Thursday, November 16, 2006

Study up

When I was in fifth grade, I played "school" with my poodle. I dressed up like a teacher (in glasses, of course. Duh, all teachers wear glasses) - and taught him what little math I knew.

Master Rude Dude, the poodle, didn't learn anything. But I did: that teaching is not my thang.

That's the disclaimer.

Against better judgment, I've decided to steal this moment to teach some new fashion-related terminology. Some is original Heckel vernacular, likely conjured after a few (eight) glasses of Riesling. Other expressions have seeped out of fellow fashionistas.

Let the lesson begin:

Prippie -
 My friend, who looks identical to Reese Witherspoon, calls herself a "Prippie." That is, a preppy hippie. As she describes it, "I'm an Anne Taylor Loft-wearing, yoga-doing, toe-ring-wearing, hair-dying Boulderite."

Her celly ring tone: "Love Train," by the O'Jays. What is more hippie than urging people around the world to join hands and start a love train, a love train? Yet the simple act of having a personalized ring tone thrusts said person into the preppy circle.

The Prippie character is epitomized by my friend's necklace: a heart chakra charm necklace. Sterling silver and trendy, while evoking the center of one's being from which feelings of love emanate.

Yippie -
 This species, the confounding cross between a yuppie and hippie, is prevalent in Boulder. Rich, upwardly mobile - and socially and environmentally conscious? It can't be. But, alas, it is. You will recognize the Yippie by the mode of transportation: a Saab with Grateful Dead stickers.

Yippies tend to be older than Prippies. They live in zillion-dollar houses, but wear clothes from consignment stores. Flowy, rayon pant suits and carved wooden jewelry bought during their recent African safari - to support the native handiwork, of course. Even though that sparkling Pellegrino they chug after spinning class costs more than those natives make in four months.

Gippie -
 I refute this term, but mostly because it pegs me: the gangster hippie. Generally a younger breed, college-age or quarter-life-crisis types who listen to hip-hop, recycle everything and confusingly pair massive J-Lo-style hoop earrings with coconut-wood bracelets from the consignment store.
These creatures feast at independent coffee shops, cry about the injustice in the world and deal with their plaguing woes by downing a few glasses of Hennessey and shaking their money makers on the bar counter in LoDo. They spend their free time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and posting rumors about their so-called friends on, where their profile song is by Diddy.

Beturning -
 Buy + return = beturn. Not that I have ever done this, and I certainly don't condone it, but hypothetically speaking, if one were to, say, buy an object with the sole intention of using it one time and returning it, one would be practicing the act of beturning.

Hanger appeal -
 When an object looks fantastic on the hanger, although not necessarily on the body. A nicely designed window - reeking of hanger appeal - at the mall might cause someone to look twice. Unlike the windows at American Apparel on Pearl Street, where headless mannequins have been seen dressed like aliens wearing metallic gold underwear, T-shirts and leg warmers. This is an example of hanger repellent.

The following are courtesy of, where I do most of my studying:

Mullet ratio -
 In the words of Urban Dictionary: "A mathematical term used to describe how extreme a mullet hairstyle is. It is found by comparing how long the hair on top of the head is compared with how long the hair hangs at the back of the neck." The larger the metric discrepancy, the more awesome the mullet ratio.

Thrifting -
 Comparable to bar-hopping, but with shopping. One hits up various thrift shops in search of the cheapest and most interesting clothing.

Tag hag -
 I had a roommate who intentionally hung her clothes in the closet with the tags sticking out so I could see how much she paid for her camis and cardigans. A tag hag is a person who asserts her (or his) self-worth by donning - and flaunting - overpriced clothes.

A Tag Hag would never partake in thrifting, but is a frequent offender in the beturning realm.

Originally published 11/16/06 at 

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Whoever says Colorado has great weather doesn’t wear stilettos

Not to sound trite or elderly, but how ’bout this weather?

I shave my legs for spring, but the hair rushes back to the follicles before I make it outside, a form of self-preserving padding in anticipation of the impending blizzard. My dark winter wools are forced to co-mingle with my white cottons. And my skin, following Colorado’s schizophrenic lead, is simultaneously dry, chapped, oily and broken out, but only in one quarter-sized patch.

Then there is the man. Oh, the man.

As if putting together a quasi-matching outfit is not challenging enough for the retrosexual male, my boyfriend has become straight-up neurotic.

