Beauty Q&A: Miss Fancy Pants Goes to Work

1. I spent most of college and grad school slowly accumulating a wardrobe for my career. This led to my having a lot of really excellent pencil skirts, blazers, sensible shoes, blouses, work-y dresses, etc… I have finally found a job that I love but the department I work in is CASUAL. As in, I look like a highfalutin Fancy Pants in dark jeans, a blouse and a cardigan.

I hate opening my closet every morning and bypassing all my nice clothes for things I’d normally just wear bumming around the house but also I don’t want to stick out like a sore, overdressed thumb. Any tips on dressing down my business causal wardrobe to be more casual?

You went to grad school and subsequently found a job that you love? That is kind of extraordinary and we’re all jealous. I’m into you and your predicament, but — and this rarely happens — I am suspicious of your question. Even if you did want help figuring out how to dress down, I certainly wouldn’t be the person you’d come running to for help with that, right? (“Put some diamonds on it!” — textbook Jane.) And it sounds like you already have it figured out anyway: wear whatever you bum around the house in. (Again, what is with the houseclothes?!) So, I could be wrong, but what I think you’re asking — subconsciously, maybe — is if it’s okay to be dressed “better” than everyone else at work and how to not worry about it.

Of course it’s fine! They hired you in that outfit, right? For all you know, management is engineering a grand conspiracy to whip everyone’s work wardrobes into shape and it starts with you. What’s the worst that could happen, some judgypants are like “She’s SO POMPOUS AND RICH, ugh,” when in fact you are down-to-earth and got these outfits by being careful and frugal? I think you should practice letting folks be wrong about you. Did you know everyone is judging you unfairly all day, every day? But only if there’s time left over after they’re done worrying about themselves and what you’re thinking of their sweatshirt. That is why we start friendships with people, so we can stop imagining everything that’s wrong with them and find out what’s REALLY wrong with them, which is always so much jucier. Don’t go out and spend money on clothes you’re not happy with just to help people stop making up what they’re currently making up in their heads about you because it WILL be replaced with something else. (“Oh my god, did you notice Fancy Pants Renee suddenly started dressing kind of… schlubby? I wonder what happened. She was here for like a month and completely fell apart! She probably got dumped and is in a really dark place. Although the yoga pants might just be from that yoga class she takes before work now, which, gross, take a shower and put on some fresh duds. You have to hand it to her, though, it is admirable for someone who’s depressed to get up and do yoga that early in the morning, but one can accomplish a lot on Adderall. Then again, I heard the breakup happened after she got caught boning the instructor, so…”)

Now, if this situation were reversed — if all you had were terry track suits, but you landed a job somewhere that required a pencil skirt — I would be giving you the opposite advice. “Spend! Spend!” Some of you are thinking right now that I’m being a hypocrite (yes!). Which brings me too my next point…

The rules of etiquette state that overdressing is usually okay, and underdressing is not. Exceptions: wearing black tie to a casual wedding, or looking fancier than a bride or an award recipient or another guest of honor. Don’t steal the show and hurt people with your clothes, but otherwise do not worry about it and do you. If you wanna be the lady who wears a three piece suit to work the cash register, that just makes you awesome and A Character in the neighborhood. People might think you’re a little eccentric, which is far preferable to them thinking they caught you sleeping. I used to work at a place where some people DID sleep in their cubes because of the long hours, so jeans and fleece-y things and sensible shoes reigned. But there were two guys who did it UP everyday. I’m talking pocket squares and hats with feathers in them. Nobody snickered, we just admired their gusto. (You thought I was gonna say “swag” but I don’t say “swag!”)

As long as you’re not in a position where you’ll possibly ruin your nice clothes by wearing them to work, there’s nothing wrong with dressing in the lovely wardrobe you already own. Just practice saying “Thank you” with a smile when people comment on how nice you look, again. Orrr, trade the blouse in your jeans/blouse/cardigan uniform for a tank top or t-shirt, and add some hideous mules. Advice!

