Monday, January 27, 2014

Darkest Winter

2014 Nail Art Challenge #2 - Darkest Winter

A crisp clean semi-ruffian manicure in shades of glass flecked taupe and glittering white.
My aim was to echo and elevate the salt and sand grimed snow which is now blanketing my late January Northeast winter wonderland.

I will also be using this manicure for the Lacquer Legion January theme of Reinvention as this was the THIRD design I had attempted for my winter theme in as many days, and it is about as far from my original plan as you could imagine.

I may show you guys a pic of the first attempt someday, but I wouldn't put money on it. The first step came out absolutely gorgeous, and I should have left it RIGHT there.

A Ruffian manicure involves kind of a "short sheeted" look where the base of the nail shows a different colour from the body. This look was created by the CND team for the 2010 Ruffian show during Fashion Week.

So glittery!
Apparently a proper Ruffian covers the full side, I didn't do that, which was silly of me because it probably would have been WAY easier. The white here is very sheer for this application so it ended up pretty thick, but I think the topcoat smoothed things out pretty well. The taupe covered well in two coats, the white will take at least three for any kind of real coverage.

Please 'scuse the bit of cuticle mess above. This was taken while I was still waiting for this to dry, and it seems taking off navy polish will leave a fair amount of cleanup!

Just a shot which I thought would be neat while I was still doing the base layer.
All other pics here are of the left, here is my right. As you can see I don't do too bad for my off hand.
I did the same ruffian treatment on the ring-finger of my right and it came out pretty okay, but not *quite* as clean as the left. Practice practice, of course.

That taupe colour was INSANELY matte before top coat! I almost wish I could have kept it like that but I knew it was going to be a day in between base and finish and I haven't really tested out the matte topcoat I own.

I recently picked up a bottle of Rimmel's Lasting Finish Pro in Rags to Riches (a cool shimmery olive) and I picture that going REALLY beautifully with this taupe. I am really happy with both the white and the taupe and am falling hard for glassfleck finishes so I fully expect to reach for these bottles again, thought the bottle in the white is a bit tall and narrow and feels tippy.

If you want to play along feel free to jump in at any point!
Comment on a post, email, facebook, tag with #itsybitsy26 on instagram, or get my attention via a comment on Pinterest

Friday, January 24, 2014

My clothes really are quite cool

In order to set up my last post I spent several days looking intently at pics of what I actually wear, and I thought it would be neat to figure out if there was a unifying pattern behind my preferred colours.

This is a small swatch of nearly every non black/white/grey piece of clothing I've shown in pics here so far.

My "favorite" changes every once in a while but I've always been drawn to extremely vivid cool colours. Peacock, turquoise, and aqua have been in regular rotation near the top my whole life, but violet was undisputed Queen of my Tweens. I had a brief peridot green phase in college and a bluish-crimson phase in my late twenties. Purchases in the shades between fuchsia and violet have been very common for me lately - I have three separate shirts, a dress, and a pashmina featuring that orchid on the left and don't get me started on my growing collection of fuchsia shoes. I am noticing that I am *especially* drawn to the combo of a slatey navy + either kelly or orchid right now.

Yes, Pantone Color of the Year for 2014 Radiant Orchid as a matter of fact, but I called it first!

I had been trying to find a colour wheel with a breakdown of how colours are normally paired to see if there were patterns in what I was doing, but there was just something lacking.

RYB color chart from George Field's 1841 Chromatography; or, A treatise on colours and pigments: and of their powers in painting
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I found myself looking at how the colours I wear relate to the primary colours we all learn sometime around preschool (red, yellow, blue) and the rainbow of secondary colours we get from them but I just couldn't work out the pattern. Everything I found looked like the Crayola 8 box to me while my wardrobe looks more like an Easter egg hunt at a saltwater aquarium.

Never understood why it wasn't ROY-G-BIV +1

I started yet another Google search of colour theory images and this time something caught my eye. Here was an image featuring MY colours. Intense scintillating shades of grass green, cobalt, vibrant magenta, lemon, and aqua.

Oh, and red. Red is pretty enough, but I just haven't been into it at all lately.

What's the difference? This more vibrant wheel is is the primary (red blue green) and secondary (cyan, yellow, magenta) set of colours used for colour theory as it pertains to LIGHT. Unlike the strangely blah ROY-G-BIV pigment colours, which are what we typically learn as kids, I am ALL OVER this palette.