The first thing he does in the morning is text Google to check the weather. Then he argues with it. After his fight with his cell-phone screen, he must walk around the block with his finger in the air, checking the wind. On mid-April blizzard days, he checks with his middle finger before settling on his one of two outfit possibilities: jeans or shorts. Then he has to ask my permission:

“Can I wear this?” This is man-speak for, “Help. Me. I am scared.”

This week, Colorado has graced us with summer. So far. And this unexpected sun has transformed my boyfriend into the Phantom of the Opera. The right side of his face is white. The left side — the driver’s-side-window side — is lobster red, topped off with a one-armed farmer’s glow and a literal red neck.

So now he is pained between wearing a T-shirt and compounding his fry lines or wearing a sleeveless shirt and looking, in his earnestly distressed words, “like a total d-bag for a few days.”

My advice: Wear sunscreen, dude. There isn’t a cream, powder or plasma that I smear on my skin that doesn’t contain SPF. But still, I’m more of a Corpse Bride than a Malibu Barbie, and my transparent skin has been known to frighten small children.

Photo by Flickr user cindy47452.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Easter basketcase

I volunteered to watch the 3-year-olds at church on Easter, not because I know squat about kids, but because I was all about the unofficial fashion show.

Kids on any normal day? Shrug. I could take ‘em or leave ‘em (the latter usually occurs alongside a shrill scream – mine or theirs). But Easter is the one day still preserved for frilly dresses, parades of pink, patent leather and floppy hats. The church halls are a runway, and if you’ve got a good seat, you might even spot a lacy bonnet or a satin bow.

On kids, of course. Even sporting a fully primped toddler, most parents I saw dragged through Easter wearing jeans, sneakers and a disheveled look that expressed exactly how delightful it was to get little Karli in those white tights.

My class was flowering with girly girls, including one named Dakota or Takoma or Toyota or something like that, who carried an antique beaded clasp clutch (destroyed in the Play-Doh after 12 seconds).

The kids were supposed to wear name tags. But it felt criminal disrupting those precious ensembles with a sticky “Hi, my name is” written in dull crayon.

And anyway, I’m fundamentally opposed to name tags. I never know where to stick them.

Above the breast? My shirts are often too low-cut. Below the breast is basically my waist. And on the bull’s eye itself, the tag peels up at the edges if I don’t constantly re-smash it, which requires an awkward amount of public self-groping.

Oh, and don’t you dare give me a name tag with a pin. You’ve got a better chance of me sticking it through my eye than my chenille.

Speaking of name tags, my friend recently met a guy wearing a Sean Jean shirt and asked if that was his name. Later, she met a guy wearing G-Unit polo, and she asked if his shirt meant “gun it,” like when you hit the gas pedal, or if it was something French. You know “Gunet,” sort of like “Monet.”

Photo by Flickr user cory.cousins.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Put a legging up


I am demoting myself from this fashion column because I am wearing leggings.

These spandexy snakes re-emerged on the runways as this spring’s new-old look. I swore I wouldn’t do it. There are some ’80s looks that should not return, I said.

I was so serious, I chose to suffer a numb buttocks region rather than touch biking shorts on a 10-day bike trip this summer.

Here’s why: It’s Aimee Heckel, age 9, posing in front of my mirror, sporting an oversized B.U.M. T-shirt, poufed like a mushroom over a wide black belt. Aqua Netted bangs ratted like weeds reaching toward the sun. Keds smothered in puff paint and accented with a rare New Kids On The Block “I love Jordan” button one could only acquire at the concert.

On my bottom, lacy leggings. White. They blended in with my legs so I looked like I was running around with no pants on under my mushroom orb.

Oh, the image still haunts me.

Needless to say, I became ill when I saw the bane of my youth prance down the runways as one of’s top 10 looks from Fashion Week. called them one of this year’s “must-haves.” Pair them with equestrian-style boots, knee-length shorts or a mini, the fashion gods advised.

Alas. I found solace as I glanced out my office window onto Pearl Street at the timeless parade of Birkenstocks and khaki pants.

“Never here,” I thought. “I am safe in Boulder.”

Fast forward like two days. I visited my sister-in-law in London. Immediately I was bombarded with leggings dancing along Oxford Street. The runway style was reality.

There I stood in Piccadilly Circus shivering in a long wool coat and nine – yes nine – shirts, when I saw group of British hotties chatting nearby wearing tank tops, heels, leggings and mini skirts.
At first, I scoffed that the icy wind must’ve funneled through those girls’ ears and frozen their common sense.

But the next morn, obviously also a victim of the brain-numbing weather, I went straight to Harrods and bought my own mini. Tried to wear it, but when I stepped outside, all of my leg hair instantly grew back from the cold.

