My parents are huge rock ‘n’ roll fans, so we always see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers when they tour.

After a heat wave during the week, temperatures cooled down a bit this weekend, so I had the chance to get a little creative with my concert look. Normally, I’ll head to a summer show in a crop top and cutoffs, but thanks to the cooler weather and overcast skies, I opted for a full-length romper with a drop crotch.

The loose fit and soft, ribbed fabric was ultra-comfy to move around in, but to give the look a little shape, I added a nude corset belt–one of this season’s biggest trends. The romper has a low-cut neckline and a minimal racerback, so I layered a lacy black bra underneath for a feminine touch.

I polished the outfit off with a pair of plain black chelsea boots, which also gave me the height necessary for an evening concert.

The romper and belt are new additions to my wardrobe, and I am super excited to continue to style them differently throughout the summer and beyond. So, stay tuned for more posts featuring these two versatile pieces!

Romper, Free People, $78

Bra, Free People, $38

Belt, Free People, $30

Booties (not pictured), Free People, no longer available

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In 2015 I was fortunate enough to visit Los Angeles for the first time with Katie, one of my closest friends in the world! Flash forward two years, and Katie is now living there; I couldn’t be happier for her or more proud of her. And, of course, I couldn’t have been more eager to visit her as soon as she made the cross-country move out there. What can I say? I’ve been in love with the place ever since we landed at LAX the first time.

A couple weeks ago I booked myself a redeye flight and told Katie I’d see her on the 2nd! She’s a total city girl, and I’ve been a beach girl since day one–thankfully, LA has the best of both worlds (plus, the mountains, which neither of us can get enough of), so we didn’t miss out on anything.

Beach

I spent a couple warm, sunny days enjoying the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area–two neighborhoods in which we spent a ton of time our last trip. At the risk of sounding like a total tourist, I just cannot get enough of Venice’s world-famous boardwalk–there is always something new to see there. And the beachside views really can’t be beat.

Because we’ve only had a handful of good beach days so far on the East Coast, I was able to take a couple of this season’s swimsuits for a test run–including a pair of high-cut bottoms for my first time ever. I enjoyed fresh fruit on the beach, and later picked up a multicolor knit halter top in Venice–which worked perfectly for a night out with my black vinyl pants.

Silver Lake, Melrose Trading Post + Little Tokyo

These are three LA must-dos I missed out on last time I visited. Thankfully, I had time for all three during my second trip.

Katie took me out to her favorite (and super authentic!) Thai restaurant in Silver Lake called Night + Market Song. I ordered Kuay Tiew Khua Gai, a rice noodle dish with octopus served over romaine lettuce, and we shared a side of coconut sticky rice.

That morning I woke up bright on early so I could get to Melrose Trading Post when it opened. As I mentioned on Instagram, Melrose Trading Post is a vintage-lover’s dream; it was full of topnotch handmade and secondhand goodies.

I luckily found the perfect pair of light-wash Levi’s at one of the first vendors. As a size 25, it is really difficult to find a pair of booty-hugging vintage jeans–most are catered to women size 27 and up. Because these jeans are secondhand, they’re already broken-in and super comfortable! I seriously don’t want to take them off.

At Melrose Trading Post I was also able to enjoy local food trucks. For lunch I decided on an ahi poke bowl full of fresh, local ingredients. It was so flavorful that I’m still thinking about it…

Later on I made my way to Little Tokyo in the Downtown Arts District. I tried frozen boba for the first time, and stocked up on some Asian beauty products at Tony Moly and Make Asobi (haul + review coming soon). The Japanese Village Plaza was super cute and a fun place to visit! It made me forget I was in the middle of LA; I didn’t want to leave.

Hollywood

Kaite lives in Hollywood, so I spent the week with her in the Hills. It is a young, lively area where bars are busy every night of the week! My favorite spot by far was Good Times at Davey Wayne’s–a 1970s-themed bar with a major house party vibe. 

Instead of the beach, I decided to spend an afternoon at W Hollywood’s rooftop pool–and I am so glad I did! It was clean and quiet, but still a ton of fun. Plus, the view from the word-famous rooftop is incredible, even with a little construction happening in the area.

Earlier that day I met up with Katie for lunch at a small place on Melrose Avenue called Antequera de Oaxaca, where we had quiet possibly the best tacos and guacamole ever.

On my last full day in town, it was pretty chilly by LA standards, but we still managed to make our way to Griffith Park for a hike–and were definitely able to break a sweat! Hiking in LA is the best, and it is always a great way to end a West Coast trip.

