Makeup always has been a mystery to me — like some sort of basic language every other female had learned while I was in Starbucks one day. If you’ve ever caught me staring intently at your face, it was because I’m trying to figure out what you did to look so good. I mean, how do you keep your eye shadow from flaking off? How do you know where to put blush? And what, exactly, am I supposed to highlight? Scary stuff. I approach buying makeup the same way I approach buying flowers for our yard: Embarrassed about my lack of knowledge, I go to the most generic store possible, avoid all helpful sales people who might ask me questions I can’t answer and hurriedly toss things in my cart based on whatever the tags say. (Part shade? Full sun? Fair skin with pink undertones?) However, while you can get away with that when it comes to our yard (Are the flowers blooming? Okay then.), when it comes to my 50-something-year-old face … not so much. I’d been vaguely dissatisfied for a few weeks when I happened to spot TV makeup artist Carmindy’s “Get Positively Beautiful” in my own bookshelves. I remembered getting it when I was in a mega bookstore a couple of years ago with the urge to BUY SOMETHING USEFUL RIGHT NOW but I couldn’t remember ever even opening it up. So I sat on the floor, paged through it and suddenly had the revelation: “I actually can do makeup. I can crack the code.” I’m not sure if it was the confident and straight-forward advice in the book (as opposed to Bobbi Brown‘s “Beauty,” which I’d bought a few years ago because everybody said she was THE makeup person for women-my-age but the book was a 400-level-class and I hadn’t even registered for Makeup 101) or if I was finally ready to learn, but suddenly it all made sense and I couldn’t wait to get started. First, I faced my pathetic makeup drawer. I ditched almost all of it: Broken blue eye shadows (That’s what you wear if you’ve got blue eyes, correct?), years-old foundations, concealers in all sorts of “colors,” dried tubes of mascara (Who can remember to close them?) and dark matte lipsticks guaranteed to last all week … or something. Then I went shopping, sticking to my generic-retailer approach for budgetary purposes. (Recognizing I was in a vulnerable state, I somehow subconsciously understood that a trip to the department-store cosmetic counter would result in a sizable dent, financial-wise.) Spending almost 30 thoughtfully intense minutes in the makeup aisle instead of my usual rushed drive-by shopping, I followed Carmindy’s advice and chose contrasting eye colors, light glossy lip colors and transparently pink cheeks. She also recommended lightweight glide-on primers and highlighters, which I’d never used. The result? I feel much more polished, feminine, prettier and put-together. The truth may be that makeup is sort of like exercise for me: Nobody may be able to tell the difference on my outside, but on my inside I sure feel better about myself. And, really, that should be all that matters. On the other hand, I had to get husband JP to help me open the L’Oreal True Match Naturale mineral blush I bought. I could not figure it out — Where does the powder come out? How do you attach the brush? He helpfully pointed out that a piece of plastic still covered the sifting holes even though I’d already removed one piece. Then he left me on my own. Carmindy … ???
You’re probably like me — you go through spurts of
obsessing over liking a specific clothing style and you simply cannot get enough of whatever it is and you’re determined to add to your closet every single one you find and can afford. Because if one is good, then more than one is better, yes? But not always. Best-forgotten phases for me include tribal scarves (I’d spend 20 minutes trying to get that carelessly-thrown-on look and then immediately pull the thing off a minute after I left the house because I felt silly. And as if I couldn’t breathe), yoga-inspired T-shirts (Note: Be careful about where Buddha is placed) and the unfortunate brown-pants period when I pretty much looked like a UPS delivery person. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) More successful forays have been into pencil skirts, non-see-through leggings (true treasures!) and shades-of-black sheath dresses that somehow disguise muffin tops and lumpy thighs. But the thing I’ve been reaching for when I’m not trying to fool people into thinking I’m a grownup I get home after work is a nice soft and comfortable henley top. You know — those sort-of preppy, cotton-knit, three-button, collarless and usually-quarter-sleeve pullovers. I can layer a T-shirt or a tank-top underneath, add a sweater or roll up the sleeves. So when women’s clothing company Fresh Produce offered to send me anything I wanted from its summer catalog in exchange for blogging about it, I bypassed all the easy-and-breezy (and relaxed-cute) dresses, shorts and skirts and went straight for the henley tops. Okay, I was influenced, as always, by the photo of carefree beach-walking, because that is what I wish I could do every single day. But, my new Buttonside Henley in Classic Stripe — I chose the cheerful Periwinkle color — is an acceptable substitute. Cool and casual, it fits perfectly. (Check the size chart because, according to Fresh Produce measurements, I needed to order a size down from my usual. And the size chart was correct.) Plus, this style passes the Husband Test — unlike the bright-pink jeans I’m waiting until he’s out of town to wear. Overall, a winner! Fresh Produce was co-founded and still is run by mom-entrepreneur Mary Ellen Veron and primarily is made in the U.S. You’ll find the clothing sold in Fresh Produce stores, online and in more than 500 specialty retailers throughout the U.S. and Caribbean.
