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The Cheryl Shops 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Cue up "All I Want for Christmas Is You" because Black Friday is mere days away, the sales have already started, and it's high holiday shopping time. My family has really dialed back our gift exchanges over the last few years, which makes putting these gift guides together kind of fun—it's like shopping for imaginary friends and family without actually spending any money. That said, a lot of these gifts are on my own wish list (especially the splurges section), and I already own—and highly recommend—many of the others. So without further ado, here's my holiday gift guide for 2023!

An honest review of Cocokind skincare

People often ask me if more expensive skincare products are worth the price, and my answer is sometimes. The most important thing is finding something that works for your skin type, and there are usually solutions at all price points. While there are very expensive products out there that I begrudgingly admit work very well, the truth is that when it comes to your skin's basic needs—cleansing, moisturizing, and sun protection—you don't have to spend a fortune. (If you are going to splurge, I recommend doing it on a serum, which is where you usually find the most potent, and active, ingredients.) You also don't have to settle for mass-market formula loaded with phthalates if you're on a budget; in recent years, there have been a bunch of clean and environmentally conscious brands to hit the market. One of which is Cocokind, so when they offered to send me a bunch of products to try, I gladly accepted. While I did receive these products free of charge, the following review contains my honest and unfiltered opinions. Here's my assessment of three of Cocokind's top products.

Spanx faux leather leggings vs. an Amazon dupe

 Yes, it’s yet another Spanx review, but this time with a new twist. Just as Spanx contacted me to see if I’d like to try their new fleece-lined version of their signature Faux Leather Legging (yes, of course), an Amazon brand reached out to me to see if I’d like to try their Spanx dupe. For context, I get contacted a lot by Amazon brands, and I turn most of them down, because in my experience, most of it is total crap. But Spanx leggings aren’t getting any cheaper and inflation doesn’t seem to be improving, so in the name of journalism, I decided to give both a try. While both Spanx and Santiny sent me these leggings for free, the following are my honest and unfiltered thoughts. Here’s a head-to-head comparison of Spanx Faux Leather Fleece-Lined Legging and Santiny Faux Leather Leggings

The Sephora sale masterlist

It's that time again for the Sephora Savings Event, which seems to be creeping up earlier and earlier every year. And now that it's been a full year since I left Sephora and am no longer getting showered with new product on a regular basis, I've found I've become much more particular about what I spend my own money on. So instead of recommending a whole bunch of new stuff, I thought I'd focus on my all-time favorite products from Sephora. If you don't know what to buy during the event, hopefully this list will help! The sale started today with 20% off for Rouge members, and VIBs and Insiders get 15% and 10% off respectively starting Tuesday, 10/31. Plus all Sephora Collection is 30% off for the entire event, which runs through 11/6. Here are the products I'd recommend trying.

Things I've learned in 20 years of blogging

Hi, my name is Cheryl, and with my right sidebar as proof, I've been writing this blog for 20 years. Here's how it all began: Picture me, a 25-year-old living out her Carrie Bradshaw fantasies in early 2000s New York City and working in magazine publishing as a copy editor who'd rather be writing about fashion than proofreading stories about beer and football (I worked at a men's magazine). I knew people who had LiveJournal pages (remember those?), but then I heard about a platform called Blogger, so I decided to give it a try. I didn't quite know what I was doing at first—to save you the embarrassment (on my part) of having to read my cringey old writing, I'll provide a high-level recap—but after dabbling in commenting on other writers' work and doing TV recaps, I hit my stride listing all of the sample sales in NYC every week, as well as reporting on the ones I went to. I then expanded into shopping guides and halfway through 2006 (lol better late than never) I finally started incorporating photos. In September 2006, I was among the first group of bloggers ever given press passes to New York Fashion Week; I attended every subsequent season until I moved to San Francisco in 2013. I fostered relationships with PR agencies, got invited to all manner of events, and developed somewhat of a following. I started a partnership with The Find, a shopping search engine that was eventually acquired by Facebook. Internet shopping was growing by leaps and bounds, and I was spending hours every week compiling all of the sales, online and in person, and to be honest, I was getting a little burned out, both from the blog and from my day job and from the general battle that is living in New York City. A new social platform called Instagram started to take off. I took a new job in San Francisco, moved across the country, and pretty much blew up my life. When I wrote an ode to a pair of sweatpants, I knew that, after 10 years of blogging, I had lost the spark. I stopped blogging, and I didn't think I'd start again, until I realized I was about to turn 40 and had no idea how I was supposed to dress anymore. I went to Vegas, won big at the blackjack tables, drank far too many vodka-sodas, and decided to stage a comeback. Blogging had changed since I left—it was starting to be called influencing, and it was shifting heavily to video and social media—but I decided to confront my fears, put myself in front of the camera, and get more personal. That was 7 years ago, and now here we are. Being a wise Blogging Elder who's reached the introspective point of her career, I thought I'd share what I've learned in 20 years of blogging. 

