May 14, 2015

Who Wore it Better

FYI, I've been absent for a while because I've started working full-time for the summer again! I'll try to keep up this blog, but between my new summer job (which I am LOVING, by the way) and my continued involvement as Managing Editor at a fashion company, I'm left with few hours in a day. I do have a lot of blog ideas though, so check in occasionally!

It's been a long time since I've been to the mall to try on some clothes. The last time I documented my window shopping adventures was during the summer in Dressing for the Occasion, so when I went out shopping with a friend last month to help her pick out a dress for our banquet, I thought it was time to bring back my ever-classy changing room selfies.

P.S.: I take these photos with my ancient Blackberry 8520, so you'll have to bear with me on the photo quality. And full disclosure: the photos are edited in order to bring out the colour that gets washed out when you pair a Blackberry camera with changing room lighting.

BCBGMAXAZRIA Suzy Draped Asymmetrical Silk Dress

I saw this BCBGMAXAZRIA dress displayed on a hanger and fell in love with it. It had so many design elements that I adore - sheer silk, gloriously long butterfly sleeves, a belt to create shape, and an asymmetrical hem - all done in a pretty pale pink. I had to try it on.

Sadly, the dress was no longer a shining image of perfection once I put it on. Don't get me wrong, the top half was fantastic. The sleeves were so ethereal and elegant that I am now contemplating including butterfly sleeves on my dream wedding dress. But the asymmetrical hem? That needed to go back to the drawing table. You can see in the photo that the skirt criss-crosses over itself - looks decent in the photo; looks messy in real life. The shorter tail of the skirt flapped awkwardly around my right side, and my legs did not look flattering with the odd placement and shape of the slit. Unless you plan on doing the Angelina Jolie pose all night, this dress is better left on the hanger.

Forever 21 Bejeweled Chiffon Suplice Romper

If you've been with this blog since its early stages, you'll probably know by now that I never buy anything from Forever 21. However, I do have friends that shop there, and as a regular window shopper, I try on everything - from high-end to low-end. I picked up this romper from Forever 21 because the embellishment and plunging neckline caught my eye.

I do tend to prefer lower necklines, as higher necklines make me feel constricted, but even so, I have never worn a V-neck this deep before without a camisole underneath. While I would definitely need tape to keep the neckline in place, I found the long sleeves and bejeweled strap helped keep the look classy and more within my comfort zone (and the fact that flat chests make plunging necklines look high fashion helped...). As for the rest of the romper, my friend commented on how short the shorts were, but I actually didn't mind because they were done in a fancier fabric and looser design. What I did have a problem with was the shape. The ultimate cheap quality of the romper caused the shorts to flare out and the elastic waist to look bulky. But luckily, it doesn't matter because my conservative mother would never let me out of the house in this anyway! (Love you, mom)

Forever 21 Metallic Knit Maxi Dress

There is an obvious colour difference here, but I honestly can't remember what the true colour of this maxi dress was. Nonetheless, I don't think I remember it being as light as the photo on the right. This dress was actually decent - I have no major qualms about it (but no major praises for it either). The only thing I personally didn't like was how the arm holes cut in. I find my upper arms to be a little chubby, and I hate it when tops cut in to reveal my shoulders. As a result, I thought I looked slightly top-heavy, and along with the showy metallic fabric, found myself strangely feeling like Lady Gaga with her shoulder pads.

Image Source: Bloomingdales, Forever 21

April 23, 2015

You Don't Have to Try

As I worked in the office last summer, there was a song I jammed to that had inspired me to write a blog post. The song was 'Try' by Colbie Caillat.

Obviously, it's been a year since I was listening to this song at my desk, and I've only now gotten around to typing up the post. Although I think the timing is actually perfect because I recently had an experience that gives me a - not necessarily new - but better understanding of the issue at hand.

What I want to talk about today is makeup. My mom has always been a strong proponent of no-makeup, and has been firm about wanting me to look natural. As a result, my encounters with makeup were few and far between. I used to wear it as a kid when I performed in The Nutcracker ballet on stage, and wore some of it during my Grade 12 graduation. For things like job interviews or events, I will generally swipe on some lipstick. Day-to-day, I wear absolutely no makeup.

While the lyrics of this song aren't groundbreaking, it was the message that resonated with me. I remember girls in my junior high who depended on their mascara; to be seen without it was their worst nightmare. But I think as Caillet would say: that's not the point of makeup.

Why should you care what they think of you,
When you're all alone by yourself,
Do you like you?

