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Style Heroines: Jane Russell

I wouldn’t say she was a style icon, but Jane Russell – the sassy, statuesque sexbomb star of the 1940s and 1950s, who died yesterday – should be remembered in the fashion world for her services to the halterneck. Here’s a selection of some of her prettiest halternecks – starting with this simple monochrome dress she wore in the 1951 film noir His Kind of Woman.

It was probably not her own idea to showcase her magnificent bosom in this style – but it was no doubt written in to her contract that her cleavage be shown off in every film. Designer Howard Greer kept things tasteful and on the elegant side with the His Kind of Woman clothes (unlike The French Line wardrobe) – witness this pretty sundress…

My own favourite of her halterneck ensembles is the simple black halterneck top and trousers (with high heels – natch) that she sports for her only solo number in the wonderful musical-comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in 1953.

Raven-haired Russell was also unusual in the fact that she also wore a great deal of black onscreen – even, as in the case of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in colour movies. She wears two black evening gowns in the movie, including this sparkling halterneck. The idea was no doubt to direct viewers’ eyes towards the colourful new star the studio was trying to promote …

Appropriately enough, for a couple of stars ultimately both known for their halternecks (Marilyn’s most famous was yet to come – the white “subway” dress in The Seven Year Itch), Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell turned up to leave their mark on the Hollywood Walk of Fame wearing … you’ve guessed it – halterneck dresses!

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

I got ahead of myself quite a bit last week as I couldn’t resist trying out some exciting beauty products which won’t be launched for some time.

On Monday, I gave the next addition to Chanel’s mascara collection an early outing. I’d say “a trial run” – but one thing that the marvellously versatile (it lengthens and curls) Chanel Sublime de Chanel (£22.50, from April 15) didn’t do was run, even though I was very watery-eyed during the Glasgow Film Festival’s Monday matinee showing of the romantic epic Out of Africa, with Meryl Streep (pictured) and Robert Redford. The real test, however, will be to see how it fares when I next watch my favourite-ever romantic weepie, Somewhere in Time, which – like Out of Africa – has an achingly beautiful John Barry score.

TUESDAY

The lovely ladies from the Origins press office hosted a lunch in Glasgow on Tuesday, to brief local beauty journalists on the latest must-try serum.

Plantscription (£45; from March 3 at department stores and www.origins.co.uk) is its name, and if that sounds a little bit medical then that’s because it seems to be the ideal prescription for ageing skin since it enables it to repair itself. The test results and before-and-after photos which we were shown were pretty impressive – so much so that I started using my tube that very same night!

The medical-sounding name also alludes to the fact that this serum was designed to take on America’s leading prescription wrinkle ingredients, retinoids, and to do so without producing any of the associated unpleasant side effects – photosensitivity, burning, redness, dryness and stinging among them.

I can report that after using the serum religiously for just five days, I’m impressed – not by any line-reducing activity (yet – though the clinical tests showed significant improvement after just four weeks!) but by the brightness and evenness of my complexion.  And this from a rosacea sufferer … Watch this space.

WEDNESDAY

On Tuesday after lunch – and feeling somewhat mischievous after quaffing champagne in the middle of the day – I sneaked through to Edinburgh to see one of my favourite romantic comedies at The Filmhouse cinema – the sublime, Snow White-inspired Ball of Fire.

When I wasn’t lusting after Gary Cooper (who, to paraphrase a colleague, “does things to my innards”), I was hankering after Barbara Stanwyck’s glossy locks. My own hair was still not 100% cured of its dryness and tangledness so I was very relieved to discover that there’d been an Aveda delivery while I’d been in Edinburgh.

I started using the three key products in Aveda Damage Remedy – Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Shampoo (£18; www.aveda.co.uk); Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner (£19.50) and Aveda Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair (£18.50) – on Wednesday and have been thrilled with the results. I’d already tried the Dry Remedy range and, although the condition of my hair had improved, it was still not back to where it had been pre-Aveda colour. One of the Aveda hair experts at James Dun’s House salon in Glasgow then advised me that the range I should be trying was, in fact, Damage Remedy as I do not have naturally dry hair. So far, so brilliant. I haven’t yet dared try just using the shampoo and conditioner; I’ve been using the Daily Hair Repair – a leave-in conditioner-cum-styling cream which protects the hair from heat damage when you’re blow-drying it.  This trio of products seems to be working so I’m going to stick with it …

THURSDAY

I do love a proper, old-fashioned liquid or cream eyeliner which you can use to create a fifties-style flick… I’ve been using eyeliner pens and brushes for years, since I realised that pencilled-on eyeliner just did not stay put and always seemed to give me panda eyes.

