Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Young ladies and the tramps

Remember your prom? The meringue dress, your date's cheap rented tux, the mismatched concealer on your chin zit, the stretch limo that smelled vaguely of Love's Baby Soft? And what about the reddish-brown carnation he slipped on your wrist or his declaration of "You make me sweaty" as he awkwardly attempted to grab your ass while you slow danced to Meatloaf? Ah, adolescence. So distant, so scarring, so self-consciously cringe-y.

Except, it's not like that anymore. At some point over the past 20 or 30 years, teenagers stopped being uneasy and awkward. Kids today are somehow bypassing their ugly duckling phase and going right into slutty swan. I've seen it. A few years ago when I was working as a mid-level editor at a national publication, I was asked to give a speech at my old high school before their annual fashion show. (I haven't been asked back since I quit my job. Apparently 30-plus-year-old freelance writers who sleep til noon, bounce cheques and live off their parents aren't exactly the models education administrators want for their Future Leaders Of Canada. Go fig.) As I walked through those hallowed halls, all signs of adolescent malaise — acne, baby fat, mismatched clothes and general despondence — had been replaced with bodycon dresses with a side order of fake nails and hair extensions. These were not girls on the verge of coming-of-age. It came, it saw, it slutted them up.      

It gets worse. This season, the New York Post recently reported, the theme in prom dresses is "slutty chic." "For prom this year, girls want short and poofy or long, tight-fitting, with everything cut out -- the sides are gone, the back is gone, the front is basically gone," a dress store manager in Brooklyn told the paper. ( There are going to be some slutty and I would imagine, chilly, teenage girls roaming the streets this spring. Lock up yer sons! And it's not just the tacky stores that line the boulevard of broken dreams that stock these wonders, Saks is selling some pretty questionable styles too. 

Pencey and Black Halo dresses both available at Saks

Two popular cut-out styles

I wonder if the pendulum theory would ever apply in a situation like this? If 20 years from now I walk into a high school gymnasium and witness a bunch of disheveled kids slow dancing in their mismatched pajamas. It would be a freelancer writer's dream come true.

Friday, 26 March 2010

How to stretch a buck, 75 times

The last time 75 cents got you anything of substance Al Capone was dancing the Charleston on top of a flagpole.

More recently, the last time $75 got you something of substance, OJ Simpson was shopping at Bruno Magli as the Spice Girls were zighazig-ha'ing up our lives. Hipsters in Brooklyn may still have been dancing the Charleston. Ironically, though.

But thanks to Times Like These and the average luxury consumer's short-arms-deep-pockets affliction, $75 now goes a long way to making you look like the million bucks you looked like on a regular day in pre-Black Monday Canada. Herewith, a round up of how to spend $75 in your quest to look like you actually have $75 to throw around like it ain't no thang.

Kérastase Chronologiste in-salon hair treatment

According to the Recherche Avancée L'Oréal, the science brains behind Kérastase hair products, caviar is the source of natural life. (If you ask me, the champagne that I like to chase my caviar down with is the real source of life, but that's neither here nor there.) Chronologiste, the brand's latest offering that proposes to cure all your hair ailments in one nifty treatment, has created a unique compound called mimetic caviar to imitate the food's natural essential amino acids, proteins, fatty acids, trace elements and iodine. Mixed with a rich, specially-formulate cream, the two components create soft, shiny, healthy, youthful locks in one swift go. The take home kit is $150, but an in-salon treatment, which lasts 30 minutes and comes with a helluva scalp and shoulder massage, will only set you back $75. It's a great way to get ready for a big night out where hair tossing leads to hair touching which leads to...well, other touching. You know. (Call 866 KERASTASE to find a salon near you.)

Just think how hot her hair will look!

Chanel 5 à 7

Taking inspiration from the French term for happy hour, this service invites clients to book a seat at the Chanel makeup counter at Holt Renfrew Bloor St. (Toronto) anytime between 5 and 7 on Thursdays and Fridays for a makeup application, touch up and mini lesson courtesy of a Chanel expert. You can choose one look from eight suggestions on Chanel's A la Carte menu of makeup looks, including the self-explanatory Bronze Goddess and the 5 To Whenever for traffic-stopping glam. And pick from the High Definition Makeup menu to learn how to achieve the perfect smoky eye (seriously girls, we still don't know how to do this?!), the perfect brow or the perfect false eyelash application. Six chairs are available at $75 a pop, which is redeemable in product, but bring a group of five friends and the hostess is free. It also includes a sugar high courtesy of petit fours and mock-tinis, which you are then meant to burn off by bar hopping in search of Mr. Right Now. (To book, call 416 922 2333.)