I could’ve just changed into pants. But instead, in the name of fashion, I mustered my strength and took on my childhood demon. I turned myself into a spandex centaur.

Back in Boulder with wide-open eyes, I started to notice leggings everywhere. In Urban Outfitters, in American Apparel on Pearl Street. No doubt, Boulder was not immune.
So here I sit. Aimee Heckel, age 26, sporting a green button-up shirt secured by the same belt I wore oh so long ago. I dug it out of my costume box when I realized wide belts, too, had been given a second chance.

No more Aqua Net or Keds, despite their “hip” new spokeswoman, Mischa Barton of “The O.C.”
On my bottom, leggings. This time they’re black so they won’t blend into my legs. And anyway, I’m wearing a skirt. Not that you can see it.

Photo by Flickr user Dirty Bunny.

Thursday, February 2, 2006

Style commandments: Thou shall not dress like thy husband


I celebrated the Chinese New Year this week with my bathtub.

I dipped in Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics’ “Youki” bath bomb, named after Youki-Hi, one of the three most beautiful women ever, according to Far East tradition.

Now, I’m not a huge bather. I get bored just sitting there, puckering away in the water. Reading is dangerous because the pages get soggy. And staring at the ceiling can only tide my ADHD over for 47.2 seconds.

But the peach Youki bubbles managed to keep me in the tub for about five minutes, a record. The cypress oil smoothed my skin, even though the jasmine scent did remind me a bit of cheap Walgreens perfume.

I felt as silky as Youki-Hi herself when I was done. Except when the water drained and I saw the tub was stained peach – which raised my blood pressure again and sent me to my hands and knees scrubbing the tile. Now I stink of bleach.

Maybe that’s why they call it the Year of the Dog: because you start it on all fours, whining.

We were 20 minutes late to church on Sunday, but for good reason. I had to fend off a catastrophe.

We were walking out the door when I noticed my husband wearing the same outfit as me. My parents bought us both black and gray T-shirts with the church’s inconspicuous logo on them for Christmas.

Granted, I felt sketch wearing the church’s tee to church anyway (sort of like when you’re shopping at Express and realize the exact outfit you’re wearing is hanging on the mannequin). I should’ve known better.

But matching my man? I’d rather go naked and risk being eternally barred from God’s house.
The male-female clothing duo is a deadly sin. And the overall cheese factor is painful. A fashion sacrifice – so Old-Testament-school.

However, matching your boo in terms of color and style is a definitely. Style seems to be getting simpler (think: American Apparel on Pearl Street, which only sells uni-colored duds).
But there are still a lot of dangerous patterns out there which, if paired carelessly with your partner’s opposing wild pattern, could actually explode and alter the chemicals in the atmosphere. It’s true. A Far Eastern myth, I think.

I bought a new pair of Lux jeans at Urban Outfitters. I adore them because
a.) they actually fit (hurrah!); and
b.) the denim doesn’t stretch out on the bum after two wears, creating the “load” (aka adult diaper) phenomenon.

However, the jeans have two colossal, style-intentional holes in the knees. When my mom saw them, she seriously asked me if I had tripped and fallen.

Photo by Flickr user Puma Booma.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Brittany: More than a pretty picture

Not Brittany. But basically. Photo by Flickr user Mikey Jon Holm.


For Valentine’s Day last year, my friend Brittany came into work looking all Vegas showgirl. You know, cross-dresser blue eye shadow, blond curls tight like wire coils – and cheeks flushed with shame.

She’d been suckered into some sort of make-over photo shoot with her friends. She thought it’d be fun. Then she caught the mirror and saw JonBenet Ramsey, age 22.

Not even a scouring sponge could de-circus her clown face. Sometimes, nearly one year later, I look at her and think I see traces of the turquoise eyeliner at her lash line.

The photographer immortalized it all on film, and even suggested she send it to her “special someone” for the romantic holiday. Not a chance. You see, Brittany is a natural beauty. She does sport a pink Razr phone, but she also can out-ball any guy. She’s not a spiral curl kinda gal.
A good portrait isn’t as simple as pearls and mascara. It should be a mirror inside the person’s character; the removal of the mask, not caking one on.

Think Glamour Shots of the ’80s. They swathed faces in feather boas, leaned them over a mirror, handed them a red rose or parasol and fuzzed up the lens. All my friends’ Glamour Shots looked the same: nothing like them.