My 10 favorite outfits of all time

I've been feeling a little introspective lately, for good reason: This month marks 20 years (!!!) of Cheryl Shops. I'm planning to go into more detail about this next week, but in the meantime, before I start to look forward, I thought I'd take another look back, this time at my favorite outfits of all time. An important thing to note: I started Cheryl Shops back in 2003 as a way of sharing things that I bought or wanted to buy, as well as sample sales and general thoughts on fashion; back then, this blog didn't have photos, and even so, I didn't start sharing photos of myself until 2017, when I decided to restart it after a three-year break. So while this blog has been around for 20 years, I've only been doing outfit photos for 7 of those years. Now that that's out of the way, I truly enjoyed my walk down memory lane, and I hope you do too. In no particular order, here are my top 10 outfits of all time. 

The 10 things I wear the most

 It's a new season, and that always seems to bring talk of creating a capsule wardrobe. In theory, I think capsule wardrobes are an excellent idea; we all have way more clothes than we truly need, and there's something so efficient about being able to create a bunch of different outfits out of a handful of pieces. Back in the day, Lucky Magazine truly excelled at this, in an incredibly inspiring way. The reality, however, is when you ask people to commit to a limited number of items they tend to play it safe and go for more classic things. That's not necessarily bad—classics tend to be worth the investment in terms of quality and longevity—but too much tastefulness can be a little...boring. I've never been a maximalist, but I'm a firm believer that every wardrobe—even a capsule—needs a balance between statement pieces and basics. In fact, I have a few go-to statement pieces that are among the most-worn items in my entire closet. So while this post isn't a capsule wardrobe per se, I did want to gather my top 10 most worn items. Some are basic, some definitely not, and not everything goes together, but these are the best buys I've ever made.

An honest review of Madewell The '90s Straight Jean

Ever since the Gen Z-ers decided that skinny jeans are out and straight-leg jeans are in (kidding! sort of...) I've been on the hunt for the perfect pair of '90s supermodel jeans. (Side note: if you have not yet watched The Supermodels on AppleTV, please do so now. It's well worth the $6.99 you have to pay for your first month.) This is the iconic look I'm going for (thank you, Peter Lindbergh) however it should be noted that my body is nothing close to that of a supermodel. I have tried on so many pairs of straight-leg jeans in the last few years, I can't even begin to tell you, and of those, two have made it to the blog: this Re/Done pair, which I have since sold on Poshmark, and this Agolde pair, which is incredibly comfortable yet does not inspire supermodel feelings. I am not one to give up however, so when I wandered into Madewell recently, I decided to try on all of their straight-leg fits, knowing that their jeans have quite a cult following (I have several pairs myself). One fit emerged triumphant: the '90s Straight Jean. Here's my honest and unfiltered review. 

5 fall must-haves

Saturday is officially the first day of fall, and based on what I've been seeing on social media, it seems like everyone is pretty ready for it. It's definitely my favorite season—what's not to love about sweaters, boots, hot drinks, and a general feeling of coziness that's not being ruined by adverse weather conditions outside? As I've been noting for a few seasons now, the challenge is that we're amidst a major silhouette shift from long over skinny to oversized over wide; I don't know about you, but I admit I haven't completely figured out how to wear it, and I'm ok with that. It's all part of the journey. I am excited about the newer, looser way of dressing, though—as someone who prefers to be more covered up, I love how comfortable wide-leg pants are and I'm always up for cocooning in anything oversized. Wearing all of these things together is a delicate balancing act but I think it somehow works? Here are the five things I'm most excited to wear this fall.

