So I’ve been moonlighting for handfulofsalt.com. It’s the brain child of my incredibly chic and brilliant buddy Regina Connell, and features the last word on the most glamorous artisanal products and their creators.
For my virgin Handful of Salt voyage, I profiled indie fragrance artist Yosh Han, who creates exquisite, one-of-a-kind custom scents and the amazing Evanescent ready-to-wear line.
The goal of each of her creations isn’t to merely scent the wearer, but also to “Entice the senses, fascinate the mind and enchant the soul,” a process she calls, “Trans-aromation.” Each Yosh fragrance is vibrationally attuned and designed to resonate with the principles of Chakra energy and numerology. Pisces girl that I am, I just eat that stuff up.
For more on Yosh Han, check out http://www.handfulofsalt.com/noticed-olfactory-artist-yosh-han/ And stay tuned for a post detailing my personal fragrance consultation with Han, which included espresso, industry gossip and an enlightening aura reading.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes it takes several minutes of deep breathing and thinking happy thoughts to convince myself that Apple was not put on this earth to make my life a living, breathing hell. I Tunes Updates seem to screw me at every turn, making it progressively more complicated and frustrating to play, transfer and download music; and I can’t even begin describe the chaos that occurs every time I am prompted to update my IPHONE.
Lately, I am also peeved at retailers who seem to be making big deals out of so-called “gifts-with-purchase” promotions that in reality fall way short of anything remotely exciting or useful. In the last month two beauty behemoths were offering online gifts with purchases—12 and 16 product samples, respectively--if you spent a certain amount. The prospect of free products is as thrilling to me as it gets. So even though I really didn’t need anything, I made skincare purchases on both sites, just to receive my “free” gifts. I was thinking back to a similar Bergdorf Goodman promo several years ago. The prize? A super-cute beach tote filled with generous travel sizes and just a few not-so-generous samples of skincare and fragrance products. The “gift” offered just enough variety and substance to make me feel like I really scored! So I had high hopes for these other two promotion. Times, however, are a-changing; just about everyone seems to be cheaping out these days.
My first “gift” was housed in an astoundingly unglamorous ziplock baggy and what was inside was even more depressing—a slim pile of those crummy paper packettes and one or two teeny fragrance vials. I recognize that these packettes are inexpensive and portable ways to deliver skin care samples. But they are so woefully inadequate in every way. First off, they never have enough product in them to help you judge if they are a good fit for you. Secondly, once you open them you have to throw them away, because any leftover product gets all over the place. But what really irritates me about these samples is that you can’t open them if they get wet because they become insanely slippery. And odds are you will get them wet, since, if you are like I am, you will use them at your sink.
So now I have all of these free paper samples lying around that I feel guilty about not using and, heaven forbid, throwing away because in reality, I paid for them, since I had to buy products to procure them. I thought about giving them to a less picky friend (and pretty much everyone is less picky than I am so it wouldn’t be hard to find someone). But then I’d be giving said friend useless crap that I don’t like, which doesn’t seem like a particularly friendly thing to do.
The second freebie was marginally better since it came with a pretty decent-sized makeup bag. Unfortunately it was a horrible teal color and made out of pleather. But still, it was way nicer than the other gift’s ziplock baggy. The second promotion also included decent-sized travel versions of products in real containers and far fewer packettes. Hooray! But, alas, these petite bottles and tubes mostly contained products that I had no interest in trying.
The upshot of these two freebie-induced skincare shopping sprees is that I am basically cured of my need to buy products to earn so-called gifts, unless they are true travel sizes (look for the words, “deluxe sample” in the description) and I know what the offerings are in advance. I realize I am pretty much doomed to disappointment when the wording on the website reads “samples may include products like” and “we reserve the right to substitute products at our discretion.” You may think I am crazy (and I can’t blame you if you do) because after all, this is free stuff. And free is free. But free is useless if it means getting stuff you don’t want—especially if it coerces you to buy products that you don’t really need.
Sometimes Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Murad and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare give you realistically-sized samples when you shop online. Even at Sephora, king of the paper packettes, you can trade in some VIB points to get samples larger than a speck. The best freebies I’ve received are from actual cosmetics counters at retailers when I actually ask for them. I typically say something like, “Do you have any little gifts for me today since I am spending all of this money?” I am well aware this may mean I am becoming my mother--maybe even my grandmother, who took Sweet’N Low packets from the diner and put them in her purse. So this tactic does feel a little awkward; but it works. The wonderful Bobbi Brown associate at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Union Square in San Fran, for example, scooped out five-day supplies of foundation, eye cream and moisturizer into actual portable glass jars. And I’m pretty sure it worked out for the company, too, because after I ran out of the eye cream sample, I purchased the $68 full-sized version of Extra Eye Repair online. I know I need to get another hobby besides obsessing about skincare products and free gifts with purchases. But think of the invaluable information you’d miss out on if I took up another sport.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
Another year, another 2000 or so points on my Sephora VIB rewards card. Product junkie that I am, I just cannot resist the lure of new products and their seductive claims. So yes, I buy a lot of them. You would think that after years of trying everything under the sun, I would be skeptical or at least circumspect about the capabilities of any given lotion, potion or makeup palette. But hope still springs eternal. I am, still, somehow convinced that every new product I try is going to be the one that makes me richer, smarter, prettier, taller, thinner and younger looking. With these incredibly lofty expectations, you can understand the massive disappointment that usually ensues. But all things considered, there were some pretty great product introductions last year. And while they may not have changed my life, they did go far in making it a little more glamorous. So, here, my 2012 favorites:
AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion ($11.99), drugstore.com
If you have keratosis pilaris (those red bumps that cluster on the backs of the arms and fronts of your legs), you may have tried OTC and prescription remedies, like Lac-Hydrin, that feature ammonium lactate, a combination of exfoliating lactic acid and ammonium hydroxide, an ammonia derivative that adjusts the pH of skin to facilitate the penetration of the lactic acid. Not to mince words, but these lotions smell like hell and feel just as bad; they sit on top of skin imparting a slimy residue. AmLactin, however, is the exception to the rule. While it does feature ammonium lactate, this lotion is mercifully odorless, absorbs beautifully, tackles the bumps and leaves skin looking and feeling just lovely.
Lancôme Génifique Eye Light-Pearl Eye-Illuminating Youth Activating Concentrate ($68), sephora.com
I have always have been skeptical of eye products with “cooling wands” and “massaging balls.” Did I really just use those two phrases consecutively in print? Crazy. But truly, I find products that feature them beyond flummoxing. First off, the hot puffiness (it is inflammation after all) under my eyes heats them up in a New York minute, so their “cooling” benefits, if there are such things, are rendered null and void almost instantly. Secondly, these products require several extra minutes every morning (on top of all my other myriad beauty rituals) to massage, roll, knead, and pummel my puffs into submission. And what’s to prevent all of that trapped fluid from re-collecting later in the day? Absolutely nothing, it seems. Because by noon I’m pretty much back to ground zero from a bags standpoint even, after all of that work.
