July 11, 2014

to tan or not to tan

Nothing but scorn and a sniff of disgust for the girls who came back from summer holidays with a hint of tan lines. We, the palest girls at the ballet academy, had nothing but contempt for those who felt the need to expose their bodies to anything other than pain.

You see, the ideal ballet dancer was pale as alabaster, her hair as dark as a raven's wing, as petite as Tinkerbell.  And skinny. Obviously. Since the petite thing didn't apply to me (5'8"and counting) I had to double down on the pale, the midnight black hair, the skinny. Helpful I had a girl crush on Sherry from Chicago as inspiration. She was in a class above me, dyed her hair black and was a pale as a snow cone without the syrup topping. Skinny too. I was smitten and naturally had to emulate her in all things.

So, along comes a holiday in Kenya, on the beaches near Mombasa. Glaring white sand, glaring blue water. Hot and humid. What a nightmare. I was confronted with the concept of people actually traveling somewhere with the intention of allowing sun to not only touch their skin but to color it brown. I held out for three days. Dodging daylight was so tedious. On day four, around noon, capitulation was at hand. I did like to swim. Swimming was condoned as the only sport acceptable outside of ballet.

Looking in the tiny bathroom mirror next morning: Rocky. The 'after a fight with Apollo Creed shouting Adrian!' Rocky. Eyes swollen shut, skin (on the verge of purple) red and a weird crust around my hair line. Just when I gaining awareness of beach babes with smooth bronzed skin, sun-kissed noses, sun-streaked hair as an acceptable alternative to pale. My stacks of Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire demonstrated this to be a possibility. I could see them with my own eyes spread out like golden croissants on the beach here and now. In a pickle couldn't begin to describe how I felt. More like coming out the wrong end of a meat grinder.

The moral of this story? Don't be a snob. Use lots of sunscreen. Wear a hat. And maybe expose that skin to the sun once in a while. It's healthy. You know, in small doses. California raisins are best in oatmeal cookies, not lying around at the beach.

Enjoy your summer lovelies. Sunscreen ahoy!

Sunscreens we like: 
  • Vichy Capital Soleil 50 SPF for the face (really the best I've tried so far. Protects and keeps it moisturized but not in a sticky sweaty way, in a keeps skin supple way) 
  • Lierac Sunific: Serum Starter Bronzage (prepares the skin for tanning; good to use a couple weeks before intensive exposure) 
  • Heliocare sun products: all are good
  • Eucerin Sun cremes: available in Austria, Germany, Switzerland. Cheap, organic, great
photo of very skinny girl courtesy of elle.fr (don't let skinny girls intimidate you please)

June 19, 2014

best sundresses for the working girl

"Cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. Highs today in the upper 80's"
Translated: hot and muggy.  So how to best dress without wilting into a limp biscuit on the way to work (stressed), during work (chilled), after work errands (sweaty and tired)?

Think crisp. Floppy flowy dresses and skirts are lovely for a stroll in the park on a weekend but not ideal for work.  Why a dress? Because if you're feeling frazzled, a bit chaotic, stressed, the second you slip on a dress, zip it up -  it pulls you together. The feel of the zipper closing automatically straightens the back. Shoulders down, neck long, stomach tucked in and off you go out into the world. It really does make a difference.

Here's what Jess Carnter-Morley has to say on the subject:

"Crispness – a certain humidity-defying starch – is the way to add glamour to summer clothes. Shirt collars, utilitarian in other contexts, are elevated in the midday sun to something much more aspirational. Think of Audrey Hepburn in her pert, short-sleeved shirt and knotted silk scarfin Roman Holiday, a look echoed by Gwyneth Paltrow's wardrobe in The Talented Mr Ripley. The best sundresses take a pinch of that 1950s, shirt-and-full-skirt formality, and transpose the look into a dress, which is cooler to wear and slower to crumple. Being neither too bare around the shoulders nor too short makes for a dress that is all the more versatile for being a bit smarter."

We agree. Everything Jess has to say on the subject is invaluable advice for the working girl. You don't want to be too short on the hemline nor too bare around the neckline. Crispness is the key with materials like stretch-cotton, matelassé cotton-blend, silk-twill, cotton-silk blends, jacquard and jerseys ideal for the job and keeping form until you kick off your shoes and flop onto the sofa with a sigh of relief in the evening. Not to forget: you'll want a sweater with you as most offices shiver with supermarket-like subzero temperatures. 

The Cashmere vs. cheap debate: Now, it's easy to say: get a cashmere sweater. We know they cost way more than those sweaters at H&M. We know. But. But, you can own cashmere for under $200 or euros. Believe me, you will notice the difference. Remember to store with lavender pouches. And keep it dry-cleaned. Moths prefer cashmere to H&M too!

Follow Lola Channing's board Working Girl on Pinterest.

Favorite online source for reasonably priced dress shopping: theoutnet.com  Great deals to be had on my favorite go-to-designer for eternally classic, well-made dresses, Jil Sander as well as tons of others. Another hot tip is COS, an anglo-Swedish label (parent company is H&M) and the place for an affordable working wardrobe. Ideal for those affine to a forward-thinking Scandinavian simplicity. 

Otherwise, go forth and shop at your favorite boutique. It pays to have a go-to boutique that sends you alerts when favorite items go on sale. We are advocates of live-shopping although, granted, in the summer, it's often hard to make a case for venturing out in the blazing heat during your lunch break. 

