Tag Archives: beauty

Looking to Look Your Best? We Can Help You with That!

clothesWell, not us, per se, but our books can.

Although you might not always be able to tell from looking at me, I am interested in fashion. Not in the haute couture, runways and fashion week kind of way, but more in the “I like to look my best and make sure that what I’m wearing flatters and doesn’t make me look worse” kind of way. I hear from a lot of people that they can’t wear this or that color or type of clothing. I believe that if you are able to locate something that fits you well, everyone can wear just about anything. (Except skinny jeans: I draw the line at skinny jeans for a lot of people!)

I also have more than a passing interest in makeup and skin care. As a woman-of-a-certain-age, I have to wear different makeup and use different skin care products than I did 20 years ago. I like to research what works best for my skin type and particular issues I am having. I also prefer to find bargains, rather than paying exorbitant prices for a tiny, little jar of something that might not even work.
I have found several books at the Library helpful for both my makeup and wardrobe investigations. Below are some of the items I have used and benefitted from. Even if you are skeptical about this sort of thing, try one. You just might find a tip that will improve your whole outlook.

You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Reveal about You by Jennifer J. Baumgartner – Each chapter of this book reads like a What Not to Wear episode. You are presented with a wardrobe dilemma (look is outdated, have a shopping addiction, if you dress too revealingly) and then the author walks you step by step through the thought and organization process to change. My only wish was that this book had pictures. Oh, and color.

Bobbi Brown Pretty Powerful: Beauty Stories to Inspire Confidence, Start-to-Finish Makeup Techniques to Achieve Fabulous Looks by Bobbi Brown with Sara Bliss – This guidebook is part makeup techniques and part inspirations for living. You decide what kind of person you are (in temperament and lifestyle, as well as beauty routine) and you get a template for daytime and nighttime makeup application. Then you get to meet several women who embody that style, both famous and not. There’s a picture of each with and without makeup, plus a little bit of their “story”. Affirmation that truly beautiful women come in all shapes, sizes, colors and walks of life.

Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: The Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet by Tim Gunn with Ada Calhoun – Like the sub-title states, this book is less about helping you find the right clothes to fit your frame and more about giving you the history of everything from miniskirts to capri pants to high heels. I find it all fascinating, plus I love all of the old fashion photos.

The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson – Fashion advice for those of us at the other end of the age spectrum. How to look chic without dressing like your daughter or granddaughter. “Clothes are a necessity, fashion is an option, and style is your choice.” AMEN!

Jemma Kidd Make-Up Secrets by Jemma Kidd– Looking for step-by-step instructions and diagrams for the application of every type of makeup known to womankind? Then this is your book! A teenage girl I know is always asking me for makeup advice. (“How do you do a smoky eye?) I think I’ll be giving her this book instead of trying to explain it myself.

I Want to Be Her!: How Friends & Strangers Helped Shape My Style by Andrea Linett – The author provides a backdrop of her style for each phase of her life thus far – childhood, high school, the Hamptons, college, the magazine years – and then gives names, bios, and style choices of those she was acquainted with during that time who influenced her style and how. This could be as simple as “wear what you love.”

The Truth about Style by Stacy London – This is all about “Yes…and?” Yes, you may have certain issues with your body, but you need to accept them, not ignore them. And then you can begin to dress in a way that emphasizes what you want to, and minimize what you don’t. Each chapter is a woman who wrote her a letter asking for fashion advice. Stacy then breaks down each woman’s ʺproblemsʺ giving solutions for each and explaining why. You get to learn about Stacy too. For example, do you know why she went from a size 10 in season one to a size 4 in season two?

How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor’s Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank by Andrea Pomerantz Lustig – I love, Love, LOVE this book. A professional magazine beauty editor gives out the secrets for how to look your best, even when on a budget. For each high-end product that she recommends, she also gives a budget-friendly alternative. There are also instructions for achieving certain “looks” sprinkled throughout. I made a list of all the products I wanted to purchase and took the list shopping with me. I found, purchased, and have really liked several things that I would never have tried without this book.

Wear This Now: Your Style Solution for Every Season and Any Occasion by Michelle Madhok with Eileen Conlan – You’ll probably want to buy this book and keep it on your shelf as a reference. It breaks down every season, telling you what’s on sale to buy now (for other seasons), what pieces are must-haves for the season’s wardrobe and helpful advice on how to select and wear certain pieces of clothing – “How to Wear Thigh-High Boots, without Looking Like a Hooker” anyone? Plus the added bonus of what outfits you should wear for every possible occasion from a New Year’s Day Brunch to meeting the future in-laws to an orthodox wedding. Practical advice all around!

How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman’s Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom by Janice Min – How to look and feel great after having a child (or children) is the premise for this one. Basics for revamping your wardrobe, hair, makeup and even your refrigerator to make sure that you can be at your best no matter how little time you may have for yourself (It was interesting to see that some of the makeup and skin products recommended matched those in the book above).