The latest eyeliner in my make-up bag is No7 Spring Limited Edition Gel Eyeliner (10.50; www.boots.com), part of No7’s lovely, Riviera-inspired, spring collection. I’ve got the navy blue shade (it also comes in black and turquoise) and it’s really easy to use, though if you want a fairly well defined line, you need to build it up with a few layers.

Oh, and if the flicked-up eye line is a style you might want to commit to, shop around for a longer brush than the awkward little one that comes with the eyeliner…

FRIDAY

Great excitement here on Friday when I received a sneak preview of the new colour collection from Chanel for summer 2011. The arrival of Les Fleurs d’Ete de Chanel could not have been better timed as Friday was a glorious spring day here in Glasgow, the first hint that winter might be over.

This being a Chanel collection, I immediately looked for the nail varnish destined to be the next must-have (people are still searching this blog regularly for information on the greeny shade from last year’s Nouvelle Vague range) – and I didn’t have to look far… All I am going to say just now is that it’s not a colour I expected to like on my nails, but I am smitten. Oh, and the little chick on the right is a bit of a clue …

P.S: Before the summer collection comes out, Chanel is launching a new hydrating and sheer lipstick collection called Rouge Coco Shine.  If you live in Glasgow, book yourself in for a complimentary mini-makeover using the range, followed by a unique photographic experience in a Chanel photo booth. This event is taking place at Frasers on Friday, March 11, and Saturday 12. To book a place, call 0141 221 3880, ext 2038.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Appropriately enough for Valentine’s Day, I tried out the romantic and pretty new spring colour collection from Clarins – a company which has never really been a contender in the cosmetics stakes. Until now.

Clarins Neo Pastel Collection comprises some of the loveliest and most delicate pastels around this spring – and the key product is the limited edition Clarins Neo Pastels Eye Colour and Liner Palette (£30; www.clarins.co.uk), six suits-all shimmering shades that can be used in any number of combinations.

I’ve been on the look-out for a peachy-coral colour of eyeshadow to replace a Guerlain one I wore out last summer – and may well have found it in this sleek new compact which – along with the Clarins Blush Prodige Illuminating Cheek Colour (£24), that I tried last week – is likely to be a staple of my makeup routine for some time.

TUESDAY

‘Tis spring (well, allegedly), and beauty companies’ thoughts turn to perfume. So, evidently, do luxury shoe designers’ … One of the first new fragrances of 2011 is the debut scent of the celebrated Jimmy Choo.

Simply named Jimmy Choo (from £39; available from Harrods, Selfridges and selected Jimmy Choo boutiques), it’s officially described as “a modern, fruity chypre” , with green top notes, a creamy heart of Tiger Orchid and a base which blends “sweet toffee and patchouli”. Oh, and it comes in a python-inspired bottle (which could be confused with Flowerbomb’s similarly shaped pink bottle).

Given that I don’t much care for fruity, and the thought of sweet toffee in a fragrance brings to mind such sickly perfumes as Thierry Mugler’s Angel, I was surprised, on Tuesday, to find that the scent actually reminded me more of leathery, old-school, chypres and wasn’t overly sweet or sickly at all. It does have a heady – bordering on the cloying – quality and undoubtedly evokes the sophisticated sex appeal of a pair of Jimmy Choos, leather and all!

WEDNESDAY

Looking for something new to try out for the opening night of the Glasgow Film Festival on Thursday, I had a session with the gorgeous new Milly for Clinique Limited Edition Pretty in Prints Compact (£25; www.clinique.co.uk). Containing an eyeshadow quad in shimmering pinks and browns, as well as a blusher, this covetable compact and its lovely pouch were designed by Michelle Smith of fashion and accessories label Milly.

I loved the natural, delicate tones – though, with my pale colouring, couldn’t possibly team them with the Clinique Limited Edition Long Last Glosswear SPF15 in Milly Pink (£14) – but my favourite Clinique lipstick, Clinique Butter Shine in Pink Toffee (£15) completes the look perfectly.