But this product is brilliant. While it does involve several minutes with one of those applicators, the massage roller administers a truly effective bag-shrinking, caffeine-based, light-diffusing serum. The wand/serum combo actually do make my eyes look lighter, brighter, fresher and perhaps even a bit younger looking. It even improves the look of my now just-starting-to-sag (heaven help me) upper lids, and the results seem to last throughout the day.
Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection Tint SPF 40 ($40), sephora.com
As I’ve written before, this is an absolutely fabulous tinted moisturizer. It’s like liquid silk—blurring my imperfections, easing dryness, providing a high SPF and giving my sallow complexion a healthy shot of color.
Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid & Retinol Brightening Solution ($85) and Dr. Dennis Gross Active Vitamin D Serum Oil ($65), dgskincare.com
I am writing about these two products together since I started using them at the same time. Both of them contain retinol and ferulic acid to help combat sun damage, including lines, wrinkles and loss of radiance. But they also serve separate functions. The Serum Oil also improves firmness with vitamin D and essential oils, plus boosts moisture with hyaluronic acid. The Brightening Solution tackles enlarged pores with salicylic acid and evens out redness and pigmentation issues with Azelaic Amino Acid and Bearberry.
In the morning, after cleansing, I apply the Brightening Solution followed by just 2-3 drops of the Serum-Oil. It’s pretty rich stuff, so it’s better to err on the side of having to add more than trying to blot the excess away. I wait several minutes for it to soak in, and then I follow up with a moisturizer with sunscreen. This probably sounds like a really high-maintenance routine for someone who is loathe to take a few extra minutes to massage in eye serum with a wand applicator. But the compliments on my “fresh, radiant complexion” from random strangers on the street, sales women in stores and the women who work in my dentist’s office have proven to me that the results I am getting from these products is worth the additional effort of using them. I also dab on the oil by itself at night if I choose to go out without makeup, or pat a tiny amount over my foundation for an added glow if I am going somewhere fancy.
Amazingly, there were relatively few casualties in terms of my beauty product purchases in 2012. TRESemme FreshStart Waterless Foam Shampoo, For Dry/Curly to Normal Hair was pretty bad. But I expected as much. Dry shampoo and curly hair don’t really mix. The only way to evenly distribute a foaming, waterless shampoo is to comb it completely through hair. But combing curly hair when it’s dry is a recipe for frizz, flyaways and separated curls. Not an attractive look by any stretch of the imagination. And not combing dry shampoo completely through hair is a recipe for flakes, clumps and random bits of things sticking to it. You see the dilemma. So I’m not really all that mad at this product because it was doomed from its inception.
But one purchase really, really disappointed me. I know it’s partly my fault because my expectations were so high. But still. Here it is. The Notorious NYCK 2012 Stinker of the Year Award goes to:
John Paul Mitchell The Truth About Curls
I cannot tell you how excited I was about this line after I read about it in umpteen magazines. The range, which includes a detangling shampoo, leave-in conditioner, styling cream/gel and wave texturizer, promises smooth, frizz-free, bouncy and defined curls—claims that held me in utter thrall. But there were absolutely no signs of the range here in the Bay Area, which seems to get new products practically a year behind markets on the East Coast. Spoiled Beauty Editor and New Yorker that I am, I’m used to trying everything first. So it frustrated me beyond the pale that I could not, for the life of me, procure these products. They finally rolled their way into San Francisco when I was about to abandon all hope of ever seeing them, so I eagerly shelled out $60+ for the shampoo, conditioner and styling gel/cream. But let me just tell you, John Paul Mitchell should be ashamed of himself. The products left my fine, curly hair flat, greasy and beyond listless. I now use the shampoo to hand-wash my sweaters and the conditioner as a pinch hitter for shaving cream in the shower. And as for the cream/gel, does anyone have Medusa’s mailing address? I hear she wants her styling product back.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
Next month will mark two years since my doctor found a lump in my breast during a routine exam. Given that I had a clean mammogram and sonogram 9 months before, exercise vigorously nearly every day, am not overweight, eat tons of fruits and vegetables and have no family history of breast cancer, the revelation was stunning. Duh. When isn’t it?
I’ve since learned that my maternal grandfather’s prostate cancer (a form of hormonal cancer, like breast cancer) may have elevated my risk. Having particularly dense breast tissue, not having children and taking birth control pills also may have played a role. Other studies show that women with vitamin D and Folic acid deficiencies and women who drink more than 2-3 alcoholic drinks a week can also up their chances. But since it is estimated that one out of every 7 women will get breast cancer, pretty much just being a woman is a risk. Sorry to be such a downer. But there is good news, as I’m sure you’ve heard. There is a much higher success rate in detecting and treating the disease than ever before. And I know this is due in no small part to the magnificent (and I mean truly magnificent) Evelyn Lauder and her tireless and phenomenal work with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. And how's this for making lemonade out of lemons: With so many women experiencing it, there is now a treasure-trove of info. to help us get through the ordeal with more dignity, comfort, and peace of mind than was previously imaginable.
So in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are the tips, tricks and products that made breast cancer slightly less of a pain in the ass for me, plus one that didn’t.
Best Advice: Don’t surf the net after diagnosis
Boy, did my surgeon have my number (I guess I’m not all that unique). After we discussed my course of treatment and probable outcome, she strongly advised me to steer clear of the internet and most books written about breast cancer. The reason? Many sites and books paint the worst-case scenarios, which can provoke crippling fear and anxiety. Like I didn’t have enough already? She did give me a big binder of of explanations, resources and tips compiled by California Pacific Medical Center, where I got my treatment. I chose not to look at it. And I have to say, that as crazy, neurotic and anxious as I am, I experienced far less emotional turmoil than some of my more investigative friends. Granted, my diagnosis and proposed treatments were very straightforward—pretty much the norm for stage 1 breast cancer with a low risk of recurrence and negative tests for BRCA genes. My agreed plan of attack was a lumpectomy, sentinel lymph node biopsy, two months of five days a week radiation and a five-year course of Tamoxifen—standard operating procedure. If things had been more complicated and extreme, I would have definitely done more research and gotten second opinions.
Most Important Part of Recovery: Acupuncture
I’ve written before about how acupuncture gave me my life back in terms of helping me finally recover from the aftermath of radiation (extreme fatigue, lethargy, depression, pain and swelling (aka lymphedema) for over a year after I concluded treatment) and managing my side effects from Tamoxifen (extreme fatigue, lethargy, depression, leg and feet cramps, weight gain and insomnia, to name a few). Acupuncture helped with all these symptoms, even mitigating my advanced arthritis, and I think made me slightly less neurotic, though my husband might argue that point.
