Beauty + Style

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As a textbook Type-A individual, I can tell you (in excruciating detail) the exact areas of my home that are not organized in a satisfactory way.

In no specific order:
1. The wooden trunk at the foot of our bed.
2. The file cabinet next to the desk.
3. The desk drawer.
4. The back shelves of our front closet.
5. The tupperware cabinet.
6. The linen closet.
7. The corner of our bedroom next to Joey’s side of the bed that I am perpetually trying to make peace with because the dude needs one corner that his wife leaves alone.

Sometimes, when it looks like I’m spacing off, I’m thinking terrible thoughts about these areas of the apartment. Terrible thoughts.

I bring this up because, prior to this weekend, there was one other thing on that list: my wardrobe.

I’m pretty good about cleaning out my closet regularly. I’ve said before that I try to do this at least twice a year, and it’s always the first thing I think of when I start to get serious about simplifying.

Putting it bluntly, I love shopping. I love new clothes, I love styling outfits. It’s a serious hobby of mine. The problem is when that “hobby” translates into too little closet space and too small of a savings account. Since cutting back on shopping was one of my simplification goals, I decided that paring down what I had (but never wore) should come next.

Of course, when you love shopping, there is nothing less fun that not shopping and getting rid of clothes. So I decided to find a way to make it more fun.

Enter the clothing swap.

About a year ago, I did a cross-country swap with two of my blogger friends, Kayla and Madison. I had so much fun styling the new clothes (and seeing how they styled mine), and I had been meaning to replicate the experience with some of my local friends for a while. Well, after a conversation with five of my pals about how we were all wanting to simplify and spend more money, the swap basically planned itself.

And you know what? It was actually way more fun that just shopping. We ate snacks, chatted, and had fun trying on things we might never have purchased on our own. Everyone got rid of at least a bag or two of old clothes, and almost everyone walked away with a few new things.

Here are a few tips for planning your own clothing swap:

1. Start with a clean space.
Between the six of us, we had about eight bags of clothes to go through. I was so glad that I had gone through my own clothes in advance and made room in my bedroom for us to spread everything out. Plus, if you’re working in a messy space, things that you don’t want to swap are bound to get mixed in. Bonus points if you have a movable clothing rack to display everything on and help keep things organized.

2. Size up your guest list.
GET IT? But seriously. Your entire guest list does not have to be the same size (odds are you are not only friends with people who share your pant size), but everyone should be close enough that exchanges can be made. For example, one of my friends is busty-er with a narrow waist, another is smaller on top with a curvier booty, another is slender all over, another has a perfect hourglass, etc. The idea is that everyone shares at least one size (whether it’s dresses, skirts, tops, or whatever) with at least one other person at the party. Plus, if you are like my group, some of the things are getting tossed because they don’t fit anymore, so they will probably fit someone else.

3. Have a full-length mirror handy.
You are essentially turning your home into a dressing room — good lighting and a full-length mirror or two are crucial.

4. Mind the menu.
This might be over-thinking things, but consider serving a healthy-ish meal with more decadent treats after everyone has tried on clothes. Maybe it’s just me, but I never feel my best after I eat something high-calorie or fattening, and I certainly don’t feel like trying on clothes. So instead of pizza, we had a giant salad with grilled chicken and veggies with hummus. Then, when the clothes had been doled out, we ate cookies. Because we’re only human, you guys.

5. Have a plan for what gets leftover.
Fortunately with this group of girls, no one was offended if any of their clothes went unclaimed. Prior to the swap, we just agreed anything leftover would get donated. The bonus of the backup plan is that no one is tempted to take home anything they don’t love just because they don’t want to see it thrown out. SOMEONE will benefit it — it just won’t be someone from our group.

Post-swap, I’m pretty pleased to report that I have three new skirts and a top — AND a super-organized closet that makes it a million times easier to decide what to wear each day.

Have you hosted a clothing swap? What tips can you pass along?

My hair is generally in one of three states: getting used to new bangs, rocking the perfect bangs (this is the most short-lived state), and growing out bangs.

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a year, you probably know where this is going.

I tend to cut bangs at the end of every summer. I don’t know why it always happens around then, but it does. By summer, though, I’m tired of hair in my face (humidity, yo) and ready for something simpler.

Which lands me squarely in the third state. It’s not so cute.

I recently cut about three inches off my hair (yay, faster drying times!), but I didn’t have them cut the bangs so they will hopefully grow out a little quicker. I want my hair to look like this:

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But obviously that’s going to take a little while. For now, I thought I’d share my years of wisdom about how to style grown-out bangs (sans butterfly clips) in a way that won’t drive you crazy.

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Is the Braided Bang a revolutionary style? Nope! But far be it from me to discount the tried-and-true. The best part of the braided bang is that it can be tweaked into a few different styles. Create a braid on both sides of your part for a mermaid-y half-updo. Gently pull the braid apart to create a bolder, thicker strand. Do a “backwards” french braid for a more prominent “wrapped” look.