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott – Based on the idea of quality over quantity, this book has lessons for life in many different areas and in general. There is a very nice section on wardrobe choices and skin care, but fair warning that some of the ideas espoused are a bit dated by current “American” standards.  And I’m not sure I, personally, could EVER really get behind the 10 item wardrobe idea…

Happy Shopping!
-Melissa M.


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Your New Year

Each January, many of us decide to change our lives. There are the usual things we want to do:

HungryForChange   ProcrastinationEquation   GetaFinancialLife   Chubster

Eat healthier: 

End bad habits:

Handle money better:

Work out and lose weight:

These are all good things to focus on, but here are some ideas for other changes you could make.

BookofDoing   BeyondRevenge   HowtoMakeYourOwnBrewskis   365ThankYous

Add some creativity to your life:

Forgive someone:

Make it yourself:

Show gratitude:

Whatever you choose to do with your new year, I hope you have a wonderful one.



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The cherry blossom trees behind the Carnegie Museum have almost reached the end of their brief bloom.  The delicate pink and white petals inevitably remind me of Japan. And anytime I am reminded of anything, it’s time to browse the stacks and see what we can find to scratch that itch. With Japan in mind, my browsing led me to an old favorite, the works of Yukio Mishima. I might have preferred a nice non-fiction, perhaps something about the visually arresting and dramatic samurai period, maybe a samurai film (CLP has a great collection), or a fun travelogue.

But I ended up with Mishima. He is the type of author you can’t ever leave permanently. I read several of his novels about five years ago and I knew then I would be back for another round. For a guy who likes non-fiction and genre fiction, Mishima is an odd choice. This is good.  You have to shake things up. His books are complex and engaging, and at times rather difficult.  But a reader is richly rewarded.  Characters are dissected to their core amidst sensual and precise descriptions of casual detail that work magic on the reader’s subconscious. 

Mishima’s work stands on its own. But no discussion of it is really complete without a look at his life and death. I imagine there could be others, but as far as I know, Mishima is the only author to have attempted a coup d’ état.

Coup d’Wha?

That’s right. Mishima and a few members of his private army attempted to stage a coup d’ état.

Private army?

You read correctly. Mishima had a small private army. Two of its members assisted Mishima in the completion of his ritual suicide after the coup inevitably failed.

Ritual suicide?

Mishima ended his own life in the traditional samurai fashion.  Although he was a wealthy  and highly successful  author, he did have a bit of a reputation for outlandish behavior in the press with his late turn to nationalism , a private army, and the persistent discussion about his sexuality.  But no one was prepared for his actions on November 25th, 1970.  The coup and suicide were incredibly shocking.  


This all happened in 1970.

If you have a pulse, at this point you must be at least mildly curious about this man and his work. For those wishing to start with a critically acclaimed and accessible novel, I would recommend After the Banquet. It’s an engaging story about the conflicting pressures of love and ambition. If you are just wondering about the life of this unique and conflicted man then you should have a look at Henry Scott-Stokes The Life and Death of Yukio Mishima.   Confession of a Mask, the story of a closeted homosexual, was the first of Mishima’s works translated in the west. I am currently reading The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea.  Don’t worry, there are multiple copies.  And I would be very remiss if I failed to mention Mishima, A Life in Four Chapters, an amazing film about his life and work.

For the truly ambitious there is the Sea of Fertility, a tetralogy starting with Spring Snow. These novels delve deeply into Buddhist theology and ideas about reincarnation, spinning a decades long storyline into a shocking conclusion. The manuscript of the final volume, The Decay of the Angel, was submitted to the publisher on the very day of Mishima’s death.

Anyone interested in themes of love, life, beauty, and death, will find much to admire and enjoy in Mishima’s work.



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Why I Read “Depressing” Literature: A Defense

As a new intern at the library, I must say I LOVE this environment—we’re always talking about books! But as the days wear on, I have slowly realized something: very few of my co-workers share my odd taste in books. The reason? I mostly read books where the subject matter is best described as “dismal.”

It’s not that I read the kind of books where everybody dies and every imaginable catastrophe happens. I’m just drawn toward books that express a profound sadness that is present in the mundane aspects of our daily lives. These are the kinds of books that leave me with a vague sense of dissatisfaction, make me feel restless and questioning. And it’s exactly this effect that makes them worth reading—they make me question everything I usually take for granted. They are also some of the greatest books ever written.

If you’re thinking, “Hmm, this girl sounds crazy, but maybe I should give one of these depressing books a try,” these are the books to read.

Museum of InnocenceThe Museum of Innocence, Orham Pamuk. Pamuk’s novel is an incredible look at the possibilities of intense passion in a modern society. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word “passion” can be traced back to the Latin word for “suffering,” and this novel easily demonstrates why:

…for most people, life is not a joy to be celebrated with a full heart, but a miserable charade to be endured with a false smile, a narrow path of lies, punishment and repression (275).

Passages like these make me wonder: is it better to live a normal, average life that’s nominally happy or to have an intense passion that could possibly end tragically? Is it perhaps possible to have both a grand passion and a normal life?

