Monthly Archives: July 2008

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Banishing the Chicken Arms

shoulderIt’s summer and you want to wear short sleeves, but you’re embarrassed by the bumpy, red “chicken skin” on your upper arms. This condition is called keratosis pilaris, and it’s pretty common.

Both the site linked to above and the American Academy of Dermatology say there’s no real cure for it, only treatments. It sounds dire, until you understand that “treatment” more or less means putting lotion on your arms once a day.

I had really bad chicken skin arms, and I tried what seemed like the most obvious way to make them smooth: exfoliation. And if it didn’t work the first time, scrub harder. With 20 grit sandpaper.

Then I read that this is exactly the wrong way to go about clearing up this skin condition. What you need to do is moisturize, and maybe do some gentle chemical exfoliation once in a while.

I tried many different lotions, from the mundane to the pricey (yay for free samples!), and finally found one that worked exceptionally well: plain old ordinary Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion. A couple weeks with that and my arms cleared right up. As for “chemical exfoliation,” there’s no need to purchase expensive skin products. You can find generic AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) lotion in your drugstore for a few bucks.

There’s still plenty of short-sleeve weather time left in the summer, so go ahead and exercise your right to bare arms. (No way could I finish this post without making that joke!)

Why Staples?

Before moving to Aiken, I lived in Salinas CA, Sewanee TN, Atlanta GA, Charlotte NC, and Columbia SC. In every one of those cities, I took clothes to be dry-cleaned. I even patronized a dry cleaner in Osaka, Japan during my semester abroad. Each cleaner had their own method for attaching the little paper tags to my clothes. Some used safety pins, some used straight pins, some even used the plastic dealies used to attach price tags. But until I moved to Aiken, SC, I never encountered a dry cleaner who stapled their tags to my clothes.

staplerThe first time I got a bunch of clothes back from the cleaners with tags stapled to them, I decided to switch cleaners. But the next place I tried did the same thing, and the next, and the next. Eventually, I settled for the place that at least delivered next-day service (all the other cleaners took two or more days; another Aiken thing, I guess). My friends here, who have mostly lived here all their lives, do not think this is at all unusual.

Why am I so upset about the staple thing? Next time you see a staple, look closely at it. Its ends are blunt and square; it’s designed to punch through paper and stay put. Now look closely at a safety pin. Its end is sharp and tapered, designed to slide between the threads of fabric so it doesn’t leave a permanent mark. Same with a straight pin. When the cleaners put staples through fabric, the staple doesn’t slide between the threads, it tears right through them, leaving permanent holes. And then the process of prying the staples loose makes the holes bigger, even if you use a staple remover.

Granted, they usually put the staples into the garments’ tags. But the kinds of clothes I usually take to be dry-cleaned are my nicest things, the ones too special or delicate for the home Dryel treatment. Some people collect state quarters or Ladro figurines, I collect dresses. And I don’t want the dresses in my collection to have a bunch of holes in their tags or anywhere else.

So for now, I will be taking my nice things to be dry-cleaned in Columbia during my weekly trek there. I just don’t trust Aiken’s cleaners anymore.

Five Hallmarks of Personal Style

Meg Fowler posted a request on Twitter this morning: "Tell me five hallmarks of your personal style."

I thought this was something I could reply to pretty quickly, since I am aware of my own personal style, both as I try to cultivate it and as it emerges on its own. But I found that I had to think pretty hard to come up with five “hallmarks.”

I assumed that a hallmark of personal style is a visual that everyone associates with a specific person. For some people, it might be a particular purse or bracelet or tie. For instance, I could say that polo shirts are a hallmark of my husband’s personal style. But I don’t really have any objects like that, that I wear to define my style. So I found myself relying more on general adjectives.

