Sunday, September 30, 2007
I have to admit I've been a sub-par blogger this month as opposed to last month (17 posts in August...an all-time high for me!). All sorts of things have conspired to keep me busy this month. Work has gotten more hectic, and the last few weekends have been filled with, er, festivities. I celebrated Mexican Independence Day with a few new Mexican friends, had some drinks and went clubbing with some people from my previous co-op term, and just this last weekend, went out for a night of dinner and dancing with some friends to celebrate me turning 23. On top of that, I've decided to resume salsa lessons but with a different instructor, so I'm not at home two evenings a week.
This hectic pace is probably responsible for my less than stellar health. Right now I'm cooped up in my house with a cold and a cough severe and loud enough to wake the dead. Only circumstances as desperate as these would make me watch Ella Enchanted, which is playing on TV right now.
Don't get me wrong: I love the Newbery Honor award-winning book that the film is based on. Gail Carson Levine's novel retells the classic story of Cinderella, but with a comic verve and inventiveness that makes the story fresh and new. Levine's Cinderella, or Ella, is a plucky, brave, intelligent heroine cursed with the "gift" of obedience thanks to the generosity of a dingbat fairy at her christening. Ella grows up and goes through the story struggling to break her curse, trying not to let unscrupulous characters (including her odious stepsisters) take advantage of her, and falling in love with the handsome and personable Prince Charmont. I love the book for its fun details and solid narrative and characterizations. The courtship between Ella and Charmont is also one of the sweetest things I've come across in children's fiction.
You would think that a children's novel that has received critical acclaim and is imaginative and fun would make a great film, right? Well, apparently Hollywood didn't. Mirimax made a film version of the novel starring Anne Hathaway that is so far removed from the original it's almost unrecognizable. A Newbery Honor award wasn't enough to convince the screenwriters that the novel was good stuff. Instead, they threw in musical numbers, an assassination plot, an elf sidekick for Ella, an evil sorcerer uncle and a talking pet snake...the sincerity and sweetness of the book became lost in the process. Mirimax should have trusted the integrity of the material, and trusted its audiences to pay attention to an actual storyline, instead of making a film that seems to be for sufferers of attention deficit disorder.
In recent years, as Hollywood increasingly runs out of original ideas, some of the best films to come out have been novel adaptations. The ones that succeed usually follow the source material closely, such as The English Patient or The Shawshank Redemption. Let's hope Mirimax does the same the next time it decides to base a film on a children's novel.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Today marks the debut of a new feature on my blog: "The Perfect Outfit For" any occasion. Part of being well-dressed is looking appropriate and stylish, and feeling comfortable, no matter what situation you're in. Other installments will focus on dressing for other occasions or activities.
Clubbing attire can be tricky to figure out in terms of striking a balance between classy-sexy and club-tart-sexy. It's easy to get carried away when you're putting together an outfit and go a little more "club tart" than intended. Also, there is the question of comfort to consider: If you're planning to dance the night away, would you want to be in 4-inch stilettos and a teeny strapless dress you have to tug and readjust every ten minutes, or would you rather be in comfortable shoes and an outfit that stays put?
The no-fail clubbing outfit I always turn to when I can't think of anything else is a nice top with a deep V and fitted jeans, kind of like this outfit. The top is racy enough for a night out but stays put and hides bra straps, and the jeans show off your figure without showing too much skin. Also, if you're planning to go purse-free for the evening, you can put your lip gloss, coat check ticket, and some cash into your jeans pockets. The result: a classic, comfortable, attractive outfit that doesn't scream "wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen."
If you decide to wear a skirt or a dress, make sure you also wear appropriate underwear. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you should definitely try on the outfit at home with the underwear you're planning to wear underneath it. Look for any unsightly seams or bra straps that show. If the dress is really low-cut and backless, you may need to consider a specialty bra. For halter and strapless designs, a convertible bra is best. Also, when wearing skirts, please go for full coverage seamless underwear and avoid the thongs and G-strings so that you don't have any Britney-like underwear mishaps. As for which colour you should get this underwear in, nude is best because it doesn't show under any sort of outfit.
For accessories, go for bold accents. My wrists are too small to wear most types of bangles and bracelets, and I don't like wearing necklaces that often, so I usually wear big dangly earrings. I rarely wear heels higher than 2.5" because they hurt my feet after a long night of dancing. If you're not into heels at all, a dressy flat can look just as wonderful with your outfit. In terms of purses, I usually stick to a wristlet; if you need a bag that's slightly bigger (so you can stash a digital camera, for example), consider a small hobo.
