Let’s Get Packing!

Hey Fashion Fledglings, are we ready to pack for that beach trip? I know I am! Are we committed to learning how to pack light and enjoy our trip without worrying about forgetting something? Yes! Let’s do it!

Here are some tips that have served me well on all kinds of trips, from six-week backpacking Euro-trips to weekend jaunts. Read them over, take a look at your luggage, and try packing a sample suitcase to see if you can fit everything in your bag, or if you need to rearrange or even (GASP) leave something at home.

  • Do your research. First things first, check the baggage requirements for the airline you’re flying on – they’re all different and have different fees, so see what you can get away with for free and try to manage that. You’re paying enough for the ticket already, why pay to add bags if you don’t have to? It’s been my experience that most airlines let you bring one small carry-on bag and one ‘personal item’ (laptop bag or purse that fits under your seat), and a lot of them also let you check one bag for free or relatively cheap. Again, look it up, know what you’re getting yourself into.
  • Fit your stuff to your luggage, not the other way around. Commit to however-many bags you want to bring, and don’t add more! Adding more stuff means adding more money, and we’re trying to avoid that, right? If you get to the point where your bag is full and you need more stuff, sit back and think about what you’ll really need and if you can downsize any.
  • You can re-wear some things. No really. If you’re a jeans or cargoes person, you don’t need one pair for each day – you know we all wear those for a few days before we wash them. Pants are bulky and hard to roll up (my preferred packing method), so think about bringing one or two pairs instead of a pair for every day to save space. Same with bras – do you wear a different bra everyday? I don’t. Pack a beige one, so it doesn’t show through thinner shirts, and maybe a sports bra too, and leave it at that. Bringing a sweater, coat, scarf, hat, or hoodie? One is enough. Pick a neutral color if you worry about those things going with your outfits, but just pack one.
  • Can you do laundry at your destination? If you’re hostelling, they usually have laundry facilities. Nicer hotels offer laundry and dry-cleaning. Staying with friends? It’s possible they own a washer/dryer, or know where the nearest laundromat is. If you’re taking a longer sojourn and packing a whole outfit for each day is busting your suitcase open, thinking about cutting your wardrobe in half and planning to do laundry halfway through the trip. Yeah, that’s not really a vacation-y activity, but we all have those days when we’re traveling that we just want to relax and not do much, or evenings when we’re out and can leave laundry running, then toss it in the dryer before bed. Wouldn’t having freshly-dried clothes on your trip feel nice?
  • Watch the goo! You know, your ten-step skin care line, your bucket of conditioner, your imported yak-milk hand lotion – that stuff’s heavy, bulky, and unless you’ve got travel sizes of all of it, you can’t carry it on a plane in the US. Are you traveling somewhere that might have a grocery or drug store? Contemplate buying some shampoo/conditioner/deodorant/toothpaste/body wash when you get there. Get the cheap stuff just so you’re clean on your trip (or use the hotel stuff), and go back to using your specialty things when you get home. I’m planning on sticking cling film under the lids of all my Korean skin care products, then packing them into gallon freezer bags and putting them in my checked luggage for Hawaii, rather than buying travel sizes of everything. If you do check any toiletries, remember two things: the airline DGAF about any of your luggage’s contents, so pad things well as your bags will end up dropped, upside-down, and thrown across the tarmac at some point; and the changing pressure of a plane flight can make your liquids explode, so open them carefully and over a sink after you land.
  • Pack your shoes judiciously. This is where it’s important to think about what you’re going to be doing – I always recommend taking one nicer outfit just in case you need it, but packing multiple pairs of shoes to match one or two outfits each is a little excessive. Try one pair of black dress shoes (they go with everything), one pair of comfortable shoes that you can do a lot of walking in (deck shoes, sneakers, Toms, whatever will keep you comfy while you’re out sightseeing), and a pair of flip-flops or flat sandals that you can take off easily to go through airport security. If you’re like me, your feet swell when you fly, so sandals are a good idea until that subsides. For Hawaii, we’re planning to go hiking, so in addition to those three pairs, I’ll have to pack hiking boots. But I’m also not packing a ton of bulky clothes, so I anticipate having enough room for those shoes in between my swimsuits and sundresses.
  • Remember that you’re wearing some of your ‘luggage.’ If you find that your hiking boots don’t fit, or your sweater or something – wear it on the flight. No packing required.
  • Don’t forget about your ‘personal item.’ You can definitely pack an extra small outfit, or hair styling tools, or a pair of sandals, in your purse. Use a tote bag for extra room, and put spillover stuff in there if you need to.
  • Leave room for souvenirs! If it’s a big trip, you might want to pack an extra, empty bag to put souvenirs or travel shopping in, or just leave extra room in anticipation of bringing stuff back. I think we’re doing the latter for the honeymoon, although I may pack a string backpack that the fiance can carry on with everyone’s pressies in it. We usually get people fridge magnets or keychains, so they won’t take up too terribly much room.

