How to Get a Makeover

When a friend alerted me that Jane Marie was looking for expats to do mall makeovers for Jezebel, I jumped at the chance. Not only am I a big fan of Jezebel and Jane Marie (the editor, not the adult movie star), I also love makeup. And I was curious about what a Kazakh makeover would look like.

The end result was that commenters on Jezebel are the kindest people on the internet.

Oh and this is what my face looked like:

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I wrote a bit more about my experience on the site and the other makeovers are definitely worth checking out too!

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Vintage Clothing Tips

Librarians have nostalgic and romantic tendencies, along with a love of history. I suspect this is why so many of us dress in vintage fashions.

There are a few additional reasons as to why I wear vintage dresses every day for work:

  • You don’t have to pick anything to match. Just throw on a black cardigan and INSTANT OUTFIT.
  • Vintage dresses are generally made well, from good quality fabrics, and are in better shape than most new clothing.
  • They are often cheaper than buying new clothes.
  • Sweatshop labour free. And in light of the news recently, this is an especially good thing.
  • Contributes to sustainable practices.
  • I would probably wear jeans more but my library has a business casual dress code.
  • Patterns and colours! My goodness, they just don’t make them any more like they used to.

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Here are a few tips to finding vintage clothing and making it work for you. I’ve tried to throw in examples where I can, as is my wont.

Figure Out What Style Works for You

For me, polyester ’50s-’70s dresses are my go to. They are so vibrant and crazily patterned. Can be thrown in the wash. Don’t wrinkle throughout the day. The material is easy to work with if I need to make alterations. If I lived in a hotter climate, they wouldn’t work so well and sometimes it can be a little extra sweaty on my bike ride into work but overall, this doesn’t bother me too much.

This time period also works for me because I find silhouettes with a more fitted top and a fuller skirt are more flattering for my body type and also riding my bike to work does not lend itself well to wiggle dresses and pencil skirts.

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I’m trying to get more into tops and skirts recently, as my boss pointed out they are better for travelling since washing/changing a sweaty top is quicker than a sweaty dress.

Esme & the Laneway has a great post on the topic of finding your vintage style too.

Where to Get Vintage Clothes

1) Clothing Swaps

I have gotten so many amazing clothes from librarian clothing swaps! Also, it is just plain fun to hang out with a bunch of librarian ladies and drink wine and try on clothes.

2) Etsy/eBay

Once you know your measurements, this is easy! Take a dress or top that fits you well, lay it flat, and measure it. Lots of eBay and Etsy ads provide the “lying flat” measurements. Other ads give body measurements for pieces so get your tailor or a room mate/partner to take these (they’re hard to do accurately on your own). When I’ve bought an item from an ad that fits well, I like to save the ad so that I can just refer to those measurements when I’m considering items later on.

Sometimes, I search for items that are just in my city. Most sellers are happy to meet you at a coffee shop or somewhere nearby so that you can save on shipping and just pick up the item.

Some examples: I’ve bought one dress from this seller. Usually her items are a little out of my price range ($100 +) and are on the fancier side. But it’s one example of how there are beautiful, fairly reasonable pieces out there. And I’ve bought cheaper items ($20 +) from this local vintage seller.

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3) Small Towns/Cities

I never bother shopping at vintage/thrift stores in Vancouver (and most big cities). However, I used to work at a vintage store in a small town and years later, I still have so many beautiful and functional pieces from my time there. Places like Victoria are perfect because they have a large older population who are getting rid of these items and not as many people are around to scoop them up! A Victoria vintage haul (new bathing suit):

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4) $10 (or less) Racks Outside Vintage Stores

Generally, the only time I will shop for vintage clothing in Vancouver is to quickly stop at the $10 or less racks outside of the stores. Most items on this rack haven’t sold because there is something weird about them, in which case, it may be worth buying and altering. If it doesn’t work out, well, it’s only $10! Some of my favourite items are from racks like this. For example, I got this amazing vintage wool skirt for $1 last week simply because it’s the wrong season for that item and the store wanted to get rid of it. And I didn’t even have to alter it!

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5) Consignment Stores

Lots of consignment stores have vintage items. But most people don’t go to consignment stores for vintage items.  Thus, since consignment stores don’t specifically cater towards people looking for vintage, you can often find gems that would’ve been marked up and sold right away in a vintage store.