Some other essentials to consider:
- Gel inserts for your heels. I have a friend who swears by these, and they'll probably make a night of standing and dancing in very high heels a lot more bearable. Make sure you try them before going out for the night so you can see if they make your feet feel cramped in the shoes.
- Band-aids or moleskin. In case your shoes decide they hate your feet.
- Safety pins (optional). If you've decided on a more risque outfit and find that it's revealing a bit too much, pack a couple of these to fix and pin anythingn later on.
- Blotting papers. Much easier to pack in a small wristlet than a powder compact, these can take away forehead shine in a flash. Also, unlike powder, they won't make your makeup look cakey or blend with sweat to clog pores.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I'd never heard of this place before, and once I read a bit more about the company, the answer was obvious. Simons is uniquely Quebecois and goes all the way back to 1840, when it was founded by Scotsman John Simons. During the 1960s, Simons branched out into fashionable young women's wear. Its in-house brand, Twik, emulated the mod street styles that Twiggy made famous during that era. Today Simons is still a homegrown Quebecois phenomenon (which explains why I've never seen one here in Van), and has built its reputation on years of providing trendy clothes.
It's been a long time since I've done a post with this much eye candy, and I thought I'd show my meagre blog audience some pictures of the pieces I loved most on their website. Enjoy!
White cardigan, $50
Gray crop pant, $65
Pinstripe flannel jacket, $175
Purple sweater, $40
Tweed bolero jacket, $160
Tweed coat, $295
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I know not everyone loves the show. Some feminists and positive body image advocates argue that shows like ANTM breed poor self-esteem in girls and women and create unrealistic expectations in them about their own bodies. ANTM, according to this line of reasoning, propagate the idea that a woman has to be tall, thin, and statuesque to be attractive, and any average woman who watches a show like this will look at herself in a negative way. What's worse, for some women with extremely poor self-esteem, shows like these may indirectly cause eating disorders, depression, etc.
I actually disagree with this. If anything, ANTM has improved my self-esteem because it's shown me how artificial the fashion industry is. The girls who are picked and molded into models look like average girls to begin with--tall and unnaturally thin with phenomenal bone structure, but still very normal. They're not always dressed perfectly (too-short jeans with heels, for example) or they may have body flaws or blemished skin. Pre-makeover, some of them may be wearing their hair and makeup in an unflattering style. The fact that they have tons of experts and coaches working on them, as well as access to top hairstylists, cosmetic dentists, and dermatologists, reassures me that I probably look fine for someone without similar resources to draw from.
Part of the artifice comes with the help of Photoshop as well. So many of the photos shown have been airbrushed beyond recognition. For every photoshoot the contestants undergo, Tyra Banks takes a photo that follows a similar theme for that week. Tyra Banks's appearance in the photos is so different from her appearance on television that you can't help but wonder how many man-hours and graphic artists were devoted to making the photo, well, picture-perfect. What normal person can compare or compete?!?
Another reason why ANTM may possibly be good for female self-esteem is that the judges seem to embrace unconventional facial beauty. The girls who do really well on ANTM are usually quite thin, but the judges are intrigued by faces with unusual and memorable features. As long as the face is symmetrical and photogenic, it works. A good model face is not necessarily a conventionally pretty or attractive face, so types of beauty that may be marginalized in everyday life can be embraced by fashion industry veterans.
To paraphrase a common proverb, it takes a village, a team of experts, and many hours of hard work to raise a model and create the perfect image. When I think about that and think about how little time and how few resources that I, as a "normal" person, have to devote to looking perfect, I begin to think, hey, I don't look half bad.
Monday, September 17, 2007
The article also drew a lot of ire from commenters who complained about how lazy and irresponsible kids are today because they live at home, expecting to have a life of relative luxury and ease without having to struggle by themselves living in "the real world." Some commenters launched into didactic speeches about how kids should just find roommates and rough it and experience Life with a capital "L." Others raised the scary possibility that if kids don't leave when they're young adults, chances are they never will and they will mooch off their parents for the rest of their lives.
I have to confess, I am one of those twentysomethings living at home and being coddled as though I were still a teenager. Still, I'm not exactly the lazy good-for-nothing spoiled kid the commenters tore apart in the discussion forum. I've had part-time and full-time co-op jobs since I began university, and I maintained a full scholarship for all four years of my undergrad. Even in high school, I understood my parents would not pay for my university education and I would have to shoulder the cost of tuition, books, transportation, food, and any additional expenses and spending money required. As an adult in the working world now, I want to move out on my own but am overwhelmed by the alarming rents in Vancouver and the cost of living.
