Tuesday, November 23, 2010

California Dreamin'

The blustery New England wind can blow all it wants, but I'm keeping warm with daydreams of sunny California. Since the story I'm working on is set in L.A., I decided to create a West Coast-inspired Polyvore set... and fantasize about hopping on a plane, flying off into the sunset! Here are some looks I envision my fictional character wearing... shopping for vintage at Wasteland, cruising the Venice Beach boardwalk, hiking in Runyon Canyon... ok, so these are not exactly hiking clothes, but you get the idea. Here is my dream wardrobe for L.A., where I wouldn't even have to think of a winter coat!

Yes, I'm in total denial that winter is on its way. Tell me, what do you dream of wearing when the weather turns frosty?

Writing La La Land

Life has been pretty crazy for this aspiring fashion writer of late. So today, I'd thought a share a little of my latest project with you all... I'm working on a novel (November is National Novel Writing Month, after all!) that could accurately be categorized as "chick lit," or even its subcategory, "shoe lit," though I prefer to think of it as a screwball comedy in the vain of a Doris Day/Rock Hudson film featuring a plucky female lead and dashing leading man... yes, I picture it as more of a film. Maybe I will turn it into a screenplay, eventually. For now, I've got a first chapter that's rife with fashion cliches and vapidity, but still a lot of fun. So, I thought why not post an excerpt here and see what you think? Then tell me, what creative pursuits have you been working on lately?

I’ve been working at Star Tracker since my 24th birthday. After surviving various retail jobs around Los Angeles, including, but not limited to, a year and a half as a Coffee Bean barista and one epic day as a shoe saleswoman, landing an administrative assistant position at Star Tracker made me feel like I’d struck gold. Sure, I was a mere receptionist, quickly relegated to 'coffee slave' status, but still, I was overjoyed— I earned twice as much fetching coffee as I did slinging it.

I stuck out the position for over two years, gradually piping up to Gloria Bishop, editor-in-chief, that I could write and edit, too. After all, I did have a communications degree, along with a few decent newspaper and publishing internships. I took on as many editing projects as possible while sitting at the front desk, and maintained my own fashion blog on the side (which, ahem, I never updated on the job). Impressed with my work ethic, Gloria promoted me to editorial assistant when there was an opening. I worked primarily in the news room, though I was ultimately aiming for the fashion department. Imagine my surprise when, a year later, I was promoted to assistant beauty editor. And that’s the title I’ve held ever since. If I stick around, there’s a chance I could become the beauty editor, but I’m not holding my breath. “Fashion Editor” is all I’ve ever wanted, but that job belongs to the fierce Vanessa Cane. And she’s not letting it go anytime soon, no more than she would drop an Alexander McQueen clutch at a sample sale.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t volunteer to pick up her slack, when needed. Truth be told, I can be a bit of kiss-up at work. It’s not like I love my job to death and want to stay here forever; but I do like my job, and wouldn’t mind advancing as much as I can and getting a solid recommendation before I attempt to work at another magazine. And, just between you and me, I’m really sick of beauty. I know many women, especially L.A. ones, live and die by their beauty products, but it’s never really been my thing. I mean, it’s been three years since I started working in beauty editorial, and I still haven’t got a clue how to keep my self-tanner from streaking. And I swear by drugstore brands, which most of the other girls find deplorable. Sure, I like Nars the Multiple too, but not when I have to pay for it myself; and why spend a week’s worth of groceries when blush by Maybelline works just as well? But, then, whenever I receive a high-end beauty sample, I’m as giddy as any other girl.

So today I’m planning to stage a little coup d'état in the fashion department. There’s a big shoot coming up next week with some major film stars, and I desperately want to pull some of the looks for the spread. It’s a major opportunity because Star Tracker usually relies on paparazzi photos of celebrities and rarely stages its own fashion shoots; this one is unique because it’s for our holiday fashion issue (which was mainly my idea, though no one will give me credit for it; no one “remembers” that I started pitching it back in July). Anyway, I’ve offered my assistance for the past few months, but no one is biting. Now that I’ve learned that Lucy and Vanessa are swamped, however, I feel like there’s a very good chance that Gloria will delegate some tasks to me. I hope.

I take a deep breath and approach her office door, knocking cautiously.

“Gloria, could I have a moment?”

“Yes,” she clips in her British accent, “only very briefly, as I’m trying to concentrate.”

I venture in and see she’s clutching the latest People StyleWatch.

“Ah, StyleWatch,” I point out, attempting a joke. “I hear there are some pretty good 'articles' this month.”

