Friday, July 31, 2009

Alma mater anticipation

Yesterday, I received my copy of the Iliad by Homer from the Columbia College Alumni Association.
Please accept this gift as a token of our support for the next generation of College alumni — you! (In preparation for your Columbia experience, please read the first 12 books within the Iliad.)
‘Tis a sweet way to frame 270 pages of summer homework. It even comes with a pretty sticker on the inside cover that reads, “Presented to the Class of 2013.”

It reminds me of the day my copy of the Odyssey by Homer arrived in the mail from Amazon, four years ago. And reading chapters from Edith Hamilton’s Mythology over the summer to prepare for freshman English. And spending my entire first semester of freshman year in high school trying to understand Homer’s words, trying to understand the ancient Greeks, trying to understand Odysseus. I was on my own odyssey, trying to figure out where high school was going to take me.

This time around, I’m not starting off from scratch. My high school taught me well to appreciate literature and to appreciate challenges. When I stare at this Richmond Lattimore translation and glance back at the Odyssey and Mythology, still sitting on my bookshelf and untouched since the end of freshman year, I realize that it’s about time that I get my brain juices flowing again. Graduation wasn't too far ago, but August is approaching.

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Miss Couturable

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wake me up when September ends

There are a lot of reasons why I am super excited for September. First, the month of September always means Fashion Week. This year, for me, the month of September also means starting my freshman year of college and moving to New York City. It also means the release of the highly-anticipated documentary, The September Issue, which actually opens on August 28th in New York City but will expand nationally on September 11th.

The synopsis reads:
Anna Wintour, the legendary editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine for twenty years, is the most powerful and polarizing figure in fashion. Hidden behind her trademark bob and sunglasses, she has never allowed anyone to scrutinize the inner workings of her magazine. Until now. With unprecedented access, filmmaker R.J. Cutler’s new film THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE does for fashion what he did for politics in The War Room, taking the viewer inside a world they only think they know. Every August a record-breaking number of people can’t wait to get their hands on the September issue of Vogue. The 2007 issue was and remains the biggest ever, weighing over four pounds, selling thirteen million copies, and impacting the $300-billion global fashion industry more than any other single publication. An intimate, funny and surprising look at Anna Wintour and her team of larger-than-life editors as they create this must-have Bible of fashion, Cutler explores the untouchable glamour of Wintour’s Vogue to reveal the extraordinarily passionate people at its heart. He takes us behind the scenes at Fashion Week, to Europe, on shoots and reshoots, and into closed-door staff meetings, bearing witness to an arduous, entertaining, and sometimes emotionally demanding process. At the eye of this annual fashion hurricane is the two-decade relationship between Wintour and Grace Coddington, incomparable Creative Director and fashion genius. They are perfectly matched for the age-old conflict between creator and curator. Through them, we see close-up the delicate creative chemistry it takes to remain at the top of the ever-changing fashion field.
Additionally, after September passes, you can purchase a copy of The Teen Vogue Handbook: An Insider's Guide to Careers in Fashion, now available for pre-order on Amazon by clicking here(yessum, I've already pre-ordered). It debuts on October 5th, but you can catch a sneak peak of the book on lovely Teen Voguette Jazzi's blog and in the following video, narrated by Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Amy Astley:

This sums up my feelings toward the book.

I know, I know -- hopefully we'll all still be able to concentrate on schoolwork too. The Iliad isn't going to read itself.

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Miss Couturable

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

chickdowntown.com giveaway: Tolani scarf winners

Merci beaucoup to everyone who entered the chickdowntown.com Tolani scarf giveaway! I had a great time checking out all of your fall must-haves (and adding a few on my list!).

Using a random number generator on my good ol' TI-84+ calculator, I have the selected the two winners of this lovely blue/grey ombre scarf to be:
#51: Amanda T., age 26, who chose a lovely cherry red coat by BB Dakota as her fall must-have -- which, coincidentally, is also from chickdowntown.com.
#79: Carissa J., age 17, who chose this stunning Balmain jacket that I, too, have been craving for months! Fall jacket perfection, indeed.

Please email me your mailing address, Amanda and Carissa -- and to everyone else, please stay tuned for the next giveaway!

