Category Archives: beauty

Holiday Gift Guide: Picks for the Brand-New or Soon-to-Be Mama In Your Life

Now, I’m no mom yet, but when my husband asked me to make a wish list of Christmas gifts for him to go off of, you could certainly tell what was foremost on my mind. Being due in February, my main concerns are upcoming comfort and style, along with personal items like jewelry and beauty products — with a mom-ly twist.

Based off my own wish list, then — and with the caveat that a lot of my reasoning is based on “I’ve heard” and “I think” — here is a gift guide for the brand-new or soon-to-be mama.

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1. Your Name Here Silk Necklace ($400 14K gold, $80 gold fill or sterling silver, COATT). I still think this is the most ingenious and stylish piece of “my kid’s name” jewelry — way better than any birthstone or silhouette concept. I’m too superstitious to ask for this before I even have the baby, but I would love to own it at some point — in fact, a certain somebody has a birthday coming up in August (*hint*hint*wink*wink*).

2. Vintage Kaleidoscope Locket ($65, Etsy). I love lockets. I don’t even put anything in them, but I love the idea of a piece of jewelry you put sentimental stuff in, and a locket necklace is especially sweet, with a visual memento close to your heart. This is a really stylin’ locket that would make any new mama look totally hip, even when she pops it open to show you a picture of the dreaded drooling babe. Bonus: a shiny toy to distract babe when upset/fussy/etc.

3. Kate Spade New York “Idiom” Ultra Thin Bangle ($32, Nordstrom). This is a really sweet way to get the new or to-be mama in your life a one-of-a-kind piece engraved with her child’s name or a simple phrase to remind her of all she means to you. It’s especially sweet that whatever you choose to engrave it hidden against her wrist, known only to you and her — and whomever she chooses to show.

4. Timex Weekender Strap watch ($53, Timex). I never wear watches, but I’ve been on a watches kick lately. I’ve been pinning awesome watches left and right — perhaps because the mama-to-be in me knows that there will soon enough be plenty of appointments and more reason to keep time than “I need to meet a friend at Starbucks in 15”? My hands won’t always be so free as to reach for my iPhone when needing to check a clock.

5. Enamel Locket ($90, Alder & Co.). Another amazing locket piece that is so simple and so chic.

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6. Bobbi Brown Beach Body Oil ($30, Bloomingdale’s). All I want to do is pamper myself, and after giving birth to another human being, I’ll totally deserve it. All I hear about is the postpartum period where all of a sudden you smell like blood and pee (yours and another person’s) and milk and spit up and your body odor changes and you barely have time to shower. Wouldn’t this be wonderful to slather all over after a quickie shower to make her feel totally special and pretty?

7. NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer ($42, Beauty.com). I am one of those chicks who can’t leave the house without makeup. It’s not that I’m vain (OK, I guess it is that I am), but I have had bad acne since I was 13, and so I’m a little sensitive about my breakouts and red marks. While my routine isn’t exactly in-depth — just some mineral foundation and powder, blush, mascara, and lipstick — I have the feeling there will be even less time for it soon. A beauty balm like this would be amazing and cut things into fractions.

8. Motherlove Sitz Bath ($14.25, Amazon.com). I love the idea of a postpartum kit for new mamas, a little basket of items they can use to make themselves feel so much better. Made from organic ingredients like sea salt, witch hazel herb, and yarrow, this is formulated to soothe the perineum, slow bleeding, reduce swelling, and ease hemorrhoids. Plus, it has a zero rating on EWG’s skin deep database. Isn’t that so much nicer than Epsom salts?

9. Clinique “All About Eyes Serum” De-Puffing Eye Massage ($28, Nordstrom). OK, so you might not want to give this as a gift if it’s not specifically asked for (it’s sort of like saying, “You look like shit, here, take care of that… please.”) but it is such a thoughtful addition to the new mama’s beauty repertoire. Because as much as I have no plans to leave the house for some time after birth and think I really won’t care all that much about my appearance, we’ll have enough visitors that I wouldn’t kick a product like this out of my cosmetic bag.

10. Drawstring Jersey Pants ($34.95, GAP). Yeah, I want to live in pajamas for at least six weeks after giving birth… but lounge pants are at least classy enough that you’re not welcoming close friends and family in your ratty jammies. Plus, I’m awfully sick of the same two pajama bottoms that have fit me for the past six months.

11. New Mama Bottom Spray ($14.95, Earth Mama Angel Baby). I live by the Earth Mama Bottom Balm for certain prenatal… um… *conditions*, so it stands to reason that this blend of water, witch hazel, cucumber, kosher vegetable glycerin, and lavender and peppermint oil will be just the thing a new mama needs to soothe herself without feeling like she smells like a pharmacy.

12. Maddox Zip Clutch ($75, Fossil). This isn’t really baby-related, true, but I really need a new wallet and I love the pop of color and mod design of this one. OK, maybe I can make it baby related — I need a bigger wallet to show off all those pictures of Bean when he comes. (Do people even carry pictures in their wallet anymore? Oh, well — I’m going with it).