First and foremost, you need to love yourself. Makeup is most powerful when it's clear you would be just as confident about who you are without it. I've always admired girls who aren't afraid to post photos of themselves bare-faced because it shows that when they do put on makeup, it's for their own happiness - not for the approval of others. Makeup is about enhancing the natural beauty you have, but if you don't like who you are underneath, then makeup will only ever be a mask.

I mentioned the timing of this post is particular because, just recently, my friend agreed to help show me what I would look like with makeup on. She came over to apply eyeshadow, eyeliner and lipstick:

I wanted to share this because putting makeup on helped me change the way I look at myself. I used to be so jealous of girls who were pretty, wondering why I wasn't graced with the genes to look as stunning. I used to hate taking off my glasses because I thought my eyes looked awfully tired and flat. Yet as you can see, I'm not wearing glasses in these photos - and that's a big deal for me. I have never taken a photo of myself without glasses, nor have I ever been so happy to see myself without them.

But the real moral of the story here happened when I took my makeup off that night.  I looked at my once-again bare face, and realized that the features I so loved with makeup on were still there. I realized that the eyes I once thought were dull were actually quite wide and exploring, that the lips I hated for being too big were actually nicely plump, and the face I always thought was too wide was actually due to the way my cheeks pop when I smile.  Funny how I had to see myself with makeup in order to love myself without it.

I still adore the way I look with makeup, and I have a whole new appreciation for what a simple cat eye can do. I would definitely wear makeup again if I had the chance, but day-to-day, I will continue without it because I know I don't need it to feel good about myself. After all, the most important question you have you ask yourself is: do you like you?

April 12, 2015

Color Me Beautiful

Blondes have more fun. Redheads have a fiery personality. We've all heard of these sayings, and we all know amazing people who prove that, at the end of the day, these are simply stereotypes. Nonetheless, these expressions got me thinking: what does my hair color say about me?

Before we can even begin to delve into this question, I must first establish what my hair color is. I have what most people would classify as black hair:

Those with dark hair are said to be reserved, sophisticated, intelligent and mature. I mean, sure, I'll happily take those descriptors! But joking aside, I actually don't think these are all too far from the truth. I am very shy and timid (socially awkward is my middle name), and despite having a blog where I talk about me and my thoughts for days on end, I'm actually quite uncomfortable being under the spotlight. In real life, I prefer to be the one asking questions - the quiet observer. My sense of style errs on the side of sophistication and elegance, and while I won't call myself intelligent, I do value brains over beauty. School and career have always been my top priorities, which in hindsight, has helped me avoid all the craziness of the infamous teenage phase. I've always been known as mature, to the point even my Grade 5 BFF knew ten years ago that I'd grow up to be the type to relax with a glass of wine after work. So far, it appears I'm fulfilling all the stereotypes.

But wait!

In a plot twist worthy of a Christopher Nolan film, my hair isn't actually black. It's a dark brown. I once had a confused classmate ask me if I dyed my hair because under direct sunlight, it becomes a warm golden brown. I also specifically selected the above photo of myself because my hair happened to reflect a blue-ish tinge from the late afternoon sun streaming through my window. All in all, there's more to it than meets the eye, and I like to think the same can be said of me. For those who get to know me, they might realize I have a deep passion for fashion and writing, that I speak in strange self-made accents when I get particularly hyper, and that I love laughing (sometimes loudly and uncontrollably).

In the end, it's not about what your hair color says about you - it's about what you make it say. Because hey, I may not be blonde, but I sure do have a lot of fun.

I teamed up with Madison Reed to share my thoughts on hair color and personality. Madison Reed is a hair care company that specializes in hair dye free of PPD, sulfates, resorcinol, ammonia and gluten.

April 3, 2015

A New Chapter

I can't believe it's already been one year since my business faculty's year-end banquet (which I documented in This Is the End). How time flies. Last night, I attended yet another banquet, but this time, it served to celebrate our graduation. However, while my friends mark an end to a chapter in their lives, I am staying behind one more year to complete my dual degree program. I have yet to feel the buzz of excitement and nervousness of my peers as they advance into real world, but I am filled with both happiness and sadness as I see them begin their new adventures, knowing that I cannot join them. I wish them all the best, and know that they will do great things.

I'm pictured here with two friends on my left and right, both looking fabulous. For myself, I actually chose to wear the same outfit as the one I wore to a fashion show last month. The only things I changed were my hair, tights, and nails. I've mentioned before that my own attempts at curling my hair have never quite been that successful, but this time around, my wonderful friend offered to do it for me. The results are definitely worth applauding considering my hair is very flat and hard to work with:

The same friend also lent me her Essie Merino Cool nailpolish, which I applied literally an hour or two before the banquet was to start  It was my first time using Essie nailpolish, and I loved it! The brush was tiny enough for a clean application, and the formula went on very smoothly. Essie, along with Joe Fresh, are definitely on to my list of best nail polish brands. As for tights, I had opted for classier opaque tights during the fashion show, and so decided to go with sheer patterned tights for the banquet.

