Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

May 25, 2010

You Asked For It:”But they were so comfortable in the store!”

Filed under: Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness,Shoes,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 1:48 pm

Yesterday our BR (beloved reader) Tropical Chrome made the following request:

Would it be at all possible if, during shoe month, you could address proper expectations from better shoes? I ask because every time I buy a new pair of good shoes, no matter how well fitted they are for my feet (with experienced sales help at a better name store even!) or how long I test walk them in the store or how comfortable they feel there, I end up with blisters and hot spots when I wear them for real. While I don’t expect heels or dress shoes to be as comfortable as bedroom slippers or sneakers, I don’t expect to be in pain with broken skin after wearing them every time either.Or are all women at this level of pain at the end of every day and no one talks about it? Or do I just have unique feet that change shape after I leave the shoe store?

Solemmetellyou a little story about lasts.

This is a last:

a shoe last by Omelle

A last is the mold on which shoes are made.  This last was most likely used to make this shoe:

Elaine by Omelle

Which, while not my favorite shoe in the world, is by no means the worst of the built-in-sock variety of shoe/sock/bootie (shockootie?)

Some lasts are more foot-shaped than others:

a running shoe lastshoelast

but they will not –and I cannot overemphasize this– be YOUR foot shape.

Your feet, like mine, have lumps and bumps and that weird little scar from the time you dropped a glass on your big toe and all sorts of things that make your tooties your own and that means there’s probably going to be some discomfort  and you and your shoes get to know each other.

See how I said “some discomfort” and not, I don’t know,  “gross oozing pustules of hurtiness“?

That’s because shoes should never do that.

So the first thing we need to do is abandon the idea that we can buy a fancy pair of shoes and wear them for eight hours straight for days on end without repercussions.  Which isn’t to say it hasn’t happened, but don’t place your bets that way.

Here are some handy tips and tricks to keep the blisters at bay:

April 28, 2010

Five Great Lessons From Finishing School: pt 5, Meeting (the same) New People

Filed under: Five Great...,Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness — Miss Plumcake @ 9:16 am

It is never,  never  nice to meet me.

What, never?

No, never.

What, never?

Hardly ever.

Let me paint you a little picture. Last night I was the guest at a excruciatingly swank benefit in support of Conspirare, a wonderful vocal ensemble based right here in the City of the Violet Crown and was doing the regular huggy kissy smoochy schmoozy thing you do when you’re at that sort of shindig and you’ve given up deflowering busboys for Lent. I was teetering around on my recently rediscovered pony hair and crocodile Zanottis, looking good and feeling gorgeous as one so often does and making the social rounds.

Zanotti pony hair scoop wedge sandals

I bump into a familiar face. Now, this isn’t someone I know well, but he is a colleague and we’ve walked in and out of the same building roughly the same time for the past seven years. We’ve shared copy editors (not in the biblical sense) and had a conversation or two. I know, for example, we hail from the same hometown.

“Mike, how are you?!”

“Hi! I’m Mike Lastname, nice to meet you.”

See right there? That was a fail. Unless you know for a gospel truth there is no possible way you have never met this person anywhere before — not in college, not at the post office, not in a police lineup as a suspect for carving “Rowan Hearts Plumcake” on the great doors of Canterbury Cathedral EVEN THOUGH IT’S TOTALLY TRUE– you do NOT say “nice to meet you.”


Let’s return to our story:

April 21, 2010

Five Great Lessons from Finishing School: Pt 2 Merci Mercy Me (ugh)

“Thank you.”

“Oh thank you! You’ve just made my day!”

“Stop, stop.  I couldn’t listen to more than another hour of this.”

“Well, one tries.”

“You’re too kind.”

“Can you write that down? I want to send it to my mother.”

“Aren’t you the sweetest thing?”

“Well, a girl’s gotta have a hobby.

Those are just some of my tried-and-true ways of accepting a compliment, today’s finishing school lesson.  For some reason we are just not taught how to respond graciously to a compliment.





I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve told a girlfriend she looked fantastic only to have her automatically touch her hair or make a face and respond “No, I look awful.”

It takes all my generations of breeding and counting to ten not to snatch her bald and say “Listen, I’ve got better taste than you do. I’ve ALWAYS had better taste than you do,  so when I say you look nice, shut up and say ‘thank you’ because people pay me a LOT of money for my approval and it doesn’t come easily.”

