Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Father's Acqua di Parma Collection

My father is an expert on many things: Freud, Pink's shirts, the Chelsea Football Club, and the band Smush. However, a little known fact about my father the professor is that he is the expert on, and the owner of, what may possibly be the largest collection of Acqua di Parma products out there. I've always known that he takes stock in a well groomed appearance, since he dresses in immaculately tailored suits and elegant inlaid cufflinks every morning when he heads off to lecture at the Fashion Institute, but I never knew about his secret stash of Acqua di Parma until recently. Though his ostensible reason for coveting is that the products "smell good," I tend to think that they remind him of his Italian roots. Being a beauty-product afficinado of sorts, I always try to find an A di P product that he's never heard of before. Usually, not only has he heard of the product, but he also has it prominently displayed in his medicine cabinet. However, I think I may have found three items from the line that he might not actually be familiar with yet.

1.) Acqua di Parma's Colonia Intensa Shampoo and Shower Gel contains the same great fragrance as the traditional cologne spray, so it will definitely appeal to A di P traditionalists. The genius of this product is that it has the added convenience of a two-in-one, reducing shower time considerably. The packaging is masculine and appealingly minimalist as well.

2.) Acqua di Parma Colonia Exfoliating Cleanser is part of the men's shaving line and comes in the iconic brown packaging that denotes the Collezione Barbiere. The scent is traditional and clean, and the grains are large enough to really clean pores. It's also especially useful for preventing ingrown hairs pre-shave.

3.) This ebony cube candle imprinted with Acqua di Parma lettering and the coat of arms is the epitome of masculine refinement. It reminds me of something an Italian aristocrat would have burning in his mahogany study. Infused with the Colonia scent, it burns for hours on end and creates a stately and regal ambiance.

photo credit exfoliator and shampoo: http://www.bluemercury.com
photo credit candle: http://www.vivre.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Screen Siren Stamps

If you're a huge fan of the stylish 1950's drama All About Eve starring the elegant Bette Davis, then you'll love these collectible postage stamps. I've seen the film at least four times, and besides enjoying the superb acting, I think that it features some of the most beautiful and luxurious costumes ever. The two time Academy Award winner Davis is featured as part of the Screen Legends commemorative stamp series. Swaddled in mink with her iconic screen siren waves and long velvet gloves, she is the epitome of mid-century style. If you haven't seen the movie then you must rent it, and then order a sheet of these stamps for the chicest looking snail mail ever.

photo credit: http://shop.usps.com

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wool Gets a Makeover

We used to associate wool with baby blankets and grandmas knitting in rocking chairs, but with the opening of trendy knitting cafes and supply stores over the past few years, wool has acquired a distinctly hipper sensibility. The wool options listed below are uniquely modern and colorful, and are a far cry from that hideous Rudolph Christmas sweater that your great aunt knitted for you last year.

1.) These
cherry-red wool boots from the AKA brand look so incredibly stylish, that I was immediately smitten when I saw them. Known as Valenki in Russia, the tradition of crafting these woolen boots is over three centuries old. They literally mold to your foot for comfort and warmth. The bottom part of the boot is made of waterproof rubber to protect you from snow and ice. These boots remind me of something out of a Russian fairytale, and they definitely have a Little-Red-Riding-Hood-chic appeal.

2.)
Luisa Cevese Riedzioni's artsy Rainbow-Brite-ish placemats are actually crafted from recycled textiles and will liven up any table setting. They also make great and unexpected housewarming gifts. So cute for a dinner party or a child's birthday party, these placemats are also washable, so spills are a non-issue.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jack-of-all-Trades Cream

Lately I've noticed that my hands have been feeling dry after I do the dishes, and today I woke up with a red rash on my wrist. I'm thinking that I might be allergic to Ivory soap, if that's even possible. So I headed over to Whole Foods to find an all-natural remedy for my dry hands. The woman behind the counter recommended that I try a cream from the California Baby line. Whenever I think of this brand I envision a hip baby with sunglasses on (don't ask me why). I purchased a small tub of their Aloe Vera Cream, which is described on the side of the tub as having a "light and fluffy" consistency that is suitable to apply to "stretch marks, scars, sunburned, and just shaved or waxed skin," (basically wherever irritation has occurred). I slathered it on immediately after leaving the store, and I felt a cooling sensation as it rapidly absorbed into my skin. The smell is subtle and wonderful, and it reminds me of clean laundry and Pond's Cold Cream. Though it's not necessarily "fluffy" like meringue, it has a creaminess that's closer in consistency to semi-melted butter. My skin felt moisturized all day, and even though my rash isn't completely gone, it's definitely looking better. I'm even contemplating using the cream on my face after microdermabrasion.

