Category Archives: shopping

Beauty in the Movies: 9 to 5

The transition from freelancing at home to commuting and working full-time has been a major contributing factor to my recent lack of blog posts. So it’s only appropriate that the return of ‘Beauty in the Movies’ features the charmingly adorable 1980s work place comedy 9 to 5.

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9 to 5 is a female buddy comedy in which three female co-workers accidentally kidnap their sexist, terrible boss and then, with him safely under house arrest, work together to make the office a much better place for everyone.

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There are an abundance of great scenes between the leading ladies (Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda) but one of the best moments comes after the three women have each had a hellish day at the office and decide to get high on a joint given to Lily Tomlin’s character by her son.

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“Is that one of those marijuana cigarettes?”

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While stoned, they each indulge in a workplace fantasy and live out a take-down of their evil superior. Lily Tomlin’s fantasy of herself as a Disney-like princess is by far the best, cartoon animals and all. Adorable.

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One of the sillier parts of the movie is the S+M like contraption the women rig up to keep their boss (Dabney Coleman) from escaping while they make changes back at the office.

Dabney Coleman 9 to 5

This film deals with some workplace issues that are still very relevant more than 30 years later. Workplace sexism is the most obvious obstacle the women face, but girl-on-girl crimes and workplace dissatisfaction lie beneath the sometimes slapstick plot of the film. Dolly Parton’s character, Doralee, is sexually harassed by her boss on a daily basis, but it is equally upsetting when the other women in the office assume she’s sleeping with him and then ostracize her for it.

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(Doesn’t sad Dolly just break your little heart?)

It seems the other women’s assumptions are due in part to Dolly’s clothing, makeup, and overall Parton-ish style (epic bosom included). Sadly, women judging other women based on their appearance and forming false opinions about their sex-lives, intellect, morality, etc., is something I’ve seen happen in every office I’ve ever worked in. It’s pretty sad to think those two ladies almost missed out on being friends with Doralee because of their own misconceptions.

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There are other aspects of office life that haven’t changed since 1980, example #1:

Copiers are devil-monsters sent from Hades to make your life miserable. I’m pretty sure the one at my office has an angry spirit living inside, it chews paper instead of printing it, always has a jam in a mystery tray, and has also burned me twice. I’m right there with Jane Fonda in this scene.

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As Dolly says, working 9 to 5 can sure drive you crazy if you let it, but there is really nothing better than some sassy, smart, supportive friends to help make your office a fun place to be.

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…and happy hour never hurts either — cheers!

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Winter Survival

Last week I wrote about how to stay moisturized in dry, freezing weather, but keeping in moisture is just one small part of winter survival. As the harshest of seasons, winter wreaks havoc with our bodies, our hair, and our emotions. As much as I’d love to break out the floral prints and pastels, we still have quite a bit of winter to get through, so here’s a few things that I’ve found help me make it through until the trees bud again.

Lush Lip Scrub

One of my absolute new favorite things is a product I didn’t even know I needed until my sister was nice enough to gift it to me. Balm will only help so much when you have flaky, cracked, winter lips, but this stuff will scrub and smooth, plus it’s so delicious (and all natural) you’ll want to eat the whole tub!

Static Guard

I’ve always had trouble with static-y hair in the winter, I’ve tried a bunch of different products, but I always end up returning to regular old Static Guard—it doesn’t smell great, but spray a little on your hair brush and you’ll zap way more static than most of the fancy hair products ever do.

A Puffy-Coat

I know there are people who don’t want to sacrifice fashion for warmth, or who don’t enjoy feeling like they’re wearing a sleeping bag, but after many years of wearing wool coats over layers upon layer, my first down coat felt like warm, fluffy, lightweight heaven. You can catch great sales on these babies this time of year, and you’ll definitely be thankful for your investment for many winters to come.

Wool Socks

Like the puffy-coat, the wool sock (though certainly not high-fashion) is an essential for winter warmth. Nothing feels worse than cold toes on a freezing day, especially when there is such an easy solution.

Netflix Subscription

I’ve never been more grateful for my Netflix subscription as on days when there is more than a foot of snow outside. If your car is buried, or your street hasn’t been plowed, having a good movie to watch can be your saving grace—and if you can stream it to your television, you won’t even care that you can’t leave your house!

What are you guys doing to survive the Winter?