“It’s all right,” Gloria muses, flipping a page. “A tad wordy for my tastes, though. So what can I do for you?”

Oh, boy. I’m tempted to rub my clammy palms on my J. Crew skirt, but Gloria would notice. Instead I clasp them in front of me.

“Well,” I begin. “I know we’re all gearing up for the holiday issue, and it’s come to my attention that Lucy and Vanessa seem a bit… overwhelmed. I was wondering if I might take on a few extra projects to relieve the fashion department next week.”

There, I’ve said it. Gloria arches one perfectly shaped brow, pondering.

“I see.” She closes her magazine and sets it down, then looks up at me. “Amy, do you know why I hired you as assistant beauty editor?”

Other than throwing me a bone with a promotion after three years of enslaved drudgery, I couldn’t say. I just shake my head “no.”

“I was impressed with your adherence to deadlines and overall tenacity. But mainly, I gave you the job because you have flawless skin.”

My hand flies to my cheek, self-consciously. Really? I’m flattered, as superficial as it sounds, and can feel my face getting hot.

“This shows that you care about beauty. Plus you always recommend pharmacy brands; readers really like that.”

Well, gee, I want to say, shocking that stay-at-home moms in the Midwest and college students can’t afford to run out and buy La Mer. This assistant beauty editor in L.A. can’t afford it, either! Why would I recommend anything I wouldn’t use myself? But there’s no point in bringing this up to Gloria.

“So while I would like to see you in fashion, I really would, I can’t help but think that you simply belong in beauty. Fashion is a great place to work, but let’s be honest, Amy. You’ve never shown much initiative there.”

What?!? I want to scream. I’ve shown plenty of freaking initiative over the years! What about all the looks I’ve pulled, the stories I’ve pitched, the way I’ve pushed the holiday fashion issue? Does all of that count for nothing?

“I mean, look at Vanessa,” Gloria is still talking, somehow. I swivel a glance over my shoulder at the fashion editor, who is prancing around in a curve-hugging Louis Vuitton sheath with sleek Louboutins, accessorized with a Chanel bag. Of course. Just another day at the office for her. I want to mention to Gloria that Vanessa has maxed out fifteen credit cards and lives off celery, but manage to hold my tongue.

“Vanessa,” Gloria continues, “brings her dedication and expertly-honed fashion sense into work every day.” She gives me a disapproving once-over. “I’m afraid I can’t say the same for you.”

I glance down at my floral Anthropologie cardigan, which wasn’t cheap, mind you, and J. Crew brocade skirt, paired with chic, and affordable, nude pumps from Aldo. It’s one of my favorite outfits. It’s comfortable, polished and office-appropriate. Is Gloria telling me that the only way I can work in fashion is by going into serious debt wearing haute couture? To the office?

Ah. She’s read my mind. “I do like your mish-mash of H&M and Target clothes, dear, but it’s rather dowdy, I’m afraid. I would think if you were so interested in fashion, you’d try something a little more… edgy.” Dismissively, she picks up her StyleWatch again. “So until I see some more initiative from you, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay right where you are. Besides, I still need you to submit your selections for next week’s beauty editorial. And if I don’t see Chanel’s holiday nail polish collection, we’re going to have a serious problem.”

Bam. Gloria’s written me off, just like that. Still, my foot is in the door, literally, so I’m not about to give up that easily.

“I understand, Gloria,” I say sweetly. “I’ll try to make more of an effort. But in the meantime, I think the fashion department could really use a few extra hands on this shoot. And,” I can’t resist adding, “My editorial is nearly finished. I’ll have it to you this afternoon.”

“Well…” Gloria doesn’t bother looking up from her magazine. “Let’s see what Vanessa thinks, shall we? Vanessa!”

Great. Not Vanessa. The whole point of approaching Gloria was so I could go over Vanessa’s head, and my assistance would be an order from above that she couldn’t refuse. Now Gloria is giving her a choice. And Vanessa doesn’t like doing anyone any favors.

She comes bounding over, her long, silky blonde waves making her look like an eager golden retriever. “Yes, Gloria?”

Gloria, still pretending to be immersed in StyleWatch, simply says, “Amy would like to help with the fashion editorial for next week’s shoot. Could you see if there’s some little task she could do?”

Vanessa, too, gives my outfit a once-over, and seems to curl her lips in disgust. Nice.

“I suppose she could help with the steaming,” Vanessa sniffs. She? Vanessa is looking right at me as she says this, but can’t be bothered to address me herself.

“Very good.” Gloria waves her hand. “Off you go, then.”

Vanessa smirks at me as she slinks back to her desk.