photo credit baby: http://www.buy.com
photo credit cream: http://www.californiababy.com

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Harlequin Chic

Ditch your black spandex, and channel the classic Commedia dell'Arte character Harlequin with these unique argyle-printed leggings. The harlequin figure, who played the role of the clown in outdoor theatrical performances, served as a muse for Picasso. The artist imaged the character throughout his career in a variety of different styles, yet he always depicted him in the iconic diamond-printed costume. These leggings are not only chic and historically relevant, but will keep you warm as well during this 50 degree weather we're currently having in NYC.

photo credit (painting on the far right): Pablo Picasso, Paulo, Picasso's Son, as Harlequin, 1924, oil on canvas, Musee Picasso, Paris, France. (http://www.abcgallery.com/P/picasso/picasso85.html).
photo credit (painting on the bottom): Pablo Picasso, Harlequin, late 1915, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, NYC. (http://www.moma.org).
photo credit leggings: http://www.pixiemarket.com

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No-Cal Treats For Halloween

If you want to forgo the usual Halloween-night candy-binge, where you happily partake of all the sugary goodness left over from the stash you bought for trick-or-treaters, then I have a sweet solution for you. Dylan Lauren, Ralph's daughter and founder of the Willy-Wonka-esque Dylan's Candy Bar near Bloomingdales, has started her own line of bath and body products called Re-Treat. Appealingly, they do not contain parabens or sodium lauryl sulfates, but do contain good-for-you ingredients like jojoba, shea, and vitamins. The formulas come in a variety of four incredibly authentic scents: Birthday Cake Batter, Chocolate Cupcake, Strawberry Licorice, and Coconut Bonbon. You can choose a body lotion (that comes packaged like a smoothie), body butter (that is super effective on dry and ragged cuticles), shower gel (that produces a rich and scented lather), scrub (that comes packaged in an ice cream tub), and lip balms (to satisfy candy cravings). The Chocolate Cupcake scent is a bit strong for me, reinforced by the fact that the Starbucks cashier told me that my hands smelled like chocolate chip cookies when I paid for my latte. My favorite products in the line are the Strawberry Licorice Shower Gel and the Birthday Cake Batter Body Butter (that works surprisingly well as a foot cream). The bright graphic packaging is adorable, and the scents are hyper-realistic and delicious.

photo credits: http://www.sephora.com

Monday, October 20, 2008

Art That You Can't Live Without: Are we Really in a Financial Crisis?

I was having lunch at Sant Ambroeus in the West Village today, and I overheard quite an interesting conversation about art. Sitting one table away from me were two men who I soon figured out were art collectors dining with the model (and former co-host of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style) Veronica Webb. While Webb was remarking on how red the tomato sauce on her pasta was, the two men got into a friendly debate. The first one remarked, "Nowadays I only buy art that I can't live without." To which the other man scoffed, "What do you mean by that? I can live without all my art. There's no such thing as art that you can't live without." First man: "Well then you're not buying the right things. I have one work in my home by X (over-exposed contemporary artist and bonafide hipster), and I wouldn't sell it even if you offered me a million dollars, not that that's so much money, but I wouldn't sell it for any amount of money." Man two seemed skeptical, but then I had to pay the check and missed the end of the interaction. Even as an art historian, the concept of art that you can't live without sounds a tad hyperbolic to me, unless you're an artist and the work in question is your own creation. What do you think? Is collecting art a luxury, a necessity, or something in between?

photo credit & note: Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991, tiger shark, glass, steel, formaldehyde solution, Charles Saatchi collection. Image found at http://www.artchive.com. Another Damien Hirst work recently sold for ninety five million pounds at Sotheby's in London, despite the global financial meltdown.

