Beauty Q&A: What to Wear, What to Wear, What to Wear, and Blackheads

In just under two months, I’m going to a wedding where I’ll be seeing my ex-boyfriend for the first time since we broke up. So naturally, I want to look bangin’ and make him drool a little and tug at the heart strings, etc. I have a dress hanging in my closet that I’m considering wearing, which is intensely flattering and just sexy enough, but there’s a problem. I don’t know what kind of bra to wear with it. It has a deep V-neck and V… back? (Is that what it’s called?) It’s cut just below where the band of a normal bra would be.

It also has thin spaghetti straps and a sort of fluttery but sheer cap sleeve, so in a pinch I could wear a bra with straps but it’d look better without it. I’m a 34C, so not giant in the breast department, but can’t go without a bra either. Do you have any recommendations? Is an adhesive bra my only option? They seem weird and voodoo-ish. Also, since this dress is pretty body con, do I need to go the Spanx route too? Like, I’m confident about my body but after eating maybe I’d have a weird belly thing going on?

WHY are you going to this wedding to fuck your ex-boyfriend!? Call me.

I’ve gotten this question a lot lately: Is there a bra for backless dresses? The answer is yes! But I do want to encourage more of you to go braless every once in a while if it works better for the overall look, even though you might feel nervous about it at first. Pretty much every chick you see in a backless dress with no straps showing is free-boobing it (including me, a C or D cup depending on the pasta intake). Try it once just to prove to yourself that it can be done, OK?

Nine times out of 10 that will be appropriate, but a wedding is probably not one of those times. You could, as you’ve mentioned, try nipple stickers or adhesive bras but I’ve tried both of those a total of one time each because I spent the whole night thinking about and checking on the stickiness and wondering if they would fall off and they didn’t even make a real difference anyway and ugh. However, there is one worry-free item that will help you achieve your goals of support, coverage, tummy concealment, AND getting laid: a low-back strapless bustier, corset, or longline bra. Those are all words to describe basically the same thing. Here is one and here is one and here is another. This is some serious grown-n-sexy shit, so be safe!

Blackheads. They are every nose’s worst enemy. My question to you is: Is it possible to really, REALLY get rid of them, and/or “shrink” one’s pores? I’m tired of my nose looking like a flesh toned strawberry.

I could go on forever about blackheads! And I do. Have you tried a facial with extractions? That’s a facial where they remove your blackheads with this tool. I purchased my own tool to have at home because I am not rich enough to get regular facials, and I think Biore strips are fun but always leave behind a handful of big blackheads. Anyway, having your blackheads professionally removed offers instant results that can last a few weeks if you cleanse and exfoliate regularly in the meantime. Use a very plain facial cleanser for acne-prone skin and this Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant to slough off dead cells and dirt (or whatever that is that makes blackheads black). For NYC gals: If you can afford it, the Clarity Facial at Eve Salon is some next-level shit. Maybe your birthday present to yourself? And for those on a budget, I dig the $35 mini-facial at Season Spa. But seriously, after getting a facial like this and paying close attention to everything they do to you, get one of those tools and put on gloves and clean your nose with an antibacterial cleanser and play “Beauty Parlor” once a week in your own bathroom.

As for shrinking your pores, I’ve heard that’s physically impossible, but clearing up blackheads over time is yet another magical thing Retin-A can do. And finally, try to find a non-comedogenic foundation. “Open comedo” is the medical term for “blackhead”; “closed comedos” are “whiteheads,” so non-comedogenic products are supposed to not give you more zits. Again, Makeup Forever to the rescue.

I think I missed the day when they talked about make-up, hair, and other girly things. I get weirded out by looking too girly, which I know is a mental thing that I really want to get over! Every time I try to step up my outfits, people tend to say, “Why are you so dressed up?” or “Are you wearing lipstick?” Grrr. So needless to say, I don’t know what to wear. I think some of it has to do with the fact that I work in a field where I am usually the only girl, and I don’t want guys ogling me even more than they already are. I work as an audio engineer… Fashion is literally NOT PRESENT in my field. The men are in ugly jeans and gross ponytails and t-shirts and I am this lone feminine warrior of rock ‘n roll… and I want to be taken seriously. I have always been a bit tomboy-ish and tend to wear jeans and (cute) tops. But I am tired of this. I want dresses! I want something fresh! I want to be able to play my drums and look cute without flashing my lady parts to people! WHAT DO I WEAR?