Steaming? I want to scream. I haven’t steamed garments since I worked retail. That’s something interns do, and they work for free. What about the editorial? I’m opening my mouth to protest when Lucy cuts in.

“Gloria, really. Can’t we just get the interns to do it? We’ve got, like, twenty more looks to pull, and I think we could really use Amy’s eye. She’d make a killer stylist, you know.” She gives me a wink, then turns a hopeful face to Gloria. Vanessa, meanwhile, is shooting her assistant a death glare.

I can see Gloria considering this. Lucy is awesome. She’s never afraid to stick her neck out for someone else. She doesn’t even care if she gets reprimanded, since she only took this job so she could one day start her own styling business. She vows she’ll quit the minute she has enough money saved up. Only problem is, to look the part of an on-trend stylist, Lucy has to stay in fashion… and spend a lot of money trying. Every time she drains her savings account for great vintage, she swears it’s a business investment. Fashion is full of double-edged swords like this. But Lucy promises to hire me as her assistant once business is booming. This is why she’s my best friend in the office, even if her job is way cooler than mine and I secretly hate her for it.

© Erin C. Dale 2010

And there you have it. Thanks for reading if you got to the end of this scene! I'll keep you posted on any future developments. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I'll be in New York for the weekend and hope to have some fun photos to share when I get back.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

About face

We've had a few interesting debates on here lately, from dealing with skin care woes to whether or not to wear animal skins. I love hearing all of you weigh in! Now I want to take a moment to further discuss these issues.

No moisturizer? Results!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about visiting a new dermatologist who told me I could defeat acne by simply cutting out moisturizer. As in completely. As in... Sahara Desert Face? Some of you shared that - surprise! - you agree, and never touch the stuff yourself. Others felt, like me, that they would simply shrivel up and die without it. So what's the verdict? My results have been mixed.

After my first day of skipping lotion, my face felt predictably dry and itchy. But instead of panicking and reaching for the nearest tube, I decided to wait it out. Eventually, my skin got a bit of a dewy, not oily, sheen, but overall looked pretty matte. When I added makeup, it stayed fairly matte, but only if I stuck to just concealer and mineral powder (the brand I use may contain some oil; I'm researching so I can swap it out). If I used foundation, my skin got dry and scaly. After moisturizing one particularly dry spot (I had to!), a pimple appeared the next day. This one was stubborn and stuck around for nearly a week! But I toughed it out and stopped moisturizing again. Now I've taken to exfoliating any dry skin gently with warm washcloth. I've switched to Cetaphil cleanser, and it seems to be working because it's super gentle (it drives me crazy that it doesn't foam, though!).

So for those of you afraid of foregoing lotion, like me... if you have oily skin, I recommend that you give it a shot. I thought that I had combination, not oily, skin, but skipping moisturizer has allowed the dry and oily zones on my face to even out. My complexion isn't perfect, but I feel confident with less makeup now. We'll see how things go in winter months, when I will probably need a dab of lotion here and there to avoid Desert Face. Otherwise, I'm sticking with the no-lotion plan!

When I do use moisturizer (naughty, naughty), I find that Neutrogena's oil-free formula for combination skin works best for me. I've tried other "oil-free" formulas from more high-end brands, but this one seems to be the least pore-clogging, most moisturizing lotion of them all. And it doesn't make my face too shiny! Win.

Leathering frights?

Sorry, lame attempt at a pun. Anyway, last week I posted a few faux-leather bags that are chic enough to pass for the real thing but at budget-friendly prices. You chimed in that you while you like to snap up a bargain from time to time, for the most part you prefer leathergoods for their durability.

Years back, I would have said the same thing (I would have also made a wisecrack about enjoying steak). I used to prize my collection of Fossil bags and my mom's eighties-era tan bomber jacket. And actually, I still own a few (vintage) leather items in my wardrobe: tan Frye boots bought for a song ($10 thrift find!) and an evergreen Oscar de la Renta purse. These are timeless, cherished pieces.

But they were purchased in my pre-vegetarian days. Now that I eschew animal products in my diet, I feel it would be hypocritical for me to wear animals on my person. I know that not everyone out there shares my views, obviously, or there would be no leather or fur in fashion (eco-conscious designers like Stella McCartney are working on that, however!). And of course, I would love to own a Chanel bag as much as the next fashion blogger. But I can't ignore my convictions, and how queasy it makes me feel to think of animals being electrocuted and ripped apart for their skins. Once upon a time, people needed animal skins and furs to keep warm; in the modern era, it's just unnecessary, and I can't justify animals suffering for the sake of fashion. These convictions are part of who I am, and the main reason I plan to eventually study and practice animal law. That might just be my special mission in life. I'm not asking you to do the same, but I am asking you to consider these things when you shop.

