Sunday, September 16, 2012

discount code

Can anyone tell me how to make this a 'permenantly on top' post?  Is that what permalink does?

Normally, I use retailmenot as my primary resource for discount codes, but sometimes, certian stores are not allowing RMN to post codes anymore.  So, I'll try to add codes I come across THERE, but if I can't, I'll post them here & update the labels so you can find them.  If you attempt to use one that is expired, please post a comment so I can remove it from the list.  Thank You.

Karmaloop blndsundoll4mj saves 15% off first purchase  AW12STYLE01 for 80 of 300 purchase MIDSEASON30US for 30% off sale

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mac Pro Scuplting Cream

I'm not normally one to be a slave to MAC's releases, but I happened to stumble across their Face and Body release last week.
I ordered 2 pro-sculpting creams (then later picked up a 3rd at the store), and the 163 brush.

The 3 PSC's that I got were Copper Beech, Coffee Walnut, and Richly Honed.
Copper Beech is a very yellow/orangy based color.
Coffee Walnut is more of a green based brown
Richly honed looks somehow like a red based brown with yellow (?)
Supposedly these dry to a powder finish.

I was torn about which colors to get because I also have a Cover FX 'kit' that has several different color browns that I could use for contouring.  But I managed to convince myself I 'needed' these MAC ones because they dried to a powder finish - which will look better on my oily skin.

For reference, the skin on my wrist is about NC42.

Here are the swatches of the MAC Pro Sculpting Creams:
(Richly Honed, Coffee Walnut, Copper Beech)

Here they are again, with the comparable Cover FX creams swatched in between.  There were only 2 comprables in the Cover Fx kit.  I didn't bother comparision swatching the yellow one (which I believe to be B0).  The two that I did swatch were (what I believe to be): B25, B45. Unfortunately when you get this Cover FX kit, they don't label the colors of the cream foundations included :(
(As swatched on arm, left to right: Richly Honed, Cover FX B25, Coffee Walnut, Cover FX B45, Copper Beech

I then blended them out lightly with the brush, so you can see how they blend.  I'm sure they could have been blended out much more sheerly.

In my opinion, if you already have the Cover FX kit in B, you don't need the MAC in Copper Beech - the 2 colors I swatched could be blended to make the perfect dupe for CB.  The other 2 colors: Coffee Walnut (more 'ashen' undertone) and Richly Honed (more brick-red undertone) are not found in the Color FX kit.

Then, I waited 20 minutes to see if there was a difference in the finish (you know how the MAC's suppposedly dry-to-powder-finish...) there was no difference in finish (I didn't powder them).  So, I wiped them a few times with a dry paper towel to see if there was a difference in staying power.  Here were my results:

I purchased all these products myself.
You can purchase the Cover FX kit for $75 in several shade options from either Sephora or the (skinstore usually has specials.  If they're not currently having a special, use the code: SSM76001 to save 10%).  The brushes in the two kits are different, but honestly after getting the kit from Sephora specifically for that brush.  It makes no difference, I have to use a sponge to put on their cream foundations.

You can purchase the MAC products on their website, or in a store near you.

About the CoverFX kits (the middle color is the biggest portion):
(Note: NC42 is an M80 in Cover FX.  In the summer when I'm tan in my face, I wear B15.)
 * B Series - shades of golden brown to ebony (contains B0, B25, B45)
* C Series - shades with primarily pink undertones. (contains C10, C40, C80)
* E Series - shades with a balance of pink and yellow. (contains E0, E30, E80)
* M Series - shades with yellow and/or olive undertones. (contains M20, M40, M80)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Authentic Pre-Owned Designer Items  <--has been accused of poor customer service, accused of sometimes selling fakes <--malleries will some times have same EXACT items @ diff prices  <---has been accused of selling fakes, yoogi's will some times have same EXACT items @ diff prices

and a good link for identifying fake Chanel's:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

reference of measurements dimensions of similar sized/shaped bags

Alexander Wang Mini Rocco:          12"L,    9.5"D,   8.5" H (strap is standard)
Louis Vuitton Speedy 30:                 12"L,    6"D,       8"H (avail w strap as bandolier style)
Balenciaga (incl Giant) Part Time:   17"L,    7"D,      8.5"H (strap is standard)
Louis Vuitton Speedy 35:                 13.75"L,    7"D,      11"H (avail w strap [for extra $] as bandolier style)
Balenciaga (incl Giant) City:            15"L,    5.5"D,    9.5"H (strap is standard)
Balenciaga (incl Giant) Work:          18"L,    8"D,      10.5"H (does not come w shoulder strap)