*Bonus (because I'm hopelessly devoted to Chanel)

The highly anticipated Chanel S/S 2010 rub-on tattoos are here and they're only $75 for five sheets of 55 tattoos! My crippling fear of needles and commitment phobia have left me tattoo free, despite years of entertaining the idea of branding myself in the name of coolness. So these are to me what tofurkey must be to a vegetarian on Thanksgiving. Except they're ultra cool, and probably taste better. (Available at select Chanel stores.)

Monday, 22 March 2010

A blog about the clog

Dr. Scholl is having a fashion moment. No, seriously. I'm not kidding. Stop laughing! Fine, don't believe me? Here:

These images are from the Chanel and Louis Vuitton Spring/Summer 2010 runways respectively. Know what that means? They're the most expensive clogs ever made. Which, as far as statements go, ranks up there on the Whaaa? scale with "I did not inhale" and "Imma let you finish. But Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!"
And don't think it's easy for me to criticize, because my soul is covered in quilted leather and accented with a silk camellia. It physically pains me to say anything negative about Chanel and that crazy, ponytail'd, fingerless glove'd, size negative four-propagating Karl Lagerfeld. I love that droopy emaciated bastard as much for his prolific talent as the nutzo shit that comes out of his mouth. I mean, "The most important piece in the house is the garbage can" and "I’m a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm"? That's gold!

I'm struggling with those clogs, though. And I think I know why. When I was a kid I spent my summers in Italy, where the pre-teen sartorial aesthetic varied largely from my middle class Toronto schoolyard. The paternal side of my family is dominated by boys, which you can imagine was a total drag for a WHAM!-loving girl like me. And to make matters worse, my grandparents lived in a rural suburb, so my testosterone-charged cousins weren't just annoying boys but country bumpkins to boot. Where I would don rubber flip flops or sparkly jelly shoes for the beach and colourful espadrilles around town, they were always walking around in ugly, clunky Dr. Scholl's sandals. I can still hear the clank-and-drag of their heavy wooden soles as they made contact with the terracotta tiles on the veranda in my nightmares today. Eventually, I learned to distinguish their respective noisy gaits, which allowed for quick hiding upon discovery of mangled G.I. Joe figurines and stolen pencil crayons courtesy of moi. Much as my tall and fashionably slender cousins probably would've been scouted by a modelling agent if they had lived in, say, Milan, their choice in footwear was hardly what I would have deemed en vogue back in the day. Or today.

  Karl Lagerfeld's inspiration for Chanel s/s 2010?

It's hard to tell just how much life this trend will have. On the one hand, it goes hand-in-hand with the recent spate of heinous shoes disguised as high fashion; a phenomenon that even Andre Leon Talley, the Grand Dame of capes for Chrissake, is opposed to: On the other, I kind of feel like fashion designers may be having a laugh here. Which would be fitting, because I'm pretty sure Karl Lagerfeld has been laughing at me and my garbage can for some time now.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Failing the fat girls, one Barbie at a time

I'm really conflicted by Barbie. You know, the impossibly perfect Aryan goddess who's been the central figure of princess-themed birthday parties and feminist outrage for 50 years and counting? I'm not entirely sure how I feel about her. I had Barbies as a kid — three of them, all hand-me-downs, until I turned one of them into a Misfit, Gem's mortal enemy, and defaced her to the point that no amount of Palmolive dish soap could get the anarchy symbols to wash off her legs. The two that remained acted as showroom models for the elaborate outfits I would fashion out of beige-coloured Kleenex. (Isn't there always a flamboyantly gay contestant on Project Runway who claims his first foray into fashion design was making clothes for his sister's Barbie?) But I wouldn't say Barbie was a big part of my childhood. Not like Strawberry Shortcake or Fashion Plates. 

