However you feel about Michelle Obama’s sense of style, her influence on fashion is undeniable. Along with breaking racial barriers as the first black first lady of the United States, she has broken fashion rules and protocols and is writing her own.
So after nearly a year in the White House and twice as long in the public eye during the 2008 presidential campaign, it’s not too early to document her trendsetting ways. Mary Tomer does so beautifully in her recently launched book, Mrs. O: The Face of Fashion Democracy ($25.99, Center Street).
Ms. Tomer is contributing editor for Mrs-O.org, a Web site she founded in September 2008 to chronicle and celebrate Mrs. Obama’s style. The blog gets more than 2 million page views a month from visitors in more than 220 countries, testimony to the first lady’s popularity around the world.
The 236-page hardback is destined to become part of the library of any who love Mrs. Obama, and there are many millions who do. The colorful book is breathtakingly thorough and attractive, chock full of sketches and hundreds of photos taken around the world. It also includes more than a dozen question-answer interviews with fashion designers she has worn and other fashion authorities, including Jason Wu, Isabel Toledo, Isaac Mizrahi, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, and Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley.
The tome’s tone is unfailingly flattering of the confident, brainy first lady. It clearly was published to praise her personal style rather than to evaluate her objectively through the lens of cultural criticism. But that won’t matter to the legions of Mrs. O fans, and perhaps it shouldn’t.
It’s amazing how fast technology evolves, particularly in the booming anti-aging sector of the health and beauty industry.
Consider the profusion in recent years of over-the-counter teeth-whitening products. You no longer need a prescription or an in-office appointment with a specialist to get a brighter smile. Multiple options are a few clicks away, or as close as the nearest drug store.
I’ve tried many tooth-whitening procedures, from strips and toothpastes to trays and brush-on liquids that eat away stains and yellowing. Now there are even hi-tech electronic devices that do the trick with a special light.
But my hands-down favorites for maintaning whiter teeth are GoSmile’s handy little tubes. A clear whitening liquid is squeezed through a sponge tipped ampule and rubbed against the teeth like a small circular toothbrush. After use, just toss.
The product comes in several tasty flavors, including pear, peach, fresh mint, watermelon mint, and green apple. They’re welcome departures from the bad-tasting gels in many other tooth-whitening products.
Also, the gel in GoSmile ampules is strong, but not an irritant to sensitive gums. And it contains Smileceuticals, a trademarked proprietary blend of free radical-fighting vitamins and antioxidants. The company also makes an array of complementary whitening products, including the Greater Than Rinse mouthwash and toothpastes in flavors such as lemonade and gingerbread.
Click on the picture to check out kits, travel sets, and everything else in the GoSmile online store.
It’s not always clear why a particular color emerges as a strong trend each season. Color is always in style, but it seems that each new season is defined by a pop color or two common to many designer collections and clothing lines.
Purple has emerged as the most prevalent signature color this fall and winter.
Fusing the coolness of blue and the heat of red, purple is mysterious and intriguing, often associated nobility, royalty, spirituality. It tends to be a favorite color among children and artists.
Eggplant, amethyst, and other deeper shades of purple evoke a sense of wealth. Lighter hues such as lilac and lavender conjure images of romance and cheer.
For this winter, Lela Rose and Nanette Lepore incorporated menswear-inspired purple plaids into attractive coats while Tadashi Shoji and Zac Posen were among those stitching soft, shiny purple fabrics into elegant uptown gowns and cocktail dresses.
Menswear also has taken to the color, with Victorinox using varying shades in pants and shirts and Banana Republic offering a cashmere V-neck sweater in a handsome color right up the middle of the purple spectrum.
Purple is like pink in one respect - it can be worn by anyone, it’s just a matter of finding the right shade, hue, or tint to fit your skin tone.
Check out a few of the season’s hottest purple pieces below.
I became disinterested in my black-framed Donna Karan eyeglasses shortly after I bought them a few years ago. I got them as eyeglasses began to cycle back into favor after taking a backseat for years to contact lenses.
But I’m on the prowl for some new ones. I spied a pair with those stylishly cerebral half frames when I recently went to buy some new contact lenses. I tried on several pairs and decided that the style, along with rectangular lenses, would best enhance my facial features.
I’m not too daring when it comes to spectacles. I have a lot of respect for people who dare to wear a bold color or a highly unusual shape. I always thought glasses should be so subtle that others almost don’t realize you’re wearing them.
