Tag Archives: confidence

For the Love of Homemade Halloween Costumes

Yesterday Jezebel posted this Target ad in which a kid is clearly embarrassed by his homemade Iron Man costume made by his proud mom. It’s meant to be cute, and obviously Target is in the business of convincing people they should buy their costumes rather than make them, so you can’t get all that annoyed at them, but it did get me thinking about homemade Halloween costumes and why I always find them so much more interesting.

What a kid wants to be for Halloween is a big deal, it reflects who they want to be, what they’re afraid of, or who their role models are. It also lets them express themselves and can be both a fun bonding experience and a creative challenge for kids and parents alike. While a kid, or an adult, can have just as much fun dressed in a store-bought costume, there is something about homemade costumes that’s uniquely charming. Whether answering the door for trick-or-treaters or attending a party for grown ups, it’s always exciting when you see a one-of-a-kind costume. Obviously, as the Target ad shows, it can be hard to make a costume for a licensed character who looks a very specific way, but plenty of kids want to take on a persona that can be created without buying a package.

For example, my older sister as Cyndi Lauper in the early 1980s at around age three, there was no sewing involved, just stuff we had around the house, some spray-on hair color, creativity, and lots O’ fun, the result—adorable!

Here is my fiancé as Hulk Hogan a few years ago. I’ve gone to the Halloween parade in Manhattan many times and I’ve never seen people as excited by a costume as they were when they saw him that year. People were constantly stopping to take his picture and shout catchphrases at him—and he threw this costume together in a couple of hours. There were other Hulk Hogans in store-bought costumes, and they didn’t get nearly as much attention.

This owl costume was a combined effort, I made the head-piece and the glasses to wear one year, and my lovely future sister-in-law improved on my original costume a few years later with the fur trim, feathers, and orange owl feet—hoot!

My friend Jessica donned this awesome Joan Holloway costume last year, I’m shocked there aren’t packaged Mad Men costumes out there yet, but this shows how you can use stuff from your own closet (plus a few store-bought accessories) to come up with a great costume.

My Grandma made these adorable Campbell Soup kids costumes for my dad and uncle sometime in the mid fifties—simple, creative, and cute!

Me as Courtney Love and My fiancé as Ernest P. Worrell, both fun and easy costumes to make.

This was the first costume I made all by myself. My mom made me wear that stone-wash jacket over it since it was cold out so you can’t see it here, but I found an old satin dress, tore it up, caked on a bunch of face-paint, put baby powder in my hair, and threw on a tiara just for kicks. I called it “bloody Mary” I think I got the idea from an episode of Are you Afraid of the Dark?

Anyway, my point is that sometimes (like if your kid wants to be Iron Man) a store costume is necessary, because moms can be busy and kids are easily embarrassed. But putting together your own costume whether you’re a kid or an adult, can be lots of fun, and usually yields more entertaining and memorable results—plus those packaged costumes can be damn expensive.

If you don’t have anything in your closet that works as a costume, check out a thrift store, or the sale rack at Forever 21, you may even wear it again unlike the flimsy polyester packaged costumes. Get any accessories you may need that you can’t make (horns, wings, wigs) at the bigger stores, and never underestimate the potential of pipe cleaners and a hot glue gun!

On a side note, clicking through the pages on the Party City website has convinced me I need to do a whole post on inappropriate packaged costumes—I’m truly disturbed by some of the stuff out there for both kids and adults.

Send me pictures of your best homemade Halloween costumes—I know you must have some great ones!

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Fabulous Hats

I’ve been meaning to do a post on hats for a long time now, and after watching Glee last week and seeing Kurt’s fabulous church hat, I decided I had to pull it together and make this post happen—so thanks for the inspiration Kurt!

I’ve always admired people who can really pull off an amazing hat. I’ve tried before but I always end up feeling awkward and obstructed somehow. Winter hats are a different story, they’re much-needed and practical, what I’m talking about are statement hats, they draw attention, they express an attitude, and they require a special kind of confidence to pull off.

I put together this collage of fabulous hats worn by fabulous women as inspiration for myself, and maybe for all of you too. Nothing shows off your confidence like an amazing hat.

(Click to enlarge—you want to see these hats!)