Unfortunately, the Tamoxifen is so toxic to my system, I need to be stuck with needles every other week to maintain and hopefully advance acupuncture’s salubrious effects. And I simply loathe it. The other patients are on beds in other parts of the room thinking serene thoughts or blissfully snoring away. Meanwhile, I’m lying on the table hating their guts trying to soothe myself with the Allman Brothers Band on my IPOD so I don’t jump off the table and murder at least one of them. How Zen. But believe it or not, my one regret is that I didn’t start treatment sooner. A friend of mine who basically sailed through radiation did acupuncture concurrently. She might have had that outcome anyway—everyone responds differently to cancer and cancer treatments. And this is a great tidbit so I’ll repeat it, “Everyone responds differently to cancer and cancer treatments.” But given the myriad benefits acupuncture seems to impart, I can’t help but believe it might have made radiation a less grueling experience.
Most Flattering Sports Bra: Anita Maximum Control Momentum Wire-Free Sports Bra, $69 (barenecessities.com).
Typically, I’m a Champion Powersleek Sportsbra girl, $46 (champion.com). It’s a heavy duty number that can withstand high-impact activity with an adjustable back and straps —crucial features for small-across-the-back, large-across-the-front me. And these bras, which are rather roomy and customizable, were fabulous post-surgery at accommodating my dressing and swelling without adding to my discomfort. They’re also great at fitting compression pads, which I need at night as a result of the lymphedema. But these bras are completely unglamorous and bulky under clothes. So when the swelling went down and the dressing was gone, but the prospect of my regular underwire bras sent waves of terror down my spine, I switched to the more streamlined, also adjustable Anita style. It’s sleek, virtually invisible and gives a terrific shape.
Magic Tricks: Coping With Needles
Given how traumatized I am by acupuncture, it probably won’t surprise you that getting my blood drawn used to totally freak me out. And it doesn’t help that I have crappy veins. (I know. I know. I am such a baby!) Now that I am an old hat at it, it’s certainly less scary than it used to be, and I credit a super-kind phlebotomist for making the process almost a snap. He suggested drinking a lot of water and staying really warm prior to the test to help optimize circulation. Dehydration and being cold can all impede it. He noted that the better circulation is, the easier it is to find a vein and actually get blood from it. He also introduced me to the Butterfly Needle, a smaller, thinner number that works better on veins that like to roll over when they’re poked than the standard variety. When he’s not my guy, I always ask for that needle specifically and it makes a huge difference.
Dumbest Move: Hopping on the Lifecycle two days post surgery
A well-meaning friend told my husband that it was really important that I get moving as soon as possible after surgery. And exercise bulimic that I am (“I’m not going to lie around and get fat just because I’m recovering from breast cancer surgery”), I seized upon this advice and went to the gym to peddle furiously on the bike for 45 minutes. The result? I felt faint, nauseous and experienced excruciating pain in my breast. I actually almost passed out in the shower afterwards. From what I understand, there are several types of surgeries where the experts like you to walk and maybe even get on a treadmill almost immediately following surgery. Walking, not intense cycling, being the operative directive here. But breast cancer surgery, at least in my case, is not one of those instances. In fact, when my surgeon called me later that day to check in and deliver my pathology report and I told her of my athletic adventures, her response was, “Really, Cara? I mean, really? I think I’ve been crediting you with having far more IQ points than you actually have.” Ouch.
Not to sound superficia, but what the heck? To me, one of the biggest bummers about cancer is that you just don’t look like yourself for what seems like an interminable amount of time. And I didn’t even have chemo so I can only imagine how one feels going through those dramatic changes and acute side-effects, which are typically far more extreme than anything I experienced. I realize what a lucky girl I am. But even without it, I was just shocked to see the reflection staring back at me in the mirror. And even two years later, I don’t really feel like I’m “back.” Perhaps, because of the Tamoxifen? No one can really ‘splain it to me. Anyhow, here are some products that really seem to make a difference.
Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Lotion, Fragrance Free, $9.49 (ulta.com): I found it to be the least greasy, fastest absorbing, least stinky and most comfortable lotion to combat the “sunburn,” and extreme flaking from radiation. My radiologist recommend Aquaphor, which I love for my lips but it was just too unctuous for such a large area and under clothes.
Vaniqa, $90 (by prescription): A godsend for Tamoxifen-induced chin hairs, http://www.carakagan.com/post/2012/07/10/Vaniqa-It-isnt-sexy-But-it-works.aspx
Nioxin Hair System: Successfully manages Tamoxifen-caused hair-thinning, $37.50,(sleekhair.com), http://www.carakagan.com/post/2012/04/16/Hair-There-and-Everywhere.aspx.
Bobbi Brown Extra SPF 25 Tinted Moisturizing Balm, $52 (bobbibrowncosmetics.com): Lightweight yet luscious and emollient, this imperceptible cream foundation evens out skin tone and adds just a little bit of a glow.
MAC Fast Response Eye Cream, $30, (nordstrom.com): The only de-puffing eye cream I know that doesn’t dehydrate skin and emphasize crows’ feet.
Nars Bronzer in Laguna, $34; Nars Blush in Amour, $28 (sephora.com): This brownish bronzer shot with gold shimmer topped with the peachy pink blush really enliven the complexion, imparting a fresh, healthy color and radiance.
Nars Matte Velvet Lip Pencil, $24 and Nars Lip Gloss, $24, both in Dolce Vida (sephora.com): The pencil delivers a precise, comfortable application of stay-put color with just the right amount of coverage—not too sheer, not too opaque. The gloss lends extra moisture and a sexy sheen. Dolce Vida, a medium-bright dusty rose, looks like my natural lip color turned up a notch or too. Pretty.
Dr. Dennis Gross Age Erase Recovery Mask, $48 (dgskincare.com): This mask is messy, drips and tastes terrible when it gets into your mouth, which it almost always does. But it’s well worth it. No matter how drawn, pale, exhausted and miserable I look, this mask always makes me look better. Always.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy and get your mammogram!