Overall, I had a fantastic time. There was dancing at the end of the night, and despite my generally reserved character, dancing is one activity I absolutely love. When I finally got the chance to make my way to the dance floor, my night was made right then and there. But more importantly, I was surrounded by the company of great friends who provided plenty of laughs throughout the night. The banquet was likely the last time I will see many of my friends, but the bond we've developed over the course of our time together will stay with us for years to come. And perhaps one day, if our paths cross once more in the next chapter of our lives, we'll pick up right where we left off.

March 21, 2015

Beauty or the Beast?

"Can any fashion item be worn with the right styling, or are there things people just shouldn't wear?"

That was a question a friend of mine broached while eyeing a blouse that regrettably resembled a hospital gown.  I'm ashamed to admit the question gave me pause. I've been critiquing fashion for years now, yet I don't have a neatly packaged answer for what makes fashion...ugly?  I half-blurted, half-mumbled some poorly articulated answer:

"It's not about the piece itself.  It's all about fit, quality,, yeah, fit and quality."

Shameful.  Despite being a writer, I'm actually really, really horrible at articulating myself in real life. But pushing aside my fumbling answer, I do think I was on the right track.  I started pondering the idea again when my friend messaged me lamenting the return of high-waisted pants.  I, on the other hand, welcomed the trend, and it made me wonder why there was a difference in how we both perceived the attractiveness of those waist-defining (and crotch-lengthening) bottoms.  How do we get away with critiquing fashion and giving it our "yes" or "no" seal of approval?  Can we really call something unflattering when it's all in the eye of the beholder?

To begin, there are certain things I look for when I discern whether fashion is ugly or not:

1) Fit

If something doesn't fit, there's a much higher chance you don't look good in it.  It doesn't mean the item has to be skintight (and following the oversized trend doesn't mean you can go baggy as baggy goes), but that the seams and cutting hit where they're supposed to hit.

2) Quality

I've seen so many outfits that look good from afar, yet once I venture closer, the pilling fabric, unraveling stitching, and lack of structure make the outfits exceedingly average. That strange, curved shoulder jacket may be the most unflattering thing you've seen, but at least it's well-made - and that is something worth admiring.  Being a broke university student, I know how difficult finding quality pieces at reasonable prices can be, so my trick is to go for pieces that look expensive but don't necessarily leave a massive dent in your bank account (stores like H&M or Joe Fresh, and any killer clearance sales are my saviours).

3) Design

Design and quality work hand in hand. A basic white tee might not have much in terms of design, but the quality of its construction is what makes it special. Nonetheless, a garment that has some element of original thought put into it deserves appreciation.  For example, I own a Prada sweater that looks like any simple V-neck grey sweater, but on closer inspection, one notices there is slight ruching along the shoulders done with exposed black stitching.  It adds just that extra bit of depth to the top, and it's something unique, even if it's something only I know about.

But overall, what makes fashion look good is something that goes beyond the specifics into a more holistic perspective that, ultimately, makes it all subjective.  Because no matter what one person may call ugly, I know I'll find keen street stylers who pull it off like they're wearing Dior Couture. And so that brings me to a fourth point:

4) Confidence

The final, most important ingredient.  This is the one element that trumps all.  If you feel great in that hospital gown blouse, and you walk out there holding your head high, then no question, that blouse looks good.  Anyone can wear anything.  The right styling and awareness of one's body shape definitely helps, but it's confidence and daring that wows me, not "good" style.

At the end of the day, every fashion item/trend/look has the potential to be flattering, as long as the wearer first and foremost believes in it.  Everything works.  Nothing's ugly. Unfortunately, a lot of the "ugly" slander gets thrown at high fashion, runway looks. Understand that what goes down the runway is not necessarily meant to be worn as is on the streets.  Runway looks are exaggerated, meant to give us a good show, and designed to speak to our wildest creative fantasies. The runway acts as a conduit for trends, ideas, and sociopolitical messages.  Tell me, can you really call that ugly?

Image Source: Photo1, 2

March 18, 2015

My Top 3 Favourite Films

So I finally saw Interstellar last night, and now here I am, inspired to have a chat about my top 3 favourite films. As I mentioned in And...Action!, I really only started watching and appreciating films four years ago. I certainly don't claim to be a movie critic; I'm just a girl who loves a good story.