I consider this to be the ultimate fabulous hat, so it gets its own picture. If you haven’t seen the film My Fair Lady, it’s worth it just for Cecil Beaton’s costumes and this hat.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this post is because at my wedding in 17 days (Ahhh!!) I will be wearing a hat. I kind of love the idea of a “wedding hat”, it seems so old-fashioned somehow. I had it made at a great little hat shop on Thompson street in the village, they did the purple bow, feathers, and lavender veil custom for me, which I love! Since most bridal salons charge upwards of $200 for a row of Swarovski crystals pinned to a piece of tulle, having a custom wedding hat made doesn’t seem extravagant—it seems like a lot more bang for your buck.


I can’t wait to wear it—it goes perfect with my purple shoes!

Wedding hats—and any statement hat, are a great way to add some pizazz to an outfit, and unlike other fashion risks, you can always just take the hat off if you decide you don’t like it.

Anyone have pictures of themselves in fabulous hats? I’d love to see them!

*Sorry my posting has been so sporadic, this whole wedding thing takes up a lot of time.

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Beauty in the Movies: Heathers

This week I present to you one of the best teen comedies ever, and by far one of the darkest. Heathers is one of those movies that just keeps getting better as the years go by, and you discover something new each time you watch it.

There are four girls who rule Westerberg High, Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty), Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk) and Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder). They spend their days torturing geeks like Martha Dunnstock (Carrie Lynn), who they call Martha Dump-truck, doling out witty dialogue, and playing croquet. When new guy JD (Christian Slater) arrives at school, he shakes up Veronica’s world and forces her to confront how awful the Heathers really are.

When we first meet JD, he’s the epitome of the cool, mysterious new kid, he comes on the scene to save Veronica from a world of Heathers and expose the popular crowd as the self-centered assholes they are. It’s set up like other teen movies; two characters meet and seem to be a perfect match, but things go off in a very different direction from there. It’s Veronica’s story, but instead of spending the film mooning over a crush, she spends it frantically scribbling in her diary while wearing her monocle and cursing the idiocy of her peers.

The American high school is a nasty place, and Heathers was the first movie that exposed it as such. In high school everyone is labeled, every dark secret is fair game, and even death is a way to up your social standing.

Heathers came out in 1989, at the end of an era dominated by John Hughes movies where teenagers are fun, sweet, and adorable—the most bad-ass things they do involve dancing at parades and skipping out on their detention homework. The Heathers teens range from vapid to down right evil, a sharp contrast to the charming geeks and lovable jocks of the Hughes Cannon. In Heathers, house parties are replaced by funerals, and instead of the cute male lead turning out to be surprisingly sensitive, he turns out to be a murderous psychopath. Sadly, in some ways it’s a much more realistic portrayal of what high school is really like.

Heathers established its own vernacular, it gave us phrases you still hear in modern high schools, even if those kids have no idea where they came from—like “what’s your damage?”, “I gotta motor”, or “How very”. Virtually every other line is a memorable quote, who could forget “F*ck me gently with a chainsaw” or “I love my dead gay son!”?

Teen suicide has been making headlines again recently, which means it’s time to start re-running Heathers on cable, because this film actually makes a great case against suicide. It demonstrates how killing yourself just makes your hateful classmates pretend they liked you, and that they will use your death as a means to garner attention for themselves. High school is a war zone, and sometimes it spills over into college, but life does get better. There are still jerks in the world after high school, but you get to choose if you want to be around them or not. Sure, offices can sometimes recall a bit too much of that old high school cruelty, but for the most part people mature and realize life is too short to be so worried what everyone else thinks.

Heathers held up the mirror and forced us to look at the way we treat tragedy, the sensationalized accounts of death and suicide have only grown with the internet age. Teen suicides provoked (at least in part) by bullying are in the news every other week these days. The cavalier attitude and lack of responsibility from peers is always a major focus of disgust—more than twenty years later and Heathers is truer than ever, yet we still act surprised by the actions of empathy-free teens and their victims, showing that we would rather run a “shocking” news story than try to solve the problem. All I can say is, in the words of Big Fun, “Teenage suicide—don’t do it”.