THURSDAY

Lovely as it was, the Clinique palette wasn’t glam enough for the purposes of an opening gala, so I reverted to an old favourite – the purple smoky eye and nude lips – partly because I love it, and also because it always reminds me of Catherine Deneuve in the 1960s. And Deneuve was the star of the Glasgow Film Festival’s opening film, Potiche.

The film was really quite disappointing – a typical French farce which spoofed 1970s style and mocked male chauvinism. Catherine Deneuve still looks beautiful but she was dressed in the most vile clothes, and there were none of the expected sparks flying between her and her co-star, Gerard Depardieu (whose portliness has finally put paid to his sex symbol status).  My disappointment didn’t end there: someone pinched my goody bag (which was stuffed with gifts from Urban Outfitters). I went home and treated myself to a viewing of one of my favourite Deneuve films, the gloriously OTT 1967 musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (available on BFI DVD), in which she starred with her equally stunning sister, Francoise Dorleac (both pictured above).

FRIDAY

I learned a lesson on Friday: never experiment with nail polish if you only have a tiny drop of nail polish remover left in the house …

Inspired by the simplicity of the instructions from Topshop on how to create the “marbled” nail look – which involves mixing two nail varnishes together in a bowl of room-temperature water – I blithely took the plunge using a Topshop Nail Duo (£9; www.topshop.com). As Holly Golightly would have said: “Quel desastre!”.

Having added drops of the two varnishes pictured to the bowl of water, I’d used a cuticle stick to swirl them together. Instead of creating a pool of marbled pink and gold, the two varnishes rolled into a ball and stuck to my stick! I tried again, this time (as Holly would have said) sans swirling, and when – as directed – I dipped the nail beds into the colours floating at the top of the water, I ended up with gold and pink all over my hands and nothing much on the nail beds. Never has one tiny drop of nail polish remover had to cover so much ground ….

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Having been given a box set of Mad Men DVDs by a concerned friend who couldn’t understand how I’d managed to miss out on the MM phenomenon (combination of a temperamental TV digi-box, too many prior viewing commitments and having the same mentality as Woody Allen, who, in Annie Hall, refused to watch a film if he’d missed the beginning), I have become addicted to the programme. Of course, I particularly love the clothes and beauty styling – and being blonde, am drawn to Betty Draper’s Grace Kelly-like look. I’ve always been a fan of the sort of coral shades of lipstick that January Jones-as-Betty Draper often sports, and was delighted to try a new one, courtesy of the Bobbi Brown counter in Frasers in Glasgow, on Tuesday. The new range of Bobbi Brown Rich Lip Colours (£16; www.bobbibrown.co.uk) includes a gorgeous coral, Sweet Nectar, that leapt out at me. Visiting American make-up artist John Hernandez advised that it be teamed with flicked-up black eyeliner and natural eyeshadow… The results would have been terrific had the eyeliner not strayed from the inner rim of my eyelids and on to my contact lenses, making vision tricky and my eyes very uncomfortable.

I had a chance to recreate the look, minus the red eyes, later in the week when a thrilling package arrived from Estee Lauder. Its contents? A dozen of the new Estee Lauder Pure Color Long Lasting Lipsticks (£18 each; www.esteelauder.co.uk from February 28), and what should leap out at me but a gorgeous shade called Coral Sun which lifted my spirits the moment I put it on and had an amazingly comfortable texture for a long-lasting lipstick. Within an hour of my going out with it on, two women had complimented me on the colour and asked where it was from.. And if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

TUESDAY

Speaking of compliments, I’ve had a few recently about my skin. Par for the course, you might think, for a beauty writer – but, actually, I’ve tried so many lotions and potions out over the years that I now have hyper-sensitive, reactive skin and have to be very careful which products to test myself and which to farm out to friends.

Anyway, the compliments are undoubtedly the result of my current night cream, Guerlain Orchidee Imperiale (£245). With a price tag like that, you’d expect nothing less than a glowing complexion – and this luxurious and gentle cream certainly does not disappoint… Only time will tell whether its harnessing of the orchid’s newly discovered ability to, as Guerlain puts it, “turn back cellular time” (ie: it slows down the ageing process of skin cells), will make me look any younger.

WEDNESDAY
It’s amazing what a difference in perception a change of “face” can make. Dior is re-launching its 2005 fragrance Miss Dior Cherie (from £49 for the eau de toilette) next month with of-the-moment actress Natalie Portman as its poster girl. She may be topless in the ad campaign, but Portman still oozes gamine chic, effortless elegance and natural style in a way that her predecessor, Riley Keough, never did. Keough – grand-daughter of Elvis – may have been photographed against a backdrop featuring the Eiffel Tower but, in her washed-out denim and bleached hair, she looked more trailer park than Champs-Elysees chic. The perfume’s image never used to appeal to me. But you know what? When I opened the press pack that arrived on Wednesday, and saw Natalie Portman, like the fickle Franco-phile I am (and, yes, I know she’s not Parisian but she does a pretty good impression), I ripped off the cellophane and tore into my bottle of fragrance. I’d say this is a chypre for beginners, a youthful, youth-pleasingly sweet and heady (top notes of blood orange and bergamot, a rich floral heart of jasmine and rosa damascena and a patchouli, vetiver and sandalwood base) take on that classic perfume type. It’s just a bit too much for me personally ..  In any case, I’ve found my ideal chypre: Chanel 31 rue Cambon (eau de toilette from £100; Chanel boutiques and Selfridges). And – since it’s just come out in a very portable 75ml size (along with the other fragrances in the Exclusifs collection) – I need never be without it.

THURSDAY

I can’t let Guerlain take full credit for my improved complexion: some of it is also down to the new blusher from Clarins’s spring collection.

Clarins Blush Prodige Illuminating Cheek Colour (£24; www.clarins.co.uk) is a gorgeous addition to their cosmetics range. It’s a sleek compact containing two complementary shades – one shimmery, for highlighting, and one matte, for sculpting. The ideal pick-me-up for tired, dull or (in my case, on Thursday) PMT-induced pale skin…

FRIDAY

A night-out for a friend’s birthday was the perfect opportunity to experiment with the Estee Lauder Pure Color Five Color Eyeshadow Palette in Wild Violet (£34) from the company’s new Wild Violet spring cosmetics collection.

Despite its name, the quintet of colours is actually mainly made up of shimmering ivory, bronze, taupe and copper – with purple as the accent colour. If you’re not in a mood indigo, then you can achieve a suitably smoky evening eye look without the violet. It’s a beautiful palette, however you work it – and very reminiscent of both the Dior golds and the Guerlain Ecrin in Champs-Elysees, two favourites from the winter collections.

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Style File: Ginger Rogers’ Hair

Ginger Rogers was one of the most popular stars of the 1930s and early 1940s – and she appeared in an astonishing number of films, five of which are being screened at the Glasgow Film Festival, which starts next Thursday. What was particularly striking about Ginger was her hair, which seldom looked the same twice and which set one trend after another. She was best known as a blonde, with curls or waves – this was the look she sported in most of the eight wonderful musicals she made with Fred Astaire in the 1930s.

For the most glamorous dances in the Astaire-Rogers musicals, the ones where Fred donned tails, Ginger complemented her evening gowns with a series of much-copied up-do’s, including this pleated style – one of my very favourites – which she wore to dance Cheek to Cheek in the classic 1935 musical Top Hat (showing at the Glasgow Film Festival). It’s still inspirational – and fashionable again – over seven decades later..

The Astaire-Rogers films were made virtually back-to-back though Ginger often crammed in other movies in-between. This meant that the same styles were in vogue from one film to the next. The following photo was taken in 1935, during the filming of Follow the Fleet (showing in the Glasgow Film Festival), which was released less than six months after Top Hat. The picture shows a style which RKO Studios’ hair and make-up department christened “The Golden Plaque”, and Ginger sported it during the big romantic number Let’s Face the Music and Dance (complete with fur-trimmed gown).

By the late 1930s, Ginger had begun experimenting with a sleeker, straighter bob, which can be seen in two 1938 films – the Astaire-Rogers musical Carefree and the romantic comedy Vivacious Lady (showing at the GFF).

Here’s another take on this late 1930s bob.

A bit like Meryl Streep – who, coincidentally, is the subject of the main retrospective at the Glasgow Film Festival – Ginger received the most critical acclaim and was taken most seriously when she dramatically changed her appearance for a part. In Kitty Foyle (showing at the GFF), the 1940 melodrama about an unwed mother which won Ginger her Oscar, the blonde bombshell wore her hair long and brunette.

