31 May 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Gwendoline Corset by Agent Provocateur

$355 at agentprovocateur.com

Since I don't (yet)

Traditional silk corset with boning
$79.95 at glamourboutique.com

The little-bit-of-sunshine blouse (pt.II)

For the blouse that won't make you look a decade younger but might help you recall a time when TGIF stood for boy-crazy sleepovers and a solid two-hour punch of "Perfect Strangers" "Full House," "Mr. Belvedere," and "Just the Ten of Us".

Ladies, your little-bit-of-sunshine blouses, almost none of which, unfortunately, would be considered work-appropriate in these parts:

Gouache top by Idra ($58 at anthropologie.com)
Teleflora tee by Porridge ($78 at anthropologie.com)
Electric cherry blouse by Sonia ($225 azaleaonline.com)
Elastic tee by Geren Ford ($228 at shopbop.com)*
Scarab flutter top by Tibi ($210 at activeendeavors.com)
Silk market top by Talla ($80 at activeendeavors.com)
Heart keyhole-sleeve top by Rebel Yell ($120 at irissinger.com) Heart print roxy top by Deborah Sweeney ($110 at ronherman.com)
Ava babydoll blouse by Jovavich-Hawk ($350 at ronherman.com)
Bunny print bubble-sleeve top by Lux ($24.99 at urbanoutfitters.com)*
*your editrix's top picks

The little-bit-of-sunshine blouse (pt. I)

It's the palest of pale yellow and covered in tiny hearts of all different Summer shades - sunset red, night-sky purple, Crystal Lake aqua, Bazooka Joe pink, among others.

It has a structured hourglass cut at the base of which is a scalloped-edge hem that dips slightly lower in the front and back - a feature that lends it a distinct corset-like silhouette - a pair of scalloped-edge cap-sleeves, an abbreviated Mandarin-style collar, and a not-even-the-width-of-two-sparklers plunge that sits flush above my favorite detail of all: a vertical row of seven carved daisy-shaped buttons in translucent grass-green.

I recognize it's not immediately me. I recognize it's probably not even after-10-minutes-of-looking-at-me-in-it me. In fact, each time I wear it, I duly expect to have a family member, a friend or a colleague make a point of telling me just how not me it is.

But I love it.

It's the first blouse I ever purchased on my own from Anthropologie - a milestone I still celebrate - and it's the one article of clothing to which I always turn when I need sunshine not just above my head, not just when I'm outside, but all around me, enveloping me from 8:15 in the morning to 8:15 at night. Put differently, it's that one blouse in my wardrobe that when I slip my arms through its prim sleeves and fasten those flowers makes me feel as weightless as I did at eight years old.

Every woman should have such a blouse in her closet, and not just for the cloudy days but for any day she feels the pangs of nostalgia for a time when life consisted of socially acceptable bralessness, guilt-free cans of regular soda and a Pink Lemonade Lip Smackers beauty routine.

A selection of little-bit-of-sunshine blouses to come later in the day. Until then, enjoy a selection of another kind of sunshine: Jack Johnson.

The perfect LWD

When I first saw Kate Winslet on the set of her new film Revolutionary Road in this '50s-era white tea-length silk shift with extended cap-sleeves, dainty-thin cinch and decorative shoulder buttons, I stopped short, tilted my head to the left and after about 20 seconds of breath-held awe, let out an audible sigh.

This is the dress. This is what I look for every time I enter Annie Creamcheese in Georgetown or Psyche's Tears in the East Village. The accentuation of the waist-to-hip contour, the conservative neckline and the dramatic sleeves all contribute to a silhouette that to me epitomizes prim, ladylike beauty. Instead of relying on a short hem or racy décolletage, the sexiness from this dress comes from its cut and slim fit. The skin that is showing is minimal but strategic in that what we see - the arms, the calves, the ankles and that which the neckline scoops out - is innocent flesh, flesh even the most modest woman would bare in public. Beyond the sheer sophistication of the way it looks, I think the main reason why I'm so drawn to this dress is that the woman wearing it is able to channel both the sultry siren and the church pastor's wife.

And really, isn't that every woman's objective when she stands before her closet each morning deciding what to wear?