Anyone who knows me even a little, will undoubtedly notice that I have pretty strong opinions and I’m not afraid to express them when asked. OK, you don’t even have to ask. One of the phrases I am unfortunately best known for is, “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes.” This is my retort to anyone who suggests that I do something that I’m not in favor of, which can be anything from eating salmon, sushi, and asparagus, to trying an outdoor sport, learning to drive, letting my hair go grey, wearing the color brown and listening to music from this century. I know this trait of mine is just as obnoxious as it sounds, so I am trying to become a kinder, gentler, more patient, tolerant version of myself. It is slow going. But I have further impetus to be less vociferously opinionated because recently I have found myself doing things that I swore, for the life of me, would only happen, “when hell froze over.” Apparently, it has. I don’t know if I’ve had these astonishing changes of heart because I am now middle-aged, have moved from NYC to California, had breast cancer or have been worn-down by well-meaning friends. But Hades is felling pretty icy these days. It’s completely crazy but now, against all odds, I:
Hike: I don’t do it regularly and probably never will. But in the two years I’ve lived in the East Bay I have walked up a mountain with a group of nature lovers on several occasions. As a kid in sleep away camp in Maine, I hated hiking. It was hot, buggy, boring and my feet always hurt. But It’s what people do here. In fact, some of my friends actually leave their gear in their cars just in case they can “sneak a hike in.” I find this practice completely and utterly baffling. To me, if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.
I am what I like to call “Urban Fit”. I love the gym and go there pretty much every day for the sake of being in the gym—not to get fit for my sport, which is shopping and requires no other gear than a 0% interest, no annual-free credit card. I have no issue with spending an hour or so “going nowhere” on the treadmill and striving to do more pull-ups just for the sake of doing more pull-ups. In fact, I love it! When I lived in NYC, there were hundreds just like me who hung out at the gym for the greater part of the weekend. It’s easy to do since many of the fitness clubs there have DJs, bars, laundry service, restaurants and high end boutiques. The gyms here? Not so much. Most of them are dark, dingy, poorly-equipped and don’t even have towels. It took me months to realize that this sorry state of affairs was because most people here prefer to climb in Yosemite rather than on a StairMaster in a gym. In the East Bay, these institutions are viewed as necessary evils for staying in shape if the weather is bad, or you can’t get a lift to the nearest state park. Personally, I’d take the StairMaster. But never say never, right?
Own a fleece: It’s hard to feel cozy and warm in leather or denim. And because it’s frequently chilly in the East Bay and the buildings aren’t particularly well-insulated or heated, some days feeling cozy seems more important than looking chic.On most cool days, I try to fight the good fight and wear cashmere; fur is not an option here—it’s way, way, way frowned upon. So sometimes you just can’t beat a fleece, though it pains me deeply to say that. And trust me, there is really no place for fine fabrics when you’re um hiking; leather, satin, brocade and chiffon are all quite constricting and not especially breathable. Meanwhile, cashmere and silk are impractical for outdoor sports, unless they’re a “base layer”, from a snagging (low hanging branches, etc) stand point. Not to mention the dry cleaning involved.
Have Entered REI More than Once: This is Bergdorf Goodman to the action adventure set. It features over-priced, high-end outdoor athletic wear. And though it is not even in the top 1000 places that I would ever choose to shop, if I am going to buy fleece or outdoor wear of any kind, it is certainly going to be from an exclusive emporium. I have standards.
Feel “Off” when I Wear all Black: Let me just say right here, right now, that I have 7 pairs of black dress pants, 2 pairs of black corduroys, 2 pairs of black skinny cargoes, 5 black cashmere sweaters, 7 black camisoles, 3 black cashmere cardigans and six black t-shirts. Not to mention several black belts, jackets, dresses, skirts and pairs of shoes. These items, worn in some combination, were the mainstays of my New York City beauty editor wardrobe. Most of the girls I ran with dressed similarly. But out here in the East Bay that look feels all wrong—like I’m somehow trying too hard. Undoubtedly it’s because most people, except for the hipsters (a group I do not want to be associated with) do not wear head-to-toe black. I am not sure why. It’s impractical to hike and bike in? But perhaps more to the point is that now that I am in my forties, my skin is sallower than it used to be, so frankly, wearing all-black washes the hell out of it.
Keep My Nails Short and Clean: In my 20s and 30s I was a total slave to my nails. I wore them longish, filed in perfect squovals and obsessed about polish chips, snags and breaks. Without fail I kept my standing weekly manicure appointments and did touch-ups in between to keep my tips in tip top shape. My waste baskets over flowed with polish-stained, acetone-soaked cotton pads and their accompanying noxious smell. But in my Forties, I decided to learn to play guitar, which is not conducive to long or painted nails. So I cut them super short and keep them lacquer-free. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to have one less thing to worry about. Exfoliation alone eats up hours of my week.
Juice for Breakfast: In NYC it’s pretty common for people to go on detoxes and cleanses with horrible-tasting shakes or juice fasts to lose weight or atone for too many nights of drinking, smoking and over-eating. I’ve participated in a few of those programs and other than feeling weak, light-headed, crabby, lethargic and starving, and having to stay close to a bathroom at all times, I’ve found them to be mad fun. Not. But out here, fit, healthy, vegans who never smoke and drink, periodically do juice fasts or drink “green” and other vegetable juices to “feel even better.” Astounding, I know. So even though my hubby and I eat a fair amount of fruits and vegetables every day, we thought, well, why not load up on even more? And so far so good. We pulverize carrots, beets, parsley, kale, apples and ginger for breakfast every morning and I think we are feeling more energetic and peppier as a result. Of course it would probably be even more beneficial if I didn’t chase my 16-oz. glass of “healthy” juice with three cups of coffee with cream. But there is such a thing as taking this health stuff too far. I am, after all, an urban warrior at heart; I don’t want to lose my edge.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
When I was 26, I got a job at Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), a.k.a. the fashion and beauty bible. It is the publication for learning what’s happening in the fashion, retail, and cosmetics industries. I’ve written before about how terminally uncool I’ve always been. So it may not surprise you that for the entire four years I worked there, I was petrified of getting dressed. The best I could do was adopt a “uniform.” I figured that since I was meeting with cosmetics industry executives to report on sales and marketing strategies, I should wear a “business suit.” So I trolled the “bridge” floor at Macy’s for Jones New York and Liz Claiborne pants suits. I did OK with the business executives but drew a lot of snarky looks and comments from the fashion world. It’s a tough crowd. In fact, when I had job interviews at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, both interviewers felt compelled to critique my suits ( navy cotton twill Esprit for the former and black linen Banana Republic for the latter). I was told that a suit is only fashionable if it is made by Chanel, Prada, Armani or Yves Saint Laurent. And then, only if you “break up” the pieces. These are not my rules. So please don’t shoot the messenger.