Chilly Fall Night Solution

All of a sudden on Friday night the heat in my house came on, and I knew that my airy summer-weight blankets and sheets would need to be quickly replaced by a proper down comforter. With the heat on in my apartment and the proper bedding on my bed, Saturday night was promising to be a warm and toasty one. However, when I went to check my email I realized that there is one previously unnoticed flaw in my new apartment. The entry hall where I have my desk and computer set up is quite drafty and chilly. I wrapped myself up in a wool blanket and sat down again at my desk, but when I started to type the blanket slid off, exposing me to the chill. Luckily, there is a solution to my problem that can be found on the Bed Bath & Beyond website. The 3-In-1 Softie Wrap is constructed of a cozy combo of silky-soft micro plush and cotton twill, but best of all it has zippers and snaps, so that you can wear it like a cape while you go about your activities (like email checking). It may not be the most stylish option out there, but it's certainly the most functional.

photo credit: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Art History for a Cause

FreeRice.com, the website that donates 20 grains of rice to the hungry for every correct answer you give, now has an art history trivia section. I'm already addicted to their English, German, and Spanish vocab categories, and I was really excited when I learned that they have an art history portion. The art history section features a painting where you must identify the artist. It ranges from easy survey level stuff to really tricky ones that even a seasoned art historian might have trouble getting right. The best part is that if you get an answer wrong a few questions later they will ask the same question again, so that you have the opportunity to actually learn and retain factual information. It's fun for a good cause, which is the best form of procrastination that there is!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dr. Brandt is a Girl's Best Friend

While many of you know that I am a fan of French dermatologist Dr. Sebagh's product line, you may not know that there's another doctor whose skincare line I am also loving. Dr. Frederic Brandt, who sports a positively lineless and ageless botoxed complexion, is the authority on poreless skin. Not only do his treatments promote aesthetic results, but they are based on scientifically researched ingredients that encourage a healthy complexion. Most importantly, I recently read on his website that Dr. Brandt originally worked with Leukemia patients at Sloane Kettering where he became interested in the antioxidant power of green tea and vitamins to strengthen weakened immune systems and to suppress the proliferation of the disease. Take the Skinalysis on Dr. Brandt's website to find out which of his products are right for you, and check out my top three favorites below.

1.) Pores No More: If you want to quell oil production and shrink pore size in a flash, then this light-weight product is perfect for you. I use it in place of primer under foundation.

2.) Microdermabrasion - For Face: I firmly believe that exfoliation is the key to younger looking skin, and this is one brilliant exfoliator. Use this grainy scrub "with diamond shaped crystals"* twice a week (massaging for at least a minute), and your skin will gleam and dull dry skin will be eliminated. Perfect for all skin types, this jack-of-all-trades targets fine lines, dryness and flakiness, hyper-pigmentation, sebum, and even acne.

3.) Anti-Oxidant Water Booster Pomegranate: We all know that the anti-oxidants in a cup of green tea can help prevent cancer, so I try to drink as many cups of white and green tea as I can each day, but sometimes it's hard when I'm rushing around the city or working on a paper. One dropper full of Dr. Brandt's Water Booster added to a chilled or heated beverage has the same anti-oxidant capacity as 15 cups of green tea. With green tea, white tea, grapeseed extract, and pomegranate extract, this Water Booster strengthens your immune system to help prevent the breakdown of healthy cells. I love it mixed with a glass of Perrier in the afternoon. As with any supplement, check with your doctor before adding it to your daily regimen.

*see http://www.drbrandtskincare.com for complete product description
photo credit microdermabrasion scrub: http://www.drbrandtskincare.com
photo credit diamond: http://openclipart.org/people/Chrisdesign/Chrisdesign_Diamond.png

Monday, October 13, 2008

Trendspotting: The Low Ankle Boot

Ankle boots are one of the most versatile shoes. They go with everything and can help make any outfit look polished and pulled together. When I find a pair of ankle boots that I really love, I inevitably end up wearing them everyday. Last year I wore a pair of vintage black boots until the sole was worn through, which means that a replacement is in order. Below are a few of my favorite options for ankle-skimming brown boots, one of which might just become your everyday pair.