3. Doubt

It's a shame this movie didn't get more exposure, because it's quite the hidden gem. This film is not about awing you with theatrics; the strength of the script and the formidable performances by Meryl Streep (one of my favourites), the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams were the driving forces behind this film.  Doubt had me gripped from beginning to end with a very simple question: "Did he or didn't he?" Doubt is a powerful emotion - it is a relentless feeling that slowly, sometimes painfully, chips away at our most sacred trust in others. When placed within the context of religion, this tension becomes an even more potent and perplexing force. Doubt kept me thinking long after the credits rolled, and the more I re-watch the film, the more nuances I uncover.

2. All Christopher Nolan films

This is a bit of a cheat because I am grouping all Christopher Nolan films together, but I truly cannot pick a favourite among them. Nolan is hands-down the greatest filmmaker of our time, and I am honestly so grateful for his existence. Everything he touches is gold. 

Nonetheless, Interstellar was the film that compelled me to compile this list, and so here are my thoughts on it:

In classic Nolan fashion, Interstellar was a cerebral journey, elevated by a rousing score, a smart script, an admirable cast, and flawless cinematography. As usual, the story was a circular one, where the end provided the puzzle pieces necessary to understand the beginning. Nolan is a master at suspense, and I found myself literally gripping the edge of my seat and holding my breath on multiple occasions. Many people commented on the heavy science in the film, believing one must love science in order to truly enjoy the film. While I don't purport to be overly intelligent, I did not find the science to be at all obstructive to my ability to follow the storyline. The science was undoubtedly complex, but the implications of those scientific concepts were made exceptionally clear. Not once did I lose my understanding of the film simply because I could not understand the science. Even if the science eluded you, the underlying story of the film was a rather emotional one. Interstellar is as much about the power of love transcending time and space as it is about celestial exploration. Which is why this was the first Nolan film - and film in general - to have made me cry so deeply. His portrayal of intense emotion set against the thought-provoking gravity of interstellar travel created a surreal experience in which I found myself moved both emotionally and mentally.

1. Cloud Atlas

As much as Nolan's films leave me breathless, I must say my #1 spot still goes out to Cloud Atlas. This film was slaughtered by critics, but I was profoundly touched by its incredible beauty. It was certainly more graphic than I usually prefer, but it used violence very strategically to tease out sentiment. What astonished me about this film was how it told six stories at once. The stories were like strings of thread that each had their own beginning and end - and yet once woven in and out of each other, became a stunning tapestry. During the span of 3 hours, I went on a rollercoaster of shock, laughter, disgust, joy, and sadness. Emotionally wrecking, but perfect in every sense possible. The cinematography was achingly artistic, the editing phenomenal and suspenseful, the acting tender and raw, the score majestic, and the makeup unbelievable. But most remarkable was the script. It was the script that thumbed my heart-strings. Cloud Atlas was beautifully written - its words were lyrical and poetic. Each line of dialogue crushed me beneath its weight, and I came away absolutely devoured by how emotional yet intelligent the film was.

You may be able to see I have a particular taste when it comes to films, but there are still many movies beyond my top 3 that I would recommend (among them August: Osage County, The Avengers, The Imitation Game, Shutter Island, The Theory of Everything, Predestination, Peacock, Her, Captain Phillips, Still Alice,...). Nonetheless, I gravitate towards films that make me think. I have yet to see a comedy or romantic-comedy I like, and I don't tend to watch animated films (although WALL-E did impress me).  I want thoughtful humour and genuine characters, not cheap laughs and cheesy dialogue. I want to be tested during a film because confusion is what makes the ultimate dawning of understanding that much more impactful. 

Image Source: Doubt, Interstellar, Cloud Atlas

March 6, 2015

6 Teenage Trends I'd Rather Forget

Looking through some old photos one day, I was confronted with how much our fashion sense changes as we age. Everyone has those moments when they look back at their questionable fashion choices and wonder what great unknown force compelled them to dress the way they did. Of course a lot of what we wore (and continue to wear) was influenced by peer pressure and popular trends at the time, but sometimes I wish I had the same confidence in my personal style back then as I do now (something I talk about in I am Not Fashionable). Perhaps then there wouldn't be so many cringe-worthy moments from my awkward years captured for eternity on camera. But hey, we were kids, and growing up is all about finding yourself through trial and error. So as a toast to growing up, I look back at some of the biggest fashion trends (ie. mistakes) from my not-so-distant preteen and teenage years:

