Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Q&A: Are peasant skirts OK?

Q. I had a question about spring '08 fashion. I was wondering if peasant and broomstick skirts are too 2005 or are they acceptable to wear as casual skirts? Alison

A. Fashion is cyclical, and that couldn't be more true with some of the looks for this spring and summer. Lines from Etro, Derek Lam (right), Donna Karan, Sue Stemp, Anna Sui and Jovovich-Hawk at Target, among others, are channeling the 1960s and 70s (and early 2000s, if you want to include this century's earlier boho wave).

That means lots of flowy florals, billowy skirts and empire-waist, long dresses. If you've got a few prairie or broomstick skirts sticking around from the last hippie wave, go ahead and wear them if they're in acceptable condition.

Anything ripped, stretched or that no longer fits should be donated. To put a modern spin on those big skirts and make sure your frame doesn't get overwhelmed by the volume, a fitted top is a must, even if it's a T-shirt.

Shoes are a quick way to update a look as well: for long skirts, try flat, strappy gladiators. For shorter skirts, go bolder with a stacked cork heel or platform espadrille.

Try a wide belt to cinch your waist for a sleeker profile, and don't forget the accessories: bigger works better to help balance the proportion of the skirt. Try an arm full of big bangles, layering necklaces and/or dangly earrings.

ASK THE STYLE EDITOR: Have a fashion question? Post your question to Style editor Rachel Sutherland below. Your question may be answered in the paper.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Buh-bye blackheads!

The April 2008 issue of Allure magazine shares yet another reason to quit smoking: fewer zits.

The San Gallicano Dermatological Institute in Rome surveyed 1,000 women between the ages 25-50 and found that noninflammatory acne (blackheads and whiteheads) occurred in eight times as many smokers as nonsmokers.

Cigarette smoke causes an increase in production of certain types of skin cells which can clog pores, the study says.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Duchess creator pushes pampering

Marla Steuer is on a mission to take the chore out of skin care.

"We rush through the day, eating cereal over the sink, rushing through our skin regimen," says the creator of the Duchess Marden line, who will be in Charlotte on Saturday, April 26. "We need more self-nurturing, self-pampering."

An encounter with rose water, a chemical-free distillate of rose petals, during a journey to Southeast Asia was life-changing, she says.

When she first tried rose water, it was "reminiscent of that first sip of fresh-squeezed orange juice," she says. "I was so enthralled by it when it was explained to me: the ritual, the many wondrous properties that heal the skin." She shipped rose water back to the states and shared with family and friends. In 2005, she launched the luxury Duchess Marden line.

The line, which debuts in Charlotte at Jeffre Scott Apothecary, features cleansing, toning and hydrating products using plant-based ingredients, 100 percent rose water among them.

Among the line’s most popular items is Neck and Décolleté Serum ($64, 2 ounces), which aids in lightening dark spots, firms and tones, and smooths fine lines and wrinkles.

Marla Steuer will be at Jeffre Scott Apothecary, 607 Providence Road, on Saturday, April 26. Customers who spend more than $75 will receive a free facial by appointment only. Details: 704-339-0010;

Eye-opening counterfeit documentary

It's not an overstatement to say that buying a knock-off handbag connects you to world-wide organized crime.

"Illicit: The Dark Trade," a National Geographic documentary that debuted on PBS recently connected counterfeit fashion goods with human trafficking, phony pharmaceuticals, bootleg DVDs and a mind-boggling illegal workforce. It's an eye-opening doc, based on the work of Dr. Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. Naim believes illicit trade will have the same (or greater) impact on society as terrorism.

My stance on knockoffs changed a few years ago. If I can't afford the real deal, then I don't need to carry it/wear it, period. After reading "Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster" I confronted my brand snobbery, and put it in check.

What's your take on fakes?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm hooped, for sure

Jessikah Towle, hoop dance goddess

Have you tried hooping? You really should -- it's addicting, fun and empowering.

I spent a few hours recently attempting to learn the art of hoop dance from Jessikah Towle on a quiet, friendly street in NoDa. I was one of 12 women in the street, moving our bodies to the tunes of Nelly Furtado, Salt N Pepa, Snoop Dogg and Usher, among others.

Not only was it an incredible core workout, it was fun. Like F-U-N fun. Like laugh till your cheeks hurt fun. Doing tricks, letting go of self-consciousness and getting in touch with our bodies.

Interested in trying it out? Send an email to

We hooped around the block, much to the amusement of the neighbors

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Fab Finds: Cargo Lipstick

We love the possibility of a new tube of lipstick. Can it turn us into a sexy siren and address our socially conscious leanings in time for Earth Day?