13. Medela Sleep Bra (from $14, Amazon.com). I’m planning on breastfeeding, and if the experience of others is any indication, I’m going to be quite large and sore in just a short handful of weeks. These sleep bras come highly rated and would be the perfect little piece of soft sleepwear for that soon-to-be mommy.

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14. Handpainted Still Life Monogram ($48, Anthropologie). I’m always on the lookout for fun design pieces for the home, and I love how versatile these are. You could buy just the new baby’s initial, or spell out their name, or spell words like “Love” or “Home” — anything that might strike the new mama’s heart.

15. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Standard AutoFocus Lens ($104.99, Amazon.com). Known as the “nifty fifty,” this is a great, cheap little lens for taking indoor shots — like, oh, of a newborn baby? Since I just bought a Canon T2i a few months ago, I would love something like this to add to my camera bag — especially since we opted not to purchase a newborn photo session.

16. Felix Weekender Duffle ($137, Deux Luxe). How amazing would the mama-to-be in your life feel waltzing into the hospital with a bag like this to hold all her daily essentials? Birth is gonna be a big ol’ deal, and I would love to add a little sparkle to my stay.

17. The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest ($21.47,  Amazon.com). Along with a plethora of movies and television shows, I myself would love something to read — but who will have time with a new baby? Something like this that’s more visual and easy to digest might be just the thing that the literary mama in your life needs to distract her from the trials of early childhood.

18. Nursing Shawl (42, Seraphine). Most nursing coverups, to me, scream “I’m nursing under here.” And while it’s really not that big of a deal, I love something a little more sophisticated and soft like this bamboo/viscose blend. It can be used six ways — as a nursing shawl, a poncho, a scarf, a cape, a wrap, or a swaddling blanket — which makes it a huge bang for your buck.

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19. One Line a Day: A Five-Year Memory Book ($11.53, Amazon.com). I love journals, especially as gifts, and something like this is just perfect for the new mama with no time to jot down all of her thoughts. I adore the idea of taking down just one line a day and then being able to look back five whole years at how things have changed.

20. San Ysidro Hobo diaper bag ($299, Danzo). Diaper bags are either really crappy looking, or super expensive. I’ve found maybe one affordable one that I would be able to stand carrying around (I’m a snob, I know). This one totally would break my bank, but it’s so incredibly gorgeous. All of Danzo’s bags are amazing, but I love the lines and color of this one in particular. And since I don’t plan on carrying a purse in addition to a diaper bag, I need all my style in one.

21. World Map art print ($56, Famille Summerbelle). As different decor items catch my eye lately, I find myself thinking about how they tie in with a new little human. This beautiful print is great for adults and children, looking so modern but imparting plenty of education. It would look great in a living room and playroom alike.

22. Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool Washable Plaid Blanket ($118, Amazon). The baby’s already got plenty of blankets — swaddling blankets, receiving blankets, handmade blankets, hand-me-down blankets. What about mama? As I cozy up on the couch with Bean or cat nap while he naps (hopefully), a cozy Pendleton blanket is just the thing I’ll need to make me feel safe and warm — even if only for 5 minutes at a time.

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23. Luxury Plus Slippers ($32, Restoration Hardware). I love slippers, and I have none. We have two pets and I never get around to cleaning more frequently than once a week, so I always get dust and dirt on the bottom of my feet when walking around, which makes me feel gross (our house isn’t that dirty, but come on, we don’t have a maid or anything). I caught word that these are the most wonderful slippers around, and am now totally lusting after a pair to take me throw those postpartum days.

24. Kimono Style Robe ($65, Plum Pretty Sugar). Who doesn’t appreciate a pretty robe to lift the spirits? Again, since I’ll likely be living in pajamas and loungewear for an indeterminate amount of time come February, a beautiful robe from Plum Pretty Sugar totally fits the bill for helping me feel comfy but put together enough for company.

25. Tieks ($165, Tieks). The next best thing to slippers, these super-comfy flats are great for all occasions, from lounging around the house to grabbing the mail to taking a walk around the park with the new little one. They’re even great for those late third trimester days when nothing but flip flops fit (seriously, I had to buy a new pair of pumps for my baby shower just because none of my shoes fit, so I’m hoping this new size my feet have arrived at is a permanent deal, because even though the pumps were a $30 Target deal, I’d hate to have spent that money just for a few swollen weeks here at the end).

26. Lace-Waist Hiphugger Panty ($10.50, Victoria’s Secret). OK, here’s the deal: None of my underwear truly fits. I can make most of it work, but it’s just basically covering the barest of essentials. These are so pretty, don’t slip, and in cotton, are basic enough to comfily hug even the sorest of lady bits. Once the new mama in your life can transition from granny panties, a bagful of these would be much appreciated.

27. Netflix subscription (from $4.99/month, Netflix.com). OK, this wasn’t on my wish list because I already have Netflix, but you can bet your sweet bippy that I’ve saved pretty much every TV show known to man, from Cheers to Felicity to LOST, for viewing pleasure during those initial weeks of nonstop nursing and sleeplessness.

