Saturday, December 26, 2009

Watch this!

A magpie-like jewelry-hoarding gene runs through my family line, much like red hair or emotional eating. My mother collects silver bracelets. My sister is the queen of small, sparkly earrings. My grandmother was the ultimate jewelry fanatic, boasting a collection of baubles that rivals that of some museums (much of which I was fortunate enough to inherit). As for me, my downfalls have always been cocktail rings and wristwatches, the latter of which I honestly believe to be the easiest way to look instantly pulled-together, even in the event of the most classic (read: boring) outfit. Never mind that most of my watches are broken and permanently set to 5pm (happy hour!). If I don't have a watch on, I feel naked.

My watch collection is extensive, but fairly simple: each piece consists of either a two-tone combination of gold and silver or one of the aforementioned metals paired with a leather strap. A bit of opalescent color or an odd shape on the face is about as crazy as I go. Lately, though, one of my favorite fashion bloggers, stylist/designer Andy Torres, has gotten me hooked on neon plastic, the likes of which I haven't worn since the heyday of the Casio Baby-G in the late '90s.







I love the pop of color her watches lend her outfits. Even when paired with nicer jewelry, they don't look tacky or cheap; just youthful and pleasantly unexpected.

Itching to test-drive the look? Here are a few of my favorite styles from California brand Nixon:




Friday, December 25, 2009

The article no magazine will ever publish.

Magazines occasionally stress me out. Like, I love them. I devour them. But as someone who wants to spend my life making them, I feel like I need to savor every last morsel of Harper's Bazaar and Elle, gleaning from each page what I enjoy and what I hope to imitate in my own writing and wardrobe. I buy them in bulk at the drugstore, sit down with a steaming mug of wild cherry green tea and read them cover to cover, dog-earing pages to denote looks I want to copy or references I want to check. No halfhearted treadmill skimming for me: where a normal person might flick lazily through an editorial, I am studying the fine print names of stylists and photographers, testing myself to see if I recognize designer pieces from their respective runways. I attack magazines with the same fervor my more literary fellow English majors attack Joyce and Tolstoy. So it seems only fitting that I have, as a result, acquired a similar level of surface expertise.

There's a fairly wide smorgasbord of magazines out there, enough to target a fairly wide audience of potential readers. To read them all would be time-consuming and costly. Apart from an element of style, what do you look for in your magazine experience? Celebrity culture? Current events? As the end of the calendar year (and likely end of your subscription) draws near, consider the menu of options hovering at the forefront of the industry: the good reads and the guilty pleasures. Which publication was made for you?

If you want to draw inspiration from impeccable photo spreads full of things you will never be able to afford: Vogue. There's a reason this magazine is often cited as #1. Aesthetically, Vogue is virtually flawless. Creatively, it's also the most forward-thinking; the number of designers, models, and photographers discovered and nurtured by Vogue is astounding (chicken or egg: did Vogue pick up on their raw talent, or did we decide they must be talented because Vogue thought so?). However, being on top comes with a flip side: in this case, a snootiness that makes Vogue a bit inaccessible to anyone who isn't a) extremely knowledgeable about fashion or b) rolling in the Benjamins. Steel yourself to see a $400 top described as "a steal." This is a place to gather ideas, not to compile a shopping list.

If you want to literally see something in a magazine, then go buy it: Lucky. Pretty much the opposite of Vogue. Not a ton of high fashion happening here, but if you want to save yourself the energy of synthesizing runway trends and just see a well-executed take on what you might actually be able to add to your wardrobe, this is the mag for you. Perfect for those who like to look current but aren't particularly interested in devoting a lot of time to personal style. Lucky is an easy read full of great deals, with a well-developed online sector positively overflowing with coupons and giveaways.

If you want to read articles that will make you think about fashion in a whole new way: Harper's Bazaar. Provocative, sweeping, sophisticated yet tongue-in-cheek. Think Vogue with a bit more irony. Similarly focused on couture but with arguably more attention paid to written content, Harper's Bazaar is Vogue's biggest rival (and wins my prize for number of covetous gasps elicited per issue). Not the best choice to flip through while waiting to get your hair cut; Bazaar's wit demands a focus from its readers that may or may not be your cup of tea.

If you want to feed your intellect at the same time you indulge your materialistic side: Elle. One thing's for sure: Elle is not afraid of words. If you're into fashion, but just as into literature and the state of your soul, Elle is a savvier take on the classic women's magazine. Don your most geek-chic pair of glasses and spend an afternoon poring over it in a coffee shop, but don't try and take it on the treadmill. Check out one of my favorite articles from the last issue here.

If you want to put your consumerism in the context of what's happening in the world: Vanity Fair. Best summed up by its own Google summary: "From world affairs to entertainment, business to fashion, crime to society, Vanity Fair is a cultural catalyst that drives the popular dialogue globally." So there you go. Issues! Politics! You may like fashion, but you're not shallow! You're informed! Go forth and prosper, Michelle Obamas of the world!