And while I understand women are conditioned to deflect any compliment because GOD FORBID a woman think highly of herself (or worse, actually be BETTER than someone else) denying a honestly-paid compliment is one thing and one thing only:


Okay two things: rude and stupid.

Wait, three:  rude and stupid and annoying.

When you fail to accept a compliment graciously, it’s an insult to the person who paid it.

You wouldn’t go up to someone and say “Hi, you know your favorite green cardigan? It’s awful. Seriously. It looks like a tennis ball sexually assaulted your grandma.”  (well, I’d say that, but you all are nicer than I am) because obviously they LIKE the sweater and you don’t just go up to people and tell them they have bad taste, even if they really really deserve it.

This is doubly true in states with concealed handgun laws.

See, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the compliment or not. If someone says you have a lovely singing voice and you say you sound like a frog, what you’re telling this person is they have bad taste in music.


So, next time, instead of making an ass of yourself, make  A ASS of yourself:

Acknowledge – body language, a nodded head or a hand to the chest (preferably your chest) conveying you heard what they said and it’s touched you.

Accept – the actual words you use, “Thank you” is a good start. Keep it brief.

Smile – a smile lets them know they’ve made you happy, even if you don’t believe them

Shut up – Don’t devalue the compliment or try to repay it. You don’t want them to feel like they were fishing for a compliment of their own.

That’s it.

Feel free to use some of my favorites, but you’ll want to be careful with using humor at first since it’s so easy to be self-deprecating. Do your best to just say “Thank you” until you feel more comfortable.

Good luck!

September 3, 2009

Review Revue: Coastal Scents Cosmetics (ZOMG an actual positive review!)

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of Coastal Scents, a small cosmetics company based in Florida, and when I visited their site on a whim I wasn’t especially impressed. The site was a no-frills online store, the photographs weren’t professional beauty shots and the menus less than intuitive. But I was intrigued.

Coastal Scents, unlike traditional mascara slingers, caters to a combination of mad-scientists and professionals; make-up artists, resellers and people who want to make their own custom blends. They don’t just sell makeup, they sell makeup components, including pure pigment.

Ultramarine pure pigment

I am constantly on the hunt for intensely pigmented matte colors.

MAC is great and I heartily recommend them, but I have a hard time justifying dropping $15 for a shadow pot I might use once or twice a year. As far as drug store brands go, I’ve had good luck with the L’Oreal HiP line and Milani, which is marketed towards women with darker skin tones and generally contains more pigment, but they’re almost always too sparkly and their lasting power leaves a good deal to be desired. Plus I can’t use their cream-based products because of my eyelash extensions.

Coastal Scents sells their pigments by the half-teaspoon, teaspoon, ounce and pound. I ordered teaspoons of several oxides and micas (at a dollar each!)  which is what they call “sample size”. Sample size it may be, but for the recreational user, a teaspoon of pigment is a LOT of makeup. They arrived packaged neatly in teensy zipper bags. Each bag was labeled with the color, approved uses –eyes, lips, face, nails etc.– and the ingredients.

I popped each pigment into its own five gram jar ($3.49 for 10) and started experimenting.
Sifter Jar

Using their excellent 13 piece brush set ($16.95 including roll) which is by far the best brush set for the money I’ve ever come across, I began monkeying around with applications. First I applied some pigment with a very wet brush and got a lovely, even wash of color. Then I added a drop of fixative (I think mine came from a N.Y.C. loose powder kit) for a full-on intense look. The color payoff was tremendous as good or better as anything I’ve used including the MAC pro colors. It blended like a dream and although there was a good deal of fallout on the dry applications, that’s to be expected with any highly pigmented powder, especially since I forgot to use a primer the first time.

13 piece brush set from Coastal Scents

Using a primer is always a good idea with powders, especially if you’ve got deep set or oily eyelids, because powders as a species tend to “travel”.

Primer gives the powder something to grip, making your application last longer and stay where you damn well put it. The nice folks a Make Up Forever sent me a sample of their HD Microperfecting primer in Neutral the other day which is what I’ve been using and I highly recommend it, but historically my trusty old Rimmel Fix and Perfect primer has never steered me wrong and would probably work almost as well.