This dress isn't something I would ever expect to see on that other British Kate or Giselle or Cameron, in part because I don't think they have the good taste to pick it out, but more so because they don't have the zaftig figures - more specifically, Hollywood's modern interpretation thereof - to make it look as the designer intented it to look.

In short, the way it looks on Ms. Winslet.

Mom, liberate your JoAnn Fabric card and sewing machine from storage -- Boefie wants a new dress and she wants it in white, black, red and gold lamé.

30 May 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Lurex panel blouse by Erotokritos

Since I don't (yet)

Road not taken scoopneck by C. Keer
$58 at anthropologie.com

The *other* kind of girl-date

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post in which I put forth the following operational definition for the term "girl-date":

A girl-date is when two women who are relatively unfamiliar with one another decide they want to explore a more meaningful friendship outside of their current circumstances and do so by setting up a meeting whereby the potential for said meaningful friendship can be more deeply explored.

Eloquently crafted as it may be, I don't think this definition is as tightly written as I originally thought it was. What brought about this second-look analysis was the pop-up reminder I received this morning from my Outlook calendar that read, "girl-date: dinner at Nooshi with L."

The girl-date I have tonight, just like the one I had with E two Thursdays ago, is still a "date" in the sense we're meeting one-on-one, an alcoholic beverage or two will be imbibed, I took extra care to distribute the glimmer on my legs and wore a skirt to show off that fact and we'll no doubt engage in a back-and-forth discussion of how little sex - "little" being a generous description in my case - we're having these days. But unlike E, L doesn't fall into the "relatively unfamiliar" category, nor was this meeting set up to "more deeply explore" the "potential" for a "meaningful friendship." On the contrary, L has been a mainstay in my social calendar for years, and tonight's meeting, just like handfuls and handfuls of others we've shared since I arrived fresh from the oil fields of glorious Daqing three years ago, will be of the more comfortable, familiar sort. To put it in celebri-tard terms, if I'm Paris Hilton, E is my Kim Kardashian (gratuitous picture below) while L is my Nicole Richie. Minus that whole driving-the-wrong-way-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-highway "misunderstanding," of course.

Like Nicole to Paris, L has known me as someone's long-term girlfriend; she's known me pre-puppy-whipped when I would actually refer to dogs by the gender-neutral "it" and say things like, "I would never let something that licked its own junk sleep in my bed"; she's known me before I fell in love with New York and everything in it; she's known me long before this blog took over my life and increased what I had thought at the time was an already high threshold for undignified, irreverent humor; and yes, L has even been around long enough to earn the distinct privilege of being on the receiving end of my mother's monthly at-least-25-pounds care packages, which, depending on what was on sale at Meijer, could include a swag-bag filled with anything from triple-berry muffin mix to Magic Erasers to an Eclipse gum Big-E-Pak dispenser to blocks and blocks of pepper-jack cheese. Yes, cheese. Surprising even myself, on one occasion, I decided to give L one of my prized family-size boxes of antibacterial lotion-infused Puffs Plus. It may not seem like much, but I cry on average something like four times a day, so the sacrifice went well-beyond the $4 sticker price.

And of course, because she's L, she understood that.

So tonight might not carry with it the nervous stomach-flutters, the am-I-looking-her-in-the-eye-too-often? inner-dialogue, or the obligatory "who's the one you'll never get over?" conversation-starter, but sometimes that's just as well. Sometimes, all that first-date drama is too much to bear on a 90-degree hump-day when your bits are still tender from last week's Brazilian and the ulcer you're sure is forming as a result of the can't-get-it-off-your-mind dress-indecision for Monday night's dinner in Manhattan with your ultra-stylish college BFF only compounds the discomfort you feel with every crossing and re-crossing of the legs.

Sometimes there's nothing more motivating to get you through the work day than the knowledge that come 5:30 you'll be in the presence of a cold Tsingtao and someone with whom first impressions are a done-deal. Just an hour and a half of being around a friend who has already accepted - and even enjoys - the fact you send her bi-daily e-mails with attached pictures of clothes and shoes you can't afford, celebrities with whom you wish you could change places just so you could have access to their clothes and shoes, and more often than not, the little man in your life who, despite his junk-licking tendencies, is the most welcome of any beast in your Indonesian-teak queen-size -- sometimes, that's the kind of girl-date a girl needs most.

