Monday, November 29, 2010

Lolita Heroines Dissected: Dorothy Vs. Alice

Lolita is famous for iconicity: there are so many characters, prints, and styles that become inseparable from the masses' opinion of "lolita". There are always haters, of course, but the only real impact they have on the general opinion is to get annoyed by it- no matter what anyone says, if the lolita population has declared something iconic, it's here to stay.

I was recently reading an article by fellow lolita blogger Raegan about how, despite the fact that so many people call Alice (Of Wonderland fame) their lolita inspiration, she herself considers Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz to be the ultimate lolita character. Now, I know that Raegan wasn't eschewing Alice or those who love her, but it occurred to me that many people chose "camps" when it comes to lolita idols: Misako to the left, Mana to the right, and so on. I find this interesting: while reading the aforementioned article, I realized that these two particular pop culture heroines particularly have much more in common than most realize at first glance

Think about it: A spunky, curious young girl finds herself, entirely by accident, in a completely upside-down world. After a brief scene of falling through a confusing landscape that seems entirely influenced by various narcotics, she is immediately set on a journey that tests all of her might and drive to return home. She is helped by various creatures of a curious nature, unlike any she has ever met, and learns that even in this magical land, not everyone is a good guy. Eventually, through her own wit and pluck, she finds herself waking up and realizing that it was all a dream.

Who was I just describing? Was it Alice, or Dorothy? You tell me, because at this point, I don't even know! One can even look at their appearances. In the original Tenniel illustrations, Alice is drawn with brown, wavy hair. In the Disney version, she wears a blue dress with white accents and an iconic hair bow, though she's now blonde. Brown, wavy hair, or blue and white clothing? Either way, the parallels to Dorothy can definitely be established.

And their stories: Dorothy's method of transportation is a tornado, while Alice's is a tumble down the rabbit hole. Both are confronted during these scenes with the things in their own lives that confused them (Alice with concepts of latitude vs. longitude and thus the book-learning of grown ups, Dorothy with images of her horrid, witch-like neighbor). They both find themselves in a very odd landscape that bears similarities to their own, though still distinctly different. They are confronted with characters both to help (Dorothy's Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion to Alice's Cheshire Cat) and hinder them (The Wicked Witch of the West compared to the Queen of Hearts, both female characters in a position of power which they wantonly abuse) on their journey, which is winding and twisting and sometimes puts them in situations that are very, very uncomfortable and dangerous (The apple orchard and dark forest of OZ, and basically the entirety of Wonderland). Eventually, after a confrontation with authority, they both learn that they both had the power to go home all along: All they had to do was wake up. After doing so, they return to their lives with a new sense of confidence and maturity. The books themselves also have undertones that the young female characters have no way of picking up on: Carroll might have been writing his story under a drugged haze of pedophilic lust, and Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was seen as a political commentary on a Victorian society that he disapproved of.

Of course, these aren't the only characters that lolitas identify with; the character one calls a fashion inspiration is very personal and may not, in fact, have anything really to do with fashion. However, if you look at some other common characters (Disney's Belle, for example, someone I personally identify with strongly), you will see definite parallels: almost all of them face some kind of confusing or terrifying situation that tests their abilities, from which they gracefully rise after using mainly their wit and perseverance to fight the bad guys, taking a valuable lesson about morality and the importance of trusting in themselves. I think that's why some lolitas need icons so much- it isn't a question of needing someone to turn to for fashion inspiration (though that helps); it's someone to remind them that there are others who have suffered at the hands of the "bad guys," the evils of their own society, and, instead of simply accepting their circumstances, fought for the life that they knew was best for them. Now, to the common person, these fairytales may seem a little odd to identify with. However, when you're walking down the street being catcalled or pointed at or laughed at, sometimes it helps to know that you're not the only one who's had to face the aggression of people around you, and it can be encouraging to remember that not only did these girls beat the baddies, but after all the fighting was over, they found their way home, knowing that they had proven their worth and their right to the life they fought for.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Operation LoliBlog: Tools of the Trade

In this edition of Operation LoliBlog, I want to talk about the little gadgets, gizmos, and knick-knacks that are designed to make your blogging experience better for you and your readers: Widgets.