If you want to see how the other half lives: InStyle. InStyle has a not-entirely-deserved reputation as being geared toward more mature readers. This stigma aside (and really, I love InStyle and think it has plenty to say that is relevant to us young ones), their big thing is celebrity culture - not in a trashy US Weekly kind of way, but more in the vein of red carpet coverage and celebrity home tours. For the fashionista who is enthralled by famous faces, InStyle is a cocktail of sartorial splendor and superstars.

If clothes are fine...but really you're all about the make-up: Allure. Speaks for itself.

If clothes are fine...but really you're all about the men: Cosmopolitan. Also speaks for itself. Find out how to please him. Many times over.

If you don't take life (or fashion) too seriously: Glamour. The perfect potpourri of fashion finds, empowering tidbits, heartwarming stories and boy advice. Reading Glamour is like having a conversation with your "rah-rah, girl power!" best friend. Funny. Satisfying. Glamour might be a Jack of all trades and a master of none, but it's a pretty damn good Jack.

There are several more that I feel unfit to judge due to lack of experience (W, Nylon, and Marie Claire spring to mind). Any thoughts, peanut gallery?

So there you have it. Be picky with your readership, but remember that each publication requires an intense amount of manpower and creativity to come to fruition each month. Let's give all those magazine-makers out there a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The ultimate stress relief.

In honor of finals, La Vie en Ginger would like to break with its usual aesthetic to present you with this:


That exam might be a bitch, but somewhere in the world...this puppy exists.

Have your cookies and eat them too.

Christmas? Love it. The overabundance of baked goods is just one reason we look forward to the holidays all year long.




But nothing ruins a showstopping party dress quite like cookie weight. Save yourself the guilt trip: indulge! Then break a sweat as often as you can stand to balance it out. Whether you're rushing from the gym to a final exam to a holiday bash (or simply looking to clean up après-ski at Winter Park), here are a few products to take you from abominable snow monster to ice princess in no time flat.


"Ojon" means "the people of beautiful hair." I am inclined to agree with this translation. Ojon Rub-Out Dry Cleanser is a must for any girl with fine locks that start to look limp and/or greasy quickly. Meant to be used as a pick-me-up between washes, I also use it as a volumizer on just-washed hair. Warning: these cans clog easily, so shake vigorously before using. I would also recommend buying the travel size; if it does clog up on you, that's less product wasted (although I've heard Sephora will switch out a clogged can). There's also a strong, baby-powdery smell associated with the spray...but seeing as this is a product that all but encourages not bathing, you could probably use a little freshening in the scent department.


Speaking of scents: when was the last time you felt passionately about your deodorant? Yeah, that's what I thought. We settle for "functional," content to breathe generic florals every time we cock our heads too far to the side. No more. If you worship at the altar of vanilla, Ban Vanilla Twist is a stick that not only keeps you from smelling bad, but actively contributes toward you smelling good. And the homey aroma lasts all day.


"Shiny" is a great adjective when it comes to healthy hair or anything sequinned. Not so much when it comes to your face. With scents like green tea, lavender and rose, Boscia Blotting Linens go above and beyond the call of merely reducing oil and enter the realm of therapeutic experiences. Dab your face and inhale after a tough workout. Just make sure you have a place to toss that alarmingly soaked sheet when you're through.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

This ain't no Neverland Ranch, but...

Little boys have a lot to offer us. Particularly in the wardrobe department. If you're a frequenter of department stores like Target and Wal-Mart (Fun fact: I am Wal-Mart royalty. My uncle is David Glass*, former company President/C.E.O.), make a pit stop in the kids' section for cheap thrills on perennial classics.

Button-downs. Perfectly slim-cut oxfords for under $20 a pop? Yes, please. Earlier today I scored two plaid flannels at Target for $12.99 apiece. That's as good as it gets outside of a thrift store, folks (and I'm going to go ahead and still award myself some indie points for shopping creatively). Bonus: these clothes are designed for males who are pre-gender identity crisis, so you're likely to find great colors like deep purple and salmon pink amidst the racks.

Undershirts. Three words. White. Ribbed. Tanks. Wear them with and under everything.

Blazers. One of my most-complimented wardrobe items is a navy blue little boys' suit jacket. That one actually did come from a thrift store, but the same look can be achieved via discount retail. Aim for one that closes across the chest but maintains that adorably shrunken silhouette in sleeve length; your slender wrist bedecked in a vintage watch, clunky chain or delicate bangle is what keeps the whole look feminine.

Khakis. Before you snicker - yes, they will be incredibly short - roll the cuffs a few times and pair them with a chic blouse, a skinny belt and a killer pair of heels. Still laughing?

No need to let your credit take the fall on these basics. These are tough times, dumplings. Brooks Brothers will still be there after the recession.

Have a swell Cyber Monday!

* That's right, I'm related to a man who once proclaimed in response to child labor accusations that since Asians are quite short, you can't always tell how old they are. WHAT. A. CHAMP.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I cannot text you with a drink in my hand.