1) Flared jeans

The first time someone complimented me on my clothes was in grade 7 when I wore a pair of flared jeans. Back then, the more your pant legs covered your shoes, the cooler you were. A proper pair of flared jeans would inevitably be torn to shreds and perpetually dirty near the heel of the foot - but we wore those ripped hems like a badge of honour. In junior high, all the popular girls were buying their flared jeans from Garage, and in early high school, the clique upgraded to brands like True Religion and Rock & Republic. Thick, white stitching and diagonal seams were markers of wealth and style. For me, as much as I tried, I could never find the perfect pair of flared jeans. Garage jeans were always too long on me. To satisfy my style cravings, my mom would fold the hems and stitch them in place loosely with needle and thread. While I am deeply grateful to my mother for painstakingly altering all my jeans, I will forever remember the tell-tale line around my shins from the folded hem and how the stiffness of my flare would never compete with the girls whose jeans fit them perfectly. Let's just say I'm glad skinny jeans took over.

2) Sneakers

When I was a kid, sneakers were all anyone ever knew in life. We literally wore the same pair of sneakers year round because there were no such things as stylish flats or sandals. I remember pining so desperately for a pair of Lacoste Intrigue sneakers (because colourful velcro straps were "in"), but had to settle for a similar, cheaper pair from Wanted (a random brand from The Bay no one had ever heard of).  I did receive a compliment on that pair of sneakers, and do recall seeing another girl in my grade with the same pair, so I guess I played the shoe game right for a while. Near the end of junior high, flip flops began to replace sneakers, and so I set off once again to fulfill the next hottest trend. Flip flops proved to be a painful journey (I'm never wearing those atrocities ever again), and as high school rolled around, ballet flats took over. Cue another couple years of awful blisters and shoes with no arch support. Fast forward to today, and stylish shoes continue to come with the price of pain. It looks like I'll never be able to go back to my childhood years of comfortable, frumpy shoes - I'll admit, my vanity won't allow it.

3) Hoodies

First it was zip-up sweaters from Garage, then colorful hoodies from TNA, and finally, thick, warm hoodies from Lululemon. Apparently at that age, nothing existed except for tank tops, t-shirts and hoodies. Girls used to have entire conversations about which colour hoodie they were going to buy from TNA. I remember bursting with joy the first time I bought a Garage zip-up, and likewise when I was later gifted my first TNA and Lululemon hoodies. Similar to the ruined hems of flared jeans, a wavy, puckered zipper and worn out elbows were signs you were dressed properly. Now that I've grown up, I hate wearing hoodies. My hair always ends up looking like a mess with the hood in the back, and I feel perpetually underdressed for, well, life in general. The only time I'll wear hoodies now is when I'm at home slaving over schoolwork.

4) Jelly bracelets

Charm bracelets were incredibly popular in junior high, but the fad that stands out most prominently in my mind is jelly bracelets. I had two: a dark blue one, and a sparkly light blue one. I loved how there were so many different colours available, and how the flexibility of the jelly offered numerous ways to wear the bracelets. People often wore a stack of them on their wrist, or had two bracelets intertwined into a cuff. Not quite sure if I'm so keen anymore on having silicon straps around my wrists, but if you think about it, this trend is still alive - bangles are essentially grown-up jelly bracelets.

5) Jeans under skirts

This one may not have been a widespread trend, but it was certainly a staple of my teenage style. There was a period in junior high when I wore ruffled skirts over flared jeans, and I can only imagine it came from the struggle between my desire to appear more feminine and the self-consciousness I had felt about my scrawny legs. In high school, I remember doing the exact same thing with tunics and leggings. I do not look too fondly upon the memories of how ridiculous I must have looked, but it wasn't until early university that I finally felt comfortable showing bare legs.

6) Long-sleeved t-shirts

It's a long-sleeved shirt! It's a t-shirt!  Nope, it's just some spawn of both that a designer somewhere, somehow thought looked cool.  But hey, I got tricked into thinking it looked cool too. Shirts like these are really no longer appropriate after elementary school, but for some reason, I still had one in junior high. I remember being so excited when I bought the shirt, but after wearing it a maximum of three times, I ended up realizing how childish I looked. Perhaps, like the skirt and jeans combo, it was just another way for me to wear a t-shirt without having to bare my bony arms.  Come to think of it, there wasn't a single part of my body I wasn't self-conscious of at that age, so no wonder I had an interesting array of fashion choices back then.

We were all prey to the pressure to fit in when we were younger, but no matter how much I cringe going down memory lane, I don't think I would have finally discovered confidence in my personal style without having failed so many times before.