Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Oscar YAWN Dresses

Okay, I know I am late to the party. Everyone has already been on about it for a few days now, and that’s fine. But you’re just going to have to put up with it one more time….from me.

Oscar Dresses.

You know, I wasn’t even going to bother until I read the New York Times. They did an article on Oscar “fashion” that made the very astute observation that in this day and age of stylists, and the stylists-to-the-stylists of the stylists, the celebrity-paralyzing fear of widely – publicized best and worst-dressed lists have spurred a trend of anti-fashion, if you will, pressing the throngs of stylists into playing it safe with their clients. They cited the “Old Hollywood” look as the go-to look that is in play currently, and that the creativity, risk-taking, and the sometimes venturing a bit over the edge of Oscar fashion of Days Gone by (think Cher in her Bob Mackie) are a thing of the past, save for a likes of a brave few like Tilda Swinton (who the HF loves by the way). Behold some past examples.

Tilda Swinton in Haider Ackerman

In Christian LaCroix

New York Times,  I couldn’t agree with your stance more if it fell out of the sky, into my lap, and started to wiggle. And although I did not watch the live show (Scotland people, that's a nine hour time difference), I realized after my internet viewing that it is this same red carpet, stylist-dependent boredom that made me feel like I, who love all things fashion, did not want to even bother blogging about the Oscar dresses. The irony is that there was no shortage of couture on the Oscar carpet. Emma Stone looked like she was being swallowed whole by her Giambattista Valli.

First, it wraps itself around your neck.
 Then,  every time you exhale, it squeezes
just a little tighter until you pass out.
Love the colour though.

Michelle Williams looked positively lovely in her orange Louis Vuitton, albeit as usual,  I would have liked to see her push the envelope a wee bit more. Yes, a non-traditional color makes a splash (which she does well again and again), but now lets take it one step further and really make it yours. Make it different. Somehow this peplum just looked a little limpid to me. Maybe it’s a fabric thing. Maybe a few contrasting or enameled luxe bangles instead of the wee choker, the balance just is off somehow. Maybe just a big, crazy pair of earrings and a cocktail ring. And that clutch is a non-event. And that necklace is kind of disappearing….. Anyway.


 Indeed, when I look at these red carpet looks, I seem to find myself consistently dreaming up ways they could have just pushed it a little bit more; from a pretty dress into a point of view. I wish that they had been able to make us see who they are instead of who their stylists think they are.  Basically, I want them to make it into fashion. I mean, this is the Oscars and they are in the entertainment industry.  If there was ever a time to bust out your most forward-looking, check-out-this-crazy-ass-but-luxuriously-fab-dress, its there. Uta Haugen would have called it Changes of Self, for you actor-y types….to take on a different feeling/persona when you change your clothes or costume. I would think that we would expect more from our actors. (Do it for Uta, actors. Do it for Uta). But instead, we get the same Old Hollywood Glamour. Okay, we get it. You’re a serious actress/singer/musician/model/whatever. You want everyone to respect you for your craft. You want to be pretty. But when I look at this…

Stacy Keibler in Marchesa.
Great fit. Lovely cut. Old Hollywood hair.

I think “oh, ..thats nice…what a nicely-cut pretty ZZZzzzzzz.” And then my husband usually has to elbow me in the ribs and I will jolt awake and wipe the drool off my chin. (I have this particular issue with Stacy Keibler of late, who in her recent appearances with The Clooney, is looking more and more like she has been manufactured in a lab. The same one that puts the little gold wrappers on the Rolo candies, by the looks of things).

Now look at this.

Again in Haider Ackerman.
Old Hollywood elements of satin and chiffon
and yet.....different.
Love the hair.

See? Just that wee bit different. Elegant, pretty color, but you could hardly call her cookie-cutter. You might accidentally call her David Bowie with that hair, but still.

Anyway. I would be remiss if I did not also give this next topic a mention. I give you, exhibit A. The Thing Everybody Was Talking About.