No, you're not crazy: La Vie got a facelift. Do you dig it? Is it ruining your life? Holler at your girl.

So anyone who has spent a decent amount of time with me lately is all too aware that I am gaga for Gaga. I'm her biggest fan, I'll follow her until she loves know. The works.


After receiving her new EP a few days early from fellow gaga-roupie Tracey, I'm gonna go ahead and give it my stamp of embarrassingly-high-iTunes-play count approval. My current obsession is "Telephone" (not to be confused with "Videophone," Gaga's other, lesser duet with Beyoncé), a night-out anthem in the vein of "Poker Face" that showcases Gaga's vocal chops as well as her ability to jog my ass out of my computer chair. Other standouts include the 1980s-esque "Dance In The Dark," creepy electro-ballad "Monster," and a silly but catchy tune by the name of "Alejandro." I wasn't even going to mention "Bad Romance," which I'm assuming you already know is life-changing. But just in case:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Real life versus reel life: The insider scoop.

So let me preface this by saying: I have the best internship ever. Ever. I spend two days a week at a prominent fashion/lifestyle magazine in Chicago, and I couldn’t be more obsessed. “Oh, Emma, I’m so sorry,” they say, “We have another celebrity interview for you to transcribe today. Also, can you help staff a gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art Thursday night?” Sorry? You’re sorry? One man’s bitch work is another man’s jackpot. I’m sure I won’t always be this wide-eyed, but for now it’s all I could ask for. They even let me write stories for the mag (my first full-pager comes out next month). It might technically be an unpaid internship, but when you’re an aspiring freelance writer, published clips are your currency.

But how does life in the magazine industry stack up against one of my favorite fashion movies, The Devil Wears Prada? While our editor-in-chief is blonde and bubbly and so not Miranda Priestley (I’ve totally ridden the elevator with her before), not all onscreen portrayals are mythical. Here’s the juice on a few of the perks and perils of working on the other side of the printing press.

"Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking." Have you worn a backless leotard or shiny magenta leggings to work lately? True to form, fashion risks are encouraged here: the general aesthetic is casual but put-together. Concocting a worthy ensemble may be more time-consuming than shimmying into a blazer and a pressed white blouse (or skinny jeans and a North Face, for that matter), but I relish the excuse to experiment. So does my disproportionately large collection of stiletto heels.

"You do know that cellulite is one of the main ingredients in corn chowder." Here’s why people in fashion are so skinny: they’re embarrassed to eat in front of each other. Even an intern at a Midwest regional publication is not immune to caloric scrutiny. I was diving into a bag of cheddar-and-caramel popcorn for energy after a virtual all-nighter when a charmingly snarky editor from the men’s department passed behind me and muttered “Well that’s a healthy breakfast!” Wow. Wow. And I usually bring apples and yogurt, too. I half-expected him to start calling me “Six.”

"You are in desperate need of Chanel." While we don’t have a Runway-style fashion closet, freebies do pop up every now and then. I’ve snagged a couple of beauty products and a pair of designer socks just by being in the right place at the right time (and seen some stunning Neiman Marcus samples pass by on the racks).

"I have Patrick!" Celebrity encounters: inevitable. I didn’t think I could top the day Clinton Kelly (of What Not To Wear) gestured at my outfit and howled “What is this? I love this!” at Northwestern’s Homecoming parade my freshman year. Then Michael Kors told me I looked chic. I’m pretty sure the existence of this blog was just legitimized.

"I’m sorry, do you have some prior commitment? Some hideous skirt convention you have to go to?" Camaraderie among the interns is significantly higher than that of personal assistants Andrea and Emily. The girl who shares my station is almost too polite. She asks for my permission every time she wants to use the phone. Um, yes? Actually, maybe I only think there’s camaraderie because I’m the Emily. Whoops.

"Please bore someone else with your questions." Complete and utter falsehood. My boss actually asks me if I want Starbucks when she runs out. I would be naïve to believe that I’ll always be working under such supportive people, but I’m going to go ahead and enjoy my good luck for now. I might sort editorial mail, but I’m not chasing down unpublished Twilight manuscripts.

"A million girls would kill for this job." Okay, okay. I don’t get paid. But I do get to write for one of the largest city audiences in the country. Probably the harshest reality of writing for a magazine is the vicious editing that goes on between the drafts I send in and the published products: one of my articles was so drastically altered, I was shocked I still had a byline. When you write for a blog, it’s all you. When you write for a magazine, it’s all them. The final product usually still turns out to be quality - maybe better than what you had in the first place - but it can be frustrating to watch your voice disappear.

Anyway. If there’s one thing this internship has confirmed, it’s that I appear to be on the right track. This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a long and colorful career in this (supposedly dying?) industry. Will working for a national magazine be closer to what we see in theaters? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


In fifth grade, my favorite outfit was as follows: a lime green crushed velvet boatneck worn with leopard-print pants (both from Limited Too, duh) and a cropped leather jacket.

