Thursday, December 11, 2008

The great Christmas sweater showdown

Sometimes in life we get so distracted by the ugly things that we forget about the beautiful ones.

That's what shot me out of my bed at 3:43 a.m. Sunday. I jumped into my slippers (which my boyfriend insists are actually called "house shoes") and slid across the polished wood floors to the front door. Then, my reason woke up, and reminded me there was nothing I could do in the middle of the night. I would have to wait.

It all started with this "season of giving." Giving has been the theme of these columns for several weeks now, in an attempt to smack the Grinch right out of me. And it's working. I recently bought my first ever real live (well, now dead) Christmas tree.

I even started my own tradition: Everyone who drinks a beer in my house has to decorate the can with fur and feathers and puff-paint and sparkles and hang it on the tree -- a personalized ornament. I know, sentimental. Although the tree is starting to droop under the weight of the aluminum. I mean, it has already been four days. Or maybe it's the family of wine bottle cotton ball snowmen.

I also decided that instead of buying gifts this year (I swear, it's not the economy; I refuse to spread the hype), I was going to make all of my friends something. The only problem: See above paragraph about how I rock the ornaments. I'm not crafty.

Someone once told me that fashion is being yourself on purpose. That is, owning and intentionally expressing your unique character, and then boldfacing that. So as I sat gazing thoughtfully at my silver-sparkling tree, I realized what I had to do. I would give the gift of time. And laughter.

I'd invite my best friends to a tacky Christmas party. Washed-up boy-band Christmas music. Crackers and Velveeta cheese balls. Boone's Farm martinis. A cappella scat music karaoke.

And most importantly, ugly Christmas sweaters.

Which brings us to Satur
day. My friend Leah and I were on a quest to find the mother lode. The king of the royal line of ugliness. The most abominable of all snowmen ... sweaters.

We hit up dozens of thrift stores on our quest. By the end of the day, our eyes were watering from all of the sequins and our abs were cramped from the laughter, but we concluded with the Top 10 Best (and by best we meant worst) Holiday Sweaters.

See them all and vote for your favorite one on my blog,

First, there are the vests. Especially dangerous because you can layer a vest on top of a sweater on top of a turtleneck, creating a triple threat. Vests also tend to have buttons, which, in the world of Christmas sweaters, are never simply buttons, but rather bells, bows, snowflakes or, in one of the worst offenders we found, 2-inch-long stuffed snowmen. Yes, as buttons.

One vest in our top 10 is covered in jingle bells that actually ring. So not only can you see the felt appliqué Santas and plastic amethyst and gold stars from six chimneys away, but you can also hear it coming.
Arguably worse than an audible vest is the overly tactile sweater, such as one we found covered in large cotton balls (obviously a knock-off from my wine bottle snowmen ornaments). This particular offender also boasted a faux-chenille fringe collar and cuffs.

Then there are the Migraine Sweaters. These are especially prevalent among elementary-school teachers, which -- little-known fact -- is the main reason why schools close over the holidays; the kids all were going home, anyway, with headaches after staring at the overstimulating patterns. Our top-10 Migraine Sweater bursts with clashing snowflakes and stars and bells -- and even a handful of nonsense designs obviously only added to spark chaos in the frontal lobe.

We found one sweater that we suspect was originally designed as a torture device, comprised entire of gold sequins, the itchiest substance known to man, even worse than hair shirts for monks. Another homemade sweatshirt featured a triangle of red felt that looked like the love-child of Santa and a garden gnome.

Our winning sweater came as a surprise. From the front, the bright blue ramie/cotton blend and white poodle-fur collar looked innocent enough. Then. The entire back -- I'm talking 2-feet-tall -- was a embroidered snowman with a circus-clown grin. If snowmen had thumbs, he would've been giving two thumbs ups, and winking. As soon as I saw the life-sized Frosty, I knew he would be my date to the party.

But I never thought he would be so sneaky. In between the piles of Christmas sweaters, I found a floor-length black faux fur cape from the '50s, with a hood and satin lining, in immaculate condition. The beauty of this jacket nearly cured my Migraine Sweater headache. At any vintage store, the jacket would have been bank. But here, it was a mere $12.

So there I lie in bed, restless and unable to go back to sleep, now 3:40 on Sunday morning. Sitting on my night stand: the snowman sweater. Sitting in the dressing room at the ARC thrift store on Pecos Street in Denver: the fur cape. Ah yes, sometimes we get so distracted by the ugly things in life that we forget the beauty.

I was at the glass doors, all Mervyn's-open-open-open style, well before the thrift store opened on Sunday.
On my way out the doors, while clutching my new jacket, I bumped into Leah. Back to pick up that gold sequin-explosion blouse.

She swore it was for my party.

But the knowing glances that we exchanged contained a concession that we would never utter out loud -- at least not for 40 more years: That gold top would sure look mah-va-less under my new fur coat.

Photo by Mark Leffingwell.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I'm dreaming of a black Christmas

I did not want to shop on Black Friday.

Too many years working behind the retail counter has all but destroyed the months of November and December for me. In fact, nonstop Mariah Carey Christmas remakes eight hours a day/six days a week/for three months straight is likely the root of my hatred for holiday music.

Which is what brought us here to begin with.

Three weeks ago, I snapped at my boyfriend for (loudly) singing Christmas carols (before I'd had my coffee, gosh). As my penance, I vowed to write happy-go-schmucky fashion columns until Christmas, on the topic of giving to prove I am not, indeed, the Grinchette.

First, I wrote about giving when it's not expected, and then giving when it is long overdue. This week was supposed to be on "a different type of giving." I was going to "give back" to the poor retail workers by banning Black Friday altogether. Call me a revolutionary. It could have been the beginning of the end of the over-commercialized holiday season, or at least the end of any more boy-band remakes of "Last Christmas."

I was so committed to my noble cause that on this D-Day, I made special arrangements to have coffee with my mother. My mother talks. A lot. A "quick coffee" with Mom is like running into Wal-Mart to "just pick up batteries." A spinning head, shaking legs and six hours later, you manage to break free. If anyone could keep me in safe, shop-less confinement, it was this woman.

And it worked. Until.

Ah yes, there is always an "until."

I had a fashion show on Saturday at the Rocky Mountain Rod and Custom car show. All I was instructed to bring was black shoes. But of course, I had recently busted the strap on one pair of my black shoes, and then worn the heels down to the nail nubbins on my other pair.