Of course, old-timers unlike myself can bemoan the bloated state of the blogosphere til the cows come home, but even they must realize that there's always one good outcome of a hobby breaking out from the underground and going global. That is, of course, the fact that as soon as something gets big, there's someone who wants to profit from it, and the people we are focusing on and acknowledging the hard work of are those lovely souls who design things that make our jobs easier - usually at no cost to the end user, either! Widgets, also called plug-ins, are small programs designed by professional web developers to make your blog run more smoothly, either by helping you connect with your readers or making it easier for them to access the information already on your blog. Some of them are even internal for your own use to increase the usability of your blog or your own edification about it, and your readers never even know they're there.

For example, after providing useful content and creating a name or "brand" for yourself (more on the latter another time), the most important thing for a you as a blogger to do with your blog is keep track of statistics. This will tell you, at the very least, how many people you are reaching, and on a more advanced level, what sites they're coming from, what keywords they're searching to find you, and even where they are, sometimes down to the country, province, and even city. I always really enjoyed how the Wordpress internal stats were set up even though they aren't terribly in-depth, so if you're reading this from WP, congrats- you're probably all set. A few months ago, Blogger also set up its own version, a sort of dumbed-down Google Analytics, too- for the casual, curious blogger, this is probably plenty. However, for anyone who considers themselves "serious" in any manner, it is my recommendation that you install Google Analytics. The statistics you get from this site are incredibly in-depth, and it's customizable in that it can work for any level of seriousness- you could easily just keep track of your hits, but you can also make use of much more involved options like setting goals and comparing two different time periods. Why should you care? Because you can use this information for things like your own personal promotional needs (knowing what websites your readers are coming from means that you should promote there more or on similar websites), and also as leverage for companies who may want to advertise on your blog in the future. If the promise of future money isn't a good enough incentive to track your stats, I don't know what is!

So, besides this, what are other goodies we can make use of in our blogging careers? Here are a few more of my favorites:
  • LinkWithin: Scroll down to the bottom of this post. You see those "You might also like..." links right above the comments section? LinkWithin creates links with thumbnails to other articles on your blog that relate to the each one individually. This is a great way for you to up your bounce rate, which is created by people clicking around between pages/entries on your blog.
  • Google Friend Connect and/or FeedBurner: Both of these are methods of creating yourself an RSS feed. Friend Connect is through Google and therefore Blogger, so it's already installed for all of us over here, and unfortunately because it's owned by Google, like Google Analytics, it can't be added to Wordpress blogs. That's why we have FeedBurner! FeedBurner creates an RSS feed for your blog or website; this means that anyone who wants to can follow your blog in this way instead. To be honest, I had no idea what RSS was or why it mattered until I read about it in Blogging In Style, where it was put to me this way: If you read 100 blogs and want to keep up-to-date on them, do you really want to check them individually every single day? Of course not! RSS feeds create a webpage that links to the recent posts of all of the blogs you're subscribed to, that way you don't have to go 100 different websites every time unless you know you're interested in the content. It's not really going to do that much to you as a blogger (though I do feel like Friend Connect builds a bit of a community feeling for me, and I love reading my followers' blogs!), but your readers will definitely appreciate it.
  • Twitterfeed: I just started using this, and it's great! I know a bunch of other Blogger-users have been struggling for ages to link Blogger with websites like Twitter and Facebook, so that they would update with a link to your most recent article as soon as you post it. That way, all of your friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter who may not subscribe to your blog know to run and check it right away, and you don't have to lift a perfectly-manicured finger. Effortless promotion? Yes please! This is especially helpful for gals like me, who type up their entries in advance and then schedule them to post at a later time/date.
  • Facebook Like Button: I don't actually use this baby because  Her Lumpiness doesn't have a Facebook Fan Page (though I do have one for my business), but you can see it on sites like F*** Yeah Lolita and Ramble Rori.This feature connects your Facebook Fan Page to your blog, usually either with a small graphic saying "Become a fan on Facebook!" or a full Facebook widget box saying how many people are already fans, a small description, if any of your friends are, etc. If you do have a fan page, this little guy is a must!
 These are the widgets that, to me, either seem or have proved to be the most helpful. Not interested in any of these? Good news- this is only the tip of the iceberg. I'm barely skimming the surface, and more importantly, more are being created all the time. A great site for finding more widgets is, aptly, Blogger Widgets, but remember- the more Javascript you have on your page, the longer it will take to load, so be sure to pick and choose carefully! If they're slowing down your site, you'll lose viewers and it doesn't matter how cool or helpful they are if no one cares to look at them!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Guy's Guide to Gifting - Holidays 2010 edition!