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Fight Winter Dryness

It’s Groundhog Day, and despite what that rodent in Pennsylvania says, I think we still whole lot of winter ahead of us (I know the little guy didn’t see his shadow, but have you seen it outside?). Aside from the freezing weather and the mounds of snow and ice which have moved in for good, dry skin is one of the most irritating parts of this season. Unfortunately we can’t control the weather, but we can control the dryness of our skin, amen for that.

Winter is bad enough without dealing with flaking, cracking, chapped skin. Magazines make a big deal about changing your routine, but I’ve always found that doing the same thing—and often doing less, is what helps skin stay healthy. Too bad the harsh weather and the dry air can change the way skin and hair feel, which means sometimes a change is necessary. Here are the products I find keep skin feeling like June even in the midst of bitter February.

Herbal Works Moisturizing Salt Scrubs

The shower is the best place to trap much-needed moisture on your skin—you’ll also avoid constantly slicking on goopy moisturizers later on. I’m obsessed with this scrub my mom gave me for Christmas from Herbal Works (their online store is closed at the moment, but should be back soon). I couldn’t believe how using just a small amount could completely eradicate my flaky winter skin. It also has an insanely good smell that lasts all day long. My mother is so obsessed with this scrub that she bought it in the bulk size available for spas and salons:

(Cat used for scale)

If that’s not an endorsement I don’t know what is.

Lush Massage Bars

If you prefer to moisturize after you shower, Lush massage bars are an excellent and wonderful smelling way to keep the moisture on your skin. I love Fever, which smells like jasmine and sandalwood. These bars melt in your hands, so you can rub them on yourself—or get someone to help you out (Valentines Day is just a week away!).

Aquaphor Healing Ointment


I talked about it over the summer, but this stuff is even more essential in the winter. As someone who has often found themselves out in the winter chill without a good pair of gloves, I know the only thing to cure my cracked, irritated hands is Aquaphor. If skin gets to the point of bleeding, angry, discomfort, regular moisturizers will do nothing, you need Aquaphor.

Nivea Lip Balms

I’ve tried a lot of lip balms in my day, and nothing goes on smoother and moisturizes more than Nivea lip balms. They’re an affordable essential that can repair even the most chapped winter lips.

Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

Cetaphil is a drugstore classic, it’s an alternative to more expensive skin moisturizers and great for sensitive skin. In the winter when we need moisture more than ever, so the bargain price tag is especially appreciated. No need to deprive your skin and ration out expensive creams, Cetaphil gets the job done at a quarter of the cost.

Burt’s Bees Avocado Hair Treatment

Winter means dry hair, which if you fall prey to frizz, is actually a good thing, but shiny hair needs moisture and in the winter that can require some work. Wet your hair first, and then brush in some Burt’s Bees Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment, leave it on for five minutes or a whole afternoon, when you finally shampoo you will find yourself with a shiny head of frizz-free hair.

Happy Groundhog day everyone—if you wake up to another ice storm tomorrow morning I hope you eventually find your way out of the time loop!

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Retail Rationalizing

This is how it starts. One day you look at your purse and you think, “that thing is starting to look ragged, maybe I should look for a new one”. So you start to shop around, maybe you look at a few stores where you have gift cards or you do some searches online. Then you spot a bag you like, it’s cute but way too expensive, so you keep looking. But wait, there’s that bag again—and again, it keeps popping up. You do a search for ‘cross-body-leather-bag’ and it keeps following you. You read the reviews, they’re all good. You learn it’s a cult bag, which isn’t appealing because it’s popular (in fact that’s a downside) but it is appealing because it means it’s a well made versatile bag people seem satisfied with.

One day you find yourself at the mall and you think “I’ll just pop into Nordstrom and see if they have that bag”, of course they do. After a few minutes of petting the soft leather lovingly, you try it on. Eventually the sales girl comes over because you look crazy as you obsessively play with the thing and try it on several different ways. Zipping, un-zipping, looking for some flaw to make you love it less, but you can’t find anything, it’s exactly what you want it to be. Damn.

I’ve never been big on labels, if it looks cute, who cares who makes it? I have plenty of clothes from Costco and I’m not ashamed. The problem is that sometimes, especially with bags and shoes, the label is more than just a name, it’s better quality too. You see how I’m justifying this to you? It’s a slippery slope. Although I can’t imagine I’ll ever be the girl spending all her money on designer shoes and handbags, I can understand now how it happens, and I can’t judge anymore. Nobody actually needs a new purse right? I could use a plastic bag or a tote bag or something, the truth is that I want it, I want it. To say that I need it is just a rationalization.

