Blondes Have More…What, Exactly?

Let’s talk about John Frieda. Bless that man, really, because I am quite loyal to the brand. I use Precision Foam Color in 10N Sheer Blonde Extra Light Natural Blonde to color my hair at home, and I follow up with Sheer Blonde Go Blonder shampoo and conditioner. But the last time I bought my shampoo and conditioner, I flipped the lid and noticed a message just for me:

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It’s true that I don’t need a dance floor, mostly because I’m a pretty atrocious dancer and I only have late-night dance parties by myself where no one can point and laugh. And I certainly make friends everywhere I go. After a lot of awkwardness and silence, where I think a bunch of things but never say them, because I’m an introvert.

Of course, the marketing strategy here is not terribly complex. They’re reinforcing the stereotype of the fun, carefree, blonde. They’re encouraging people to post on Instagram using the hashtag #MyBlondeLife. A quick perusal of the hashtag shows a variety of blondes and beach, pool, liquor and (oh, hey!) even a shot of someone’s underwear-clad crotch. Yay!

My next blonde-affirming messages, picked up today:

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I am so over the blonde stereotype. Why are the messages like that? Why can’t it be about how intelligent, driven or thoughtful blondes are? I have two major reasons for being blonde, and neither of them have anything to do with being fun and carefree. One is that it suits my skin tone. The other has to do with cultural identity, since I’m Scandinavian, and my family is populated with blondes.

In my eyes, the stereotype is offensive. I have heard enough dumb blonde jokes to last a lifetime (often told by people who are–sorry to say it–much dumber than me). The worst of the blonde stereotype and the worst of the woman stereotype seem to line up: sex maniac, frigid bitch, vapid airhead, party girl.

Interestingly enough, there is no corresponding marketing for the John Frieda brunette and redhead products. I checked, because I wondered if this was a dumb idea done once, or three times.

So let’s make the #MyBlondeLife hashtag a little more real, shall we?
#MyBlonde has a PhD
#MyBlonde has agency
#MyBlonde goes out every once in a while and drinks responsibly
#MyBlonde can make a logical argument and stand her ground
#MyBlonde works hard at her job
#MyBlonde is a 4.0 student
#MyBlonde is a caring wife and mother
#MyBlonde volunteers her time in her community
#MyBlonde is Khaleesi, mother of dragons, and she will kick your ass

Am I overreacting here, or is this stupid bordering on offensive? Let me know in the comments, or just leave me a #MyBlonde hashtag!

Mutton Dressed as Lamb

“Ewe mutton without garnish is a tough bite, to be sure; but methinks she’s dished herself off to day, lamb-fashion.” –Splendid Follies, 1810

At the request of a friend who is turning 40 this upcoming week, I have decided to address the topic of “age appropriate dressing”. Just thinking about this topic, however, makes my eyes go bloodshot with anger.

Let me explain. As women, we spend 30+ years of our lives trying to come to grips with ourselves and our place in society. We get over the objectification bullshit, recognize our own beauty, discover what we’re good at, embrace our brains and personalities, and make peace with some of our demons. (Mind you, this may require a few more years, but at least we get a good start on it.) And then society steps back in and says “Congratulations on being a grown up! Now here’s a list of things you should never do with your clothes and your body now that you’re here.” It is as if a cut-off date has been assigned to your attractiveness; once you are 40 you are no longer sexually desirable, therefore you need to get in line and stop acting like you are.

I think the cardinal rule for dressing over 40 is one you should have been following through your teens, twenties and thirties as well: Dress in a way that flatters you and makes you feel beautiful.

Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani: 44

Are there fashions you should avoid when you’re 40+? Probably. But you probably know this already. It’s likely that you need to give up on anything that shows your midriff. Take a miss on rhinestones and glitter and random sequins for daywear. Avoid mom jeans. Am I giving you anything new and revolutionary here?

But maybe you, like my friend, need a little guidance. So, even though I haven’t hit 40 yet (9 more months for me!), I’ll tell you how I see it.