10 must haves for a beautiful Summer

10. Nothing is sexier than a toned, tanned pair of pins -- except for a toned, tanned pair of pins shined to the hilt with this very subtle glimmer oil. Did I mention it smells like gingerlily?
($45 at all Blue Mercury locations)

9. Whether you sit in the sun or not, this bronzer will give you that desirable natural sunkissed look we're all after. What sets this bronzer apart is its touch of gold shimmer and its SPF 15.

8. Because Summer is sandal season, you'll need your feet to be as presentable as possible. If you're like I am and can only justify the price of a pedicure every four or five pay periods, get this great foot soak, a pumice stone and do it yourself, girl!

($26 at skinstore.com)

7. I advocate a year-round no-more-than-three-shampoos-per-week routine, but with DC's high Summer humidity, oil buildup is going to look not only unprofessional but downright homeless. This hair powder, which comes in four colors (black, brown, blondish and red), will give your scalp the look of a same-day-shampoo.
($40.95 at amazon.com) 6. Because your lips sit in the sun just as much as the rest of your non-bikini-covered bits, go for the best when it comes to lip care -- go for Kiehl's. One of these tubes lasted me the entire May-August 2006 tanning season, and that's saying something considering how liberally (and often) I applied this balm after all those rough-and-tumble "sessions" down Dupont Circle side streets.

($8.50 at kiehls.com)

5. To see your skin at its healthiest, you need to indulge in a once-a-week full-body exfoliation treatment. This particular one sloughs with the best of the pricey sugar scrubs and it smells divine. What I like most is that even after your spritz on your favorite Summer scent (I like Sake by fresh), you can still detect a hint of pink citrus.

($15 at sephora.com)

4. Everything I wrote for the previous product applies here, save for the bit about lingering fragrance. Unlike most of the drugstore exfoliants, this one is a gentle scrub with rounded beads that won't irritate even the most sensitive face. I look forward to every Wednesday night, which in my household is not only double-anchovy thin-crust night but exfoliation night as well. Who says I don't have excitement in my life?
($25 at sephora.com)

3. Being the lifelong lotion-phile I am, I've tried everything from imported body butters to boutique salves to your most basic CVS-brand hand lotion. Through my ever-continuing search to find the holy grail of moisturizers, however, this thick Vitamin E-infused drugstore lotion has always come through victorious. If you could touch my legs right now (I'm touching them for you), you'd go out and join Sam's Club right now and buy two cases of the stuff. It's that good. And that affordable.

($5.29 at drugstores everywhere)

2. With the suntanning, the lack of sleep and the propensity to cry every time I listen to Roberta Flack or watch a Julia Roberts movie on TBS, the skin under my eyes is the first noticeable sign I'm no longer in my mid-20s. Hands down, this undereye cream is the one "luxury item" I would take with me if I were ever cast on "Survivor."

($46 at clinique.com)

1. As with body lotion, I've been testing, trying and second-trying facial moisturizers my entire life. Not just adult life but thanks to my Mom, my entire life. This is the richest one I've found in an under-$50 price-point. And yes, it has the requisite SPF 30.

($16.12 at amazon.com)

29 May 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Esme ruffle belt by Loeffler Randall

Since I don't (yet)

Flower and vine leather lace belt
$68 at anthropologie.com

Burberry's bad case of displaycaseitis

Pleated khaki capris, a plaid-trimmed white polo and metallic Velcro sneakers.

A boxy short-sleeve navy knit sweater, plaid-trimmed A-line oatmeal skirt with mid-calf hem and square-toed block-heeled slides.

A light pink leather double-breasted trench, these bermuda cargo shorts pictured above and plaid-trimmed raffia wedges.

This is just the amuse bouche of what I've seen in the two years I've had the displeasure of commuting twice a day past Burberry's multiple window displays.

Like nearly every ConnAve clothing store - major chain and small boutique alike - Burberry suffers from the serious malady of displaycaseitis, which in layman's terms refers to the misguided selection and featuring of articles of clothing that are by any standard - not just mine but any standard - of good taste, their least flattering, least attractive, and most assured not only likely to drive customers away from the cash register but from the entrance as well.