I’m an audio engineer too, only I’m also a public radio employee, so you’re preaching to the choir DIRECTOR. I’d like to back up, if I may, to your first sentence and the part about missing the day they talked about “girly things.” The thing about being a girl is that some men will ogle you even if you’re wearing a trash bag filled with barf, so don’t even give that another thought. This is life. There are shitty things about being a girl. Class dismissed.

Now for a happy story: My boss is very, very good at noticing if you got your hair cut or you’re trying some crazy new nail art, and he greets me many mornings with “You look fancy today, special occasion?” or “New hair!” and so on. (And then he always follows it up with “my wife taught me to say that” which is adorable.) He is being nice, and so are your coworkers, so cut them a little slack and practice saying “No special occasion, I’m doing this for you.” or “Thank for noticing, do you think this color is working for me?” You know, office banter (if you are the lone girl in the office). And allow yourself to feel a tidge overdressed compared to your “jeans and gross ponytails” coworkers; those roadies are not really who you are dressing for.

As for what to wear, my first tip is to pick a style inspiration. A famous person. Whose style do you love and wish you could emulate? Don’t set any boundaries at this point, just “in a dream world” it for the time being. Now, do an image search of that person and collect up a dozen photos of them in outfits you totally dig and keep those on your phone. Look at them before or while you shop in stores and online and you’ll see your wardrobe start to change. That’s it! No other rules to follow. I try to switch it up every year, but if you want Diane Keaton to be your fashion inspiration for the rest of your life, I won’t argue with that.

Finally, and I almost hesitate to do this because I think there is a way of shopping on this website where you’ll end up looking like The Delicious Dish ladies or pregnant 100% of the time, but have you nosed around on Boden? Sometimes they perfectly nail hip, work-appropriate yet flattering style for recovering tomboys who don’t want all the attention. Plus they have this crazy “Outfit Maker” feature which is like playing paper dolls with their clothes and some cartoonish model. I’d start by pairing this tunic with some leggings, or this dress, or this top with some skinny jeans? Plus fun earrings and lipstick. Ack, there went a whole Saturday night online window shopping.

I am going to a friend’s wedding in Bangkok over Labor Day. A) It will be balls hot. B) I am scrimping to get there, so notta lotta dough to be allocated to the dress. C) Big boobs, arm meat. 5’3,” size 6 or 8, 34DD. Can I wear this dress (pictured)? It is 100% polyester, but doesn’t it look breezy and cool? I am a fashion moron but want to look sexy and chic as most of us do. Will this dress look flattering on me? Will this be appropriate for the climate? Is this appropriate for a wedding? I want to try to avoid being a cleavage monster.

If you weren’t so damn earnest with your questions, I’d say “Hey, why not try it? You like it in theory and the stakes are very low: It’s a cheap dress that you can wear once, sweat like crazy, and if you never wear it again, no big deal.” On the other hand, I hear that you feel a little uneasy about it so I’ll give you my honest opinion: My answer to most of your questions is no. Polyester is a bad choice for a hot climate, but you already knew that because you hedged it with “It is 100% polyester, but…” So start trusting your gut, because you were spot on about the material. I can see why you are attracted to this dress, it’s ethereal and feminine, but it also reads “homecoming dance” rather than “chic and sexy.” Plus, the cut will showcase the parts of your body you seem the least happy with; that neckline will create a frame for you upper arms. And according to the reviews (which we all read, right?), it’s a super-short dress and the fabric has no give so it might not be the most comfortable/appropriate for your event. Finally, Bangkok is a modern city and the wedding venue is likely to be air conditioned all-to-hell.

Taking all of that into account, and I know it’s a lot, sorry, I think you should look for a fabric that is at least blended with a natural fiber in a cut that will flatter your upper body; if that means having some sort of sleeve, so be it. I also want to encourage you to consider spending a little more on an investment piece that you will get years of wear out of, rather than something trendy that’ll never get worn again. You’re the kind of gal who flies across the world for a friend’s wedding! That sounds like someone who should have beautifully made, classic dresses at the ready for such occasions. So, keeping in mind that I really have no idea what you look like, and cutting me a little slack for going in a more, again, “grown-n-sexy” direction, here are my picks: would you consider this dress or this one or this one? Don’t forget the transformative power of accessories. OH AND you are going to have so much fun in Bangkok! I want pics.

Previously: Pixie Cuts, Gym Nips, and Meeting Alex Trebek.

Jane Marie produces the radio program “This American Life.”