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Beauty, Bras and Shoes... and the woman behind it all!
Interview with Fashion writer STEPHANIE PEDERSEN author of 'Bra: A Thousand Years of Style, Support and Seduction', 'KISS Guide to Weddings' and 'Kiss Guide to Beauty'.

1. Let's start with some background info about you, Stephanie. How did journalism come about and what made you mark out 'Beauty, Style and Fashion' as your main areas of writing?

Most people have something in their lives that they've always, even as a child, loved doing. I have always written--as a child it was little stories to amuse myself, as I got older it was articles for school and church newspapers. When in high school, I approached the local town newspaper and asked if I could write for it. For whatever reason, the editor said yes. Lucky me--that was the beginning of my professional career.

After graduating from college, I moved to NYC because I wanted to work for magazines; everyone I'd talked to said NYC was the best place to be for magazine writing. I joined the staff of a small women's magazine and was assigned to the "beauty/fashion" department. This was pure chance--I could have been placed in the copy editing department, or business department or who knows where else. But because I started in the beauty/fashion department, I developed an expertise for these subjects. Thus, when I left the magazine to become a freelance writer, it was beauty, and fashion topics which I most often wrote about. Like I said before, it was pure, happy luck!

2. What according to you, do the words 'Beauty' and 'Fashion' mean?

Great question--let's see if I can answer this! Beauty is a hard thing to define, isn't it? I see it as "specialness," if that makes any sense whatsoever.  The physical--and non-physical--things about you that make you special. A celebration of your specialness!

"Style" is how a woman expresses herself, how she celebrates her individuality and her whims, how she presents herself to the world.  When we talk about having a great sense of style, we admire a woman's comfort using all those things available to her---clothing, accessories, makeup, hairstyles, fragrance, and so on--to celebrate herself. Style isn't about having a lot of money, it's about dressing for enjoyment, about expressing your individuality. This is easy to forget when we're surrounded with images of immaculately groomed, very expensively dressed celebrities. But being expensively put together is one thing, dressing for one's sense of self is quite another, and it's the essence of style.

3. It is every woman's dream to achieve a glowing complexion. Tell us more about your book 'KISS Guide to Beauty'. Our visitors would also love to have some insights into your tried and tested beauty secrets.

KISS Guide to Beauty is published by DK Publishing, and is in most bookstores. It was so much fun to write. Really fun. I basically got to "talk" for 325+ pages about my favorite thing: Beauty. And by beauty, of course, I mean all the standard material, such as skincare, makeup, hair issues, cosmetic surgery, salon treatments and so forth. But I also mean health and attitude, because you can use all the Creme de la Mer and have all the plastic surgery in the world, and if you don't have a beautiful bearing, or you have "low habits" (as my grandmother would call them) or you are unpleasant or petty--well, you're not going to be beautiful. I talk about all of this in the book. On the other hand, there are certainly habits and ways of being you can adopt to be more beautiful that have nothing to do with cosmetics or losing weight or hairstyles or fashion. These are in the book, too.

But on to glowing skin--something I am obsessed with! As a child I lived in Australia, then in California, so I have incurred my share of sun damage. Some of my more "traditional"--or perhaps I should say "dermatologist accepted"--favorites are retinol, glycolic acid, vitamin C, antioxidants, and sunscreen. Let me tell you about my routine. At night I remove makeup with any old remover I have sitting around--sometimes I'll even use a thick face cream or petroleum jelly. Next, I use a glycolic wipe (20 percent Clycolix Elite Treatment Pads). Then I go put one or both of my sons to bed, return to the bathroom and apply a bit of Prevage, the new antioxidant cream from Allergan. I really recommend this to anyone with past sun damage. Then I go sit on the sofa and have a glass of wine with my husband. Then I return to the bathroom, apply a retinol, and go to bed. I like to let some time pass--15 or 20 minutes--between product applications. Several dermatologists have told me this lessens the chance an active ingredient will be diluted by slapping something else on top of it too soon.