Today, at age 20, I am at this moment drooling over: a midnight blue crushed velvet bodycon dress worn with a leopard-print silk scarf (both from Topshop, duh) and a cropped leather jacket.

That's right, bitches. Velvet is back, and with none of the prissiness it had in the '90s. You can thank Balmain's Christophe Decarnin (the man who singlehandedly revived the shoulder pad) for its new incarnation: curve-hugging bodycon dresses made for nights out in Arctic conditions.


Controversial fabric aside - I adore velvet, personally, but I understand if you've filed it away with platform Skechers and popcorn shirts - let's talk about the cut. While bodycon dressing does require a degree of general fitness and proportionality, a slim-cut silhouette is far less intimidating than you might imagine. There may not be much of a margin for poochiness, but there's also no extra bulk added by the fabric, so if you've got confidence (and a reasonably flat stomach) there's no reason you can't pull it off. Long sleeves and a short hemline mean that allure needn't come at the cost of warmth; your gams will be just as catcall-worthy under a pair of black tights (choose sheer, not opaque, for maximum exposure).


If velvet's not your scene, epaulets provide an equally up-to-the-minute embellishment. They're like the Kate Bosworth of shoulder pads: kind of frail and spindly, but not unattractive. Am I right? Am I right?

Whatever. Both dresses make me want to sit in a swanky city bar and sip amaretto hot chocolate as I watch snow fall through a picture window. Now if only I had a Nate Archibald (or a Trip Vanderbilt) to keep my Serena van der Woodsen company...

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Russia with love.



So. Here's the story:

a) The photograph is courtesy of French fashionista Garance Doré, whose self-titled blog is always brimming with charm and inspiration. Her boyfriend is street-style photographer Scott Schuman. Perhaps you know him as "The Sartorialist." Yes, really.

b) PETA might come after me with paint cans (I'm one of those morally confused vegetarians who's involved in a torrid love affair with leather), but I would slap a fur trapper onto the list of Winter '10 essentials. These czarina-worthy chapeaux add a rich, cozy touch to otherwise austere outerwear. Whether yours is made of mink or, uh, synthetic materials, stick to satin lining for minimal hat hair. A subtle silvery sheen renders this look its most modern. Earflaps? Up to you.

c) Dear Girl In Picture, if you happen to stumble across this blog, please send me the name of the person who does your hair. Sincerely, Emma Aubry. P.S. Love the black and navy. Not sarcasm. Actually my favorite color combination since seafoam and silver.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Leather or not.

Forget easily snagged knits and fingerless gloves (the most useless invention since motorized mascara). This year's outerwear is a leather lover's paradise, and it's not all bikers and bondage, either. Punchy colors and ladylike accents such as bows and shirring make leather accessible to even the girliest of girls.





These four pairs are from Dents, an English brand available through ASOS, but variations on the basic leather driving glove can be found everywhere from Target to Banana Republic. This winter, hide your manicure in a sleeve that's a little bit tasteful, a little bit tough. Who says your circulation has to suffer for fashion?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ridin' flirty.

The perfect pair of flat boots has long been the linchpin to a complete winter wardrobe. Neutral colors like black, brown and gray match everything in your closet, justifying the investment, while metal details such as buckles and studs cater to your personal style.




I've been on the lookout for a new pair ever since my chocolate leather riding boots (purchased, irreplaceably, in Italy) bit the dust (for the sixth time...replacing a zipper is one thing, replacing a sole is another). These Frye clover-tab stompers are the first I've truly fallen in love with. Wear them with yesterday's sweater, skinny jeans and a colorful pashmina for a posh holiday shopping outfit that won't drown you in your own sweat the moment you step out of the chill and into a cozy department store.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My favorite kind of mafia.

Here's a true story: I just threw back my head, moaned, and screamed (much to the alarm of my roommate, Danielle) "I just want cashmere so badly right now!"

Chicago is in the midst of a rare and precious Indian summer, but all I can think about is snow. I've had Pandora's "Jazz Holidays" on rotation for a solid month now (seriously, isn't Danielle a lucky girl?), as if I could force winter weather to arrive through sheer willpower. We've had our share of cold - that record-breaking month of freezing rain won't soon be forgotten, not by my sad Sue London ballet flats that were purchased in September and are already in pieces - but I've always felt that where chilly and wet are concerned, snow trumps rain by a long shot. I think it stems back to childhood associations. Snow meant no school and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Rain meant a bad hair day.

But guys. It's coming. Bone-rattling gusts off Lake Michigan and literal feet of frozen goodness will be here before you know it, so don't let them catch you unawares. Begin rounding up the essentials now. La Vie en Ginger presents Winter Weather Week, kicked off with an item so classic your mother might have one in her closet (but don't hold that against me):




I would swap a kidney for a pile of J. Crew cashmere tees right now. I'm actually only half-kidding. Nothing feels better against dry skin than cashmere (not that there's any excuse for dry skin...I've got a great tag-team moisturizing regimen that I'll elaborate on some other time); nothing layers better over a white t-shirt. This is the single most versatile item of clothing to have in a winter wardrobe, other than perhaps a well-cut pair of jeans. But that's hardly seasonal.