Clear as mud? Do you feel more confident about packing for your trip? Give it a trial run and see how it goes! Lay out your outfits, shoes, accessories, and toiletries, then lay out your bags and purse, and see if you can fold or roll everything into a fee-free luggage arrangement. If you find you can’t, don’t stress – that’s why you tried it early. Take some things out, rearrange, plan to do laundry or buy some things at your destination, and try it again. You got this! I have faith in you, Fledglings.

Next week, I’m gonna talk about my wedding, and what I’ve learned in the past year of planning said wedding. The fashion side of a wedding is a pretty big deal, and I’ve discovered some things that have definitely surprised me. See you next time!

Packing Light for Summer Vacay

I love to travel. In fact, get ready for some travel posts after I get back from my honeymoon at the end of June, because that’s happening. Having been a traveler – and also a person whose family moved frequently – pretty much my whole life, I’ve gotten the whole ‘packing light’ thing down to an art form, and I’m here to share that knowledge, because I know a lot of you sorely need it.

How do I know? Because I’ve seen you, you poor things. I see you in the airport, struggling to heave a suitcase you could sleep in onto the scale. I see those over-sized-luggage fees racking up, and I know that’s money you could be spending on museum admission or foreign alcohol, but no, you’re using it to pay for the privilege of lugging fifteen pairs of shoes, five coats, and a satchel of makeup across Spain for three weeks.

Girl. You do NOT need all that stuff. I can hear you arguing already, though: “But what if I DO need it???” There are two reasons people overpack, and those reasons are a lack of knowledge about what they’ll need, and a lack of trust in their own abilities.

Let me elaborate on that first one. It makes perfect sense to pack a bunch of ‘just in case’ stuff for a trip, but if you’re getting into extra-fee territory with your luggage, it’s time to stop and think. ‘Having everything you need’ is not the only concern here, Fledglings. You also don’t want to waste money on baggage, you also don’t want to throw your back out hauling all that stuff into and out of hotels/hostels, and you also don’t want to have so much stuff in tow that you risk losing a bag and then really hating yourself because you couldn’t keep track of everything. Also, you’re on vacation! All that stuff is literally going to be sitting in your hotel room all day while you go have fun. Sure, you’ll know it’s there, but will you be using it? No, you’re just clutching onto it thinking AT LEAST I HAVE IT! Deep breaths, Fledglings. It’s gonna be okay.

To cut down on your baggage, and therefore stress, you need to do some research. Talk to well-traveled friends, read some articles about traveling to that area, and check the usual weather for your destination. Think through your itinerary and what you’ll be doing – indoor stuff or outdoor stuff? Casual or fancy stuff? Once you know what you’ll be doing and in what conditions you’ll be doing it, it will be easier to pack only things that are appropriate for the trip. You wouldn’t bring a long coat to a summer beach holiday, nor would you bring a big sun hat on a ski trip. Only bring things that make sense for where/when you’re going – odds are that’s all you’re going to need.

So now that you know what you’ll need, do you feel less anxious about what *might* happen on your trip? If yes, great job! Pack only what you’ll need and hop that plane! If not, let’s discuss further.

“Don’t feed your fears by telling yourself they’re prophecies.”

A lot of people I know get nervous when they travel. They’re not at home, they don’t have ready access to all the things they usually have access to, and that bit of uncertainty can grow into a big scary anxiety-monster if it’s not checked with some knowledge and preparedness. Trying to soothe your anxiety by declaring, ‘I’ll just pack everything I might need ever and that way I’ll NEVER get caught without something!’ is really just giving you more anxiety, because what you’re basically telling yourself is, ‘Things are going to go horribly on this trip and I’m going to be lost and unprepared when that inevitable disaster strikes.’ Is that realistic? No, it’s really not. The most likely ‘disaster’ you’re going to have is either a late flight, or forgetting something you meant to bring. If you’re traveling domestically, the US has pretty much the same stuff for sale in every town. I’m fairly certain you can buy a new loofah and some shower gel if you forget yours. Same with clothing – you had to drop $10 on a cheap hoodie because it was cooler than you expected? Big deal! Get one that looks cool and call it a souvenir! Don’t feed your fears by telling yourself they’re prophecies. How much fun are you going to have on a trip that you’ve convinced yourself is going to turn into a disaster movie? None, because you’ll be worried and stressed out the whole time, in addition to sore from hauling around all your anxiety-luggage, both literal and figurative. You don’t deserve that. You deserve to enjoy the hell out of that trip.