What to Ask Yourself Before Purchasing a Vintage Item 

Things to check when buying vintage (I will talk about alterations in the next section):

  • stains: are they removable/noticeable?
  • material: is it in good shape? are any of the seams pulling? is the material thinning in some areas? are there any holes? (if there is a hole along a seam, it may be easy to fix)
  • does this item really work for me?

If an item is noticeably stained, I don’t buy it. It’s generally not worth the effort and heartache.

I have bought items before where the material isn’t in good shape and it’s sad! An exceptional item can be worth it, like this pretty grey dress I bought on Etsy last year that I only wear to weddings or formal occasions. It has a few small holes and the material is a very delicate cotton voile, but hopefully by wearing it sparingly, it will last for some time.

Sometimes I really have to come to terms with the fact that a dress is too small, short, etc. Both were the case with this pretty dress, which I sadly left behind at the store:

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Alterations

Don’t spend a lot of money on an item that will need alterations. Unless, it’s a very simple alteration, such as raising a hemline and you are 99% sure that the item will be amazing once you do this alteration.

If you see a cheap item (I would say $20 and under) ask yourself, would this item look amazing if:

  • the hemline was shorter?
  • the sleeves were removed?
  • it was taken in at the sides?
  • it had the zipper fixed?
  • I just put a slip under it?
  • I ripped off the top of the dress and wore it as a skirt?
  • the shoulder pads were taken out?

I alter most of my dresses/tops myself. Most commonly, I take in the sides and remove sleeves. If I have more complicated work, such as raising a hemline, I take it to a tailor. Example, I bought a beautiful black cocktail dress for $25 that was too large for me. It’s some sort of crepe-y material with multiple layers and has bust darts (eek!) and so I had to bring it to a tailor. She charged me $40. So in total, the dress was still only $65. I know it sounds like a big hassle and lots of money, but for items in good condition that need a little bit of work, it’s so worth it!

An eye for potential and achievable modifications is developed over time. Also, a good tailor will let you know beforehand if the modifications can be done and if so, how expensive they will be. If you’ve already bought an item and then realized it won’t work for you, you can always try to resell it.

I wish I had before and after pictures! Next time I modify an item, I’ll document the process.

Final Thoughts

While I don’t condone hoarding clothes, don’t worry whether you have anything that matches the item you’re buying. If it’s a weird top, it will match jeans or a plain skirt. If it’s a weird skirt, it will most likely match a white blouse or a neutral coloured sweater. If a piece is special enough, and flatters you, don’t question it!

Don’t go vintage shopping for something specific.  If you’re looking for a broad category, such as skirts appropriate for work, or a cocktail dress, you may find something. But if you’re looking for a ’50s floral cotton summer dress – you will probably end up disappointed. Even if you’re a librarian and super good at searching. And part of the fun is finding something unexpected!

Cat Shirts

It doesn’t have to be vintage, but as fellow librarian Lindsay says, “erry librarian needs a cat shirt, yo.” Here is a polyester cat shirt that I have had for 11 years. I altered it by taking in the sides, and it is in as good of shape as the day I bought it for $10 at the Chilliwack Value Village:

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Red Lips

How is this relevant to libraries? Librarians have great style. And I bet Bat Girl wore red lipstick sometimes.

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I bought my first red lipstick when I was 14. A terrible clown shade from a Covergirl line of lip products, the kind with the colour on one side and a disconcerting clear wax on the other that was supposed to “seal” the colour when applied over top. Red lipstick looked so effortless and perfect on other women!  It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized, “Oh, they all went to a MAC counter at one point.” Sephora could as easily be swapped into that statement.

Now you are worried, thinking $$$! I’m all about going cheap when it comes to trendy and innocuous items but red lipstick is such a classic, minimalist yet bold statement, it should be high-quality. Red lips are forever fashionable, to the point where it’s completely redundant that every single fashion season expounds that red lips are “in” and so it’s not like the cobalt blue eyeshadow that will sit in your makeup bag forever.

Bonuses to Paying More Money 

You get to try the lipstick on in the store.

Unless you are 13 and spend all of your time in the cosmetics aisle of the grocery store with your friends and are too scared to steal anything but terrible enough to open products and try them on in the store, you don’t get to do this with cheap lipsticks. Also, doing this did not stop me from buying that awful Covergirl red lipstick.