This looks like a cute and perfectly basically simple purple sweater, doesn’t it? It’s from Cynthia Rowley, known for her free-spirited ladylike style, and Younger Daughter grabbed it with delight as we were picking through a TJ Maxx clearance rack. The front of this sweater looks as if it’s saying, “Put me on with a pair of jeans and killer boots and let’s have a great Sunday afternoon just kickin’ around.” It’s casually cool, which pretty much describes Younger Daughter. She was grinning as she placed her find in our cart. But then she picked the sweater back up, looking puzzled. Because she’d gotten a good look at the back, which looks as if it’s saying, “I used to be a super hero entitled to full-cape privileges but then got demoted to merely super assistant. Plus, my back is cold.”
Always optimistic, however, Younger Daughter tried the schizophrenic sweater on and and it fit perfectly. Always willing to
ruin new clothes by trying to rework them attempt alterations on my own, I offered to take it home and attack it with scissors fix it. Some careful trimming made it more wearable. But now when I watch Ms. Rowley on “24 Hour Catwalk,” I’m just sort of thinking, “Really, Cynthia? You don’t like that designer’s pink feathered-and-satin top with the velvet bows? Because I’ve seen what you do like, and honestly, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge.” And speaking of “24 Hour Catwalk,” can we somehow A) buy hairbrushes for Ms. Rowley and Alexa Chung — and demonstrate how to use them and B) ask Ms. Chung to please maybe wear clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear — or, if not, to stop talking about designers creating clothes that fit and have some relevance to what normal 21st-century women actually wear. Two-facedness Schizophrenia apparently is rampant.
We’re making our way through college football’s bowl season leading up to Monday’s Bowl Championship Series
once-in-a-century twice-in-a-century showdown between SEC West powerhouses LSU and Alabama. And the most pressing question is not “What? Them again?? When is ‘Dancing with the Stars’ coming back on???” but rather “How can I look stylish and exhibit team spirit while squashed between screaming drunk people while it’s 35 degrees outside?” At the recent Music City Bowl, Mississippi State fans pretty much took over the downtown area of host city Nashville, Tenn., and swamped the LP Stadium at game time with maroon and white. But opponent and eventual loser Wake Forest showed up with a few fans who braved the freezing temps in black and gold.
Have you seen maternity clothes lately? If you didn’t know these photos were taken in a baby/maternity boutique, would you have guessed? These are from Older Daughter’s current favorite shopping destination — Posh Mommy, in Madison, Ala. At close to seven months pregnant with 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s younger brother, she ends up here anytime she’s got a few spare minutes. Her favorite part of the store is the baby and children’s sections – more on that later — but she’ll still wander through the maternity aisles and point out her favorites. However, always the practical one, she won’t let me buy her one of these pretty dresses since, as she says, “I don’t go to an office anymore and I just wear yoga pants and t-shirts all the time so you should save your money.” But she looks beautiful and glowing in whatever she wears, and since she generally has better financial sense than I do, I
keep nagging her to try something on until she gets irritated and goes to look at receiving blankets graciously give in and do what she wants. Back to my original questions, though. Did you realize maternity clothes now are practically indistinguishable from regular clothes? I first noticed this trend four years ago during our first round of maternity shopping, but this time it’s even more pronounced. And I think I know why: Maternity clothes have become much more stylishly mainstream in the past 30 years or so (combining runway details with hidden expanding-tummy tricks) and, at the same time, regular clothes have become much more maternity-like (with empire waists, soft fabrics and flowing lines). It’s as if the two met in the middle and created a love-child of chic and sexy yet comfortably wearable non-maternity maternity wear. And yoga pants.
My husband looked at me contemplatively as I got dressed that morning. “Sweetie,” he said, “why are you wearing a camouflage shirt?” I didn’t think I’d heard him correctly. “A what?” I said. “I’m wearing a what?” He nodded his head as if to confirm his fashion diagnosis. “Yes. You’re wearing a camouflage shirt and I just wondered why.” I could not believe what I was hearing. “What’s wrong with you?” I said. “This is not a camouflage shirt. It’s an abstract floral pattern in earth tones — very ‘in’ for spring, I’ll have you know.” He just smiled. “Sure, dear,” he said. “Whatever you say. But it’s a camouflage shirt.” And, really, looking at these photos now, I can sort of see what he means. Just as long as y’all know it is not a camouflage shirt but it a highly stylish piece of fashion art. Or something. Also: I blame the neck wrinkles, tummy bulges and droopy boobs you see here on my husband’s photography and the fact that he would not let me do the half-turn hand-on-hip camera-friendly celebrity pose. And those are streaks of blonde in my hair, not streaks of gray. Other than that, though, this is pretty much me. Minus the camouflage shirt.