Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lit Cosmetics review and swatches, part the first.

Dare I say it, I've been stuck in an eye makeup rut. I fell out of love with MAC pigments a long time ago when they shafted their customers changed the jars (although my train case full of them perhaps belies that statement), and in any case, all the colours I really loved weren't eye safe, which frankly sucked. On a day-to-day basis my work makeup is pretty dull. I usually rely on lipstick to jazz things up. But there has been a bit of a creativity void where beautiful, colourful eyeshadow once was, and I miss it.

So I was very excited to discover a company called Lit Cometics. They make eye-safe glitters in a huge number of shades, four different sizes, and when coupled with their liquid glitter base your glitter will stay put all night. Needless to say I was sold. I hung about, wanting to order but trying to justify it, and then heard (via their facebook page) that they were making some very generous Black Friday offers (which also happens to fall right before my birthday, meaning unusually I had spare reddies). So I jumped right in!

The ordering process

I found the website a little confusing at first, but this is mostly just because it's a bit different from the standard cartel cut and paste shop website. It's actually really intuitive: you flick through their catalogue, select things that look interesting, and click to add to the cart (which is displayed at all times under the catalogue). Something I really like is that products stay in your cart via cookies for the next time you visit; this means I can compile a wishlist, leave it, and know it will still be there when I come back.

Once I decided what I wanted, I managed to check out with no issues, and left Jodie Perks, the owner, a little note thanking her for the sale and for supplying me with a birthday gift-to-self. In the end I decided to just order glitter, rather than a bottle of the liquid base, because I was trying to be frugal and I wasn't sure if I'd really need a whole bottle of it when it would probably work OK with pixie epoxy or similar. I got an email a couple of hours later letting me know when the parcel would be shipped (30th November).

On December 6th - my birthday! - the parcel arrived. A week from Canada is good going! The first thing I noticed is that she had undercharged me for shipping, which was really sweet, although I did wonder how glitter managed to weigh so much. I soon found out: she'd put in a mini sample kit of the liquid base, a glitter puff, and some brushes - and the liquid base comes in (heavy!) glass jars. I was so touched. Also included was a long handwritten happy birthday note with some great tips for using the glitter, and a pink glitter I hadn't ordered. How's that for amazing customer service? I honestly can't think of another company I've used that have impressed me so much - Illamasqua come seriously close, but this was above and beyond. 10/10. Awesome.

The product

If you order them separately, the glitter comes in little screw top jars encased in clear plastic boxes. You can if you wish remove the lids and screw them together, since the base of each jar acts as a 'lid' (I believe the stack kits come - well, pre-stacked). I can tell you they're well packaged, because I broke a nail trying to open it! The packaging is really appropriate for the brand - it's fun, but expensive and classic. They feel really nice to hold and certainly push my aesthetic buttons.

You get a decent amount in a jar and don't have to use very much each time. The application method is to dip the brush in the base, smush any excess off against the side of the jar, then stick one side of it in the glitter. Being an idiot and a klutz I was worried I would make a mess of the application, but it was dead easy to do. The liquid doesn't come off IN the glitter, which is something I had worried about, and it's not difficult to get an even application. It dries down to an even finish and lasts. Hurray!

The colours

I ordered Beach Baby, Soul Sister, Hulk, Rich and Famous, Seeing Stars, and Siberian. Jodie kindly included Pretty in Pink as a bonus. I strongly recommend clicking to embiggen; glitter looks amazing in close up and one of my smarter moves was blowing quite a lot of money on a macro lens, which now has a happy and fulfilled life taking pictures of makeup and nails. Arm swatches are below, with the colours listed L-R.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Information overload

Something I am very interested in as a social scientist (even if it does't directly touch on the kind of things I write about on a day-to-day basis) is the concept of heuristics and biases. In effect, these are the things we use to make decisions without thinking - rules of thumb and innate leanings that we develop both as individuals and as a species. They don't always serve us very well, as when we cease worrying about earthquakes because there hasn't been one for ages (geologically speaking, the riskiest time) or when we start devising stereotypes and discarding any information we gather than doesn't fit what we expect to see (which is a big problem when you start considering how that impacts our perception of individuals we do't know very well).