I had an "until," "but" and "of course" all working against me. I decided to just run into FlatIron Crossing and buy the first pair of black shoes I found. Twenty-five percent off? Dang, I could afford two pairs for that.

The black patent-leather stilettos with zipper accents down the sides were a great deal. So was the black leather handbag with ruffles and rivets (not to be mistaken for Ruffles with ridges). And the gold sparkly top with an open back; hey, gold's the color of winter 2008. And the gray lace top. And the black lace fingerless gloves. And the lipstick, the eye shadow, the other shoes, the three pairs of earrings. Individually, everything was a great deal. It was all combined on one credit card that hurt so much.

So was the question, "Would you like a gift receipt?"

Because I had to answer, "No."

Which meant whereas everyone else was Christmas shopping, I was padding my own Grinchy closet. Not only had I failed to overthrow Black Friday, but I had flopped for no good reason.

Or so I thought. (There's always an "or so I thought," too.)

Then my BFF Brittany called. She reminded me that there's nothing wrong with taking care of yourself sometimes, and that doesn't make you selfish. In fact, she said, you cannot give from a place of depletion. Self-love is a hard concept for women, and even harder during the holidays, because society rewards us for taking care of others and raises us to believe that's how we acquire self-worth.

Having a good relationship with ourselves teaches us how to have a good relationship with others, which, in turn, helps us understand even less tangible, spiritual concepts, such as how to build a relationship with God. So, in that sense, pausing for just one flicker of the holiday season to treat yourself might, in fact, be the foundation of what Christmas is truly all about. Fill yourself up until you overflow.

Well, actually, I have paraphrased Brittany a bit. What she said was more like a laugh and an eye roll. But that's what she meant.

Don't underestimate the importance of giving to yourself -- or at least the value of overanalyzing bad shopping choices until you find justifications.

And never, ever underestimate the power of Black Friday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Body piercing as therapy

It could just be a coincidence.

There's no hard evidence. But the correlation has local acupuncturists and body piercers intrigued -- and baffled.

Granted, it's only been three months. But if you're a victim of chronic anxiety -- paralyzing panic attacks several times a week, usually for no reason -- three months feels like a new life. Like coming up for breath after 29 years under water.

It was September, and I had an especially rough attack. In a daze, I ended up at K&K Piercing on University Hill in Boulder. I walked in and impulsively asked the workers to pierce my chest with a vertical bar in between my breasts along the middle of my body. This was out of character; I'm not a big fan of piercings, and I didn't know anyone with one. Maybe I thought it would be a good distraction.

It did not hurt. In fact, it felt tingly. Odd.

Several weeks later, I was at my acupuncturist. I told him about my piecing. I asked him if the rod through my chest could affect the flow of my energy, or "chi" in Eastern medicine. If sticking tiny acupuncture needles into your body can transform you, what about a more permanent puncture?

He looked at where I was pierced and smiled.

"You pieced two exact acupuncture points," he said. "The anxiety points."

Acupuncturists place needles there to reduce panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety. The increased blood flow and changed direction of the energy there often eliminates panic attacks, he said. I had never talked to him about my struggles with anxiety.

Which is when I realized I have not had an attack since I got the piercing.

Still haven't.

I didn't even know what I was doing when I got the piercing. Could I have subconsciously "fixed" myself? I consulted the experts for an answer.

More than a pretty jewel

Jeanette Barrie says maybe.

Barrie, of Boulder, is an integrative wellness counselor with a background in Ayurveda, an alternative medicine with roots in India.

Piecing the ears and nose is an extension of traditional Indian acupuncture, Barrie says -- "not just for beauty, but to trigger the vital energy points in the system."

Ayurveda tells women to piece their left nostrils with a gold post. That is supposed to ease childbirth and menstrual pain by giving a warming, energetic balance to the cooling right ("lunar") side of the brain, which rules the left side of the body.

Michelle Backus agrees; piercings affect your body beyond simple aesthetics.

Backus is the owner of the Ayurveda-based Alaya Yoga Spa in Louisville, and she does marma point massage. Marma points are similar to acupressure points, although they don't directly overlap in location or size.

Initially, Backus says, "You get a euphoric rush when you get a tattoo or piercing at the physical level, and the mind and emotions are usually in a particular state before you get the work done, then afterward your mind and emotions have shifted."

A tattoo on a marma point, such as the palm of the hand, or a piercing at a marma point, such as the "Nabhi Marma" (navel) serves a similar function as marma massage or acupuncture, Backus says.

But, she adds, the energy change is not long-term -- positively or negatively. The energy of marmas will eventually redistribute around the piercing.

Unlike the deeper needling in Chinese acupuncture, Japanese acupuncture uses more superficial stimuli. And throughout history, people have tattooed their bodies on specific points to "re-regulate nerves," according to Japanese acupuncturist Dann.

Europe's oldest natural human mummy, found frozen in the Alps, sported 57 tattoo marks on his body on the acupuncture points for osteo-arthritis. An X-ray found he had arthritis, suggesting he had been tattooed for medical reasons.

"There's enough history that shows certain types of piercings and tattoos have been used to enhance energy flows," Dann says.

And in Africa, scarification -- a sort of mix between tattoos and piercing -- was believed to open up spiritual and physiological energies, Dann says. For example, scarification on the chest would open up the home of the spirit.

The ears are especially packed with acupuncture points.In fact, acupuncturists consider the ears a "microsystem," with a point for everywhere on the body.

Note that ears look (sort of) like an upside-down fetus, with the lobe representing the head. Some representations of the Buddha depict him with massive earlobes, signifying wisdom. Throughout history, Buddhists have pierced the center of their earlobes to connect with their "third eye," to enhance their inner vision, according to Jeffrey Dann, a Boulder-based acupuncturist and medical anthropologist.

This could have interesting implications for the growing number of Americans stretching their lobes with ear gauges. Based on these beliefs, could the plugs open or stretch the mind?

Others stories say lobe piercing came from pirates or sailors, who thought stimulating that area would improve eyesight and help them see land at far distances.

Then there is the tragus, the bump of cartilage in front of the ear canal -- and the acupuncture point for metabolism. Local piercers report they regularly see people getting their tragus pieced to help with losing weight.

In fact, tragus piecing has turned into a business in and of itself: "ear stapling." It's been big in the South for years, and fans say it's just now taking off in Colorado.

Annette Cutter, of Littleton, runs Ear Stapling of Colorado (, the only certified ear-stapling business in the state.