Break the blue/green side of this down into tertiaries and you get almost exactly the same palette as the one derived from my clothing above.

What does this mean for how I use colour? I don't know yet, though it is pretty neat!

I feel as a first step I may benefit from having a closer look into my heavy use of analogous colours, which are those next to each other on the colour wheel. I normally think of my jeans as neutral but in given my heavy use of cool tones they are clearly adding to this overall cool feel to my wardrobe.

Due to some revelations I have recently had about my skin tone I have been experimenting with slightly warmer colours in makeup. It may be fun to take this a bit further and seek out other small ways to add some warm pops in, such as with accessories and jewelry. I love stark contrast and this may be a great way to play that up.

It feels very simple in concept, and yet I feel like I've been given a whole new way to look at my wardrobe!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Getting fussy about casual

My office is so casual (how casual is it?)

It is so casual that my boss, who walks past my desk and talks face to face with me approximately a million times a day, took about three days to notice when I did this to my (previously platinum) hair.

This is my favorite way to deal with overgrown roots -  July 2013
The work atmosphere laid back and my coworkers are kind of a hair dye, body art, geek-tee loving bunch. This is great for radical self expression, but not so great for caring much about looking "nice", especially when I have a bad habit of rolling out of bed with half an hour to get to a workplace that is twenty minutes away.

Still, I have been making an effort to choose my clothes ahead of time and throw a bit of effort into my makeup rather than just slapping on some moisturizer and jumping into something that approximates the right size. Even on my ultra casual days I think I've made a noticeable improvement over my previous wardrobe failures and I've gotten a full face of lightly contoured "low makeup" makeup down to five minutes.

Now if only I could figure out a way to instantaneously blow dry my hair. Sadly leaving it natural is NOT an option. I have ultra fine wavy hair with tenacious cowlicks and a talent for bed head, especially now that I'm growing into a slightly longer pixie.

I even accessorized a Batman shirt! 

I am trying to work out ways to change things up without dropping a bunch of cash on new clothing because  it is a pretty repetitive formula; dark wash bootcut jeans + hip length tee + high hip length sweater, + flat or low heeled boot. I do occasionally change it up a bit with a longer V-neck sweater and a scarf per the bottom left. Today for example I'm wearing a black version of that sweater with an orchid pashmina scarf in my usual BT Standard knot.

I love wearing heels and dresses and have gotten some heavyweight tights to make skirts a bit more winter friendly, but the repeated polar vortices we've been experiencing in the Northeast are putting the kibosh on that. Braving the cold is one thing, braving sub-zero temps and knee high snow is another. I also picked up a fist full of skinny faux-leather belts in various neutrals on deep discount from Necessary Clothing the other day. I'm still working out how I prefer to do belting but for less than three dollars apiece I figured I couldn't go too wrong.

It also doesn't help that I'm suffering a touch of post holiday "functional wardrobe shrinkage", but I've been hitting the treadmill in earnest again so that should open up my options with some of the more form fitting items in my closet.

I do feel like I'm getting somewhere. Odds are if you bump into me on a work day or out doing errands I'm going to look rather a lot like one of these pictures, and I think I'm pretty okay with that.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Baby face

I was stunned to see how aged Matthew McConaughey looks in a photograph from Friday's 2014 Critics' Choice Movie Award and had a MASSIVE realization about crash dieting. I've never been particularly *into* McConaughey but thought him handsome enough. He typically plays rather athletic, hale figures, so I found this transformation particularly striking.

2014 Critics' Choice Movie Award for the Dallas Buyers Club
Kevin Mazur/WireImage
At 44 years old McConaughey dropped 47 lbs for his role in the movie The Dallas Buyers Club. He plays Don Woodruff, an AIDS patient who began smuggling unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into Texas. Seeing the pictures of him in the role were startling, but knowing what he put himself through it was easy to say "well he's dropped so much weight, of course he looks rough". It was the after pics that really floored me though. I stumbled over this picture in my Pinterest feed and my first impression was that he looked like a considerably more aged actor who had gone through great pains to look young.

The Christian Bale emaciated role thing seems to be the new "serious" actor proof in Hollywood and I have felt for a while that these beautiful men (it always seems to be beautiful men) are aging themselves prematurely by this practice.

