Makeup I don’t “need” anymore

My makeup basket continues to shrink. 🙂

I think I must have reached the age where “less” becomes “more”, as far as makeup is concerned.

I thought about listing what I’ve got left in my collection after yet more editing. But I think that would be boring. Suffice to say, I’m left with just the basics, and they are mostly neutrals.

I thought it might be more interesting to list what I’m not using anymore:

  • Bronzer. Actually, I never really saw the point of it, but everyone else seemed to be using it to “add dimension” or contour. I’ve decided that my cheekbones are fine as they are. I did keep one compact, for those times when I need to add warmth to a too-pale foundation.
  • Highlighter. I think I prefer an all-over, subtle glow rather than spot application of highlight powders or creams. For instance, in the winter, when my skin is dry and I need a bit of “glow”, I will use Laura Mercier’s Radiance primer under my foundation. In the summer, my skin is oily enough that I don’t need any extra highlighting.
  • Concealer. I can’t seem to find one that doesn’t enhance the wrinkles under my eyes. I’d rather live with my undereye circles, which really aren’t that bad, anyway. And I don’t have a lot of blemishes to conceal, either. (But even when I had acne, I never bothered concealing my blemishes. It never fooled anyone into thinking I had clear skin.)
  • Pencil, liquid, or gel eyeliners.  Instead, I use a black powder eyeshadow. Powder is so much easier to apply, glides gently on my lids, and I prefer the look of it. (I use a small angled paintbrush, similar to the MAC 266.)
  • Lip gloss. They are just too much “gloss” for my face! But some makeup brands are now formulating sheer, shiny lipstick formulas–kind of a gloss-lipstick hybrid with a more subtle shine–and I’m really liking those. I also have a shiny lip balm (Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream stick) that I use under and over lipstick to add a more natural-looking shine.

I’m also using a lot less foundation these days–just the thinnest layer. Again, I had to choose between coverage and wrinkles. Darn those tiny little lines!

Settling into a uniform

I know I’ve been blogging about dresses lately. But if I look at my day-to-day life, the reality is that I’m more likely to be wearing jeans on most days. Casual wear is simply more practical for my daily life activities.

Last year, my workplace was becoming more formal and there was talk of a dress code. The administrators were concerned about projecting a more professional image for our department, and the focus seemed to be on appearances.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Perhaps it has something to do with recent budget cuts, or the economy in general. It’s probably not easy to ask people to upgrade their wardrobes in times like these.

As for myself, I was at first excited about the opportunity to dress up a bit. But when I was assigned a project that turned out to involve a lot of dust and dirt, I reverted to my “uniform”.

And that uniform is:

  • Dark-wash jeans
  • Knit top
  • Cardigan (if it’s cold)
  • Flat shoes (usually ballerinas)
  • Jewelry or scarf

And almost everything I own is some shade of:

  • Blue
  • Red
  • Purple (i.e. blue + red!)
  • Black

Over the years, I’ve experimented with various new looks and silhouettes. Some worked better than others.

I’ve gradually narrowed it down to my favorites, and the funny thing is, I’m almost back to where I started: jeans and tees– but now, in a more refined version.

  • The boxy tees have been replaced by fitted tees, some with interesting necklines.
  • A collarless blouse in a soft woven fabric will “read” as a tee.
  • Nice cardigans in a delicate wool, silk, or cotton replace the baggy hoodies and sweaters I used to live in.
  • Shoes are more classic and less “funky” in design.
  • I’m making an effort to accessorize on a daily basis. 🙂

I think my next step will be to simply upgrade the quality of what I own: better quality knitwear, maybe some premium denim. I do think I’ve pretty much determined that I’m never going to stray very far from my “uniform”. These are the clothes that make me feel both comfortable and attractive.

A fitness/weight loss update

I’ve been eating a modified low-carb diet for a few months now. Unlike the usual low-carb fare (Atkins, Paleo, etc.), my diet is not so meat-heavy, because I was a vegetarian for 20 years prior to making these changes. I didn’t want to make a drastic change in the opposite direction.

But I’ve added some fish (several times a week) and have been eating more eggs. I’ve cut way down on grains, potatoes, and beans, and increased my intake of fruits, vegetables, and fats (mostly in the form of olive oil, coconut oil, and goat’s milk butter). I rarely consume regular dairy products, because I’m lactose intolerant.

It all worked really well at first: I lost 13 pounds, and I lost most of my sugar cravings, which was a big plus.

But in the past month or so, I’ve started feeling really lethargic, and I’m having more digestive problems than ever before. (I am missing that whole-grain fiber! I can feel the difference.) My weight has plateaued and my waist measurement (which never went down more than a couple of inches) has not budged any further.

It’s that waist measurement which bothers me the most. Besides making it difficult to find clothes that fit well, I know that belly fat puts me at considerable risk for some really awful diseases.

So I did some more research on various diets which purport to reduce belly fat. And one which came up repeatedly was the low-fat vegan diet.