Cargo’s Plant Love Botanical Lipstick is successful on both counts. The lippie case is made out of corn (emits less greenhouse gasses), the box is embedded with wildflower seeds (and can be planted) and $2 from the sale of each tube goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Available in 19 shades (some designed by celebs – we tried Grace by Angie Harmon), the lipstick contains no mineral oils or petroleum-based ingredients. $20,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fab Finds: Self-tanner

Self-tanner is a powerful tool in your beauty arsenal, perfect for taking the blinding winter paleness off bare legs that are seeing daylight for the first time since fall.

But that tan-in-a-can often comes at a price: stinky, sticky lotion that leaves you with uneven color. Enter Jergens Natural Glow Express, a new addition to the successful Natural Glow moisturizer line.

The product promises full-faux tan in three days, and it delivers. The lotion is thicker than most tanning creams and is lightly scented. The rich color is surprisingly non-orange. $7.99, grocery, mass retailers and drugstores;

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fashion, fashion everywhere

Tailored jackets and excellent boots? I'm in!

Fashion was seemingly everywhere in Uptown Charlotte on Sunday.

I started the morning at the Charlotte Jumper Classic fashion show brunch at Time Warner Cable Arena, and saw fashions from a some of the vendors set up in the arena concourse: Biba N.Y. boutique in Southampton, NY; Wish Clothiers, budding designer Katie Ermilio, daughter of third generation designer Bob Ermilio and Dubarry of Ireland, among others.

My shoe fetish kicked into overdrive at the sight of all those fab riding boots!

A model walking the runway at Sunday's Pure Fashion event.

I finished up the afternoon at the Pure Fashion event at the Westin. Event emcee Barbara McKay was quick with a joke for the crowd of nearly 800 attendees. When the fashion show began -- featuring more than 60 teen girls who went through several months of Pure Fashion empowerment training -- McKay invited young girls in the audience to crowd around the stage and get a closer look.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I love Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis is my new idol. She's so comfortable in her skin, so stylish in her honesty.

She's featured in AARP The Magazine, and was recently on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" to talk about her journey to self-love and acceptance.

On "Oprah," she spoke of her role as the beauty myth buster (besides being "topless" on the cover of AARP, she posed for untouched photos in More Magazine), saying that women are craving truth and honesty, especially in advertising.

The article in AARP says Jamie Lee is letting her freak flag fly as she nears 50 (her birthday is in November). I dream of a world where a woman speaking frankly and living purposefully isn't considered an anomaly, but the norm.

What do you think?

Monday, April 7, 2008

My latest fashion crush

Designers branching out with lower-priced lines at mass retailers is nothing new. But the quality of the lines have been stepped up considerably since Isaac Mizrahi blazed the fashionably cheaper trail at Target back in 2003.

I've got two recent faves for quality, style and price:

The Gryson handbag line in stores now at Target. My obsession with the green woven bags (above) has cooled a bit since the look book arrived at the office a few months ago, and I've now moved on to daydreaming about the blue drawstring tote.

The Abaete line at Payless by Laura Poretzky is sophisticated, cute and apparently in demand -- the Davis Tote is sold out. The sexy, strappy Betty is on sale right now for $19.99!

Which cheap-chic line is your fave?

Friday, April 4, 2008

Crocs are mutating

I was so hoping we'd see the end of Crocs sometime soon.

Instead, the shoes that many mistake as acceptable for wearing in public keep mutating. Among the latest transgressions? The Croc Sassari and Cyprus (above) -- a wedge sandal and 3-inch strappy heel, respectively.

I'll admit to owning a pair of knockoffs I bought out of desperation at the beach last summer. I will also admit that I still wear them, but never out of the house.

Yes, they're moderately comfy, but buoyancy and being able to hose them off are not selling points I often consider when buying shoes at any price.

What is the attraction?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CLT love in Town & Country

Two local women recently scored major pub in prestigious glossies:

Laura Vinroot Poole, owner of Capitol and Poole Shop at Phillips Place, is featured in the April issue of Town & Country. No stranger to national mag love (she and her home were featured on the cover and in the pages of Domino magazine in February 2007), Poole was profiled about her personal style. She’s pictured wearing a Thakoon dress and names Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz as her favorite designer.

Former Charlottean Jane Pope, the designer of Balboa and Jane Pope Collection jewelry, was featured in Vogue’s spring fashion issue in March. Pope, who now lives in Charleston, is pictured in the mag in front of historic Drayton Hall Plantation in a J. Mendel dress and her own bangles. Details: