Friday, June 26, 2009

Fabulous Nails . . . Fast!

Having to cut back on my weekly manicures caused a mini beauty freak out.

Seriously, there was an internal debate about whether I could stand watching local TV if I had to cancel my cable subscription to be able to afford my regular sudsy soak at the nail salon.

True Blood

But no worries. DIY-ing a semi-professional mani look is easy peezy.

Like with a good outfit, start with a good foundation. The most expensive shades won't look good if your nails are raggedy. Gently shape your nails, being careful to file in only one direction. I've retired the square Carmela Soprano look for a softer square with rounded sides (or “squoval,” in nail-industry speak). If you're doing your nails yourself between salon appointments, just a few passes with the nail file will help maintain the shape.

I love the sexy, siren red on the third self at the nail salon. I’m insane for glittery pinks and shimmering purples in square bottles. Gunmetal gray? Slap it on me. White, eh, not so much but I’ll try anything once. Speaking of which, I'm out of the whole gray-nails phase, for the moment. Too high-maintenance for my low-key, lazy days of summer psyche.

Right now I'm into nails that are a simple, clean and unfussy. Like a refreshing lemonade after the winter's heavy wines and reds. Besides, who wants to spend time waiting for their nails to dry when the sun is shining?

I'm into neutrals (what the heck is "flesh-tone" anyway?)--like warm, shiny shades that kinda-sorta matches my skintone, but with a hint of shimmer. The bonus is that neutrals won't show flaws if you end up with a smudge or smear or if it chips. And they make your fingers look longer and leaner because the color is close to your skin tone--perf for showing off that sparkler on your finger, whether it's for real or faux.

Think of them like the perfect nude shoe for your nails!

Sheer formulas are a good bet but you can grab a cream or lustre version and just use fewer coats for a similar effect. Avoid frosts though. Not only do they scream "great-aunt Mabel down in Boca," any imperfections or chips will be more visible. Same with mattes.

Here are a few faves:

"Aston" by Butter is an utterly delicious toffee color with a hint of gold shimmer. It's like a caramel candy treat for your fingertips. Yum.

Another fave is this glitter-y gold called "West End Wonderland" which is also by Butter. Gold, glitter, glam ... what's not to love? It's an grown-up glitter (yes, there is such a thing!) than you can wear during the day to the office without fear of looking like a kid's art project run amok. And it's a gorgeous way to set off sun-kissed skin.

I'm a girly girl at heart, so naturally I love pretty much anything pink. But finding the perfect pink nail color that wasn't too pale, too white, too chalky, too Pepto-Bismol, too whatever, was a trial in patience. And I have the drawerful of rejects to prove it!

But persistence paid off. "Angel Pink" from Milani's French Manicure collection ($4.99 available at drugstores) is a petal-soft pink that is universally flattering (goes on lighter than shown). You can literally slap on a coat and two in the backseat of a cab when your boss pulls you into a big client meeting at the last minute and end up with perfect looking nails by the time you reach your destination. Er, so I'm told . . .

And somehow this formula makes the tips of your nails look whiter and brighter for a French mani-like look. Genius. It's not labeled as a quick dry formula but you can safely hunt for those pesky keys that keep following all the way to the bottom of your bag in about five-minutes. May the beauty gods smile on me that they don't discontinue this one!

Once your nail color dries, finish with a clear top coat for a Teflon coating and added shine. I use Oh So Wet! ($3.99, Sally Beauty Supply) but any brand from your local drugstore will do. Using a top coat can extend the wear of your handiwork (ha! pun somewhat intended) an extra 3 - 5 days. Really.

All told, you'll have fabulous nails in less than 10 minutes!

Prefer a French-mani? Get an oh la la look in just two steps.

Try Sephora's Easy French Manicure Duos ($8). It's an all-in-one tube with a dual-ended wand with a clear base coat on one end and a sheer topcoat shade in either pink or beige. It dries super fast, making it ideal for nail polish emergencies, plus you can just throw it in your makeup case when you're traveling without taking up space with two bulky bottles.

Voila! Best of all, you don't need to use those annoying, sticky stencil tip things that seem to require a freakish degree of dexterity to handle.

What tips do you have for fast and fabulous nails? Dish in the comments!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Crazy For Cardigans!

"Victory is mine! Victory is mine. Great day in the morning, people, victory is mine.... I drink from the keg of glory ... "

I'm totally savoring my Josh Lyman-esque fashion moment because cardigans -- my long-standing wardrobe staple since about the eighth grade -- are suddenly haute.

Ha, take that Jenny Simmons!

Ok, fine, so Michelle Obama might have had a liiiittle something to do with bringing them in vogue but still.

I favor cardis partly because I'm always cold but also because they're a great alternative to the traditional blazer or jacket, which have always seemed too buttoned down and stuffy to me.