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A 9-Month Fashion Victim: Why Is It So Hard to Find Attractive Maternity Clothes?

Here’s the part where I back away a bit from my headline statement. Today’s maternity clothes are way, WAY better than the mu-mus and triangle tops of yesteryear.

Image by Lambert/Getty Images, via The Guardian

I have a few tops and a couple of dresses that are awfully flattering. Some of them came from Old Navy. The rest are from Motherhood Maternity (and are falling apart, but cute).

There are so many tips on there on stretching your budget by forgoing maternity clothes, wearing just your baggiest of tops, holding your jeans open with rubber bands, and the like — and please. I was in maternity clothes at 10 weeks. Wearing regular clothes is like the ninth circle of hell. Actually, wearing clothes AT ALL is like the ninth circle of hell. But if I have to do it, I want to wear something that doesn’t cut off my circulation and actually makes me look pretty and pregnant instead of “I’m hiding my fat” — or, worse, “I’m hiding a pregnancy.”

But this weekend, I stopped by Target for some conditioner and razors (I was going to a party, that’s the only reason I shaved my leg) and decided to try on some maternity dresses. Their Liz Lange line always looks so cute, and I figured that since so many of my maternity tops are now so short that they’re showing off the panels of my maternity jeans, it would make me feel better to have some attractive dresses I could just throw on and breathe in.

The problem is, Target’s maternity clothes suck.

They’re adorable and trendy on the hanger, but once you put them on, you’re reminded that maternity clothes, for the most part, are based on somebody else’s idea of what a pregnant woman wants (distraction from her disgusting body) versus what she actually wants (emphasis on and confidence of her beautiful, human-growing body).

For one, there seem to be three types of maternity necklines — the cowl neck, the crossover top, and the way-too-effing-deep-my-DDs-are-now-hanging-out neckline. For the most part, I get it. Lots of this stuff can be useful after popping out the baby, so a cowl neck makes for easier nursing while a crossover top is often part of a “nursing top” setup. But sometimes, it’s just like, “We’re going to put a bunch of extra fabric and detail up here so that nobody notices that OH MY GOD WOMAN YOUR BELLY IS HUMONGOUS WHO DO YOU HAVE IN THERE, DOM DELUISE??”

Totally cute, right? No. Most of what I tried on had these weird darts visible, like above on either side of the belly, or the pucker on the boobs. That’s not just how the dress is lying — that’s actual DETAIL. One dress I couldn’t find online had darts coming right up onto your rack and ending mid-boob — AS IN, BASICALLY NIPPLES. And the belted dresses were belted so high that half the belt found refuge under my ginormous bosom. Not hot. Also, Target’s craftsmanship is seriously lacking because anything with a zipper on the back ends in a pucker at the bottom, like I have a tail or a really huge hemorrhoid hanging out. So even if the dress was tolerable, I just couldn’t, because of the tail.

What’s with the top on this thing? No, really. Stop. This dress was so horrific. First I had to pour myself into it like frosting into a pastry bag (mmm, frosting), and then it clung to every single lump of fat and finally finished things off with an awkward and nonfunctional crossover top on steroids with a high, unflattering neckline and some cap sleeves that show off my side boob.

Again with the side-boob bearing sleeves, the disappearing belt, and the crossover shit. Side rant: Why can’t you put your clothes on an actual model? It’s so so hard to tell what this stuff looks like on a normal pregnant person (even though the models aren’t really pregnant, but whatever) when it’s just lying there in space with no context to the shape inside.

This top wasn’t at my Target, and if it was, I wouldn’t have tried it on. I just had to say: what the fuck? Is this like, “I’m pregnant, yes, but I want to distract you with pattern so that you don’t ask me if I’m having twins or comment that I look like I’m about to pop at 6 months”?

OK, and then there’s Asos. I have to be fair and say that a lot of their stuff looks cute. It’s way overpriced, and I’ve heard the sizing is weird and the clothes don’t actually look that great on, but there’s some decent stuff. But just browsing through their online gallery was, at times, baffling.

First, sorry, but she’s not pregnant. Right? I mean, whatever. But I’m guessing the statement here is, “I’m supposed to be like a tiger in the bedroom because of all the hormones, but instead I’m like a tiger in your face wanting to rip your head off because your spawn is inside of me and God I hate you right now.”

I don’t even… what? Stop.

From the “babies having babies” collection.

“I jest you not — I’m totally pregnant! And my body is still awesome enough to wear a skintight dress. Swear.”

Again, it’s like — look over here! No, here! No, down there! I’m not even a little pregnant, so stop touching my belly — DISTRACT WITH PATTERN.

And then there’s the fact that my favorite Old Navy maternity jeans have a NUDE full panel. Which is great for wearing lighter tops, I guess, because it blends into your skin. But when your shirts ride up — because, newsflash, Target’s maternity tops are not long enough to last you even halfway into your second trimester — it looks like I’m flashing belly.

All negativity aside, my favorite place to shop for maternity clothes is Old Navy. In stark contrast, the Motherhood Maternity stuff I bought a few months back has already started falling apart in the wash, and cost twice as much as the ON stuff I have. Plus, ON’s clothes are basic and simple, which is really all I want these days. Gap Maternity is another good bet.