Associated with this is the fact that we tend to default to snap, intuitive judgments when we don't have much time, or there is no obvious need to devote brainpower to a problem. Dan Gardner calls this 'Gut' vs 'Head'. Gut is a caveman, Head is a lazy teenager, and they're both fighting for control of the wheel. Whilst I think the book doesn't exactly break the mould - if you've read any social science, none of what Gardner says will be new - he does communicate the principles of evolutionary psychology and probabilistic judgment in a witty and engaging way, and I liked the analogies he uses to explain often quite inaccessible concepts. So, I will borrow the Gut/Head analogy, because it's a nice way of explaining the issue that has led me to write this post: when I buy shoes, Gut and Head have a falling out.

Gut was in charge when I bought these

No, really. More than any other item of clothing, shoes leave me painfully divided over whether to go for love or the practical option. With clothes, beautiful fabrics can seduce me into choosing something that it both beautiful and sensible, since half the joy of wearing clothes is the sensation of having something that feels amazing next to your skin. But there is no such pay off with shoes. Inevitably the shoes I love are not the ones that will do my feet any good at all. Hence, my Gut will pick a pair of shoes, and my Head will say 'no'.
Head: That's £88's worth of 'no, you're not having them'

So where does this leave me? Totally paralysed, usually. On the one hand, I am able to very quickly select shoes I love. (I mean...who isn't?). But when Head gets involved trying to select shoes I need, I usually end up confused and upset, flicking through 3,000 pairs of semi-identical black flats on Shopstyle, and so fed up that I no longer want to leave the house ever again.

This is another example of our dysfunctional brains, by the way. Rationally, you would expect that the more information we have, the better able we would be to make good decisions - because you could sum up which information corroborates others, and therefore which has the most weight. But we can't. Once we get past a critical mass of information, we freeze up, and can no longer prioritise which is most important (as Malcom Gladwell, the author of Blink, explains). And once I've put 'black flat knee boots' into google, it isn't very long before I'm reduced to a sobbing wreck, pummelled by information I don't want or care about.

Google helps us sift through information, but it also gives us access to a huge quantity of it. And it's virtually impossible to make meaningful decisions about the range of options now available to us. One shoe shop is manageable, but an entire globe's worth isn't. Which is why, without Gut (who has a penchant for 6" block heels in bright colours) to guide me, I can't pick shoes I will actually wear to save my life.

Perhaps I should just go with Gut and buy the blue snake print heels.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Unicorn Pee boots: Fluevog Grand Nationals

Apologies in advance for a pretty epic post. If you're not into boots: move along, nothing to see here.

I like to think I'm not that materialistic (okay...I'm lying, I am) but right now I am as happy as a pig in the proverbial. A pair of boots I've been wanting since 2005 have turned up on my doorstep. Behold:

These are Fluevog Grand Nationals.

The Grand Nationals were my dream boot. I first spied them in '04/'05 when the re-runs were being promoted. I ummed and ahhed, but having just started University I was pretty broke having spent all my money on pies and beer. Also, with the internet in its infancy, I seem to recall that Fluevog at the time only took payment from us international types via carrier pigeon. Not really, it was international money order, which I never got the hang of. Thank God for Paypal!

Anyway, I kept half an eye out in the subsequent years. They popped up occasionally, but always right after a mortgage payment had gone out, and usually in a size that led me to contemplate whether I'd really miss the ends of my toes. And then while idly browsing ebay, I found that a seller had listed a whole bunch of nearly new pairs. In my size. I was on a train at the time and I believe my fellow passengers may have thought I was having some kind of seizure.

A little history

Monday, 14 November 2011

My Latest Project

Yeah, so sorry for being such a lazy blogger. I prefer to think of it as 'active real-life participant'. In the last couple of weeks I've made a trip to Europe for a conference, stayed over in another city for work a couple of times, taken on extra hours, done marking, gone to parties, AND (this is probably the kicker) got through three seasons of the X Files, one of The Big Bang Theory, and purchased Skyrim. For the last couple of weeks my laptop has sat in my office, unused and unloved, gathering dust. But it's good to step away every now and again. For the soul, if not the PhD.