It's that time of year again, kids! If you haven't yet started planning your holidays gifts... shame on you! Most of the holidays are only a month, a month and a half away, and no one wants to be stuck out in the cold waiting on last-minute packages. I'm planning a few different pieces this year on gifting, from gifts for the lolita to gifts ideas for all you gifting-lolis. I'm going to go with the former in this article and find some gifts that any lolita would love. This one, as implied by the title, is gear at "Guy needs gift for his lolita significant other," but don't let that stop you- these gifts were pointedly selected to be great for friends, family, or even acquaintances to buy the lolitas in their lives.

These pretty, hand-decorated journals would make a lovely, affordable gift for the classic lolita. Imagine sitting at your desk in the winter sunlight with one of these and a fountain pen. Boys- it's very sweet to give girls things like journals, because it shows that you're being considerate of her thoughts and privacy. It's also very flattering because in a way it validates the idea of journaling to be given one by someone important to you - so often it's considered needless or indulgent to take down your thoughts. This would also be a lovely gift for a Secret Santa swap or somethnig along those lines. Have a crafty loli to buy for? Make her a "make your own journal" set, with a blank-covered book, some rubber stamps +ink, and a very nice pen.

I'm a huge fan of calenders as holiday gifts. They're usually not terribly expensive, very practical, and a great way to show someone you know their aesthetic. The retro, country vibe makes this calender a wonderful gift for a crafty lolita on the sweet side, but you can find calenders of any subject matter, from cats to pin-up girls to landscapes. It's a great way to show your lolita that you know her style and what she's into while still giving her something practical that she'll probably actually use. Another cute idea in the same vein would be memo pads or to-do lists.

Lolli Soap Tart Sampler by LolliLuscious
A sampler of anything is a very sweet gift- perfume or chocolates would also be nice. It shows that you know she is interested in the subject, but not specifics as to fragrance/flavor. This can also be a great way to get to know your lolita, if she invites you to share! And these little tart-shaped soaps are perfect for just such an occasion - other choices maybe a set of molded soaps with her initials, a package of Imp Ears from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab or a similar store (brownie points if you know her favorite perfumery!), or a box of cookies from your favorite bakery.

Other ideas:
♥Winter wear is cute and affordable, such as gloves, hats, or scarves. Brownie points if it matches her coat!
♥Speaking of winter, a container of spicy black tea or cinnamon hot chocolate
♥For S.O.'s specifically, a lotion, shower gel, bubble bath, etc. in YOUR favorite scent. She'll probably be glad for the input, and lotion or body wash are much less personal than perfume.
♥A stationary set
♥Low on cash? A framed photo of you two together and a sweet note on how awesome she is will always be touching.
♥A framed piece of art, if you want to get ballsy. This is pretty easy to mess up, so be sure you know her aesthetics and room decor perfectly.

Still stuck? Well, that's why I made this convenient treasury for you!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spread the Love: Underappreciated Blogs

I don't think I need to tell anyone how huge the blogosphere is. Even in our little microcosm, it seems like more blogs are popping up every other day, like crocuses after the spring rains. I feel like every few days, I see a blog on my friends' blogrolls and think "Who?! How long have they been around?" Usually, going to their sites shows pages and pages of posts on an impressive array of topics, often so much so that I feel a little embarrassed for having never happened upon their work before. At the same time, lately I've been going to friends' blogs and thinkings, "How can you have so few followers?!" So here's my way of thanking these lovely ladies for their work: whether they only have a few posts under their belts or if they've been around for years, here are some of my favorite under-appreciated blogs, all with less than 100 followers- go change that, they deserve it! ♥

This sweet blog I only happened upon in the past few weeks. Rosalynn, a lolita from Western Europe, has only been writing her English blog Lolita Wonderland since this past July. Discussing not only beginner lolita topics like "Lolita Beginner Need-to-Knows and Must-Accepts" and "Taking a Bow for the First Time" but spanning an impressive range of topics including weight loss an internet addiction, this blog will appeal to lolitas of any experience level. It also made me embarrassed, as these things usually do, to be an ignorant American when I realized "Wait a second... she's blogging in a language that isn't even her mother tongue?!" And she's doing it well - I'm jealous!