Don't be fooled by your own thriftiness. Cashmere does come in grades, and a cheap cashmere blend is likely to pill after only a few wears (like two heads, two-ply is better than one). Pay close mind to the drape and feel of your cashmere: it should feel luxurious, but anything too soft (read: thick with surface fuzz) is a fickle friend. Neckline is a matter of personal preference. V-necks are flattering - they elongate neck and body lines - but a boyish crew-cut is trendier (and more conducive to a toasty sternum). Shivering, goosebumped décolletage is never sexy. Trust me, pals. I've done the research.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You've got a really nice profile.

Facebook. A hotbed for judgment. The "Don't"s are easy enough to figure out: nobody wants to be the guy with the emo status updates every fifteen minutes; nobody wants to be the girl who posts (or worse, tags) a zillion Photobooth glamour shots of questionable attractiveness. Nobody wants to be caught with a band in their Favorite Music section that other people have heard of. Certain rules of social networking go without saying.

But what about the "Do"s? How do you send a message to your friends (and that rando you sat by in high school math class) that you are witty, pretty, and gritty enough to warrant their attention? I'll tell you this: the runway ain't the only place trends are born. Arm yourself against the disgrace of being caught with last season's profile. Consider this your Bible to handling your digital self with aplomb.

General Notes: Capitalization is a personal choice; proper punctuation is not. If you want to be Facebook trendy, you should probably avoid ending sentences with anything other than a period. One exclamation point? Reserved for extreme situations. Multiple exclamation points? The kiss of death. Also treacherous: hearts, emoticons and anything cutesy. You, may, however, make ironic use of ~*~aStEriSkS aNd TiLdEs~*~ when it is clear you are mocking people who use these symbols in earnest.

Profile Picture: Sure, it's tempting to slap up a photo of you rocking the Skinny Arm and a cleavage-baring top. But the true Facebook champs are all about the candid (or "candid") shot. Three points if you're not looking at the camera; five points if your hair is in front of your face; ten points for a jutting collarbone. Bad lighting is also crucial. A glass of wine is the only appropriate alcoholic beverage for a profile picture, and even then, holding it must never look like a conscious decision. If you're going to have people other than you in your photo, make sure they look good (but not better than you). If you must display the poster for a show or Greek philanthropy, delete it from your album immediately after it's over.

Status: Only when necessary, only when promoting something, only when so side-splittingly hilarious that it must be shared with all of your "friends." Never betraying actual emotion. Never when detailing the mundanities of your day. Never about the weather (we know).

That Awkward Little Box Under Your Photo: The hippest of the hip leave it empty. The next-hippest write either a quote, song lyric or inside joke that is incomprehensible to the greater population because it is a) uncredited to the original author/speaker or b) in another language.

Basic Information: Less is more: include only your birthday and hometown, if possible (but if you're a boy and don't list anything under Interested In, don't be surprised when people assume you're gay, particularly if your political views are "Very Liberal"). Under no circumstances is "Random Play" an acceptable response to Looking For. When it comes to Political and Religious Views, think carefully about the kind of image you want to project to the world. Post your real ones if you must (though people who care will know them anyway), but be prepared to look like an asshole if you list something like "Baby Pandas" or a YouTube link to "Single Ladies."

Personal Information: This is your time to shine on an otherwise minimalist page. To take full advantage, list only that which is unique to you, particularly in the Interests section. Here are two examples of appropriately trendy Facebook profiles, reproduced with the permission of their owners:


Clean. Clever. Indie. Intelligent. This girl has piqued your interest without giving too much of herself away. This next approach, on the other hand, leaves a bit less to the imagination:


I don't generally endorse Facebooks that can't be contained by a screenshot, but this one is well-written enough to warrant an exception. If you're going to make us read all of that, it had better be damn good. If you have more than ten Favorite Movies/Books/TV Shows listed, you need to consider the meaning of the word "favorite." If your Quotes section is a collection of motivational clichés, you need to consider a career with Chicken Soup for the Soul.

The trickiest part of Personal Information is About Me. Perfection comes in the one-sentence form, ideally a song lyric that happens to also describe you perfectly ("Lady in the street, but a freak in the bed" springs to mind). Don't write anything that can already be found elsewhere on your profile.

Wall Posts: Northwestern Facebook celebrity Tyler Baranski weighs in on Wall etiquette: "Stop posting 'We MUST hang out soon! HAPPENING.' on Walls. Guess what: you two aren't already hanging out for a reason." Ouch. "Make your Wall posts concise and witty and people will love you," he continues. "Over three sentences? That's probably a message. Nobody wants to read anything just between two people; Walls are for entertainment purposes only. As for the videos? Think real hard if you want everyone to see that." This from the mouth of a pro, ladies and gents.