But fashion trends disagree with me. The pendulum has swung back decidedly to the side of loud and colorful conversation pieces. I think funky reading glasses and the continuing rise of dramatic accessories have fueled the trend.
Many eyeglasses now are designed to be worn by men and women, crafted in shapes and colors that might appeal to everyone. Consider the Aegean style pictured here. The red metallic frame retails for about $120 but is $39.95 now at GlassesShop.com. Like many retailers, the site has all sorts of bargain styles for men, women and children.
As for me, I saw a pair of half-frames I like that I just might buy with non-prescription lenses for a new fashion statement. The braver folk can have the colors.
It’s not hard to find an interesting Christmas stocking, from predictable stores such as Michael’s to off-price retail giants like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.
But it’s hard to find a stocking that makes you do a double-take and wonder where it came from. That’s what happens when you see one of Jeannette Chamberlin’s uncommon and eye-catching designs.
Interestingly, Ms. Chamberlin’s Sassy Classy Christmas Stockings look like footwear. They are as roomy as a deluxe-size Christmas stockings, but they look like something you’d want to shove your foot in and start walking.
“A few years ago I made a high-heeled Christmas stocking for a friend,” said Ms. Chamberlin. ”It was such a hit, the next year I made two.” The following year, in 2000, the Pittsburgher she made a few more and took them to Patricia Boutique — a tony women’s shop in the eastern Pittsburgh suburb of Aspinwall — where they “sold out in a few days!” (I wrote a story about them for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)
Now there are about 20 styles, including cowgirl, bride, and multiple “diva” designs. There are also cowboy and bridegroom styles for the fellows. “I have nothing against Santa and snowmen,” she says, “but why not have a Christmas stocking that reflects your personality or your alter-ego?”
Ms. Chamberlin also paints and designs jewelry. She has taught both, instructing jewelry-making classes at the Society for Contemporary Art in Pittsburgh and teaching art classes and counseling for a while at The Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The artist began making the stockings as gifts in 1998. On average, they take about three hours to complete from sewing and piecing together to embellishment and hand-painting. Sometimes the painting, particularly on the cowboy styles, can take more than two hours alone to look multi-dimensional.
She loves hearing stories from people who buy the stockings, which are hand=painted or hand-embellished and usually made of silky-soft fabrics. “People tell me how they have given them as gifts. ‘My mother used to love her high heels, but hasn’t been able to wear them for years. When I gave her the high-heeled stocking with the feather cuff, she was so excited. I laugh every time I think of it.’ Or people will say, ‘Oh, this is SO my sister!’ I think people also love having a fun choice of stockings for men.”
In the development stages now to launch for Christmas 2010 are sports-inspired stockings that resemble a golf shoe, a hockey skate and a motorcycle boot. Aside from Patricia Boutique in Aspinwall, Pa., the stockings are sold at Sweetheart Gallery in New York City, Co Co Milano’s in Mesa, Az., and at American Craft Gallery in Cleveland.
Stacked bracelets and large metallic cuffs are hot adornments for women’s wrists in the increasingly accessory-driven fashion world.
But a bigger style story flying under the radar is the charm bracelet, a personalized piece popular among all age groups. They can be had for a few dollars at stores such as Target and Delia’s, and they can cost thousands when created by the likes of Prada, Gucci, Hermes and Louis Vuitton.
Tiffany has scores of charms ranging from under $100 to a stunning gold and diamond Jean Schlumberger Egg charm for $7,200. Some Tiffany stores have “Charmed by Tiffany” bars where customers can assemble a charm bracelet, anklet, or necklace on the spot. Charms are embellished with diamonds, pearls, colored gemstones, and the like and are made of lacquer, sterling silver, stainless steel, platinum, titanium, and yellow, white, and rose golds.
Tiffany’s newest charm bracelet pays homage to the luxury brand’s storied history. It’s a platinum design with 20 platinum and 18-karat gold charms handset with gemstones and diamonds. Each is a brand icon, from the Tiffany key and Atlas medallion to the world-renowned Tiffany Blue Box in hand-carved turquoise.
It’s not surprising that Tiffany would take something as simple as a charm to lofty new heights. This was the company that made headlines back in 1837 when founders Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young dared to set non-negotiable prices for their fine stationery, silverware and luxury gifts.