You are paying for the staff’s expertise and knowledge.

One time I walked into a MAC store and a sales lady came up to me and said, “try this on” and it was a beautiful bright red lipstick that looked perfect with my outfit and complexion. That is how talented MAC and Sephora people are!

Sephora = Samples

I believe you can get up to three at one time. So at least try out the good stuff because it’s free.

You can return the lipstick for store credit if you decide you really don’t like it.

Sephora’s crazy return policy means if you realize you don’t like the lipstick, you can get at least get store credit for what you bought, even if it’s used. Same with MAC.

If you’re not convinced.

If you really don’t want to pay more than $6, though, Buzzfeed recommends Wet ‘n’ Wild and Milani brand lipsticks (the latter of which I think may not be available in Canada).

The Process of Trying On

When you begin your journey to find a red lipstick, take Jane from The Hairpin’s advice and make sure you feel good that day. Don’t go hungover in your stretchy pants because you look terrible, and no matter how fabulous the lipstick you try on is, you will still look terrible.

Keep your face simple when you try on/wear a red lipstick too. It’s like the boobs/legs thing with dresses. Just show off one! Not both. What kind of hussy are you? I mostly wear a red lipstick on my face along with some blush, a cat eye, and a neutral eye shadow. I also like to wear red lipstick on days that I don’t wear eyeliner. When you do this, it is kind of satisfying to know that people think you are being super fancy and put a lot of effort into your appearance, but you really didn’t at all. Then all of a sudden you have become one of those women I mentioned earlier!

On to shades, because this is the fun part. There are blue-toned and orangey-toned red lipsticks. I tend to prefer orangey reds since I have a “warmer” complexion but I have both in my collection. My collection is also pretty MAC biased but that’s mostly a reflection of how recently Sephora opened in Vancouver and how long MAC lipsticks last for.

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From left to right: Bite Pomegranate, MAC Ruby Woo, MAC Lady Danger, MAC Korean Candy, MAC Vegas Volt, Stila Fior. I am impressed at how non-gross these all look considering that I have had some of them for years.

Most Popular Red Lipstick Ever

Ruby Woo

MAC Ruby Woo. As I said, I tend to like orange-toned reds but that just speaks to how universal this blue-toned shade of lipstick is. It’s the best-selling of all time, with a nice matte finish.

Pomegranate

A very similar lipstick is sold by Bite, which is a new small Canadian company that’s sold at Sephora. This shade is called Pomegranate. I couldn’t even tell the difference when I was sorting the photos. Maybe the photos are both of Pomegranate, or both of Ruby Woo, or mixed up. Who knows! They are both great and I wouldn’t particularly recommend one above the other, but I do like supporting a Canadian company.

Best Red Lipstick for Intimidated People

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MAC sheer crème in Korean Candy. This is the red lipstick the lady at the MAC store made me try on. I think it’d be good for first-time people because it’s sheer, so you get the look of a bright red lip with a bit of softness. If you don’t like the orangey tone of this shade, there are others in this line!

Best Alternative to Red Lipstick

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MAC Vegas Volt. Reportedly the lipstick that January Jones wore as Betty Draper for the first two seasons of Mad Men. It’s really a coral lipstick but it has the same vintage feel to it as a red lipstick.

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Personal Favourite

Lady Danger

MAC Lady Danger. This is my holy grail of red lipsticks. I told the MAC staff I wanted a vintage Bond girl red lipstick and this is what they picked out.

Bright Lipsticks in General

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Stila Fior. I just wanted to say that the guidelines of red lipstick apply to all bright lipsticks. And at this point I wanted to show you my versatility as a model.

Application Tips

Once you’ve found your red lipstick, there are some application tips to keep in mind, which may or may not only be applicable to people like me who are addicted to lip balm.

Make sure your lips are moisturized! Put a bit of lip balm on then run a wet washcloth over top of them to get rid of any flaky bits or else you will just be highlighting how incredibly dry your lips are. If your lips are cracked or super chapped, common sense says you should forgo any lipstick and only wear Blistex.

Don’t bother with a lip liner unless you’re over 45 or a smoker. Some people also like a lip brush but why?

