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 All 13 of my staples can be worn in a number of different combinations for any given occasion without appearing outdated.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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In addition to working, this summer I will be completing the literature review portion of my master’s thesis, so I will be reading a ton. I am super excited because I tend to prefer nonfiction lit, anyway.

My research examines the media’s effect on the fashion industry and consumer spending habits, a major area of interest for me. So, I’ll be devouring both Reading Sex and the City (Reading Contemporary Television) by Kim Akass, as well as Fashion Media: Past and Present by Djurdja Bartlett (which includes contributions from Anna Konig, one of my favs).

The only book I have on my list purely for pleasure this year is  South and West by Joan Didion, a new release. I’ve never read Didion before, so I am so excited to start this summer. South and West is a compilation of two excerpts from Didion’s never-before-seen notebooks; one of which chronicles a road trip through the Deep South the author took with her husband John Gregory Dunne in June 1970.

The other, the “West” portion of this book, “began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976,” according to its description on Amazon.

“Though Didion never wrote the piece, watching the trial and being in San Francisco triggered thoughts about the city, its social hierarchy, the Hearsts and her own upbringing in Sacramento.”

Next on my list are three informational, work-related books. Making the Case: How To Be Your Own Best Advocate by Kimberly Guilfoyle, one of my favorite Fox News personalities, is a relatively quick read that received amazing reviews from topnotch sources (including President Trump!).

The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly is slightly outside my comfort zone, but according to its description, full of super important information for anyone in the workforce–especially those interested in the tech side of things.

Of course, I am also dying to read Women Who Work: Rewriting The Rules For Success by Ivanka Trump. I read her first book (The Trump Card) last summer, and since then Ivanka has been one of my major role models. So, I’m really looking forward to reading what she has experienced and learned in the time since The Trump Carwas published nearly 10 years ago.

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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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After dishing two of my go-to makeup routines (here and here), I decided it’s time to reveal my skincare, or “get unready with me”, routine. Experimenting with makeup is tons of fun, but I don’t feel 100 percent comfortable with it unless I take care of my skin first.

Although I am a firm believer that beauty comes from within, certain products are definitely necessary, too. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I tend to gravitate towards natural beauty remedies, but there are definitely some other products I love just as much.

On any given day, I follow Glossier‘s “order of operations” routine and swap out different products as my skin’s needs change.

Step 1 – Makeup removal: Removing makeup before cleansing is super important! If you skip this step, you’re not actually cleansing your skin; you’re just moving the makeup around your face.

Simple’s Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes (prices vary, drugstores) are gentle on skin and don’t leave a yucky “film” on your face like other brands do (cough, Neutrogena). I keep my makeup to a minimum on most days, so I love that I only need one of these to remove everything. If necessary, I use a little coconut oil to remove stubborn mascara around the eyes.

Step 2 – Cleanser: I’ve seriously been using Olay’s Daily Clean Wipes, 4-in-1 Water Activated Cloths (prices vary, drugstores) since I was 13 years old–and they’ve never failed me! They give me a deep clean (and a gentle exfoliation) without leaving my skin feel stripped.

Step 3 – Mist: Mario Badescu’s Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber and Green Tea ($7, Ulta) soothes skin after cleansing. Plus, it can also be used to refresh the skin throughout the day without disturbing makeup!

Step 4 – Toner: Since discovering Pacifica’s Cactus Water Micellar Cleansing Tonic ($12, Ulta) in November, I have gone through three bottles! Micellar water acts like a magnet to remove makeup, dirt and impurities left behind by cleanser. This formula also tones skin–and the best part is, it is quick, easy and mess-free.

I also started using Thayers witch hazel (prices vary, drugstores) earlier this year after discovering it through Lauren Elizabeth, my favorite YouTuber. In addition to toning, witch hazel is excellent for shrinking the size of pores.

Step 5 – Serum(s): Glossier’s Super Pure ($28, Glossier) quickly combats blemishes, breakouts and redness, while Super Glow ($28, Glossier) evens out and brighten skin’s tone–it is the perfect pick-me-up for tired, dull skin.