Is there anyone here who doesn't know Vivcore? I guess it's possible- she isn't as active in the comms as she used to be, but back in the day, Candy Violet was oneof THE beginner brands for American lolitas (and those abroad as well, I'm sure!) With better craftsmanship than In The Starlight and a lower pricepoint than Japanese brand, the first American lolita brand was definitely one to contend with. While she's mostly turned from lolita and to "quaintrelle" style (a term she coined herself as denoting any sweet, innocent style with a vintage or retro feel), her blog is a catalogue of not only her newest works for Candy Violet but also has the air of a peek into a bygone era. With subject matter that ranges from how-to articles for beehive hairdo's and vintage manicures to anecdotes from her daily life (such as her newly-aquired home soda fountain), this is definitely not a lolita blog but is a treat for anyone who loves the ~good old days.~

This blog was one of the main reasons I wrote this post. Talk about a fount of sartorial knowledge, on top of a wellspring of inspirational eyecandy! Martha is one of the most knowledgable women I know in terms of all sorts of things, from eclectic Japanese street fashion to literature, which is clear from a blog that posts everything from outfit snaps to fashion advice to type-ups of fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. Her write-up states, "I like nature, books, clothes, folklore and fairy tales, crafts, lomography, gardening, and oddities," and this is definitely indicative of the kind of content you'll find at this blog. If you have any interest in dolly kei and mori girl splattered in with your love of lolita fashion, like Martha, this blog is the perfect read.

This is another one that's new to me! While I've known Aria for a few months now and had a vague inclination of her talents as a seamstress and designer, it was only recently that I realized the extent of her talents - conveniently, around the same time I discovered her blog. Aria is amazingly talented, especially considering the fact that she's still in school for fashion design! I don't know if she plans on starting her own line when she graduates or not, but I'm eager to see what she ends up doing with her skills after she graduates - and hopefully this blog will prove the perfect tool to keep an eye on her progress & success!

Honorable Mentions (over 100 followers but still deserve more!):

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Photography: La Fille De L'avenir

This weekend I was given the immense honor of playing official photographer for Dalin's thesis film, Le Fille De L'avenir (The Daughter of the Future). I'm in no way a professional photographer - just a girl with a good eye and a nice camera - but life has thrown my way a good number of opportunities to hone my skills, and I'm surprised to say that I'm getting to be more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it! I don't want to release any spoilers, so here are a few headshots I took of Crystal Arnette as Jolie, the swashbuckling gender-bending (at least for 1750's standards!) conscious of the leading lady, Victoria.

We really liked that sword. Can you tell?

I don't want to give anything away before the film's big release, so I'll leave you with these for now- but this isn't the last you'll hear of it! Dalin's promised me a press spot at the premiere, and afterwards I'll post some of the nicest shots from this Sunday's shoot. For Dalin's own blog post about the film, click here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

ChocoMint Classic?!

Am I severely behind the times?! I guess this might be what I get for not following communities anymore. Whether I'm just late to the party or not, these adorable classic pieces by ChocoMint are to die for. In my mind, ChocoMint is not exactly a brand- carried in Closet Child and usually known for doing cheaper replicas of brands like 6%DOKIDOKI, I supposed I had sort of relegated this shop to the likes of Bodyline. However, I stumbled across their Rakuten website earlier today and was shocked to see an entire section on their front page labeled "Classic," as well as a button link to their Alice in Wonderland line! In a style similar to the jewelry Innocent World has come out with the past few years, in the classic line there's a lot of deep, antique bronze with fairytale and woodland themes, and in true ChocoMint fashion, the prices are killer. Here are a few of my favorites:


(Text: There's a rocking horse motif attached to the chain!)

And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, they're even having a sale on some adorable pieces, too! The only improvement I can see would be a brick-and-mortar store in Tokyo that I could visit in March... anyone have any clue?