In 1996 at 30, I became beauty director at YM magazine. At last I could retire my suits and “have fun with fashion.” But once again, I was completely flummoxed on how to do it. Kilts and Doc Martens? Crazy. So thank goodness for our fashion director, Rondi. “Kagan,” she would yell down the hall after me. “Visible panty lines suck. Get a thong.” A few hours later, several Calvin Klein versions would materialize on my desk. What Rondi lacked in tact, she made up for with her generosity. She convinced me to trade in pegged-leg pants for the more flattering and of-the-moment boot-cut styles and dressed me for two years. “I see you in a wrap Chambray top with that skirt,” she would proclaim, and then order me one from BCBG. Those were the days.
Unfortunately, Rondi and I lost touch some time ago, so once again it’s been on me to navigate this style stuff. Suffice to say I am not always successful-- as the clothes in my closet with the tags still attached attest. But I do have some new fashion gurus that have made life a little easier. First up, there’s “What Not To Wear’s” Clinton Kelly and Stacey London who have completely re-defined “age and body-type-appropriate” fashion for me. I also love Lucky magazine. To me, its editors are absolutely the clearest and least elitist about breaking down fashion trends by aesthetic, size, shape and price point. Lastly, there is Deborah Koenigsberger, owner of the greatest boutique ever, Noir et Blanc…Bis on West 25th Street in New York City (noiretblancbis.com). Deborah is the most stylish and one of the warmest and most giving women I know. Everyone leaves her utterly chic and charming shop, no matter what their age or size, looking and feeling fabulous. She also runs the amazing Hearts of Gold Foundation to help women in shelters (heartsofgold.org).
To spare you some of my personal agonies, here is a cheat sheet of the the best tips I’ve gleaned from my style posse:
If you have to sport a strapless bra with a top or dress and you wear over a B-cup bra, do not buy it
Nothing looks or feels worse than a strapless bra in an above-average size. First off, it never stays put. Secondly, it gives a really unflattering uni-boob effect. Lastly, strapless bras almost always create back fat and spillage on even the fittest of girls. The amazing woman who actually granted 32D me beautiful options in formal wear is Shoshanna Gruss nee Lonstein. Many of the dresses in her Shoshanna line (shoshanna.com) have built-in boning and bras so you can safely and comfortably wear strapless and spaghetti-strapped styles.
Go Shorter with Straight Leg and Skinny Jeans
Unless they hit just above your ankle bone, or even a little higher, straighter pants will “bag” at your ankles and calves, giving you a bulky, stunted leg effect. And never underestimate the power of a belt to lift up sagging trousers and create a sleeker look.
The Wider the Leg, the Higher and Fatter the Heel
I have the worst feet ever so I live in flats, and I truly prefer a boot-cut leg to skinnies. But flairs with flats give new meaning to the word “frumpy,” especially if you’re petite. Wedge heels help anchor wider pants and make legs look longer and leaner. I love stilettos (even if they cripple me) but they drown under voluminous pants. So I reserve them for formal wear, pencil skirts and medium-legged trousers. And while this next statement may piss some people off, I’m just going to say it: I abhor stilettos with skinny jeans--probably because I’m still traumatized by that God-awful ‘90s “mall” trend of stirrup pants with pumps.
When in doubt, leave it out and unbutton an extra button:
Unless the shirt is shapeless (and then you may want to reconsider its purchase) or you work in a really corporate environment, everyone looks better when they don’t tuck their shirt into their pants or skirt. It just gives a trimmer line. And while I am not advocating exposing the “girls” to the world, unbuttoning a shirt a little more than I think is “proper” always looks hipper, sexier and more youthful than when I have an attack of modesty. In fact, I think Noir et Blanc’s Deborah has spent the last 13 years pulling my shirts out of my pants and opening the top three buttons. Lucky for me.
Loose, Shapeless Clothes are Never Slimming
Sloshing around in baggy clothes has always seemed the perfect solution to “fat” days. But trust me, wearing those ensembles don’t do anyone any favors. Ever. Everyone looks their best wearing clothes that fit. Period. If you do want to wear something loose and flowing, pair it with another piece that’s slim or add a belt to give your body shape and definition.
Colored or Printed Denim has to be Super Straight or Skinny
I’m probably not the best person to ask about either of these trends, because, to be blunt: I don’t like them. It could be because neither one is especially flattering to my short, muscular legs. But personally, I just don’t find these pants to be all that chic. If you’re tall, leggy or slim, they can be ok. But here’s the thing: Bright colors and prints only work with straight or skinny jeans. If there’s too much fabric flapping around, Bozo and the pre-k set will want their pants back. Incidentally, I have no problem passing this trend by. In fact, foregoing an unflattering style, no matter how hot it is, is the best fashion advice I’ve ever received. Fur vest on my 4’11” busty bod? No thanks. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
Every time I go back home to NYC, I am amazed at how crazy loud it is. I have to turn the volume on my headset way up just so I can be one of those annoying pedestrians obliviously chattering away on the phone. One noise that is noticeably absent, however, is the mellifluous tone of swishing corduroy pants, which appears to be the soundtrack of a summer in San Francisco. Nearly all of the city’s inhabitants are forced to wear them, as well as Uggs and fleece, from June through the end of August. No, this is not some anti-fashion movement (even if it feels that way to me). It’s because summer in San Fran is cold, grey and gloomy. But this info. appears to be top secret, as evidenced by the scads of tourists shivering in tank tops and shorts on trolley cars come July. Summer in Oakland (where I live), however, is pretty perfect. It’s in the mid-70s and sunny nearly ever day. Still, it is the sixth most dangerous city in the country. But we hella <3 Oaktown and are proud it’s no longer in the top 5.
But back to the Big Apple. Lucky for me, I am not all that bothered by the sweltering heat and humidity that is the norm there this time of year. It feels sultry and kind of sexy to me, which makes sense since I am of mostly Mediterranean descent. Plus it lets me wear strappy sandals and sundresses at night, which you definitely can’t do in the East Bay, since temps drop into the 50s or lower once the sun sets. (Did anyone start singing that Corey Hart song from the 80s just now, or was that just me?) Still, when the humidity makes it feel like it's in the triple digits even I start to melt, and the effects aren’t pretty. So lucky for me and the people who sit next to me on the subway, I’ve amassed a pretty amazing beat-the-heat beauty kit.
Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection Tint SPF 40, $40 (sephora.com)
This could be my favorite beauty product ever. And I’m apparently not alone in my ardor, because it sells out faster than a New York minute. Two Sephora stores in the Bay Area were out of stock a couple of weeks ago and so was nordstrom.com. Lightweight and non-greasy, this liquidy lotion warms up my sallow complexion and provides a nice, natural coverage that evens out my skin tone and somehow makes everything look smoother and fainter (pore-size, lines and wrinkles, blotchiness, dark circles, etc.). Because Clarins uses mineral sunscreens, this product doesn’t irritate my skin and offers immediate sun protection. (You have to wait at least 15-30 minutes for chemical sunscreens to kick in.) And bonus! The tint doesn’t drip down my face when I’m standing on an un-air conditioned subway platform. The one caveat is that it is really, really hard to remove (unless it is rubbing off on the neck of your shirt). So repeated, thorough, cleansings and pre-treating any “tinted” clothes are the order of the day. But they are well worth it.