Cutter has been stapling ears for about a year. She uses an "acu-locator," which reads energy levels, to locate the precise trigger point and inserts a surgical steel staple into each tragus. She says the $75 piercing sparks weight loss, appetite reduction, increased energy and better sleep 80 to 90 percent of the time. She says it also makes food taste different.

It worked for her, she claims. Cutter says she lost 20 pounds in 2½ months after her first staple.

Cutter is not an acupuncturist. And she says she doesn't exactly understand why it works. But using acupuncture principles, she says, the changes that people feel are hard to deny.

The argument against

Unless, of course, you're talking about the placebo effect. That's how Tracy Akers explains the tragus-weight connection.

"If people think it will work, then it will," says Akers, a piercer at Tribal Rites. "Sometimes it does simply because the person believes so."

Josh Wood, also a piercer at Tribal Rites in Boulder, agrees. Wood has piercings, and he gets acupuncture.

"They are two completely separate things," he says. "An acupuncture needle is more like a screw. They don't jab it into you. They gently twist it into the skin, and it releases, well, whatever it does."

He thinks piercings and tattoos are mainly aesthetic.

"We can pierce any part of the body, and when we hit the meridian points, nothing happens. You don't get joy or excitement from the piercing," Wood says.

He adds with a laugh, "I wish you got joy from tattoos."

Take your belly-button ring out. That's the first advice Amy Dickinson offers her patients with fertility problems. The navel intersects with what acupuncturists, like Dickinson, call the "conception vessel," or the middle meridian up the body, which connects with the uterus.

"A belly ring impedes the flow of energy to the conception vessel, and could have an effect on fertility in some people," she says.

Dickinson, of Boulder, is the vice president of the Acupuncture Association of Colorado. And she says she cannot imagine a positive reason to get a piercing.

"The entire body conducts electricity and has an innate wisdom about where the energy should flow," she says.

In traditional Chinese acupuncture, most piercings are frowned upon, according to acupuncturist Dann. Piercings can interrupt the flow of energy, especially along the middle meridian, where the navel is located. A piecing in one of the energy lines can weaken an entire organ or system. Others believe that metal disturbs the energy flow.

This has created a conundrum for Kirsten Hamilton. The local woman has multiple piercings in her nose. She also has chronic sinus infections. Her acupuncturist says her metal is creating the problem. But she says she loves her rings, and does not want to take them out.

"Everyone's energy is different and resonates with different types of metal, images and other types of jewelry," Hamilton says. "Everyone is different. There are only good and bad places on a specific individual."

Molly Plann, of Louisville, says she began having digestive problems after she pierced her nipples. She eventually removed the piercings because she got pregnant. Since then, her problems are gone, but she says she doesn't know whether it was the pregnancy, the piercings or coincidence. Nipples are on the stomach meridian and can relate to digestion -- although some acupuncturists say they would never needle a nipple.

So assuming there's a connection, how can you know whether a piercing might help (such as Indian women and nostril piercings) or hurt (such as stories about fertility and the navel)?

"You can't, really," says acupuncturist Dann. "It could go either way: block or stimulate the point. You don't know."

Take a cleavage piercing, between the breasts. This is a "huge" acupuncture point, he says, "the master point of the upper body, for heart and lungs."

He says he needles this point to help with anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks.

"If someone had a lot of those problems," he says, "it'd sure be interesting to have it pierced and see what it does."

Hmm. You don't say?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Style that keeps on giving

Last week, I wrote about giving when it's not expected. This week, we're talking about giving when it is expected -- when it's long, long overdue.

First, there's the tale of Tami and the trendy shirt. I was in seventh grade, at the height at the height of bangs. For the first day of school, my mom bought me the sweetest shirt at the then-sweetest store, 5-7-9. Good ol' mumsy worked in a consignment store, so it was a Huge Deal for me to get a new shirt. It even had tags. I was stoked.

The shirt was a quasi-crop-top button-down that tied in the front. On one side, it was polka-dots. The other was striped. The sleeves were sheer and poufy. The ultimate hotness for the early '90s.

Naturally, my friends were jealous, so it came as no surprise when my best friend, Tami, asked to borrow it.

A month went by. Three. Now we were in eighth grade. Halfway through the next school year, she gave me the shirt back.

By that time, was out of style. It went straight to the consignment store.

A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out the garage, and I found a mysterious blue duffel bag. I dusted it off, looked inside and gasped.

I called Tiffany. She had been my best friend in college. I asked her to meet me at the Irish pub between our houses; I had something crazy to show her.

When I handed her the bag, she didn't recognize it at first. After all, it had been at least five years since our road trip, when I borrowed her duffel bag packed with jeans, a sleeping bag, jacket and several shirts.

Tiffany wasn't sure whether to be annoyed or amused. When she pulled out her old designer jeans, I realized it had been long enough that they had already gone out of style -- and come back into style again.

I insisted it was a blessing in disguise that I'd kept her bag so long; otherwise, she would have sold the jeans and had to buy them back again.

Then she unpacked a shirt. It had sheer sleeves, like the kind that was cool in the early '90s and came back into style in the early 2000s, and then was once again uncool.

Hello, karma. Not to mention a statement on the circle of fashion.

I bought her a few beers as an apology. When she was nice and tipsy, I reached into the duffel and swiped the shirt. I brought it home and decided to send it Tami, who lives in California, where the shirt is already probably cool again. Then, I deducted, by the time I get it back to return to Tiffany, it'll be circa 2012 and it'll be hip in Colorado again.

Call me a fashion genius. Call me a matchmaker.

You can thank me later.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

How the Grinch reclaimed Christmas

Brittany and the Binch on Pearl Street

Apparently I am the Grinch.

And apparently Christmas started in August, when I spotted my first Santa hat on the shelves at Big Lots.

What I didn't know, however, was that anyone other than the stores and my grandma were already preparing.

It's 7 a.m. I haven't had my coffee. I have three dogs whining to go outside. I'm having one of those mornings where you drop the shampoo bottle eight times, the ninth time on your toe and then bump your head while standing up.

Then, I hear it: Loud enough for the prostitute who sleeps in the park across the street from my house to hear, my boyfriend belts out his own remix of "Deck the Halls," with the dogs' names randomly inserted into the lyrics.

Between verses, I jump in: "Could you please maybe reconsider the volume of your beautiful song?"

Well, that's what I think I say, but it might have come out a little more like, "Shut up or I'll clamp your lips closed with my hair straightener."

Boyfriend enters sulk mode; I become the Grinch.

But that was last week.