On the several occasions I've walked through those heavy wooden art-deco doors on the corner of Connecticut and M (each time a pilgrimage to see my it'll-be-mine-one-day Sugar Daddy item), there have always been beautiful clothes - much more so than the ones I described above - there to greet me in-store. Fine-gauge lemon-yellow cashmere cap-sleeve sweaters with keyhole-backs carefully folded on a shiny cherry tabletop, gunmetal bell jackets with grosgrain-ribbon trimmed Peter Pan collars in an exactly-one-inch-apart series of cloth-covered hangers, and on one particularly special visit, draped on one of the white-faced mannequins coincidentally not visible at street-level, a beautiful Burberry Prorsurm gold mod dress straight from the runway that only a few months later Sienna Miller shortened, de-sleeved and paired with opaque black tights and vintage YSL platforms at the 2006 Costume Institute Gala.

That dress was on sale in DC in limited supply yet was "showcased" in a second-floor window on the M Street side most people aren't even aware exists.


I understand the majority of DC women are not going to purchase a dress like this and that the selection of display-case clothing is in large part dependant on the tastes of those who fatten the monthly commissions, but I also know, especially with a high-end store like Burberry, novelty and controlled amounts of catch-the-eye flash are just as important in increasing customer foot-traffic. Especially when that foot-traffic is likely to come from one-time visitors staying in the ritzy, right-next-door Mayflower Hotel.

If it were just Burberry that suffered from displaycaseitis, I might be able to look the other way. I'm not that store's target audience, anyway, so perhaps their marketing team knows a bit more about what does and doesn't help sell their clothes. But the thing is, it's not just Burberry. This head-scratching misstep afflicts every clothing store from Rizik's on the corner of ConnAve/K to the Ann Taylor a half-block down to Filene's Basement across the street to The Proper Topper on the edge of Dupont Circle -- all of these (and a few others from which I don't care to incur any unnecessary wrath) every single season choose to display the least attractive pieces from their inventory, and I just don't get it.

Being the meticulous girl I am, I've waited months to write about this phenomenon until I solicited enough objective data from friends of mine, all of whom have very different senses of style from my own and from one other, and none of whom knew my opinion on this matter until after they answered my intentionally nonchalant delivery of, "So...what do you think about the clothes in the window compared with those in the store?" query. Without exception, in every case, all of them put forth the same diagnosis I had. Even the men, all five of whom sharply criticized Burberry's collection of on-display suits, ties, shirts and pocket squares. "A brown suit with a brown and orange checked shirt and a beige pocket square? Who put this together, a middle school math teacher?" one commented without a hint of jest. My conclusions were further bolstered by the fact that we found no trace of displaycaseitis in the U Street neighborhood, in Georgetown, in all of Friendship Heights or in Old Town -- this isn't a contagious epidemic but rather a contained virus that is curiously thriving in a four block section of NW DC.

So what is it? Why are store owners and store managers in this part of town playing the opposite-game when it comes to choosing the clothes to grace their display cases season after season?

And of greater concern, is this poor taste not only responsible for maintaining but also feeding the sub-standard professional dress found on nearly every street corner at any point during the work day in the ConnAve/M St. corridor?

Shudder. I need a Cosi salad with extra pears.

Wedding Season '07: the versatile clutch

"So I've got my dress (on sale at Bop!) and two different pairs of black peeptoes for Wedding Season '07, but I need a good versatile clutch that can fit the makeup essentials, my Blackberry and my flask (for when the ceremony goes a little long). What color would you recommend with this dress? I gave up trying to match the pink. Plus, I had your anti-matchy-matchy speech running through my head! Thanks!"

You had me at "flask."

I'm pleased as punch you decided to abandon your search for a bright fuchsia clutch. This fabulous DvF dress already has built-in color with the satin sash -- let that be the sole focus. Any more of a color burst, especially with an almost-kinda-sorta-the-same pink purse, and you run the risk of looking like a bridesmaid who had no choice but to wear the 13 pieces of clothing and accessories a misguided bride on an everything-must-match mission picked out for her and the other nine of her closest girlfriends.