Baranski's off-the-Wall pet peeves? "Mass inviting people to your group/event that lets us know you've lost your phone. First off, you never had my number in the first place, and I'm not about to post it on a Wall. Secondly, if I'm not important enough to ask in person, you don't really want my number anyway, so let's save me the headache of clicking 'Ignore'," (Isn't he a delightful little fountain of sass?). I'm a bit more lenient when it comes to these; I've been in that situation, and I think an event is an acceptable way to collect the essential phone numbers (a group, however, is a no-no). Invites should be delivered with care, no matter how easy it is to press "Select All." Ditto for groups, events and pages in general. And don't invite me again if I say no.

As for Work Info, Contact Info, Groups, etc., be discerning. Less. Is. More. That's all.

Facebook trends, much like runway trends, can be absorbed or rejected; crafting your Facebook in a way that speaks to your chosen persona is certainly your prerogative. Just be aware that a public forum like Facebook is a way by which people come to "know" you, especially people who don't interact with you a great deal in real life. Your Facebook is the digital equivalent of your wardrobe: armor through which those around you view the self you choose to project day-to-day. If this makes you uncomfortable (and maybe it should), leave it bare. Force people to get to know you in person. If you're up for the challenge of letting them see enough of you that they want to see more...Godspeed, and happy Facebooking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Drinking too much coffee can cause a latte problems.

If your motivational skills are at all like mine, any attempt to study in your bedroom very quickly devolves into a highly scientific rotation of social networking sites and episodes of Glee. In a perfect world, we’d all love to wriggle under our down comforters with a fat Psych textbook and a steaming mug of hot cocoa; but too often, reality renders us more likely to wake with a jolt hours later, the words imprinted on our cheeks rather than in our brains.

This is where Judgmental Strangers in Coffee Shops come into play. Let’s be honest: if you pass someone trolling Facebook in Norris, doesn’t a little part of you say, “Really?” Better to be the pretentious writer hammering away at his Macbook than the slacker sitting in a public venue yet choosing to interact via Internet instead of in person. Don’t even get me started on the clowns plugged in with headphones. First of all, do you really need the volume up high enough that we can hear every word that falls from Tyra's lips? Secondly, it’s not a guilty pleasure if everyone can see you. See, my judgment is holding you accountable to your work already.

Having partaken in a number of Reading Week “coffee crawls” (the most expensive procrastination habit since online shopping), I consider myself something of a connoisseur of Evanston study spots. Taking Norbucks out of the equation (convenient, yes, but have they ever made your drink properly?), here is my take on the top locales to get your study on south of the Arch.

The Atmosphere: Surprise! All of your friends are caffeine addicts. Be prepared to run into at least ten people you know.
The Menu: Consistent. We all know what Starbucks coffee tastes like: not the most delicious thing to ever grace your taste buds, but it won’t make your eyes roll back into your head as you choke it down. And who can resist a Pumpkin Spice Latte on a crisp fall day?
Free Wi-Fi?: No. But here’s an insider trick: if you sit near the windows, you can pick up a signal from Café Unicorn across the street.
The Bottom Line: Those panoramic windows are great for people watching, but unless you’ve got iron willpower, you’re likely to be distracted by the foot traffic and the homeless man shaking his cup of change. If your goal is to appear to the outside world an effectual, academic individual (while really updating your blog and checking yourself out in your webcam), Sherman Avenue Starbucks is the place to be.

The Atmosphere: Your standard (sub)urban coffeeshop, with none of the standard pretention. It’s refreshing to look around and see folks of all ages and walks of life to balance out the usual laptop hunchbacks. The façade is a bit schitzophrenic, with a beachy, hutch-like bathroom area warring against richly painted walls and an apparently crumbling tile floor; but if you can look past Brothers K’s visual shortcomings, the overall effect is pleasant, friendly and relaxed.
The Menu: I die for this coffee: nutty and sweet enough to drink black, with 92-cent refills on the house blend. The food (typical bakery fare, plus quiche and savory pies) garners rave reviews from regulars.
Free Wi-Fi: Yes.
The Bottom Line: Located just off of the Main Street El stop – sounds far, but really a mere 20-minute walk from the sorority quad (or a three-minute intercampus shuttle ride, for the crippled or lazy) – it’s unlikely you’ll come face-to-face with your ex here. A more likely scenario? Running into your professor. Bring a friend; you’ll want company on the walk over, and a bookcase is piled high with old-school board games for when the two of you are ready for a study break.

The Atmosphere: Hipster central. No sweats and messy buns here; for Unicorn’s well-dressed patrons, studying is an event.
The Menu: This is the killer for me: I hate Unicorn coffee. And judging by conversations I’ve had, I’m not the only one. The muffins, scones, and breads, however, are baked fresh in the store and quite tasty. So are the “pannini”s, though the blatantly incorrect spelling on the menu is enough to make any neurotic cringe.
Free Wi-Fi?: Yes.
The Bottom Line: They do not take credit cards. They do not take credit cards. Order a (nasty) coffee and then try to pay with a credit card and you will be embarrassed. That being said, people come here to legitimately get work done, and it shows. For a worker-bee environment and an aesthetically pleasing crowd, Unicorn Café takes the productivity prize.