And some of the more popular designer footwear/shoe sizing/fit

Vera Wang- TTS (wide)
Casadei - TTS
D&G- down 1/2-1 size
Rene Caovilla- up 1/2 size (run small)
Chanel- runs small
Gucci- true to size
Dior- runs small by 1/2 size
Prada- TTS (if open toe/ open back); otherwise up 1/2 to 1 size
- others say true to size
- male: run larger, go 1/2-1 size smaller
Costume National- TTS to1/2 size bigger
Christian Louboutin - Narrow
Burberry - TTS
YSL Rive Gauche- TTS but very narrow
Gucci- long and narrow depending on style; closed toe- run smaller; sandals - TTS
Chloe: run 1/2 big
Tods- all over the place
Chanel- TTS
Sergio Rossi: run big (up 1/2 size)
Salvatore Ferragamo - TTS, narrow
Stuart Weitzman - TTS, Narrow
Emporio Armani: TTS
Louis Vuitton: TTS, sneakers run big; pumps- go half a size up
Vivienne Westwood- runs 1/2 size large
Jimmy Choo- run narrow; half a size small
Michael Kors- slightly narrow
Blahnnik- narrow & 1/2 small
Valentino - TTS
Versace - TTS
Zac Posen - TTS 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Discount Online Shopping

Yes, I get it.  I'm supposed to be 'not shopping as much.'  But, I have to be honest, I still do sometimes.  That said, I AM still trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have & build a capsule (-esque) wardrobe.  So, I'm looking for high-quality staples... and not interested in spending original retail for most of it.  Actually, I almost NEVER pay full price for stuff.  And I've found usually I can save the most by shopping online.  So, sometimes I'll try something on in a store, or find an item I like in the store... and (on the spot) use my phone to see if I can get it for less online.  Usually I can.  In fact, I RARELY buy something before comparison shopping.

- First, I always check my 'cash back' site to see if I can get any money back through them.  These sites work in that you set up an account, then you search for whatever store you're going to be shopping at & click the link. Then buy through that link.  To make sure I'm getting the money back (I get distracted looking @ products in new windows)... what I do is get my whole cart together at a website.   THEN, when I'm absolutely sure I'm ready to check out, I go through Mr. Rebates to actually make my purchase.  The % back does NOT come off your purchase directly, instead will show up in your Mr. Rebates account 90 days later.  Then you can request a paypal deposit (or check mailed to you).  In about 2 years, I've received over $600 back (!).  I used to comparison shop here too (checking ebates to see if they offer a higher percentage back).  But ebates was a let down for me,  they rarely offered as much rebate.  In 2 years I earned less than $2 at ebates, so I just closed that account down.

- Also, the other thing I do EVERY TIME I shop. I google for coupons.  Usually, I find them at
RetailMeNot, Dealigg or CouponCabin.  RMN is my favorite, it's the most esthetically pleasing.

- I check these flash sale sites daily: (In Order To keep on my 'limited shopping', I will ONLY buy what I already have on my 'list' no matter HOW great a deal is... it can be hard to not get carried away by the sale).  There are others, but I've found these two to have higher-end items.
My Habit

HauteLook is also good sometimes, but they're kind of hit/miss - so I don't check them all the time.
Bluefly has some good deals sometimes too, but you have to sign up for their (millions of) emails, to get the best deals.  And with their ever-changing promotions, prices can fluctuate by up to 30% daily.

- And, the 'sale' section (which is not up year round) of SSense has yielded some AWESOME deals on high end & designer stuff.

**NOTE: regarding many of the shopping site links, I'm getting referral credit if you sign up through my links **

Sunday, August 26, 2012

List of Previous Friends and Family Sales

I've been clearing out my closet lately and in doing that (and with the whole "having fewer items of higher quality, that will be timeless" thing I've been on), I'm really looking forward to picking up a few things.