The possibilities are endless! And the best part is, bangs are cleverly concealed and out of your face.

wrap and roll DIY updo

 

The Wrap & Roll updo is one of my faves because it not only gets your bangs out of your face, it contains all the hair up and off your neck. (Perfect if you live somewhere with humid summers…hypothetically…ohmygosh it’s so humid right now.)

This has definitely become my new go-to style for dirty hair days — clean hair will slip out of the rolls. Basically, all you do is brush your (dirty) hair, then slip an elastic headband over it (kind of Gatsby-style). Then, starting with your bangs, roll and tuck the pieces until you get to the back of your head. Repeat on the other side, then take the two end pieces, twist them together, and tuck into the back of the headband. Pin in place if you have any straggling pieces.

So now you know how I’m getting through this difficult time.

Any other hide-the-bangs tutorials I need to know about? Share links in the comments — lord knows I need the help.

Recently for work, I was selected (along with a bunch of other editors) to film 30-second videos for a client. We shot the videos in our office over two days, including an interview segment and a B-roll “real life action” portion.

The last time I experienced anything remotely like this was when I was in Glamour a zillion years ago, and before that when I would occasionally appear on camera for a wedding website I worked for.

So aside from that handful of times, I am not accustomed to anything even in the same realm as a life of fame. In all these cases, though, I can tell you immediately the best part: Having someone else do my hair and makeup.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. But there’s something about being able to completely put the stress of looking a certain way in someone else’s hands that puts a girl at ease.

Here are three beauty lessons I learned whilst being a star*:

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Let’s all take a minute to acknowledge how perfect my hair looks. That stylist was gooooood.

1. It is really nice having someone else fluff your hair for you.
I like big hair, and I cannot lie. Unfortunately, while I have enough hair to knit you a sweater with (what?), it is so painfully straight that volume is always a bit of a struggle.

BUT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THAT IN THIS VIDEO. And do you know why? Because a professional hairstylist made a point of fluffing and smoothing between almost every take. So, basically, it looked perfect every second.

A girl could get used to that.

2. It is really nice having someone else do your ponytail.
I know what you’re thinking: “Justine, isn’t the ponytail like the easiest hairstyle to do ever?”

Uh, yeah, sure. If you want to look like an amateur. The angle of your pony combined with the proper combing and backcombing to get the required amount of height and bounce is anything but child’s play.

But when you have a pro armed with (what else?) a Mason Pearson Boar-Bristle Brush? Instant magic.

3. It is really nice having someone else monitor how shiny your face is and correct it regularly.
Real talk: I have an oily T-zone. This is something I am moderately insecure about, and by the end of the day, if I haven’t taken very careful precautions, you could borrow my forehead the next time your slip-and-slide tears on a hidden rock.

The point is, at least a couple times a day I’m either re-powdering may face or, at the very least, dabbing it with a napkin or piece of toilet paper to soak up any slickness. But when you have a professional makeup artist keeping watch? I get those seconds of my life BACK, you guys. And I don’t even need to think twice about shine.

So basically, yeah, I could get used to this.

And before you even ask (family), I MIGHT share the videos when they’re done. Unless I look/sound stupid. So, what I’m saying is, no promises.

*Bahahahahahaaaaaaa yeah right.

Living in New York City, it can cost a lot to look the way you want. Stylists are more expensive, manicures are more mandatory, and there’s almost always something going on that you want to dress up for. And while I’m all for maintaining my style, I hate feeling like I’m spending money on something that is ultimately going to grow out or wash away. Recently, though, I’ve started relying on three products that not only contribute to my beauty routine, but also save me money. Win-win, right?

For those of you also interested in saving money and saving face (and hair), I figured I’d share my round-up. Enjoy!

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Dollar Shave Club*
Hopefully my (very few) male readers haven’t already glazed over and abandoned this post, but the first thing on the list is something for ladies and gentlemen. My brother was the first person to introduce me to The Dollar Shave Club, and I have to admit, he has good ideas sometimes. Not only is this club MUCH cheaper than shelling out for a new Venus razor every few weeks, it’s also more convenient (razor heads come to you!). And because it’s cheaper and mailed direct, you will actually change your razor every week like you are supposed to. HYGIENE!

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Clairol Shimmer Lights Purple Shampoo
My brunette readers can skip ahead to the next product rec — this one is all about my blondies. You know how a few weeks after you get highlights, that magical, bright ashy blonde starts to fade into something more…orange? (The technical term is “brassy,” but we ALL know what that really means.) If you’re already spending hundreds a year to keep your hair the color of the sun, the last thing you want is to simply wash it all down the drain. LITERALLY.