Anyway, I have recently developed a project. I know I'm several years late to this (although Jenine of The Coveted posted on the topic recently, so that's all right then), but I have recently started coveting a pair of red jeans. I can just seem them working perfectly rolled up in my summer wardrobe, or with blazer and heels for winter. Sadly I probably won't look like this, but I can try:

DaniDaniRamirez on Chictopia

BUT. I hate buying jeans. Hate it with every fibre of my being. As my mother says, 'I know teenagers are a bit histrionic, but I remember taking you jeans shopping when you were younger and being shocked by of your reaction. I'm not sure it's normal to express suicidal urges because jeans don't fit you.' To date, in my early to mid twenties, I have found only two pairs of jeans that fit my childbearing hips (and don't cost £200), one of which is Topshop's Kristen high waist. (Well, they're not perfect - the 26 is too tight and the 28 too loose, but I can't have it all, and at least they don't fall down). The current season don't come in red, but they do come in Cerise:

Topshop Kristen Jeans

Having seen them in the flesh, they're much more pink than red, but being 98% cotton they should take a dye. To be sure, I managed to hunt down a pair of the 28/32 (to be precise, my mum hunted down a pair - I can always count on the backwaters of South West London to have stock of things that are sold out anywhere else), on the assumption that they'll probably shrink during the hot wash necessary for the dye to take, and therefore fit me perfectly. Hopefully.

Now all I have to do is choose from the confusing range of red idye colours and not feck up the dyeing process. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Panic at the....H&M?

My local H&Ms have been doing a deal lately where you get a £5 gift card with your purchases, which is then valid the following week. I buy a lot of my plain tees and socks from H&M so I thought it would be worth buying a long sleeve tee or something in order to take advantage of a future £5 off.

This was a bad plan.

There are two H&Ms near me: one in the city centre, and one in a local town. I live roughly equidistant between the two. I prefer the smaller one, since it has a better stock of basics, but I usually have more opportunity to visit the city centre branch while waiting for the train to work (chock full of polyester, antler prints and lurex hotpants though it is). So I nipped in to the large store in order to buy something boring and vaguely useful and acquire my voucher.

I'm very bad at shopping with a time limit (if I miss my train, I do not get paid, and this is bad for my shopping habits). This is especially the case at H&M, where the standard is so variable. Price is also an unusually bad indicator of quality in that store - I've had beautiful organic cotton tops for £7.99, and pieces of total crap for £20. And everything looks the bloody same! When I search their website for jersey tops, for example, I get over 100 hits, at similar prices. Trying to sort through the store for a diamond in the rough therefore seems like the physical equivalent of googling.

So, obviously, I walked out with the first stripey thing I saw. It turns out it makes me itch. Mistake #1.

This set the scene for Mistake #2, in which I go back the following week. I wanted a stripey top that did not make me itch. I had 20 minutes before the store closed and I had to run for my 8.10pm train. And this was the last day the voucher was valid, so that 20 minutes was it. I was hunting through the store, feeling up everything in sight (too thin! Too see through! Too itchy!), starting to feel like a particularly substandard version of Jack Bauer from 24. Trying to find a top isn't exactly saving the bloody world, is it? I finally found something I didn't loathe, took it to the tills, queued until the next ice age, and at last reached the front. While standing there I idly checked the tag and realised it was a US 10, not a UK 10.

At this point I gave up and went home. I had a brief glow of satisfaction where I reflected on the fact that I had resisted the temptation to buy something, anything, for the sake of getting my £5 worth of free.

On the train home I remembered that I needed socks.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Things I like more than clothes #1: RPGs

A saying I really like is, 'something is worth what you are willing to give up to obtain it'. I try to keep this in mind when deliberating over things to add to the wardrobe - is it really worth giving up on the possibility that I might find something similar, and better, in the future? Is it worth more to me than the other purchases I might make with the money? But, of course, this notion of trading off more for less valuable, present for future joy, applies to many more interesting and important things in life than simply 'do I buy these jeans?'. I am hoping to make some kind of series about these choices and the other aspects of my life that come into the mix (life beyond the wardrobe?), but frankly, there aren't that many things I like more than clothes, so it might be quite a limited series.