Moreover, I don't think I'm as helpless as the commenters seem to expect of someone in this group. For my first co-op term, I moved away from home and lived on my own in Terrace for four months, transitioning from a coddled child into an independent adult. And hey, I did fine. I didn't starve. I didn't die in my own filth buried up to my neck in dirty laundry. In fact, the coworkers who saw my living space swore up and down that I was obsessively, abnormally tidy.
As the interviewed experts and some of the commenters pointed out, many kids stay at home well into their twenties because of cultural reasons. Indeed, in many parts of the world, it's rare for young adults to leave the nest right when they reach the age of majority. I myself can attest to this as a child living under Asian Parent Syndrome, or APS for short.
I think if I ever brought up moving out with my parents, they would wail, "But why? All we ever did was love you." Then they would appeal to financial good sense and argue that I can save up money quite easily right now because I have a good job and I don't have to pay rent or have any living expenses. If after the numerous arguments and guilt trips I do manage to move out on my own, you can bet that APS will manifest itself in phone calls every second day inquiring about what I had for dinner, admonishing me not to bring guys to my apartment, telling me to wear a sweater when it gets cold, or inviting me "home for a real meal."
This was exactly what happened when I moved to Terrace for my first co-op term. When I wanted to go to Mexico for five weeks and was going to be staying with my then-boyfriend's family, they became so angry and anxious they didn't really speak to me until I returned. I swear my mother is going to develop a chronic ulcer condition worrying about me when I do leave the nest--unless, of course, I marry a nice Chinese boy before moving out.
On a final note, another thing the article and commenters neglected to take into account is that although many young adults consider their parents' house their permanent address, for most of the year they probably do live away from home. I know many people who've lived, studied, or worked abroad or in another town for anywhere from two months to a year at a time, then go home for anywhere from a week to a month out of the year. Because their lives are so transitory, the home address becomes the permanent address that mail gets forwarded to. These people aren't any less independent than young adults who move out permanently. In fact, they're probably more adventurous and more willing to take risks that take them farther away from home.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
From 1997 to 2001, Seventeen was a magazine that bred stylish, intelligent, aware young women. Then it stopped abruptly in 2002, and I stopped my subscription. I only bought the occasional issue on newsstands, and I was so disappointed with what I saw. The magazine I held in my hands was more reminiscent of YM and conventional teenage fare. Gone were the insightful articles that pushed boundaries and focused on controversial issues such as international refugees and sex education. Instead Seventeen was infused with a sickening "all-American magazine" vibe, becoming an America-centric, navel-gazing publication in a post-9/11 world. Rather than provide useful information for sexually active teens, it promoted the same abstinence-only education many American teens probably already get way too much of in school.
I haven't picked up an issue of Seventeen in years, so I don't know whether it's changed, and I have since moved on to fashion magazines intended for an older demographic. However, whenever I get bored, I still like to skim through old issues and think about how I used to covet a sweater or a certain pair of jeans on page 168, reminisce about the makeup products that existed when I was in high school, and rediscover just how smart Seventeen used to be.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I admire your efforts to go green, I really do. I think deep down in my heart I envy the vim and vigour you show as you commute via bike to work everyday, glowing with energy and good health while I carpool with my dad and contemplate hooking myself up to an intravenous caffeine drip most mornings. And hey, with the wonderful weather we've had lately, biking is a brilliant way to get fresh air.
But I've also noticed that while many of you have dusted off your bikes, not many of you have decided to wear helmets. The last time I checked, being an adult doesn't automatically make someone immune to head injuries. Also, doesn't biking without a helmet violate some sort of law or bylaw?
If you're worried about the helmet flattening your hair, pack a travel-size version of your favourite styling product and a comb in your bag. If you feel as though a helmet makes you hotter and makes you sweat more on your way to work, you can always wash your face in the bathroom and maybe change your shirt. Otherwise, I see no good reason why you should ride around without a helmet.
By not wearing a helmet, you're putting your own health at risk, setting a poor example for younger bikers, and giving bikers everywhere a bad name. So please, do everyone a favour and protect your noggin.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Life hasn't been kind to pop princess Spears in the last few years. Imagine how you would feel if you were constantly in the public eye, stressed out from the entertainment industry, dealing with a deadbeat husband and a divorce, mothering two kids and having your competence as a mother questioned by tabloids and social workers, estranged from your family, recently admitted into rehab...the list goes on and the scandals are countless. Now imagine knowing that everyone you interact with outside of your immediate social circle is either a photographer hounding you, or someone who remembers you from your glory days and looks at you pityingly. Like I said, the past few years have not been easy for her--which is why everyone was rooting for her comeback and hoping it would be explosive, exciting, dynamic, entertaining. Instead it fell as flat as her singing voice.