I’ve been a low-fat-nearly-vegan before, and I have to say, I’ve never been thinner than when I ate that way. Granted, I did still have a bit of a belly back then. But I was also eating candy bars every day. (My fat intake was so low, I could afford the chocolate.)

I eventually stopped eating low-fat because I was worried about not getting enough healthy fats. Also, I was actually worried that I was getting too thin despite eating a lot of food.

And then I came down with a sudden illness (not food-related), had surgery, and started eating convenience foods because I didn’t have the energy to cook at home. This led to some bad habits which I’m still trying to shake, more than 15 years later.

So—

I’ve decided to give the [nearly] vegan diet another try. I’ve done some more reading (The China Study by T. Colin Campbell , as well as related articles and interviews found online) which has convinced me that I needn’t worry about missing out on “healthy oils” from fish or coconuts.

And no, I’m not going completely vegan or completely non-fat. Nor am I giving up caffeine. I’ve never been able to do those things, and I’m not inclined to complicate my efforts by trying them now.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

P.S. I wanted to add that I will continue to avoid refined grains, such as white bread and white rice, and I won’t be eating a daily candy bar, this time around! 🙂

Another stye epiphany!

My, that post title sounds dramatic. Too dramatic for what actually happened. Here’s what happened.

I thought I was a rectangle, but now I think I’m secretly an hourglass.

This was the first clue:

Michael Kors trench coat, old image from Nordstrom.com

 

I’d been trying various “classic” trench coats. They were all cut straight and double-breasted. And they all looked awful on me.

Then I tried on the coat above, which has a shaped belted waist and an a-line bottom. And I loved it. And I wore it, and got compliments.

Then I started noticing that the clothes I own which are easiest to wear (i.e., most flattering and effortless to style) are those which highlight my natural waistline. Which is barely there, but it’s there.

The reason I’d previously shied away from belted or shaped waists, is that they always seemed to highlight the widest part of my belly. I now see what the problem really was: I was trying to belt things too low on my my torso, and I was wearing tops and pants that didn’t match the natural contours of my body.

But with dresses, coats, or tops belted higher, on the true waist (or shaped to follow my true waistline), my straight, rectangular (i.e., boxy) figure becomes visually curvy.

So …

This means I’ll have to reconsider some of my style choices. I tend to be drawn to tailored separates, but I think I’ll be taking a closer look at dresses and softer silhouettes.

And though I still have some inches to lose before I can call myself a true hourglass, I’ve decided to “fake it till I make it” with my wardrobe. Because, frankly, I’d rather go ahead and highlight the curves I do have.

P.S. This change in direction exemplifies why it is a good practice to build a wardrobe SLOWLY. I hate to imagine how poor I’d be if I’d gone out and bought a new wardrobe every time I took a new direction with my personal style!

Sea of Polyester

Since I began exploring personal style a few years ago, I think I’ve improved my shopping skills. Or at least I’ve learned to shop in a way that works well for me and my own style.

Here’s my shopping “philosophy”, in a nutshell:

First, decide what you want to buy. Be very specific.

Then shop for it.

This means that I don’t spend a lot of time browsing stores without a plan. I rarely thrift-shop or sift through clearance racks. If I know that a sale is upcoming, I might wait for it to make my purchase. But I usually already know what I’m going to buy.

Of course, there are exceptions. Usually, the exceptions apply to accessories like jewelry or scarves. With decorative items like those, it sometimes pays to go on a recreational shopping trip and just see what delightful designs you might stumble across.

But for most things, I like to have a plan. I like to know what I’m going to wear: to work, to exercise, to funerals, to weddings, etc.

Next month I have an event that I’m not prepared for. I need a casual dress, one that I can wear from morning to late evening and be photographed in. It’s going to be a long hot day, and some of the activities will be outdoors. I need something that won’t make me look completely wilted by the end of the day. Oh, and the dress can’t be sleeveless. I don’t do sundresses. And it must be affordable, since this isn’t a planned purchase that I’ve saved up for.

So I’m thinking, maybe a wrap dress in a cotton or rayon knit, or a simple fitted a-line dress or skirt in cotton or linen.

I went to the local mall, and it seemed like EVERY affordable dress was made of polyester. And overpriced, at that. I did find a couple of (expensive) cotton dresses, but the construction was so shoddy, I’d be embarrassed to wear them. I mean seriously embarrassed.

So I came home and got online (which is my preferred way to shop). I’d heard good things about Modcloth.com, so I checked out that site. When I saw the hundreds of beautiful dress designs, I got excited. And then I started to check the fabric content.

You guessed it: Polyester.

I have to say, I’m really, really puzzled at the number of summer dresses made of 100% polyester. For me, wearing polyester in summer is like wearing Saran Wrap. No thank you.

On the bright side: I’ve been meaning to get back into sewing, and this might just be the thing that inspires me to break out the sewing machine.

Fitness inspiration: Recovering

In case you haven’t seen it, this (below) is an amazing, almost unbelievable video about a man who used yoga to recover from a traumatic injury.