First of all, take a careful assessment of the way you look. I will admit, sometimes I put something on and it’s like I truly see it for the first time. I have a pair of trousers that are 12 years old that I still wear, because they are quality pants in a classic style. I also have clothes that are less than five years old that went in the Goodwill donation bin because I realized they were really not doing me any justice. Our bodies change as we get older, and maybe you need to raise the neckline or lower the hem, not because a low neckline or a short hem is wrong, but because it draws attention to things that have adjusted unflatteringly with time. However, there is no need to have a kneejerk reaction and go polar opposite of what you’ve enjoyed in the past–like lowering all the hems to the floor and raising the necklines to the chin.

Naomi Watts
Naomi Watts: 45

Second, be comfortable–don’t look comfortable. I think the best piece of advice my maternal grandmother gave me was “wear heels as long as you can.” My paternal grandmother, at the age of 95, wore silk blouses and pleated wool skirts most days. Comfort wear can be a slippery slope. Yoga pants are for the gym, pajamas are for the bed, ratty tee shirts are for gardening. Keep your boundaries intact. If you can’t wear heels, try a wedge or a cute pair of flats. If you’ve made it through childbirth/kidney stones/a mammogram, you can certainly manage to wear a pair of trousers without an elastic waistband.

Mariska Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay: 50

Third, wear trends, but don’t worry about being trendy. Abandon clothing that declares its own name (your chest is not called “AE”, your butt is not named “Pink”). However, if you have your heart set on a novelty Dr. Who tee, buy it! Wear it with a dark pair of jeans and a corduroy blazer. Juxtapose classics with your trendy items. Every item you wear shouldn’t be a trend–keep it in moderation. Oh, also, if you’re going to wear a “trend” item, make sure it’s a trend NOW, not when you were young. Throw out your scrunchies and your claw hair clips. Even if stirrup pants make a comeback, leave them be.

Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore: 53

Lastly, work with the professionals. Every stylish woman, especially when she’s getting older, should have a tailor. Case in point: I fell in love with a perfect, high/low, military style coat, which had some unfortunate goth bondage-style straps on the back. I bought the coat, then took it to my tailor, who took the straps right off for a reasonable price. Just a touch of tailoring can make a cheap dress perfect or a slightly dowdy outfit flattering. I would add that it doesn’t hurt to have a good hairdresser (no Supercuts!), a nail salon where they know you, a massage therapist and a dermatologist. Oh, and a shoe repair place if you buy good shoes.

Iris Apfel
Iris Apfel: 92

I plan to not only age gracefully, but fashionably, saucily, jauntily, and even outrageously. And if I do it right, maybe someday I will be granted Iris Apfel status. If you’re shocked and don’t feel like your age, then let the world be shocked as well! Don’t believe the “rules” of the internet, but use the wisdom you have gained about what looks good on you, no matter what age you are.

Korean Skincare Part II: Put It On

I wanted to do this post yesterday, but Vimeo wanted to make me wait a little longer before it would let me upload.  But now I’m finishing off my video post on Korean skincare.

This video went by so fast I hardly had the time to say what I wanted to about my routine.  So, a couple of side notes:

  • In the still picture at the beginning of the video, I’m using the Smile Folds Care Hydrogel Patch by My Beauty Diary.  In the still picture at the end of my Part I video I’m using the Too Cool for School Glam Rock Abracadabra Eye Gel Mask.
  • Generally when you use a sheet mask, you leave it on for 20-30 minutes.  Even if you can’t read the Korean on the back of the package, usually the numbers are there to help you out.  Sheet masks are like a concentrated form of essence.
  • The Black Caviar essence I’m using also has gold as a main ingredient.  Fancy!  It’s also currently on sale at Pretty and Cute for $23.80.
  • Facial mists can be used any time.  They set your makeup, and don’t wash it off, so you can use it to rehydrate in the middle of the day or just as part of your nighttime regime.  
  • You  may notice the markedly improved quality of my video compared to my old videos on my Vimeo channel.  I shot and edited the video on my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone.  After my iPhone took an unexpected bath last Christmas, I got the Note 3 and I love it so much.  Next time I’ll shoot in landscape mode, though.

Put It On: Korean Skincare Part II from Furnished Souls on Vimeo.

Again, I’ve put together a Polyvore set of the products I used in this video.  