Things might have gone better if...
She'd practiced more. Spears looked uncomfortable and unsure of herself onstage when she should have exuded charisma and confidence. Once noted for her dance moves, she seemed to forget the choreography and her execution lacked a lot of the sharpness the other dancers had. Also, she looked like she was lip-synching in some parts.
The stylist had given her a different outfit. Although she still looked good, it was clear that Spears wasn't in shape. She didn't try anything too strenuous on the dance floor, and her stomach looked (I'm sorry to say it!) a bit flabby. The stylist who dressed her and her dancers should have given Spears the dancers' outfit and vice versa. The female dancers were all in leggings, stockings, and corsets. A corset, garter belt, and stockings would have maintained Spears's sexy image while making her middle look more toned. (On a side note, she should've taken some style tips from celeb moms like Nelly Furtado and Jennifer Garner, who were more covered-up but still looked gorgeous.)
She'd waited until the Grammys to make her comeback. Spears clearly wasn't ready for the strenuousness of performing live, both physically and mentally. That's not to say she wouldn't have been ready in a couple more months. If she had waited until, say, February, she probably would have felt more confident and fit, and ready to take on the world. As it is, after bombing a high-profile gig like the VMAs, she might've undergone an emotional setback she won't recover from for weeks.
Nobody ever expected profound, life-changing music from Spears. Her appeal as a pop star lies in her entertainment value: she could put on a good live show and her past VMA performances stirred up controversy. That was probably what the MTV producers who booked her were banking on, but this time she stirred up controversy for all the wrong reasons. "Give me more, give me more," she sings in her new single...ironic given how lacking her comeback was.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
For the retailer, the benefits of a good policy far outweigh the loss in sales revenue from a returned item. A good refund/exchange policy can mean better business than if there were a really strict policy in place. There are many reasons why this is the case.
Happy customers equals free and effective publicity. Happy customers who have experienced no-hassle returns and exchanges are more likely to be repeat customers and to promote the store by word-of-mouth--much more effective and less expensive than elaborate marketing campaigns. On the flip side, a lot of negative word-of-mouth can throw a retailer's public relations and marketing departments into overtime as they try to do as much damage control as possible, sinking heavy dollars into advertising to counteract bad publicity.
Indecisive customers might be persuaded to buy something they feel so-so about. Suppose I walked into a store and saw a beautiful wool coat for $175. I know that by the time I wait for it to go on sale the one in my size will be gone, but I think the price is a bit steep and I'm not convinced I really need that coat. If the sales clerk informs me that I can buy it for now and bring it back if I change my mind, I might very well purchase it and mull it over at home. Chances are this has happened to many people when they go clothes shopping, and they have ended up keeping the item because they find they really love it.
In some cases, customers end up buying more than they did originally if they do a store return. This actually happened to me yesterday. My mom accompanied me to Old Navy when I exchanged my jeans, and we both decided that we might as well browse around while we were in the store. My mom spotted a belted corduroy jacket, and I fell in love with a cable-knit bag. (See below for pictures!)
It's not as big a setback to retailers as you may think. What about retailers who accept returns on worn items, you ask? After having worked in retail, I know that defective items can be sent back to the manufacturer to be replaced. If the item isn't defective but has been used, it can be donated as part of a charitable tax deduction, sold to consignment stores, etc. For a big chain store, returns of merchandise here and there can add up.
Given a worst-case scenario, a strict return policy is better than no policy at all. I know there are some people out there who take advantage of generous refund/exchange policies. I've heard stories of people wearing clothes once with the tags still on, then returning them so that they can wear the latest trends at no cost. I also understand not all retailers can afford to be as generous in their refund/exchange policies as Gap Inc. is. Small and independent retailers, for instance, operate with limited resources and a sudden spurt of returns could hurt their bottom line quite a bit. Then there are the petty thieves who return stolen merchandise for cash. Because of these situations, I can understand why many retailers are wary of having lenient policies. But they have come up with creative solutions to limit instances of fraud, including:
- specifying returned merchandise must be unworn, unwashed, with tags on--in short, in resellable condition
- requiring receipts be presented and refunding the customer via the original method of purchase
- asking for customer information for the return
- giving the customers gift cards or credit notes instead of cash
In the end, what matters is that a good refund/exchange policy is a balancing act and a bridge: It balances the interests of consumers and retailers while aiming to satisfy their needs, and it helps both groups meet in the middle.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
I think I have the opposite problem of most girls when I shop for jeans. I usually wear a size somewhere between 0 and 3, so I'm pretty thin and I don't have to worry as much about minimizing the hip and thigh area. Yet I'm still very particular about the fit and look of my jeans because I don't have much of a butt. Back pockets that are too large or placed in a funny position can make me look as though I have no rear end altogether.