This week, driven largely by guilt, I have launched a full-fledged PR campaign to redefine my image.

Telling an innocent boy to can his blissful carols is pretty low, so obviously my campaign needs to be extensive. That's why every Friday until Christmas, I will share with you a different fashion-related story about giving.

Hopefully, these sappy-happy tales will transform my current Christmas annoyance into a celebration -- or at least reset my karma so Santa doesn't totally blow me off.

Maybe they will make you think about the different types of giving, and remind you to be grateful for your blessings. Even the 6-foot-7, loud-singing, dog-loving, overly-energetic-when-you-wish-you-were-sleeping blessings. Ah, those are the best kinds.

Giving when it's unexpected: The tale of Brittany's broach.

My BFF Brittany is going through a cowgirl phase: plaid jackets, tan boots, dark blue jeans, belt buckles, country music -- everything but the fringe. So far.

While browsing some yee-haw fashion Web site that I refuse to share for fear of spreading her style disease, Brittany noticed something unfamiliar near the collar of a button-down. She sent me the photo and asked what that mysterious object was, and noted that she wanted one, and asked if I knew where she could find one.

A broach.

Brittany had never seen one because she refuses to enter vintage stores because she doesn't like how they smell. I was happy to have another reason to make fun of her, and we let the broach hunt go.

Until one month later. Brittany was crying, and her e-mail popped into my mind. I charged down the stairs and to Goldmine Vintage on Pearl Street -- incidentally, I wish they bottled the scent of old clothing so I could bathe in it -- where I found rows of antique broaches for $20-$40.

Then I saw a glimmering pink and gold one from the '20s. Stunning. I wanted it. Hmm, I could buy that for myself and another one for Brittany.

Then I remembered my anti-Grinch campaign. I swallowed my greed and realized the pink broach was perfect. As a gift.

When I gave it to her, Brittany cried even more.

Before she bought me a pedicure, massage and a mall pretzel in appreciation. How did this happen? My small gift for her turned into a triple-gift to me.

Bringing me back to Grinch Square One, but at least with pretty toes.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

No strings attached

Photo by Hollywood Calling

October is always euphoric for me, making November feel like a letdown.

This month, I feel like I'm stuck on a merry-go-round, watching lives unfold around me. Pregnancies. New homes. Vacations. Things that I would love but cannot have, at least not now.

Then a conversation with one of my friends smacked me across the face. Context: This girl is stunning. Black hair, pouty lips. She can even cock one eyebrow up. It doesn't get cuter than a solo eyebrow cock.

She saw a pin-up photo shoot I did (I don't know any journalists who don't support their filthy writing habit with a second job), and said she wanted to get her own set of photos.

Do it. (That's my response to every idea.)

As soon as I drop a few more pounds. I'm a fatty.

Don't you talk about my friend like that. She is gorgeous and perfect exactly as she is.

She: Ha, ha. I heart your face. Soon.

Me: You're not listening. You should never, ever withhold something lovely from yourself under the contingency that you need to change. Celebrate who you are now. And if you change, you can celebrate that, too.


I hate when I say something to someone else that is also meant for myself.

That's when I realized I had been withholding "something lovely" from myself -- satisfaction -- under the misconception that what I have today is not enough. That somehow I am not enough.

Women do this. I hear it all of the time. When I lose weight, tone up my triceps, grow out my hair, have time to paint my nails, clean out my closet. Why do we put ultimatums -- especially physical ones -- on our lives? There is a difference between setting goals and grounding ourselves as a form of punishment.

Maybe there is a reason why Thanksgiving comes in November, of all months.

The way to transform November from a get-through month into something worth remembering is presence; I believe the amount of satisfaction we receive from something is directly connected with how much we invest into it.

So I am investing into November, and I am paying in gratitude.

Here is a list of things I'm thankful for. And because we tend to punish ourselves with physical contingencies, my emphasis is the beautiful, fashionable treats I can have today, childless, vacationless and in the same ol' apartment:

Pig tails, occasionally.
Breaking out your scarf collection.
Trying on trench coats and pretending you're Jackie O or Audrey Hepburn.
How when I take a shower with my make-up on, sometimes I come out looking like a member of KISS.
Pureology shampoo and conditioner (now available at Target) that holds my hair color so well that I don't have to wash my hair in cold water.
Floyd's Barber Shop, where I can get my hair colored for $45, allowing me to change my hairstyle on a weekly basis, if desired. Also allows me to take hot showers, even if I run out of Pureology.
Hot showers.
Really hot.
Red fingernail polish. Sometimes the classics are the best.
My Secret Scent Expressions deodorant that smells like chai. What a weird combo: armpits and a spicy beverage.
Kat Von D Underage Red lipstick from Sephora for when I'm feeling scandalous. Mac lipstick in Amplified for when I'm feeling slightly less scandalous. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Pearl from the grocery store when I'm feeling minimally scandalous. And good ol' Cover Girl Wet Slicks Fruit Spritzers gloss in Strawberry Splash when I'm not scandalous whatsoever.
How Goldmine Vintage on Pearl Street knows my style and size so well that the owner can always direct me to the perfect dresses.
Eyebrow pencils: one of the most underrated and most important make-up tools for natural blondes.
Earrings that look like nails and screws from Hot Topic. They make me laugh, while looking oh so tough. Maybe.
That Boulder is opening up another second-hand store, Plato's Closet, at 2510 Arapahoe Ave., even though it seems contradictory to shop second-hand for trendy clothes, rather than classics and vintage.
Rags Home Consignments on 28th Street in Boulder, where you can get consigned home decor -- brilliant.
Purple eye shadow, even though it's not "my color." Especially because it's not "my color."
The sale rack in the basement of Urban Outfitters on Pearl Street, where I have found some of my favorite clothes -- such as a cropped leather jacket for $20, and a white motorcycle jacket with at least 50 zippers for $20.
The sound of zipping zippers.
Lululemon yoga pants.
Big fluffy knit socks. I have a pair with poodle heads on them. So did my mom, until I stole hers.
Having a cool enough mom that I want to steal her clothes.
Polka-dot vintage-remake swimsuits from West Side Sinners in Denver.
My mom's 35-year-old blue puffy goosedown winter jacket that I stole from her that is still totally warm, even though it's hideous.
Mary Kay Timewise Age Fighting Moisturizer face lotion -- such a relief in this dry weather.
Thigh-highs that actually stay up, especially if they have a '50s-style back seam. Find them at Fascinations, 2560 28th St., Boulder.
Tall socks instead of thigh-highs.
Being brave enough to cut your own bangs.
Taking a camera-phone photo of your terrible bangs-cut and then using it as your Christmas card photo because some day when you're 75, you'll think it was a beautiful picture.
Cocking one eyebrow in said picture, as an inside joke to yourself -- and as a reminder to not just be here now, but also to celebrate here now.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cast your fashion vote

Today, it begins to set in: The results are permanent, but elections themselves are temporary. And so should be that political bumper sticker you put on the back of your $30,000 Audi.