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Miss Couturable

Monday, July 27, 2009

Skincare solutions and spending

I had an appointment with my dermatologist today, and I would like to say that I have immense respect and curiosity for dermatologists. The fact that she prescribes me medication to treat acne scarring while simultaneously injecting Botox into the forehead of the middle-aged peroxide blonde next door is mind baffling -- simply because these are all intimate matters of appearance that a dermatologist must address.
One thing I ended purchasing from my dermatologist today (and oh, 'tis frightening how many facials and creams and lotions a dermatologist may recommend for you) is the Obagi Nu-Derm Clear Skin Bleaching and Corrector Cream. It sounds like one of those whitening creams heavily marketed in Asian countries, but apparently it can be used for any "unwanted areas of melanin hyperpigmentation." This tiny two-ounce bottle cost me $91 -- and I haven't even started talking about the topical gel that I've been prescribed or the blackhead facial that she insists I get before I head off to college.
One of the most popular skincare trends in Asia right now (and Asian countries, obsessed as they are with pale skin, have excellent skincare products) is B. B. cream (Blemish Balm). It is part foundation and part (supposedly) healing cream, and it actually originated in Germany (although Korean brands have picked up on this trend). I picked up a bottle of Missha M Vita SPF 20 B. B. Cream at a department store in China, and the ingredients include everything from caviar cream to vitamin complexes. It actually works extremely well applied, smoothing out the skin without any extra oil -- my Korean-American friend adores it and I can understand why.

I bring these all up because skincare can be ridiculously expensive and complex, making me envy those who were born with blessed blemish-free complexions.

So, tell me -- do you think you're getting your money's worth on the skincare products that you use? And are you willing to splurge for your skin?

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Miss Couturable

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I still love you, Marc

In general, I prefer the designer item to the "inspired" versions or the, er, knock-offs. In most cases, the designer items have better craftsmanship, more detail, and fit better -- so I don't mind spending the extra money if I know it's a piece that can make a statement, the quality is high, it fits well, and I can't find a version I like more. And if I can come up with enough practical reasons for owning the piece (as much as I would have loved to wear the $8,000 Marchesa gown to prom, I could never justify it to myself or my parents).
I always thought these Marc Jacobs Bow Gladiator Sandals were very adorable, but not adorable enough for me to spend $897 on them. It was one of those shoes that I would take a quick glance at, place back onto the shelf, and swiftly walk away from before the salespeople could look in my direction.
So, while I was in China -- I found a pair of similar sandals for the Chinese equivalent of $100. They were made of real metallic green leather and I preferred the brass bows on this pair to the leather bows on the original Marc Jacobs version! The craftsmanship on these sandals is excellent -- they're extremely comfortable and high-quality.

This is one of the few instances where I prefer the "inspired" version to the designer original -- even if both pieces happened to be the same price, I'd still choose my metallic green versions from China. However, I am still fatally in love with Marc Jacobs in every possible way.

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Miss Couturable

Friday, July 24, 2009

Time for change (literally)

I am terribly guilty of stuffing whole dollar bills into my purse without even placing them back into my wallet. I've been doing it throughout my high school career, as my dear friends would gaze at my crumpled bills in half-horrified and half-amused visages. Part of me thinks that it's because I've been using a bulky and beat-up pink wallet from eighth grade. That wallet crumples up my dollar bills too, so why even bother organizing my change?
So, I purchased a blue Fendi long leather wallet. It's big enough to fit my money, credit cards, gift cards, and business cards -- without appearing bulky. It's chic enough for a college girl moving into the big city, while colorful enough to appear playful. Also to note: lizard print just makes everything seem more exciting.

Truth be told, I've been meaning to buy a new wallet for over three years (that's how beat up my wallet from middle school is), so I fell in love with quite a few lovely options, before I purchased the Fendi:
(Photo Credit -- Bluefly.com)
I was obsessed with Yves Saint Laurent "Y-mail" when it first came out, and I'm still looking to purchase a coin purse from the collection in the future. It's very whimsical and I admit that I wish I had that handwriting.
The Chloé Paddington has always been an it-bag classic, and the wallet version carries the same beloved brasstone lock. Plus, I like my wallets with a pop of color.
I've always thought that the original Prada wallets were somewhat boring, but I like shiny metal. A lot.
(Photo Credit -- Louis Vuitton)
Or maybe I just like shiny in general. Once upon a time, I saw that my friend (or was it her mummy?) had this wallet and it is probably one of the few monogrammed pieces that I don't find overbearing at all. This friend told me that everyone in Korea has this wallet in different colors.
(Photo Credits -- Louis Vuitton, Coach, Yves Saint Laurent)
As for coin purses, my favorites have been these eccentric pieces from Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Yves Saint Laurent. For some reason, I think coin purses should pack a lot of "kaboom" in spite of their small size.