Finding jeans is also difficult because of my cheapskate streak: My everyday jeans range in price from $20-50 and my one splurge was the Banana Republic skinny jeans I wrote about in a previous post. In the end, I just want what every other girl wants: a pair of reasonably priced jeans that make my legs look long and lean and my butt look amazing. With that in mind, I stepped into Old Navy at Coquitlam Centre last week and tried on the jeans that had looked so enticing in their most recent commercial.
The commercial advertised three new fits--the Diva, the Flirt, and the Sweetheart--but in reality they're three different rises: low rise, mid-rise, and classic rise, respectively. For each rise, there were a variety of styles (boot cut, skinny leg, straight leg, trouser, wide-leg) and washes available. I steered clear of the Diva and its low rise, deciding to try on the Flirt and Sweetheart in a dark wash boot cut. The placement of the back pockets on the Flirt was terrible, but the Sweetheart pair fit well and the back pockets were just right. At $34.50 ($5 off the regular price), the price was just right as well. I was also psyched because I'd managed to get a pair with a short seam and wouldn't have to get them hemmed.
I was so excited about my new jeans that I tried them on again at home three times, then cut the tags off, washed them, and wore them to work the following Friday. They looked great when I left the house in the morning, but less so as the day wore on. Even though I wasn't doing anything more strenuous than sitting at my desk, by 4:30 or so the waist, butt, and thighs of the jeans had stretched out of shape. The jeans began to resemble bits of blue elephant skin instead of figure-hugging denim. I had no idea they would stretch out this much.
Dissatisfied, I did some quick Internet research and called the Old Navy I'd bought the jeans from, and that was when I discovered their extremely lenient return and exchange policy. Defective merchandise could be returned any time to any store without a receipt as long as it was returned in its country of purchase. New merchandise could be returned within 90 days of purchase. The clerk I talked to was extremely helpful and agreeable when I explained the situation and asked her to put a pair in a smaller size on hold for me.
The next day I went to the mall and tried them on. They felt a bit snug but I looked amazing in them and I could still move in them. Plus, knowing how much they would stretch out, it was probably a good idea to buy them snug. The inseam was regular length and I'd need to hem them, but in the end they would still be under $50.
So, what have I learned from this? First, not all denim is created equal. I'd never bought a pair of jeans that had stretched this much before and didn't think that I would have to take the stretch factor into account and buy them a bit too small. Second, it's a good idea to buy jeans from a retailer with an excellent refund and exchange policy if possible. I was really impressed that Old Navy would take back merchandise that had already been washed and worn. Its sister stores Gap and Banana Republic are more stringent and specify that merchandise must be unwashed and unworn when returned (understandable given the higher price points in those stores). Nonetheless, all three guarantee that customers have 90 days to decide.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
A while ago I posted an entry that detailed my love of all things panda and promised a bunny installment in the future. Well, here it is, just in time to cheer everyone up after the Labour Day weekend and the (un)official end of summer.
Bunny Suicides. A series of comic strips by Andy Riley, The Book of Bunny Suicides is about "little fluffy rabbits who just don't want to live anymore" and the creative ways they find of ending their lives. Cute, hilarious, and seriously twisted.
Best Bunny. A bunny-obsessed friend told me about this website where pet owners post pics of their super-cute bunnies, then vote on whose bunny is cutest.
Oolong. In case you don't know, Oolong is a minor Internet celebrity. He was a gray-and-white rabbit owned by a Japanese photographer, and his owner loved taking pictures of Oolong and posting them on his blog throughout Oolong's life. The most remarkable of these pictures showed Oolong balancing household objects--sometimes one stacked atop another--on his cute rabbity head. Absolutely adorable. Sadly Oolong has passed away; the photographer's current pet is a female bunny named Yuebing, or Mooncake. And no, she doesn't have Oolong's talent of balancing objects on her head mastered as well as Oolong did.
Bunny music video. This video by TISM for their song "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" features a sad bunny who's hung up on numbers and never fails to make me smile.
Black and white bunnies eating. This video makes me smile too.
Random bunny pictures, and a picture of a gray thermal top. The thermal top is embellished with bunnies all over and rhinestones; I've seen yellow-and-brown versions on South Granville. Enjoy!