L‘Oreal Sublime Sun Liquid Silk Sunshield for Face SPF 50, $10.99 (drugstore.com). Silky, non-greasy, fast-absorbing and long-lasting, this is my nirvana of sunscreens. It even has antioxidants to safeguard skin against free radicals. Because it’s formulated with chemical sunscreens, I can’t use it on my face. But it’s awesome everywhere else.
Revlon Just-Bitten Kissable Balm Stain, $8.99 (drugstore.com) Lipsticks and gloss can feel so heavy in the heat, not to mention the fact that they can both migrate out of your lip contours and give you the dreaded ring-around-the-mouth—never an attractive look. This chubby pencil lays down just the perfect amount of moisturizing stay-put pigment. “Crush,” a grapey/plum shade, never fails to draw compliments. But there are 11 lovely and virtually universal shades. I intend to score all of them.
M.A.C. Blot Film, 30 sheets for $15 (maccosmetics.com). Now that I’m 46, I don’t seem to be particularly troubled by excess oil in my T-Zone. (Hooray for middle age!) But most people need some kind of shine-sopper in the the summer. MAC makes the gold standard. Each sheet completely absorbs grease without messing up makeup, drying out my skin or leaving a powdery film in its wake. I still carry them around with me, “just in case.”
Herban Essentials Towelettes, $15 for 20, (herbanessentials.com). These ingenious individually-wrapped wipes are saturated in amazing-smelling, germ-killing essential oils. I use them to freshen up my hands, the back of my neck--and ok, truth time, my underarms--when I am feeling extra hot and grimy. I also swipe them over not-so-clean surfaces before I sit down. Each of the 5 fragrances--orange, lavender, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus—have other more aromatherapeutic usages. You can check out the website for particulars.
Giovanni Cool Mint Lemon Salt Scrub with Crushed Mint Leaves, $14.99 (drugstore.com). This heavenly-scented body-slougher not not only seriously softens and smooths, but is also infused with cooling mint that actually seems to sink into the skin, serving almost as a portable air conditioner throughout the day.
Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo, $24, Conditioner, $24 and Nourishing Styling Cream, $26 (livingproof.com). Traditional frizz fighters contain silicone, which leaves my fine, wavy hair flat and greasy looking. But Living Proof incorporates a molecule called OFPMA, which was designed to coat hair evenly, keep hair cleaner, longer and control frizz--without added weight. This trio of products transforms my frizzy flyaways into bouncy, shiny, well-defined curls. Word on the street is this a great product line for straight-haired girls, too.
Secret Fresh Effects Invisible Solid in Cucumber/Aloe, $5.95 (drugstore.com). Let me preface this entry by saying, “I don’t really think this antiperspirant/deodorant is any better than any of the others out there.” First off, it has “invisible” in the title, which means it is destined to leave white marks on your clothes (and it does). And secondly, it doesn’t appear to have any magical powers that keep me dry and sweet-smelling above and beyond the competition. That being said, this product does a decent job, has a really nice, subtle scent (no over-powering sickly sweet floral fragrance, like its counterparts) and blends into skin well. So to me, it’s one of the least offensive solids out there. But the best sweat-proof trick I’ve ever learned (and this really does work) is to apply deodorant/antiperspirant mornings and nights. Trust me. You and your neighbors will thank me for this intel.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
Spoiler alert: This is Notorious’ least sexy blog post ever. And it may actually be the least sexy blog post of all time from anyone. Today’s topic? Chin hairs. And boy, fair-skinned, dark-haired part Turk that I am, I’ve struggled with them since my ‘30s. And while I may have had an issue before, now that I am on Tamoxifen, it’s pretty much off the charts. And some of my dear friends have been experiencing the same darn thing.
So what’s a girl to do? As I’ve told you in the past, I am a huge fan of Laser and Intense Pulsed Light hair removal for the body. IPL has given me 10-plus years of a no-shaving-required bikini line and underarms. But in my experience, and according to my San Francisco derm Dr. David MacGregor, neither method works as well for chin hairs. It seems that unlike body hair, chin hairs and other facial hair are the result of fluctuating hormones. So even if you kill existing facial hair follicles with a laser, every time your hormones ebb (or is it flow?) they stimulate growth in new follicles.
Not knowing that these hairs wouldn’t respond in the same way that my underarm and bikini hair did to laser treatments, I submitted to six excruciating Diode Laser sessions on my upper lip and chin. Even after sitting with numbing cream on these areas for a full 45 minutes, this procedure was one of the most brutal experiences I have ever willingly (not so willingly) experienced. I honestly didn’t think anything could hurt that much. Surprise! It can. I did get about 18 life-changing months of being chin-hair and mustache-free for my trouble. But for that kind of pain and expense I had hoped for “forever”, or at least the 10 or so years I had experienced with other body parts.
The good news: Some five years later, my upper lip still requires very little tending to. The bad news: My chin is pretty much back to square one. And the hair is so coarse there that neither waxing, tweezing nor shaving seems to help. In fact, for the most part, the first two methods just seem to break the hairs in half and cause in-growns. This post just keeps getting hotter and hotter, doesn’t it?
But there is hope. Dr. MacGregor recently prescribed me Vaniqa--a cream designed to “reduce the growth” of unwanted facial hair. And it actually works. It contains a drug called, “Eflornithine”, which blocks the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) that fuels hair growth in the follicle. FYI, when injected or taken orally, Eflornithine is used to treat African Sleeping Sickness. Now you know everything. Vaniqa ain’t cheap; it costs about $90 a tube. But if you go to vaniqa.com, you can score a coupon for up to $25 off. You still have to tweeze or shave or whatever, but it’s no longer a life or death situation. In other words, you don’t have to carry a tweezers with you everywhere you go, which, not surprisingly, is quite liberating. Plus, this remedy doesn’t hurt like a mother. So I’m on board.
But here’s the rub, you’re supposed to use Vaniqa twice a day every day for life, but it made my chin break out like mad (a known side-effect). So through trial and error I have found I can keep blemishes and chin hairs at bay by using Vaniqa just once a day (mornings) and Dr. Dennis Gross’ All-Over Blemish Solution, $42 (dgskincare.com), at night. This salicylic-acid based preparation does a splendid job of keeping pores clear without drying out skin. When I need to drag out the heavy anti-blemish artillery, I use Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion, $17 (mariobadescu.com). It’s a tad irritating, due to its high concentration of isopropyl alcohol, and it’s actually meant for cystic acne, but I’ve found it clears up chin breakouts practically over night.