What do you use for your wallet or coin purse? Do you prefer the long ones or the classics?

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Miss Couturable

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Giveaways galore

I know everyone loves giveaways and freebies -- so if you haven't entered Miss Couturable's chickdowntown.com: Tolani scarf giveaway, I suggest you do it before entries close on July 28th, 2009! Read the directions -- it's really simple to enter and the drawing is completely random.

If you have an extra 20 minutes to spare (and I'm sure you do), you should also enter Mochi Blog's Shoebuy.com contest for a $75 gift certificate. That can buy a pair of shoes, you know.

Additionally, if you have a website, blog, or social networking profile, you can win a $200 gift certificate from Lushae Jewelry just by displaying one of their badges. The competition is drawn every month and there are no limits to number of times you can enter! The details are here.
Anyway, I'm gabbing on about giveaways and contests because I just discovered free!gretchen today! It's a database of fashion-related giveaways and contests that you can enter and it's updated very frequently. If you're ever bored, just sign up for some giveaways and cross your fingers! We'll pretend it's being productive.

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Miss Couturable

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meet Madeleine Vionnet

(Photo Credit -- Apple)
This sounds ridiculously geeky, but I named my new 13-inch MacBook Pro. A friend suggested that I give my future succession of Apple computers a "theme" in which to name them -- so, of course, I chose fashion designers as my theme.
Because this is my first Apple computer, I chose to name it "Madeleine Vionnet," after an early but extremely influential fashion designer. Vionnet introduced the bias cut to the fashion industry in the 1920s, and she believed in timeless style that accentuated the female body in fluid curves and drapes à la Grecian robes.
(Photo Credit -- Style.com)
You can definitely see the Vionnet elements in another one of my favorite collections, Marchesa.

Additionally, she fought for copyright laws in fashion. What a tough cookie -- hopefully, my new laptop will be one too!

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Miss Couturable

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Color poppin'

I realize that I post about the Christian Dior Haute Couture collections almost every season, and I'm sure that everyone knows I would gladly don bright pink lipstick if it meant I could wear a New Look gown for a day (or, er, eternity).

What I love most about John Galliano's Dior couture is that he creates fashion that revels and explodes in color and vibrancy. I was sorting through my closet last night (pre-college clean-up), and I realized that most of the colors left in my wardrobe were dark in tone. Most of the clothes in my "discard" pile (many were clothes leftover from middle school) were pink, pink, and more pink.

And so as I glanced through the Fall 2009 collection, I lost my breath at the photo above. I had forgotten what it meant to wear color -- and I thank Monsieur Galliano for reminding me again.

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Miss Couturable

Monday, July 20, 2009

Creation, not destruction

(Photo Credit -- AP/World Wide Photos)
I was browsing through the Mochi Blog when I came upon the post about fashion designer Issey Miyake's op-ed piece in the July 13th, 2009 edition of the New York Times.

The truth is, before reading the piece, I only knew about Miyake through the labels under his name and his truly fascinating research in design (yes, he does research for garment design!) and technology -- the revolution of the pleat, for example.

I did not know that he was born in Hiroshima, Japan, where the atomic bomb was dropped when he was seven years old. His mother died of radiation exposure shortly afterward.

He wrote:
I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic.

I tried never to be defined by my past. I did not want to be labeled “the designer who survived the atomic bomb,” and therefore I have always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me uncomfortable.
In the piece, he urges President Obama to attend Universal Peace Day in Hiroshima on August 6th, as a "real and a symbolic step toward creating a world that knows no fear of nuclear threat."

While reading his words, I realized just how important it is to stay on top of current events -- and to never forget the past. And while that can definitely apply to fashion's tendency to recycle the past and reinvent the present, it also applies on a graver scale -- for the sake of others.

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Miss Couturable

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shameless self-promotion: lingerie and eco-fashion

Between my shoddy attempts at blogging on a regular basis and late nights spent perusing magazines and books, I satisfy my word-hungry soul (developed in a fantastic American literature class two years ago) by writing for various websites and publications that I truly care about -- mainly for their independent spirit and unique niches which one cannot find in most mainstream media.

One such publication is Shut Up! Magazine, for which I am Assistant Fashion Editor. It was founded in college and edited by Sahar Vahidi, a brilliant and extremely hardworking young woman who took a chance on my writing when the only clip I had was a lengthy research report about Coco Chanel and her impact on the prefeminist movement. The quarterly print magazine (and website) covers a wide range of topics related to alternative culture -- including music and fashion (of course!). Subscriptions for a full year are only $12!