ChocoMint, I'm sorry I under-appreciated you so in the past! Can you ever forgive me?!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Daily Outfit 10/9/10

Super delayed and only one picture. I snapped this one on the morning on New York Anime Festival before I hopped in the car, so it's not a great one, but it shows the outfit and looks pretty cute, I think!

Also this is where my parents live. And I've just realized that almost all of these leaves are shades of orange or yellow now - it's crazy how fast that happened!

  • JSK: AatP Hymn JSK (Borrowed with intention to buy from Tina!)
  • Blouse: Forever21
  • Boater hat: H&M
  • Boots &necktie (can't really see it): Offbrand
I was going for a prairie schoolteacher look. Why? Because I had a tie on. Just... don't question it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Operation LoliBlog: Interview with Violet LeBeaux!

As I've said before, one of the things I'm most excited about with the Operation: LoliBlog series is that it gives me an excuse to reach out to bloggers who inspire me and selfishly gain inspiration from them. This week, I was happy to have the opportunity to "sit down" with Violet LeBeaux and pick her brain to gather some valuable information for LoliBloggers on blogging about cute stuff full time. Violet's blog, Tales of an Ingénue, is a smorgasbord of cute stocked with craft tutorials, nail art, and event snaps, all spiced with a pinch of hime gyaru. But I'll let her tell you the rest! Here is our interview~

Lumpy: Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you blog?

Violet: Hi! I’m Violet, I live in Melbourne Australia and I run a blog called “Tales of an Ingénue”. I write about crafty diy projects, over the top nail art and sometimes Hime Gyaru fashion. I’ve been running this blog for around 2 years and before that I was on Livejournal for around 5. Before my current fashion interests, I wore Lolita for quite a long time.

L: What are some of your biggest inspirations, as far as other bloggers, websites, etc. go?

V: There are so many fantastic bloggers out there and I think if I listed every one that inspired me you would be here all day! Off the top of my head I love Trashtastika from The Fashionate Traveller ( for her sense of style, Mitsu of Universal Doll ( for her wealth of information and Candice of Super Kawaii Mama ( for her general awesomeness.
L: What’s the idea behind your blog? How did you come up with this idea, what made you want to start blogging about it?
V: My blog really started as a way for me to catalogue my crafting and socialize a bit more. At the time I was stuck at home a lot due to an illness so I needed something to occupy my time. After stumbling across a couple of other people’s blogs such as Brooke from Getcha Nails Did ( I thought this would be the perfect way to keep myself entertained! In the beginning people would comment and ask questions about the crafts or my clothing and hair so I started making tutorials. I enjoyed making the tutorials so much that I kept going… now I have 60+ tutorials in the library!

L: You’re a full-time blogger, and you also run your own graphic design company, Blue Crane Design. What can you say about working for yourself? What would you say is the most difficult part of being self-employed?

V: Separating work and personal life is the most difficult part! I work full time with my partner James in our graphic design company and on top of that I spend many hours a day taking care of the blog related business. So it can be hard to find time to just shut off the computer and relax. While most people clock off from work and go home my work is always there staring at me. When I shut the computer off I just tend to feel a little bad for not replying to comments quicker or for not making more tutorials XD Time management is a very good skill to learn.

I wouldn’t change it though, I work best when left to my own devices and I think that my progress is a testament to that. There are plenty of awesome things about being self employed (like being able to schedule time to go shopping during the week!) which make it worth it. I do miss the certainty of having a set paycheck but this is the life I love so I’m happy to sacrifice some things to keep doing it!

L: What type of work did you do before you started blogging?

V: Before the blog and before Blue Crane, I worked doing freelance graphic design with James. Previous to that I had worked in finance, administration and retail along side of selling my artwork.

L: You say in your book that relationships often become strained when one begins blogging full-time. How would you say that blogging has affected your life, for better or for worse? What kind of opportunities has it opened up for you, and has blogging had any unexpected outcomes?

V: Blogging is very time consuming whether you consider it a hobby or a career. There are only 24 hours in a day and when you work full time (especially self employment) and blog as well there are only so many hours left for relaxing and spending time with your significant other. I know if you were to ask James he would tell you I work too much. Personally I have a tough time taking time off because I’m not good at relaxing! That said, while I would like more free time to relax, blogging has brought me so many fantastic opportunities that I could never give it up!