Now it has become a thing, I find myself looking at my wardrobe thinking, “that jacket would look way cuter with that bag”, or “if I just stop buying so many damn groceries I could put the money towards that bag”. This may be one reason many “fashionistas” (I kinda hate that word) are so skinny. Seriously though, when you’re lusting after a product, whether it be a bag, or an ipod, or a miracle face cream, once you’ve started imagining it in your possession, it’s hard to just let it go.

I’m not saying this phenomenon is good, or right, or healthy, but it’s definitely true. You see something, you want something, you then rationalize that you need to have it, you think about it a bit too much, and then finally you buy it. Sometimes it ends up being something you love and use constantly, and sometimes it sits at the back of your closet or the bottom of your purse giving you a twinge of guilt every-time you come upon it.

So, what’s a girl to do? I could show restraint and walk away, but I could really use a new purse, and any money I spend on something else will just be money I could have spent on the one I really wanted. I feel stupid for thinking about an object so much. Stuff is just stuff, right? But I’d assume most people (in this country at least) have made a purchase they’ve rationalized in some way. It could be anything, a TV, a car, a kindle, we all want things. Women get labeled as having this problem more than men, but I don’t think anyone is totally immune to it. So maybe I want a $295 bag, so what? I’m going to go ahead and rationalize it to myself and work and save for it, check some discount sites, and then maybe I won’t feel so bad about it—that’s the point of rationalizing right?


My question is, have the rest of you ever had this problem?

Also, has anyone ever used Bags.Bonanza.com? They have the bag I’ve been obsessing over but I’ve never bought anything in an auction with no returns, I’m scared! Any advice appreciated!

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Which Holiday Shopper Are You?

If you haven’t bought gifts for everyone on your list yet, chances are in the next week you’ll be doing some shopping. Holiday shopping stresses everyone out, the crowds, the impending deadline, the long list of family and friends to find gifts for. The commercial aspect of the holidays stinks, but unless you and your family have collectively decided to forgo gifts this season, shopping is a necessary part of the holidays. Everyone has their own method, and each has its pros and cons—let’s take a look at some shall we?

The Crafter

There is this idea that if you make your Christmas gifts rather than buy them you’re saving money and giving a unique gift, but as someone who has often taken this path, I can tell you that crafting holiday gifts can be a slippery slope. First off you have to go to Michaels, AC Moore or  your local craft store. These places can be terrifying. You will stand in long lines for hours observing carts filled with scented glitter flowers, styrofoam birds, snowman tins, fake fruit, and tons of unnecessary objects bought in large quantities. By the time you’ve bought all your supplies, you’ve spent over $70 and wasted half your day. Should you realize you forgot to buy an ornament for someone, sorry! All the Christmas stuff is gone and has been replaced by conversation hearts and plastic eggs by December. So make sure you buy your supplies a few months early, and buy it in bulk.

Then you have to make your gifts, you may estimate this to take a few evening’s time, but jump-cut to Christmas Eve and you’re still painting, knitting, or decoupaging frantically. Your living room is covered in glitter and glue, and you find yourself wishing you had just bought gifts so you could be happily sipping eggnog right now. You also face the risk that someone will be insulted you didn’t get them a “real” present. Make sure you think about what you’re planning to make, and be sure it holds up against what people might be planning to give you.

The bottom-line: While crafting can be a personal and unique approach to gift giving, it must be well thought-out and executed with care. Stop and ask yourself if you would like to receive the gift you’re making, and if you have the time to put into making it well, if you can’t give a confident “yes” to those questions—it might be best to choose a different option.

The Online Shopper

Online shopping certainly makes the holidays easier, with just a few clicks you can have all your gifts delivered to your door; no crowds, no heavy shopping bags, or picked-over stores, it’s a sensible option. Online shopping does have its downsides though, the most obvious being the extra shipping cost, fortunately around the holidays most stores offer free or discounted shipping options—but wait too long and they nail you on expedited shipping. After all what use is a Christmas gift if you don’t have it by December 25th? These companies know the answer to that question, and they know they can make you pay for it.