I just received a copy of the Spring/Summer 2009 issue, so I've uploaded my own articles. To see more of the magazine (it's the lingerie issue with some nice spreads, so I assume you'd want to see more), you can preview it here.
Flashback: Loulou Loves You
Objets Trouvés by Kate Linstrom
Style File: Gemma Ward
I also recently wrote a piece about eco-fashion for the MochiMag.com blog. You can read it here as I briefly discuss organic/sustainable wear, vegan wear, and vintage wear! The blog and website are also great resources for topics of interest to Asian American girls -- I always have a good time reading the articles.

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Miss Couturable

P.S. Remember to enter Miss Couturable's Tolani scarf giveaway and the MochiMag.com's $75 Shoebuy.com gift certificate giveaway!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

chickdowntown.com giveaway: Tolani scarf

Daily temperatures in my area currently surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn't mean I haven't started thinking about fall and winter wardrobes! There is something much more comforting about cashmere scarves and wool coats that you can't find in a summer frock.
To jump start your autumn wardrobes, Miss Couturable is giving away a Tolani scarf in blue/grey silk ombre. from chickdowntown.com -- where you can shop BB Dakota or Helmut Lang, depending on your budget. This lovely scarf can be worn on breezy summer nights or on chilly autumn days when you need something luxurious wrapped around your sleepy head.

All you have to do to enter this giveaway is comment below with your name, age, and email address -- and tell me what your fall 2009 must-have item is (pictures or links are a plus!). Please note that this giveaway is limited to United States of America residents because chickdowntown.com can only ship within the states.

Entries close on July 28th, 2009! The winner will be randomly selected and announced on July 29th, 2009. For more giveaways, you can follow chickdowntown.com on Twitter or visit chickdowntown.com on Facebook.

Good luck!

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Miss Couturable

P.S. Up for another giveaway? Mochi Magazine's blog is giving away a $75 gift certificate to Shoebuy.com. All you have to do is write a brief 300-500 word essay about your favorite pair of shoes. Now, I don't know about you -- but I'd write 300-500 words for new shoes. Click here for the giveaway details. Entries also close on July 29, 2009.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Organizers, planners, and agendas -- oh my!

In high school, I used Google Calendar to keep track of my events and deadlines. I used my laptop in class everyday anyways, and I found it easier to use than the calendar on my BlackBerry. Unlike many of my friends, I didn't use the little green and gold planner that we received from our school every year.

However, some of my friends recently lamented the fact that their respective colleges did not give out organizers to their students. After a brief perusal through an office supply store with my friends, I realized that most organizers were too bulky, too decorative, or too simple for my tastes and needs -- and yet I couldn't always rely on having my laptop on hand to check my schedule.
Instead, I bought a large soft cover weekly planner from Moleskine. It's simple, it's clean, it's much less expensive than a bulkier Kate Spade, and it's big enough to use without squinting and small enough to fit in my purse. I browsed the bookstore for other alternatives (include some chic leather ones), but I've discovered Moleskine planners to be the most practical and discreet.

Unfortunately, Moleskine planners do not come with the colorful stickers that made my high school planners so much fun. I'll miss those.

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Miss Couturable

Friday, July 10, 2009

The modern qipao

Confession: I know I'm Chinese, but I could never see myself wear a qipao, a traditional and well-known Chinese dress. I think it's because I've seen too many cheap fetish versions for Halloween -- aptly named "Sexy China Doll Costume" or something similar. Hm, no.
(Photo Credit -- Agencies)
However, NE Tiger, a Chinese luxury label, presented its 2009 Haute Couture collection at China Fashion Week with traditional Chinese motifs and modernized silhouettes -- a collection that could represent modern China itself with its oriental and western influences.
Of course, the traditional high-necked qipao is still evident in these designs, but in graceful and elegant frames that elicit national pride -- nothing stereotypical from kung-fu movies (can you guess what my pet peeve is now?).
Modern silhouettes again, but with traditional floral patterns on silk. NE Tiger effortlessly proves that you can embrace modernity and still retain tradition -- a lesson we could all learn.