The Atmosphere: With a giant, L-shaped floor plan and accommodations ranging from bar stools to squishy armchairs, you’re bound to find somewhere in this casual restaurant that’s empty and/or cozy enough to set up shop. The bright lights and color on the walls will keep you feeling focused and wide awake through even the driest textbook chapters.
The Menu: French onion soup in a bread bowl, anyone? I thought so. Panera’s carbo-loaded menu is a breadophile’s dream.
Free Wi-Fi?: Yes.
The Bottom Line: Panera is perfect for all-day study marathons: the food is filling, the refills are free, and I’ve never been hounded by the staff. If you have a hard time tuning out mindless chatter, you might be bothered by the restaurant-style noise level; if not, it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon taking refuge from the elements in this unusually homey chain.

The Atmosphere: Open. Relatively quiet. Not particularly accommodating to laptop users, though—there are only a handful of tables against the wall where the outlets are, and I’ve received lectures from the staff on the safety hazards of snaking my computer cord across the floor.
The Menu: Two words: Cheesecake Factory. Dieters, beware! The pastry case features irresistible goodies ranging from the savory (stuffed pretzels) to the sweet (a wide variety of cupcakes and cheesecake). The coffee brewed is Ye Olde Reliable Starbucks, complete with the elaborate drink menu you know and love.
Free Wi-Fi?: Yes, and newly so. It usually takes my laptop a good ten minutes to connect, but once I get online the network runs just fine.
The Bottom Line: Just ten more pages! Then you can get that red velvet cupcake! Go ahead, you’ve earned it. Blomquist will still be standing when you get back.

The Atmosphere: For a project that requires a lot of chit-chat, you won’t be bothering anyone here. Between the open mic nights and the inevitable slew of prospies, Kafein is the loudest “study” spot in Evanston.
The Menu: Is funny, if you like to read menus. The milkshakes are mouth-watering but expensive. Remember that you have a server to tip for that $5 drink!
Free Wi-Fi?: Yes...but it’s not really free. The menu denotes a minimum $3 charge per customer—meaning that even if you just came to keep a caffeine-dependent friend company, you’re going to have to order your own or pony up the cash.
The Bottom Line: A typical college hangout. The thing is, there’s a fee to “hang out,” and no one who goes here appears to actually be in college.

The Atmosphere: A bit crowded in the mornings. Don’t worry, that’ll jog you out of your glassy-eyed stupor as you flip through those flash cards one last time.
The Menu: How many times have you rejoiced over free bagels at a business meeting, only to get stuck with smoked salmon cream cheese because that fool who made the bagel run thought the crowd would want “variety’? Order your bagel exactly how you want it for a change. Bonus: the coffee is delicious.
Free Wi-Fi?: No. But it’s so close by that on a clear day you can tap into Northwestern’s network.
The Bottom Line: For a cheap breakfast when you have to run off to a final in 45 minutes, you can’t beat Einstein’s proximity to campus. Just be warned that the door of girls’ bathroom sticks. I once had to be rescued by a little old lady. Awkward.

The Atmosphere: Egg yolk-yellow walls and kitschy pop art make this Hotel Orrington-adjacent feel more like your mom’s kitchen than a full-scale restaurant. Even better, you’re guaranteed to be the only patron under the age of 30. At least you were until I published this article.
The Menu: Reasonably priced café soups, salads and sandwiches. I have yet to be disappointed by an order here.
Free Wi-Fi?: Yes.
The Bottom Line: If you’re the type of person who is comfortable spending time with you, yourself and, uh, you, consider hitting Globe Café for your next lunch outing. A friendly waitstaff, free newspapers and high-backed booths make this one of the most underrated eateries in Evanston—and a stylish place to camp out with a problem set. True, Globe is a bit more expensive than most places on this list, but if you stick to coffee and dessert you can indulge without breaking the bank. Alone time comes at a price, after all.

The Atmosphere: The music is a little too loud. The staff is not quite friendly enough. The paint job and irony-free décor are a little too classy for a college town coffee shop.
The Menu: The coffee is a little too strong. The scone I ordered was a little too bland. And where am I supposed to put my dishes after I eat?
Free WiFi?: Yes.
The Bottom Line: Despite the revamped interior, this place is just a little too not-Café Ambrosia. Perhaps it’ll grow on the Northwestern community over time, but after a lackluster experience I’m not itching to give it another try any time soon.

There are, of course, a number of other options – Peet’s, Argo, Wild Tree and Café Mozart, to name a few – that I have yet to add to my repertoire. If I missed your favorite, by all means chime in with your input!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How do you catch a unique puppy? Unique up on it.

Well. It has happened. My beloved red Keds have bitten the dust at the hands (or, rather, jaws) of the fam's overzealous, pony-sized, apparently teething pooch. Reason #37 why I will never own a dog by choice. A well-behaved betta fish: now there is a model pet.