If you’re shopping online you also have the disadvantage of being unsure what you’re getting for the cost. There is always the chance that what looked great online, seems a lot crappier in person. If you’ve seen it in stores, or the website has a generous return policy, it’s totally worth it, just make sure you check for re-stocking fees and pricey return shipping.

The bottom-line: Online shopping is great if you know what you’re looking for and you do it in advance to avoid insanely priced rush shipping—and always read return policies before you buy!

The Frantic Shopper

The frantic shopper has either waited until Christmas week to do their shopping, or has a busy schedule that only allows a few hours of holiday shopping. I have often fallen into this category—actually this was me last week on a trip to Manhattan, freezing my butt off because I wore a cute wool coat instead of my garbage-bag-like full body puffer. I hit up seven stores in record time and by the time I got on the train I was so loaded down with bags I thought my arms were going to fall off and my feet were aching and numb with cold. Did I spend more than I had planned? Yes. Did I accomplish what I set out to do? Mostly. Was I exhausted, cold, and stressed out? For damn sure.

This isn’t the most thought-out method, but it can be worth it because you get the whole thing over with in one go. The crowds though, ugh my god, whether you’re in a city, a mall, a holiday market, or driving around your neighborhood, shopping in December can be a thing of nightmares. The pushing, the fighting, the parking, the sold out shelves and endless lines, it’s enough to make me vow every year that I will find another method—maybe one of these years I’ll learn my lesson.

The bottom-line: Not for those easily phased by crowds or carrying heavy objects, but if you’re a procrastinator, it might be your only option to please everyone on your list.

The One-stop Shopper

As I pointed out above, running from store to stores can be a total pain, especially if it’s freezing, so another solution is to buy everything in one store. If you’re dealing with kids who have specific lists, or buying for a wide range of personal tastes and preferences, this might not work for you. It can be hard to find something for your teenage niece and your grandpa in the same store, but if you’re smart about it, you can make it work. This can be an efficient way to shop, but you have to be careful, because it’s easy to get lazy.

For example you may be embarrassed on Christmas when everyone opens their gifts on Christmas and it’s obvious you did all your shopping at the hardware store (who doesn’t love a mini flash-light or a measuring tape key-chain right?). Or maybe you got your siblings and parents gadgets from Best Buy, they might love it, but was your great-aunt really jonesing for a pair of pink gummy headphones? This method works great if you choose the right place, target or a discount store like TJ Maxx or Marshalls can be perfect—you just don’t want to find yourself wandering through Sephora looking for a gift for dad, unless you’re dad, unlike my dad, thinks $30 shampoo is money well spent.

The bottom-line: If you’re shopping for a bunch of people with similar tastes this is a great idea and likely to save you a lot of time—just make if a store with a wide array of products and departments.

The Planner

This is my goal, this is who I want to be every year, and I never pull it together. Planners spend the year picking up gifts here and there, buying gifts for people as they come upon something they would like. Maybe they find a great sale, or use coupons too, or pay attention when people mention things they need. Then they tuck everything away in the closet so when the holidays come around, they get to sit back and relax while the rest of us find ourselves in a frenzy.

Every year I vow to start my Christmas shopping in June, and every year December comes again and I kick myself. Sure I have that one pair of socks I bought for someone, but overall I’m unprepared and wishing I had just bought that perfect gift I saw for my mom in July instead of putting it off and forgetting what it was.

The bottom-line: If you’re smart enough to do this, I am jealous of you. Enjoy relaxing next week while the rest of us are running around like crazy people. You probably already have all your gifts wrapped and under the tree too don’t you? Congratulations, you win for most efficient holiday shopper, good for you!

So which one are you?

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Have you noticed? It’s Christmas!

Maybe I’m just getting older and starting to harp on about how things were different when I was young, but the past few years it seems that the Christmas season has been spreading out, creeping up to shake its jingle bells right in the face of the great pumpkin and nearly eliminate Autumn all together.

Over the weekend I took a trip to Macy’s to use my 20% off coupon on some remaining registry items and as I walked around the store I couldn’t help but feel accosted by the sparkling Christmas trees and brightly wrapped gifts lurking around every corner. I swear I heard a few bars of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and it just about sent me into a pre-Christmas panic. Wasn’t it only November 6th? Isn’t there still another major holiday before Christmas?

