to be clear, I believe what is on sale is just the white dress. It is meant to be worn layered, but as this designer is open to alterations I'm sure you can add some short sleeves to this dress. Either way, it is the collar that makes this dress for me. What can I say - I'm a sucker for a dainty collar?

5. Wool Trench Coat ($199.80): If you are in NYC right now, I know the last thing you want to see is a coat. Still, fall is around the corner and down a really loooooooooooooong hallway. Also, even though I think this coat is amazing - I know it may be not for everyone. Those who do like this sort of blend of modern and vintage styling will find it to die for!

6. Grace Flare Dress (Plus Only, $230.00): Personally, I can really can take or leave JIBRI. They are a company that makes plus sized clothing that sometimes does not justify its price point. I am still actually on the fence about this piece, but I just loved the design so much I had to include it. I know it is once again a retro inspired piece, but seriously if the sleeves did not sell you on it I do not know what will.

7. Chelsea Graduation Dress ($118.00) + (8.) Red Lolita Petticoat (Price Not Available): See I do know that colors other than black, grey, white, and beige exist! The blue material is amazing and pairing it with a red petticoat was a brilliant idea. The belt sadly is not included, but I'm sure you could easily find another one.

9. Mandy Dress ($139.00): You know what else I am a sucker for - tulle! The fact that it is on the outside of this dress makes me swoon. Also, I love the ballerina vibe this piece gives off and it is also a super simple as well as elegant in its design. Overall, this is a fun and youthful piece that is a must for my wardrobe at least.

10. Mambo Dress (Straight, Plus; $85.00, $105.00): I may be in love with vintage inspirations, but that does not mean modern design does not spike my interest every now and again. I love the asymmetrical waist and raw hem of this piece. It gives an edge to the piece that is lacking in the category of "laid back" or "casual" fashion.

A word to the wise, do not fudge your measurements if you decide to purchase any of these pieces. It will result in the garment not fitting right, and that is the whole point of this whole endeavor is it not? Your best bet is to visit a seamstress to get a professional fitting, and you can find one in your local area in this national directory. If you prefer to do it yourself (not recommended), BurdaStyle has a great instructional post.

Know any other places to get items tailor made? Or some amazing Etsy designers? Leave it in the comments.