Put It Back On: Part II of my Skincare Regime

I have plans to write more posts on Korean beauty, like what’s the big deal about BB Creams and CC Creams, more on sheet masks, and even a demo of a pudding mask. Should be fun. Any questions or comments, please put them below!

Keeper of the Keys

Today my work key ring broke.  I have two sets of keys: home keys and work keys (which I keep in my car with my ID lanyard).  Choosing the appropriate key ring has become a bit of a chore, because the criteria is extensive.  My work keys include keys to my classroom, my classroom storage room, the copy room and administrative wing; they’re too heavy to keep on my lanyard.  I need them at various times throughout the day, and I also have student workers who use them to go make copies.   One of my workers in particular tends to put my keys into his pocket and forget they’re there.  He’s almost left for the day with my keys in his pocket.  Plus, I am not the most organized of teachers, so I misplace my keys regularly.  So, therefore and thus, my main criteria are durable, visible, and big.

I’ve decided to replace my key ring with the same type that I had before (after all, it lasted for a year and a half of heavy use, and one I bought for my home keys didn’t last more than 3 days). It’s Areaware’s Reality Key Chain by Harry Allen.  It’s thick and rubber, with no movable pieces, but it has some heft and is easy to see.  I think I’ve also decided I will get the matching skeleton key key chain from Areaware as well.

I like the bright rainbow colors and the tactile appeal of these key chains.  Plus, they’re really hard to lose!

Anyone have a good suggestion for another key chain that meet all my criteria?  I’d love to know.  Put it in the comments.

Korean Skincare: Part I

I have been battling my internet.  I went to upgrade it last week, and have had connection problems ever since.  This is not what I wanted!  Anyway, that’s the explanation for the delay of this ever-so-important video post about my skincare regime.  (If I had known I was going to have so much trouble, I would have waited until today to film the video, because I don’t have the blemishes on the bridge of my nose anymore!)

Taking It Off.mp4 from Furnished Souls on Vimeo.

I put together a collection of the products used in this video.  I recommend them all, but my skin type isn’t the same as everyone else’s.  My skin is sensitive and not too dry.  I get a bit of oil in my t-zone.

Take it Off: Korean Skincare Regimen

I’ve had great success shopping at Pretty and Cute.  I also recommend Kollection K and Wishtrend.

Questions and comments below, please!

Old School Cans

I have weird ears. 

Not only did the right one launch a vengeful attack against me by getting an infection just before I was set to fly, essentially deafening me for my entire vacation and MFA graduation, but the insides are too small for most earbud headphones.  Those iPhone ones?  Torture.  I had an emergency headphone situation at Christmas where I was flying cross-country to see my parents, and forgot my headphones at home.  I had to buy some Skullcandy Chops In-Ear headphones from the airport shop.  Frankly, they annoy the heck out of me every time I have to wear them.  Unfortunately, certain situations (like working out at the gym, etc.) require these low-profile headphones, so I wear them with the mantra that “it could be worse.”

However, for at-home use, I had a massive craving for some old-school can headphones (aka full-size headphones or “circumaural” headphones).  However, my budget isn’t up for my dream Sennheisers.  I’m enough of a music nerd to really care about sound quality.  My father raised me to care about such things–how else would I know about Sennheiser and Harmon/Kardon?  Research was required to find a decent pair of cans.

I went to my favorite nerdy techy review site–CNET.  I read a bunch of articles on headphones, but the one that helped me make my decision was part of their “best of 2014″ series talking about the best over-the-ear headphones.  The article pointed me toward the Panasonic RP-HTX-K1 Monitor Stereo Headphones.  The price is affordable at just under $60 (and if you do a little searching on the internet, even lower–just sayin’), and offer comfort, sound quality, and “retro styling”.  

I must admit, the “retro styling” really sold it for me.  I have a weakness for such things, and I didn’t want just a plain black pair, which is generally the color choice for the less expensive headphones.  I liked that the Panasonics came in a variety of colors.  I chose the green pair.

Cans

If I went back in time, this would be the jacket photo for my 1970′s folk music LP.
 
I’ve been really happy with the Panasonics, even though they can get a little sweaty on hot summer days.  Overall, they’re everything they’re purported to be: great sound, comfortable, retro, a good choice for those on a budget.  My weird ears are pretty happy.