Knowledge drives out fear, so if you’re worried that some Lifetime-movie disaster is going to unfold when you go on this trip, get some knowledge in your head to counteract that fear – and I do NOT mean you should read disaster and plane-crash stories on the internet. You’re just feeding the fear by doing that. I mean that, again, you should talk to people who have traveled where you’re going. Did they have a great time? Did anything weird happen to them? Are they still alive after that mishap occurred and you’re not talking to the ghost of your friend who died when she missed her connecting flight? Good! This is how we become less fearful, by learning what’s reasonable to expect and how we should respond, not by trying to pack our entire 1,000 square-foot apartment into our luggage set in case our home country falls into civil unrest while we’re gone. If you live in the US, it’s pretty unlikely that’s going to happen.

If you’re still anxious about traveling, or if your anxiety is keeping you from doing the kind of travel you want to do, don’t be afraid to find a doctor who can help you out. There are loads of therapy techniques and even some medications that, if they’re appropriate for you and doctor-approved, can help you be able to calm down those panicked voices. I’ve been in therapy on and off for years for my anxiety, and the main thing I’ve learned is that to manage anxiety, we can’t avoid the things that make us anxious. We go talk to a professional, we arm ourselves with good coping skills that don’t reinforce our fears, and then we go do those very things we fear, within limits and with supportive people around. Why, you ask? Because when we do those things, we see that they won’t kill us. We see that if things go wrong, we can handle it. We see that the anxiety in our heads is something we can manage, not something that manages us out of having fun experiences that we want to have.

This was the emotional take on packing, and I talked about this because I know there’s a lot of emotion and fear running around in our heads, and not being at home is when a lot of those brain-things come out to play. It’s important to introduce those elephants in the room and make sure we all know they’re there, so that I can set you up for success in next week’s post. I’m going to give practical packing tips for people who want to travel, but who can’t seem to keep their luggage manageable and fee-free. I promise, you can look good while traveling and not feel like you’re on Naked and Afraid, without having to pay for (and carry!) a 150-pound suitcase.

Your homework for the week is to ruminate on why you pack too much, and think about how you would feel if you packed less. My guess is that you’ll find you fall into one of the two categories I mentioned above: you don’t know what to bring, or you’re anxious about not having something. Let me know in the comments where you’re at, and I’ll give some good pointers to get you through it so you can have fun on your trip.

The Swimsuit Conundrum

Is there anything more annoying than shopping for swimsuits? Yes, it’s blue jeans, which is why I pretty much don’t wear them, ever. But today we’re talking about swimsuits! What a pain, am I right ladies? You need it to stay on when you move or swim, and you need it to hold up The Girls, and you need it to hide those parts of you that, for whatever reason, you don’t feel like showing to everyone at the pool/beach. Oh, and it should look super good and cute and flattering, and be affordable. TOTALLY not asking too much from a collection of elastic and string! Totally not.

I had some added complications with this year’s shopping, in that I’ve lost some weight and am feeling very confident about myself, so I wanted to go back to wearing a two-piece suit as opposed to a one-piece. Much like a sea lion, I love the feel of cool water on my belly, and while the one-piece I sported the last couple years is super cute, I was ready for something new to show off the results of all the gym time and salads I’ve been putting in. Is buying two pieces of swimsuit really that much harder than buying one? Yes, yes it is. About twice as hard, actually.

So here’s what I’ve learned from this season’s round of swimsuit shopping, which I did almost entirely online, something I hadn’t really done before (does ordering from the Victoria’s Secret catalog in high school count? Probably not).

In preparation for your suit-shopping-palooza, you’re gonna need a couple of things: your measurements, and a budget. Since I’ve been working on losing weight, I have a log of my measurements on my phone. If you’ve never done it before, it’s pretty easy, but you have to do it the right way or your measurements, and therefore clothing sizes, will be off. The ‘for dummies’ link right there, as well as most online clothing stores, will show you how to measure yourself. For the swimsuit, I needed my bra size (go to a good lingerie store and get fitted if you haven’t in a while), and my waist and hip measurements. This is because my big ol’ bewbs require a bra-sized top, or at least a sizing chart that’s based on bra sizes, whereas I just need a standard ‘size large’ for bottoms. To further complicate things, this often means I need a plus-sized top and a standard-sized bottom. Hooray, me.