I have my (online) shopping bags waiting for Friend & Family sales, so I've done some online research for the prior history of F&F Sales at some of my favorite retailers.  These sales usually offer 20% off almost everything.  In case the past truly is indicative of what's to come in the future, I share with you:

Bloomingdales: End of March & End of September. 15% off early sept
Bergdorf Goodman: June (a sale, not a F&F)
Macy's: End of April & End of November
MyTheresa: August (but be advised, sometimes their prices are higher than other online retailers)
Neiman Marcus: Nope. But they do 'gift card' events (March,  [weekenders: Apr & May] August, Sep & [weekender: oct])
          Double Gift Card Event 16-19SEP (online only)
          Beauty Week 4SEP
          Last Call by NM has F&F Sales: End of March, Early December
Net-A-Porter: Nope. But big Semi-Annual sales: End of May & (?) and Seasonal Sales
Nordstrom: Nope. But 1/2 yearly (Mid Jun & End of Oct) & Anniversary Sales (End of July) are big.
(The) Outnet: Mid November  (and a birthday sale in April - SUPER sale. I mean that in everything is $3/however many years old they are - in dollars)
Saks 5th Avenue: End of April, Mid/End of October
Sephora: End of Apr/Early May & End of October (VIB discounts @ end of March, November - less  off than F&F)
ShopBop: Mid April & Mid October
Gap/Banana Republic/Piperlime: Mid March & Mid Nov

Or, chronologically:

March: Bloomies (VIB discount Sephora - usually less than F&F), Gap/BR/Piperlime
April: Macys, Outnet, Saks, Sephora
May: (late Apr) Sephora
June: June
July: Nordstrom Anniv.
Aug: MyTheresa
Sep: Bloomies
Oct: Saks, Sephora
Nov: Macys, Outnet, Gap/BR/Piperlime

If you know of any more, please comment & I will add.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

ellis faas - creamy lips L201

I cannot express to you my disappointment in ellis faas' creamy lips.

First, I originally heard of this through goss' youtube page - where he mention's how this line has "the perfect red."  So, I went to Ellis Faas' website, loved the color but not the price ($35US /25Euro), and passed.  About a month or so later, I discovered YSL's glossy stains (review here).  Once I justified the purchase price of the YSL GS, and still on the quest for the perfect red, I was able to justify the purchase price of the EF gloss.  So, the other day, while on Sephora's website, I saw they offered EF (this is new to Sephora, by the way), and ended up purchasing one.

I did a little research, decided on the shade & finish because I wanted something that wouldn't dry out my lips.  The shade is basically a universal vamp red.  L201.  It looks berry-ish on the applicator, but is just the perfect dark red. The formula is supposed to be creamy, opaque, and glossy without drying out your lips - it is.  This formula (Creamy Lips) has an applicator like a brush, so, first time, a lot gets wasted while you're priming the tube - not really a huge deal, all the lip products with a brush like this have the same issue. (The glob on the tissue is how much extra came out).  

So, my issue comes from me being spoiled by YSL.  The color of L201 is beeaauuttiiifffuuul. But, the staying power is non-existant.  Basically, if you put a fair amount on (to get the perfect color you've been dreaming of you're entire life) you can't move your mouth at all without it sliding off, and even worse, no stain is left behind.  So, I tried putting less on - the color was nothing exceptional. And even then, it wiped off completely too easily.  I just can't do it.  Can't justify the price for a great color that won't stay on long enough for anyone to see it.  I'm returning it.

PS: the packaging is pretty cool though - a thin silver bullet.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Skincare Review - GoldFaden Power Scrub

After a year or so of wanting to try this Goldfaden power scrub, I finally broke down & purchased the GoldFaden anti-acne kit through dermstore, specifically because (1) it allowed me to try a few GoldFaden products, and primarily because (2) it included this power scrub. 
Bottom Line Up Front: OUCH!
I'm NOT a sensitive skinned person and I loooove scrubs. But this really hurts.  Hurts so much, I think I'm going to return the whole kit (it is, afterall the reason I got the kit in the first place).
Since this is my first review, I'm going to use this to set up my future reviews... if you want me to add or delete some of these subtopics, let me know - my goal is to make this easier for ALL to use.

PRODUCT: GoldFaden Power Scrub
MANUFACTURER's DESCRIPTION: "..rivals in-office treatments & procedures.  Pure ruby crystals remove dulling skin cells, allowing antioxidant rich Red Tea to directly impact new skin cells for deep rejuvenation. This foaming cleanser, infused with seaweed extract and hyaluronic acid, improves the appearance of the skin."
USAGE :  Combine a liberal amount of scrub with warm water in palm and massage onto face in a circular motion 2-3 times weekly or as needed. Rinse with warm water to reveal radiant skin.  Ideal for Normal / Combination or oily skin. Combine a liberal amount of scrub with warm water in palm and massage onto face in a circular motion 2-3 times weekly or as needed. Rinse with warm water to reveal radiant skin.

