In recent months, one of the most frequent contributors to the comments section has been Karen Hickel, founder of Mirabilis Fashions. In my conversations offline with her, I found her to be a wonderfully wise person who has taken a desire for style and transformed it from a hobby into a thriving business. Check her out in her own words below!My website is www.MirabilisFashions.com and everything in it is plus size and for sale. All of them are one of a kind items so they're only available in the size listed. I started to design and make my own sweaters way back when I was a plus sized teenager in the 70s when my clothing had to come from the "Chubby Department". Can you imagine the horror of being 14 and seeing rack upon rack of matronly tent clothing that only came in black or navy? It didn't get any better as I got older so I just kept making the sweaters that I dreamed about having. I was tired of my skinny older sister having all of the great clothes and I wanted special things that only I could have. I started out working as a computer programmer as a youngster, moved up to the ranks of lower management, then I left that career to start a local nonprofit shelter for homeless people and was the Executive Director for a decade. It was a very public job that entailed countless painfully boring hours of sitting in public meetings so I made sweaters for myself while the politicians rambled on. Before I knew it women were asking me to make some for them too and telling their friends and I had more requests than I could ever fill. I eventually went back into IT management which allowed me much more free time and started picking and choosing plus size requests that would allow me to design fun and challenging things designed to specifically flatter plus size shapes. Another of my pet peeves was that larger versions of clothing designed for thin people aren't necessarily all that flattering, remotely professional or age-appropriate for women over 40. There are days when only the black or blue suit will do but there are almost never occasions at work that require a belly top or hiphuggers. I retired about 2 years ago, or at least I thought that I was going to retire. I have so much free time now and so many sweater designs in my head that I'm dying to make that I decided to expand from doing custom local work to opening an online boutique. I love it too much to stop and there are only so many sweaters that a woman can use in California. It was either start to garden in cashmere or open a shop. To be honest the business end of things is easy because it really isn't any different from managing any other type of project other than that I don't have employees to delegate anything to. At this point I can write budgets and business plans in my sleep. I'm still such an IT dork that I mapped out my first two years in MS Project and gave myself deadlines. What's much more difficult is finding the niche target market online that just seems to show up locally through word of mouth. With very few exceptions my customers have been over 30, have professional careers and spend a significant amount of money on their clothing and are more interested in classic styles that will last them many years than they are in current trends. They like color and texture and luxury fibers and indulging themselves a bit and they're anything but drab. They don't mind being the center of attention for the right reasons. They also just happen to wear plus sizes. All in all, diving into online sales with such a targeted group is risky but I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only one with an inner teenager that wants something special that no one else can have :).
I don't know about you, but I sweat . . . a lot. Even in the winter. So, you know that I am a hot, sweaty mess in the humid yuckiness of summertime in DC. In fact, because I sweat so much, I rarely use foundation, powder or even tinted moisturizer in the summer since I end up sweating it off anyway. Instead, I try to use the summer months as an opportunity to let my skin breathe. Thanks to the fact that I often turn a few shades browner in the summer, any blemishes just blend away. So, all that's left is for me to add some color to my face...and make it last all day.
How do I do it? In these simple steps: 1. Apply an oil mattifier. In addition to sweating a lot, I have combination skin. So, while my cheeks may be as dry as the Sahara, my forehead, nose and chin are as greasy as bucket of KFC. To help combat the grease in my "t-zone" I apply an oil mattifier after my regular moisturizer. An oil mattifier is exactly what it sounds like - a cream that gives a matte finish and keeps oil at bay. My absolute favorite mattifier comes from Mary Kay. I put this stuff on and my face is oil-free for pretty much the entire day. If you're not into Mary Kay, never fear - there are tons of other options, including some that include sunscreen! Just be sure to apply sparingly - especially if you have dry skin - otherwise you will end up with dried patches of product on your face. Not cute.