In 1940, Tiffany moved to its current flagship location at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Designed by Cross and Cross, the same architect that designed the Lincoln Memorial, it was New York City’s first business to have central air conditioning.
Among some of Tiffany’s many other famous but not widely known distinctions are the design of the NFL Vince Lombardi Trophy, Major League Baseball’s World Series Trophy, the Great Seal of the United States, the Medal of Honor, the invitation for the 1886 opening of the Statue of Liberty, and numerous sets of White House china.
It’s enough to make you feel sorry for flesh flowers. In spite of their aromatic elegance, the only times most people ever think of buying them are for weddings, funerals, Mothers Day, and apologies.
Silk floral arrangements are nice. They can last forever. My mother twisted and shaped them into many a breathtaking work of art, including several years at her Bella Cosa Flowers and Gifts shop near downtown Lexington, Ky. But some of her best work was with fresh flowers, literal works of art with the added benefit of natural aromatherapy.
All sorts of beautiful blossoms bloom every season of the year - including the holidays. If you’re hosting a gathering, even the most modest arrangement can bring a venue to life. If you’re attending a party and are unsure about an appropriate hostess gift, think past the clichéd bottle of wine and consider how a lush arrangement can take the meal table from so-so to unforgettable.
Delivered ahead of time, a custom floral arrangement heralds your arrival with style. Brought with you and presented with a warm greeting, they’re sure to brighten the face of the event host as well as the entire room. Any way you give it, a thoughtfully selected arrangement is a reminder of your presence that day and a hallmark of impeccable taste.
After the holidays, a fresh floral arrangement is an easy way to stave off the dreary winter doldrums that can sometimes bring you down after the holidays have passed. As Old Man Winter digs in his heels and plunges many regions into a cold, wet mass of brown, you can give yourself a lift by not waiting for spring to arrive to enjoy some of nature’s most magnificent and varied expressions of scent and color.
Many arrangements come in creative containers and can be delivered the same day of purchase. Flower-of-the-month clubs are popular gifts, and sources such as HonestFlorist.com offer options for every budget and occasion. Click on the picture to peruse more options and to shop.
The dramatically lighter skin that baseball great Sammy Sosa has purchased for himself is now a source of controversy. Sports commentator and former basketball star-Charles Barkley has clowned Sosa on camera, going so far as to have a makeup artist apply pale cosmetics to his laughing face while ribbing Sosa to knock off whatever he’s doing that has changed his complexion from caramel to vanilla.
The Dominican Republic native, who turned 41 on Nov. 12, is being hammered by some who say he has succumbed to societal pressures to make himself appear more white - or at least less black. Others speculate that the depigmentation is actually vitiligo kick-started by steroid use.
Sosa, however, claims the lighter, brighter him is a side effect of a cream he’s been using to soften his skin. I suppose he could be unaware of the scores of face potions available that soften skin without bleaching it.
But maybe his critics should lighten up. (I couldn’t resist.) What Sosa has done to himself says much about human nature and the never-ending quest to be “better.” In America alone, hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent on face lifts, nose jobs, bust enlargements, breast reductions, cheek implants, lip-plumping injections, hair-straightening products, hair-curling products, hair plugs, toupees, tummy tucks, butt reductions, butt lifts, penile implants, wrinkle erasers, false lashes, fake nails and colored contact lenses.
Some people wish they were taller while others want to be shorter. Some crave more curves or muscles, others want to be thinner. Some don’t want their freckles, others apply fake beauty marks. The redhead wants to go blonde and the blonde dyes her locks brown. Someone with pale skin maintains a tan while one with dark skin secretly wishes to be lighter.
Talk to the most drop-dead gorgeous models on the planet and the honest ones will tell you that there’s something about their physical appearance that they don’t like. There’s at least one physical attribute they would change if they could. Most everyone possesses at least one physical feature that we would change if we could.
That’s because there’s some insecurity - and perhaps even self-hatred - in all of us. We alter our appearance, sometimes permanently, because we think it will make us feel better about ourselves. Or we hope it will make us more attractive to others. And then we cover up the feelings of inadequacy with high-sounding words like “augmentation” and “enhancement.”
It’s not hard to see shades of Michael Jackson in this whole Sammy Sosa color-change thing. But when you get down to it, they aren’t the only ones who had issues with the man in the mirror.