HOW DOES IT FEEL:  Initially, the texture is superfine sand. Actually, the whole time, the texture is like superfine sand.  You add water & it's still superfine sand (no foaming action whatsoever).  So, you end up feeling like you're rubbing super-duper fine sand mixed with water on your face.  This, by the way, doesn't feel as good as it does when you're at the beach and you rub the superfine sand mixed with water on your elbows.
DOES IT WORK: Of course, if you rub sand on your face, it will feel exfoliated afterwards.  Mine was. And soft. Did I feel like I got some anti-oxidants infused in my face? No.
PROS:  Fine, it exfoliates.  And luckily for it, the granules are super small (no large shells or stone type exfoliating here).  Natural, no harsh chemicals.
CONS: Extremely harsh feeling. Doesn't foam (maybe I got a bad batch).
OVERALL:  As stated on the product website, This product is not recommended for dry or sensitive skin.  This is a super understatement.  I have oily, non-sensitive skin & I haven't even used any retinol in about a month & I was reluctant to continue scrubbing my face with this.  My skin felt smoother afterwards, but Dermalogica's Microfoliant leaves my skin feeling better (and I can adjust how granular it feels).
RETAIL PRICE: $98 USD for 1oz. (or get in a Red Tea Acne Solutions kit $65).  Websites like spalook & dermstore often have 20% off sales)
RECOMMENDED: Absolutely not.  Not even for free. I even dug out the packaging I'd already thrown in the trash because I'm sure I will be returning this. 

MY EXPERIENCE:  This little kit didn't come with directions, so I tried application too ways. First a small bit scooped out & applied to my damp face.  This was pretty painful, so I tried another method of attempting to make a 'paste' in my hand with water & product before applying to my face [this is what is described on the website].  Both ways felt like I was rubbing my face with the finest sandpaper on earth - something like a form of torture.  In my life, I've had a few semi-painful experiences: TCA peels, Laser Hair Removal, Bikini Wax & Natural Child Birth, but I'll you, I'd rather do any one of those things than rub this stuff on my face again.

This is what mine looked like (the actual powder):

UPDATE: I was unable to return this (because I waited too long after purchasing until I got around trying it), so I kept trying to make it work.  I can say, I still will not repurchase, but have found some ways to make it more tolorable.  First, use it while in the shower - I guess, because your hands and skin are SO WET, its doesn't feel quite as much like you're really trying to remove your entire epidermis in one fair swoop.  Second, and this is a BIIIIGGGG one for those of you who suffer from a small bit of psoriasis... I had a discolored patch on my leg that was flat, not too itchy, not bumpy, but darkened because of the extra skin cells still hanging around.  My cream was taking forever to make any change whatsoever.  So, I tried it on my leg while in the shower.  Not only did it not hurt, but using it every other day, made a visible difference within a week.  But, honestly, this is the only use I would recommend this for.  Body use only.

INGREDIENTS:  Ruby Crystals, Purified Water, Sodium laureth Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Seaweed Extracts, Butylene Glycol, Hyaluronic Acid, Red Tea Extract, Oil of Kumquat

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Beauty Test Tube March 2012

I just received my (spring?) New Beauty Test tube. I say spring with a ? because the issue I recieved is one I've seen on stands for a while now - with Eva Longoria: the Beauty Awards Issue (says Winter-Spring 2012).  I initially signed up for the program in February & this is my first installment.

Package includes magazine &
  • Smashbox photo finish primer (clear) (.25 oz)
  • Tarte pure maracuja oil (.23 oz) <--this is supposedly the 'new' argan oil. Does everything, good for everything/everyone.  First impression is that it smells a lot like my old mini-mouse perfume :)
  • Dr Brandt pores no more anti-aging mattifying lotion for oily combination skin (0.04oz)
  • Tarte Light Camera Lashes mascara mini
  • ProStrong Pro advanced fluoride nail strengthener (.25 oz)
  • Wen Fig cleansing conditioner (6 oz)
  • Philosophy inner grace shampoo, bath & shower gel (2 oz)
  • L'oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray (full size @ 11 0z) <--this is highly regarded in many mags as being one of the best... it'll be nice to see if it's just paid-for hype.
  • Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow pads (10 ct) <-- I've been wanting to try these
  • Pacifica Tahitian Gardenia Solid Perfume tin (.33 oz) <--smells like summer flowers & good memories
  • Dalton color creme lip gloss in Janie (.21 oz - appears FS) <--color is like a berry w/copper shimmer. Already on my down side because it appears to have a clear oil that has made its way to the screw on top & on my hands when I open it :( & it's in pot form...
  • Borghese restorative hydrating mud masque for face & body (1 oz)
Reviews to follow

