Tis the time of year when people start making best of/my favorite things/holiday must-have lists. I’ve been plotting a post like this for a few years—or at least since I discovered Mindy Kaling’s Things I Bought that I Love blog a while back (an idea that I’m jealous I didn’t think of first).
So, this list is of the top ten items that I literally could not survive without—setting aside incredibly obvious things like my boyfriend, contact lenses, coffee, my MacBook Pro, facebook.com, etc. Pardon the TMI, because there is some overshare below, it’s the nature of the thing:
- Tiny Claw Clips | I have thick hair. When I was in eighth grade, we had our first formal dance. I went to a hairdresser to have my hair swept up in the requisite 1992 baby’s breath studded French knot; she couldn’t do it. She called around to several other salons describing my “eight-inch-thick ponytail” before sending us to someone who could accept the challenge. My hair was past my waist at the time, so she was exaggerating a bit, but a very tight ponytail with all my (shoulder-length) hair in it really is quite a bit more than two inches thick. And I can get an updo to stay all day with just two or three of these clips. They’re also fantastic to just sweep up the sides out of my face, and I can do several really authentic vintage 30s and 40s hairstyles using them. Love.
- Jeffrey Campbell shoes | I own many pairs. There’s “Mae,” my skull-and-roses-patterned rubber cowboy boots, and there are red Mary Janes with the wooden kitten heel; there’s “Pia,” gorgeous butter-yellow t-straps I love wearing with dark tights; an adorable pair of what I’ll default to calling loafers with vertiginous platform heels; then there are stripedy ballet flats, plus the orange-and-violet pumps I bought on Melrose Avenue and wore to the Kodak Theatre wedding: so many yummy pairs. They are unfailingly cute, unfailingly comfortable for their heel heights. Plus, they always come with spare heel-caps, which is really essential when you live in a city full of brick and cobblestone sidewalks. Next up is a pair of tall gray (possibly suede) boots. I’m really into yellow and gray as neutrals lately. Except for sneakers and San Francisco, it’s been a year or two since I’ve bought not-J.C. shoes. If I were a shoe designer, I’d be Jeffrey Campbell, and that’s seriously high praise.
- Gold Bond Ultimate Healing lotion | This stuff does not mess around. The name’s not sexy, but it doesn’t have to be. About five years ago, I discovered a new and unpleasant way in which I take after my mother: she has very dry winter skin. The skin on her hands in particular gets all lizardy, cracks, bleeds, peels off in bits. Every winter. And every winter since I’d noticed this as a teen, I’d bought her all sorts of super-expensive poultices and creams and moisture gloves and farmers’ remedies, but nothing helped. Then it started happening to me. Then I bought myself a bottle of this stuff, and within two days, no more dry skin. Then I bought a bottle for my mom. At last count, she has big pump bottles at her bedside table and in all her bathrooms, plus a tube in her car. Truly miraculous.
- Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer in Porcelain | One of my best friends is a former professional makeup artist. This is to say, she worked at Saks and Nieman Marcus makeup counters to put herself through college, and has done theatrical makeup. She’s the reason that I haven’t bought a single makeup item in a drugstore in at least three years. I have really good skin, but with a sort of a perpetual gin blossom across my nose, and I redden in winter and burn in the summer. So I just need something that will even out my skin without covering it. This stuff is awesome. It also has an SPF of 20, which is higher than most facial sunscreens can get. It’s perfect for just balancing out skin tone, without being thick or cakey, without masking your actual face. It’s especially excellent if you hate wearing a full face of makeup, or if you have cute freckles you don’t want to hide. Also, if you have normal or oily skin, this is your moisturizer. I have dry skin, so I have to wear moisturizer underneath. It totally gives you that sheer, shimmery, dewy supermodel skin. Magic.