But the worst part about the maternity fashion game is that there is basically never anything in the stores, and when you buy online, you have to return online — i.e., pay shipping. So at a time in your life when you’re most uncertain about how things fit and most prone to hating how you look in goddamn everything, you can’t even try on the clothes before you purchase them.

Solid. Thanks, fashion.

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Make Me Up Before You Go-Go: The Trial

My wedding-day hair and makeup artist came over today to do a trial run of my wedding day look. I’d talked before about my extensive inspiration — natural, curly, loose side bun or ponytail and fresh, rosy romantic makeup. I was weirdly nervous when Marci from Kyle Lynn came over, since I hadn’t ever had my makeup done and was frankly afraid she’d make me look like Tammy Faye out on the town. So I awkwardly paced around our living room while she set up. She was quiet, which made me think she thought I was weird. As always.

But I showed her my inspiration file, and we got started. She was so great! We nearly nailed the makeup the first time around — we just had to try a couple of shades of lipstick before we found the right one, and tone down the lower lash line’s eyeliner. The hair, too, was about 95% there — the day of, we’ll be doing it a bit looser and less structured, with some more ends showing. But I felt like a total princess — and the bonus is I barely felt like I was wearing any makeup, which is very important for a makeup-phobic chica like me.

First, the before — apologies in advance.

Gah.

And — drum roll — the after!

One caveat: My brows are nuts right now. I’m letting them grow out from a weird too-thin self-plucked shape into something my salon can work with, and will be shaped and waxed prior to the nuptials. Another: We skipped the lip liner so we could try several different shades before landing on the right one, without having to scrub off matching lip liner with every shade change. The liner will be in place the day of.

My No. 1 request was that I didn’t want to look cakey or fake, and I wanted to look like myself, but better. She kept asking what I wanted to fix, and changed the makeup requests on the spot so I could sign off them and she could make her notes on my day-of look. I appreciated that I got to see the final picture rather than getting any “we’ll change that the day of” or, “this will be done better/more complete the day of.”

Another good sign: Mr. Ladyfingers raved about how great I looked, how much he loved my eyes, and how he was really nervous about me getting my makeup done, but that she did a really good job. I’m not the type to do everything he asks me to, or to avoid doing the things he doesn’t like (for example, he hates nail polish — I like it sometimes). So he was nervous since he likes me best fresh out of bed (oh, the people who love you, how blind they are). But he gave the look two thumbs up!

Some tips for your own makeup trial:

  • Bring photos — hair fronts and backs, makeup, etc. I tried my best to find makeup examples in my coloring, but threw in a couple of blondes just for an example of the overall feel.
  • Don’t be shy. Tell the artist EXACTLY what you want, if there is something exact that you want. They want to know, and this is why we have trials.
  • If there’s something you don’t like upon the first look, tell them what you don’t like and what you’d rather have, and if they don’t offer, ask them to change it on the spot. You don’t want to go into the day of nervous that the same mistake will be made, or that you’re not on the same page.
  • A non-beauty piece of advice: Tip at the trial. Even if you’ve paid for it on deposit and aren’t paying for the trial the day of, the artist is still doing $XX amount of work that day, so they should be tipped just like you would your hairdresser or manicurist.
  • If you have time, try to wear the hair and makeup all day and night long, so you can see how it wears. That way, going into the real deal, you can say, “I loved the look last time but just an hour or so later, I was all shiny — how can we prevent that?” or, “I really liked the lip color at first, but after a couple of hours I kept looking at it and think I’d like to go darker — can we try that?”

What are your biggest hair and makeup requests? If you’ve had your trial, how did it go? Were you nervous to have your face all made up, too? Any advice?

Scent of a Woman

A wedding-day fragrance wasn’t exactly high on my list of priorities — at least not until I started reading past posts by such blogger bees as Miss Beagle, Miss Apple, Ms. Sloth, and Mrs. Pencils. Then, all of a sudden, I was all, “OMG I need to find my wedding-day signature scent like NOW!”

I’ve never worn fragrance. I used to dabble in my mom’s Navy and Anais Anais, and slip my grandmother’s Chanel No. 5 out of her dresser when she wasn’t looking, but aside from playing around and wearing vanilla essential oil every day for like two straight years in college, I’m just not a perfume kinda girl. Lots of scents remind me of old ladies in my family, or give me headaches, or smell like hippies. Nothing against hippies – I just don’t want to smell like on on my wedding day… or… ever.

So I started my search at Nordstrom’s perfume counters, with this ever-so-helpful request: “I saw a bottle at Sephora that made me think the perfume probably smelled nice, so I’ll know it when I see it.” After getting funny looks on my third trip around, and having sprayed myself with something really powdery and flowery, I moved onto Sephora. If you think Nordstrom’s is overwhelming, well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

That day, I smelled more stuff than I can remember, and went away with a sample of Thierry Mugler Angel. The first day I wore it, I hugged somebody and noticed her going, “Oooof” and crinkling up her nose as I turned to greet somebody else. Yeah… not the one for me.