3 days in Kyoto

After the hustle and bustle of our 5 days in Tokyo, I was looking forward to taking it down a notch in Kyoto, which while still a city of 1.4 million people, is much smaller and calmer than Tokyo. Kyoto was the capital of Japan until the late 1800s and still remains a spiritual center—there are roughly 2,000 religious sites, several of which are UNESCO heritage sites. What makes Kyoto special in my mind is that it was virtually untouched during World War II, so unlike Tokyo with its gazillion skyscrapers, it feels very traditional, with low wooden buildings and majestic temples that have been around for centuries. Much like Tokyo, Kyoto is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of city: you can spend the entire time temple-hopping, you can eat exclusively in Michelin-starred restaurants, you can tour the imperial palace, you can party with the locals in all manner of nightclubs, you can go hiking in the mountains,  you can go sake- or tea-tasting, you can shop in high-end boutiques....you get the point. We tried to do a little bit of everything, but with not quite three full days, we definitely didn't do it all. (Pro tip: I'd recommend at least three, if not four full days in Kyoto if you can swing it, ideally during the week.) Here's what we did during our 3 days in Kyoto. 

5 days in Tokyo

Have you ever traveled somewhere and almost instantly started plotting how and when you can return? That's how I felt about Tokyo. It was not an immediate feeling—Tokyo has 38 million (!!!) residents, and it can seem incredibly overwhelming at first—but halfway through our second day there, I started to get a sense of the different neighborhoods and their unique character, finding the quiet moments of discovery amidst all the hustle and bustle. Having several Japanese (and Japan-loving) friends, we were armed with a wealth of recommendations for where to eat, what to do, and how to get around, and we barely scratched the surface. So obviously a return trip is in order (and next time, maybe not in summer when the temperatures are above 90 degrees every day)! But until then, here's everything we did during our 5-day stay in Tokyo. 

What quiet luxury looks like to me

Fashion is always cyclical, and after the maximalism of revenge dressing, dopamine dressing, and Barbiecore, 2023 has felt like a shift back to minimalism. If you want to get deep, part of it can be seen as a reaction to economic trends (high inflation, high interest rates, general panic about signs of a recession, etc.), when people get more conservative about how they dress and tend toward the classics versus pieces that shout luxury. But on a more surface level, I think people just get tired of their clothes and want to try something new. The thing about quiet luxury is that it's positioned as an uber-rich thing, like how the characters on Succession dress. Anecdotally, there is some truth in that; I have known some incredibly wealthy people who exclusively wear threadbare clothes from L.L. Bean and wouldn't be caught dead in a designer logo. I have also known heiresses (I'm talking literal future billionaires) who'd never say no to a rhinestone, bright color, or bandage dress. It's true that money can't buy taste, but taste is also subjective. Quiet luxury is still wealth-signaling; it just depends on what your flavor of wealth-signaling is. That said, my style has always leaned more toward minimalism than maximalism, so if this quiet luxury trend means I have more viable clothing options out there, I'm all for it. Here's what quiet luxury looks like to me. 

An honest review of Elemis Pro-Collagen

It's been awhile since I've done an honest review of any skincare, for several reasons. I got a series of IPL facials earlier this year, which I would not entirely recommend because they've made my already reactive skin sensitive AF, and literally every new product I've tried since then has given me a rash. This bummed me out on many levels, because, one, no one wants to go through life with splotchy, irritated skin, and two, I really enjoy finding skincare products I love and telling you about them. So it was with an understandable amount of trepidation that I cracked into a box that Elemis sent me earlier this year. Elemis is a high-end British skincare brand that's been around for years; while not impossible to find in the U.S., it's a little more under-the-radar, e.g. not in Sephora or most department stores. But it turns out that, like many foreign brands, Elemis feels like a little secret that Britain has been keeping for themselves. In other words, this is a really good skincare line. Here are my honest, unfiltered thoughts about the three products I've been using nonstop lately.

This is my actual skin, in good lighting, with no filter. I am wearing only mascara and lip gloss.  

A tour of my living room

I've lived in my San Francisco apartment for nine years, making it the longest I've ever lived anywhere as an adult. While I've definitely experienced some life changes here—my ex moved out, I lived here alone for several years, then Sean moved in almost five years ago—I hadn't done much to update the d├ęcor that entire time. We kind of absorbed much of Sean's furniture and bought some new things over the years, but what really set things in motion was the Jenni Kayne rug I bought myself for my birthday earlier this year. (And yes, you know you're in your 40s when your birthday present to yourself is a rug.) While I had been obsessed with this rug for months, I hadn't considered how it would make everything else in the room look...not quite right. In other words, instead of pulling the room together, it kind of tore it apart. But that turned out to be a good thing. I decided to completely overhaul my living room design and make it the cozy, cohesive, intentional space I've always wanted. Here's a tour of my new and improved living room.