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Starlette stylist results, at a fraction of the cost

Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out

The Oscars are this Sunday night, and while I’m not much of a movie buff, I’ll definitely enjoy the parade of fabulous gowns and jewels on the female stars. While they look effortlessly gorgeous as they walk the red carpet, rest assured, from the second the nominations came out, stylists were hard at work, selecting the most flattering dresses and spectacular jewels to adorn their clients. And then, via fittings and light tests — to see how the finished product will photograph, of course — the final decision is made… followed by a few hours in the hands of professional hair and make-up teams before show time.

It’s hard work looking good, especially for us mere mortals without stylists on staff. And while few of us will ever need to don a designer gown, we are regularly required to look our best on a moment’s notice. Once upon a time, I was one of those stylists, albeit for fashion photo shoots and not celebrities. Here are some of the greatest “quick fixes” I picked up along the way — free of charge and for the taking.

It’s not much of a concern in Hollywood, but for us in the Snowbelt, salt stains on leather footwear are a persistent problem. While you can pay through the nose for salt stain remover, there’s a product in your pantry that’s just as effective and cheaper. Mix a 2-to-1 solution of vinegar to water in a spray bottle, and spray the stain, wiping with a clean cloth or paper towel. If you’re ballsy enough to wear suede boots in the winter, do the same thing, but more gently, then hold the offending footwear over a pan of boiling water and use a toothbrush to brush the nape back to life. Let dry. Your boots won’t smell, and you can even use cider vinegar in a pinch as I did this weekend to terrific results.

Not as seasonal as salt stains, but just as annoying and pervasive, are deodorant/anti-perspirant marks on dark clothing. I am forever grateful to whoever shared this tip with me: simply wad up a pair of pantyhose and gently rub off the marks. Tights also work in a pinch, but pantyhose work better: problem solved.

One of the first styling tips I ever received came back in elementary school, around the time when girls are blossoming into young women, and must learn to deal with feminine trappings. Don’t cut off those “lingerie straps” sewn into open-neck tops. First, they keep your clothes from sliding off of hangers, and second, they can be wrapped around your bra straps to keep the neckline in place while hiding those offending straps. (On a related note, never hang sweaters, always fold them. Knitwear tends to be heavy, and gravity will tug on the tension of the yarn, making your sweaters lose shape.)

Here’s a tip for the gents — and for the ladies who wear more tailored clothing. Cuffs on dress pants can often become floppy, especially if they’re not pressed to perfection. If you need a tidy cuff for a special occasion, discretely staple it once or twice… and then colour over it with a black permanent marker (assuming your pants are dark).

This reminds me of two other tips. Permanent markers are also great for hiding scuffs in synthetic shoes, bags and belts. As for wearing pressed pants, my own mother taught me that you can place a pair of folded pants on an unpadded wooden chair, enjoy a meal, and enjoy relatively crease-free pants when you’re done dining. This technique may not suffice for dress pants, but it’s great for jeans, where a sharp crease looks silly but wrinkles look sillier.

The cooking equivalent of all of these tips is the slow cooker. It may not be the most elegant cooking method, but it works great when time is of the essence. The original version of this recipe appears in the current LCBO Food & Drink magazine as Nonna’s Pasta Sauce, and calls for browning the meat and veggies separately, then a slow simmer on the stovetop. One harried morning, I tossed all the ingredients (plus a few extras) into my slow cooker: that evening, Andrew and I were flabbergasted by how delicious the end result was (no marker required!).

(Not your) Nonna’s Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce

2 1⁄2 lbs. pork riblets
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 celery stalk, diced fine
2-796 ml cans diced tomatoes with juice
1⁄2 cup red or white wine, or balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 tsp. hot pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, save riblets, in slow cooker. Add riblets, submerging in sauce. Cook on high heat for 6-8 hours, until meat falls off bone. When sauce is finished, remove bones and break meat up, if needed, into bite-sized pieces. Serves 8-10 over pasta of choice.

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