Blogging has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people that I now consider friends. It allowed me to visit Singapore last year for the Asia Pacific Blogger Awards. It has brought me to up route my life and move to a whole new city recently and I love it! Through blogging I’m able to try so many new products and experiences I could never have been able to hope without it. Most importantly though, blogging has made me part of a really wonderful community of fantastic people. I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging and it’s wonderful to know that no matter where I visit in the world I’ll have a great bunch of people to hang out with!

L: Tell me a little about your pen name. How did you come up with it? Do you recommend using a pen name – do you think it’s something newbie bloggers should consider?

V: Pen names are a funny thing, mine came from when I was briefly in a band playing keyboard and my real name wasn’t cool enough for the Victorian theme hahaha! I’m totally not going to tell you I came up with the name though because it’s slightly embarrassing… yes more embarrassing than playing keyboard in a Victorian themed band!

The name just kind of stuck… Now almost all of my friends and business colleagues call me Violet and the only people that use my legal name are family and James! It suits because I never particularly liked my real name. I don’t think it’s really given me any anonymity though. I don’t think the internet ever allows for real anonymity anymore so I’ve never hidden the fact that Violet isn’t my legal name. People tend to assume though and it’s always a little awkward when I have to give out my real name to have packages sent or something like that. A few people have said that it “ruins the magic” but oh well such is life!

I think a pen name is a great way for new bloggers to find their voice. Having a pen name can allow you to write more freely but I would advise new bloggers to make sure that they don’t stray far from their natural voice especially if they ever plan to meet anyone from their online world in person!

L: Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you first started blogging?

V: Believe in yourself because very few others will. Also don’t expect anyone else to have the foggiest clue what you’re doing. When I started my current blog no one here knew what the word meant. Even now that it’s gained in popularity people usually still don’t get it… or ask me questions like “You write about what?? Why would anyone want to read that?” If you know that blogging is a good use of your time go for it and don’t look back!

L: One of the most important parts of blogging, besides content, is the way a blogger “carries” herself online- of course, I’m talking about branding and marketing. Do you have any tips you’d like to share on promoting yourself and your image?

V: Branding is so important. This is the graphic designer in me talking but get a well designed site. If you can’t afford to pay someone to build you one then get learning some code and some Photoshop skills and DIY. In terms of promotions don’t be too pushy. Being assertive and being annoying are two very different things and you will find that if you stray into the annoying you will lose potential audience members very quickly. In my blog I have always found it easier to make friends rather than try to find readers but that is something that differs depending on your style and the type of blog you’re trying to write. Be clear about your intentions with the blog and make sure readers can know what to expect from you.

Don’t be afraid of branding but don’t go too overboard with it either. Subtly is the key ^_^

L: Lastly, if you could sit down with any one person for tea, be it another blogger or a celebrity, who would it be and why?

V: Technically I’m cheating by saying three but I would love to have tea with yourself, Caro from FYeah Lolita and Victoria from Lolita Charm! I think that would be the cutest tea party ever!

Thank you so much, Violet, for such an enlightening interview! And if you ever find yourself stateside, let me know and I will make that tea party happen! ♥♥♥

Monday, November 1, 2010

Make-up Review: Drugstore Bargains

Make-up is definitely one of my passions. I'm not going to lie, I don't wear it every day (or even, really, on a regular basis), but I adore everything about it and have even acted as a make-up artist for a fashion show for I Do Declare. My problem with make-up? I just get bored so easily. I really need to be experimenting and trying new things at all times to keep my interest in the subject, and while I can try out different techniques for different products, eventually you need to branch out and widen your prospects. My other problem? Usually I'm quite the make-up snob. I flat-out refuse to use any mascara besides Smashbox Bionic, and I only wash my face with either tinctures I make myself or organic Boscia cleanser, both of which carry a notable price tag at Sephora. But times is tough, and I've realized that if I'm looking to flesh out my arsenal and expertice, I may need to cut some corners. That's why, a few weeks ago, armed with reviews from the forums at and holding my breath with slight trepidation, I ventured into my local drugstore and purchased not one, not two, but four new products for me to try out.