My only complaint with the Coastal Scents pigments was they don’t offer a really screaming yellow, which I’ve needed for a particular look for ages. I finally caved and bought Make Up Forever’s Pure Pigment #2, which is good, but not the Holy Grail yellow I’d been searching for, especially not for $20, which was nearly as much as I paid for the entire Coastal Scents 42 Color Double Stack Matte Palette ($24.95).
42 color matte palette

I am way, WAY gun shy about inexpensive palettes. Too many years of cheap Christmas sets with chalky colors meant for little girls playing dress up have left me with a fear and loathing of the multicolor pack, so I can’t tell you why I ordered this.

Maybe it was because the colors were matte –once you’re past the glitter and gloss stage, mattes are a much cooler look than shimmers which tend to look cheap even if they’re not–or maybe I was hoping for that Holy Grail Yellow (close but not quite) but I wasn’t expecting much.

I’m glad I was wrong.

This is by far the best big palette I’ve seen for under $100. It’s a great combination of neutrals and brights, plus some killer blushes and bronzers. The browns are almost exact duplicates of MAC mushroom and bark, which are great browns I use for eyebrow powders (apply it with an angled brush) and the pressed colors have the same ease of blending and almost the same intensity as the wonderful pure pigments.

Next week I’ll have a review of their mineral foundations and veils, plus I’ll reveal The Greatest Cosmetic Brush Ever.  Stay tuned!

August 13, 2009

You Asked For It: Big Girl, Heel Thyself

Filed under: DIY,Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness,Shoes,You Asked For It — Miss Plumcake @ 3:00 pm

Lovely reader Stella asks:

Plummy, I wonder if someday you might consider writing something up on how you keep your shoes in such nice condition… I wear the &%#! out of mine. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a fast walker or bear down on them too hard, but the heel tips get smooshed and worn out so quickly, and they’re always getting scuffed. One of the reasons (other than $) that I’m afraid to buy really high-end shoes is that I don’t think they’ll last me very long.

First of all, congratulations on having the good sense to share a name with my beloved Cadillac. That’s the sort of right-thinking behavior I like to see on this blog. Keep up the good work.

So, you’re hard on shoes. Me too.

As big girls even if we walk like little baby angels –personally I don’t, unless the new meaning of “little baby angels” is “drunken circus bear”– we’re just going to run down our heels faster than lighter women.

If you’re just moderately hard on your heels, you can have the tips replaced at a cobbler for about $7-$10. They’re usually sturdier than the tips on the original shoe but if you want to be extra careful (and trust me, you do) buy your own heel tips and either put them on yourself –dead easy with the right tools and a little elbow grease– or take them to the cobbler.

Extra hard plastic heel tips

The Stiletto Heel Tips Shop is a fantastic British webstore where you can buy a variety of heel tips, including metal ones and extra-hard plastics. They’re about 2 or 3 dollars a pop and shipping is super cheap, and you can even go on the site to find some humorous instructions on how to replace them yourself. Hint: the best place to store your spare heel tips is in a humidor but I just put them in a Ziploc bag with a wet cotton ball and toss the whole mess into the freezer. It’s probably overkill, but rubber tips will crack more easily if they’ve dried out and it’s not like I’ve got actual FOOD in the freezer or anything.

If you’re tough on your toes too, the site also sells metal toe sole protectors. The other option is to have a rubber half-sole put on at the cobbler. I personally don’t care for rubber soles on high heels. When my regular shoe guy was being punished for ruining my brand new Prada ombre Mary Janes (that collection was what started the whole ombre trend, btw) that I have still NEVER WORN I went to another place and they put rubber half soles on my lacquered wood Zanottis AND my beloved Delman mary janes without asking and I rained down fire on them on the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the angel Gabriel got happy with the lighter fluid.

(alas poor Nottis, I hardly knew ye)

Which brings us to your concern about “really high-end shoes”…I feel ya.

I totally understand not wanting to drop bank on shoes you think you’re going to ruin. I don’t buy fabric shoes for more than $100. That’s not to say there aren’t a few pairs I wouldn’t switch teams over; I’ve been drooling around these Zanottis at Neiman Marcus Last Call for months, hoping a pair will magically turn up in my size:

(The heel is electric eel blue mirror! Love!)

but generally I stick with leather.

In some cases when you spend a shed-load of money for shoes, you’re really just buying the label *cough*Gucci sneakers*cough* but usually the more expensive the shoe –up to a point– the more abuse it can handle and still live to tell the tale.