That skinny bitch sure has come a long way since I was dressing her in two-ply shifts, though. She's been outfitted by the world's top couturiers, had several high-profile careers, learned to speak, got her driver's license and owns several pieces of property. In case you didn't know, she turned 50 last year and was feted at New York fashion week (here's a link to a story I wrote about it while I was there covering the shows for Now she's taking on TV's best new show. The Barbie Mad Men series sees the blond bimbo and her himbo mini-me'ing four central characters of AMC's Mad Men, the dramatic series set in the 1960s about the ad biz and indiscriminate extramarital sex in pre-clap New York. The dolls look amazing in their period outfits and retro detailing; apparently the faces are actually modeled on Barbie's original '60s era features. They ring in at about $75 each, and will be available for sale in July on and

The Betty Draper Barbie was kind of a no-brainer, since both the character and the actress personify Barbie's blond-blue-eyed-wasp-waisted hotness. It also made sense to give her a plastic Don doll, because they do make such a handsome couple. Although in both his case and silver fox Roger Sterling's, Mattel's anatomical oversight is terribly egregious considering those guys couldn't keep it in their pants even if it was made of plastic. Might as well give their 13-inch replicas the same chance at carnal happiness, I say. But I know I'm not alone when I express deep disappointment in the Joan Holloway Barbie. For a toy company that's been taking heat for propagating an unhealthy body image in young girls for half a century, they really passed up a golden opportunity to redeem themselves without having to cave in to pressure with a "fat" Barbie. [NOTE: I am in no way suggesting that Christina Hendricks (who plays Joan Holloway) is fat. But her dangerous-curves-ahead body is irrefutably more corpulent than that of cast mate January Jones. Also, we're talking about Barbie here.] They would have looked so classy and savvy if they unveiled a curvaceous, hourglass-y and yes, more realistic doll under the pretense of this project.

If nothing else, it would have saved them from what will inevitably result in Husky Hazel, Barbie's smart, plus-sized friend "Now with a great personality!", which the company will be forced to unveil in a few years' time. She'll drive a charcoal gray sedan with a cardboard tree-shaped air freshener dangling from the rear view mirror and a bumper sticker that reads "Big is Beautiful." At first she'll make a self-deprecating statement that tells girls who buy her, "We're all skinny on the inside!" But she'll eventually fall prey to media pressure and get bad highlights, gel-filled nails and come accessorized with a thigh master and a box of Oreos for emotional eating binges. She'll wear ill-fitting clothes, sensible shoes and work in radio. Eventually, she'll meet a plastic life partner named Gene who will be short, stout and dubiously employed; he'll harbour a secret gambling problem and come with an impressive collection of porn. They'll move into a semi-detached in Flint, Michigan, with Gene's ailing mother and adopt a blind cat from the ASPCA named, rather ironically, Seymour. After a few years, Mattel will slowly faze out Husky Hazel out and bring in Janey Craig, her skinny cousin who will encourage girls to lose 20 pounds for just $20!

It's all so labored and sad. Wouldn't it just be easier for Mattel to give Joan Holloway and her bodacious bod the respect it deserves now? At the very least, I know it would save me the money of buying Janey Craig and turning her into a cracked-out Misfit whore.   

Friday, 12 March 2010

For the guys: Hair raising questions answered

Hair is a really big issue for most people. And frankly, I've never really understood why. I've seen so many girls go all wide-eyed and hysterical at the suggestion that they snip off a few inches of damaged hair. (If you don't want to hear it, don't ask!) Me, I've always been Team It'll Grow Back. Maybe it's because I have really curly hair that's hard to style in different ways so I'm not as emotionally invested. It's either down and messy or up and messy. I used to wear my hair in a short rock 'n' roll-type bob, which drove my mother bonkers, because girls with short hair never get boyfriends, dontcha know. And I've toyed with the idea of shaving my head since I was a 14-year-old Sinead O'Connor fan. Recently I was more inclined to cut it really short like Natalie Portman when she was growing out her V for Vendetta buzz — of course I was functioning under the erroneous impression that I could pull it off with the same aplomb as the gamine actress because a friend once mistook her for me at a boutique in Toronto. (I should mention this was several years ago when I was younger and thinner and he hadn't yet had his contact lens prescription upgraded.)