One day I will spend my entire life in heels, but there's something about early morning classes that's just not conducive to stilettos (though God knows I've tried). With the Keds reduced to housework attire, I find myself in search of a new pair of sneakers with enough style not to be mistaken for gym shoes. If I can't look "done," I at least want to look like I had the foresight to look undone à la mode. Casual need not be synonymous with blah.




They're kind of crazy and ghetto fabulous, right? But then, I'm kind of crazy and ghetto fabulous. It took me a while to decide between the high-top and low-top versions, but I figure if you're going to spring for lavender-and-metallic-silver tennis shoes you might as well do the thing properly.

Am I out of my mind? You tell me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Baby got back.

So who else thinks backs are, like, outrageously sexy? Having a perfectly toned rear view has become one of my new life goals (she wrote, polishing off a chicken fajita), up there with running a marathon and joining the mile high club.


I'm really into the peekaboo sex appeal of this Silence & Noise dress. What's more, I trekked over to Urban to try it on this afternoon and the material is thick enough to go braless (at least if you're a C cup or below; my apologies to the more curvaceous ladies, I have felt your pain and it scared me onto a treadmill). I'm all for visible bra straps, generally speaking, but they would ruin this. Even Carrie Bradshaw would agree. Any item of clothing that lets me show off my lats but not my high beams is a winner in my book.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eyes bugging out of head.

Every now and then, you come across a pair of shoes so special that everything else - your Starbucks fetish, your credit card debt, your need for textbooks and/or a home - disappears. This is called a shoe crush, and it is a serious affliction.

Now, I'm no Becky Bloomwood, but I allow myself one extravagant (for a college student in Chicago) pair of shoes per summer, with the qualifier that I have to first maintain a serious shoe crush over at least two months' time. Last year it was a pair of burgundy patent peep-toe Mary Janes that I salivated over on my way into the mall every day for my retail job. As my friends can attest, they were worth every penny - I loved them to death (and subsequently wore them to death - that thing they say about replacing the plastic heel caps before they wear off completely? Yeah, do that.). Rewarding yourself for hard work with something you've consciously saved for is an excellent reminder not to waste money on the trivial.




Maybe I'm still reeling from Dior's black-and-nude duos in the Fall '09 couture show, but when I stumbled across these L.A.M.B. heels this morning I nearly dropped my iPod Touch in the pool. How perfect would they be with everything from a little black dress to pegged boyfriend jeans and a cardigan? With bright colors and basics? With black tights and without? This is it for this summer, folks. These are The Ones. I'm just praying I can still get my hands on them at the end of my two-month waiting period - they sold out in my size on Piperlime within literally an hour. Nordstrom, wait for me!

P.S. Runway reviews are in the works for Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino. Couture is exhausting. I needed a break.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fall '09 Couture: Episode V: Givenchy Strikes Back.

If I were a science fiction fanatic, this is where I would make a witty crack about how the house of Givenchy had been hijacked and placed in the hands of a dark overlord from a planet where visible nipples reign supreme and hips are made to look twice their circumference.




Sadly, I've never so much as seen a Star Wars movie. So I have no such crack to make.

Grade: B. Not very wearable, or really very flattering...but memorable, for which I give props. The fusing of Moroccan influences with the space age is something that only a designer with balls could pull off, and I think we can infer that Riccardo Tisci is packin'.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fall '09 Couture: Elie Saab commits a fashion haute pas.

Oh. Well. This is awkward.





Staging an all-white fashion show six months after Karl Lagerfeld's famously all-white Chanel show at the same venue? No offense, Elie Saab - the clothes are pretty and all, but use your head here. Common sense and imagination.

Grade: C+. I feel bad, because the collection is actually lovely and the pieces will look fine out on their own. But...NO. Who let him do this?! You just don't mess with the Kaiser.

Fall '09 Couture: Lacroix, or the phoenix rising from the ashes.

Poor Christian Lacroix. For all of this season's cutbacks due to a shaky economy, his story is the most heartbreaking. Earlier this year, Lacroix's financial backers laid off all but 12 of the company's workers due to "financial problems" (according to Lacroix in a New York Times interview, a "lack of chemistry" between the business and creative ends of the label). Though Lacroix, a designer known for his folk influences and theatricality, is determined not to see this upset as the end, his Fall '09 production is hailed as his "last couture show" - with everyone but the models working essentially for free.




The collection was small - just 24 looks - with rich fabrics and colors creating a somber Paris-meets-Russia vibe. The shock of blue in the outfit with the white skirt is breathtaking. I may have actually choked.


When the final piece - an ornate yet somehow funereal wedding dress - came down the runway, the show closed to a standing ovation and many, many tears.

Grade: B+. I'll be honest: it's not my cup of tea. But given the circumstances and aims of the collection (integrity to the label, approachability toward new investors), Lacroix put forth some truly admirable work.