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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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A Wedding Miscellany

I’m sorry to do another wedding post, but I have them on the brain. I am breathing, eating, and sleeping weddings recently. Whether it’s putting together my wedding play-list, ordering candy for our wedding candy bar, or painting bridal card boxes for others with upcoming nuptials, it’s a huge part of my life right now.

I’ve written before about the stress of planning a wedding, but there are so many things to keep track of that you can’t keep your mind from running all over the place, so this post might be a bit scattered, and I apologize for that.

All of the illustrations featured below are from an adorable little book my mom bought for me when I got engaged—it’s called The Little Big Book for Brides, and it has all sorts of cute advice, customs, and strange facts you never knew about weddings, here are some examples:

“Feed a cat out of your wedding shoe for good luck”—hmm, kind a gross, but I could try it!

“If in October you do marry , love will come but riches tarry”—this doesn’t surprise me at all, sounds about right actually. Darn.

My favorite part of this book is a whole long excerpt from an article entitled “The Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride”, it was published in an 1894 newsletter and it will blow your mind! For example:

“One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: GIVE LITTLE, GIVE SELDOM, AND ABOVE ALL, GIVE GRUDGINGLY. Otherwise, what could have been a proper marriage could become an orgy of sexual lust.”

Cracks. me. up. Here’s some more sage advice:

“Clever wives are ever on the alert for new and better methods of denying and discouraging the amorous overtures of the husband. A good wife should expect to have reduced sexual contacts to once a week by the end of the first year of marriage and to once a month by the end of the fifth year of marriage.”

I hope you’re listening ladies!

Moving on, today I am officially starting my pre-wedding diet. I know, I wrote a whole post about how I wasn’t going to let the pressure get to me and I wasn’t going to starve myself, but here’s the thing; I went for my final dress fitting and things changed. The good news is that the dress fits perfectly—too perfectly. It fits so perfectly that breathing is a bit of a problem. If I had money to spare I’d probably just let it out a little, but money is an issue, and the cost of alterations on bridal gowns are astronomical. So in the interest of saving a few hundred dollars, I have to cut back on my beloved cheese, ice cream, fried anything, and all the rest of my favorite foods. It’s just for a month, so I can handle it, and I just need to keep thinking about all the food I won’t be able to eat on my wedding day and my inability to dance if there is no room to move in my dress as motivation. So for the next month I’m counting points, snacking on carrot sticks and praying that come October 29th, I can breathe, move, dance,—and eat comfortably.

To those of you who are getting married soon, or planning on getting married soon, or have some kind of big party or event to plan in general, here is some advice—start planning now. Months ago, even a year ago, I kept poo-pooing things “oh, we have time” I’d say, and now I wish I could go back in time and knock myself upside the head. Not only do I wish I had taken care of some things earlier, but also, spending money in small bursts over a year is far easier than doling out large amounts all at once. So, if you see something you like—whether it be a wedding dress or favors, buy it, or at least bookmark it now, you’ll thank yourself later.

So, right now I have to order my favors, and research hairstyles and follow-up with the florist, the hotel, the venue, and so much more, and every phone call will hopefully soothe a bit of the madness, but really all I can hope is that I fit into that dress and actually get to eat some of my wedding cake, and of course, cheese.

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Beauty in the Movies: Working Girl

When I first decided to start Beauty in the Movies, one of the films I had in mind was Working Girl, it’s one of the most iconic examples of female empowerment in cinema, and it’s got an awesome 80’s wardrobe to go with it.

(click to enlarge)

When we were little (way too little to understand most of it) my sister and I watched this movie over and over again. I think mostly it had to do with Joan Cusack’s insanely fabulous hair and make-up, seeing Han Solo as a business man, and also the song “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon which we sang loudly and repeatedly to the intense annoyance of my mother.

Working Girl is the story of Tess McGill, a Wall Street secretary from Staten Island with the brains of a high-powered executive, and as she puts it—”a bod for sin”. Unfortunately, since she is lacking the breeding and ivy league education, all she gets out of her bosses is sexual harassment in the form of set-ups with jerks (including Kevin Spacey) who treat her like a prostitute. Tess thinks it’s a blessing when she ends up the secretary to powerful businesswoman Catherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver) who promises to help her and listen to her ideas, but as many of us with office experience have learned, for some awful reason female bosses can sometimes be far crueler than their male counterparts. When Catherine breaks her leg during a ski trip, Tess discovers that Catherine has been so impressed with her ideas that she is planning to pass them off as her own. In her mentoring of Tess, Catherine gave her secretary the excellent advice that only you alone can make things happen for yourself—and that’s exactly what Tess resolves to do.

Since Catherine already started the ball rolling on Tess’s business proposition, all Tess has to do is contact Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), the broker Catherine was planning to work with, and give herself a makeover in time for their meeting. I won’t go farther than that, you’ll just have to see it for yourself if you haven’t already. Some other reasons to see this film; Joan Cusack as Tess’s best friend Cyn, a brief appearance by Ricki Lake, and even better—David Duchovny as an extra, or as he is referred to in the credits a “Party Friend”, the slicked back hair is not a good look for him.

Working Girl is a Cinderella story of sorts, and though Harrison Ford does make a particularly charming prince, Tess is really the one who saves herself. She could have just accepted her place, she could have been discouraged by listening to her bosses, or her sleazy boyfriend (Alec Baldwin), or even the other secretaries, but she doesn’t, she goes after what she wants.

This movie is loaded with great performances, all three ladies scored Oscar noms for their performances—Melanie, Sigourney and Joan, and Mike Nichols was nominated for best director as well. It’s a rare film that manages to fall into the category of romantic comedy while also being taken quite seriously. It’s Melanie Griffith’s performance that keeps this film from being a typical rom-com, she portrays a mix of vulnerability, ambition, and pride that make her character both believable and sympathetic. While Harrison Ford is adorable and captivating (there is a great scene where he changes his shirt in the office to the delight of the secretarial pool), it’s the ladies that give the film depth. Even the villainous Catherine, played so impeccably by Ms.Weaver, manages to avoid being one-dimensional. Catherine doesn’t purposely want to hurt Tess—but she doesn’t believe it’s her fault if she has to step on people to get to the top.

As I was watching this last night I couldn’t help but think of Mad Men, one of my (and everyone’s) favorite shows. Just as Mad Men is a peek into office life in the 1960’s, Working Girl is the 1980’s equivalent. Obviously Mad Men is far more serious and stylized, but the hierarchy and the struggle for women remains the same. A major issue on Mad Men is whether women are better off trying to behave like men in the office, or if they should embrace their sexuality rather than stifle it. Catherine Parker is a perfect example of a businesswoman who refuses to dress in boxy suits and dull shades to put the men at ease. Besides, if a confident women puts her male colleagues on guard, and draws attention to the fact that she is something different—all the better. For Mad Men fans it’s easy to draw parallels between Tess McGill and Peggy Olson, too bad we don’t get to see the way Tess’s career plays out over the years as we get to see with Peggy. 

Tess McGill has become an icon for working women, she represents the struggle to be taken seriously, to go after your goals, and to achieve anything you put your mind to (even in an unconventional way). This film still resonates because women are still second-rate citizens in the business world. As of 2009 only 1.5% of the 2,000 top performing companies worldwide were women. Sadly, that is a huge jump from the 1980’s when there were virtually no female heads of major companies. There is still a huge pay gap for women both in and out of the business world. Even as CEOs of major companies women tend to make less than half the pay of their male counterparts. I wish this film could be looked at as a lighthearted romantic comedy, but the issues that made it powerful at the time still remain more than twenty years later. Sorry to bum you out, but it’s the truth, and a very important one to remember. The gender wage gap exists, and the only way we can ever change that is by admitting that it’s there, I don’t think Tess McGill would have stood for it, so why the hell should we right?

When my sister and I watched Working Girl as kids, I think we both related to it because it’s New York, and as strange as the big hair and blue eyeshadow seem now, at the time that felt familiar, it was what my babysitters and my aunts were wearing. I think my sister took away more from the film than rainbow eyeshadow and shoulder padded suits. We were raised in an apartment in Queens and never had much money, but what we did have was parents who told us we could be absolutely anything we put our mind to (and who let us watch this movie!), so she ended up a high-powered attorney in Manhattan, I consider her a Tess McGill of her own making, and we’re very proud of her. I hope this film continues to inspire young women for a long time to come and I hope it teaches them that they truly are the ones who make it happen, male or female, nobody is going to achieve your goals for you, and that’s a fact.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Body Hair: To Wax or Not To Wax?