Saturday, March 10, 2012

french style of timeless shopping

This is taken from a blog I really like (Dead Fleurette - which is now a new blog).  But this post, is a reprint from a different article ( Secrets of French Girls by Ellen Wallace).  Though written in 1982 (!) the advise is timeless.  I'm posting here because she changed to a new blog & I don't want to have her blog come down & I lose the post :(

Here is another post of hers that I love:
The Long Way to a Perfect Wardrobe, part 2

Now, the text from Dead Fluerette's blog... copied & pasted:
I stumbled across a very inspiring and intriguing article by Ellen Wallace in Cosmopolitan. French style and aesthetics = timeless. The article was written in August 1982. I didn't notice the year it was published until after reading it, because everything is absolutely on target and relevant. The article is long, but the ten minutes you spend on reading this piece is completely worth it, I tell you. If you don't have time, read the quotes and the useful tips that I have highlighted.

Oui…Parisians always manage to look fantastique — even in “les blue jeans.” Jet with us then to cafe-lined boulevards and learn about French fashion flair!

The one thing they don’t tell you in travel brochures about Paris is the first thing every visitor notices: People stare. They stare at you; they stare at everybody. And everybody stares back.

My first taste of this phenomenon terrified me. I was wearing an overloaded backpack and a wrinkled black dress, which I had slept in on the train. My mascara was mostly on my cheeks. I wanted desperately to be inconspicuous, but there they were, all those terrible suave-looking Frenchmen I had heard about, staring right at me. I wanted to melt into the sidewalk!

There was also no way to avoid noticing something else: Those French girls look better than we do. Of course, the mysterious allure of the French woman is nothing new. She has been the target of love, lust, and intrigue in hundreds of books and films. Remember Gigi, that innocent heartbreaker? And Edith Piaf, the enigmatic, real-life heroine who stunned the world with her gutsy love songs? Not to mention the quasi-Parisiennes — protagonists of a dozen American novels who left home frumpy and meek, only to return from Paris a year later ravishing and self-assured. After devouring those stories, I could never quite give up the notion that a few months in France and — voila! — I would be magically transformed.

Alas, at the end of a year in Paris, I still looked moderately frumpy. In the interest of self-improvement — or maybe survival — I set out to determine why those French girls look so special. There must be a secret, I told myself, and I was going to discover it. The first step seemed obvious: Observe. So I settled down for the evening in what struck me as a good spot, the Cafe Select on Boulevard Montparnasse. Before long, three French women sat down next to me. Thinking I had found my first victims, I eagerly pulled out my note pad.

Unfortunately, my analysis wasn’t terribly enlightening. The women all looked pretty and sophisticated in a carefree, natural way. They had on clothes my American friends might wear: denim skirts, nice shirts with pullovers, and low-heeled shoes. There was nothing overtly French about their features and coloring, yet they looked Parisian to the core. Why? The only distinctive things I noticed were that two wore bright narrow belts over their sweaters, something most Americans — waistline conscious — would hesitate to do, and all three had perfect hair.

I was puzzled. None of them was doing anything an American friend might not try, but somehow the total look wasn’t the same. So, a few nights later, I decided to proceed to step two: Ask the French. This tack proved more successful, although I could see the Parisiennes were wondering why I was asking such elementary questions.

Pascale, in her thirties, helps manage a restaurant on one of the large tourist boats that run up the Seine. She has lived in the Far East and traveled widely, so I was certain she could explain why French women are more chic than others.

“Bof!” she declared while sniffing a vat of spaghetti sauce in her kitchen. (This is one of those untranslatable French words that let you know you have just said something absurd.) I was startled. “French women are not chic! Oh, yes, there are some chic women — there are always some — but most? … bof! In my father’s generation, women always had to be dressed up and looking their best, but that’s changing. Women now are working, we don’t have as much time to worry about our appearance.”