Booo-ring.  Yes, it is a lovely Versace dress, and that split makes it just a wee bit special.  But its just a split skirt, people. Hell, that is a dress that I would probably bring with me on a cruise ship. Nice and flowy and easy to walk in, and you can eat yourself stupid at the midnight buffet and not have to worry about it. But seriously, for the Oscars? I know that Branjolina like their neutrals, that they have that same fashion aesthetic as a granite and stainless steel kitchen from last month’s Architechtural Digest…all smooth, cold, and sharp. And they look fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but can you imagine what that dress would have looked like in a deep teal, scarlet, fuschia, or, if you really want to be a slave to the latest red carpet trend, yellow? I’m sure Donatella would have been happy to do this in a color. I mean for goodness sake, we know what else Signora V is capable of.

Take me to your leader. 

Oh NO you di-int!
Versace Spring Couture

I rest my case. Also, we need to for cryin' out loud talk about that leg. That leg made it necessary for her to pose all night long in a sort of awkward, leggy-sticky-outy-way that looks like it may be gearing-up for a phosphate enema.

That's great Angie, hows about giving us a
few more poses for the folks at home?

Oh! Okay...great. How about something more casual?
Try playing with it....have fun. Just pretend I'm not here...

Okaaaaay. Great. Yeah...I can really see
what you did with your hair that time.

If you, like me, found this even remotely amusing, do check out this link. Apparently this has gone viral on the internet. Quality. 

So. Who got it right? Well, on that , I can agree with the majority.

The Winner.
Bring it Gwyneth..... Bring. It. 

Gwynnie in her Tom Ford looked amazing. She has just the right build for this dress, and love or hate the cape part, it really is different, but still elegant, if not just a wee bit retro. Totally Tom Ford. Who, in case you are just tuning-in, the Highland Fashionista loves. So well done Gwyneth! You look amazing. The Highland Fashionista commends your cape. It is the cape of royalty, and you do have that regal aura about you. It may have been controversial for some, not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has a definite point of view.  It’s fashion. Go girl. I'm sorry, Go Your Highness. Work it.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zen and the Art of Getting Ready

The Highland Fashionista would like to issue a stern caution to all of her readers that you should never, ever, ever be seen in public looking the way she does right now. 

Look away! I'm hideous!
And that, of course, is why she has posted a photo of it on her blog over the internet. I like to think of it as "taking one for the team". You're welcome.

And yes, that is a shower cap on my head. I think I stole it form the Baobab Hotel in Gran Canaria. I am deep conditioning my hair.

And yes, you're right, it looks like I am leaning back on my heels. I have just painted my toenails.

Rimmel No. 391"Celebrity Bash"
A fantastic deep, classic red.

And probably the only reason you haven't gone blind from looking at my photo yet is because I am out of my favourite mud mask.

Fango Active Mud For Face and Body

Yes, that's right. The Highland Fashionista is getting ready. There is a dinner tonight. And I actually get to put on a pretty dress. And it is Saturday, and I am actually not working for a change, so the luxurious process of actually having enough time to put myself together properly has officially begun. 

I should note here, that the Highland Fashionista does not need an entire day to get herself ready to go out. I am the kind of girl who can get ready in five minutes if I have to. I think it is a great asset to be able to look like the type of gal who needs a full day to get ready without actually being one of those gals. Because let's face it. Those gals are a pain in the ass. 

No, we're talking strictly about the luxury of taking the time here, not the necessity of it. And lets be honest, Real Gals, who amongst us actually has the time or the inclination to spend all darn-tootin' day with cucumbers on our eyes reclining in the bath just to go out to dinner? The reality is, I have been doing laundry. Or more accurately, I have been locating and pairing socks that my husband washed earlier in the week but his man-genes prevented him from pairing or folding them. I  cleaned the kitchen, and had a nice workout. Not with the conditioner on, I hasten to add. I think that might be dangerous. Now I have toenail polish on. and I have picked what I will wear tonight. 