Back it was to Sephora, this time armed with a list of recommendations from their site’s fragrance finder, mostly from the “white floral” line. Since I’m getting married outside, I did want something vaguely floral. Just not sock-me-in-the-face floral. I sniffed all of them, and liked Marc Jacobs Woman and Tocca Florence the best out of the bottle, so I spritzed one on each wrist, walked away with samples, and proceeded to smell myself all day long. It’s really awkward when you get caught doing that at work.

The winner?

Image via Sephora

Marc Jacobs Woman. On their site, it’s described as “Marc Jacobs reinterprets Gardenia.” Its notes are gardenia, wild muguet*, skin musk, cedar, and ginger. It’s style is described as “lush and watery all at once” – whatever that means.

On me, it smells like musky powder and fresh ocean water and the slightest whiff of flowers. How did it win out?

1. I was overwhelmed with scents when I returned from that second Sephora shopping trip, so I tried scrubbing the Tocca and Marc Jacobs off my arms. The Tocca completely went away. The Marc Jacobs stayed – albeit slightly milder – and I still smelled it after the whole day and a 30-minute workout.

2. I sprayed it on myself and let Mr. LF smell, and his eyes lit up. “OOH! I *like* that. It smells very clean.”

A clear winner in my book.

Did you always plan on sniffing out a wedding-day fragrance? Or was it a last-minute must-have for you? What are some of your favorite day-to-day fragrances — because seriously, owning perfume makes me feel very adult and I might want to start doing this in real life.

*lily of the valley… I think.

Skin Deep: Facial Freakouts and Beauty Countdowns

I’ve written before about how vain I’ve become since planning a wedding, all in the name of looking my best on the wedding day. Lately, I’ve taken that in weird directions – like, growing out my eyebrows because I’d like to get them professionally shaped and waxed a few times before the wedding. I feel weird, like people are going to start asking me if I’m OK. I mean, things are getting hairy up there.

Image via Flickr use Julie70

But I digress. I’ve struggled with cystic acne in my past, and had finally, finally landed upon a skin care routine that worked. Is my skin perfect? Definitely not. Do I break out anymore? Rarely, if ever, and never for more than a day or two. For somebody with such a long history of dermatological heartache, this is a bigBIGbig deal. But then, I started to pick on myself, examining acne scars on my forehead and cheek, dullness here and there, and blackheads around my nose and on my chin. I felt I could look better. I wanted that natural bridal glow.

I took a trip to my local Origins three months ago to buy some magical products that would give me perfect, porcelain Barbie skin. I told the sales consultant I was planning a wedding. I walked out about $150 poorer. Some of the things are definitely keepers – like the Purifying Tonic. I’d also go back and buy the Out of Trouble Mask they gave me samples of.

Image via Origins

Image via Origins

But the rest was just… meh. I got the Skin Tone Correcting Serum and the brightening peel pads from the Brighter by Nature line. They didn’t do any harm, but after two solid months, I didn’t see a difference. And then there was the VitaZing tinted moisturizer, which was… yuck. Grease city.

So what did I do, hive, 2.5 months before our wedding? I decided to switch things up. Yeaaaaap. Because I’m soooo good at that. And because that’s sooooo recommended that close to your wedding.*

I bought some St. Ives Naturally Clean Apricot Scrub after reading rave reviews, and used it every other night, as recommended. I noticed my blackheads shrinking! Yay! So, following my lifelong philosophy of, “Some is good, more is better,” I really went over the deep end. I stopped using the Brighter by Nature products and upped the St. Ives stuff to every day, sometimes twice a day. I lost all sense and started using my old standby, Differin acne gel, just to totally clear out some whiteheads. And then I did my twice-weekly mask on top of it all — and the next day, it was scab city.

Seriously, chicas: My skin FREAKED THE #@!& OUT. I didn’t have pimples — they were more like hives, or like very dry, flaky mosquito bites. When I put my toner on, it burned – not tingled — but burned. Clearly, my skin hated me so much it was going to explode right off my face and run away.

So, I’ve adopted a new philosophy: Naked skin. No superfluous makeup besides my mineral powder and blush – no primer, no illuminator. Closer to the wedding, I just may follow Mrs. Dolphin’s cue and go totally bare faced. This is a really bold move on this part. We’ll see.

Next, I’m only using the products I know work for me, and in the combination I know they work best – Purpose face wash twice daily, Origins Purifying Tonic twice daily, Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion in the mornings, a little Differin all over if things start getting crazy. And no more drying stuff on top of drying stuff.

That, along with the buckets of water and green tea I’ve been drinking, has significantly calmed things down in the past three days. It’s a big relief not having to play junior chemist for now, and knowing that I’ll have that bridal glow with no more *fingers*crossed* red meanies.

Did you have any worrisome flareups as you got closer to the wedding day? What was — or is — your plan to keep up that glow in the final few months?

*Please, I’m being sarcastic. This is totally not recommended. 

One of These Things Might Not Be Like the Other One: The Wedding-Day Look

The dress is being hemmed and tucked. The shoes are safely hidden away on a top closet shelf. My jewelry has arrived.