Except bumper stickers are like the bright pink hair dye I put in my hair six months ago: exciting at first, then obnoxious, and then impossible to fully remove, even with scraping and squeegees and soap.

I will never understand the bumper-sticker phenomenon. Especially after my sole bumper-sticker experience in high school had a horrifying consummation. Let's just say my adoration of Gavin Rossdale's then-band, Bush, and the nickname of my car "The Good," proved an awkward word combo that, upon realization, resulted in me having to sell my car for a discounted rate to someone with an excellent sense of humor.

It's just as un-sexy if you stick your car with the losing candidate in a race. Then you look like a sore loser. Or uninformed that the election has, in fact, been over for several years. Outdated bumper stickers are akin to using the phrase "Holla, raise the roof, home slice," while wearing a B.U.M. tee and Umbro shorts. It just hollas lazy, oblivious and stuck in a sad rut. ("What, this shirt is still in OK shape. Why can't I wear it?") The only statement you're making is that you cannot move forward into the current era.

And nothing -- not even the "in" lipstick shade of the month -- goes out of style quicker than an election T-shirt.

On Monday, it hit its trendy peak. High-fives all around, as you flaunt your patriotism, reminding all of your buddies to vote (as if they might otherwise not get the message with 1,600 poli-spam calls and texts per hour for the past month).

But within 24 hours, your "Marilyn Musgrave is my homegirl" shirt plunges from en vogue to bottom of the fashion food chain, regardless of the election results.

Still, a political tee is a less risky First Amendment option than the bumper sticker. Tuck a shirt into a box for a few elections and it becomes vintage and humorous. Especially any Sarah Palin reference: "Remember that beauty pageant lady who ran for VP in 2008 who supposedly shot wolves from a helicopter? What was her name again? Sarah Palin! Dude, I have a Palin T-shirt in my attic."

Or go all Kat Von D and turn it into a punkster shirt-dress, a style taking over the University of Colorado campus these days: Slash off the sleeves, shred the back into accordion-like strips and transform the collar into a halter. Enough mutilation will erase any words, and if a little "McCain" lettering does peer through, people will think you are making some deep and angry proclamation. Top it off with studs and rivets and give it an air-brushed graffiti once-over, and you've transformed cheesecake cheerleader into don't-mess-with-me punkcore.

Or not. Instead, you could channel your energy into something more lasting.

That's what Boulder moms Joy Straka and Andrea Runkel did when they started making Ric Rac Designs handbags.

The moms became friends nine years ago in birth class, bonded by a common craftiness. One year, Straka, a graphic designer, sewed several girl's dresses and marked them with ribbon flower pins, designed as a fundraiser to support her daughter's school. At the same time, Runkel made herself a messenger bag for traveling.

They fused their two products, and came up with funky bags with unique purposes, like an album bag ($85), a mommy bag ($100) or an H2O tote for the pool or lake ($85). Today, the bags are sold online at www.ricrac, in eight Fresh Produce locations around the country and they're featured in the Boulder History Museum's current exhibit, "Pocketbook Anthropology." Yes, that would be an entire exhibit about handbags, and no, you are not dreaming.

Ric Rac bags look couture, but start as low as $65, and are inspired by some of the oddest fabric choices out there, Straka says. Some bags are made out of silver metallic ironing board cover fabric. Others have retro ball fringe, like you might otherwise find on chenille blankets. Each bag has the signature hand-stitched Ric Rac flower pin.

The bonus: Bags are made in Lyons and Denver. They are colorful and original. And they are so quirky that they rise above trendy, so they can't go out of style.

Hmm, speaking of odd fabric choices, I wonder if Ric Rac can make me a clutch out of an old "Raise the roof, Al Gore" T-shirt.

Photo by Flickr user

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The tale of the haunted costume

My Halloween dress is haunted.

Before you read this true story, make sure you're cuddled up with your blankey, a cup of soothing tea and your mommy's number on speed-dial.

This tale begins many moons ago. My friend Devon and I were 14 and committing general teenage shenanigans that led us to a cemetery. It was Halloween. Dark and drizzly. Rumors claimed if you stood in a certain spot at midnight, you would see a tombstone burst into flames. We waited.

Then -- crack. The snap of a twig behind us ignited our feet like the gunshot at a horse race. We tore through the graveyard, holding hands and holding our breath. Then -- boom. I tripped, taking Devon down with me.

At first, we were paralyzed by fear. We lay there panting in unison, holding hands and shaking. Until we noticed at the same time where we had fallen: onto two side-by-side graves of twin sisters who had been hit by a train.

Years passed. I was planning my annual Halloween party with a group of friends. Laura found the killer location: a former train station in Loveland, now a bar called the Sports Station. We would make it a ghost town gala, Wild West theme.

I met Devon at the Salvation Army to brainstorm costume ideas. We walked the entire store, blank and uninspired. Then, we turned a corner and saw two old-fashioned pink off-the-shoulder dresses, in our sizes. Hmm. We picked them up and walked further, when we bumped into a table: two floppy straw hats. Next to two blond curly wigs and two matching antique suitcases. And a bundle of rope. All half-off.

"We could be twins," Devon suggested, "Damsels in distress, who were tied to the tracks."

As if the costumes hadn't picked us.

I needed to distress my gown. Make it look old and gory. I poured a pot of coffee over it. Then a bottle of Coke. Then a bottle of wine. I felt sad about wasting wine so I bought another bottle, and after I'd downed a glass, I shared the rest of the cabernet with my dress.

It needed more, so I decided to burn it. Sitting on the couch, I took the lighter to my costume. A few holes in, five fire trucks and about a dozen police cars flew down the street and skidded to a stop in front of my house. Did I accidentally start my house on fire? Did someone smell my dress burning and call 911?

I ran outside, clutching my dress. I was safe. But the house not 10 feet behind mine was in flames.

And I couldn't find the holes I had burned in my dress.

Devon showed up to the party wearing her dress, and it looked brand new.