Turns out my mother may have been on to something. AXE, the Maxim of men's grooming brands, has launched two new hair products and teamed up with body language analyst Barry Ettinger to shed some light on just how much your hair says about you. Apparently, over 55 percent of communication comes from body language and only 7 percent occurs verbally, which sounds like a pretty convincing argument for a sex offender if you ask me, but I digress. Studies show that upon first sight hairstyle ranks as a person's most memorable feature; in terms of touch communication, any contact above the neck communicates intimacy. The bottom line? Good hair exponentially increases your chances of getting lucky.

So let's examine a few famous hairstyles and their ability to get the guy under them laid:

The Mullet
Famous for its "business in the front, party in the back" message, this work-play hybrid is the exclusive domain of rednecks and guys who think it's still 1983. Hipsters had a brief, ironic love affair with it a couple of years ago which was vaguely horrifying and totally libido-crushing.

Survey says: Not even a sixer of Bud and a light switch make this okay.

The Caesar Cut
You're not a Roman emperor, or George Clooney circa 1994, or George Michael, or George Stavropoulos circa 1996 (this guy I went to school with who I had a secret crush on until I saw him crossing campus one day in manpris and Birkenstock clogs). In fact, unless your name is George, don't do it. And even then.

Survey says: Maybe. But only if you work the old school Clooney angle.

The Unnecessarily Shaved Head
There's a brilliant episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is dating a bald guy who, as it turns out, actually has a full head of hair. When she comes across his driver's license that has a picture of him with a rich, thick mane, she asks him incredulously: "You mean I could be dating this hair?" I wonder if Victoria Beckham ever asked the same of her husband.

Survey says: Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't kick Becks out of my bed for eating crackers, but if you've got it, honey, don't shave it off!

The Faux Hawk
When Mohawks first came on the scene in the heady days of Punk Rock, it signaled the dawn of a new era in music, fashion and politics. It was so badass and cool that had I been of age at the time, I would've swooned with anti-conformist rancor. Today, it signals the dawn of a jackass whose most rebellious act of defiance is going commando. It's dirty by all accounts, and not in a good way. Are you listening Jared Leto?

Survey says: What happened to Jordan Catalano?!?

The Pompadour
This is a toughie because if you're an old greasy dude with a pompadour, an unbuttoned shirt and one or more gold crosses strung around your neck you're pretty much shit outta luck with the girls. If, however, you look anything at all like Jon Kortajarena, the white-tee-blue-jeans-wearing hustler in A Single Man, then, well, be still my quivering loins.

Survey says: Jon Kortajarena OHGODYES!

Monday, 8 March 2010

We used to be so good together, Oscar. What happened to us?

I loved you when....

But I've moved on...

Dear Oscar Red Carpet,

I don't know how to tell you this, so I'm just gonna say it. I think we need to see other people. You just don't excite me the way you used to. I know, I know, relationships can't be all passion all the time. But we only get together for one night a year, which means you've got 364 days to come up with something so toe-curlingly amazing to make me grab the pillows and scream out your name in ecstasy. Instead I get missionary style. I don't think it's too much to ask for a little drama, a little subversion, a little kink from a one-night stand. If I wanted last night's Red Carpet, I would've married it, thrown on a pair of sweat pants and invested in a good vibrator. You left me cold and unsatisfied, again. (I admit that I came close when SJP appeared in her crystal-encrusted Chanel sack. But her haggard orange face quickly took away my horny.)

Don't you remember how hot it used to be with us? Bob Mackie headdresses and Marjan Pejoski feathers and Ralph Lauren taffeta? I even loved those tender nights when you were draped in sunflower yellow Vera Wang chiffon, chartreuse Chinoiserie by John Galliano and vintage Valentino. That was like a dream. Now, I'm afraid, you've lost your yen for it. And for me, sadly. You no longer go out of your way to impress me with your influence or woo me with your whimsy or titillate me with your gusto. I guess you've moved on to a younger, less discerning lover and this is your way of telling me. I'm hurt. I thought you were different.

Just so you know, I'm moving on too. It's Grammy, and although it's strange that his name brings to mind support hose and purple hair, it's also fitting because he knows how to work it. Baby, he does it weird and crazy and oh so good. It's the hottest thing I've seen in your heyday. Which makes my happiness bittersweet when we're together. You will always be my first love but you're no longer my number one lover. I look forward to seeing you again next year, but this time I'll be in my sweat pants.