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As I make the leap from college grad student to young professional, I am making a few key changes to my wardrobe in terms of curation and styling. I am striving for a career in the creative realm, so thankfully, my personal style is still allowed to shine through and I won’t have to make any major changes to the way I dress.

That being said, on a day-to-day basis, I tend to go for laid-back styles and neutral hues. I definitely gravitate towards denim, knitwear, practical shoes and the color white when it comes to putting together an everyday ensemble. In terms of trends, I never go over-the-top; if I’m loving a bold look, I always do my best to make it more “me” (for lack of a better term) and less mainstream.

In a nutshell, I’d rather appear effortless and relaxed than as if I am trying too hard. But, that doesn’t mean looking put-together is a difficult task. In fact, I find that trying too hard to appear polished often comes across as overdone and messy; there is definitely a fine line and we should all be wary of it!

So, that brings me to wardrobe essentials I wear all year long! Earlier this year, I discussed the benefits of creating a capsule wardrobe; it makes life so much simpler and easier. To encourage every Haute Mess reader to build a capsule wardrobe of her own, I decided to share the foundation of mine.

For my current capsule wardrobe I chose 13 pieces must-have pieces I can always count on to take me from morning to night on any given day. Because these pieces are my absolute essentials, I stuck to neutral colors when selecting them. Like I said earlier, I am a huge fan of white, but I also love beiges and browns, all types of gray, faded denim and, of course, black.

Layering is my favorite way to spice up an outfit; mixing different textures has the power to bring tired, old clothes to life again. All 13 of my staples can be worn in a number of different combinations for any given occasion without appearing outdated. When putting together a capsule wardrobe, you realize how far so few pieces can truly go.

A boyfriend cardigan: Like I said, layering is important.

Low Tide Cardi, $128, Free People

A pullover sweater: See above.

Bonfire Sweater, $108, Free People

A moto jacket: See above. (Plus, this piece brings structure to an otherwise frumpy outfit!)

As-You-Wish Jacket, $168, Blank NYC

A sleek blazer: One that fits a little longer and looser appears more fashionable and less corporate.

Aleida Blazer, $230, ALLSAINTS

A relaxed dress: You can never go wrong with maxi dress–especially a solid color one, or one with a muted, never-goes-out-of-style pattern.

Get Twisted Maxi Dress, $150, REVOLVE

A killer one-piece: Overalls and utility-inspired suits are both perfect pieces for those days when you have no idea what to wear.

Sierra Nevada Utility Suit, $200, One Teaspoon

A crisp button-down: A classic button-down blouse looks great with anything from boyfriend jeans and denim cutoffs to tailored trousers.

Stripe Off-The-Shoulder Top, $95, Free People

A silk camisole: Another must-have layering piece!

Up All Night Silk Cami, $68, Free People

Flattering mid- or high-rise jeans: Search long and hard for a comfortable pair that makes you feel confident, and, as with all pieces in your capsule wardrobe, don’t be afraid to invest in quality.

High-Waist Jean, $90, American Apparel

Cigarette trousers: Wear them to work during the week, or on the weekends with a band tee.

High Waisted Cigarette Trousers, $48, Topshop

Quality athletic pants: Thanks to Yeezy, performance leggings are now appropriate outside the gym. Capitalize on the comfort and wear yours with a crop top or a pullover sweater for a casual daytime look.

Nike Pro Women’s Training Tights, $48, Nike

Comfy and supportive sneakers: See above.

Nike Free RN 2017, $100, Nike

Sensible (yet stylish) booties: I have a brown snake print pair that look amazing with literally everything. Enough said.

Hunt The Plains Boot, $198, Free People

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One of my favorite ways to spice up a pair of denim cutoffs or ripped jeans is with a polished blouse. My springtime outfits tend to be a bit lackluster compared to my fall and winter outfits, simply because less layers mean less to work with. So, a button down shirt is the perfect antidote to that.

This one is slightly oversized, so it can be worn off-the-shoulder. And, with a few buttons undone, it is a little risqué, so despite the classic style, it still has the potential for some sex appeal.

It is no surprise that this simple blouse is super versatile, but personally I love pairing it with faded denim. Temperatures have been in the 70s and 80s here, so today I decided to rock this clean-cut shirt with my go-to cutoffs.

These faded Levi’s were my mom’s back in the day. They fit like a glove, and they work for any casual occasion. I love the relaxed vibe they bring to the somewhat polished top.

I accented the look with some sparkling necklaces and a blotted orange lip. Then, I slipped on my favorite brown snake print booties and tied everything together with a thick leather belt. These accessories are laid-back, yet have the ability to make any outfit look more put-together; I can always count on them to give any outfit a little oomph.