There is a fullness and softness to youthful faces around the eyes, around the mouth, along the sides of the nose, and in the temples. Ask anyone with an older family member who has had an acute illness, there are only so many times you can starve the youthful fullness out of a face before it stops bouncing back. This is why plastic surgery to fight aging involves tightening *and filling*.

So, male actors starve themselves "for their craft" and often start to look kind of terrible afterward. I have always rather fancied Christian Bale and have watched in over the years as he gradually drained the youth from his features, and so this is something that I worked out a while ago. Every time I hear about a new actor undergoing starvation prep for a role my theory seems to bear out.

But here's the connection I NEVER made before... many female actors starve themselves "for their craft" for their ENTIRE CAREERS. 

Small wonder why female actors seem to "age out" so much faster than male actors! Even leaving aside the stress of the double standard where the media chastises them one minute for being "fat" and the next minute for being "anorexic" it's a lifestyle practically designed to burn through their youthful beauty.

Julia Roberts as Anna Scott in Notting Hill (1999 - Universal Pictures)

This realization has really slammed home some perspective on the limitations of "looking better" through dieting. So much of the beauty message of our society is "be healthier and look better by being skinnier" but that's not the whole story is it? Appealing to people's health doesn't seem to work very well; despite the increasing evidence that crash dieting is unhealthy and doesn't particularly work, eating disorder rates keep increasing and the weird diet industry appears to be thriving.

Perhaps the answer is to fight vanity with vanity. I think it's good for me to have these kinds of concrete reminders of why the quick fix "lose X# of lbs and look better" attitude doesn't really work out, especially given the current pressure to look good "on my big day". Maybe it's time we start highlighting the more visible ravages of unhealthy attitudes toward eating instead of airbrushing them away? (Heads up: both links in previous sentence contain semi nude images and extreme weight loss).

I feel I have been blessed with some pretty amazing genetics when it comes to aging, but I am getting to a point in my life where I have begun to think about how I will be changing in the years to come and what I can do to help it happen gracefully. Again and again the answer seems to revolve around a balanced and nourishing attitude toward my body, which I am sad to admit I have not always practised.

Still, there is definitely something to be said for better late than never. Now here's hoping I can find that crucial nourishing balance point between treadmill time, yoga, and my undying love of fancy cheese.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Fresh Start

2014 Nail Art Challenge #1 - A Fresh Start

An ultra simple minty springy mermaidy manicure on freshly chopped nails. I knew I wanted to use a bright springy green creme colour for this but I've worn that green before and I just picked up the blue. Happily the glitter has a subtle green flash to it which coordinates beautifully.

The blue seems to be quite brittle and I'm getting a lot of chipping on corners already. I think part of it is that I may do a bit too much typing to keep my corners at all square (squoval?). I think I'm going to turn this into a French with the green on the tips to see if that will extend it. I may use that for my January Lacquor Legion entry (January's theme - Reinvention) but I do also have another idea for that I may be fiddling with. I have a couple of weeks to decide.

I've also finally gotten my camera up and running! Nothing too sexy, just a several year old Canon Powershot, but unlike my iPhone it does macro shots which is obviously better for these hand pics. I think I need to set up a tripod and timer for the outfit shots though as everything I've tried to take so far looks like ghost photography.

Weird factlet about me: that's actually the shortest I can cut my nails right now. After growing them for a while as the "quick" of my nail-bed will actually grow out past the tip of my fingers. This is called an extended hyponychium. Right now this is only happening on my thumbs and pointers but the longer I keep my nails long the more of them it affects (never the ring fingers though *shrugs*). If I want them any shorter I have to cut them back gradually as the nail bed retracts.

Bonus info: if you ever want to have a queasy stomach for a bit I recommend that you do a Google image search for scientific/medical terms having to do with nails!

If you want to play along feel free to jump in at any point!
Comment on a post, email, facebook, tag with #itsybitsy26 on instagram, or get my attention via a comment on Pinterest

Monday, January 13, 2014

The wedding dress I'm NOT wearing

It's getting on crunch time to buy my wedding dress.

Oh yeah, by the way I'm getting married in the fall! I don't think I've mentioned that yet, have I?

I'd say it's the majority of the reason I've even gotten into this whole style thing. I spent months researching the most flattering options for me and looking at thousands of images of pretty clothes and makeup for inspiration. Eventually I remembered that people see me other days too.