Thakoon Black Silk Plunge Back Dress
Fall 2011 ready to wear
Photos Thakoon & Rent the Runway

I have been absolutely drooling to wear my Thakoon black dress for a while now. It was an investment piece, and I will take it with me to the grave. I love how drape-y the front is, and the back has a faux butt-bow (shout out 80s!) that just sort of grows out of the fabric, and has just enough volume to look elegant. Too dressy for the occasion? Maybe. Probably. But I so don't care. As much as I love the runway look of the dress with tall boots, I thought that might be a bit much for the event, so I am planning on pairing it with my Kelsi Dagger open-toe booties to keep it from being too dressy-dressy and adding a little edge. 

Kelsi Dagger Karina booties
I got them on blueffly.com a while back

Hair either in a half-updo or loose bun, and minimal jewellery. I'm thinking a cocktail ring and studs, and that's it!

And one last thing. If you, like me, do find yourself with the luxury of having the time to get ready ahead of time, think about your exit strategy. Your fashion exit strategy, that is. Somebody may very well come to the door, or pop-round' as they do here in my small town. My plan is to rip the shower cap off my head, pull the hair back all slick, and make like I just finished my workout minutes ago. Not sure how I will explain the greasy, nutty smell emanating from my head, but with any luck, I won't have to. 

25/2/2012 UPDATE:


Want to try some of my stuff?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cheap Thrills

Okay, I admit that the title was meant to draw your attention. but since so much attention is paid to the elements of luxury and exclusivity in the fashion world, I thought it would be prudent to visit the other end of the spectrum. In other words, cheap stuff that you can get easily and without mortgaging your home. And so, with no further ado and in no particular order, I give you the Highland Fashionista's Top Five Cheap Thrills Beauty Picks (from on both sides of the pond). 

Lacura Body Lotion £1.39 ( UK ).
 This great all-purpose body lotion is available in your local Aldi store. It may very well also be available in the US , but in my experience, the Aldi stores in Europe and the ones in the USA are quite different indeed. Lacura lotion certainly did not hold any allure in the packaging department. Although certainly not offensive to look at, it also did not jump out at me, begging me to notice it there, hidden amongst the other bottles and sprays. In fact, I think my husband was actually the person who brought it home for the first time. We had been on a sunny holiday, and were as scaly as hell in its aftermath. He apparently had read a great review online (yes, my husband, the big, tough lifeboat captain, was reading reviews of lotions online….that is certainly a testament to how very scaly our post-holiday selves must have been). The lotion itself is indeed a bargain. Although quite thick and a wee bit difficult to rub in at first, it soaks in after a few minutes, and leaves a lingering softness that lasts all day. I am not crazy about the smell…..that sort of powdery, little old lady smell that they seem to dump into everything that is not either “cucumber”, “citrus”, or “flower”. But the scent wears off quickly, and the effectiveness of the result is undeniable. They make a sensitive version of this as well. Although it is much easier to rub in and does not have the Little Old Lady smell, it is also not nearly as moisturizing. I usually have both options in the house, saving the regular version for winter and post holiday-sun scales, and keeping the sensitive for the rest of the year when a quick slap-coat will do just fine.

Lacura lotion

Pacifica Solid Perfume $9.00 ( USA ) £8-10 ( UK ).  I have always been a fan of Pacifica perfume. The company creates delicious scents out of natural and essential oils, and puts them in a small, easy-to-carry, soy and beeswax base that is about the size of a lipgloss. These are GREAT for travelling, as they hold-up well and the scent is light and very layerable. I am currently using grapefruit as one of my warm-weather vacation scents. Check them out at the Pacifica Perfume website, and you can see the full range of scents. They are also carried at Sephora and QVC.  If you are in the UK or elsewhere, a google search will bring up various vendors that sell the product. A must-have for the savvy travelling gal.

Brazilian Mango, another favourite

 Cover Girl Remarkable Washable Waterproof Mascara $4.99 ( USA ). I have reviewed this mascara in a previous post, so I will not dwell, but as products go, this mascara is the dog’s bullocks. The above quoted price is from Drugstore.com’s US website. I did find this mascara available on the web in the UK , and they wanted £13.99 for it! That’s almost $20 to you American readers, and that, officially, does not qualify as a cheap thrill, but I digress.