Oh, yeah. Check out my bracelet.

Personal photo

I spent agonizing hours searching for the perfect jewelry. I looked at necklace after necklace. I considered clip-on earrings for my non-pierced ears, or converting regular earrings to do the job. Finally, after deciding against none of those, I scoured Etsy and divided my finds into 3 categories: gold and delicate, rhinestone bling factory, and this subset of floral collage cuffs. Etsy seller TattyChic whipped this design up in one night, hive, and made it live and shipped it in just one more night. I’m so, so happy, and consider it a good choice when I have to restrain myself from donning something before the wedding.

Anyway. Now that I’ve made all my attire purchases and collected hair and makeup inspiration pics to discuss with my stylist at our September trial, I’m left with a big fat burning question: Does my hair piece still work with this look?

First…

OK. The hairpiece: I bought it with the dress in January. It was kind of an impulse buy, because the consultant put it on my head and, together with the dress, the vision clouded my judgment a bit. It’s not that I don’t love it. It’s just that I bought it before my vision was fully formed, and now I’m not sure it fits with everything else.

Here’s a mini inspiration board showing my dress, shoes, and bracelet, along with some leading hair and makeup inspiration pics.

Image sources, clockwise from top left: TattyChic, Alfred Angelo,

Style Me Pretty/Robert Rios Photography, Shoes.com, Weddingbee/Belathee Photography

Now, the offending hairpiece.

Personal photos

It’s not that I don’t love it. I really do, and it’s exactly what I want in my hair the day of — sort of. My concern is the feathers make it a bit too modern or glam — or even too “Old Hollywood” — for the “romantic garden” look I’ve built with everything else. However, it does have some small rhinestones and pearls, so it echoes elements of the bracelet and the shoes, too. And, I don’t know… feathers, birds, gardens. It might work. Perhaps I’m being picky.

So, what do you think, hive?

  • Keep the hairpiece! It goes perfectly with the rest of your look.
  • The feathers don’t work with the rest of the look – try to find something similar sans Tweety parts.
Did you struggle with “finishing” your wedding day look?

Let’s Get Physical, Physical

All in the name of fitting into a wedding dress while feeling good about myself, I started exercising almost immediately after Mr. Ladyfingers put a ring on it. I’d never been much of an exerciser, nor a dieter. I’ve been lucky to have never struggled with body image, unlike so many of my friends, but for about a year before the engagement, I’d really been letting myself go. When my clothes stopped fitting me, when I started eating a candy bar and a bag of chips every day, when I grabbed fast food on my way from one place to another 4 out of 7 days a week, when I bought Ben and Jerry’s by the twos and sometimes even ate 2 dinners in one night – one at around 5 and another at 10 when I got home… well, it made me feel super crappy about myself.

Image via My Cat Hates You

I’d promised various things over the years, and never followed through on any of them. I walked for about three days back in ’05, and stopped because it rained on the fourth day. I accompanied a couple of different friends over the years on free gym passes, and quit because gyms freak me out. I vowed to start taking yoga classes, but could never find the money or the time. But now, I was willing.

One late night, when were in Wal-Mart buying the latest version of Trivial Pursuit, I made an impulse buy: Two Jillian Michaels DVDs, a yoga DVD, and some 5-pound weights.

After six-ish months of working out sorta regularly, I’m here to share with you what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how I feel about my pre-wedding day fitness extravaganza.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a trainer, or a doctor, or even mildly knowledgable about fitness or the human body, so this post isn’t intended to serve as workout advice. You’ve been warned!)

Jillian Michaels 30-Day Shred

Image via Amazon.com

30-Day Shred is based on circuit training (I think). You do one round of exercises, repeat it, and move onto the next round. 30DS is split into three phases; the intention is you take about 10 days to “master” each phase before moving onto the next. Each workout is only about 25 minutes, but it’s a super intense 25 minutes. I never thought I could sweat so much in my entire life — and I drove a black car with no AC in Florida for three years, so that’s some serious sweating. She alternates cardio and core work with weights, which supposedly helps you burn a lot faster.

I seriously started seeing results RIGHT away. As in, within a couple of days. I’m not claiming this is typical! But because I’d been sedentary for, um, 30 years, it didn’t take much to make small inroads on my hip padding and that roll developing at the back of my natural waist.

Soon, though, I grew bored. I didn’t exactly master phases 1 or 2 – I was still doing modified versions of each of the exercises – but I decided to move on and Jillian’s Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism.

Jillian Michaels’ Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism

Image via Amazon.com

This absolutely took things up a notch. This workout is roughly 40 minutes, not including warm up and cool down, and again uses circuit training to keep blood flowing constantly to different parts of your body. There’s no weights in this one, with the exercises using your body’s own resistance to build strength and muscles. You don’t move from phase to phase, either, although the DVD has options for only doing certain circuits.

There are six circuits in this one – kickboxing, plyometrics (or jump training), calisthenics (running in place, jumping jacks), core work, and then kickboxing/plyo/calisthenics again. It took me many days before I could get through the entire 40 minutes, much less without taking breaks. But I REALLY loved this one – I always felt super proud of myself when I finished it, and each move doesn’t really last that long, so it was easy for me to push myself because I knew it was almost over.