So there you go. A post that’s about as un-erotic as it gets. But the world may be a more glamorous place because of it. And I promise, my next post will be positively steamy. In fact, if I have my way, it will make you blush. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
So after a year of starving myself and exercising like a mad woman, I have lost most of my Tamoxifen weight and am back in my regular size 26 jeans—considered a 2 by most standards, sometimes a 4. I still have some more weight to lose and a lot more toning is in order (when did my knees start to sag?) but progress is progress. So to celebrate, I decided to take myself shopping for jeans. And I am here to tell you, right here, right now, as God and the salesgirl at Nordstrom are my witnesses, if you are shorter than 5 ft. 7, weigh more than 100 lbs. and are over the age of 40, jeans shopping is only second to bathing suit shopping in terms of total and utter demoralization. I am certain there is a special ring of hell devoted to denim designers and to the architects who created the fitting rooms at the Nordstrom in Union Square in San Francisco, where I spent yesterday afternoon.
Picture if you will, a small, airless cubicle with a three-way mirror and fluorescent lighting so deplorable that it actually gives you cellulite across your cheekbones. I will not even discuss what it did to my thighs. At home, my room is flooded with unforgiving sunlight and my mirror is huge, wide and stretches from the floor to ceiling—it is as horrifying as it sounds. But not anywhere near as horrifying as the set up in the Nordstrom fitting room, where I tried on 30, yes 30, pairs of jeans yesterday. So here’s the good news: my size actually fits, and in some cases is even too big, except in J.Brand. I couldn’t even get one leg into one size up much less my own size. Bastards! Now here’s the bad: Not one pair, not one stinking pair, looked good on my 4 ft. 11, 108-lb. body. In fact, most pairs looked so terrible that the salesgirl, may she burn in Hades forever, suggested I try a line for more “mature” women. Mature? Why don’t you just call me, “M’am” and poke me in the eye with a sharp stick? I wanted to tell her 28-year old sadistic self to kiss my once nearly perfect now slightly sagging 46-year-old ass. Instead, I tried on the damn jeans. These were desperate times. Turns out the smallest size pair was too big, and they rise so high the waistband practically came up under my neck. I guess I am “immature”... take that! bitch salesgirl!
So here’s what I’ve learned from my devastating day at the mall:
Whiskering sucks and everyone does it: Vicious denim companies market this technique as “strategic fading around the hips and thighs for a slimming effect.” Are you kidding me? It is basically painting wide white horizontal stripes around the fullest parts of most women’s bodies. Whiskering actually makes me long for the acid-washed technique of the 80s, and trust me, I never, ever thought I’d say that. Seven for all Mankind seems to be particularly guilty of this transgression. It also has this extraordinarily unflattering practice of making the thighs lighter than the rest of the jeans. In fifth grade art class I learned that light brings things forward and dark causes them to recede. Did the designers at 7 not learn this? How many women want to emphasize their thighs?
“Curvy Fits” are for hourglass figures, not fuller lower bodies: Now this seems like a contradiction. But it’s not. I have a muscular build so my thighs are not tiny. Before I got weak and fatigued from this breast cancer treatment nonsense, I could leg press more weight than some of the guys at my gym. But “strong” legs do not put you in the “curvy” camp. While the Seven for All Mankind Kimmies curvy fit was passable (except for the frigging wash), the Joe’s Jeans Curvy Honey jeans were the stuff nightmares are made of. I did not fare any better with any other styles made for “curvy girls.” Curvy styles of jeans are for women blessed with tiny waists and rounded hips, butts and thighs. They are not for straight, athletic types. Funny that I have an athletic build considering I was always the very last person picked for a team in gym class. Actually, that’s not so funny. And is it just me, or does the term, “bootylicious” make you want to punch someone in the face? Just asking.
Big pockets equal smaller butts unless they are long, then it’s best to not check out your rearview: I’ve read many times to look for more generous pockets on jeans if you want to streamline your butt and tinier ones if you want to emphasize it. But what’s with the extra long pockets that actually fold underneath the crease? Is this just happening to me because I am short? The effect is stunningly awful. It makes your posterior look long, low, and wide. Paige Denim and Hudson Jeans seem to use this pocket style a lot.
Mid-rise jeans are the devil: Ok, Ok. I stand corrected. High-rise jeans are the devil. If you want proof, just take a look at Demi Moore in About Last Night or re-watch any John Hughes film. So I guess mid-rise jeans aren’t as bad. And they are good for concealing muffin-tops. But they seem to make the lower body assume epic proportions. Now granted, super low rise jeans don’t do anyone any favors. But a nice, mid-low rise (low-mid-rise?) is the most flattering for me. And just see if you can find that.
Stretch is something to be taken lightly: Since I’ve moved to the East Bay, it’s made me crazy that the hipster boys all wear these super tight skinny black jeans that are ridiculously snug in the leg yet somehow baggy in the rear (I know I sound like my grandmother.) Well after slithering in and out of all of those denims yesterday, I realized that too much stretch is to blame. It allows you to easily wedge yourself into super-tight jeans. Somehow the stretch sort of hugs your thighs (which if the jeans aren’t the wrong size can be flattering). But super stretchy fabric just can’t seem to maintain its shape around your derriere so your jeans look tight and baggy at the same time. Meanwhile, the jeans feel so comfortable you don’t realize how dreadful you look. With their stretchy fabrics, Paige and Hudson do slim the thighs, but man they bag in the butt. Citizens of Humanity is another butt-bagger, plus it does that horrible whiskering thing so it is off the table.
Bootcuts and flares are not slimming: I love the way boot cut and flare jeans look—so ‘70s rock star. And to me they work the best with any shoes since they don’t buckle over the tops, like straight legs and skinnies do (don’t get me started on skinnies.). Plus, they look great with my Puma California’s. You would think since both styles are fuller in the lower leg, they would balance out a body with a fuller upper leg. Not so. I learned yesterday that flares and bootcuts are actually cut narrower in the hips and thighs than other jeans and taper at the knees before fanning out. Jeans that taper at the knee are about the least flattering thing I can think of (pegged ankles are pretty bad too) unless you have super sleek, long legs. And if you do, God bless you. Straight legs are more forgiving in the thighs, don’t taper at the knee and don’t constrict the calves like skinnies. They literally run down the length of your leg in a straight line. But unless you hem them slightly shorter than I would like, they bunch up over your footwear and they don’t work at all with wide shoes like my Pumas. They look ok with Converse sneakers (especially the high tops), ballet flats, sandals and ankle “Beatle” boots. Yes, I admit to having several pair of Beatle boots and Converse All Stars (though I am iffy about wearing them).