This shampoo helps stop that. I think I’m actually the last person on the planet to “discover” it, but just in case, here you go. Get a bottle tout de suite. It’s less than $10, and it really, truly works, so you really have no excuse not to.

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Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray
All right, fellas, you can officially move on. (Probably.) This product is only beneficial for those of us who wear makeup — make the choice for yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started actually investing in the beauty products I buy (instead of just grabbing the cheapest thing at Walgreens). The result: Better makeup and better skin. Also? A more sizeable bite out of my budget. So if I’m going to spend more money, I want to make sure the look is going to last. And last. And last. That’s why I was so thrilled to discover this little miracle worker in the Sephora checkout line. Not only does it set your makeup, it actually helps keep your face from getting shiny by the end of the day. And it REALLY works — just ask my (formerly) slick T-zone.

So there you have it. What are your favorite products to prolong your look?

*Affiliate link…if that bothers anyone.

I am a terrible liar.

I’ve said this before. Even when my deception is for a good cause (like planning my parents’ surprise 25th anniversary party, for instance), I’m still unable to fib with any conviction.

In a way, this strongly affects my stance on beauty.

Am I the only one who often finds herself doubting a certain beauty decision because she views it as a lie? I’m not talking about covering a pimple or two — I mean flat out turning yourself into something you’re not. (A la this.)

We all know I fully own to being a medium-maintenance gal, but my motto when it comes to any style enhancements is always that I want to be the best version of myself. I highlight my hair, but the first words out of my mouth to my stylist are, “I want it to look natural.” I’ve spent hours of my life seeking the perfect foundation, concealer, and nude lip colors. Even so, I rarely wear much makeup unless it’s a special occasion. It took me years to feel comfortable with manicures because I used to hate the look of colors on my finger nails. (Total disclosure: I still get painfully self-conscious about bright shades after a day or two.)

The line gets blurred when my best version deviates sharply from what I might currently have, like those pretty blonde locks currently inhabiting my noggin.

When you pride yourself on being a genuine human being, it can feel like a betrayal of self to adopt any disingenuous beauty habit.

I dread the question, “Is that your real…?” when I know the honest answer is “nope!” It’s a big part of why, as much as I wouldn’t be mad if parts of my body woke up different sizes or shapes tomorrow, I don’t think I would ever take surgical action to make them change — I’d still be the person I am, and being anything else feels a little bit like cheating.

Fortunately, in most cases, I’m not embarrassed when someone “catches” me faking it. When it comes to my hair, I actually like discussing the myriad things we find to do to those poor strands of dead protein on our heads. And, honestly, I’m not really ashamed to admit that at some point in my life I’ve had fake nails, a fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake eye color (this one is on my mom — she wanted to see what my eyes would look like really green), and even fake hair (anyone else remember those faux hair scrunchies you used to be able to buy at Claire’s to create a messy bun in a snap? …anyone?).

The point is, I try not to take beauty too seriously. At it’s most intense, it’s meant to be a form of expression and experimentation. (And these under-eye circles that seem to have taken up residence on my face aren’t going to hide themselves.) But I never want to become someone who feels like she needs to look like something or someone else to be happy.

So spill: Am I the only one who stresses about turning into a big, ol’ phony? I mean, I’m not exactly getting Real Housewife casting calls yes, so I’m probably fine, but y’all know I love when we share neuroses.

- As I’ve mentioned before, we recently hired a dog walker to give Bogey a break around lunch time. And, you guys? I can’t say enough good things about the company. They are prompt, responsive, and incredibly nice. Whenever our usual walker (Emily) has to miss a day, she always arranges for someone else to come take care of our boy. Plus, getting a text every afternoon about how he’s doing is the best. I especially like when she includes a photo.

This week’s Bogey adventure? We’re attempting to let him hang out in the living room during the day instead of the bathroom. There’s more space for him to move about, and it’s cooler now that the weather is getting warm. The downside is that there’s also more for him to get into, but we’ve been leaving him out for an hour or so at a time with success, so hopefully he continues to just chew his toys and not our stuff.

- My hair is FAMOUS.

- I don’t have any good updates for my Spring Simplification List, but I do have updates on the meal planning!

For the last week and a half, Joey has been a dinner machine, and the results have been pretty great so far. He feels more organized because he doesn’t have to think of things to make every night and already has shopping lists pre-written, and I feel better because I’m helping and lists are involved. Win-win!

So far, the best dinners he has made have been the Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza (which he made on tortillas) and the Shrimp, Leek, and Spinach Pasta. You guys. That pasta. If I ever had any doubts about marrying Joey, that dinner wiped them all away. So. Good.

Up this week is a stovetop avocado mac and cheese we’re both pretty excited about. I’ll let you know how it goes. (And if you have any good simple/healthy-ish dinner recipes to share, we’re all ears! Leave a comment below.)

That’s all she wrote, folks. What’s going on with you?