The Jillian combo package

Eventually, I started alternating 30-Day Shred and BFBM… and then I hit a snag. I hurt my ankle one night, and kept working out the following night. I ended up with a swollen useless pathetic limb, and couldn’t work out for about 2 weeks. But in that two weeks, I *missed* working out. Woo-hoo! I’d officially rewired my brain chemistry.

P90X

Image via Amazon.com

Once my ankle recovered, I decided to move to the next level of intensity: P90X. Mr. Ladyfingers had lost about 30 pounds in six months on these DVDs, and I liked that each day has a different focus so you don’t strain yourself. It helps that there’s a few-days break between the upper body DVDs, for example, because my little twig arms cannot do pushups for too many days in a row.

I started with the Lean routine, which is designed to build lean muscle rather than bulk. Here’s what I love about home-based workouts (aside from not having to display my clumsiness to anyone outside Mr. Ladyfingers, our cat, and our dog): there’s a rotating cast of quirky characters in every DVD, and it’s endlessly entertaining. I’d find myself saying things to Mr. Ladyfingers like, “I just noticed last time I did Core that Dreya totally tries to hug Adam, and he kinda blows her off and then goes to give Pam a hug,” or, “Did you notice that Dreya totally starts wiping her brow during the VERY FIRST move in Legs and Back?” or, “Dreya seems so effing proud of herself every time Tony talks to her in Shoulders and Arms. I hate her.”

Notice a pattern? I’m not a big Dreya fan.

I “sort of” finished Lean (did I often skip workout days? Yes. Yes, I did) and now I’m in the middle of P90X Classic. I’m also doing Jillian’s Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism on the P90X Plyo, Cardio and Kenpo days because P90X cardio leaves me shuddering in a corner for hours.

Results? I’ve lost 15 pounds in the past 6 months, and feel leaps and bounds better about myself. My skin looks better, and I feel healthier. I don’t eat junk food (much). I miss working out if I skip it for too many days in a row. I always feel better when I do it, and worse when I don’t.

What’s your pre-wedding fitness routine? Do you have a hard time getting motivated? If this was a new endeavor for you, like it was for me, what have you tried that works, and what doesn’t?

It’s a Beautiful Day

I may have mentioned that I’ve never been much of a makeup girl. There are two types, in my mind: Ones that can apply makeup, and ones that cannot. And since I cannot, and don’t want to *look* like a girl who cannot, I tread very lightly on the face paint side of things. It’s a lot for me to cover my ENTIRE face in Bare Escentuals makeup instead of just dotting it on my red marks, and to wear SHEER LIPSTICK and BLUSH, people. Blush. That’s a super big, like, “I have a job interview” kind of a day. We recently went to a black tie wedding and I wore red lipstick, and Mr. Ladyfingers was a little surprised — he had a hard time looking for a few minutes. So bright!

So. Me and makeup = not really buddies. Sadly, I do have to wear it for the wedding, or else things won’t be pretty. Literally. I started gathering as much inspiration as possible, trying to stay within my coloring – which is a little difficult, since I have fair skin with some pink and some yellow undertones. First, one of my very favorite looks for myself.

Photo by Shorts Shots Photography

Now imagine that amped up a bit, mostly in the eye area (also, without glasses).

Image via Rosie Parsons Photography

Image via Style Me Pretty/Photo by Robert Rios Photography

Image via Style Me Pretty/Photo by Beauty for Ashes Photography

As for hair, here’s the big problem of the day: the length. My hair is curly and just above the shoulder — straightened it would probably fall just beneath my shoulders at this point. I have lots and lots of hair but it’s very fine, so when it gets to the stage it is right now, it tends to grow down and OUT, turning into somewhat of a rotund bush shape. So I’m still getting trims and shaping cuts while hoping and praying my hair is still long enough to pull off the style I’m shooting for. All I can say is I’m sick of a limited repertoire of hairstyles that make me look like a 6th grader growing out her bangs. I’m probably getting this crap chopped off post-wedding.

Anyway! Here are my top hair inspiration photos:

Image via InStyle/Credit: Jon Kopaloff

Image via Vintage Amethyst/Credit: Martha Stewart Weddings

Image via Cap Classique

I love the low side bun look, slightly tousled, but I’ve also uncovered a crop of braided updos recently that make my heart hurt a little. So the look of the day will be carefree, fresh, classic, a bit undone.

What’s your wedding day beauty inspiration?

I’m So Vain, I Totally Think This Song Is About Me

Ever since we started planning The Wedding, I’ve found myself concerned with things I never imagined I’d be concerned with. For instance: makeup. Up until like 2 years ago, seriously, I was all about department store makeup. Only problem was, I had problem skin. So I finally made the move over to Bare Escentuals and lord, let me tell you what a difference that made. Recently, though, I’ve found myself heading to Sephora on like a weekly basis, trolling the aisles and picking up all sorts of illuminating primers and lip stains and mascaras – mascaras! I never wear mascara! And you want to know the craziest part? I’m having my makeup done. By a professional. I don’t even need this stuff! But for some reason, it makes me feel like a bride. And this is why I hate commercialism. Well, love/hate.