Anyway, I'm posting because I have spent the last several days stressing my gown.

I had some very clear ideas about what I was looking for, especially in terms of silhouette. My love of dancing, small frame, and size of the venue all pointed me toward a lighter, more fitted, non "bridal cake meringue" dress with a high drama factor, and I've stuck pretty firmly to that. I have a gown picked out, but there was an aspect of the fabric that didn't quite click so I'm special ordering it in a custom fabric.

I love it, it's gorgeous, because of the fabric changes it will be 100% unique to me, I can't find one picture of someone using it as a wedding dress, and it's designer silk with custom changes at a retail chain polyester price-point. Presumably that is because it's not generally sold in a "wedding dress" colour. No, I'm not telling you what designer or style, not yet anyway (EDIT: I will say however that there were apparently five different people wearing their designs at The Golden Globes and associated galas).

I'm totally buying it, but I think I needed another good day of running around in circles with my hands flailing over my head and an intense internet shopping comparison session before I could commit.

So now that that's out of the way, this post is about The Dress I'm NOT getting.

More after the jump:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nail Art Challenges posted!

The nail art challenges are officially up and running on the 2014 Nail Art Challenge page up there in my top bar.

First challenge for January 14 is  "A Fresh Start"

Feel free to interpret that however you like!

I will be posting my design here on the 14th and would love if you would join me, even if just for one design.

Comment on that post, email, facebook, tag with #itsybitsy26 on instagram, or get my attention via a comment on Pinterest

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In Short

My last post dealt with petite figures and body positivity, and as I was mulling it over something really critical occurred to me.

When you look at fashion advice for short women there's a fairly common theme.

The tips I'm quoting/paraphrasing here are all from 18 Fabulous Fashion Tips for Short Girls, primarily because it had the biggest and most straightforward list I could find in one place. They are not the only tips on the post, but they're a good representation of the kinds of things you're going to see any time you start looking into the subject.

  • Wearing a single column of colour can give the illusion of height.
  • Heeled shoes will physically give you extra height.
  • High waisted shorts, pants or skirts create a kind of optical illusion of being taller by playing with proportion. 
  • Boot cut and slightly flared jeans can make you appear taller.
  • You want a hem that covers most of your shoe as this will give the appearance of longer legs.
  • Oversized ‘it’ bags can swamp your silhouette and make you look shorter than you are.
  • Shoes with pointed toes can give the appearance of added height.
  • V-shapes and U-shaped necklines also aid the illusion of height for short and petite girls. 

I guess fashion IS kind of like a roller coaster.
Do I at least get funnel cake?

Playing with your appearance can be fun and these tips can be very helpful for putting together a particular look, but always, always, ALWAYS remember:


Anyone who says differently is selling something.
The Princess Bride (1987, Rob Reiner)

Happily for me this is one thing I took to heart pretty early. I spent a number of years in my teens avoiding heels, not because I found them uncomfortable or couldn't walk in them, but because I ENJOY my shortness. 

I do not think of myself as less, I think of myself as concentrated.

I am all of sixty two inches tall. I would have to wear a fair bit of heel just to reach the average height for a woman in the US. Why fake at being average when I can stand apart by just being me? 

While I was younger I was often called little or cute and yes, that did get annoying at times, but regardless I always stood out. Now I can filter that same look through maturity and I feel like it makes me exotic like a tiny tropical bird, and I wouldn't give that up for any number of inches in height. Well, maybe if I was INSANELY tall. That could be fun, but pretty much for all of the same reasons and anyway I don't think I'll be trading any time soon.

The final tip on that list from above was "Have Confidence" but it's pretty hard to do that when you don't embrace what you have. Don't get me wrong, I recognise that some styles will not be as flattering on me, I really really love heels, and I do strive to create looks with eye pleasing proportions... but I would never EVER wish I was a little bit taller.

Curvespiration and shorthusiasm

There's a great deal to be said for deriving pleasure from your own unique beauty, but that is often an understanding that comes with maturity. When you're young and impressionable and the women society tells you are beautiful are NOTHING like you, or like Rita Hayworth are so far removed from their original look that you would never know, it can be hard to feel like you have a place at the table.