I began to worry that I hadn’t started my Christmas shopping, that the year was already over, and that I had somehow missed a whole month—what happened to November? What happened to Turkeys and leaves and the harvest? Apparently you can’t market Thanksgiving like other holidays so instead it has the honor of kicking it all off. We all know about black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving where we literally trample our fellow-man to get a couple bucks off a flat screen television. It sort of tosses aside the whole idea of being thankful for the simple things. Maybe instead of going around the table saying what we are grateful for we should just read off our Christmas lists?

Every holiday has been made bigger by the marketing push for products and gifts you need to celebrate it sufficiently. But there is something untouched about Thanksgiving day, aside from oven stuffers and the occasional chocolate turkey, there isn’t much for the department stores to sell on you. Maybe it’s remained sacred somehow, or maybe the advertising world just hasn’t hit on great ideas like cornucopias filled with gifts for the ones you love (to show you’re really thankful). Either way, its lack of marketability has forced it to be folded in with the winter season and simply labeled part of “The Holidays”. The upshot of this is that “The Holidays” start on November 1st and last until January 1st, making Thanksgiving and all the warm, happy, gracious sentiment it evokes nothing more than a stop on the way to the superstar of all holidays—CHRISTMAS!

I’d like to enjoy Autumn, the leaves falling and the family gathering around the table to discuss what they’re grateful for rather than what they’re planning to buy. There was always something magical about the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade and the fact that when Santa finally made his way down 34th street waving his chubby velvet clad arm he brought the Christmas season along with him. It seems strange that Macy’s, who started this tradition, are now the same ones who violate it by getting out the Christmas decorations a month before they bring Santa to the city. They should just buy out NYC’s Village Halloween parade and move Santa in there to get this whole thing rolling a bit earlier.

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays and celebration, my family and our mixed cultural bag celebrates a whole bunch of them during the “holiday” season. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that what makes Christmas, Thanksgiving, and any holiday special is that it only happens once a year, so when it seems to last for months, some of the sparkle rubs off. Plus, we all know it’s not just about the presents (no matter what Amy March says). I know it’s a cliché at this point, but Christmas, and holidays in general aren’t exciting because of what you get, but because of who you’re with and what you do during a specific and singular time of year.

I’ve worked for a lot of retail stores, I know it’s hard to re-do the windows twice a season. I’ve worked for websites too and know for sure what a pain it can be to re-vamp the home page and the pressure there is to get that Christmas stuff up as soon as the Halloween costumes comes off. I understand people are just doing their jobs. Maybe it’s my fault for going to the stores and shopping online because I’ve bought into the idea that I should be buying gifts for everyone I know as soon as I can. Or maybe in these hard times we need more “Holiday” to lift our spirits, but I somehow have the feeling that retailers aren’t as concerned with cheering us up as they are with getting our money.

It’s fairly common for American tradition to be dictated by large corporations, not just the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole and even Tiffany engagement rings, so it’s not crazy to think they have a lot of control over our culture, which frankly I find frightening. I know the holidays are a loaded topic, and I am in no way against celebration—quite the contrary in fact, but I don’t want the season to lose its specialness and I just want the beautiful month of November back!

Anyone else feeling a bit stressed out by the holiday season starting already? Or do you all have your shopping done and are happily sitting back listening to A Very Special Christmas #8 while you sip cocoa by the fire and laugh at me?

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The Going Away Outfit, and The Trouble With Dress Shopping

Ok, so it’s not really a going away outfit for me as much as it is a brunch the next day/going away outfit, but I’m calling it my “going away outfit” anyway. I like the idea of it, it’s a bit of a throw back, a little retro, a bit traditional, but practical too. Years ago brides would buy their outfit as part of their wedding trousseau and change into it before they left for their honeymoon while the wedding was still going on. Maybe I just like the idea of buying a new outfit, but I keep thinking about Shelby’s little pink suit in Steel Magnolias, and Cameron Diaz’s character wears one at the end of My Best Friend’s Wedding too—maybe it’s Julia Robert’s who’s responsible, but either way, I like the idea.

My wedding ends at 1:30 in the morning so I won’t be changing into anything but pajamas afterward, the next morning there will be brunch though, and then the fiancé and I are going away for the weekend, so as far as I’m concerned, the occasion calls for a cute outfit.