Waitrose Pure Moisturizing Body Wash £1.94 ( UK ). The clean design of the bottle was what drew me in at first. I know, I’m a sucker that way. A graphic design sucker.  But I was equally sucked in by the low price. Pure body wash is one of those less is more products that is free of just about everything other than what it needs to do its job. In other words, it is completely free of any dye or perfume. And unlike many of the other less is more products that I have tried over the years, this body wash is super gentle, in and out of the shower. I often find with “natural” products that even when they feel lovely when I am using them, I often exit the shower to overly-dry skin, frizzy hair, etc. This did none of those things. If feels gentle when you are using it, and does not dry out your skin. I even started using it on my face when I realized how gentle it was, and will probably buy more as it is a fantastic multitasking product. Granted, you will not be surrounded in a cloud of lovely-smelling suds with this one. Actually, you won’t be smelling of anything at all. So if smelling amazing right out of the shower is important to you, you may want to look elsewhere. But what it lacks in aromatherapy, it more than makes up for in simple, gentle effectiveness. You can always add your scent with your lotion. Or whatever else it is that you wish to smell of on any given day. Insert your own joke here. 

Waitrose Pure products

CQ Eyeshadow $about two dollars ( USA ). I purchased a single CQ eyeshadow in Charcoal Frost about two years ago at Wal Mart when I was home visiting my parents. It was really not so much of a conscious choice as it was that it just happened to be one of the only single charcoal-colored eyeshadows in the whole shop. But what a happy accident it was! I still use this eyeshadow almost every day, usually to set my liquid liner and/or soften the edges a bit and smoke out my lashline. The formulation is smooth, the pigment even and intense, the color lasts all day and doesn’t turn all yellowy, and because of the elegant formulation, the amount of product lasts a really long time. Mine is two years old and has only a small to midsize dent in it. This stuff  is a serious bargain. I think I paid under three US dollars for this two years ago. 
CQ single eyeshadow, how I love thee.

Caveat alert. I just did an online search for CQ eyeshadow, and even though the company still has a website up and running, I cannot seem to find any product for sale over the internet. Historically, they sold at Wal Mart and Rite Aid, but neither of these retailers seem to have this product in stock, at least in their online stores. Could it be that the Evil Beauty Product Discontinuation Fairy has paid a visit (like she always does when we find products that we like)? Alas, because I don’t live in the US , I can’t just go in to the shop and check. But you can. Have a look the next time you are in. If they have it, by all means, give it a go. And by all means, let the Highland Fashionista know where it is available. Especially if you live in the greater Minneapolis area. The Highland Fashionista has family there who can smuggle her some eyeshadow out of the country. Seriously, it’s that good.

Want to try some of my stuff? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Quick-Fix Guide to Stylish Travel for Real Gals

I took a road trip with my husband a few days ago. Nothing fancy. He had some work to do in a few neighboring towns, and I went along with for the ride. A wee night away in a coastal town.. why not? And, despite the inclement weather (it is Scotland in February, after all), it was indeed quite a ride.

 on the way to Tighnabruich, Scotland

Why is it that you can never capture the depth of natural scenery on your digital camera? Or is that just me? But I digress.

As I was packing my overnight bag for the trip, I found myself reaching for the things in my closet that I have only recently come to understand are my go-tos. My anti-uniform uniform. The things that I wear in different situations that make me feel like me. Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us possess things we wear when we want to look cute, but not too cute as to be twee, and that look like you made an effort, but not, of course,  by trying too hard, all the while making a nod to the fact that you have a vague idea of who you are and what fashion is, but without looking like a victim of trends, but yet still working the occasional trend into your style and making it your own…..I think you get the idea. 

If you’re like me, your closet certainly has no shortage of stuff. You may, in fact, have the opposite of a shortage of stuff (a plethora? A deluge? Stuff coming out your ears?)  So really it is a matter of deciding upon which stuff works best for whatever you are embarking on. As one who has travelled extensively, both for work and for pleasure, I cannot stress enough the importance of making the most of one’s stuff when travelling. And so, with this sentiment in mind, the Highland Fashionista will now share with the universe, her favorite ways in which she likes to make use her stuff while travelling.