Don’t get salty about people with big boobs, Fledglings – I can personally attest that they are heavy, sweaty, and make your back hurt. The big boobs, not the people…probably. Big chests make clothing more expensive and more difficult to shop for, and I do not recommend them at all. So when you hear a lady complaining about her boobage and the problems it’s causing, don’t mistake it for a humble-brag – she’s legitimately annoyed at her chest getting in the way of her having a good time.

As for the budget, I planned to shell out around $100 on a suit. This sounds insane, but much like brake jobs, it’s important to pay for quality when buying swimsuits because when you need one, you need it to work properly every time. Having this budget also opened up a lot more options that had better sizing than cheaper brands, and I’m always okay with paying for comfort if it’s necessary.

Speaking of comfort, I’ve found that for my cleavage, a halter swim top is the best support. There are also ones that fit like sports bras (just make sure there’s some separation between The Girls – you want to look like you have two, not one), ones that fit like a full-coverage bra, and ones that fit like tank tops – appropriately called Tankinis. If you’ve got a swimwear store in your town, go window-shopping and try on a few things so you know what cut works best for you, especially if your body shape has changed or you haven’t bought a swimsuit in a while. You might find something right there you can buy, and if you don’t, you’ll know what styles to look for when you shop online.

What did I end up getting? A super-adorable bright-colored bikini from good old Victoria’s Secret. It was within my budget, I got free shipping, and exchanging the top for a bigger cup size (oops) was really easy because I took it back to the VS in my town’s mall and they shipped the not-fitting one back for free and ordered me the right size. I’m sad that it didn’t fit right out of the bag, but it’s a hazard with online shopping. It’s important to check return/exchange policies before you hit ‘submit order.’ I hear that VS won’t be selling swimsuits after this year, so if you want some of their gear, you might want to get on that.

I’m also going to get a one-piece – you know, for more active aquatic pursuits than ‘looking fly while reading a book on the beach’ – probably from Target. It’s where I got my one-piece a couple years ago, and that thing has held up well for a $20-30 suit. Oh yeah, one-piece swimsuits are indeed cheaper and more likely to fit okay than a two-piece, so if you want to save the hassle, there are a TON of adorable one-piece swimsuits out there. But I wanted a two-piece, and I knew I’d have to pony up for a good one or risk a rogue wave taking my top swimming without me. As my bestie would say, ‘choose your life.’ It’s literally up to you how much effort and money you want to put in, because who benefits from your swimsuit besides you? Nobody, that’s who. Buy the one that makes you feel like a goddess, and tell the haters to move on.

Other fantastic options for busty ladies needing a new swimsuit are ModCloth and Her Room. ModCloth is packed with adorable retro designs, and their sizing is very, very transparent, so you’ll have a good chance of your suit fitting without having to exchange. Her Room rocks the bra sizing like ModCloth, and has more modern – but still fun and awesome – patterns and cuts.

If you’re busty, I highly recommend finding a swimsuit shop that offers bra sizing in their tops. Invest in comfort and style that works for you; don’t shove yourself into some uni-boob top situation just because you know it’ll prevent poolside nip-slips. We all deserve to feel pretty in the summer.

Tune in next weekend, where I ramble on about packing for a summer vacation! Why? Because I’m going to Hawaii for my honeymoon next month, and it’s kind of all I can think about. See you then!

Korean Skin Care FAQ’s

question mark snail
I Googled ‘question mark snail’ and this is what came up, which I think is funny. It’s a t-shirt design you can get here.

First things first: I’m not an expert. I’m barely an enthusiast. I’m a grad student who’s done a lot of research in her time, so when I want to know more about something, I generally know how to find good sources and how to mostly sort the over-hyped crap from the reasonable claims. Experts on skin care would be facialists, professional makeup artists, dermatologists, and other people who have made a career out of the study and practice of knowing what’s good and bad for people’s skin. If  you want expert advice, ask them. If you want the true story of one person who’s used some of these products and how those products have worked on that one person, you’re in the right place. Personally, I like a nice mix of personal anecdote and professional research-based opinion.

Here are some of the questions I asked myself while I was researching this, and what I found out through Google, various other (more professional than this one) skin care blogs, and what friends have told me.