1.) If you want to be cozy: If you think that Uggs are hideous but love the comfort factor, then give F-Troupe's Sheep Skin Brown Booties on the Creatures of Comfort website a try. They mold to your foot and are lined with sheep skin to keep your feet warm. They are as comfortable as slippers but still look chic, plus F-Troupe has the most whimsically designed website that you must check out. These boots are priced affordably at $182.

2.) If you want to be rugged: Duccio Del Duca's Ankle Boots on yoox.com have a western cowboy boot shape, but the delicate proportions of the boot have a leg-elongating effect that's very feminine. Simple and hip, these boots are perfect if you want something for casual everyday wear. These boots are a bit of an investment at $334.

3.) If you want to be hip: Made by Elves' Leather Lennon Skimmer (pictured here) is the epitome of the perfect low leather boot that all the fashion editors are sporting this fall. Versatile and chic, the Lennon Skimmer would look amazing with wool tights or skinny leather pants. These boots are a steal at only $98.

photo credit: http://www.urbanoutfitters.com

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Royal Treatment: Old Fashioned Grooming Aids

What do the brands Woods of Windsor, Truefitt & Hill, and Botot all have in common? They are all the makers of men's grooming aids that have been utilized by royals for many generations. If you want to enjoy the same high-end products as the British royal family, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Louis XV of France, check out the website inthebathroom.com for an array of items fit for a king. See my list of starter products from each brand below:

1.) Woods of Windsor's
Roll On Deodorant is a royal family favorite, and it's easy to understand why. The spicy citrus scent, composed of lemon grass, bergamot, verbena, nutmeg, and cinnamon, is cozy and refined like a well-tailored tweed blazer. Perfect for fall, this scent is so addictive that you'll want the cologne as well.

2.) Established in 1805, Truefitt & Hill enjoys the prestige of a Royal Warrant of Appointment to the Duke of Edinburgh, and their Almond Shaving Cream lives up to the honor. Scented with creamy almond oil, this cream produces a rich lather when applied on its own or with a badger brush. A little goes a long way for a close shave that lasts way past 5 o'clock shadow.

3.)
Botot Mouthwash, originally created in 1755 for King Louis XV, is an all natural herbaceous concoction intended to promote oral health. One swish in the morning and before bed will keep your teeth healthy and so blindingly white that you might earn the moniker heir to le Roi Soleil.

photo credits: http://www.inthebathroom.com

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall Florals

Florals aren't just apropos for the spring and summer months. Below is my list of fall florals divided into the following categories: covetable (for the luxury item that you wish you could afford), considerable (for the splurge-worthy item that you would consider saving up for), and claimable (for the affordable item that can give you instant gratification). Indulging in a floral purchase during the chillier months will lift your spirits, as it portends the spring and summer blossoms that are yet to come.

1.) Covetable: Renauld Pellegrino's Flower and Leaf Applique Clutch is the most exquisite cocktail party accessory imaginable. An homage to a meadow of wildflowers, the exterior of the clutch is covered in delicate lavender petals while the interior is lined in a luxurious scarlet satin. This item is available at the exclusive Harrod's boutique in London.

2.) Considerable: Alexis Bittar's Organic Antique Floral Wallpaper Bangle has a gently blurred and muted quality, as though you are glimpsing it at the bottom of a pool of water. Delicately feminine, there is something exquisitely chic and understated about this lucite bangle, whose pattern is reminiscent of a rambling English garden.

3.) Claimable: Chanel's Gardenia Perfume is the most luscious and youthful floral fragrance. Originally created in the '20's as a collaboration between Coco Chanel and perfumer Ernest Beaux, there is a timeless elegance to this scent. Composed of light and airy white flowers with a hint of fresh cream, Gardenia conjures up images of fresh-faced F. Scott Fitzgerald-era flappers bedecked in strands of pearls and drop-waisted lace dresses.

photo credit clutch: http://www.harrods.com
photo credit bangle: http://www.alexisbittar.com
photo credit perfume: http://www.saksfifthavenue.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Make Your Living Room Smell Like a French Patisserie

