Category Archives: fashion in the news

Gray: the new hot neutral – for hair.

Good news! If you’re starting to see some gray hairs sprouting up and making panicked calls to your stylist, put down the phone. Gray hair is a growing trend.

Kate Moss sported gray streaks at an event in January.

The New York Times reported a wash of silver among the young and fashionable in April:

Also caught up in the silver rush were pop icons like Pink, who showed off gray-tipped strands at the Grammys, and Siobhan Magnus, the “American Idol” contestant, who accessorized recently with a skunk streak and spectacles.

In embracing a tint their mothers would have shunned, such role models are lending gray new cachet, giving shades from ash to ermine an unlikely fashion moment. Now, some say, the trend, which trickled down from the runways of Chanel, Giles Deacon and their rarefied ilk to fashion hot spots around the country, seems poised to go mainstream.

The UK picked up on the trend late last year.

Ironically, gray hair seems to mostly be in vogue among the young. It’s seen as sort of punky and subversive and the next logical step for young trendsetters who already have blonde and pink in their rear-view – while women whose hair has gone naturally gray are still spending money to color their locks. The grass is always greener on the other side. But even that may be beginning to change. Model Kristen McMenamy, a household name in the 1990s, has grown out her hair into flowing silver strands.

Kristen McMenamy in August's Vogue.

McMenamy says she stopped dyeing her hair six years ago:

“You can get older and still be rock ‘n’ roll. I thought all that gray hair would make a beautiful picture.” She added, “You’ve got to keep moving forward.”

Of course some people, like stylist Louis Licari, are bucking the trend. Licari says that gray hair “gray hair makes women look older and their complexions dull and drab…” Easy for him to say. On men gray hair is considered distinguished and handsome (see anyone nagging George Clooney to get a dye job lately?). He goes on to sat that the artificial grays being displayed by young women like Kelly Osbourne are attractive precisely because they are fake, and that natural gray is unflattering and “creates a huge burden for most people trying to look their best.” The point of which seems to be that your hair is only OK if it’s fake. But don’t worry; Licari ends his article by saying that you have to be comfortable with your appearance, even if it means he’ll tell you that you look old.

But in fact going too dark with hair color can create too high a contrast with skin that loses some of its luster with age, and that can make you look older unless you’re willing to cake yourself with makeup (which can in turn settle into fine lines and cake up). So maybe nature knows what it’s doing. To that end, StyleList has put together tips for making the most of your gray, from hair maintenance to makeup tips.

I think Licari has one thing right: you have to be comfortable. If you love the way you look, then who cares what anyone else thinks? Going gray can be tough on women when we’re constantly pressured by advertising and magazines to stay somehow perpetually young and supple, and those first strands of silver can deal a devastating blow to our self-image. (I say this out of personal experience; I’m currently in a constant state of worry over the increasing number of white hairs I’m finding mixed in with my natural red.) So if for whatever reason fashion has turned in such a way as to make one facet of aging acceptable, I say go with it if you want to. (And if it makes you happy, go with it no matter what fashion says. The best kind of beauty comes from being happy.)

Of course the weirdest part of the gray hair trend might be the fact that it has somehow made Lady Gaga’s current Vanity Fair cover seem almost mainstream:

Lady Gaga on the cover of August's Vanity Fair.

Who saw that coming?

This season in undies…

Somehow I have accumulated a lot of links to different stories about underwear. They don’t necessarily connect in any way besides the core undie topic, so I’ve been sitting on them. Also I’m a procrastinator – nobody’s perfect, right?

Which actually brings me to the first link! StyleList has a pretty comprehensive guide to wearing shapewear in the summer and Instyle.com has handy list of bras for summer clothes (including a backless option). I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in New England it’s been hot and sticky, and the thought of wrapping any part of myself in spandex is pretty unattractive. I tend to avoid any clothing form-fitting enough to require stretchy armor in the summer. I’m only willing to suffer so much to be fabulous. But when I do wear shapewear I use a high-waisted thigh slimmer to smooth out my pear shape. Hanes makes a line of shapewear (on sale on their website!) that includes the thigh shapers as well as shaping panties. They work as well as Spanx without the hefty price tag.