Does this add hours to your morning routine? Weirdly, no. That was my biggest fear going in, because Lord do I love to hit the snooze button. But no, once I figured out what I needed to do and how to do it, it only takes an extra ten minutes, tops. How good I feel and how great my skin looks is more than enough payoff for skipping one snooze cycle. In the evenings, it is SO nice to spend a few minutes pampering myself and taking the day off. Sometimes I’ll brew a cup of tea and sip it in between layers of face stuff, so I can go to bed fully relaxed. Who doesn’t deserve that?

Why are so many of these products focused on whitening skin? To understand this, it’s important to understand Korean culture – something my fiance excels at, because he lived in South Korea for two years and his job involves lots of knowledge of southeast Asia. According to him, looking good is very, very important in South Korea, as the culture there is highly competitive. If you don’t look a certain way, it can be hard to get jobs, dates, etc. People can be publicly critical of another person’s looks, and lots of South Koreans get plastic surgery at a young age.

But an actual Korean is a better reference, so here’s a blog post where a Korean person answers an American’s question about Koreans and their avoidance of the sun. Basically, pale skin is seen as desirable, and this is something you can find in many, many cultures, from India (Fair and Lovely cream, anyone?) to Latin America. There’s probably some undertones of Western imperialism in that mindset, as well as reminiscences of older class structures, where poor people were tan because they had to work out in the sun, while rich people had the privilege of staying indoors and not getting dark. In a culture that values youth and beauty, having flawless, bright-white skin is just another way of showing the world that you’re one of those desirable people with desirable traits. My Western sensibilities want to go, “What a load of crap! People should be more accepting!” But I’m a Westerner, and my opinion is based on my life and my culture, which doesn’t really apply to people in Korea and how their culture influences their definition of beauty. I hope that clears it up a little, but I encourage my Fledglings to be informed world citizens who are willing to learn about other cultures and who approach our differences with open minds and hearts.

Speaking of culture: Is this appropriation? I had to wonder that the other day, as I was reading about Coachella and how we’re somehow STILL not done with white people wearing Native American tribal costumes as fashion accessories (as a Native, please stop this, you look idiotic and it’s really disrespectful). From what I can tell, as a minority and as someone who tries to be as kind to others as possible, I think it’s up to the culture in question to tell the world whether something amounts to appreciation or appropriation. Part of the reason I link Peach and Lily and SoKoGlam so much on here is that they’re businesses run by Asian-American women, and I think that if we’re going to appreciate (and not appropriate) another culture and how they can benefit our lives, going to that culture, not to a Western knockoff, is a good place to start. Different people may have different opinions on this, but that’s mine. I’ve done a LOT of reading up on Korean skincare, and I have yet to come across anyone from Korea crying foul on Americans using their skin products. If I do, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Would the snail mucin and bee venom make these products un-vegan? I’m not vegan, but from what I know about the lifestyle, yes. In that same vein, it’s important to look for product lines that don’t use animals for testing. Thankfully, there are several lines of plant-based and cruelty-free Korean skin care products. As always, do your research. It feels great to know your purchases are in line with your values.

Will snail mucin aggravate a shellfish allergy? I didn’t even know this was a question worth asking, since I don’t have a shellfish allergy, but my bestie does! She’s also Jewish, so keeping it Kosher is important in her beauty purchases. Turns out that, yes, if you’re allergic to shellfish you might also be allergic to snails. My advice? Run it by your doctor or dermatologist, or err on the side of safety and don’t use the snail stuff if you have a really bad allergy. Why risk something awful happening where there are plenty of non-snail moisturizers out there? Don’t play fast and loose with your health, Fledglings.

How do I know if I’m allergic to a skin product? I’m definitely not a doctor, so when something weird happens with my body, I go find a doctor and ask them. I would say, if you’re using a product and you get itchy or blotchy or start swelling, use some common sense: stop using the thing (stop the whole routine if you don’t know which product is causing the reaction), and get your medical doctor on the phone, pronto.

How long did it take you to see results? I think my skin felt nice after the first round of it, but I’ve been doing the full routine for a couple of months now, and I’m really starting to see results. Based on everything I’ve read, consistency is the best predictor of success. Stick with it, morning and night, and you’ll get results as time goes by.

And there we have it! That’s my small take on Korean skin care and why I love it so much. I highly recommend doing some research, and as I try new products I’ll definitely be giving reviews on here, so keep checking back. Next week, in preparation for my Hawaiian honeymoon next month, I’m going to talk about swimsuits! I’ll go over what I’m seeing as I shop, what I’m loving and what I’m finding frustrating, and some special tips and links for us busty ladies. Not all suits are created equal when you’ve got big boobs, guys. See you next weekend!