 

True Blue

Since I’m still getting hits on the subject, I felt the need to post an update on my couch search, which I talked about here. Can you believe it took me two years to finally buy a couch? But the blue velvet sofa got stuck in my head, and I couldn’t settle for less. In the meantime I learned how to fall asleep upright in a chair with my head resting awkwardly on my shoulder. My neck finally protested vigorously, and I decided to search in earnest for a new couch.

Sofa

I decided on the Preston sofa from Arhaus. I sat on a bunch of sofas before I decided, but when I tried out the Preston, I ordered it the same day. The quality of the sofa as well as the feel the velvet really sold me. The navy blue was not a stock color, but was a custom color available. I looked through all the blues, but of course the velvet was the best. I also got to customize the nailhead trim color and the wood finish of the legs. It took a couple of months to be made and delivered, but when it arrived it was everything I wanted. It’s also the perfect napping sofa–I swear I’ve had better sleep on the couch than in my bed sometimes.

I added four throw pillows: one cream with silver that I already owned and three from H&M online. They have stylish throw pillow covers; go to IKEA for the pillow inserts, as they have some sturdy down pillow inserts that fit perfectly. I got one turquoise velvet floral pillow, one with french script on cream, and one in grey with a print that looks looks like an old label for olive oil. These are all gone now, but with H&M it’s cheap to change out. You could create a new sofascape for every season. I picked more cushion covers that are currently for sale that I would buy if I had to do it over. H&M home products are only available online.

H&M Cushion Covers

In Praise of Cheap Sunglasses

I love the packaging for expensive glasses. The hard case, with the satin lining, and the soft bag containing the fancy, branded glasses. I remember once incident when a gentleman of my acquaintance, whom one might consider frugal (to put it kindly), bought a pair of Wayfarers. They were the most expensive sunglasses he had ever purchased, and he packed them away with such reverence after every wearing.

As much as I like the packaging, I don’t need Wayfarers. I’d rather buy a Forever 21 cheap knockoff in a floral print. I don’t know about everyone else, but my sunglasses rarely end up in their bag, in the case, carefully put away without a scratch after every wearing. Mine are more likely to end up in the bottom of my purse, in my passenger’s seat, or on top of my head for hours. I cannot guarantee the safety of my sunglasses. If I bought expensive ones, I would surely end up crying.

Certainly, there’s name brand recognition with the expensive brands; I know who you’re wearing when it’s on the arms of the glasses, but I don’t really care about brands. Sorry. I still get plenty of people admiring my style, even when it’s cheap. I’ve only had one person express disappointment when I told her that the boots she had admired on me were inexpensive, and I happened to be window shopping in an expensive boutique at the time.

Lastly, with cheap sunglasses I can have a variety. I can match my sunglasses to my outfit or my mood. I can try crazy styles and not worry if they don’t work on me. If they break, I can have a moment of sadness, but also have a backup pair on hand.

I just found a goldmine in GoJane.com, where all the sunglasses are around $5 apiece, so I bought four pairs. Even though it’s two posts about eyewear in one week, I couldn’t wait to share some of my recent finds! Time for a mid-summer sunglasses wardrobe refresh?

Cheap Sunglasses

Brand It!

I know enough about this whole blogging thing to know that eventually the word “branding” will pop up. As in, “what’s your blog’s branding strategy?” I started thinking about this while in my car running errands this afternoon. What is the “brand” of Furnished Souls?

Let’s start with the name. For branding, the blog’s name should set its goals and effectively communicate the brand. Umm…nope. Not happening here.

My blog name actually comes from an e.e. cummings poem, and is intended ironically, as the women he writes about are stuck in an “acceptable” routine where they are busy, but create nothing of consequence. (Read the whole poem at Poetry Foundation.org.) It’s exactly the kind of woman I don’t want to be. The women I write for (for I always picture my friends reading) are thoughtful, interesting, funny, clever, sarcastic, beautiful and imperfectly quirky.

Ironic obscure poetic reference for a blog name = Branding FAIL.

Choose your look, sayeth the gurus of branding.