Remember how we learned that big butts are trendy? Well apparently that’s not the only asset that’s “big” right now. Big breasts are in too! Given the amount of implants running around Hollywood I don’t know when big breasts were ever actually out, but apparently this “new” trend means lots more gel and push-up bras. I used to wear a gel bra (I’m pear-shaped, remember?). They’re heavy and not always terribly comfortable – which is what I’m told by my better-endowed friends is a little like actually having large breasts, so I guess the gel bra wins for authenticity.

But if you want to be trendy and the life of the party? Go with this:

The Wine Rack is a sports bra that holds 750ml of any beverage (the equivalent of a bottle of wine), using said liquid to create the illusion of larger breasts. Once you drink your boob cocktail you can use the attached straw to inflate the bra so you don’t look… deflated.

And if you happen to fill that bra with say… beer, which might make you a little gassy? Check out Subtle Butt, a disposable stick-on patch that goes inside your underwear to absorb unpleasant odors. The Subtle Butt’s inventor has a series of stick-on clothing innovations, including the Knicker Sticker, a patch designed to prevent the dreaded camel toe if you decide to forgo undies altogether. If you do want to wear underwear but still want to avoid a “frontal wedgie?” Well there’s a product for that too.

So there you have it. Everything you need to smooth, suck, enhance, hide, and drink out of your lady bits this season. Enjoy!

“Oh. My. God, Becky. Look at her butt. It’s so… TRENDY!”

Big butts are all the buzz this season.

It’s always amusing to me when body parts go in or out of style. Unlike your clothes, the body you’re given isn’t really something you can change all that much (at least not without thousands of dollars worth of surgery). So when some magazine declares that this year’s “look” is small breasts, or long necks, or attached ear lobes (OK, I’m joking about that last one) it all seems that much more ridiculous. How can people go out of style? And what are you supposed to do if you don’t have this year’s hot shape? Stay inside until the trend changes? Clothes go out of style; people do not.

And yet…

Apparently this year’s big trend is already behind us. So to speak:

Make way! Big bums are shaping up to be the summer of 2010’s hottest trend.

Serena Williams reveals that it took her years to accept her curvy backside, joining other full-figured celebrities embracing their broader bottoms this beach season.

Kim Kardashian says she finally appreciates her round rear. Madonna’s daughter Lourdes loves shorts that make your butt look big. And a new book celebrates bulging booties.

Not since Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” has so much praise been paid to the posterior.

The book mentioned in the article is The Big Butt Book, a 372-page salute to well-endowed posteriors.

This is great news for me, since I tend to carry my weight in my hindquarters. Now instead of admitting that I’m just too lazy to go to the gym I can say I’m being trendy! Hooray! If you’re not lucky enough to have some extra junk in your trunk, you can always fake it with padded panties or butt-lifting jeans. Or you can just wait until next season when inevitably slim hips will come back into style.

But it’s not all fun and games for us fat-bottomed girls. A new scientific study has found that women who carry extra weight around their hips may suffer memory impairments. The study found that “apple” shaped women, or women who carry weight in their middle, scored higher on cognitive tests than “pear” shaped women:

The study involved 8,745 post-menopausal women aged 65 to 79.

These women were asked to complete a memory test that doctors use to judge brain function. They were also weighed and measured, then scored on an obesity scale known as Body Mass Index or BMI. Over two-thirds of the women were overweight or obese.

The researchers found that for every one point increase in a woman’s BMI, her memory score dropped by one point.

And pear-shaped women – those with smaller waists but bigger hips – scored particularly poorly.

The researchers say this is likely to be related to the type of fat deposited around the hips versus the waist.

So enjoy your moment in the sun, my fellow pears. Someday we won’t remember the short time when we were fashion’s big trend. But at least we can rest assured that Sir Mix-A-Lot and Queen will always love us.

Don’t believe what you see!