"Moo!" = "I love you."

Some of you have astutely pointed out that PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a chemically-produced thermoplastic material often used as a leather alternative, is arguably more harmful to the earth than leather, as the latter will naturally break down over time. And I agree; PVC is much more destructive for the planet. Obviously leather is more harmful to the animals. And obviously, I would have to choose the lesser of two evils here. But a true environmentalist would probably say no to both, and simply go vintage. A lot of my fellow fashion bloggers have a mean talent for thrifting, and I admire that!

What we need in the fashion marketplace are stylish, cruelty-free bags that will please even the most discerning shoppers, not just eco-fashionistas. Believe it or not, there are plenty of great up and coming designers who offer just that. To create bags that are fashion-forward, animal-friendly, and with leather's durability, these handbag crafters often reach for recycled materials. Here are a few of my favorite brands:

Matt & Nat

I'm sure you've heard of this stellar company by now. Trailblazers in the eco-fashion movement, Matt & Nat's "vegan leather" bags are made from some surprising recycled materials (paper! plastic water bottles?). And they look amazing! They are very high-fashion, and the prices are a little steep, but no more than you'd pay for, say, a purse from a good department store. The company's most recent endeavor is a partnership with Apple, creating stylish laptop bags.

Susan Nichole

Endorsed by vegan superwoman Alicia Silverstone, who features only the most eco-friendly products on her blog, these bags are crafted from recyclable materials, so no worries about them one day rotting in a landfill. And, oh, they're pretty! This is my favorite:

Maxine Dillon

Now here's a cool concept: got a jacket you never wear anymore but can't bear to part with? L.A. designer Maxine Dillon will upcycle it into a slouchy-chic bag. The bucket shape was a huge bag trend this year, so you'll look like you nabbed a cool new it-bag... sourced from your own closet! What an ingenious way to give that boyfriend jean jacket a second life.

You're all savvy shoppers, so if you can think of any other great brands or designers that deserve to be spotlighted, do share! As always, thanks for speaking your mind!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Best in Faux

As an animal-loving vegetarian, I love it when fashion meets compassion. Luckily for me (and any of you who prefer not to wear animal skins, and love saving a greenback or two), there are more faux fashion options out there than ever. I never have a problem finding great bags or shoes that resemble high-end pieces-- my black Aldo purse with gold hardware is so used and abused, it looks just like my mom's broken-in Coach bag, and I live in my faux-leather western booties from Zara! I could easily gush over wallet/animal-friendly finds enough to fill an entire website. But for simplicity's sake, today I'm going to focus on bags from two savvy online retailers. Here are a few of my favorite fall/winter beauties that will help hold your stuff and keep your outfits looking hot when temperatures drop!

This versatile plaid bag from ShopRuche.com reminds me of one from L.L. Bean, but the slouchy shape makes it a bit more fashion-forward. It's still every bit as functionable as a sturdy tote, but the gold details keep it chic! You won't be mistaken for a lumberjack with this!

Ruche also sells this structured tote for the business profashional. But the Debriefing bag isn't strictly business; the braided handle and twist-turn lock add a vintage, feminine vibe. Perfect for work or weekend!

It-Brit online retailer Asos finally launched its U.S. site last month and, boy, are we lucky! In addition to offering up-to-the-minute fashions at sweet prices, it has a fantastic accessories section. The Maisey Patent bag by Paul's Boutique has been seen on the likes of Leona Lewis, who is a vegan and known for eschewing animal materials. This bag is available is many colors, but I love this winter white; the nude shade will work well into spring and summer, too. And the colorful charms are too cute to resist!

Lastly, feast your eyes on this Asos Faux Ostrich Lady Bag. This reminds me of one Urban Outfitters sold last year, but I think this pick is even more sophisticated. This tote will lend polish to work and casual ensembles and, in a classic camel color, will never go out of style. Plus you can feel good sporting a rockin' bag and knowing that no actual ostriches were harmed for the sake of style!

Just so you know, no one paid me to blog about these purses; these are just my latest faves/wish list items. I hope to purchase something like one of these in the near future, but always look for vintage, thrifted or eco-friendly versions first (and while faux leather bags are animal-free, their materials are not always good for Mama Earth!). Tell me, where are your favorite places to nab accessories? And how do you feel about real vs. faux?

Next time, we'll get back to discussing our great debate: moisturizer! Evil zit-maker or sacred face-saver? You decide!