The going away outfit is usually a suit, but the problem is, it’s hard to find suits that are cute and feminine, and if I did find a cute suit I would probably either never wear it again (and I already have an expensive dress I’ll never wear again) or if I did ever wear it again it would be to an interview, and that would just take all the fun out of it. So I thought I’d look for a going away dress instead.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been having any luck, sometimes finding dresses can be exceptionally hard. It seems that everything is either a party dress, a work dress, or a sun dress, anything else is really hard to find. My mother says it’s because in your twenties you end up in-between the juniors section and the ladies section—that theory is reserved for mall department stores, and is also completely true. All the stuff in the juniors department seems flimsy and ill-fitting, and most of the stuff in the ladies department is best suited for the office or the MOTB (that’s mother of the bride in wedding speak). So what’s a girl to do? Not shop at department stores I guess.

I checked out Anthropologie too, and maybe it’s just me, but it seems like their clothes (especially dresses) just keep getting more expensive and less wearable. Everyone knows that Anthropologie has a tendency to take a perfectly lovely article of clothing and stick a weird flower or pom-pom on it and ruin the whole thing, I’ll do a whole post on it one day, but right now all I can say is they have a lot of weird expensive dresses. When you need to find something it’s impossible to find it, but finding cute dresses seems harder than usual recently.

I only have 29 days more to look, and I’m generally sick of the state of available dresses. That seems like a crazy complaint, but the more I trek around to stores and click through pages online, the more I’m convinced that dresses only come in three categories.  You could draw the conclusion that the fashion industry only sees women as one of these three archetypes—business woman, party girl, or cutesy teen, but maybe it’s a supply and demand thing. So what I’m wondering is, do other people have this problem when searching for dresses? Is it just me who hates spaghetti straps or low backs because I have to think about what bra to wear with it? Or who feels like every dress is either too short or too frumpy? Anyone else who longs for tailoring and fit without sacrificing personality and femininity? Maybe I’m just crazy, but I’m also a lady who loves dresses, and I’m fed up with my lack of options.

Anyone have suggestions—perhaps a favorite store I haven’t thought of? I’d also appreciate any insight into why dresses have to be sleeveless, because that’s something I’ve never understood, who wants to have to search for a sweater after all that dress shopping?

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I Heart Anna Sui

Right after I graduated from college and was struggling to find a job, I ended up working at this children’s clothing boutique a few blocks from Washington Square Park in Manhattan. I pretty much hated working there, it was typical crappy retail—no breaks unless you smoke, no sitting, limited bathroom and lunch breaks, and lots of dealing with obnoxious wealthy customers. But one day, while I was standing there at the counter, staring at the kids clothes that cost twice as much as my own, in walked one of my favorite people—Anna Sui.

She came in with two little girls in tow, they were ridiculously cute, I don’t now if they were her own kids but they looked like she let them get dressed in her closet. They had on beads and adorable frilly outfits and were having tons of fun running around the store. I just stood there starstruck. I’ve seen my fair share of celebrities, but Anna Sui was the first who made me stop in my tracks. I had discovered her fashions in high school and used to cut out her ads and obsess over her patterns and makeup packaging, so I was kind of in shock as I stood there in the tiny shop on University Place. So in she walked, and in a flash she was out again. It took me a moment to convince myself it had happened, and then a second to kick myself for not saying anything. But really, what do you say? “I think you’re amazing! You’re my favorite designer! I love purple!” All those things come off as lame, and also, when a celebrity is with kids, courtesy dictates you should leave them alone.

Whether I had the courage to speak to her or not, Anna Sui remains one of my favorite people. If I had a bad day at work, or if I was just bored, I would go to her store on Greene St. and look at all the pretty clothes I could never afford, and play with the beautiful perfume bottles and cute accessories until I felt better.

So it was pretty exciting when my friend Jessica called yesterday to say she was at the Coterie trade show sitting across from the Anna Sui booth. I demanded pictures and she quickly provided them for me to share with you.

I keep looking at this dress, it just makes me happy. It’s sort of gypsy ballerina, and who wouldn’t want that?

Her classic cute signage and doll heads.

I’ll take any one of those dresses please.


Roses, hydrangeas, and Lavender M & Ms (I’m ordering those for my wedding!)—I hope Jessica grabbed one of those pencils!

Cute boots! I’ll take that folder too.