The colder climate (and possibly rainy) small-town break. Might as well start with something that is close to home (for me, anyway). These past few days, and well, every day if you live in a small Scottish town, I need something that is comfortable, that will go in and out of cars easily, and that isn’t too dressed-up, yet nice enough to go into a casual restaurant or pub. This was my look for my 2 day trip with my husband.

Skinny jeans by New Look
J Crew Perfect Fit Tee

J Crew Merino Cardigan in Taupe
Cropped Pea Coat by Guess

Clarks Asymmetric Ankle Booties

LL Bean Town and Field Tote
Links of London Silver Bracelet
Movado Watch

This is my go-to foundation wardrobe for, well, just about everything I do. My Being A Human Being Wardrobe. Skinny jeans, a long tank or tee with a more fitted or cropped cardigan layered over the top, and either heeled or flat, very walkable, short or tall boots. Cropped pea coat if it is cold, large leather tote bag, and simple accessories that you can wear every day. Maybe I’ll bring different accessories if the trip is longer than one or two days (but probably not). J. Crew makes lovely and durable thin merino and cashmere cardigans in amazing colors and prints, and I am well on my way to a very serious collection. I also like to add a pop of color from underneath by adding a fun tank or tee (try J Crew or H & M). You can literally go on a low-key 3-day weekend with one pair of jeans, one cardi, and three pairs of undies and tee shirts and feel quite comfortable doing so.  If you are going to be doing a lot of outdoor dodging about, and it is properly raining, I might exchange the pea coat for a lined trench with a hood. If I know that there may be a slightly more dressy night, add in a pair of heels or a lovely jacket and camisole.

The warm-climate casual beachy break. This is the one that gets people. Think about what you need. I mean, what you really need on a beach holiday. There are more people lugging HUGE suitcases for casual beach holidays than anywhere else I’ve ever travelled. The last time my husband and I went to the Canary Islands for some sun, this couple at the airport had bacon in their carry-on. Bacon. In their suitcase. Actual bacon. And although I would like to publicly thank that bacon-loving couple for the comic relief (Easy Jet from Prestwick to Fuerteventura in December! You know who you are!), I certainly hope that they did not meet with any unfortunate gastrointestinal illnesses from eating jet-fuel scented bacon that has spent an inordinate amount of time stuffed in a hot, cramped suitcase in the overhead compartment of a DC-9. But if they did, I suppose that is the universe telling us all that thou shalt not eat bacon that thou hast smuggled on Easy Jet. 

So....here are some (non-bacon) things that you do NOT need on a beach holiday: hair straighteners, (if there was ever a time to be natural, this is it!), green eyeshadow, fake lashes, acrylic nails, platform stilettos (think wedges and heeled sandals instead), or more than a few easy to manage pairs of shoes (including flip-flops!). You need sunscreen, lots of it. Bathing suits. At least two, more if your trip is longer than a week. For clothes, count how many nights you will be out and about and plan your outfits to that number, no more. Okay. Maybe one more, (sometimes it’s nice to have a backup), but no more than one. I tend to favor boho and preppy-inspired looks for warmer weather, depending on the vacation.  And finally, you will need bathing suit cover-ups. I like maxi dresses, because they are easy to wear, and you are instantly dressed. Properly dressed. You can go into a restaurant straight from the beach and look dressed.  You can also use them at night as well (hence lowering your outfit count in your suitcase), and layer one of your many J. Crew cardigans (or a boyfriend blazer, or a motorcycle jacket) over the top if it gets cold at night.

Thakoon Maxi Dress (from fall 2012 collection.....I pre-ordered this one...I just HAD to have it!)

I also favour tunic-style tops and shirt dresses.  Longer tunics can work as a cover-up, but they all look really cute and vacation-y with shorts or minis, or even over jeans with a pair of wedge sandals for casual evenings out. Shirt dresses are great for casual evenings, as they can be as casual or as dressed as your shoe choice (again, wedges and sandals people, wedges and sandals!),  and always look pulled-together.