Yet, I demanded, isn’t it true that Parisians wearing pants look better than women elsewhere in pants? Pascale wiped her hands on the large chef’s apron that covered her oversize khaki shirt jacket and black cotton pants. I noticed that she had on flat, well-made black shoes. Simple, neat.

It turned out we had a semantics problem: “Oui, if that’s what you mean by chic. Elegance is different than chic; elegance has to do with money, with leisure time, with upbringing, and education. The chic woman looks natural, not dressed up. Chic is not a matter of money. Chic means that, from head to toe, there is a sense of proportion.” And she suddenly reproportioned her sauce with a splash of white wine.

When I see American women dressed up,” Pascale continued, “I can see they’ve made an effort. Costumes and clothes have always been more important in France than in America — perhaps it’s historical influence of artists here. In order to develop a sense of what looks natural, which proportions are right, one must make an effort each day — not just occasionally. Here we are told, from the time we’re small, what looks right, what doesn’t. Our mothers tell us; magazines tell us; friends tell us.”

More specifically, what does a French mother tell her daughter? “She discusses colors. The basics — black, white, navy, burgundy, and beige — are the foundation of an outfit. Black is especially good because you can wear whatever you want with it. American women tend to mix too many colors, which is distracting, not chic. I’ve also noticed that they often wear trendy shoes, rather than investing in classic, well-made styles.

“In France, we’re also taught to know our own figures and to transform faults into assets. I know one large woman who has an equally generous personality — her wardrobe reflects her personality and size. Above all, you must be at ease in your clothes; a woman who is plump usually can’t wear tight things. On the other hand, there aren’t rigid rules, just guidelines. A woman with large breasts is often told not to wear raglan sleeves, but if the shirt is cut well, sometimes this sort of sleeve can flatter her.”

One of the earliest lessons a French girl learns is to invest well in her clothes. “Chic is knowing how to buy something that will last,” Pascale told me. “My basics must last for at least five, and often ten or fifteen, years. By basics, I mean clothes that I can wear from morning through the night. Maybe in the evening I’ll add a special necklace and bracelet, or a dressy belt — the accessories make the difference.”

Two other French women, Guillemette and Marie-Laure, took up where Pascale left off, remembering how they learned to dress. The night we met, Marie-Laure was wearing white pants, a lacy white blouse, black-and-white belt, white shoes, white net stockings, and gold jewelry. Somehow, she had managed to avoid looking overdone. Guillemette, as always, had made up her eyes and mouth perfectly, but subtly. Her long hair was neatly pulled to one side and braided.

“When I was little,” said Guillemette, “my mother used to help me set out my clothes every night before school. She would say, ‘Yes, that looks good together,’ or ‘No, you can’t wear that color with this one — marry your colors well.’ “

Marie-Laure nodded. “The mother’s influence is very important to a French girl’s developing a sense of style. I remember one time I wanted to buy a turquoise dress and my mother refused, saying it was a bad color. We are taught to be discreet, subtle in our choice of color. There is nothing wrong with bright color, but it has to be worn delicately — it shouldn’t shout at you.

They agreed with Pascale that French women are less chic than they once were but attributed this fact to the cost of clothes in France today. “Italian women are the chic ones now,” said Guillemette, whose in-laws live in Italy. “Chic is a matter of how you put yourself together, and here even the smallest pieces of clothing costs so much. A really nice skirt or jacket by a designer — even prêt a porter — is extremely expensive. That’s why the young are always running around in jeans, clogs, and Indian clothes!”

I was beginning to feel confused. True, not every woman on the streets of Paris looks terrific (some of the worst dyed hair in the world can be found here), but enough of them do to make the rest of us take notice. Aren’t French women, in fact, more chic? I checked with Judy Fayard, a Life magazine assistance editor and former Women’s Wear Daily reporter, who has been watching the Paris fashion scene for almost ten years.

“In general, they are more chic,” she assured me. “Awareness of style is all around them because Paris has been the fashion capital for so long. There is exposure to what designers are doing, and it penetrates down to the woman in the street faster here than anywhere.