The color palette of this blog varies between some colors and lots of colors. I get bored. I try to do the starkly minimalist backgrounds, but always go back to things that are colorful and over the top. And then I start designing blog banners on Photoshop…

Sorry, faithful readers. I have no colors. Wait, I just adopted colors for the blog in my head. The blog’s colors are now BLUSH and BASHFUL. (Name that movie reference!)

At least I should know the purpose of the blog, right? That’s the heart of branding!

It’s a fashion blog! But it’s not, really. I’ll never be the Man Repeller or The Sartorialist. I can’t even bring a great OOTD on a daily basis. Guaranteed you will never see a full-body picture of me in a romper and high-heeled clogs with a sun-dappled tree in the background. Sorry. Plus my style is kind of quirky–sometimes vintage, sometimes conservative, sometimes a little rocker or alternative. And when I recommend for other people, I try to take their personal style and body type into consideration.

Maybe it’s a budget blog? But that’s more out of necessity, because I’m a teacher in my real life, which means I am economically ground in the gears of the system of THE MAN *rant rant*. I show people how I shop and how I utilize the internet to get greater bargains on the things you want but can’t afford. But it’s not really about that, either.

Technically, I guess Furnished Souls would be considered a lifestyle blog. I am so uncomfortable with that term, though! I automatically think of Gwyneth Paltrow, the guru of GOOP, or Martha Stewart, with all her good things.

Things Martha Stewart and I have in common: we could both rock this outfit.
Things Martha Stewart and I have in common: we could both rock this outfit.

To me, “lifestyle” means that you have it all together–or at least act like it. It’s those ladies on Facebook who post pictures of their fresh-baked loaves of bread on their immaculately clean tables, who talk about their adorable precious children and thoughtful husbands. Lifestyle bloggers are people who seem to never make a misstep, and if they do, it’s adorable and anecdote-worthy. I do not fit that description. I am actually pondering having a recurring feature here entitled “Where It All Went Wrong”, chronicling my own fashion failures and how I might have fixed them.

I am not even in a relationship, but I have the feeling if I tried to “consciously uncouple” like Gwyneth, it would involve a lot of wailing, mascara panda eyes, and undignified snotting.

Upon reflection, I think I could best be branded as a “life” blog. It occurs to me that my trip to run errands and my blog are much alike. I had to do four things: take my diploma to the framer’s; pick up a package of Korean beauty products from the post office; go to Bed, Bath and Beyond; and get lunch. From my place, the framer’s and the post office require a left turn, BB&B requires a right turn, and lunch was in between. Yet, my route ended up being framers to BB&B to post office to lunch. Totally inefficient, yet I got it all done, and had more time in my car to listen to fun summer tunes and enjoy the sunshine. And isn’t that great sometimes?

Girls in Glasses

Marilyn Monroe: “Well, you know what they say about girls who wear glasses.”
Man: “What are you talking about?”
Monroe: “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses.”
–How to Marry a Millionaire

I can guarantee that statement wouldn’t have been true if I had gone out in my old glasses, but for all the wrong reasons. My glasses had a very slim rose-gold wire rim that looked very dowdy on me, and were cracked across both lenses. I only wore them in bed, after the contacts came out for the day. They had a rough life, but insurance being what it is, the only thing covered was a year’s supply of contact lenses, so I put off buying new glasses.

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Last Christmas, one of my presents was a gift card to the fabulous Warby Parker, online spectacles retailer extraordinaire. They have a great selection of fashionable frames, and are super easy to work with. Plus, for every pair purchased, they give one away to someone in need.

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I was a little nervous about ordering online, but Warby Parker has a great system where you can borrow five frames at a time to try out. Pick them out online, and they will mail them to you with a postage-paid return label. I actually did that twice, trying on ten frames total. It was so helpful, because the pairs I thought I really wanted didn’t necessarily look good on me.

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Another great thing about Warby Parker is they do a lot of collaborations with designers and others, so their inventory is always changing. I ended up with a pair of glasses that I really like, the Finch frame in Violet Magnolia. In retrospect, I should have bought them in Grenadine. I had hoped they would be a little more violet, but they’re much more magnolia.

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Ordering from Warby Parker was fast and easy, and I would love to buy frames from them again. Who knows, it might inspire me to not wait ten years to trade out my glasses!