I’m not a fan of yoga. (No particular reason–my body just doesn’t like it and I think the poses are unattractive. Shallow, I know.) But this story struck a chord with me because my own fitness problems began as the result of a difficult recovery from surgery, many years ago.

My post-surgical troubles were not remotely as complicated as the troubles experienced by this man. But I do still suffer from issues related to a wound that didn’t heal quite right. It affects my core strength, and as I’ve learned, core strength is everything when it comes to feeling strong and fit.

This year, I’ve been working on getting healthier, stronger, and losing some belly fat. This video gave me hope that I can get where I want to be. (I’ve gotten close before, but I’ve quit.) I’m posting this here to remind myself and others not to quit on ourselves.

 

Ruthless purge of the makeup collection

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog (and a few times on my previous blog), I’ve been feeling annoyed by the size of my makeup collection.

I kept telling myself that I wanted a small, carefully edited selection. So periodically, I’d throw out a few useless products. But I knew I wasn’t done. Because then every day, I’d see my “favorites” left in the makeup drawer, and I’d still feel like it was just too much.

Well, last night, as I was putting away my latest purchase, I decided enough was enough, and I started tossing. Really tossing. To be precise, I threw away 24 items, including some that were recently purchased.

What I’m left with:

  • Products that are tried and true and that I’ve purchased more than once, or will likely repurchase.
  • Products that work well for specific purposes (long wear, photography, formal or casual, etc.)
  • Products that I’m still experimenting with, and/or learning to use. (I.e., I’m not quite ready to give up on them.)

What I discovered from what I tossed:

  • I am DONE with lip gloss. No more. It doesn’t look good on me.
  • Even if it was expensive, if it doesn’t perform, it’s not worth keeping. There are so many amazing products available– why hang on to the duds?
  • Gifts-with-purchase and other random samples are not worth the space they take up. I’d rather choose my colors thoughtfully.

I’m pretty happy with what I have left. And I’ve decided that from here on out, I’ll implement a one-in, one-out rule. If I buy something new, something else will have to go. Since all I have left are things I like and use, this rule will make me think twice about my next impulse purchase.

Now that I’ve done this, I’m working up the courage to edit my clothes wardrobe. This is going to be a challenge, because I don’t actually own a lot of clothing.

But I do have a good number of pieces that I never wear. And I’ve decided they don’t need to be hanging in my closet.

My current (musical) obsession

Here’s how I listen to music.

I have about 50 of my favorite songs on my iPod. I listen to them until I’m bored. Then I listen to Pandora or Last.fm or some other music site, hoping to discover (or be reminded of) some new music that I might like.

When I discover (or rediscover) a new bit of music, I’ll purchase it and, more often than not, I’ll put it on a short playlist of extra-favorite-favorites on my iPod. And I’ll listen to it over and over. Sometimes I’ll listen to several different versions of the same composition. I’ll get to know the piece inside and out and finally I’ll get bored with it and it may or may not stay on my iPod as one of my favorites.

This week I discovered an old song by an artist whom I have loved since being introduced to his music in my high school French class  ca. 1979. I had a couple of his records, but I’d never heard this song, or at least I didn’t remember it.

Anyway, it’s a classic and very VERY beautiful– and I know I can appreciate it much more at my “certain age” than I ever could have as a high school student.


Jacques Brel sings La Chanson des Vieux Amants. That chorus makes me tear up every time!

There’s an English version that’s been frequently recorded, called “Song for Old Lovers”. It’s nice but I don’t think it quite does justice to the original French version. (Mr. Brel had a special way of putting it all out there with his lyrics.)

So anyway, about the song:

The song is about two lovers who, over the course of 20 years, have endured their share of ups and downs, infidelities, and fights, and yet the love remains. Here’s my own translation of the chorus:

My love,
My sweet, my tender, my marvelous love,

From the break of dawn until the end of the day
I love you still
You know
I love you.

(If you’re interested in an actual singable translation of the entire song, check out this very good one by musician Jeff Rosenberg.)

As you might have guessed, I’ve listened to many interpretations of this song by various artists. The original recording by Jacques Brel himself, despite its obviously dated orchestral accompaniment, remains my favorite version.

I like that he sings the melody as written, without extreme variations in tempo or other “tricks” typically used by artists to add drama to a performance. And yet, he manages to convey such deep expression. The chorus is sung three times during the song, and each time he sings it, it sounds different. But not in an obvious way. He was a true master.

Listen to yourself.

“Listen to the whispers, or soon you’ll be listening to the screams”

–folk proverb

The goal is not to be fashionable

“It’s easy to feel like you’ve got nothing to wear, but it’s also a signal of identity problems. If you’ve got a well-developed sense of identity, you tend to know what’s you no matter what the trends. Nothing I buy ever looks new, because I have my look down, and it’s classic.”

Anjelica Huston (Harper’s Bazaar, September 2006)

(I found it on T’s blog.)