2. Prime your eyes. So, it came to my attention recently that not everyone knows about eyeshadow primer. This occured because a friend of mine was complaining that her eye makeup never lasted through the day. When I suggested that she use a primer she was completely confused. "Primer?" she said. "You mean, like what you'd put down before applying paint?" EXACTLY! Primer is just that - something you apply before using your eyeshadows or other eye color. It helps the makeup to stick to your lids. I live and die by my primers because these are basically what keep me cute in the summer. The lip color and cheek color may melt away in the heat, but my eye color lasts and lasts, thanks to primer. One of the most popular brands of eye primer (and my personal favorite) is Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion. While it comes in different shimmery shades (that can eliminate the need to apply a highlighter beneath your brow), my favorite is the original formula, which is translucent. Once you put this baby on, you can apply any shadow and feel confident that it will stay there in full force until you remove it later on. (I've also read that using primers helps you achieve a richer hue of your shadows. I haven't noticed that, but it makes sense to me.) Check out this list of suggested primers from Beautylish.com.
Now, using a primer will definitely keep those eye shadows in place. However, if you really want the ultimate insurance that your eye color won't move . . . .
3. Use cream shadows. Cream shadows are simply the BEST type of shadow for sweat-proof, oil-proof, stay-put summer beauty. You can actually skip the primer, depending on the brand of shadow you use. My absolute favorites are the MAC Paint Pots. They primarily come in neutral colors - in fact, the ladies over at Painted Ladies actually use them as primers. (I did manage to snag a few of the paint pots in hues of red and pink before they were discontinued - you can usually find a few colorful ones on eBay.) Similar products include Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner, Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Cream Shadow, Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Eyeshadow, Buxom Stay-There Eyeshadow and the new Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo Eyeshadow. (I feel it's important to mention that in my experience the Maybelline cream shadow didn't quite have the staying power of the high end brands, though. So be sure to use a primer with that one.) You can also use any cream eyeliner as your eyeshadow. And speaking of eyeliner . . . .
4. Seal your eyeliner! So, Benefit used to make this AMAZING product called "She Laq" - basically a liquid that you would apply over your eyeliner to keep it in place. And I kid you not, you put this stuff on, let it dry and your liner does NOT move! Well, it's been discontinued.
*a single tear rolls down Curvy CEO's cheek*
Thankfully, I still have at least half a bottle left, but outside of scouring eBay for another bottle, my only option is to find a replacement. A quick internet search turned up this Make Up Forever Eye Seal product, that appears to do what She Laq does. I cannot vouch for it's effectiveness, but the reviews seem promising. There is also something offered by LA Splash but the reviews have me less than enthused. If you can find a good sealant, by all means use it. A makeup artist friend of mine also suggested setting your liner with some powder as an alternative. Either way, you will not miss the racoon eye effect from having your eyeliner make a copy of itself on your upper lid.
5. Stain, baby, stain. If you have not yet heard of lip/cheek stains, "you're welcome" in advance. These are basically lip/cheek colors that do just what their name says - stain your lips and cheeks. These colors last until you take them off. I especially love lip stains because even if the color fades a little, just apply some clear lip gloss and *boom* you're back in business with a tinted lip. There are tons of stains out there, but my personal faves are Benefit Posietint (who says chocolate girls can't wear pink? :)), Tarte Lip Surgence and Liptini Lip Liquer and Cheek stains. The main word of caution is that you have to act quickly when using a stain. As soon as you apply it, rub it in so it looks like something other than a big glob of goo on your face. If you make a mistake, just grab some makeup remover and start over again.
6. Set your face. Even though it's probably most useful if you are wearing foundation, I like to use spray products that "set" your makeup. I don't know if they actually "do" anything as they're more water than anything else. But still, it gives me a feeling of completing my look. So, after taking all of the steps above, I will spritz my face with MAC Studio Fix+. I've been meaning to try Model in a Bottle since seeing how well it helped my friend hold up her look at her Caribbean wedding last summer. I also want to give Urban Decay's All Nighter a try - if for no other reason than I like their line of products. Sheila over at Painted Ladies advises using a small fan after applying your setting spray to really set the look. I do this anyway since my windowless bathroom is more like a steam room in the mornings.
7. Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate! I cannot say this enough. In the same way exfoliating helps remove dry, chapped skin in the winter, it helps prevent greasy skin in the summer by digging down deep into those pores. For this purpose, I rely on my beloved Clarisonic Skin Care Brush. (I love it so much I'm a product affiliate!) Yes, I know it's expensive. But to me it is really worth it. I usually use the brush in the evening - helps me melt away the stress of the day. And if I skip it for a few days, it shows up on my face. If the Clarisonic is too rich for your blood, you could try any of the drugstore versions, such as the Olay Pro-X. Or, if low-tech is your thing, you can use any sort of exfoliating face brush like this one from Dermalogica. Heck, you can even use a plain old face cloth. The point is simply to make sure that you're regularly removing those dead skin cells.
So, this is how I keep it cute in the summer heat. What tips and tricks do you employ? Share 'em in the comments section!
This entry is inspired by Afrobella's Makeup Memories - My First Lipstick, posted a while back.
Some of my earliest memories in life involve fashion and beauty.
In the 1980s, my mom, who is plus-sized herself, worked for a global technology firm and sported the corporate uniform of the day – complete with huge shoulder pads and the big floppy bow (which have made a comeback . . . but I digress . . . . ). Every morning, she would station herself in front of the bathroom mirror and carefully make up her face. And every morning I would watch in fascination.
I remember when I was six years old, a distant cousin of my father’s visited with her teenage son during Christmas vacation. While my parents sat on the couch and talked with our relatives, I was mesmerized by their gift to me – a pink toy makeup set. I don’t remember the brand name; in fact, it probably was an “off brand” from the local Dollar Store. It didn’t matter. All that mattered is that it was pink and pretty. It had a frosty, baby pink lip gloss, some hand lotion and a little bottle of eau de toilette. I instantly tour into the lip gloss, smearing it across my face. Since pink was my favorite color and I always wore pink clothes, I was certain that the gloss would look beautiful on me. (Never mind my cocoa brown coloring – the realities of race and skin tone hadn’t entered into my consciousness yet.) My gleeful, frost-laden lips were met by a contorted grimace by my older teenage cousin. He looked like someone had forced him to eat an entire box of Lemonheads and chase it down with a pack of Sour Patch Kids. Although my little heart sank at his swift verdict on the lip gloss, I took solace in the fact that there were still the lotion and perfume to try.
Those proved to be duds as well. After a couple of days, the lotion gave me a rash on my hands. And my mom made me throw away the eau de toilette because it “stank.”
So yeah. You could say I’ve been in search of the perfect set of products ever since. And, thankfully, I've been somewhat successful. Tomorrow we'll talk about some of my favorite beauty products for the summer. In the meantime, what are some of your early beauty memories? Please share in the comments section!
- Ashley Stewart
- Dress Barn
- Fashion Bug
- H&M+ (Apparently, you can even find a plus-size bikini at H&M stores!)
- JC Penny
- Jessica London
- Just My Size
- Land's End
- Lane Bryant**
- Lord & Taylor
- Monif C.
- Old Navy
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Sonsi** (featuring apparel from Swimsuitsforall.com)
- We don't want to get our hair wet. I know. I know. It's politically incorrect for me to say so. After all, so many of us have gone natural, which (in theory), frees us from the need to keep our hair from getting wet. But, as any natural who has plunked down good money to get a set of twists, coils or rods will tell you, just because you're relaxer-free doesn't mean you are geeked to undo your 'do in the pool or at the beach. So, even though some would disagree, I 've gotta side with the Surgeon General on this one.
- We hate the outdoors. Okay. I recognize that this is a gross generalization. I know that many of my sistas love to hike, run, have a picnic, whatever. But, it's been my experience that African-Americans have a fairly . . . strained relationship with the outdoors. Historically, it's pretty hard to feel comfortable outdoors when you know that there are certain areas of the country where you risk life and limb if you are caught outside after dark. Also, even if not directly threatened by hate crimes, the random acts of violence that are often experienced in our inner-cities also discourages one from spending much time outdoors. As the case of Trayvon Martin demonstrates, even the most mundane act of walking home from the local 7-Eleven can end in tragedy. But, at it's most basic level, I have to believe that most of it relates to economics. As Oprah stated during her camping adventure with Gayle, "Black people do not want to pretend like we are homeless on the weekend." The luxury of pursuing recreation indoors was a long time coming from most African Americans . . . so why would we want to go outside (in the heat, with the bugs) if we don't have to?