Hello, Napoleon Dynamite. Glamour Shots is still alive and kickin’. There’s a studio in the FlatIrons Crossing Mall in Broomfield, in addition to two Kiddie Kandids (don’t get me started on businesses that intentionally misspell things to sound cutesy; I boycott them on grammatical grounds).

The Broomfield glamour shooters didn’t comment when I inquired, but a search through the company’s online portfolio shows things have at least evolved past the Napoleon Dynamite-style shoot of Uncle Rico (“I could wrap you in some foam, or something billowy?”). The pictures aren’t half-bad, with only a few cowboy hats, sunflowers scattered about and, of course, the traditional red rose clutch.

Still, I’d rather not risk landing in the tabloids under the headline “JonBenet lives – and writes for Boulder’s newspaper.”

I had a great discussion with Erie resident Jen Fellows about “real beauty” this week. The 26-year-old fashion photographer specializes in multi-cultural photos that blend the traditional with modern.

Her most recent photo series features a local woman, part Korean and part Japanese, rocking a traditional kimono on the back of a motorcycle. There’s also a part-Native American woman wearing her ancestor’s necklace and headdress. Instead of war paint, her face is done up Western runway-style (sans turquoise eyeliner).

The photos embody the contradictions that define life. And make it interesting.

“All of my work, I strive for it not to just be a pretty picture, but with some substance,” Fellows says. “When you’re looking into their eyes, there’s something there.”

Fellows says she wants her photos to reflect the spirit of the models and their heritage – and society’s evolving perception of beauty. As cultures and countries blend, it’s about individual charisma, not separate races and ethnicities, she says.

Fellows lives it. She’s part Native American, Russian and Jewish, and is often mistaken for Spanish or Middle-Eastern or Italian, she says.

“Real beauty – what is that?” she says. “To me, it’s what people have inside them and the way they affect the world.”

With a perspective like that, who needs feather boas?

Check out Fellows’ company at

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lindsey: 'Beware of peroxide' and other horror stories


Blond is hotter than brunette. Literally.

My girls and I were at a party when suddenly we smelled something burning. We checked the stove, the fireplace, the microwave.

Then I noticed a flaming wall sconce, its blue wax sprayed across the white wall. Standing obliviously nearby was my sister-in-law, Lindsey. The tip of her ponytail was charred and curling.

Lindsey had dyed her blond hair platinum just a few hours before. I guess that much peroxide is flammable.

Now she’s blond with brown tips.

Lindsey’s hot-head reinforced my decision to go brunette. I was standing near the candle, too, but my dark hair didn’t catch. (Or maybe I just couldn’t tell.)

When I dyed my naturally blond locks espresso in May, it was supposed to be temporary. Now I can’t imagine going light. Maybe brown is more approachable, or maybe I act friendlier, but people are nicer to Brunette Heckel.

My friend Jess insists societal treatment varies with hair color. She conducted an experiment where she went to the bars wearing different colored wigs to help her decide which hair dye to go with. She said she was repulsed by the meaty treatment she received as a blond. She ended up going red. A different kind of fiery.

Masyn Moyer, the owner of my fave hair salon, Urban Pearl, says the latest hair trends echo the ’60s and ’70s: big hair, soft and romantic, teased bouffants. She said more people are getting perms, too.

Eek. Don’t do it, ladies.

I was born with stick-straight hair. In fourth-grade, I got a spiral perm.

A permanent, indeed. It’s like the chemicals mutated my hair follicles. My hair has been spiral-permish ever since. The ’80s live on. My head.

Photo by Flickr user Swamibu.

Thursday, January 5, 2006

I'm touchy

I wish this were me, but it is not. Photo from Flickr user dovima_is_devine_II.


I am a fabric freak.

I own multiple shirts that are hideous, but soft. I recently dumped an entire day`s salary on an Urban Outfitters blazer because the velvet was so luscious, it felt like it was making out with my fingers when I touched it.

My bed is a nest of satin, fur, suede, goose down, fleece and crisp cotton; I couldn`t pick just one. Or even three.

I once brought a handbag into said bed and slept with it on my cheek because the leather felt like butta. I later caught myself walking down the street fondling the purse and murmuring sweet nothings to it. I caressed it until it fell apart, and then I mourned.

Some people are crazy over colors or scents or eras. My style revolves largely around touch.
This has been a life-long thing. I still go to the same family doctor in Loveland that I went to as a kid. When I walk in the door, the nurses and receptionist start laughing.

It`s always the same: “Hey, aren`t you the girl who used to wear slips and petticoats on the outside of her clothes?”

Yes. That is me. Don`t make fun. Slips are silky.