Think about it like this: you can’t wash a paper plate.

If you strip a heel, seriously scuff or scratch a synthetic shoe, nine times out of ten that’s the ball game. However you wouldn’t believe the damage I’ve seen on some high-end heels that come out singing and swinging and getting merry like Christmas after a brief stint in shoe rehab. You just can’t be afraid to take them in for a little tune up now and then.

The other thing about buying higher-end shoes is they usually come with dust bags for storage.
A variety of dust bags

Some designers give two bags, one for each shoe, which is ideal but rare.  Keeping them in their bags keeps your precious pumps away from danger when they’re not on your feet. They’re also dead handy for when you want to wear flats on the subway or walking to work.

And then there’s The Wayfarer Effect.

The Wayfarer Effect is where you treat something on which you spent a wad of cash better than something less expensive, so named because I was notorious for losing my sunglasses until I bought a pair of Wayfarers. Now I still misplace them from time to time –I’m convinced my church was built for the sole purpose of giving me a place to lose my shades– but I’m a lot more careful with my $150 glasses than I was with my drugstore cheapies.

This doesn’t mean you have to drop $600 on a pair of shoes. There’s a happy medium between the $1100 shoe made entirely out of feathers and the eyelashes of early Christian martyrs and the $11 shoe composed with nothing but  vinyl and the tears of 8 year old Chinese kids. In her comment, Style Spy wisely mentioned Cole Haan and Stuart Weitzman (who makes wide widths) as well-made, easily repaired shoes that won’t cost the world and I think that’s a solid place to start.

Hope this helps, Stella and thanks for reading!

P.S. For those minor scuffs on shoes without a nap (i.e., no velvet or suede) I’ve found the Mister Clean Magic Eraser sponge to be a godsend.

August 5, 2009

The Big Question: Lipstick Traces Edition

Filed under: Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness,The Big Question — Miss Plumcake @ 2:38 pm

So I WAS going to write a post on how not to leave lipstick marks on a glass, but our right-thinking and well-bred readers beat me to the punch. Just lick the glass (or alternately, your lips) first.

Now, this does take a fair amount of finesse. You can’t be all tonguing it up like it’s the last Color Me Badd slow jam of your 9th grade formal; discretion is key, but if you can manage a discreet moistening of the lips or glass, you’ll leave a lip print, but not a smudge of color.

With that handy hint out of the way, it’s time to open it up to the crowd:

Today Miss Plumcake wants to know:

What secret to graciousness would you like to share with the class?  Bonus points if you tell us where you learned it and how it’s improved your life.


January 9, 2009

How to Stay Cool in January

Filed under: Accessories,Plumcake's Secrets of Fabulousness — Miss Plumcake @ 6:28 pm

So it’s January.

January, well, blows.  The holidays are over, you’ve got a cold, the hangover you’ve been hair-of-the-dogging since Thanksgiving is finally coming home to roost, the grocery store’s stopped carrying peppermint ice cream and you’ve got a stack of thank-you notes that need writing.

It strikes you in the middle of a masterfully composed note to dear Aunt Alberta, whose *delightful* oinking fridge alarm was thrown at astounding speed into the trash immediately upon opening: you feel uncool.

There is nothing worse than feeling uncool. I mean, uh, not that I know what feeling uncool is like since we all know I wasn’t born from mother’s womb like normal mortals, but instead emerged fully formed from Lou Reed’s guitar, smoking Gauloises and listening to Nina Simone.


If I DID ever feel uncool, WHICH I DON’T (not even when my answer to the relatively simple question of “are you okay” by a Cute Boy is a plaintive “I’m covered in jam”) all I would have to do is step outside and put on these:

The  original Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.

rayban wayfarers

You just can’t argue with this level of cool. It’s unassailable.

The original Wayfarer transcends age and time. A 15 year-old boy is cool in them, a 70 year-old lady is cool in them. It’s like a riddle. How much more cool could they be? And the answer is none. None more cool.

They were cool when Audrey Hepburn wore them in Breakfast at Tiffany’s  and Andy Warhol wore them to the Factory.

Audrey and Andy in Wayfarers

They were cool when Jack Kennedy went sailing

Kennedy’s Ray Bans

and they were cool when Bob Dylan went electric.

Bob Dylan

And they’d be cool on you.

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