I must admit, I was not really in an adventuresome mood. I went in for liquid liner and dark brown eyeshadow, and of course, as I am wont to do, ended up straying a good amount from this path and into the unknown. Instead, I picked up L'Oreal HiP Studio Secrets Professional Crystal Shadow Duo in Darling (details), L'Oreal HiP Color Rich Cream Eyeliner in brown (details), Maybelline Lasting Drama by EyeStudio Gel Eyeliner in Blackest Black (details), and Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer in Rhubarb (details). All of these cost close to what one or two similar product would at Sephora or MAC - for twice the goods, how can you go wrong?! For this review, I'm going to focus mainly on the Maybelline gel eyeliner and the L'Oreal cream eyeliner, which I found to be the most interesting products in the purchase, though the others are included in some of the pictures.

First up was the gel eyeliner. This was what I was most intrigued about. I love eyeliner - if I chose one product to wear every single day, it would probably be eyeliner. It's like painting... on your face! But seriously, I feel like eyeliner is one of the most versatile, impactful parts of a look, and once you get a few techniques down, it's one simple tool that you can use in many different ways. On this evening, I was practicing a dolly-kei look to model for Martha's NYAF panel Out of the Woods (pictures and write-up here!); since I was going for a dark, dramatic look, I did something of a cat-eye.

This is dusted with a bit of the crystal eyeshadow, as well - the brown on the outer corner, the cream on the inner. It also has a slight, understated shimmer which the light caught a bit on the bottom corner! As you can see, the line is dark and smooth, with few inconsistencies. The brush's shape struck me as odd at first, as I'm used to a sharply angled brush and this one was smooth and round. I don't know the science behind this shape, and I don't have to - all I know is that it works beautifully. It was incredibly easy to apply and a cinch to layer - the brush by nature draws a very thin line, so it gives you more control with the shape and thickness of the line. I also love how crisp it looks - if you're more of a blender, I recommend applying a bit of pencil liner over the gel and blending (My rec? Maybelline Define-A-Line).

The liner from afar (also, the lip shimmer makes an appearance!):

Then, I moved onto the cream shadow. This one I was less-than-pleased with. The brush, for some reason, just did not sit in my hand right- it was awkward to use and, despite the thin shape, came out looking bulky and clumsy. Next time, I'll try my own liner brush and see how I feel, but I really think this one is destined to the Make-up Bag of No Return (the one shoved in the back of my closet).

See? I mean, there's nothing really wrong with it, something is just a touch... off. This may just be a question of personal preference, though - you may love it, and it's definitely a cool product to try out if you get the chance. I tried to camouflage it by adding some more of the crystal shadow, which I rather like - I'm unsurprised at this, as I also own the same product in black/silver (which I couldn't find online) and it's definitely my favorite eyeshadow I've tried (or at least up there!). I liked how layerable this was as well- it's easy to go light on this for a subtle shimmer, or dark and bold for a more dolly-appropriate look.
Here's another shot of the finished look:
Overall, I'm rather satisfied with my purchases. I've used all of these a few times since, and all I have to add is - Burt's Bees, what gives? The lip shimmer looks perfect here, but any time I've used it since the color looks much more awkward with my skin tone. Lighting, maybe? It's definitely still a joy to use - it's more of a lip balm than a lipstick, and it has peppermint extract in it, which isdeliciously tingly and smells lovely (no taste, though, so for the most part it stays on my lips and not my tongue). It's great to slap on before heading out in the brisk fall breeze (it seems like as soon as the temperature drops below 60F, my lips just instantly chap and remain that way until spring), but I think I'd chose something else for, say, a photoshoot or date night. However, the rest of these products are, as demonstarted, very versatile and can be used for everything from a meet-up to coffee with your S.O. - you should definitely go pick them up ASAP!
(Speaking of dates- and I just CANNOT keep this to myself, as anyone who's friends with me on Facebook knows - Stefan and I are making preparations for our most epic date ever: a week in Tokyo over spring break!! Nihon I've missed you sooooo~~~ ;;;o;;; look forward to a full write-up as well as planning tips, etc.!)


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