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