2. I have oily/watery eyes, which means I have trouble keeping my eye makeup in place. I think I may have finally got the mascara part down — Maybelline’s Full ‘N Soft waterproof seems to do the trick, and I can even take a nap in it without it running. My biggest issue currently seems to be eyeliner. An hour or two after lining only my upper lids, it winds up all smeary below my eyes, and I have to repeatedly wipe it away throughout the day. It also has a tendency to make its way into the creases of my upper lids. I’ve tried a number of different brands, as well as just using eye shadow. No dice. Recently, I started wearing contacts, which has made this situation even worse.

YOU! STOP! Put down the pencil eyeliner! I have a three-step fix, any part of which you may have tried already, but please try them in combination:

Step 1: Wash your face before doing your makeup. A lot of us wash our faces before bed, but then we feel tired and lazy and don’t do it again in the morning before we apply makeup. (And no, standing in the shower and washing your hair is not the same as washing your face.) If I were you, I’d get a cleanser to combat oily skin. If you still feel the grease coming on quickly, try a mattifying primer all over your face before step two.

Step 2: Use an industrial-strength eyeshadow primer. The most intense one I’ve ever tried is Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion. I hate how intensely it grabs onto makeup, so it might be perfect for you. Be sure to get one of the tubes with a matte finish.

Step 3: Line your eyes with a waterproof gel liner. You’ll use a brush like this to get it in there. Smashbox has this on lock with their waterproof Jet Set Eye Liner. Wait for it to dry completely before opening your eyes all the way so you don’t transfer it into your crease.

I promise your eyeliner will stay where it’s supposed to for… at least four hours if not 16, as long as you keep your paws off your eyes. DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES.

3. Jane! I love painting my nails, but since winter began they have been looking rough. They are splitting and chipping more than usual, and generally resembling my grandmother’s more than I would prefer, despite my moisturizing and vitamin efforts. Because of this I have been going au naturale, but should I be using at least a base coat to protect my nails? Or do the drying effects of nail polish remover negate any of these benefits? Do nails need to breathe? Is there an instruction manual for bodies that I missed? Please help save me from myself/old lady hands!

Nails are so… weird! Everyone’s has a different kind with different problems, kind of like hair. So, no, there is no manual, but common sense and trial-and-error go a long way here. What we can guess from your symptoms is that you’re suffering from winter dryness. Before we even talk about your nails specifically, do these things:

— Drink more water

— Run a humidifier next to your bed while you sleep

— Wear gloves when you go out into the cold winter air

That might be all you need to get back on your nail game, but you won’t know for weeks, so in the meantime let’s try some nail-specific remedies. If you’re moisturizing at least twice a day already, great. I like Egyptian Magic lately for my hands — I put it on right before bed and before I leave the house, but get whichever intense hand cream or balm appeals to you. Do you like pretending to be a farmer? This Mane ‘n Tail Hoofmaker is one of my grandmother’s picks, along with Corn Huskers Lotion.

Next, use a nail and cuticle oil daily. You’re looking for one that contains Vitamin E. Sally Hansen, of course, makes a few and so does everyone else. I prefer Solar Oil — it’s got the vitamins you’re looking for, it soaks in pretty quickly, and it smells nice to me. You can find it at the drugstore.

Finally, to protect your nails from cracking and peeling, I would recommend some sort of polish. I know a lot of people are gonna be like, “GEL, DUH!!!” but I hate it. If chemicals and dryness and nailbed damage are truly a concern, gel nails are not the right solution for you. Just use a clear polish for now and you’ll rarely have to use remover: keep applying the clear on top of clear once or twice a week until the polish becomes discolored near the tips of your nails or begins to peel off. I can usually go at least two weeks without removing Nail Envy, but I know people are skerred of that stuff, so if you are among them, try this other horsey product that is formaldehyde and a bunch of other junk-free, Horse Power Nail Strengthener by Butter.

And finally, if you’re opposed to polish, this nail buffer from Revlon will give you shine and a finished look without chemicals.

You know what would be really sweet? If you’d spend the next few years doing a controlled experiment for us. First, move to Antarctica. They’re always hiring! While you’re there, try each of these recommendations by themselves for a few weeks and write down your findings. Then, try them in combination. ALL the combinations. Then try them all at once and give us a detailed report that we’ll call “The Instruction Manual for Nails.” Here is how to do science:

Previously: Shells, Bra Purses, and The Next New ‘Do.

Do you have a question for Jane?