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Two Questions I Ask Myself Before Buying Anything

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The $13 Too-Small Shoes I Refuse to Throw Away
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Tell us about yourself.
Emily, 25, law student living in New York City.

What’s the oldest thing in your closet? The newest thing?
I got my first pair of designer jeans in seventh grade from an old thrift store in St. Simons Island, Georgia. They were Seven flare-legged jeans that were slightly distressed, and I was obsessed with them for a good five years. Thanks to an early growth spurt, they are still sitting in a basket at the top of my closet, and I’ll occasionally lounge around in them or wear them to run errands. They're a little less stylish now, but comforting in that Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants kind of way.

My mantra when buying clothes is: If I'll love it ten years from now and it'll last that long, it's not an unreasonable purchase. The newest item in my closet follows that, and it was my holiday dress for last season. It's a black stretch woven dress from Helmut Lang that I found on sale at Nordstrom Rack. It's part classic, part ‘90s, a little edgy, and wholly perfect. I gravitate toward black and classic cuts, so it's a dress I'll still love when I'm 35. As a woman about to enter a professional industry that remains somewhat conservative, it's important to pick long-lasting pieces that can be reused in a variety of ways. I can see myself wearing this dress to a New Year’s party, too, but also pairing it with a blazer, tights, and boots.

What lives in the “dark corner” of your closet? In other words, what do you continue to keep in there even though it never sees the light of day?
A pair of nude Tahari flats I got at T.J. Maxx that I purchased a half-size too small. I bought them about six years ago and was in love with them. I think part of me is still waiting for them to magically stretch out. Doubtless, but for some reason I can't imagine parting with them because I scored them for only $13 and was so proud.

How do you have your closet organized? And what about shoes? Where the heck do they go?
Anyone who has a closet in the city knows that the key to maximizing space is to organize things effectively. To make the most of my limited closet space, I organize by item type and then by color. From left to right, I organize (and partially cram) by jackets/blazers, tops, skirts, work dresses, and then fun dresses. I have an over-the-door hanger for shoes and a rack on the floor for heels and flats, but the boots thing I'm still working on. Currently, they are just tossed in the bottom of my closet. My cat — who I find napping there often — doesn't seem to mind.

Wax poetic to me about hangers.
I'm not terribly picky about hangers. Despite some secretly harbored Pinterest-esque dream of wood hangers perfectly spaced about two inches apart, I'm not there yet (and probably never will be). I tend to go with either felt or wire hangers, and the only real stipulation I have is that they all be facing the same way. Beyond that, I have a weird clothing organizational system that involves numbered hangers and a corresponding spreadsheet, but that takes idiosyncratic to a whole new level.

What’s the weirdest thing in your closet that’s just there because it has nowhere else to live?
A jump rope. I'm on the second round of Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide, and it requires my most loathed piece of fifth grade gym equipment. I stored it there first almost by accident, but now I kind of like the daily reminder that taking care of myself and feeling my best is something that happens by more than just what I put on my body.

Feature
A Shockingly Gruesome History of Beauty Marks, Real and Fake
Woman with beauty mark

The history of fake beauty marks goes back quite a while, and like most beauty history (and history of femininity, in general), it involves gruesome death, witch trials, definitely some puritanical political philosophies, divine prophecy, public humiliation, and arbitrary opinions dressed up as scientific fact used as the basis to defend torture. In between all of that blood and fanfare, you have duchesses and other fine ladies wearing fake moles made of velvet and leather couture patches, because wealth and whiteness can often protect you from many awful things, like public scrutiny and cavity searches and refugee bans and the racist violence legislated by spray-tanned fascist dictators.

Anyway. Cosmetic stickers aren’t new technology. Ancient Romans would apply fake moles made out of leather to pockmarks and scars; in fact, the preoccupation with “imperfections” such as pimples and moles was topic of discussion for Hippocrates, who developed a theory of medicine informed by astrology. He wasn’t necessarily the first person to come up with a theory of the body concerning moles and what they meant in the universe, though.

Imperial China came up with Mian Xiang, the art of face reading, around the same time as Hippocrates did. In 403-221 BCE, in the period of Warring States, it was already a subject of serious discussion and debate in academia and military strategy. One of these schools was run by Gui Gu Tze, who was a master of both face reading and military strategy. His students went on to be the advisor to the prime minister, commanders in chief, and were rumored to be the real authors of The Art of War (though that theory is pretty far-fetched, according to historians). So the man who taught some of the most important military minds in Chinese history the art of political rhetoric also knew a lot about what moles meant, and why that mattered.

Chuo Kuo Liang, another famous face-reader, was similarly both a general and an astrologer. He used his skills to help Liu Bei come to power in Western China. Chuo Kuo Liang was lauded for being able to pick the right man for office, and he’s sometimes worshipped as a saint for his wisdom. And what did he do besides work as a prime minster, a general, and an astrologist? He wrote several books on face reading — including moles.

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Just One Thing
The $10 Curling Iron I Take With Me Everywhere

Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron, $10

There are a few things about myself of which I’m unequivocally proud: my spaghetti carbonara recipe, my fortitude while performing my own bikini waxes, and my ability to curl my hair in a way that says “tousled European” instead of “pageant escapee.”

The item that makes this extremely minor superpower possible is my trusty Conair Instant Heat Curling Iron. I actually have two — one with a three-fourth-inch barrel for more defined curls, and one with a one-inch barrel for bigger waves. (This was not done on purpose — the larger barrel is a holdover from when I had much longer hair, but it’s served me well even at shoulder length.)

The iron heats up instantly, as the name implies, and also evenly; I only need to wrap my hair around the barrel for about 10 to 15 seconds to get the shape and hold I need. It took some getting used to, and more than a few nights where I absolutely looked like an extra from a high school production of 42nd Street, but now I keep the three-fourth-inch barrel in my bag at all times for transformations and touch-ups. I prep with a few sprays of R + Co ONE, finish with even fewer sprays of bumble + bumble Thickening Hairspray, shake my whole head out and go.

And here is a life hack, if you’re in the market: To avoid that annoying crease that comes from getting your hair caught in the clip, simply unscrew said clip and use the curling iron as a wand. The odds of burning your fingers are slightly higher (since you have to keep a grip on the lock of hair), but I’ve found that the whole process goes much more quickly and smoothly, and what is life without a little fear of getting burned? —Alanna Okun, senior editor

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