I wish I could tell you that I had better luck with Current Elliot, True Religion, Big Star, Jag, Jolt, AG and Blue Essence, or that my trip to the Lucky Brand store in the same mall was fruitful. But at the end of two hellish hours of mortification and self-flagellation, I was pretty much s#it out of luck. It turns out, though, that the answer to my prayers was, as Dorothy would say, “right in my own backyard”-- a pair of faded, not whiskered, totally untrendy, stretch-free straight legs from J.Crew that I had stuffed in the back of my closet when I put on my Tamoxifen weight. Well those babies fit now, and even if I can’t wear my Pumas with them and run the risk of sanctifying the hipster movement by having to sport them with my Converse, I have at least one pair of jeans that look good on me. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
When it comes to being “cool,” the deck has always been stacked against me. As a kid I was short, round, nervous, anxious and humiliatingly un-athletic. I also cried at the drop of a hat, got glasses in the fourth grade and braces in the fifth. There’s more. My mother, who equates the decline of Western Civilization with the abolishment of the dress code in schools, forbade my brother and me to wear jeans and t-shirts, except at camp. So throughout elementary school I was clothed in knit stretch pants and nylon tops--well-past the acceptable pre-school years. And sneakers were totally out, except for gym class. Because of our “flat” feet, my brother and I had to sport lace-up oxford shoes with orthotics. You may not be surprised to learn that I was picked on mercilessly.
I got my first pair of jeans in 1977 when I was 11. One day, J.K., the prettiest, most popular and precocious girl in the fifth grade handed me an outgrown pair of Wrangler straight legs in a brown paper bag when she thought no one was looking. “Here”, she whispered furtively. “If you wear these instead of those awful pants, maybe people won’t make fun of you so much.”
In sleep away camp later that year I met A.L, a fiery, funny and incredibly fun native New Yorker who seemed unbelievably sophisticated to me even though she was a year my junior. (I was from Teaneck, N.J., after all.) At 10 she had already tried cigarettes, wore all the right clothes, was in constant trouble and never seemed to care what other people thought about her. Together, we balled up the pink and white gingham dress my mother had packed for the final social dance, ankle socks (girls our age only wore knee socks) and Danskin shorts (only the hand-me-down cut-offs from my cousins were acceptable) and gleefully threw them in the big round metal garbage can in front of our bunk. “Tell your mom the camp laundry lost all of your uncool clothes,” she advised. A.L. also counseled me to start wearing my older brother’s cast-off rock’n’roll tees (he had rebelled against my mother’s dress code years earlier). The Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, Santana and Quicksilver were totally not my thing, but wearing those shirts seemed to give me that little bit of street cred that I desperately craved. It was the summer of my life! I lost my 10 lbs of “baby fat,” got the lead in the musical, started dressing the way I wanted to and made my very first best friend.
My triumphant return home as a completely different person was instantly overshadowed when I saw how my mother had redecorated my bedroom. The plain yellow walls were now obscenely covered with floral wall paper paired with matching ruffled curtains. How could I ever be perceived as cool with a room like that? To retaliate, I plastered every square inch of space with pictures of the bad boy rockers I was now obsessed with. Until my mother sold the house 10 years later, The Stones, Hendrix, Morrison, Aerosmith, Led Zep and Van Halen were my constant companions— smirking, brooding, glaring and glowering at me from every angle of my bedroom. Only Eddie Van Halen smiled. I loved him. Joe Perry may have been my crush because of his undeniably sultry good looks and did I ever love Keith Richards. But with his million-dollar smile, Eddie was my favorite.
Once in my teens, I asserted myself at home and had my fashion prohibition lifted. But now the big problem: most of the clothes that my tall and skinny friends wore looked awful on short, busty me. So I cobbled together a kind of hippie-cum-rocker look that I thought my rock star “boyfriends” would approve of, and it felt right to me. It was not fashionable, and it certainly didn’t make me any more popular, but it was mine. My outfits centered around my brother’s hand-me-down baggy Levis and concert tees. And as I started to go to concerts myself, I collected my own shirts. To round out my wardrobe, I picked up Indian print skirts, gauze blouses and batik sun dresses at the local flea markets. I donned Wallabee shoes, Frye boots (they could fit orthotics) and cork wedge sandals in the summer (they offered enough support that I could actually walk in them). At the same time I had a penchant for pastel angora cowlnecks and corduroys in fashion colors like raisin, olive (they called it loden, then) and silver. Secretly, I also still listened to James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles and The Beatles--I was a good girl at heart.
One would think surviving my school years as a fashion outcast would have been enough. But no, nope, and no again. I decided to embark on a career in the fashion industry. And what hell that wrought. First off, no trends have ever been designed for my body type. Next up? I have curly dark hair, and when I first entered the industry, everyone was into stick-straight blonde strands. Meanwhile, my crappy feet make it virtually impossible to wear the stilettos that were requisite then and even most of the wedges that are “in” right now (although to my delight I discovered that orthotics actually fit into some low-heeled Jimmy Choo boots). So I spent years feeling “wrong” and definitely not cool. It was almost as fun as seventh-grade gym class.
But something wonderful happened when I turned 30 and I started to write about fitness in addition to beauty. I hit the gym hard and gained a fitness level and self-confidence that I had never known before. This freed me up to develop a fashion style I felt good in and surprise, surprise--I went back to my rock star “roots” with black boot-cut pants, flare low-rise jeans, camisoles, wrap tops, cropped cardigans, leather jackets, vintage tees, studded belts and ankle boots. Once again, I was not “a la mode,” but I was ok with that.
This look stood me in good stead for nearly 15 years. But then around two years ago, it all started to feel terribly wrong. Whereas in NYC my style was seen as youthful and hip, In the East Bay of California it felt “old”, though I can’t put my finger on why. Also, the trends have shifted.Tops are way longer than the cropped styles I favor and pants are skinny with higher rises, which look beyond hideous on me. Plus, as a result of my breast cancer treatment, I’ve put on weight and had to cut my hair shorter. And I am also older—closer now to 50 than 40. Frankly, I am at a style standstill.
So it was with great trepidation that I dressed for the Van Halen concert the other night. I couldn’t figure out how to look cool. At last I decided to keep it low-key with a black t-shirt, straight leg jeans and high-top Converses. And low and behold, so did Eddie. There he was, one of the greatest rock n roll guitarists of all time, in one of the hardest hitting bands ever, on stage, in totally basic clothes. And just like me, he was rounder and softer than he was in his heyday with way shorter hair. But he was grinning his trademark grin for all he was worth and having the time of his life. And so did I. And I didn’t even think for a minute how I looked to other people. OK, maybe for just a minute. But still, that’s pretty cool. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.