Your former admirer,


Friday, 5 March 2010

Sometimes words look as good as they taste

It's time for me to sit down to a steaming hot bowl of my own words. You see, dear reader(s), years ago when I was just a young university student with big logo-emblazoned dreams of a fast and fabulous career in fashion journalism, I spared no one my devout beliefs in what I thought constituted true style. If it wasn't bright, leopard printed or platformed, it simply did not qualify. Between the economic surplus of the dot com boom, the upbeat tempo of Brit Pop bands, Union Jack mini dresses and the ubiquity of logo'd Italian sportswear, understated was not the mot on everyone's lips. Especially not mine.

At the time I had a boyfriend who was one of those rare specimen of suburban kids who are weaned on hot dogs, baseball and pleated chinos but who harbour a subconscious proclivity for the finer things in life. It wasn't long into our romance before he started buying leather-soled shoes and single-button blazers. I couldn't, however, get him to permanently shelve the chinos. Personally, I couldn't get my head around it: why would he wear something so mundane and uninspired and American (a word I spat out with the same disgust I normally reserve for Crocs and lawyers)? He would try to appease me, God bless him, by buying flat-front chinos and pairing them with a cashmere V-neck and an elegant overcoat. But I still couldn't get on board.

Then one day he showed me a picture of a casually elegant man in a magazine wearing a button-down shirt and classic trousers and said he wanted to emulate that look everyday. He called it his new uniform. And I nearly fainted. How could he possibly want to wear the same look day in and day out, denying himself the excitement and wonder that came with studiously throwing things together to create a new style image for every occasion? He was killing the art of dressing as I knew it. And I felt as though he had just driven a knife through my D&G-branded sweater.

Eventually, I moved to New York to pursue that fast and fabulous journalism career (ha!) and came to appreciate the considerably pared down American aesthetic. Dark denim jeans with heels, a crew neck sweater on loose trousers with a fitted jean jacket, an LBD with ballet flats. So simple, so easy. I was sold.

This week, Banana Republic held a media event to promote their new Live In Chino campaign where they espouse the philosophy that a chino day keeps the fashion police away. I was invited to the event and offered a piece to take home. I got a great fitted crinkled blazer in ecru with built-in shoulder pads that reflects a recent trending towards a strong '80s-inspired shoulder. It fits perfectly with my wardrobe of jeans, t-shirts, flats and heels. Which, by the way, is my new uniform. I have a feeling I'll be wearing the khaki out of it this summer. And quietly feasting on my diet of words.   

Monday, 1 March 2010

Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails

If I had a nickel every time I met a guy who told me he couldn't give a rat's ass what people thought about his clothes or hair, I'd have a lot of nickels right now. Like, a lot. It bears noting, however, that statement always follows my response to the "So, what do you do?" question. Evidently, there's something about a woman who works in the fashion industry that immediately makes men defensive. Or at least the ones I meet (...and subsequently date. Bleurg.) The fact that I should stop engaging with starving artists I meet in dive bars notwithstanding, I'm here to say something to all you guys who claim to be too cerebral to indulge in the superficiality that comes with a crisp shirt or a pair of wholly intact underwear: you're full of shit. And what's even worse is the guy who tells me that he doesn't care what other people think about how he looks is usually the guy who cares the most. It's all so Psych 101 that it makes me want to barf.

The good people at Dove recently launched a line of personal care products targeted to men called Men+Care. (I can only guess that the subtext they were going for is Men+Care=Dove.) Obviously, there's a whole beauty market full of guys who totally care how they look and smell. The company conducted a survey asking a random sampling of men worldwide how they felt they were represented in advertising and low and behold, they were less than impressed. "Hold the phone!" I thought. "Could it be that men are also irritated by being portrayed as dim, tubby, balding Everymen married to attractive, whip-smart women who are clearly out of their league?" Sadly, no. It turns out that guys don't appreciate being represented as rich, power-hungry ladies men. In fact, only 6% of the men surveyed believe they are realistically portrayed. I guess they showed me.  

While I applaud Dove for taking another Real Beauty approach to addressing our physical and psychological complexes, am I really meant to sympathize with the male plight here? If so, I'm going to have to play the objectified vagina card. You know, guys, it could be a lot worse than being portrayed as Don Draper in a Homer Simpson world. You could represented by...someone much.....mmmmmmmDonDraper.

Need I say more?