I was inspired to write this particular post by two things.The first is that, despite wailing the other day that I have NO MONEY and therefore can't get any of the things I want (mostly sweaters. I am cold.) I still managed to mysteriously find some reddies down the back of the sofa to put a deposit down on Skyrim, which comes out next month. (Also sushi, but I like to think that food doesn't count, even if it's Wagamamas food).

The second is that after installing IOS5 on my iphone, the first thing I did is change my text tone to the 'level up!' noise from Final Fantasy XII. (My ringtone is now the Chocobo riding sound. Yes, I am that big a gimp).

I would totally dress like this all the time if I could

My favourites aside from FFXII are Dragon Age (although I didn't much like the second one) and the aforementioned Elder Scrolls franchises. I am a bit of a nerd about RPG universes. I've probably racked 1,000 hours on Oblivion and 400 or so on FFXII. Dragon Age is probably about 4-500 across all the playthroughs, especially if you count the second one, although I've also read the books and comics. I am quite selective about my RPG devotion though (needfully, given that I need to find time to write a PhD and sleep occasionally) and probably only pick up one or two a year. I don't tend to play that many other games aside from RPGs, either. (Although I love the Project Zero/Fatal Frame series).

I do wonder though if the stylistic aspect comes into my love for them, though.  I tend to get really caught up in the costuming and architecture of RPG universes and to that end tend to prefer fantasy over sci fi universes (I've never quite got into Mass Effect). Fran from FFXII and Morrigan from DA are probably my favourite characters, and I suspect that probably has something to do with their overall sass and preference for ridiculous gravity defying clothing. If I could find time in my daily life to go out in very few clothes and kick the asses of some mythical beasts, I obviously would.

Alas, life is not like that. Fortunately Skyrim comes out in reading week, so I fully intend to put the auto office on for les √©tudiants, turn my phone off, and ignore everyone for a week or so. The last time an RPG took over my life, when Dragon Age came out, I made the mistake of letting slip to a student how nerdy I was about it. The following week I got really ill (word to the wise: PAY ATTENTION to the date code on pat√©!) and had to postpone a seminar. When I got back, one of the kids asked me if I had actually been sick, or was just playing Dragon Age. According to my Skyrim out of office, therefore, I am going somewhere exotic, with no internet.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Bottom Line

As you might imagine, I can idle away hours sighing over bloggers' beautiful wardrobes and lusting after their style, their choices, the way they put things together. Envying their knack, perhaps. However, 9 times out of 10 the closet envy is entirely hypothetical because their shape is entirely different to mine. (This is not always the case - Carrie at wishwishwish for example is a fantastic advocate for the curvy and stylish, and I adore her blog - but I digress).

It is a constant source of annoyance to me that the kind of edgy, androgynous style I adore on others and would naturally gravitate towards looks awful on me. Have you tried pairing a beautifully cut, sheer, Helmut Lang-esque mannish shirt and big boobs? I have, and the result wasn't overly gratifying. I have stood in changing rooms more times than I can count, festooned with clothes that bag in unexpected places, cling where they shouldn't, and make me look like a kicking cat in a sack, and concluded that my figure spoils everything. Or, everything with a modern cut.

Now, if the internet is to be believed, this is a common complaint. I have more than a passing interest in vintage (particularly 40s-70s...the 80s and 90s are not decades that I am ready to look over with rose-tinted spectacles yet) and an awful lot of the forums dedicated to vintage and rockabilly dressing tend to be filled with ladies who gravitated towards those styles of dress because they suit their body shape and because they fit. Some of the best-fitting clothes I own were made in the 1950s and 1960s. Whilst I am very glad that this is the case, I have a selfish annoyance that most clothing I can find on the high street doesn't conform to my body anywhere near as well.