“French women are also much more aware of themselves than your average American. They take better care of their bodies. It isn’t just a question of weight. Here, even women of modest means visit the beauty salon regularly — to have their legs depilated or to tan or have their nails done. They always have their hair cut well, and I don’t think this is because they have better haircutters, but because Parisians go more often. They have the same attitude toward their bodies and clothes as they have toward food. They are willing to spend their money on it.”

Judy feels that there are three basic differences between French and American women. “French women are more self-confident in general, and this carries over into dressing. They are willing to experiment — say, to roll up the sleeves of a silk shirt and wear it with jeans or stick a gold belt on jeans. I can’t think of any American woman who would do that until she had seen it in a magazine.

“Second, the French are basically conservative but without the sense of practicality that Americans have. Most American women are too practical to buy a wardrobe of different stockings to accessorize their basic clothes.”

The greatest difference, she noted, is that looking nice has become a habit for French women. “At 9:00 A.M. at the corner market, I’m the only one with my hair in a ponytail and no makeup. American women either get dressed up — and when they do, you know they’re dressed up — or they simply ‘throw something on.’ There’s no such phrase in French! French women simply don’t go around looking sloppy.”

Judy also pointed out that one can still get better-cut clothes in Paris — even non-designer garments mimic the flattering lines of more expensive wear. French women still try, she added, to buy at least one nice — undoubtedly expensive — dress or suit and use accessories (a cheap belt, scarf, or pin) to alter it during the course of frequent wearings.

Although the French buy outfits just as American women do, they tend to skillfully mix the separate pieces and not wear the matched ensemble as often. “They seem to have a practiced eye for proportion — when the hem goes up, the shoe goes down,” Judy said. “It must be training. If you see good stuff around you often enough, you start to imitate it.”

Looking around might have helped those fictional heroines who went home chic, but they also must have had plenty of francs. This season, a decent pair of shoes in Paris costs at least $60; really nice pairs run from $80 to $150.

A British woman who has made Paris home for four years explained that the price of clothes affects how you wear them. “You can buy cheap French clothes, but they give out right away,” Evelyn said. “So you have no real choice but to spend more initially, knowing it will cost less in the long run. French women never keep their good clothes in the closet. They don’t wear clothes they don’t like in order to ‘save’ their favorite things for special occasions — they simply can’t afford to!

“Two years ago I bought a pair of St. Laurent pants on sale,” Evelyn continued. “Even then, they cost a bundle but I knew I could wear them for years. This winter I had them altered so the legs would be more in style; otherwise, they would hang in the closet. That’s what you have to do with your clothes here — make them last.” Evelyn pointed out that within a block of her apartment, there are three alteration shops, doing lively business. Nearby shoe-repair stores are also thriving. Women who buy expensive shoes often take them to the shop immediately to have protective layers put on the soles, so the leather will last longer.

Maite Turgonet, a Parisian journalist who covers the fashion world, concurred that French women are less chic than they once were. By this time, however, I was beginning to understand that what we consider chic is something the French take for granted as a basic starting point. For them, chic is something beyond that! So, for starters, I asked her what a Parisian would consider the key to simply looking nice.

“French women avoid clothes that are shocking,” she said. “We have a strong sense of not wanting to appear ridiculous. Even in the craziest French fashions, there is always a classical base; clothes must be cut well."

“Here a woman tries to be subtle,” she continued. “In New York, women seem to need to prove they are aware of fashion. The really fundamental rule is always be neat. You should be clean, your clothes ironed, your shoes polished. Then you must know and accept yourself; don’t try to hide your faults — that will only make you uncomfortable because you will be fighting what you are. American women often seem to be striving for some norm. If you’re short, there is no point in wearing high heels just to make yourself look taller.”

And if that’s the key to looking nice, then what elusive quality constitutes chic? What makes a classy woman stand out?

“Personality. Self-confidence. A French woman dresses for herself, tries above all to please herself in the way she looks — because she must, if she’s going to please others.

Pascale had made a similar comment. “Chic is not a question of beauty or shape or age. It’s developing a self-identity, which you reflect in the way you dress. The sensuality of such a woman is subtle.”

Maite added that French women do not dress for men. “French women don’t dress to be sexy. Of course we do dress to seduce — that’s different from trying to ‘catch’ a man by wearing flamboyant clothes. The basic attitude is different. A French woman never feels she’s offering herself. There’s never a sense of surrender, but an attitude of ‘I belong to me’.”