- Bobbi Brown creamy concealer/sheer finish loose powder in Warm Ivory | If the Mercier is housepaint, this is the spackle. If my tinted moisturizer is Photoshop’s Blur tool, this concealer/powder duo is Clone Stamp and Dodge. Dark rings around the eyes? Gone. Zits? None here. Dab a little bit on with a concealer brush, do an all-over with the Mercier, then finish with a sweep of the luminous loose powder under your eyes, right under your eyebrows, across your nose, and anywhere you applied the concealer. You’re radiant. Flawless.
- Origins Rich Rewards | I mentioned dry skin and thick hair. Those create a perfect storm of frizz. I’m talking powder-puffy white-girl jewfro. This scalp moisturizer is amazing. Also, it’s the yummiest-smelling toiletry of all time. Because of it, my hair no longer resemble a cross between Rosanna Rosannadanna’s and a troll doll’s on dry winter days. But what really saved my hair was to follow Frédéric Fekkai’s mandate and stop washing my hair daily (obviously, I still shower everyday, just pin my hair up to keep it dry). On the days when I wash my hair, it’s wider than it is long: unless I slather on thick waxy pomade to weigh it down, it extends past my shoulders horizontally without touching them. On days I don’t shampoo, it behaves. I promise that skipping daily shampooing is not gross: your grandmothers only washed their hair once a week, and I guarantee every black woman you know owns a showercap! Plus, chemicals in shampoo are really damaging, and skipping the 40+ minute daily blowdry (super-thick hair!) earns me extra sleep. So I wash my hair once or twice a week in the winter and every other day in the summer. It looks awesome. I use the Rich Rewards as a deep-conditioner every time I shampoo (with Lush’s Cynthia Sylvia Stout shampoo, if you’re interested). It’s an excellent thick/coarse-hair regimen.
- Mario Badescu drying lotion | Like I said, I have essentially good skin. I get between one and three zits a month, only during my period, and this funky pink stuff vanishes them overnight. Even more effective if you apply before they rise to the surface. Poof. Also, on the subject of zits, I’ve discovered the only correct way to “pop” them, courtesy of a friend’s dermatologist: run water as hot as you can stand on a clean washcloth; hold against zit as long as you can stand; zit is gone. If that doesn’t do it, you can rub, but only in one direction. That’s just a public-service message.
- Victoria’s Secret Intimissi bras | I think of myself as being completely flat-chested, but, objectively, I’m not. I was a late bloomer, and really scrawny in middle and high schools. When I gained the freshman fifteen in college, I finally weighed over 100 pounds. Now I’m a c-cup about 80% of the time, and a b- or d-cup the rest; it varies depending on the brand, within a single manufacturer, sometimes within a single style of bra. That’s where Intimissi comes in. They’re perfect. I discovered the line two years ago when I was in Las Vegas for the Fourth of July. At the time, they were available in the US only at Caesar’s Palace, where I was staying. They are magic. They do magical things. They are made just for I.B.T.C. gals. They only come in size 1, size 2, or size 3. I am the same size every time, no matter what style or shape the bra is. I love that.
- This time of year, my EMS thermal tights | These are meant for people who camp and hike in winter. They look like plain black footless leggings. They keep my legs super-warm in evil subzero temperatures and cutting brutal winds, yet cool indoors. When I was little, it was a pitched battle for my mother to get me and my siblings bundled up, especially to get us into our hideous puffy snow-pants. Now, it’s war against -18 wind chills, and these “magic pants” are my secret weapon. They are sleek enough to go under snug jeans or even double as tights paired with a skirt and boots. Yet somehow they aren’t technically thermal; my legs still feel breezy in my overheated office wearing them under lined wool dress trousers.
- Thin deep-v-neck cotton sweaters | Literally, a four-season sweater. I have about a dozen of these in various colors. In summer, it’s all you need to take a tank top or tee from day to night. In winter, I’ll layer two or three. Throw one over a button-up shirt. Layer under a cardigan, or a great tweed or corduroy blazer. They create a good line, add no bulk, are super-comfy, don’t overheat you. I have two from Gap, three or four from JCrew, and a couple more from Urban Outfitters and Ann Taylor.
Now go check out my list of Things that need to go away in 2009.