It used to be you could trust a photograph to show you a factual representation of a source or subject. But not anymore! Why? One word: Photoshop. I confess, I am a Photoshopper. Any photo of me that touches my computer gets “fixed:” teeth whitened, color corrected, blemishes banished. But magazines and advertisers go a lot further than that. They use Photoshop to take an existing image and turn it into something that not only doesn’t exist, but sometimes can’t possible exist.

For example, Ralph Lauren caused a controversy last year over this image of an impossibly proportioned model (her shoulders are wider than her hips!):

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Before that, Redbook caused a stir with a heavily retouched cover shot of Faith Hill. More recently, ads featuring Demi Moore and Julia Roberts have been so heavily altered that it’s hard to tell that these already beautiful women are even human.

Not even Betty White is immune! She’s 88 years old and they’ve removed all her wrinkles. Is it no longer acceptable for an 88-year-old woman to have wrinkles?

In a world where women are expected to aspire to beauty ideals, these types of images create an even more unattainable idea of the beauty norm. (Though if you can find me an actual adult human woman whose shoulders are wider than her hips, I’ll consider a retraction.) We’re constantly bombarded with images of women who are impossibly thin, ageless, and devoid of imperfection. How can any woman feel comfortable in her own skin surrounded by this crap?

Fortunately, the wide exposure of recent years has started a backlash and is – slowly – beginning a movement in opposition. Jessica Simpson famously posed for the cover of Marie Claire with no makeup and no retouching a few months ago. (And if you ask me, she looks fantastic.) And now a UK department store is openly displaying before- and after-Photoshop shots of a swimsuit model in their stores:

Image courtesy of NYMag.com

It’s a refreshing move, but there’s still a long way to go. The truth is that Photoshop is never going away. It will always be used to clean up flyaway hairs and blemishes and correct color at the very least (and you can pry my copy from my cold, dead hands!). But until the fashion and beauty industries scale back the usage to those parameters we’re going to have to treat every image we see with skepticism. Jezebel has a really interesting gallery of Photoshopped images here. Check it out and see just how much you’re being fooled.

Quickie: You’re not as fat as you think!

A study conducted in London has found that the average person’s body image is seriously distorted:

Scientists have discovered that the body image a person projects in their own brain is “massively distorted” and can be up to two thirds wider than it is in reality. The brain’s own “body model” is also around a third shorter than the body actually is, according to the study at University College London.

The scientists who conducted the study think that this may offer new insights into those affected by eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

I was sort of comforted reading about this study as I’m prone to anxiety about my weight and body image. I was a very skinny kid. Adulthood came along and these days I’m… not so skinny. I spend way too much time worrying about my weight and the size labels inside my clothes. The image perpetuated by the fashion industry (remember when we talked about this?) certainly doesn’t help when we’re surrounded by images of an “ideal” most of us will never meet. It makes sense to me that so many of us are walking around with a mental self-image that doesn’t match the reality when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to those ideals.

But next time you look in the mirror and feel like you’re having a “fat day,” take a deep breath and be a little kinder to yourself – it’s not as bad as you think.

Saturday Quickies

Happy weekend, everyone! Here’s a couple of quickies for your style file:

The Budget Fashionista (a great site) has some options for wearing the current skinny jean trend, even if you’re not so skinny. I have a few pairs of skinny jeans (I’m a size 12 with not-inconsiderable hips) and I usually make sure to pair them with a long top that has some volume to it to balance out the proportions. Or I’ll add a big, bright scarf to draw the eye upward toward my face. The trick with skinny jeans is finding a comfy fit and choosing the rest of your outfit with proportion in mind.

Stylelist investigates the idea that a “go away gray” pill might be in our near future. I hope so!

Have you heard about the new Huggies faux denim diapers? Personally I think they’re a bit silly… since when is it taboo for a baby to be seen in a diaper? But one writer actually hates them so much she cites them as a symptom of a blurring line between childhood and adulthood and rising obesity rates. She even goes so far as to say that “People swollen with fat look like giant babies, the lines and wrinkles pressed from their faces.” Yes, she managed to blame all our societal ills on silly-looking diapers and insult overweight people all at once. I for one am impressed.

Too fat for fashion?

