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Finding Solace in a Sweater

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Seeking Comfort in a Cardigan

My obsession started, as they always do these days, with an Instagram picture. Sara Hiromi, a model I follow mainly because of her aspirational and impossible haircut (dark and waist-length with uneven baby bangs and bleached eyebrows), had posted a photo from a shoot she did for the Tokyo-based brand Perverze. In it, she’s wearing high-waisted jeans, a white crop top, and the most wonderful red sweater I had ever seen.

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Photo: @sara_hiromi/Instagram

Perverze’s product page calls it a “half coat,” but it’s a wool-mohair blend and looks squishy and soft, so I think it qualifies as a sweater. Its sleeves are built wide and envelop the hands. Though it’s oversized, it’s far from shapeless because it only falls to the hips, balancing the exaggerated arms, and because the fabric is thick enough to give the appearance of structure.

The sweater looks fashion-y and intentional in an Acne Studios kind of way. It also looks incredibly cozy. What I’m driving at is this: You can dupe people into thinking you’re cool while, essentially, wearing a security blanket to work and social gatherings.

2016 was a banner year for the pursuit of comfort and warmth as interest surged around the Danish concept of hygge, which roughly means “coziness.” That certainly didn’t happen in a vacuum. As the Financial Times architecture and design critic Edwin Heathcote wrote in December, “Untranslatable or not, hygge, along with Brexit, coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and alt-right has become one of the words which apparently describes this dismal year. Which, frankly, sounds about right. The natural reaction to events and personalities this year, from Farage to Trump, might well be to curl up on the sofa and lock the doors.”

All this hygge talk was, of course, followed by hygge backlash. By year’s end, numerous books had been published on the subject, turning an intangible feeling into a vehicle for selling a lifestyle and its attendant products. A salve for an onslaught of harsh news became just another way of getting us to buy stuff.

Still, that red sweater.

Hygge aside, 2017 is shaping up to be full of unignorable political conflict. Over three million people attended Women’s Marches to protest Donald Trump’s presidency the day after his inauguration. The White House has begun pushing the concept of “alternative facts,” rendering a cohesive understanding of reality tenuous. So yeah, you might feel inclined to swaddle yourself for comfort, much like that anxious rescue goat who only calms down when she’s put in her duck costume.

Since Perverze’s sweater would have cost about $250 after tax and shipping, I set about looking for another version. Uniqlo, with its laser focus on ultra-thin, ultra-compact outerwear, was a no-go. I needed a thick knit and roomy fit. Acne, a leading purveyor of weird knits, was also way out of my price bracket.

Eventually I found myself on the e-commerce site of the LA-based Coast to Coast Vintage. And there it was. Black, with big plastic buttons. Burly in the forearms, but not the shoulders. A week later, my sweater was waiting in the entryway of my apartment.

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Photo: @_coasttocoastvintage_/Instagram

To my delight, it was so thick and warm that I couldn’t fit it under any of my coats. Now I carry it around in my backpack, giddy to take off my jacket and slip into something a little more comforting — at work, at parties, at home. Wherever news alerts can reach my phone, really. Eliza Brooke, senior reporter

What Exactly Is a Serum and How Can I Find a Cheap One?
Woman with a dewy face.

Skincare has become downright confusing. There are so many potions and categories, not to mention labels brimming with ingredient names like “osilift,” which are totally made up by marketing teams. And out of all the categories — of which there are a lot — none is more confusing than serums.

Serums theoretically contain a highly concentrated mixture of active skincare ingredients. Generally, they’re sold in small bottles, often with droppers, and have a texture that’s thicker than a toner but not as gooey as a lotion, though some are oil-based and some actually feel like thinner, watery lotions. (You should apply a lighter product like a serum before a thicker moisturizer.)

They’re meant to address specific skincare concerns as opposed to something like a moisturizer, whose purpose is inherent in the name. To shop for a good one, you have to do some label reading and be a little bit ingredient savvy.

Because serums are so concentrated, the story goes, they tend to skew to the pricey side. A lot of that is marketing and packaging, though, and while serums can run up into the hundreds of dollars (yeesh), there are plenty that are under $30. Figure out your biggest issues, figure out a budget, then read this.

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Longline Bras Got Me Hooked on Shapewear
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Rago Women's Long Line Bra, $59

I have very strong negative reactions to being squished into uncomfortable clothing, so it's of some surprise to those who know me that my favorite item in my closet these days is the longline bra.

A staple of the ‘50s, the longline bra is a bra that extends to the bottom of your rib cage, effectively sucking in your waist to its smallest natural size. It's more shapewear than your standard bra, but not the amount of shape you'd get with a corset. Rago Shapewear has been making this, among other great underwear, for 65 years, and the brand is very good at it.

The thick band at the bottom and hefty straps at the top of its longline bra gives full support to larger-breasted women — never mind the fantastic waist-carving elastic midsection that’s perfect for anyone interested in wearing a dress with a nipped-in waist shape.

This bra hooks in the back, and takes some getting used to. And because, like I mentioned above, it's somewhere between a bra and a corset, it's great entry-level shapewear for anyone looking to create a retro waistline. —Annemarie Dooling, director of programming

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