Alright, so I have this dilemma—that’s probably a bad way to start a post about body hair, but stick with me, the problem is I’m wearing a tea length dress at my wedding and my legs will be visible. So, for the first time in my life I’ve been thinking of getting my legs waxed, which I find terrifying. Being forced to think about this dilemma has really gotten me thinking about body hair in general, and all the painful, expensive, decisions that go with it.

I’ve only ever had my eyebrows waxed and I can’t say that I loved it, with the lasting redness and localized breakouts it caused, I’ve mainly stuck to tweezing. I can only imagine that waxing large areas of skin is far more painful, and also pricey, but for my wedding it does seem somewhat appropriate. My main goal for my wedding day is to not have to think about too much, low-stress is the goal, so even something stupid like shaving my legs could become a disaster.

I know there are people out there who wax on a regular basis, some who wax everything all the time, and I have to say I find the subject both fascinating and unnerving. What it makes me wonder about specifically, is why our culture feels so strongly about ripping all hair out from the root in what can be a sometimes excruciating procedure.

I totally understand that we have hair in places we might not want it, and that eliminating it, or shaping it, can lend to the attractiveness of our appearance, but I think when all body hair (and other people’s body hair) becomes cause for ridicule, things have gone too far. I shave my armpits, maybe not as thoroughly in the winter, but I prefer it. I’m not sure if it’s due to a real personal preference, or a result of habit. From the time I’ve had hair under my arms I’ve been shaving it off. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to let it grow in all the way, but frankly, when it gets past an inch, I feel compelled to shave it down again. Women who don’t shave their pits usually get some absurdly generic label slapped on them, like “hippie”, or “feminist”, or “European”, but why should shaving your armpits (or your legs) be any different from filing your nails, it’s simply a personal choice.

For most women, the act of hair removal is as commonplace as shampooing, it’s expected to the point of annoyance. I completely understand women who have laser treatments and electrolysis to remove hair so that they don’t have to worry about it anymore. Because that’s my main issue with hair removal—having to worry about it at all. I have a beauty routine, I moisturize, I exfoliate, I deep condition my hair, and I don’t really mind any of those things, I actually enjoy them, but for me, excessive hair removal has always been where I draw the line. It’s not just the pain, I can handle the burning wax, the awful sneezing that results from eyebrow plucking, and the inflamed skin, it’s the upkeep that makes me crazy. It’s the fact that the hair grows back, sometimes so quickly it’s shocking that nature could be so cruel.

When a celebrity dares to neglect the removal of visible body hair, they’re not only ridiculed, but added to photo galleries to be remembered for their foolish transgression for all internet history. For this reason, it’s become quite clear that body hair is disgusting. To show body hair is to demonstrate a flagrant disregard for your own hygiene, despite the fact that it naturally, and persistently, sprouts from all of our bodies. While looking for images for this post I was shocked at how offended some were at a celebrity’s follicular “neglect”.

Not shaving your legs or pits isn’t like deciding not to brush your teeth or wash your hands, there isn’t anything un-hygienic about having body hair. In fact the removal of hair is far likelier to result in “un-hygienic” results—such as rashes and infections, so why all the hatred?  When I saw Mo’Nique at the golden globes instead of thinking it was disgusting I thought it was awesome that she could stand there looking gorgeous, happy, and confident, hairy legs and all. It wasn’t one of those “Celebrity Oops” moments where they catch a starlet in pimple cream, this is a woman who just doesn’t like to shave her legs, and says “so what?”, pretty admirable if you ask me.

Despite my admiration of Mo’Nique, I don’t think I’ll be going the hairy legged route on my wedding day, call me a conformist, but I’m not there yet, maybe one day though. For now, I need to decide whether a leg wax is in my future.

I’m curious to know how other women feel about hair removal. I’m not condemning or condoning either practice, but it seems important to understand why we do it, why we suffer the pain or choose to avoid it, and why either choice should be the business of anyone else but you. So share your opinions—oh, and if you have any advice or experience on the leg waxing dilemma, I’d love to hear that too!

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