Are you familiar with American Apparel? The retailer boasts a stock of American-made clothes ranging from basic tee shirts to… less basic pieces. They’re a popular brand because of their basics and because of their non-sweatshop approach. But they’re also a controversial brand – and only partially because they think people want to wear metallic leggings and neon scrunchies:

I'm not kidding.

These leggings cost $46.

No, most of the brand’s press is courtesy of their creepy, sleazy CEO, Dov Charney. Charney has been accused of sexual harassment, misogyny, and general creepiness more than a few times now. (The links describe him better than I ever could.) Their porny ads don’t do much to disprove the company’s image as degrading to women.

But now it seems AA is looking to alienate a whole new demographic: the plus-sized. A well-known plus-sized model and adult star recently blogged about asking an AA employee if the company had ever considered carrying larger sizes only to be told, “That’s not our demographic.” The website carries limited items in sizes up to 2X, but their men’s pants only go up to a waist of 34″ and the plus-size women’s stock is limited to mostly basic tees and tops.

In 2009 the Los Angeles Times reported that the average American woman wears a size 14, or an XL. Which means that retailers like AA are leaving a lot of us out of their “demographic.”

AA is currently suffering the media’s slings and arrows over this – and they’re not exactly a hard target – but they’re not alone in ignoring the reality of the American shopper. A size 8 model is considered plus-sized by industry standards. Size 8! That’s a full three sizes smaller than the average woman wearing clothes every day. And I find it hard to believe that any woman walking around the mall looking for a size 8 dress would be shopping at stores geared toward plus-sized women. The fact is, the fashion industry is unrealistic about women’s bodies. And the more women change the more the industry stays the same. Despite years of controversy the models that walk the runways still hover around size 0.

Plus-sized model Leona Palmer wrote a great blog for the Huffington Post about the image misconceptions surrounding plus-sized models. It has nothing to do with the AA issue, but she makes a lot of interesting points about how the fashion industry sees women with regard to our size.

AA isn’t the only retailer that refuses to carry clothes for a diverse clientele, but they’re one of the few willing to admit it openly. And as long as people keep shopping there they can afford to say what they like – though the business model may not be working out in the long-term as their stock sank to a new low this month. Which raises the question: how long can any business survive by excluding a majority of potential consumers?

(Images are from AmericanApparel.com.)

Wash before wearing!

This one is not for the faint of heart or obsessive compulsive.

A while back the Today show performed a little shopping experiment:

The news team removed price tags and hygienic strips from panties, stained them with baby oil, and marked tags with two black dots for identification purposes.

Wouldn’t you love to be the intern assigned that job? Anyway, they then returned the panties to several retailers in the metro New York area and then went back to the store later to find that the untagged, soiled panties had been returned to the sales floor.

Gross.

They went back for a post-exposé check and found that all the stores they had busted had changed their dirty undies – or at least stopped selling them. That’s the good news. The bad news is they caught new retailers selling soiled panties and swimsuits this time around.

The full story and list of stores is at the link, but the point is always wash before you wear when you buy swimwear or lingerie no matter what the corporate office says their policy is. There’s always the chance that some lazy employee didn’t correctly process used garments.

An example from my retail experience:

I worked for a popular mall store that sells prank gift items for a year in college. During one of my first shifts I learned that one of our assistant managers had been taking returns on “personal massagers” and returning them to the sales floor. Nauseated, I asked him if he did this a lot and wound up spending the rest of that shift going through the entire product shelf looking for open packages to drop in the damaged merchandise bin. (That was not my favorite job and I should state for the record that I’m pretty sure re-selling the used items in question was not the company norm.)

I also worked for a popular clothing retailer a few years ago, however, and we had a strict policy not to re-sell any clothing that had been worn by the customer. Swimwear, intimates, winter coats, it didn’t matter. If it was used, it got sent back to corporate. (That was a much better job.)

But like I said, all it takes is one lazy employee to give you some free bacteria with your purchase. Personally I tend not to buy intimates or swimwear without a tag or hygienic strip, but it’s always a good idea to wash those items before you wear them anyway. Even if the item isn’t used, you never know if you’re getting a formaldehyde bra like Victoria’s Secret was apparently selling a few years back.