Were I you, I'd opt for a textured black clutch, something in a brocade or embossed animal skin - animal skin, not animal print - that adds dimension to the ensemble without detracting from the primness of the dress and peeptoes. As for jewellery, even though you didn't ask, I would suggest minimal neutral studs (e.g. pearls, diamonds or opals) and an fun cocktail ring like this or even better, this. A thin gold necklace that hits just below the base of the throat would still look okay, but as you know, I always advocate erring on the side of simplicity, especially when the neckline, like this one, is an eye-catching accessory in itself.

Here are your flask-ready clutches, a couple of which, I realize, are pushing well beyond even an If-I-had-a-Sugar-Daddy price point:

Joan woven silk clutch by Franchi ($126.95 at zappos.com)*

Legacy croc clutch by Perlina ($65.95 at zappos.com)

Croc Lucia clutch by Lorelei ($198 at activeendeavors.com)

Jewel clutch by Lelya ($472 at shopbop.com)**Lizzie clutch by B. Romanek ($810 at ronherman.com)

*my 'Since I don't (yet)' pick

**my 'If I had a Sugar Daddy' pick

28 May 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Portrait collar jacket & Cady pants by Armani Collezioni
$1,790 at saks.com

Since I don't (yet)

Pinstripe two-button khaki suit
$356 at anntaylor.com

Isn't that what the daybag is for?

I don't doubt you are all important executives, busy saleswomen, on-the-go Congressional assistants and at-their-beck-and-call multitasking mistresses.

I'm not trying to downplay the urgency behind your need to answer that Palm Pilot even before the first note of "Let me blow your mind" bursts through the small speaker at top-volume.

And believe me, I know well the sheer panic involved with trying to extricate the world's most important phone call from the world's most crowded one-chamber tote.

But can't we set aside practicality one more time and please, please not let the leather-encased belt-clipped cell phone trend become an accepted part of female professional dress?

We're polished women in pinstriped suits, high-waisted skirts and simple sophisticated pumps. We write academic articles, court decisions, advertising pitches and national security briefings. We have lace-surrounded breasts, shiny well-managed hair and tended-to cuticles. We're ladies, ladies, so let's please ditch the accessory that makes us look like we've arrived ready to start teaching a Saturday afternoon workshop in aisle five on how to waterproof your deck.

What to do, then? Well, do what I do and either carry your precious phone in your hand or place it in the small pocket even the largest of the large daybag always has for this very purpose. After living in China for two years and experiencing just how awful life without any kind of cell phone etiquette can be, I always opt for the more respectful vibrate option. By placing the side of my daybag with the pocket in which my phone is stored closest to my person and by choosing the most vigorous of the five vibration settings on my Treo, I am always fully aware if not a little excitedly so depending on how long the straps on that particular bag are, when someone is trying to get a hold of me.

Just as I was able to convince you to go for cute flats instead of sneakers on your walk to work, to ditch the denim shirt and to burn the khakis, let me aid you in the arena of cell phone transportation as well.

Please, join me in boycotting this trend before it reaches the point - as it has with men - where there's no feasible way to stop the epidemic.

The infuriating freckle mustache

Though it predictably sprouts up following the first two consecutive 10-flip poolside shifts of every pre-Summer season, I always seem to forget until it arrives just how concealer-resistant and debilitating to even the prettiest pretty-day my crescent-shaped collection of tightly concentrated sommersprossen - affectionately dubbed by my older brother "Hannie's freckle mustache" - proves to be.

The angle at which the picture above was taken doesn't even begin to capture just how Pancho-Villa-esque a transformation direct sunlight activates above my upper-lip. Like muscular calves and a natural bubble-butt, the freckle mustache has been one of the tough, this-ain't-changin'-anytime-soon realities with which I've had to deal from the time I was a wee thing judging others' physical appearances on the Lincoln Elementary School playground. Once I hit fourth grade advanced math and learned to enter the numerous pros and lone con of a responsibly-earned Summer tan into a comprehensive utility-maximization matrix, however, I right there and then knew it was indeed worth the temporary illusion of whiskers to have sunkissed skin. Science is science, after all, and you can't argue with the power of a statistically significant coefficient.