Overall, I am so happy with how this look turned out–it is an updated take on the classic Parisienne springtime ensemble.

Button down shirt, $52.98, Princess Polly

Cutoffs, vintage

Booties, Free People, no longer available

Belt, thrifted

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From a young age we are taught that copying our peers’ work is wrong. Their intellectual property–whether it’s a kindergarten macaroni necklace or Pulitzer Prize-winning literature–is just that: their property.

Federal law mandates that intellectual property receives copyright protection from the moment it is fixed in a medium, according to the United States Copyright Office. In short, the second an idea leaves your mind and becomes something tangible (i.e., perceptible to at least one of the five senses), it is copyright protected under U.S. law.

But, that didn’t stop the classroom bully, and it certainly does not stop big-name fashion and beauty retailers. The rise in fashion and beauty bloggers and YouTubers has created a new environment in which dupes can not only breed, but thrive.

Beauty gurus (and aspiring beauty gurus) share countless dupe guides on social media platforms like Pinterest. Dupe guides compare high-end products their low-end counterparts. [source: Pinterest]

“Everyone has gotten so fucking lazy in [the beauty] industry. There. I said it. There are some beautiful things out there that the labs are doing, but no one bothers to do it,” writes Glossible‘s Sonia Roselli.

“Why? Why bother? Copycatting is big business and it’s faster to get to market. There is no better time than now to be in the cosmetics manufacturing game. Cosmetic labs are working at full capacity and some aren’t even taking new customers, thanks to social media.  But because of social media, I find that we are going down a path that is bad for all of us.”

According to Roselli’s post, the biggest names in beauty knockoff products from small brands such as Viseart, Melanie Mills and PPI. Their motive?

“If I were being completely honest, in my opinion, most big cosmetic companies don’t even TRY anymore. And it’s not just the cosmetic companies, it’s the labs and manufacturers too who take direction from these companies.  I imagine the chemists are crying in their glass beakers because they WANT to create innovative products but the companies won’t let them. Why? Because copycatting is big business and easier to do.”

Roselli also notes that copycatting runs rampant in the technology industry, as well, citing Apple’s recent lack of innovation.

“What happened to luxurious textures and colors that were perfect for skin tones? What happened to a brand being known for their foundation colors? What about a brand being known for their skin products? It’s all the same shit just a different day,” Roselli asks.

“To me the beauty industry looks a little something like this: We are the lions and the cosmetic companies just throw us a carcass.”

Viseart’s multicolor eyeshadow palette, which retails on Sephora.com for $80, has been duped by web-based retailer Morphe. Morphe’s so-called Picasso Palette retails for $14.99.

W-7, a UK-based cosmetics company, has not one, but three blatant knockoffs of Urban Decay’s famous Naked eyeshadow palettes. Naked, Naked 2 and Naked 3 retail for $54 each, while W-7’s dupes go for $12.95 each. The company also sells a bronzer called Honolulu ($5.30) eerily similar in color and packaging to Benefit’s Hoola bronzer ($29), a cult favorite.

There is also e.l.f., a drugstore beauty brand also known as Eyes, Lips, Face. Roselli notes the similarities between e.l.f.’s Pink Passion blush ($5.30) and Nars’ Desire blush ($30), and mentions that the brand is a notorious industry-wide copycat.

W-7 In The Buff: Lightly Toasted palette versus Urban Decay’s Naked palette [source: Pinterest]

“Most people don’t realize how or why copycat imitation hurts our industry, or for that matter, even care,” Roselli writes.

“As a pro makeup artist, I can go our right now to any Ulta or Sephora and tell you that 85 percent of all makeup is complete and utter bullshit. Don’t believe me? Go on any Facebook group that caters to professional makeup artists and you will see a surge in going back to old brands…Graftobian, Ben Nye, RCMA just to name a few…Why? Because the big brands are not listening to working pros. They are listening to beauty bloggers.”

While some beauty bloggers and vloggers are truly trustworthy and informative, Roselli insists there are many who are quite the opposite:

“I think [bloggers] have an interesting place in the industry [because they] allow people to discover new products. While a lot of bloggers out there are great (especially the ones that have worked in the industry for years), these aren’t the ones I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people who have no clue about beauty.”

These bloggers care more about making money than they do about creating quality content or sharing what they’ve learned with a larger community.

“Over the last few years, beauty bloggers have become puppets for the cosmetic companies,” Roselli continues.