Last February I wrote about my desire to visit the renowned Parisian tearoom Laduree and sample their delectable sweets. Well, recently I've discovered a new way to emulate the Laduree experience, this time with scent. French designer Jacques Garcia, who is responsible for the elaborately chic interior of the Parisian tea salon as well as the decoration of the exclusive Hotel Costes, has come out with his own line of room sprays, housed in chic royal blue bottles topped with jet black tassels. His deep Bronze Myrrh scent, with epicurean notes of pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron as well as a hint of leather, conjures up images of the warm elegance of the tearoom where well-dressed patrons sip smoky cups of Lapsang Suochong. Coupled with the scent of French perfumery brand Esteban's scented candle Tarte et Chocolat, I am literally transported into a Parisian fantasy of tea and pastries.


photo credit macaroons: http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm
photo credit room scent: http://www.beautyhabit.com
photo credit candle: http://www.conranusa.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Finger Painting

One of the best things about makeup is being able to play and experiment with new looks and change your style. When I was little I used to have a dress-up kit that came with a princess tiara and its very own makeup palette with blush, lipstick, and eyeshadow that washed off easily with water. The Color Institute's Complete Beauty Kit that looks like a bright box of watercolors, totally reminds me of a grown-up version of the kit that I used to play with as a child. It comes complete with every shade of blush, eye shadow, and lip gloss that you could possibly imagine. The pigments are easily buildable and blendable, allowing you to customize your look to be either dramatic or demure. Though the kit comes with brushes and sponge applicators, I prefer to use my fingers to apply the color, as I believe that they are the best tools when it comes to makeup application. The sleek black case with a mirror inside is perfect for travel, and I feel like a makeup artist whenever I use this palette. The $7.99 price tag is an unbelievable value.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Exceptionally Comfortable Shoes

I hate shoe shopping, because the shoes that I like are never comfortable on my feet. Inevitably I end up buying a pair of heels that look great but feel awful and either never wear them or only wear them when I'm sure that I won't have to walk a lot. The fact is that I like walking a lot better than any other form of transportation, so when I do go out I often walk to my destination or walk home. I need a shoe that will look nice but won't give me blisters if I walk more than 3 blocks. Giraudon's pint-sized shop in Chelsea (blink and you'll miss it) has an array of leather heels, boots, and flats that are incredibly comfortable and chic. There's something very Parisian-cobbler about them. Also, they are extremely durable, and the pair that I have has lasted for more than 6 years. Whether I'm traipsing over cobble stones in the West Village or running for a bus, my feet never hurt when I wear this brand. Right now I'm loving some of the styles featured on their website, like this Caramel Leather Mary Jane Platform and this Double Buckle T-Strap Heel. Both of these styles are available at http://www.giraudonnewyork.com.

photo credit: http://www.giraudonnewyork.com

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Snap, Crackle, Pop

One of the joys of having a new apartment in an ancient pre-war building is that you have to install your own air conditioner, or find someone to install it for you, which I haven't gotten around to doing yet. For some reason, even though it is almost October, in mid-afternoon around 4 pm like clockwork my apartment becomes unbearably hot and dry, and all of a sudden I have allergies. My eyes get red, I sneeze repeatedly, my skin gets wan and parched no matter how much Evian I drink, and sweat and makeup drip down my face. Well, now that I've had four days in a row like this, I am determined to be properly equipped for tomorrow afternoon's impending beauty meltdown. I stopped at Duane Reade this evening and picked up a box of Breathe Right Nasal Strips, Puffs Plus Kleenex with Aloe, Visine, and Malin & Goetz Detox Face Mask. I couldn't wait until tomorrow to try out my new face mask (face masks are like beauty crack for me), so I smoothed a thin layer on before dinner. The mask, which contains Vitamin E, Soy , Green Tea, and Vitamin C, is meant to act like rehab for misbehaving skin. The coolest part is that once you put it on it immediately starts to crackle loudly and foam on your face, getting in every last pore and cleaning it out. When I rinsed after seven minutes I looked like I had had a facial. Now, will it stand up to the arid apt. conditions tomorrow afternoon? I'll let you know what happens, but I'm optimistic that my beauty meltdown has finally met its match.

photo credit: http://www.malinandgoetz.com