That doesn't mean I haven't put forth effort to fight the futile fight, however.

On the contrary, I've tried everything from using a stronger SPF to caking on makeup to precision exfoliation, and so far, nothing has worked well enough to keep random people - people who have no obvious reason to want to make me feel uncomfortable - come up to me and say, "Uh, you've got a little something right there, no there, above your lip. No it's still there. Still there. Oh, it doesn't come off, does it? Sorry about that."

Sorry, indeed.

I implore you, loyal readers, if any of you suffer from this same miscarriage of genetic justice and have discovered a reliable method to avoid the two-to-four day embarrassment from which I'm about to suffer (thank God I'll be the only one in the office today), please come forth and share your wisdom.


27 May 2007

If I had a sugar daddy...

Beach kimono by Diane von Furstenberg

$230 at shopbop.com

Since I don't (yet)

Swim cover-up tunic by Merona
$14.99 at target.com

Cannes and should do better next year

I've been waiting all week for the Palme d'Or to be handed out and thus mark the end of the seven days informally known as the week when Sharon Stone goes extra crazy in a-too-young-for-someone-half-her-age wardrobe.

My anxiousness for the grand award had nothing to do with the films themselves but rather the final parade of evening couture. I needed this last red carpet song-and-dance so that I could finally cobble together my "loved it," "hated it" and "WTF?" categories.

So here they are, the good, the bad and the plastic tit-cones:

Loved it
I love the deep teal color, the fluid drape and the contrast of the burgundy waist-cinch on this silk jersey column gown
(Kerry Washington at the De Grisogono Party)
I wish Andie had worn her hair in a more upswept fashion and chosen a richer color that didn't make her beautiful alabaster skin look so washed out, but other than that, from the tasteful - and age-appropriate - cleavage to the like-a-glove fit, this subtle seafoam-green Versace chiffon confection is picture-perfect.
(Andie McDowell at the My Blueberry Nights premiere)
As I've said before, Eva's upper-body was made for the strapless neckline, and this exaggerated sweetheart Lanvin gown with black mesh overlay and patent leather belt is a perfect choice to remind people of that fact. I love how she never wears necklaces and allows all the attention to go to her natural - and best - assets: her skin and sculpted shoulders.
(Eva Mendes at the We Own the Night premiere)

Hated it
I don't quite understand how the diminutive vertical ruffles on this tiered Marchesa gown could make tiny-as-a-sparrow Kerry Washington look plus-size from the waist-down, but oh goodness, does it ever. The dress itself is quite pretty, but an on-the-hanger aesthetic does not always translate to a figure-flattering fit.
(Kerry Washington at the Ocean's 13 premiere)
Maybe it's that I don't have a "trained eye" for fashion, but I have never found this kind of mismatched front and back hem length pleasing to look at. The diagonal stripes on the bodice of this Hervé Léger isn't doing Jess' girls any favors, either.
(Jessica Simpson at the My Blueberry Nights premiere)
This is a Miss USA evening-gown-competition dress. Miss New Jersey's evening-gown-competition dress.
(Rose McGowan at the amfAR AIDS benefit)

Mesh paneling on an already sexed-to-the-gills bustier minidress? Psychedelic platform wedges? Somewhere at this premiere, a confused Bai Ling is wandering around wearing Kylie's chiffon gown and Louboutin slingbacks.
(Kylie Minogue at the Ocean's 13 premiere)
First, you have the gall to don an Elie Saab the reigning queen of the red carpet gown knocked out of the park fewer than six months ago. Second, you degrade it with chunky turquoise jewelery and disheveled surfer-girl hair. No wonder Leo didn't want to accompany you down the carpet...
(Israeli model Bar Rafaeli at the Ocean's 13 premiere)
Even if Hofit's dress had covered a good three inches more of those orbs of hers, this candy apple red with beaded belt still wouldn't have been passable by Cannes standards. It's very junior prom chaperone, very Rizik's-display-window. And for those of you who live outside DC, no, that's not a good thing.
(Israeli model Hofit Golan at the Ocean's 13 premiere)
Dita, why the plastic tit-cones? Had you left your hotel without those things, hands-down you would have been in the first group.
(Dita von Teese at the Dolce & Gabbana party)