"It won't stain," she said in annoyance. "I have been pouring fake blood on it for a week, but everything I do absorbs right into the fabric. This dress is indestructible."

I shrugged. Before I could tell her my story, she continued.

"I think these dresses are haunted," she said. "I was trying to burn a hole in mine the other night, and the dogs started barking. I looked outside and -- you'll never believe this -- my neighbor's trash can was on fire. I was afraid they'd think I did it, so I just left my dress as it was."

Then she asked the question I had been suppressing: "Remember the graveyard when we were 14?"

Neither of us needed to elaborate.

After the party, I returned to my hotel to find a police officer in the hallway by my door. He said a neighbor had complained about loud noises in my room, and after three complaints, the hotel had to call the police. I explained that I had been gone all night, and that no one else had a room key. I said he must have the wrong room.

He left, and I entered my room, exhausted. I flipped on the light. Ashes. It looked like black ashes smeared all over the carpet. My room was overturned, all of the pens were broken in half, the towels were in a wet mountain in the bathtub. A woman's pointy boots sat in the corner next to a thick chain. And there was a big red stain on the white duvet cover, dripping onto the carpet.

I tore off my dress, shoved it into the old suit case and locked it.

And left the maid a huge tip.

I have another Halloween party tomorrow. Needless to say, I'm looking for a new costume.

Maybe you're hiding from a haunted dress, or you just haven't got around to finding a costume yet. Regardless, here are a few last-minute costumes that you can pull together with minimal effort, money and fire risk:

Poison ivy. Glue, tape or staple real or fake leaves onto an old dress, or just a scarf. Draw leafy swirls down your arms and across your chest with green and purple body paint.

A carnival game. A friend once won a costume contest with this easy costume. He blew up a bunch of balloons, stapled them to an oversized piece of cardboard and wore the cardboard around his neck. He threw on a mullet wig, mustache and ratty jeans, and sold people darts to throw at him for $1. Extra bonus: Carry a goldfish in a bag to award the winner.

A mummy. Shred a white sheet or two into thin strips and wrap yourself with them. If you have time, splatter the fabric with fake blood or leftover cabernet. Avoid staining it with coffee; trust me, it stinks.

Towelie from "South Park." It can't get much easier than this. Cut a hole in the middle of a large blue beach towel and put it over your head. Paint two white stripes on your forehead and chin, and carry a pipe. Bonus points if you can get red eyes -- legally.

Susan Ross, George Costanza's fiancee from "Seinfeld," who died licking envelopes. Paint your face white, like a zombie, and drip fake blood around your mouth. Wear a long straight blond wig, black slacks, a chunky knit sweater with a button-down underneath or something preppy and carry a box of envelopes.

Someone else at the party or a coworker. One year, the three Amys in the Daily Camera newsroom all dressed like each other. Fortunately, we all had different enough styles to make this dramatic. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't wear any make-up or comb my hair, and I had to wear a T-shirt and corduroys.

But looking back, that sure beat a $500 carpet and duvet cleaning bill from a haunted dress.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thrift store heaven

Me, a child raised only on thrifted clothes.

I remember the first time I shopped in a mall. The store that took my new-clothes virginity was Mervyns.

I will never forget the confusion I felt when I saw my first rack of never-worn clothes. Why were there so many of the same shirt? And what kind of weirdo would buy something knowing that 20 other people would be wearing the exact same thing?

Ah yes. I was a bit of a fashion Encino Girl.

You see, I was raised in a consignment store, the Sweetheart Shop, at the foothills where Loveland met Estes Park. For 11 years, I helped my mom sort, price and organize the clothes people dropped off -- which also meant I had dibs on everything, and no need to visit the mall.

In sixth grade, I made a goal: not to wear the same outfit twice. Sound uppity? Not if you're sneaking clothes in your backpack, wearing them one day and returning them to the rack the next day. Indeed, I was the best-dressed, cheapest-dressed pre-teen at Walt Clark Middle School.

Andy's Girl boots

Years after the Sweetheart Shop closed -- and changed into a hookah bar -- I still haven't changed. In fact, today I made a goal: to put together the cheapest outfit possible. Bright blue jersey dress from a church garage sale: free. Vintage red thick belt with a butterfly clasp: 50 cents from Savers. Red chandelier earrings from a thrift store: $1. Even my red boots were the floor-sample boots that I bought after Boulder designer Andy's Girl closed down, for approximately 5,000 percent off.

My thrifty nature
is part of the reason October is one of my favorite months. Sure, there's the pumpkin lattes, the world's biggest dress-up party (aka Halloween) and the chilly, sharp air -- the smell of change.

But October is also Thrift Store Heaven, when all thrift/consignment stores roll out their besties in hopes of reeling in shoppers in need of a wicked costume. For folks who dress up on a daily basis (ahem, ahem), this also translates into the closest equivalent to Vintage Fashion Month.

Which is how I ended up in a basement in Louisville, surrounded by leopard-print dresses, teal cowboy boots, short shirts and long (red) jackets sexy enough for Cake to write a song about.

I'd heard rumblings about the store, Found Underground, but had put off visiting it because, well, honestly, I had no reason to swing by downtown Louisville.

Now I have a reason.

Photo by Jonathan Castner.
It's called floor-length black velour opera coat, $23.

And that's just the beginning. As a self-proclaimed (but difficult to dispute) used-clothing expert, I say Found Underground is one of Boulder County's greatest. Nancy Cooley, of Louisville, says she opened the shop three years ago because she loves funky clothes. As proof: She worked at the Ritz clothing and costume store in Boulder for 12 years, where, in her words, "I raised my kids. Yes, I raised my kids in a store."

(My eyebrows perk up.)
Daily Camera photo

Found Underground, at 901 Main St., is entirely recycled, from the racks to hangers. It carries all kinds of goodies, from Betsey Johnson to labelless retro to belly-dancer costumes to prom dresses, which Cooley sells on a sliding scale for lower-income high-schoolers.

The store carries quality consignment clothes at thrift-store prices. And after four to six weeks, everything that hasn't yet sold moves into a half-off room, which rivals even Salvation Army prices, but with the style and brands of Boulder's upscale consignment stores, such as Rags.

I'm talking $12 for a black formal gown from Macy's, with tags; $28 for a red vintage skirt and suit jacket; $12 for never-worn brown and pink round-toe Steve Madden heels -- the same heels I brought at the Steve Madden store for, um, add a zero.