They're perfect to throw on over a summer dress or layer with contrasting tees. Add the right accessories, they can be dressed up or down and take you from the boardroom to the dining room at your favorite restaurant.
They're like the sartorial equivalent of tofu! If you're packing for a weekend getaway, a cardi is a throw-in-the-bag must.

Cardigans usually seem to disappear from stores shelves in June - August, but thanks to the craptastic economy, stores are pimping them out at fabulous end-of-season sales so now is the time to buy. Old Navy and the Gap are always good bets for this versatile garment, but Banana Republic and J.Crew, two stores that I don't shop at until the red sale signs come out, have really marked down some super cute styles (I'm insane for the cascading petals cardi at J.Crew) that will take you through the warm weather months right into fall/winter, some as low as $30.00.

Not a Betty Draper fan? Play with proportions for a simple update on a classic silhouette--three-quarter length sleeve, oversized boyfriend cardigan, cropped, draped front, sleeveless . . . take your style pick.

For work, throw on a cardigan over a shirt with a slightly long hem that peeks out from the bottom, roll up the cuffs and slough the sleeves. And as the final finish, pop the collar. Preppy and professional. To give the look more polish, swap out the necklace for a warm, Frenchy-looking patterned scarf. So Naughty Nanette-like with a pencil skirt!

It's a cinch to give your cardi new life. Look sophisticated and not just-rolled-out-of-bed sloppy, by topping it with a belt---wide, skinny, leather, ribbon, whatev. Try two skinny belts for more visual interest. Besides looking oh-so cool in that MOD way, the cinched-in look has a sveltering effect. And you didn't even have to break a sweat!

Small details make a big statement so show some personality with a fun accessory. Remember the ginormous flower Carrie wore in the Sex and the City flick? So whimsical! Too much of a muchness? Try a blinged out broach or vintage pin. For really unusual flair, visit for one-of-a-kind creations.

How utterly j'adorable is this feather and rhinestone brooch?

Don't be afraid of color. Add a pop of color to a basic black wardrobe (guilty as charged) with cardis in rainbow hues and patterns. Mix-and-match stripes with florals, and plaid with stripes. As Stacey and Clinton remind us every week: Things don't have to
match, they have to go. Choose a patterned cardigan (simple ones like florals, polka dots, or stripes all work well), and then opt for a contrasting pattern in the same color palette for the shirt underneath. Instant chic!

What do you think? Are you a cardi chick too? What's your favorite way to wear it? You know what to do, discuss in the comments!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Look for Less: Valentino Floral Tote

If I had a million dollars, I'd have a Valentino 'Glamorous' floral tote in every color. With a bouquet of leather flower embellishments, it totally lives up to its name. But with a princely $2,995 price tag, I can only wipe the drool from my mouth in bag envy.

But I refused to be defeated. I was a woman on a shopping mission. So I set my Shop It To Me alerts in the unlikely event the bag goes on sale at an amount that wouldn't have me deciding between Ramen noodle flavors. Yeah, still waiting.

I had better luck searching through the hundreds of retail sites I have bookmarked and my admittedly obsessive tendencies paid off.

Check out this totally cute 'Oasis Flower Satchel' from Jessica Simpson. Yes, you read that right. Who knew? Jess might not know the difference between canned chicken and tuna but the girl has an eye for cute accessories. The style obviously isn't as luxe as the one by Valentino but it captures the same spirit of whimsy and it's tres summertime fabulous.

It's on sale for $69.99 (from $98) at Baker's Shoes which is one of my all-time favorite stores. I've been shopping at the one in Chi-town since scrunchies were in and have yet to make a trip without leaving with a shopping bag. Or two. Definitely some of the best prices on trendy shoes and bags in the city.

What do you think of my frugal find, lambs?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tori! Tori! Tori!

Psst. I have a confession to make. Tori Spelling's reality show "Tori & Dean Home Sweet Hollywood" is like a big bowl of ice cream with caramel and sprinkles, and a cherry on top. Sheer deliciousness.

So after watching an episode where she debuts her jewelry line on HSN and learning that the pint-sized queen of fierceness, Christian Siriano (sorry Tyra) used pieces in his New York Fashion Week show, I just had to click on over to for a little look see.

And I have to say, "Charge it!" According to the show's edit monkeys, Donna Martin herself had a well manicured hand in the designs but when the pieces are so cute -- and affordable -- all I want to know is, "how much?"

Think chunky, bold and modern with a bit of a boho vibe. And they look way more expensive than the price tag would suggest. Like something that your grandma would hand down to her favorite grandchild, not a mass-produced trinket. This is the jewelry line Nicole Richie wishes she had made. Oh, yes I did, honey.

The prices for Tori's line start at just $19.95 and go up to $89.95, but most hover somewhere in the $50-ish range. There's a clearance going on right now so you can snap up pieces for even less; between $20 and $30.

Check out my ab fab favorites from the collection:

Pretty cute, right? Would you wear pieces from her line? Is it weird that I want to call-in the next time Tori is on HSN? Too fan girl?