A few nights later, I brought the subject up again, at a dinner party. I was surprised to note that the men were as interested as the women. Since roles are more vaguely defined in France, men are free to talk finance and fashion.

“French women never try to look younger than their age,” said a businessman named Patrick. “A woman of seventy can be more interesting than one of twenty. And they never try to fill a stereotype; each woman tries to find her own style.”

“Here, there’s an emphasis on imagination and creativity,” added Claude, a banker. “In the United States, you can buy anything in any color, but in France the market is smaller, so designers have to decide that this year they’ll sell red — they can’t afford to manufacture small quantities in lots of different colors Given that, French people must use imagination just to differentiate themselves.”

Odile, a translator, agreed. “a French woman tries to wear something that brings out her individual personality. If you see an American woman who is considered chic, she’s usually sun tanned, has long legs, is blond, and sportif — but looks just like everybody else who is this sort of chic!”

Another guest, Isabelle, had just come back from a vacation in Palm Beach. “In Florida everyone wears shorts and T-shirts during the day, then at night they dress up to seduce. In France, seduction is an all-day affair, part of your look, not just your clothes. It isn’t something you turn on and off.

I asked Isabelle if she had noticed that American women look at themselves more self-consciously. She thought a minute. “Actually,” she said slowly, “they don’t seem to examine themselves critically very often.” The others, most of whom have visited the States at least once, found that American women seemed a bit puritanical and shy about their bodies. A French woman, for example, is more relaxed about discussing or touching her breasts in public, if, say, conversing with a friend about the cut of a new bathing suit.

More to the point, French women frequently stop to check their appearance in mirrors — and without the self-consciousness that we have. This might be partly because there are more mirrors in Paris (in cafes, in the subway, on storefronts). These self-assessments don’t seem to stem from vanity, however, but from an honest desire to avoid sloppiness.

My conversations with chic Parisian weren’t completely theoretical, though. I did glean a few specific tips, just the sort of advice that made all the difference to those frumpy, fictional heroines:

~ If you need a basic addition to your wardrobe — such as a winter coat or suit — spend as much as you can afford on it and do without something else. Consider the new item an investment, just as you would a new car — you’ll probably spend as much time in it. If it’s still wearable in five years, you will have saved money in the long run.

~ Basic, conservative colors are sensible and attractive; but don’t forget to add accessories. Brighten up a navy, tailored skirt and white blouse by draping a pretty wool plaid scarf around your shoulders.

~ Don’t be afraid of a touch of frivolity — little pop elephant pins, plastic banana-shaped earrings, or hats (but no feathers or loud ribbons, please!) Wear very few other accessories with these in order not to clutter.

~ The focal point of an outfit need not be one of the large pieces. If you’ve splurged on a gorgeous pair of shoes that flatter your legs, draw attention to your feet by downplaying the rest of your clothes. You have a nice waistline and a pretty gold belt? Wear it with black pants and a black sweater — forget the old rule that gold and silver are just for dressing up.

~ When window shopping, try to envision clothing as more than what it was designed to be. One Parisian visiting New York for the first time saw a pair of boys’ black-and-white, ankle-high basketball shoes, and she decided that they would make great casual boots. She wears dark cotton pants tucked into them — très chic!

~ If you’re a few pounds overweight, don’t try to hide under loose, shapeless clothes. Fitted pants and dresses that are well cut will be more flattering and make excess weight less noticeable.

~ Avoid pastels, except as accessories. They flatter no one.

I’m pleased to report these practical tips helped me considerably — in fact, I might even approximate one of those rags-to-ravishing heroines on my next trip home! I returned to the Cafe Select with another formerly frumpy American. We spent an hour just watching women walk by. It was pleasant because too many Parisian women look great, though they may not think they’re as chic as they once were; nevertheless, they are often well dressed, wearing tastefully coordinated colors and flattering makeup and hair styles. Even more striking, most of them have an aura of self-assurance, which we Americans rarely possess. For whatever reason, we often seem dissatisfied with ourselves. We keep looking for that elusive outfit that will somehow change everything. French women do it the other way — first, they learn to appreciate their looks, then they decorate the package. When we left the cafe, we passed an art-supply shop with a mirror in the window. An attractive woman of about forty-five paused before it to check her lipstick. Just as we reached her, a man passed and whispered, “You’re beautiful!” She laughed pleasantly and walked off. I got the feeling that — without conceit — she knew exactly what he meant.

(Article via Eurochic.)