I'm not a fan of the music of Jennifer Lopez, but just about every time I see a picture of her I am massively grateful for the amount of image PR she has provided for petite, shapely, athletic, Latina ladies. When I was young it seemed like NO ONE in the media or in my neighborhood looked like the woman I expected to become, but Boricua (the native word for the people of Puerto Rico and the most dominant element of my genetics) is now SO much more broadly recognized as beautiful, thanks to the wider media exposure to women like J-Lo. 

I feel that in no small way her popularity gave me the ability to quiet at least a couple of the self conscious worries of my youth. But even now it's hard to feel connected to fashion when I'm looking for items to suit a small curvy tanned frame and the world is showing me everything on tall willowy alabaster women.

Internet fashion world to the rescue!

I have begun digging through the internet in earnest and have found some great petite bloggers. This listing of 7 Phenomenal Petite Fashion Bloggers from allwomenstalk has been so beyond helpful - even to the point of confirming that Wendy of Wendy'sLookbook, (which I already followed) is also petite! I feel like she proportions her clothing so well it's actually hard to tell.

At 5'5" even J-Lo is somewhat "tall" as an aspirational figure for me and was certainly not the first Latina women on the scene, but I really feel like she broke things open for the wider appreciation of a certain sassy, hippy, golden hued, button nosed, brown eyed look; and I can sort of relax a bit about whether I could possibly pull off a style when I see her rocking it.

image of J-Lo at the AMAs via*

Look at those hips! Seriously, I just can't hate on my curves when I see a picture like that.

I may not have a veritable army of personal trainers, makeup artists, and stylists at my beck and call to keep me looking my best, but I DO have approachable sources of inspiration. Very VERY thankfully I also have a brain, a tiny frame, a yoga mat, and a good pair of running shoes, so I think I have a fair shot when I actually put in the effort.

It's easy to get caught up in the differences between ourselves and the darlings of media but it's important to look at similarities too. I personally happen to be five foot two inches tall - so I thought it would be cool to give props also to some other gorgeous fellow five foot two Latina celebs who utterly rock their looks like:

Eva Longoria
Christina Aguilara
Salma Hayak
and Gloria Estefan.

These ladies have helped to wake up the world to a wider definition of beauty!

*If you've got a bit of time to spare, the recurring parody depiction of Jennifer Lopez on the Go Fug Yourself celebrity fashion blog is seriously one of my favorite things on the entire internet.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nailed it! or How I learned to stop worrying and love the nail polish.

I've fallen back in love with nail polish over the last few months and because I like a good completely random, non competitive, but heavily structured set of tasks (ask me about my 5k, 10k, and half marathon training sometime) I have decided to set up a Nail Art Challenge (see the Challenge page linked in top bar for all posts and updates) for myself.

I'm not looking to burn myself out or turn this into a nail polish blog, so I'm setting a two week timetable per theme for a total of twenty six designs over the next year. I typically change polish once a week so this should give me a good balance of inspiration and flexibility to do whatever I want (or even nothing) in between.

(Edit: I will also be following The Lacquer Legion Challenge on Facebook but I think they should work out well together).

I think I have a pretty good spread of challenges but I still need to pick a few and would love suggestions. I'll be posting the specific challenges soon and designs will be "due" every fortnight. Audience participation in any way would be TOTALLY STELLAR and links to your designs would be the subject of cross-posting and great affection.

Challenge pics will be posted here but if you want to see the in-between stuff have a look over there on the right at my Instagram feed!

Sadly uncredited (which feels like it should be metaphor for... something)

I've had an off-again on-again love affair with outrageous nail polish my whole life. Back in my day we didn't have it easy like the young kids do today! We had to walk uphill both ways in the snow for wild nail polish colours, and when it wasn't simply peeling off within an hour people called us weirdos for wearing it!

That's all true outside of the uphill in the snow part.
*looks outside at snowdrifts from Blizzard Hercules*
Most of the year anyway, but I actually have traversed a snowy hill or two in my day.

More about me and my nail-polish lovin' ways after the cut.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy Two Thousand Fourteen!

The Itsy Bitsy's 2014 blog resolutions

Do something about that mirror
Find the charger for my digital camera already
Lighting solutions
Maybe an About Me?

Okay, maybe some of these are a bit on the short term, but I'm taking this as evidence that I need to go more straightforward and easier on the eyes, which only really makes sense as that's pretty much what this whole project is about!

I already feel like I've learned so much and yet I know this is just the tip of the ice-burg.

It's been a lovely year in so many ways and I'm excited to see where the next one leads!