The “simple” math of fashion and attraction

Ladies, are you trying to attract a man? (Of course you are!) Do you go out to clubs every night just hoping someone will ask you dance, but instead you go and you stand there alone like you’re living inside a Smiths song? Well fret no more, for England’s Telegraph has solved your man-hunting woes once and for all!

And the answer is this: you’re not showing the right amount of skin:

Using tape recorders hidden in their handbags, the researchers took note of what female clubbers were wearing and how many times they were approached by men asking them to dance.

For the purposes of the study, each arm accounted for 10 per cent of the body, each leg for 15 per cent and the torso for 50 per cent.

Women who revealed around 40 per cent of their skin attracted twice as many men as those who covered up.

However, those who exposed any more than this also fared worse. Experts believe that showing too much flesh puts men off because it suggests they might be unfaithful.

It’s so simple! All you have to do is show exactly 40% of your body’s skin. Too little and men will think you’re a prude; too much and men will think you’re a tramp. And what’s really nice is that this super simplification of human attraction isn’t insulting or patronizing at all.

It does raise a few questions, though. For instance, does my face count? Is this like the SATs where I’ll get 200 free points just for not leaving the house in a ski mask every day? And given that the study was performed in England it seems only fair to ask what women are expected to do in the winter. Should we just suck it up and get hypothermia or expect men to ignore us if we choose to avoid frostbite? Do men find amputated limbs sexy as long as their uncovered? A truly thorough study would have addressed these things. After all, we women need this information so that we can achieve our true purpose for existing: attracting a man!

Obviously we need more information. For that, I direct you to this clip from The House Bunny. At 47 seconds in there’s a primer on “skimplifying” which I think is very helpful for just this sort of thing. Except of course for the part about revealing your torso, because that will make men think you’re going to cheat on them. So just ignore that part.

Skinny Jeans: Rape Proof? Jury says YES.

Editor’s Note: Apologies for the delay in posts. Technical difficulties kept me from updating, but we’re fully operational again!

Skinny jeans are one of the scary scary trends that appear here to stay for a while. I say “scary” because most of us aren’t built like models and thus fear the skinny jean because we believe it’s the equivalent of wearing a sign that says, “HEY WORLD! Look at my enormous ass!”

(As the owner of both a not-inconsiderable ass and two pairs of skinny jeans, I can say that this isn’t necessarily true if you choose a good fit and pair them with the right tops – but that’s another post for another time.)

But now we have an exciting new reason to fear the skinny jean, thanks to a jury in Australia who acquitted an accused rapist on the grounds that skinny jeans cannot be removed without the wearer’s assistance, and that said assistance qualifies as consent.

Did you get that? This woman could not possibly have been raped because apparently it would be impossible for a man to get her jeans off without her helping him. As if that statement isn’t ridiculous enough, the assumption also seems to be that if you take off your clothes you’re consenting to sex.

Hooray! Another reason rape is the victim’s fault. Well, she wore that short skirt… well, she got drunk… well, those jeans were so tight she must have helped him get them off…

Technically this isn’t a “fashion” article and I’m sorry for that. But I find it relevant because women are judged in so many ways by what we wear. Our clothes form perceptions about us. It’s the reason we dress differently for a job interview than we would to a barbecue. Some of that is fair. Men are also judged to a certain degree by their appearance; people use things like hygiene and fashion to make decisions about a person at a glance. But a line is crossed when it’s determined that the clothes someone chooses put that person at fault for harm that befalls them.

Let me be clear about that: sometimes it is our fault. It’s my fault if I wear 5″ heels and trip on them and fall. It’s my fault if I wear bright blue panties under white pants and people snicker at me. But it is not my fault if I get raped while wearing tight jeans just because some idiot in a courtroom decided what it would take to remove them. That’s just a new form of victim blaming and it’s ridiculous.

An Italian court upheld a rape conviction appealed on the same grounds, saying that “jeans cannot be compared to any type of chastity belt.” So Viva Italia! At least there’s common sense somewhere.