If you want to be super jealous check out Anna Sui’s home, which was featured in Elle decor, I especially love the latticed windows and her signature black lacquered furniture.

And the woman herself in her domain, I love that wallpaper too.

What I love about Anna Sui is that she’s a rare designer who makes what she loves whether it’s “in” that season or not. She doesn’t blindly follow trends, she makes clothes that are beautiful and interesting and she has a very distinctive style that always sets her clothes apart. She makes clothes that are overtly feminine and girly, but with a hard edge. All her products manage to seem fun, bad-ass, magical, and elegant all at the same time.

Sui is also a great example of someone who struggled to achieve her dreams. She came to New York from Detroit in the 1980s and built a name for herself designing clothes out of her small apartment living off nothing, and now her empire is worth over $400 million—now that’s pretty damn inspiring.

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American Apparel: A Moral Dilemma

Years ago, all I knew about American Apparel was that it made nice blank T-shirts, and I had no qualms about it, I liked the product, and that was that. As AA went from being a wholesaler to a retailer, complete with controversial ad campaigns and accusations of sexual harassment, it became hard to separate the product from the scandals. So, what do you do when you like the products a store makes, but disagree with its marketing and think the CEO is a sexist jerk?

Dov Charney sounds like an über sleaze, he has an obsession with 70s pornography, likes doing inappropriate things in the presence of both his employees and interviewers, and is generally a creep who is too deluded to realize his actions are both offensive and unacceptable. If you want to know more specifics about Charney’s escapades, simply go to Jezebel, or any sites in the Gawker universe, and type in his name. There has also been lots of speculation on the state of American Apparel’s finances. They’ve been late on reporting their quarterly reports, stocks are plunging, and sales are down, Charney of course, denies most of this.

I can’t help but think that the old adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” isn’t exactly true when your horrible personality and numerous scandals keep a public from wanting to give you money, even when they like your products. On top of all that, I also have the issue that when I walk into American Apparel I instantly feel old, lame, and frumpy—and I’m 26. A store that purposely employs workers who look hip, (I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the sales clerk in her over-sized eyeglasses, hugely baggy sweater and jeggings, it’s kinda old at this point, no?) rather than workers who offer assistance, pay attention to customers, and make you feel welcome, shouldn’t really be surprised when nobody wants to shop there.

The problem is, I like American Apparel—not Dov Charney, but some of the products his company makes. I mean, I’ not buying a $50 lace bodysuit anytime in the near future, but I could literally live in the tri-blend t-shirts and pullovers. I have a bunch of sundresses and skirts that are versatile and devoid of the ruffles and beads so often found on everything at stores like Antropologie. There is something nice about the simplicity of many AA products. Unfortunately Dov and his company have further alienated people by refusing to offer any of its women’s products in plus sizes despite offering up to 3XL in unisex and men’s styles. It’s truly upsetting to see a company that has some great products shoot itself in the foot over and over again. I haven’t even mentioned the nail polish, which comes in some really nice colors and costs only $6.

If you’re thinking, “is there anything redeeming about this company aside from soft t-shirts and nail polish?” check out this quote from the AA wikipedia page:

“American Apparel bases its manufacturing in an 800,000-square-foot factory in downtown Los Angeles, California. The company also owns and operates its own fabric dye house, garment dye house, and knitting facility, all based in Los Angeles. American Apparel has decided not to outsource its labor, paying factory workers an average of over $12 dollars an hour. Garment workers for similar American companies in China earn approximately 40 cents per hour. It claims to have the ‘highest earning apparel workers in the world’.”

I’m a huge advocate for promoting manufacturing in the US, I’m repeatedly appalled by how few things are produced in this country, and how much of what we buy is made by grossly underpaid and often abused factory workers in foreign countries. So, here is where the dilemma comes in, give your money to a sexist, skeezoid who gives his workers a fair wage and produces American made products —or give it to a company that has no problem outsourcing its labor and charging you ten times the manufacturing cost (and probably has some questionable CEOs too, only with better publicists and more common sense)? As someone who has lost work due to outsourcing, feels deeply passionate about resurrecting the production of American made goods, and also considers herself an avid feminist, it’s quite the conundrum.

Every time I go into American Apparel I get pissed off, mostly because I like a lot of their products and believe in there manufacturing policies, so I get real ticked when I go in there and feel like an uncool alien intruding on the conversations of the staff, and bombarded by trashy advertisements. But then, I go home and I put on my tri-blend pullover or my black pencil skirt and I’m both comfortable and proud to wear something made in the USA, so what’s a girl to do?