A suggestion: if you are on holidays somewhere in the south of France or in Italy, during your evening strolls through lavender-scented streets, wander into some of the boutiques. You'd be surprised what fantastic city wear some of these sea side boutiques have hidden inside. 

for the entire article in the Guardian summer dresses
photo courtesy of Sophie for Lola 

June 16, 2014

a work of art: Tilda Swinton

We have a Tilda and boyfriend Sandro Kopp sighting in New York City. Ms. Swinton is currently shooting a movie called "Trainwreck".  Her boyfriend is an 'artiste' (of course. Not sarcastic 'of course'. More of a 'well duh, how could he be anything else? Tilda wouldn't date a plumber. Plus he looks all artsy and carefully casually groomed to play the part). Points for the NIN* t-shirt. Surely, he wears it as a fan.

Ms. Swinton's style is selectively specific for the comfort factor while owning the avant garde. She's like a work of art really: the hair, the paleness, the angular face. Ageless. Her choice of comfort clothes offset those panes nicely. Some call her a style goddess. I call her a work of art. And we love you for it Ms. Swinton.

photos courtesy of zimbio.com
*NIN: Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor. Hurt. Cover by Johnny Cash. Maybe you don't need a footnote. But I did. 

Summer travel wardrobe

June 15, 2014

summer travels light: bare essentials for beach holidays

four small bags? or one large bag? how to travel best, how to travel light. In our humble opinion, traveling light is traveling best. Unless you are traveling up the Amazon on a raft (snacks for the piranhas) or through the Gobi desert on a camel, all the things you think you may need: you don't. Because you can get everything where you're going. Not that this is a call to spend. Not at all but often buying small things like a toothbrush or toothpaste, soap, shower gel is more of an unusual souvenir than hats and t-shirts.  Because you can't get Chinese or Indian toothpaste at home. But you can get an I heart wherever pretty much anywhere (hello internet. you have destroyed the specialness of souvenir t-shirts). 

So, here is a itemized break down of summer light travel based on a make-up free face, days on the beach, strolls through cobblestone streets in the evenings with a gelato, the occasional museum, maybe walking up a mountain (not a really tall one though) and happy to party in flip flops and a shift dress from H&M.

- get your eyelashes and brows tinted a day or two before you leave
- shave or wax (consult experts on how long in advance to get a wax. I have no idea. I shave)
- manicure/pedicure (I do my own so no need besides I don't want chipped polish to deal with during my holidays)


beauty bag: 
utensils for clean teeth (brush, paste, floss)
sun creme for the face (SPF 50)
BB creme or a light tinted moisturizer (my favs Vichy or Lierac)
eyebrow pencil
an all-arounder moisturizer (doesn't have to be 'after sun' and depending on the humidity factor of your resort, moisturizer can be light)
Rose creme (essential: works for razor burn, bites, sunburn, anything really. It's amazing)
new razor
body lotion (after sun with a nice scent - leave the parfum at home. Too strong for the heat)
Sunscreen for the body
Cleansing milk
Cotton pads
hair bands
bobby pins
hair clips
hair oil

I've intentionally left shampoo and conditioner off the list as these things are usually available at the hotel. Deodorant has also been left off the list. It's bad for you (spraying a chemical factory on your skin to plug the pores so you don't sweat? Hello?) so take a break. If you must, get yourself a light eau de toilet or those lovely scented alcohol-free sun sprays from Biotherm or Clarins. For evenings. But during the day, you're on the beach, in the water. Who needs it? The smell of salt on your skin is way sexier.

Foundation factor:  It will melt off your face so leave it at home. If you're a 'i don't do naked face" take a break for the two weeks you're on holidays. Discover the beauty of a natural face. Give your skin and your routine a holiday as well.

Footwear: flip flops, sneakers, ballerinas, running shoes

Clothes: one bikini, one pair of denim shorts, training shorts, sports bra, some t-shirts, one summer day dress, one summer evening dress (basically the same but most likely in black), a sweater (for the plane), a light cotton scarf (can be used as a parreo for the beach or to cover the shoulders if necessary), leggings or soft sweat pants for travel and/or evening chill. Voilà.

Since evenings are usually spent strolling through the streets of the resort, you will most likely find something you want to buy (another bikini, swimsuit, nice little dress) so you'll be happy you didn't pack so much and still have room for the odd treasure you find.

Hand luggage: any device you need plus chargers/adapters, wallet, rose creme, tissues (lack of toilet paper in foreign toilets; be prepared) pen, notepad, Ibuprofen, chewing gum or mints (or your pain killer of choice). As to the difficult decision what kind of hand bag/purse/tote to take: I like messenger bags for casual occasions. Maybe a clutch or a smallish tote in your luggage for the evening out as an option.

At the airport: 
Since we are traveling so efficiently and lightweight, we can take our trolley on board. Yay! No danger of lost luggage plus we'll get to the cabs first when we arrive.

Arrival at your destination:
Open the windows and let the sea breeze in. Breathe deeply. You've here. Unpack. Since you haven't brought much, you'll be finished in five minutes. Tip: hang up your dresses in the bathroom when you shower. The steam helps de-wrinkle.

Fashion magazines aggressively market and want us to buy buy buy; take lots of superfluous stuff: bronzer, gloss, glitter, this, that. High heels, low heels, beach dress, party dress, breakfast dress, afternoon shorts, evening shorts, gelato t-shirt...You don't need any of that  for a beach holiday. Strip it down. Keep it essential. Dare to be bare.

Next post:  some suggestions good quality multi-tasking beauty products reasonably priced and where in France, Italy, Greece, Spain to get them