It was the teal Justin mid-calf boots that got me. I have the twin pair of these boots, but in bright purple. I bought mine in worse condition at Urban Outfitters, as part of the Urban Renewal line, for $80. At Found Underground, the nearly immaculate teal sisters are $20.

They're not my size, but I almost bought them anyway. There are some deals that surpass reason.

Read more at 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who needs Goth when you can be sloth?

Photo by Hollywood Calling.

Oops, I overdid it again. The girly thing.

Maybe I curled my hair too tightly, or the pink hair dye seeped into my brain. Maybe I'm ill from the scent of too much eyelash glue and nail polish. Maybe it's my Seasonal Affective Fashion Disorder, or the proximity to Halloween that is darkening my soul -- and wardrobe.

But I begrudge all things froofy right now. In fact, the only way I could muster up the desire to wear a dress this week was over my jeans, with Doc Martens and only so I could ride my motorcycle wearing it to prove that, in fact, it was possible to wear a dress while riding.

I painted my nails black. Even when I attempted to lighten my hair at Floyd's Barber Shop last week, my stylist toiled for six hours -- seriously -- but my freak-hair refused to participate in the bleaching process. We ended up going black and purple, which my hair picked up joyfully. But of course.

My friend Kristen recently asked me at a party where my pin-up had run away to. I scowled at her, in my ratty jeans and black T-shirt, and explained that I had overdone the girly-girly so much that it had sent me ricocheting in the opposite direction.

I would describe my current style as "Goth," except I'm even too lazy for all the dark make-up and exhausting tries to look like I'm not trying. I guess that makes me "Sloth."

So obviously I have no fashion advice to offer you this week, except maybe "Shower, occasionally, if you want. Whatever, I don't care."

Lucky for me (and you), I surround myself with enough life rafts to float myself through these kinds of murky phases. Like local style coach and fashion genius Rachael Shayne ( She recently shared the three secrets to finding the perfect jeans in the September issue of Women's Magazine (

As Shayne put it, navigating the trends of fabric finish alone is treacherous. Here are the three terms she says you need to remember on your next hunt for jeans: mid-rise, dark rinse and a slight flare.

Let's break it down.

1.Forget the torture device known as the size on the tag and fit your curves instead, opting for mid-rise jeans (about two finger widths below your belly button) that skim your curves and highlight your assets. Then plan to tailor the waist, length and even the flare for the perfect fit.

2. Regardless of what the denim trends are, a dark finish looks best. This is often referred to as a "rinse" color. No bleaching, blasting, whiskering or anything else that acts like a spotlight on your thighs and butt. Embellishments and other sparkles on your jeans have the same effect. So if you like decoration, make sure you're highlighting something you want everyone to notice.

3. Making sure there is some flare at the bottom of your jeans gives visual balance to hips, which is why it's so flattering. Make sure your jeans are tailored to a half an inch off the floor with your shoes on. This usually equates to having one pair of shorter, straighter leg jeans for flats and another pair of longer jeans with more flare for heels.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The sisterhood of the traveling shirt

Jean Marie Designz
Once there was a shirt. Not just an ordinary shirt. This shirt, the Traveling Shirt, went on to do great things and witness some crazy debauchery.

This is the story of that shirt, and four friends who stole this shirt from each other, clawing and scraping and willing to take each other out for the chance to wear the Traveling Shirt.

Until the Traveling Shirt had babies.

But wait. We're getting ahead of ourselves. First, meet Kirstin Landers. Kirstin, 26, was getting ready to go to a barbecue, and she wanted to wear something unique. She loved punk clothes. And rockabilly. And '50s pin-up. She called it punkabilly.

Although she had never studied fashion, the Denver woman had always dreamed of being a designer. So on this day, she designed. She measured and snipped and sewed. She created a low-scooping halter out of a fabric of black and white skulls and red roses. Then, below the empire waist, she affixed a sheer black and white polka-dot scarf, in a "v" shape. A tie around the neck and a tie around the waist made it nearly backless. She had her unique top.

The Traveling Shirt was born.

She wore the Shirt to the barbecue, and even the hot dogs on the burning coals seems to turn and stare as she walked by. Kirstin paired the Shirt with black short-shorts and fishnet stockings. She totally rocked, er rockabillied, the picnic.

was getting ready for the Mike Ness concert at the Gothic Theatre in Denver. Lisa, 22, of Boulder, arrived at her friend's house first wearing a shredded T-shirt and skinny jeans. It was Kirstin's birthday, and the concert was her gift.

Then, Lisa saw it: Draped over a chair in Kirstin's bedroom was an edgy skull-print Shirt, perfect for the show. She asked if she could borrow it.
Jean Marie Designz

All night at the concert, people asked Lisa about her edgy Shirt. There were so many inquiries, in fact, that Kirstin decided right there, amid the hootenanny, that she was going to become a fashion designer. Jean Marie Designz, she would call her line. Yes, with a "z."

As for Lisa, she wore the Shirt home, and coincidentally "didn't have the chance" to meet up with Kirstin again. Ever.

Or so it seemed.

I hadn't worn
regular clothes for weeks, not since I decided to get a full-back tattoo. My shirts all stuck to the tattoo goo, which had stained my a corset and a vintage blouse. I had nearly sworn off shirts altogether when I decided to venture to the Westminster Mall, known for its plethora of stripper-esque clothes. Surely somewhere here would have a backless shirt.

I was right. Except all of the shirts I found were pretty much frontless, too. Why couldn't I find something backless -- and classy?

A few days later, I was wincing again under the needle at the tattoo shop when my friend Lisa dropped by. I nearly screamed; a combo of the needle hitting my kidney region and Lisa's outfit. Her Shirt was what I had been looking for. It was backless, but instead of being covered in Playboy symbols and sequins, it had polka-dots and roses. Totally adorable. I all but tore the Shirt off Lisa so I could wear it home.

I wore it the next day, too. And the next. I paired it with a red pencil skirt. And jeans. And a black skirt. And a few more times (read: 40 times) after the tattoo healed.

I couldn't help it. I had been possessed by the Traveling Shirt.

Tara arrived
to our girls' night with a bottle of wine and red and white knee-length skirt. But before we could crack the cork, we were invited to go dancing and our low-key night turned on high.

Tara needed a new outfit. I held up a black skirt, a red dress, a purple shirt. But her eyes kept diverting to a certain Shirt that I had tried to hide in the corner of my closet.

"That," she said, with a definitive point. "It's sexy. It's perfect."