For daytime, I like to concentrate on antioxidants. I gently cleanse my face with vitamin C wipes (Citrix C Antioxidant Cleansing Pads) wait awhile and apply Prevage, wait awhile and apply a few drops of Skinceuticals C + E + Ferulic, then put on a sunscreen with Mexoryl, which is not available in the U.S. I get mine when I travel, or I have a friend in Germany send it to me. A dermatologist suggested using sunscreen with Mexoryl and I'm glad she did--it works for me much better than Parsol or titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  Once a week I'll give myself some kind of mask (more often if I have a party of work event to go to). Usually the mask is something my friend in Germany has sent me--perhaps a Haushka or Eckstein mask. Also, Clarins Flash Baume--this may not be the precise name--is terrific before a night out. It's been a favorite for years. And I absolutely love Illuminaire Cosmetics Fantastic Finish Foundation and the Extra Coverage Foundation/Concealer. It gives the skin a rich, satiny finish and has an spf of 21--it has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and is available at illuminarecosmetics.com. I just love this stuff.

If you have specific problems and have some money, I am a big believer is regular dermatologist-administered exfoliating treatments, microdermabrasion, pulsed light treatments and so forth. I've tried them all and liked them--I'd do them more often if I didn't have my son's school tuition to worry about!

But we're all different. I don't have sensitive skin, though some people do.  Some people have acne or rosacea or dryness or whatever to contend with. You must tailor your routine to what works for you. Try things, research, ask questions, visit a website like makeupalley.com, where you can tap into other people's wisdom.

4. Bra is often overlooked as an essential wardrobe item. How would you emphasize the benefits of building a proper bra wardrobe?

I wrote Bra: A Thousand Years of Style, Seduction, and Support during and directly after having my second child, which gave me a great appreciation for what a bra can (and can't) do! Comfort is what I suggest when building a bra wardrobe! Yes, it is smart to have one bra that invisibly does its job under T-shirts, another that can enhance a low-cut dress, another that will keep you supported during exercise, and so forth. (After all, a push-up bra can look kind of strange under a T-shirt and you can't wear a sports bra with a halter dress.) But each of these bras must be comfortable, or you are going to feel miserable. And it's hard to feel attractive when you are miserable. It's hard to concentrate on what's in front of you when you're miserable. It's hard to enjoy yourself when you're miserable. It's hard for other people to enjoy you when you're miserable!

5. Buying a bra has become much more complicated with the stores being flooded with so many different types of bras. One could almost get confused deciding what to buy. Any pointers here?

Oh, I know. It is confusing, isn't it? I wrote an entire book about bras and even I am confused. Here's the best advice I can give you, advice I hope will clear away the confusion. Ignore all the suggestions, all the hype, all the sales help and just try the bra on. Furthermore, try it on in several sizes. Does that make sense? I was in a well-known lingerie chain store shortly after my second son was born and whew! I overheard several salespersons tell several confused women that a 36B was "pretty much the equivalent of a 34C, give or take a bit of fabric." And I thought, "Yes, but the fabric that has been given or taken, may be the fabric that a particular person didn't need or did need." My point is that even salespeople are confused!

I think part of the problem is there is no set standard that all bra manufacturers must follow. Just think of your favorite two fashion labels. Perhaps you wear an 8 in DKYN, but a 10 in Club Monaco. Same thing with bras. You must try each of them on. Go into the dressing room, put them on, lift up your arms, swing your elbows, shrug your shoulders. How does the bra feel? How do you feel in the bra? (By the way, if you order bras online, do the same thing--and send back the ones that don't fit well. Don't try to "pretend" that they fit okay when they pinch or dig into your skin! You absolutely deserve to be comfortable!).

6. Your book 'The Bra: A Thousand Years of Style, Support and Seduction' tells a lot more interesting facts about bras than an average woman would know. Tell us more about the book and your experiences while writing the book.

The book is a history of the bra, going back a thousand years. Actually, more than a thousand years. There were plenty of early cultures (modern cultures, too--such various South American and African people) where women didn't worry about what their breasts were doing. But plenty of other cultures, such as the Greeks, wanted breasts to be out of the way. Thus, binding was popular in the distant past. Corsets in the late 19th century did this same thing with often disastrous results to women's ribcages, lungs, pregnancies, and internal organs. Incidentally, it was during this time that the term "loose woman" was coined. Society at large felt that corseting kept women "in line" and submissive--words like gentile and feminine were frequently-used compliments. Women who didn't use corsets were considered "lax" or of loose morals. Thus a loosely-bound woman equaled a woman with loose morals.

These were the kind of interesting things I learned while writing "Bra: A Thousand Years of Style, Support and Seduction." In many ways, the history of the bra is the history of women--their independence and their lack of so, their place in society and their feelings about how society sees them.

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