Then there are the things I feel I need to line up in the months ahead. We are at just over 5 months and counting (OK, let’s be precise here: 158 days [!]), and all of a sudden, I’m finding myself obsessed – I tell you, obsessed – over my appearance. This is not a very comfortable situation for me, as I typically think of myself as very un-vain.

The body

In January, I started working out. Like, for the first time ever. I started with Jillian Michaels’ “30-day Shred,” and then moved to “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism.” I swear, I started seeing results right away! I had been eating terribly, with fast food 3+ times per week and sweets and salty stuff every day, all day. And I was totally sedentary. In February, I started doing P90X, and not only have I lost 12 pounds in the past five months, but my arms are more toned and I feel better. But still, I’m a huge slacker, and I haven’t mastered the art of actually working out 6 days a week. Plus I could still eat better. Boo.

The face

I have struggled with cystic acne – the large, allover stuff that causes permanent pockmarks – since I was 13. Accutane pretty much knocked it out of my system back then, but I had periodic and stubborn flareups up until about a year-and-a-half ago. For awhile, I was using Proactiv, and that helped tremendously, but then I stopped ordering it due to financial issues, and when I started it back up again, it did not work anymore! (I’ve heard this from others too, but have no idea why.) Finally, I went to a dermatologist, who put me on Differin gel at night and Clindamycin pledgets in the morning. When I stick to it, it totally and completely clears everything up – so happy! But I still have little red marks, uneven skin tone, and faint pockmarks. It’s not typically anything I worry about, but with the “all eyes on me” mentality, I’ve been stressing more than usual about it. I refuse to get my skin burned off or subject myself to anything scary, so I’m a little stuck. Also, Murad Skin Perfecting Lotion is amazing. Really. Try it. They don’t pay me a dime. I just lurve it.

The teeth

Yeah, I have yellow teeth – not full-on Austin Powers style, but less-than-celebrity-pearly-white style. This is from a combination of dental slacking for a period of years, being a crazystupid coffee drinker, and smoking for about a decade. I’ve been great on points 1 and 3 for some time now, but still need my caffeine. I tried whitening strips before our engagement photos, and dropped off the train after Day 2 – I AM THAT LAZY AND THAT BAD AT ROUTINE. That I couldn’t even get through 10 days of putting whitening strips on my teeth for 20 minutes a shot. Horrible. Now I’m attempting to test a whitening booster gel from the drugstore, but honestly, I’m not seeing much of a difference. A friend told me she sprays hydrogen peroxide on her toothbrush every time she brushes, but I’ve been reading fright-inducing cautions against swabbing your mouth with the acid. I’ve still got some time to experiment, but this is seriously keeping me up at night.

The nails

I’ve talked about these. These are a problem. I can’t stop mangling my nails and cuticles. Stop the insanity!

The hair

I’m totally going gray, ya’ll. I’ve nevereverinmylife colored my hair, as I’ve always been lucky enough to have a nice hair color that shades well in the sun and complements my skin tone. But now… they’re all over my temple, attempting to make me look like a crazy cat lady. I’m scared to color, but am considering perhaps some temporary dye.

Have any other brides to be stressed about the most minute details of their appearance? If so, what tips and tricks worked without having to spend an arm and a leg on whitening trays and microdermabrasion? Did you fail to reach your goals but still end up looking fabulous on the big day?

A Hands Off Approach to Wedding-Day Beauty (or, Don’t Be So Picky)

The vendors have been selected, and the down payments all made. The dress has been purchased and is sitting in Bridesmaid Esquire’s closet. The makeup and hair artist has been booked. My workout routine and better-eating regimen has definitely given me a body I am happy about.

There’s just one itty, wittle problem.

Picky nails

Personal photo… obviously.

Yeah. My hands.

(Warning: potentially nauseau-inducing detail below, depending on your level of squeamishness)

See, I have this nasty habit of picking at the skin around my nails and my cuticles. I do it without even noticing. This photo was taken a pretty good day, actually, but when I get nervous or stressed out (like, oh, how I’ll be more and more over the next five months?), I pick and pick and often get bleedy parts and scabs around my nail beds.

Gross.

I’ve tried the tricks: Putting stuff on my nails that tastes gross (only works for nail-biters, and while I do bite the skin, too, I’m not above just picking with my nails). Getting manicures (I just ruin them without regard for how pretty they look or how much I spent on them). Sitting on my hands. Short of wearing mittens until the big day, I’m at a loss.

My bridesmaids have suggested I get a manicure a couple of days before, but I don’t see how that can help. If I’ve been going at it pre-manicure, my fingers will already look like Freddy Krueger got a hold of them by the time I actually get my nails did. So right now I’m trying to stay hands off about it. It’s hit or miss.

 

Did you have any physically damaging bad habits pre-wedding? Did you successfully curtail them, at least until after you were married? How?