“Last year, I sat in on a big meeting with some higher up cosmetic level execs who were giving a talk on how they utilize social media influencers.  The story went a little something like this: A very popular Youtube beauty blogger was given $100,000 to blog about a new product that was coming out.  (Yes, you read that correctly: 1 video. 15 minutes long. $100k). But, guess what? Her videos drove over $2 million in sales in one day! As a matter of fact, [in] minutes. [The blogger] said exactly what [the cosmetics company] wanted her to say (in her own words of course).”

As long as cosmetics companies can rely on big-name beauty bloggers and YouTubers, they can continue to make shoddy dupes of high-end products an end up with a pretty spectacular return on investment.

“That means these cosmetic companies can make absolute bullshit products and not care about the actual product they produce because they have beauty bloggers to drive the sales. So, they rip each other’s products, have a pissing match on who can knock it off better and play this game of cat and mouse to see who has the bigger balls,” Roselli writes.

Jenn Im, YouTuber behind Clothes Encounters, sports a slip dress by Necessary Clothing, a trendy fast fashion retailer. [source: Instagram user @imjennim]

Crushed Velvet Zillah Slip Dress in Blush by Are You Am I, $675 [source: Are You Am I]

However, Roselli doesn’t blame any beauty blogger for what they do; in fact, she applauds their ability to be so influential.

“Secretly, I laugh and say, ‘go girl!’ to the beauty blogger and wanna high five her after she hits ‘publish’ on her YouTube channel. It’s this double edge sword that is creating a sea of mediocrity in the marketplace. And who loses? We do, the pro and the consumer. ”

Nonetheless, it is the process in itself that perpetuates the lack of quality products currently on the market; Roselli insists it is a vicious cycle.

“The cosmetic companies watch social media trends, give the masses what the think they want, and use the beauty blogger to promote the sales. What are we left with? Subpar bullshit,” she writes.

“If beauty blogger tells you that the Waffle House yellow foundation she is using is the best thing since Netflix on a cold rainy day, well guess what? People believe her. Then, women are left with crappy products that don’t perform and are constantly shopping for something that works, leaving us in a constant state of searching for the next hero product for ourselves.”

And, the same can be said for fashion. It doesn’t matter anymore what’s on the runway or what’s in the most esteemed fashion magazines. Consumers are more likely lust after looks they see on the most influential bloggers and vloggers, who in large part promote fast fashion (whether they realize it or not!), according to The Fashion Law.

In addition to being a violation of intellectual property, fast fashion negatively impacts both garment workers and the environment, as well as consumers. From an article published in 2014, The Huffington Post notes a number of toxins found in garments from several popular fast fashion retailers.

“According to the Center for Environmental Health, Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, Forever21 and other popular fast-fashion chains are still selling lead-contaminated purses, belts and shoes above the legal amount, years after signing a settlement agreeing to limit the use of heavy metals in their products,” Shannon Whitehead writes.

“Lead exposure has also been linked to higher rates of infertility in women and increased risks of heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. Many scientists agree there is no ‘safe’ level of lead exposure for anyone. The lead contamination is all in addition to the pesticides, insecticides, formaldehyde, flame-retardants and other known carcinogens that reside on the clothes we wear.”

[source: takepart.com]

Whitehead also goes on to explain the impacts the fast fashion industry has on the environment:

“The average American throws away over 68 pounds of textiles per year. We’re not talking about clothing being donated to charity shops or sold to consignment stores, that 68 pounds of clothing is going directly into landfills. Because most of our clothing today is made with synthetic, petroleum-based fibers, it will take decades for these garments to decompose.”

Fast fashion retailers also exploit garment workers in developing countries, because these countries do not offer labor laws that protect their workers.

“Industry estimates suggest that 20 to 60 percent of garment production is sewn at home by informal workers, according author Lucy Siegle in her book, To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

While there are machines that can apply sequins and beading that look like handiwork, they are very expensive and must be purchased by the garment factory. According to Siegle, it’s highly unlikely that an overseas factory would invest in the equipment, particularly if the clothing being made is for a value-driven fast-fashion label,” Whitehead continues.

“Carrying out her own investigation, Siegle learned that millions of desperate home-workers are hidden in some of the poorest regions of the world, ‘hunched over, stitching and embroidering the contents of the global wardrobe…in slums where a whole family can live in a single room.’

Often with the help of their children, the home workers sew as fast as they can and for as long as daylight allows to embellish and bedazzle the clothes that end up in our closets. Siegle goes on to say, ‘They live hand to mouth, presided over by middlemen, tyrannical go-betweens who hand over some of the lowest wages in the garment industry.'”

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