LL Bean Signature Shirtdress

Michael Kors Tunic

And a note to all erstwhile beach goers of the universe! There is nothing worse than having to wait at a busy restaurant while looking at the backside someone in front of you who is either still half-naked and dripping wet, shirtless, barefoot, or any combination thereof. Again, nobody is expecting art, this is a beach holiday, after all. Just for goodness sake get dressed, people are eating! If you want to get all fancy, bring some kick-ass boho accessories to liven your look.

The warmer/cold climate city break.  Again, see aforementioned shirt dresses above for day in a warm climate. Comfy to wear, looks good on everyone. Layer-on tights, boots, cardigans, or a pullover to make it work for a colder climate. An awesome coat that will not slow you down is essential in cold weather. I tend to stick to traditional wool coats in interesting cuts or colors, as they translate from dressy to casual better than parkas or fur.

Your shoe choice will inform your level of dressiness. Walkable shoes are a must. Let me rephrase that…walkable shoes that are not running shoes, hiking boots, or the like are a must.

Check out Sofft, Aerosoles, and Bjorn, just to name a few. There are many places where, if you decide to nip in at the end of a day for the cocktail hour, you may be denied admittance if you are wearing sneakers. I know this seems old-fashioned, but it is true. It even happened to a friend of mine in Cleveland once. Cleveland...in Ohio... I know, right!?  It was just by virtue of the fact that the rest of us must have been displaying a more “acceptable”  footwear-to-fashion ratio that we were admitted despite her clearly very offensive sneakers…So. Leave the running shoes for the morning run (and the baseball cap too, while we’re at it.). When the sun sets, its time to wear the Big Girl Shoes.



 For your city break night look, depending on your destination, a cocktail dress or a dressy pair of jeans paired with a blazer, heels, and killer accessories may be appropriate. No matter the climate, this really depends on what city you are in. But it is always a better feeling to be a bit overdressed than under. You can always take your jacket off or carry flats in your handbag if you’re worried. But once you have made the sweatpants commitment….well.

And yes, you may bring your hair straightener, faux lashes, and the like on a city break. The Highland Fashionista personally does not have the patience to use a hair straightener, but she has seen firsthand the magic that they can bring, and therefore concedes that it may be an essential item in a lot of suitcases. Just for God’s sake don’t burn the place down.

The Cruise.  Grab the big suitcase for this one Real Gals. All bets are off! This is the one opportunity that you may have this season to put all of those luxury purchases that don’t get a lot of play-time on display. Though there seem to be an increasing number of casual cruise lines out there, traditionally, there are two formal nights on board a cruise line on a week-long cruise. Go nuts. Tastefully nuts, though, of course, not Bai Ling topless-photo-opportunity-nuts. The Highland Fashionista likes to put one full-length gown and one shorter, slightly less dressy one in her bag in anticipation of these formal nights.

Zac Posen


Again, depending on where you are cruising to, you will need to count the days (or nights) remaining (after your formal nights)  that you will need an outfit and pack accordingly. Like with the beach holiday, choose things that are multifunctional and can go from day to night. I tend to favour shift dresses at night, as they are easy to wear, take up little space,  look good with a tan, and are a great way to showcase killer shoes.

Diane Von Furstenburg

Manolo Blahnik

Other necessary items: bathing suits (unless it is an Alaska cruise), cover-ups that multitask (again, no wet, shirtless, soggy bums in the Lido buffet, please! People are eating!), and your most adventurous footwear! You are in a controlled environment! No cabs, no subway grates! Limited walking distance and elevators everywhere! Yes, the ship may move (it’s a ship), but think of it as a challenge. You will get good at it. And of course, bring as many of your favorite accessories as you can handle.  The beauty of the cruise is, you can call upon the aforementioned guidelines of beach holidays and city breaks for your various ports of call, and only have to unpack once!

So whether you are just heading out for some weekend shopping, a city-break getaway, or a few weeks in a far-flung locale, if you find yourself staring helplessly into your closet of stuff before your next trip, remember these small tips. These are, after all,  the clothing staples that have seen the Highland Fashionista through many an exotic locale.  And, of course, Cleveland too.