I know that American Apparel is a bit of a hot button issue, perhaps it’s your favorite place, or maybe you wouldn’t step foot in a store with those porn-inspired ads, either way, I’d love to hear what the rest of you think, and if anyone else has the same moral dilemma about shopping at AA.

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Back-to-School Cool

This day has long been dreaded by students and teachers alike, it’s the day when summer is over in an official sense, and school is back in session. Growing up I always had a love/hate relationship with going back to school. On the plus side it meant seeing friends again and finally getting to wear my back-to-school clothes. On the minus side was the whole school thing—including homework, bullies, and getting up unbearably early. I know it’s bad to get so excited by material things, but I also know that for those of you headed back to the classroom this year, sometimes it’s one of the few things to look forward to.

I haven’t been back to school five years, but I still get that little buzz of excitement each September. The urge to buy something plaid, to stuff a new backpack full of binders and pencil cases that will break or get lost after the first week. Anticipation and apprehension mingle together to create a feeling like no other—new possibilities, or maybe just the pleasure of being one year closer to graduation, or retirement.  Whether the new school year is thrilling or depressing, when that first bell rings, summer is over, and Autumn is ushered in.

I always had my first day of school outfit picked out weeks in advance, whether it was a matching lime green skirt/leggings/tank combo with pink LA gear sneakers and scrunch socks in second grade, or JNCO jeans and shiny new doc martens in Junior high. I spent most of the summer daydreaming how cool I would be as I marched through those double-doors in September. Of course, the novelty of new clothes and school supplies wears off fast, especially when you find yourself back at home with ten million homework assignments.

The idea of back-to-school fashion still carries a certain nostalgia though, a strange rush of exhilaration that is lost without summer vacation. I’m surrounded by teachers in my life and I’m sure they would all tell me it’s very different sitting on the opposite side of the classroom, but maybe they can indulge me for a moment, and remember back to a time when sharpened pencils and a perfectly matched ensemble made something dreadful seem better.

(Click to enlarge, and see itemized list below)

I personally love seeing people’s old school pictures, so you should send me yours; because sometimes they’re funny and usually they’re incredibly cute. Below I will share some of mine and my family’s. Send me yours and we’ll do a whole feature—90′s styles, funny glasses, cool backgrounds, braces and side ponytails especially encouraged! If you have any of you actually on the first day of school that’s even better.

This is me at age 5 in late 1980′s Queens, probably pre-school, which means it was my first ever school picture. I had a boys haircut because I had a penchant for cutting my own hair with my Crayola safety scissors, which never worked out too well for me. I also lost a few friends by trying out my stylist skills on their hair too—whoops!

My older sister, probably also in pre-school, she doesn’t look like she trusts the photographer much does she? I like her blue velvet hippie dress—too cute!

This one is my mother, sometime in early 1960s New York—we’re a family that loves bangs, what can I say?

Aww, that’s my fiancé—mid 1980s also in Queens, I like his little vest/jacket.

I had to include this one because of the awesome laser background, and also because I remember this school picture the most vividly. I chose my own outfit (that’s pastel sweatshirt material with bows) it had a matching ruffle skirt and pants. I also remember it was the first time I had brushed my hair in ages and I was shocked by how long it had grown, I’m pretty sure that’s the longest hair I had during my childhood.

Send me your pictures—come on, it’s fun! I’ll even contribute some hideously bad class pictures of myself from high school, which aren’t cute at all.

And to all you teachers and students out there, I hope you have a great first day back!

back to school by justinez featuring a travel bag

School Spirit Knee-Hi 3-Pack
$17 - delias.com
Socks »

KAMILLE Soft Brogue Shoes
$100 - topshop.com
Flat oxford »

Vivienne Westwood Gold Bow Black Vegan flats
68 GBP - fashion-conscience.com
T shirt shoes »

BUCKLE HEADBAND
25 GBP - toast.co.uk


Nautical Check Scarf
3 GBP - peacocks.co.uk
Vintage scarves »

Elmer’s Washable School Glue
$15 - officemax.com


sniffty scented pen set
$12 - fredflare.com


Back To School
$6 - shanalogic.com


pencils
woodsinc.com


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