Why? Well, according to this 2004 survey, as reported by the BBC (from whom the below image is from), mean body shape has changed quite a bit since 1951.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The List: Winter 2011 edition

I try to keep some kind of up-to-date list of the sorts of things I want to avoid overbuying and being tempted, magpie-like, by things that are entirely inappropriate. (Usually featuring lace, mesh, and 6 inch heels). Equally, I am trying to spread my purchases into the future, so rather than buying everything I need for winter *this* winter, it's helpful to remind myself that there will be winters in the future where I will also probably want warm boots. Ahem.

With that in mind, here is the sketchy list:

1. Wool skirt

I have a real mish-mash of skirts. There's quite a lot of cheapies from Topshop that seemed like a good idea at the time, but upon getting them home I discovered that the worsted wool/poly fabrics attract cat hair like nobody's business. So I'd quite like a wool skirt, in a neutral colour, that doesn't make me look like a low-budget Yeti.

Aside from the fact that the fabric has to be nice, I'm surprisingly unfussed about other features. I like skirts of all lengths. I probably wear minis more than anything else, but pencil skirts flatter my shape best. I've been coveting a Burberry kilt for ages, but because I am deeply fussy about colour and details it will probably be another age before I actually get one. (Read: hunt one acceptable to me down on eBay at a bargain price).

My favourite is this one from the amazing Sophistikitten, but she's not taking orders at the moment. Repeat after me: You do not need everything right now. You do not need everything right now. I'm pretty sure this skirt would be worth the wait.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Doug Wardrobe

I don't know if you've ever seen the children's programme Doug. It used to be on in the UK early on Saturday mornings, and I was one of those children who would be up at the crack of dawn on a weekend, with the TV on, because my parents slept in. (I have no idea where that person went. Trying to rouse me before 10 on a Saturday now is like trying to wake a sleeping lion).

Anyway, one of the in-jokes in Doug was that he only ever wore the same clothes (a green tank top, khaki cut-offs, and a white t-shirt) and whenever he (or one of his buddies) opened their wardrobe, it was filled with myriad identikit versions of these items. This image must have tickled me and others of my generation, because I had a running joke with a friend of mine from school that our English teacher had a 'Doug Wardrobe': many dark navy linen suits and rumpled pale blue shirts, all the same.

At the time we thought it was slightly pitiable (and of course, I was entirely in a position to be doling out stylistic judgment, what with my pink hair and massive grunge jumpers) but in retrospect I am now actively trying to cultivate something similar. Funny how things change. I'm not sure if it's a symptom of getting more boring, or simply knowing what you like.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Want more. Need Less.

...A blog about style, and capitalism. Those two natural bedfellows.

Why? Well, predominantly it's an act of selfishness. In my day job I work in a University, writing up (honestly, supervisor) a PhD thesis on economic governance. Money, and the politics of money, is my thing. In my first year of University, when the others on my course were discussing the Labour party, Plato, and the Middle East Peace crisis; I was getting stuck into Marx's Paris Manuscripts and ranting about the fiscal rules of the Eurozone. Needless to say this made me very popular.

When not ranting about the Eurozone, I am usually to be found immersed in the world of couture. Slavishly devouring the new Dior collection. Dribbling over editorials in Vogue. Wondering whether I can possibly find an occasion to justify commissioning a new corset. (The answer is usually 'no', by the way). And it struck me, when reading the style blogs I most enjoy, that in fact these two things are far more connected than most people are willing to admit. Fashion costs.

So, this is an opportunity for me to talk about the two things I like most in the world: shoes, and economics*. I am currently in a process of wardrobe, house, and life upheaval, and have been trying to reorganize my mountains of stuff into slightly smaller, co-ordinated mountains. I find living in a state of disorganisation quite mentally taxing, so this is mostly an effort to tidy my mind. But I hope that it will result in me having a better wardrobe, into the bargain.

Nonetheless, trying to streamline my wardrobe does go against all my natural instincts to go into H&M and hammer my credit card until it squeaks. And whilst I remind myself that a) I have limited space, b) I do not go to any balls and c) I am not a museum curator, it can be hard to resist the crazier purchases. Being a bit skint helps.

Hence: I want more, and need less.

*Also cats, photography, and biscuits, but I will try and keep myself loosely on topic.