Tara wore the Shirt to Round Midnight on Pearl Street, and was flooded with so many free drinks and phone numbers that she felt overwhelmed. One guy offered to buy her pancakes. Another wrote a song for her and gave her a ring -- literally. He asked her if she was a witch, because there was no other explanation for the lovey-dovey pile of drool he had become.

But Tara and I exchanged nods, knowing it was the Shirt.

Likewise, I knew I would never see it again.
Me and Lisa, in standard facial attire.

Until Monday.
I was having Shirt withdrawal, so I asked Lisa where it came from. She gave me Kirstin's number -- and Web sites: and
There it was: a replica of the Traveling Shirt. Kirstin had missed it so much herself -- and had such a wild demand for more of its caliber -- that she was now selling it for $40.

I plan on placing two orders. The first, for Lisa, a sort of karmic rebalancing act for my original act of thievery. And the second for Tara. Hey, I want the original back.

"The Tie Top," it's called on

But it should be called the Magical Traveling Top, unique, edgy, classy and sexy. Whatever you need it to be. And, most importantly, soon to be once again mine.

The only picture I can find of this wonderful shirt, on none other than Kristin.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Goldyn Girl

Only a few rare people can do this. And I am making it my life's mission to befriend all of them.

Saturday afternoon, fully caffeinated and therefore irrationally euphoric, my friend Devon and I found ourselves in downtown Longmont with nothing to do.

It was the first Saturday afternoon in 15 years that I hadn't overbooked with some sort of chaos. We literally had nothing to do. And being in Longmont and all, we really had nothing to do.

So we did just that: nothing. We spent hours walking through every store in downtown Longmont with no goal, no timeline and (get this) no purchases.

It was challenging. There were about 3,000 items at Rose Buds (418 Main St.) I would have liked to buy, from vintage hats with that sexy half-face fishnet for $8; old aprons with funky patterns for less than $20; and a rack of '50s A-line skirts.

Even a lace-and-ribbon shirt from the 1800s for only $20-ish. I think the Puritan woman who originally sewed that top wore it under a pinafore, apron, bonnet, jacket and some sort of conservative suspenders contraption. But simply paired with a pair of jeans or a black pencil skirt, the neo-1800s looked smokin' hot. Still, I didn't pull out the credit card; that would have transformed our afternoon of nothing into something.

After floating through a half a dozen other thrift stores -- Longmont has more per square block than anywhere else on Earth, I swear -- we stopped to refuel on coffee. (Our hyperactive seizuring had waned to a dull twitching.)

That is where nothing was destroyed by the Impossible to Ignore.

I pulled my laptop out of my car and "accidentally" visited, a Web site run by Boulder High School grad Vanessa Barcus. The site features about 60 hip, hard-to-find designers -- the kind of stuff you'd have to travel to Brooklyn or West Hollywood to find.
Devon and I being ridiculous.
Photo by Hollywood Calling.

Devon and I -- and our wallets -- became suddenly very, uh, active.

Barcus lived in Los Angeles for a while after graduating Boulder High in 2001. She got her MBA and worked at a contemporary label. Then she returned to Colorado, the land of the Crocs with socks, too-short khakis and ill-fitting T-shirts. My words, not hers.

But, in her words: "My whole goal was to bring those cutting-edge brands to places like Colorado."

She launched her fashion biz one year ago, which includes trunk shows and the Web site, which includes her own fashion finds, Goldyn Vintage. Prices range from a pair of orange Lucite clip-on earrings for $24.50 (gotta love clip-on earrings, well, until they cut off circulation to your lobes) to a vintage pocket-watch necklace, originally $450, marked down to $360.

Overall, products range from $30 for T-shirts to $900 for a leather coat.

Obviously, is more pricey than the Ares Thrift store, which was literally giving away handbags. (At one point, I thought they were going to pay me to take one.) But Barcus lauds her site's unique designers, the high quality and her personal touch. Every purchase comes with a hand-written thank-you. That was enough to push Devon and me over the edge (of debt).

Sorry, downtown Longmont. But that fishnet hat is going to have to wait until next payday.

Unless you're doing a hat give-away, that is.

Big-town trends features cutting-edge designers from the coasts. Here's what to look out for:

The minimalist look
is big, focusing more on the quality of the fabrics and construction, rather than tons of embellishment. This is a great trend for the current economy, because you can wear the clothes longer.

Bold accessories
spice up basic outfits. Try crazy platform shoes, colorful boots and art-inspired jewelry.

Rebecca Mincoff handbags.
These bags are sleek, with beautiful detail -- sturdy, gold-tone hardware and lined with a fun fabric. They're perfect for Boulder: downtown chic, but not over-the-top. The bags don't scream with logos; they are luxurious in their own right.

Jewelry from The Woods, a Denver-based company founded by sisters Shawn Hecox and Samantha Hitchcock, who both also attended Boulder High. Their pieces are inspired out of a love for contrasts: mod and vintage, edgy and girly, sophisticated and innocent. The material combos are interesting, such as wood and bone with rough-cut diamonds and yellow gold. In Hecox's words, "We love seeing diamonds, the epitome of luxury, in an organic, unfussy setting."


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Can a doctor be made out of rayon … and light blue and strappy?

I’m about to get personal here. Time for fashion and mental health.

I have been inexplicably mopey for a few days. Completely indecisive. Like one day, I couldn’t choose which shirt I wanted to wear, so I wore all of them, layered on top of each other. My roomie told me I looked like a second-grader. I couldn’t decide whether that was a compliment.

Then on my way to work, I felt thirsty but couldn’t decide what I wanted. So I stopped at the gas station and bought a coffee, Diet Coke, water and cranberry juice. I immediately spilled the coffee on my shirt. Luckily, I had three others underneath.

My affliction was getting out of control; it was time to make an appointment with Dr. Urban Outfitters.

Yes, it’s dangerous, expensive and probably masking a serious iron deficiency or something, but I stand behind shopping therapy. I’m proof it works. Because as I walked out of the store with a bulging bag of stripes and oversized gold hoops, I felt a wave of peace and control. Maybe I can’t control the Cingular demons who sporadically drop my most crucial phone calls or my neighbor’s dog that begins his bark-a-thon at 5 a.m. every day, but I can control the size of the hoops dangling off my earlobes.

Flipping through the racks gets your hands off the office keyboard and surrounds them with comforting cottons and satins.

A new shirt temporarily makes you feel good about yourself.

And shopping is a reminder that no matter how twisted and complex life becomes, you can always fall back on That Which Is Shallow But Simple And Pretty.

Photo by Flickr user David Blackwell.