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Miss Couturable

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I am an Anglophile

(Photo Credit -- Gilt Groupe)
So, my alarm clock woke me up at 11:30am today -- I am almost certain that I would have woken up at 2:00pm had I not forgotten to turn it off last night. Without even getting out of bed, I checked my email and ended up buying this wool tartan miniskirt and crop tuxedo jacket, both from British label Sara Berman, for a grand total of $78. I know I sound like an overplayed commercial, but I calculated my savings and I saved $959 on Gilt Groupe. I'm thinking these structured schoolgirl pieces will be useful for a student who needs to get back to an intense and structured academic schedule soon -- I'm looking forward to reading The Iliad this fall!
(Photo Credit -- Neiman Marcus)
I also needed a pair of rain boots for the East Coast. Here in California, I was able to get by without a pair, but I've experienced rain storms in the summer in New York City and I'm wary of what they're like in the winter. So, even though I've never been too fond of the print, I purchased a pair of thick Burberry rain boots and checked "buy rain boots" off my to-do list. I never liked wearing these clunky rubber boots, but I have a feeling I'll start appreciating them by winter.

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Miss Couturable

P.S. If you're still not a member of Gilt Groupe (a.k.a., why I can shop before eating breakfast), you can join here.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My first bite out of Apple

So I'm giving in -- and I've convinced my daddy that it's worth it. I'm buying a 13-inch MacBook Pro for college (and hey, it comes with a free iPod touch!) after owning IBM, Dell, and Toshiba laptops for the past ten years -- all PCs.

Why? Well, first of all, my Toshiba is very heavy and I find it more suitable as a laptop for my little sister to have in her room. She doesn't have to carry books and a laptop across the relatively-vast Columbia campus and potentially New York City, after all. I really need a smaller and lighter laptop.

Second, I'm not a computer programmer and I'm not a gamer. I know my way around computers but I can't build one nor can I write software for one. I'm geeky when it comes to web design and graphics, and Macs have a great interface for my obsessive photo collections.

Third, they're not only sleek and pretty -- they're also relatively environmentally-friendly and made of very durable and sustainable material. And I mean, they look nice while they're at it.

Fourth, new school, new city, new life, new laptop. It all comes together.

Fifth, well, I just got my AP scores today, and I've earned fifteen graduation credits out of a maximum sixteen that I can earn from AP exams. I'm even exempted from the foreign language requirement, but I'm leaning towards taking French anyway. My daddy is pleased, I'm pleased -- and I will treat myself.

So, Mac users: Should I get the three-year Apple Protection Plan? Is it worth it? What are some problems you've had with your Mac?

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Miss Couturable
P.S. I will probably purchase the ColcaSac sleeve in Red Delicious to protect the MacBook Pro. It's durable, discreet and not tacky, and made of sustainable hemp. Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Learn Chinese: easy as 1, 2, 3 (and 4 magazines)

(Photo Credit -- Noel Duan)
China is a country founded on the past and tilted towards the future. Amidst the art deco skyscrapers are sensational ancient palaces and temples in bright colors rivaling those of Missoni prints. All women wear high heels no matter much they have to walk (image is very important over there). Children go to school from 6:00am to 9:00pm in hopes of gaining entrance to the top universities -- for some, it's their only escape to a better future.

My father came from a poor farm village in China, and the question, "Why do all of the children from that village seem so successful nowadays?" was brought up.

My father's friend, also from the same village and now living in Beijing, answered, "Because we were poor and those who have nothing, learn to fight for something." Point noted.
At a local bookstore in Chengdu, Sichuan, I picked up four Chinese fashion magazines: Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Vogue, and Madame Figaro -- all Chinese editions of foreign publications.
It was delightful to see that Madame Figaro enclosed a pattern (with explicit permission) for making a frock à la Parisian designer Gaspard Yurkievich -- complete with instructions in Chinese too! I adore this DIY idea and I wish more American magazines had this feature.

The truth is, I didn't embrace my Chinese heritage as a child. I quit Chinese school in middle school, barely scooped up the skills to use chopsticks in high school, had little interest in the Chinese fashion industry (other than sweatshop research and advocacy), and shunned Chinese pop stars (I now embrace Jay Chou -- and his abs -- with all my heart).

So, as I took the taxi back to my room with these four magazines in my hands, I gave myself a summer goal. A real summer goal, by the way -- originally, my only summer goal was to beat all 34 levels of BrickBreaker on my Blackberry (I am only at level 16 right now).

With my giant Chinese-English dictionary by my side, I am going to improve my Chinese language skills by reading these four Chinese fashion magazines. I will not just look at the spreads and advertisements as I usually do -- I will read the articles. I will appreciate Chinese journalism. I will learn to read Chinese beyond menus and street signs and Jay Chou song titles.

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Miss Couturable

P.S. Speaking of foreign languages, what language should I add to my repertoire in college? Currently I speak English, Mandarin-Chinese, and Spanish. Shall I add French? Italian? Swahili?!