Me and D-Mac in TreeHere’s the list I came up with:

  1. Messy hair – It takes at least an hour and, sometimes, the help of a professional for me to achieve the neat, sleek, anchorwoman look. I just don’t have that kind of time, so I let my hair have its own way most of the time. And I do sometimes go out and about with wet hair, because it always looks so much better when I air-dry instead of blow-drying.
  2. Cool colors – Some of you may remember the Color Me Beautiful phenomenon from back in the ’80s. A friend of my mom’s was training to be a “color lady,” so my whole family got our colors done. I learned that I am a “winter,” which means that I look best in cool, bright colors; less good in cool pastels; and absolutely awful in warm colors. So, ever since grade school, I’ve always kept my wardrobe palette on the cool side. I try to keep exceptions, like my yellow shoes, away from my face where they won’t make me look ill.
  3. Never tailored – Some women can walk into Talbott’s or Ann Taylor, grab a suit and blouse off the rack, and walk out looking like a million bucks. I cannot. I have a very triangle-shaped body; button-down blouses don’t fit, anything I tuck in bunches around the waist, and anything that has a defined waist on it billows around my hips. I own one suit for occasions when that sort of dressing is required. It’s cheap, black, and the pants don’t fit right. Mostly, I wear dresses when I need to look nice and pulled together.
  4. Current – It bothers me to wear a t-shirt or jeans in an outdated cut. I’m not usually cutting-edge, but I do like to stay current.
  5. Socially acceptable – These two words, more than anything else, define how I choose to present myself to the world. When I get dressed, I always think about where I’m going and whether what I’m wearing is appropriate for that occasion. It’s my way of coping with being messy and not tailored – I may not be neat and pulled-together, but at least no one can say I’m not socially acceptable. For example, you will never see me wearing a thong in Burger King.

So, what are five hallmarks of your personal style? (Or less than five, if you can’t think of that many.)

Buy a Lot, Save a Little. Buy a Little, Save a Lot.

As you may already know if you read my personal blog, I’m expecting our second child this December. Last time I was pregnant, I didn’t start to “show” until August, so most of the maternity clothes I have are for the fall and winter.

This time, I needed maternity clothes by early June. Realizing it would be a long, hot, summer, I decided to invest in a few nice summer tops. Since I’d had a lot of success buying lots of clothes for my little boy on eBay, I thought I’d try it for myself.

I easily found large lots of nice summer maternity clothes, many “NWT” (new with tags). I calculated what I was willing to pay per item, including shipping, and got to bidding. But I kept losing the auctions, even when I waited ’til the last minute to bid. I saw that new maternity tops were $16.99 apiece at Target, so I was unwilling to pay more than that on eBay. Actually, I didn’t want to go over $10 per item, though a couple bidding frenzies got me up to $13/item. I still lost.

maternity shirts
Two of the shirts I bought on eBay.

Frustrated, I decided to check out the auctions for small lots and individual items. In children’s clothing, these are usually worse deals: items selling for twice or three times what you’d pay for them in lots. But surprisingly, in maternity clothes, individual items were much cheaper. I ended up buying nine shirts that ranged in price from $1.25 to $13. Even with shipping calculated in, they averaged only $5.32 per shirt (two of the small lots were from the same seller, so I saved a little on shipping).

Why were people paying so much more for the clothes in lots? Maybe it was the perception that buying in bulk saves money. Maybe they didn’t want to bother searching through the other listings to find individual items. Whatever the reason, I’m going to be a lot more cautious of lot sales on eBay in the future. Just like in the grocery store, it always pays to calculate the per-item price so you can really see what you’re paying.

The Ladies of Summer

I finally got around to updating the look of The Wardrobe Miser from Fall ’07 to Summer ’08. As I was putting together the background image, I realized that my readers (all 3 of you) might want to know who these lovely ladies are and what they’re wearing. So without further ado, here are the Ladies of Summer 2008, showing off their vintage threads.

Joan is wearing a 1953 Claire McCardell “string bean” chemise with matching jacket.
Linda is wearing a 1969 Courreges dress.
Deborah is wearing a 1973 Ted Lapidus wool pantsuit.
Kimberly is wearing a 1992 Michael Kors strapless dress with cardigan.
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