Put on your red lipstick! I apply it directly and just use my finger to wipe off any smudges that have gone beyond my lip line. I also do the thumb trick to make sure it won’t get on my teeth. This involves putting your thumb in your mouth and forming a tight seal around it with your lips, then pulling your thumb out.

This part is kind of icky, but important. After I eat lunch, I wipe off the remains of my red lipstick and repeat the lip balm/wet wash cloth morning routine. Except usually I’m at work so I replace the washcloth with a scratchy paper towel, which works just as well! No matter how moisturizing a lipstick is, and no matter how much lip balm I put on underneath or over top, it is inevitable that by the afternoon, my lips will be chapped. If I skip this process, my lips become flaky. Ew.

It may sound like a lot of work but it really only takes a minute. And maybe your lips have a perfect PH and you simply have to apply the lipstick and go, and you are thinking, “what is up with this gross chapped lip lady?” and I say, good for you!

One last tip for all: wipe the lipstick off of your cups before putting them in the dishwasher at work/home (if you should be so lucky). You will avoid adding to the passive aggressive dishes fight you already have going on with your co-workers/boyfriend/girlfriend/room mate(s).

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Picture of a Cat wearing red lipstick.

Cat Eyes

Cat eyes are probably not universally applicable to all librarians (dudes aside). Lots of librarians I know don’t wear cat eyes, or even wear makeup at all. But then a lot of libarians do, and so does Bat Girl, aka coolest librarian of all time.

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Now where do I get the audacity to tell you how to do a cat eye? My coworkers once asked me if my eyeliner is tattooed, which I took as a very fine compliment.

Gal pals also frequently ask me how to do a cat eye, and all good librarians know that when you get asked a question a lot, it is time to make a subject guide so you can direct people to a ready-made, thoughtful resource, rather than typing/explaining scattered instructions over and over again.

To start – which eyeliner to pick! For a cat eye, my preference is liquid liner. Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner is my favourite because it is shaped like a felt-tip marker so that even my clumsy hands can draw a decent line. It seems to dry out quickly, but if you dip it in a little water, it’ll be good to go again. I like this Loreal one too and Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Liner is also supposed to be excellent.

There are really just 3 steps to this process:

  1. Draw the liner as close to your lash line as possible.
  2. Then comes the hard part, which I think The Beauty Department sums up best (who knew that Lauren Conrad is actually useful? Meow!): Imagine a line from the outside corner to the end of your brow, that becomes the angle for the wing. With light brush strokes, slowly draw the wing at that angle.
  3. Then I like to thicken the line from the middle of my eye to the top of the wing, so it almost looks like a stretched out triangle.

Optional Part 04: If your line is a little shaky, clean up around the edges with a wet q-tip.

And voila!

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(Storm Troopers also like cat eyes)

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Honestly, it takes a lot of practice. I’ve been doing this for years and still don’t get it right about 1 out of every 10 times and end up looking like this:

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Still cute, though, right?

I usually curl my lashes and then put the eyeliner on so that if I mess up, I can wipe off the liner and start it again without mucking up the rest of my makeup. Also, if I’m not wearing a cat eye on a work day, it is usually an indicator that I was running late that morning.

Fellow librarian, Sara, whom I consider to be the ultimate makeup expert, finds it helpful to draw the line with an eye pencil first and then go over it with liquid eyeliner. She is so skilled, that when she broke her right arm, she taught herself how to do perfect cat eyes with her lefthand!

If you want a real fancy going out on the town tigress cat eye, use this tape tip from Jane Marie of The Hairpin.

*Edit. Pal to librarians, Cara, brought my attention to this amazing spoon trick video.

And if you want to be the fanciest ever, you can do what is known as tight-lining or the no liner liner, explained here, along with the cat eye. But you’ll need an eye pencil or gel liner and a whole lotta bravery for that.

The Beauty Department has some more handy cat eye tips and also links to this eyeliner chart for inspiration. Everything from Audrey Hepburn to freaky futuristic drag queen!:

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And if anyone is interested, the other makeup I’m wearing in those photos is Tarte Maracuja concealer in Light, Mac Pro Longwear Blush in Rosy Outlook, Geisha Mascara, random pale blue and ivory eyeshadows in my collection, and a random brown eyeshadow I use to fill in my eyebrows.

Great, now you all know how much I spend on my makeup. DON’T JUDGE.