Step 6 – Moisturizer: Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Rich ($35, Glossier) is intensely hydrating, so for my normal-to-oily skin, it definitely serves as a night cream.

Glossier’s Moisturizing Moon Mask ($22, Glossier) also doubles as a moisturizer when only a thin layer is applied. It soothes skin, smooths fine lines, restores elasticity and helps to brighten and even out the complexion.

Clinque’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel ($14.50-$27, Ulta) is my everyday go-to. It feels light on the skin and absorbs quickly, but definitely gets the job done and allows for smooth skin and better makeup application.

Step 7 – Eye cream: Currently, I am on the hunt for a hydrating and firming eye cream; I’ve just been using a little extra PM Rich under my eyes until I invest in something I can really trust. Earlier this month, I tried Mario Badescu’s Ceramide Eye Cream because I love the facial spray so much. But, to be honest, I did not like this product at all, and I ended up returning it after two weeks. It irritated my eyes like crazy, and I honestly felt like it was making my fine lines more defined and my bags heavier.

Step 8 – Lips: Glossier’s Balm Dotcom ($12, Glossier) is a long-lasting multi-use balm. It keeps my lips intensely hydrated for hours on end, but it also works great on cuticles, elbows and any other rough patches–including those on the face. You can’t go wrong with the original, but I’m also obsessed with the coconut flavor!

When it comes to skincare, masks are also essential to my routine. I love taking the time once or twice a week to really pamper my skin with a good at-home mask. Traditional masks are my fav because they always leave my face feeling the softest and cleanest, but lately I’ve been getting into peel-off masks and sheet masks, too, because they are so convenient.

Deep cleansing: As I mentioned in my recent all-natural beauty remedies post, I absolutely love Aztec Secret’s Indian Healing Clay. When mixed with apple cider vinegar, this all-natural powder becomes a strong and super effective facial mask. As the label states, I literally feel my face pulsate every time I use this combo. Natural clay goes deep into the pores to draw out dirt, oil and toxins, while ACV leaves your skin even and toned.

Glossier’s Mega Greens Galaxy Pack is also a great option. It is much more gentle than Aztec Secret’s, but still contains essential clay that detoxifies skin by drawing out excess oil, impurities and buildup, according to its description on Glossier’s website. The multi-tasking formula also includes antioxidants to fight against pollution and cell damage.

While I’ve tried just about every fresh face mask Lush has to offer, the only one that really works for me is Brazened Honey. While the others definitely left my skin feeling nice, this mask was the only one that left me with noticeable results in terms of appearance. It deep cleans, exfoliates and remedies what Lush refers to as “congested skin” (i.e., skin with a lot of buildup) after just one use.

Anti-aging: A couple months ago I discovered two great anti-aging masks while browsing at Ulta–and, at $3 each, they’re a total steal. Ulta’s Pollution Defense Pomegranate Instant Defense Peel Off Mask is an easy-to-use mask that contains antioxidant-rich pomegranate to protect skin, as well as witch hazel to refine pores and Vitamin E to soothe skin.

Ulta’s Anti-Aging Papaya Skin Revitalizing Sheet Mask includes skin firming papaya extract, hydrating hyaluronic acid and antioxidant Vitamin C to brighten the skin and leave it glowing.

I also raved about Etude House’s sheet masks in my Korean beauty haul + review. Their collagen sheet mask specifically has a ton of anti-aging benefits. Not only does it improve elasticity, it hydrates skin, plumping it up and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. This protein also strengthens skin, allowing it to better retain moisture long after you take the mask off.

Hydrating: Etude House’s hyaluronic acid sheet mask, on the other hand, is intensely moisturizing; it is perfect for replenishing skin after a long flight or a night of drinking. Sheet masks are convenient, and this one delivers a ton of hydration instantly, making it the perfect travel companion for a busy or on-the-go gal. At $1.30 each, I always keep a couple of Etude House’s masks in the house incase a skincare dilemma arises!

As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of Glossier’s Moisturizing Moon Mask, which also contains skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, as well as aloe and honey to attract and retain moisture.

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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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