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe. This novel is a standard on high school things fall apartreading lists, and standardly hated by high school students. I, however, was not one of the haters when I read it as a high school sophomore. Set in a Nigerian village, Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, a tribal leader, as he struggles to cope with a once-familiar environment that is drastically changing thanks to British colonialism. The tragedy of this book lies in the tension inherent in retaining traditional identities in the face of both modernization and the cultural assimilation of the younger generation.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov’s masterpiece has an incredibly unusual protagonist: Humbert Humbert, a scholar who becomes both infatuated and sexually obsessed with his landlady’s twelve-year-old daughter. Humbert kidnaps Lolita, but it is the child who initiates their first sexual contact. This book contains some of the finest prose ever written, and examines questions of sexuality and perversion. The most tragic aspect of the book is the examination of the battering of a young girl’s psyche and her attempts to live a normal life after childhood trauma.

None of these books are typical beach reading, although I confess I’m just strange enough to have read Lolita on my family’s last vacation to the Outer Banks. However, if you want extremely well-crafted literature that makes you think about, well, the gloomier aspects of life, these are perfect. Honestly, these books are so well-written, you will be stopping people around you—even random passers-by—to read parts out loud. I recommend carrying a notebook with you while you read the library’s copies, because you will want to write down parts that particularly strike you…

“If a violin string can ache, then I was that string.” Lolita (127)



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it (almost) always grows back

Aah, the heat and humidity of summer are doing a number on my hair these days.  It seems to grow faster, and get curlier in the strangest ways.  That must be why I just recently came across a blog for the hair obsessed.  Isn’t the Internet great?

Well, yes, but the library’s better.  Did you know that we can help you decide on your next hair style?  Well, perhaps not exactly help you decide, but, as always, provide you with the resources you need to make your decision.  We subscribe to several hair style magazines:

Plus, we have all sorts of books that can provide a wonderful array of options to choose from:

On top of all of that, you can make an interest in hair into a multimedia experience!  There’s always the musical, or you can read a Bubbles mystery, about a hairdresser-turned-investigative-journalist.   

So next time you’re in the market for a new hair style, stop by!  You’ll get an expert opinion (on how to find what you’re looking for).


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This is still your life.

Our latest issue of Pittsburgh Magazine just arrived with the most beautiful local bathroom on the cover, so I am even more inspired to continue where I left off last time I posted.  So you’re in the shower, perhaps you’re washing your hair (if you have it), pondering whether you should switch conditioners.  Maybe you’re on the last sliver of the lovely soap you got as a gift a couple of months ago.  When you’re done, the bathroom is all steamy

 What’s next?  Some might say it’s time to put on makeup.  Or perhaps you have a whole skin care routine.  Either way, Paula Begoun is going to have something to say to you in her latest book, Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, which just recently arrived on our shelves. 

Then, finally, you arrive in front of your closet.  (If you’re starting in the closet, and want to get out, we have books for that, too.)  Are you happy with all that clutter? Well, just like you can organize from the inside out if you should so desire, you can also dress from the inside out. If only it were that easy, though. All these little decisions: what color do you want to wear? Does that style make you look fat?  Do you want to go retro today? 

I almost forgot the undergarments!  If you’re as philosophical about underwear as you were about cleanliness, you should probably check out Jill Fields’ An Intimate Affair: Women, Lingerie, and Sexuality, Hidden Underneath: A History of Lingerie, by Farid Chenoune, or Uplift: the Bra in America, by Jane Farrell-Beck and Colleen Gau.  And it’s winter here in Pittsburgh, so most of us would hate to go without socks.

Don’t worry, men, you are not going to be neglected completely in this post!  Some of the biggest names in fashion are men, for goodness’ sake!  Askmen.com has a style guide for you, as does Carson KressleyMen’s style can make a huge statement, so perhaps you’re ready to make your own.

Next time I post, we’re finally ready for breakfast.


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This is your life.

I was all set to do a post on beauty and fashion because for some reason, I have beauty and fashion on the brain.  The truth is, I’m dying to do a beauty and fashion program series here at the library.  But then someone told me about this, and I began to rethink my post. 

I think of fashion and beauty as a terrific example of how the library offers all sorts of materials on all sorts of topics, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat .  So I’m going to start my blog with the first thing in the morning:  the bathroom.  What’s the deal with this bathing-every-day thing?  Why are we all so obsessed with cleanliness?  Were we always this concerned about our odors?  Find out in The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History, by Katherine Ashenburg or in Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity, by Virginia Smith. 

But perhaps your morning thoughts are of a more practical nature.  Perhaps you walk into your bathroom every morning, and you look at the wallpaper and think of creating your dream bathroom. Or you wish you knew how to fix that dripping sink, or worse, you wish you had gotten to the bathroom faster.  (Now if that particular title doesn’t seem up-to-date enough, give one of our health databases a try.)  Do you see what I mean?  Every aspect of our lives on the planet is addressed at this library!  And we haven’t even gotten to the closet yet!  I’ll save that for next time.

Posted by: Kaarin


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