Just a couple of years later, Ginger was favouring a straight style and a colour that was somewhere between the extremes of bright blonde and dark brunette. Here she is in 1942.

And, that same year, she sported curls and an updo in the comedy Once Upon a Honeymoon. She was only 31 at the time but Ginger’s movie career had clearly peaked: most of the roles she played after that were inferior to her earlier parts – and the memorable hair-do’s became a thing of the past.

* The Glasgow Film Festival runs from February 17-27. Visit www.glasgowfilm.org/festival for more info.

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Style on Film: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most stylish films in Hollywood history: Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The anniversary may not be until October, but a sparkling new print of the film which consolidated Audrey Hepburn’s position as a style icon is doing the rounds right now so it’s the perfect time to celebrate the wardrobe of beautiful Givenchy clothes which she wears throughout the film, starting with the most famous of all – the evening gown she wears in the opening shots when we first meet Holly Golightly as she arrives at the window of Tiffany’s.

Givenchy made two versions of this exquisite gown: one which was completely straight and was for Hepburn to wear as she stood still outside Tiffany’s, and one which had a slit so she could walk in it. She’s glimpsed wearing the same dress again a few scenes later… Indeed, one of the surprises about Breakfast at Tiffany’s is that there aren’t that many different dresses – the same ones pop up more than once, but with different accessories. We first see the other iconic black dress, the knee-length cocktail dress with the deep ruffle round the hem, when Holly gets dressed for a morning visit to Sing Sing prison. Her casual approach to elegance is highlighted by the way she throws herself together in five minutes (including the time spent searching for missing alligator shoes and careful eyelash combing) …

Mind you, if you simply alternate a couple of frocks and vary the accessories, then it is possible to throw your chic outfit together super-fast… Just a few scenes after its debut (pictured above), the little black cocktail dress is back – this time for Holly’s crazy party, probably the zaniest party in Hollywood movies. Having greeted her early arrivals while wearing her bedsheet – albeit very stylishly – Holly disappears into her bedroom and emerges in the LBD, teamed with a stunning bib necklace, statement earrings and the cigarette holder that’s familiar from the publicity shots.

And the cocktail dress makes its third appearance for another Sing Sing trip a little later – yet another example of how this movie is essentially a masterclass in accessorizing…

With the arrival of Doc, the blast from her hick past that Holly has done her damnedest to leave behind, there’s a shift in the Golightly wardrobe from round-the-clock evening wear to more practical, everyday gear. But it’s still Givenchy so it’s still terribly chic. Here’s Holly drowning her sorrows in a strip joint and still looking impossibly Left Bank..

Charade is the Hepburn movie to watch for inspirational outerwear: in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she has only one winter coat. But it’s a stunner: bright orange and funnel-necked, teamed with a fur hat, for Holly and Paul’s day of doing things they’ve never done before..

After Holly’s gone cold on Paul and has taken up with the dashing Brazilian Jose, she is briefly seen in a beautiful hot pink gown (teamed with matching tiara!) which is a departure from her earlier slinky black dresses. Ironically, however, she’s wearing the pink – and not the black – when she learns of her beloved brother’s untimely death. And, as gorgeous as the pink dress may be, it’s not one that people remember from the film.

Holly ends the film in a fabulously simple ensemble which is almost a throw-back to Hepburn’s gamine days of the 1950s. Popping out for a farewell stroll through her beloved Manhattan, she exudes casual chic in a simple beige cowl-necked sweater, black cigarette pants and loafers, and a black patent bag with chain straps.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is undoubtedly the film which cemented Audrey Hepburn’s status as a style icon and linked her forever more in the fashion-conscious public’s mind with the great French couturier Hubert de Givenchy, who had previously dressed her for Sabrina and Funny Face. Givenchy was only responsible for Hepburn’s wardrobe in Breakfast at Tiffany’s; the other female character, the older woman played by Patricia Neal, wore designs by a New York house, Pauline Trigere.

And if all these pictures haven’t got you in the mood for the film – or sent you scuttling to your wardrobe to dig out your black dresses – here’s the original trailer that audiences saw in 1961.

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Style on Film: Bell, Book and Candle

It’s not a Christmas classic of anything like the calibre of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, but Bell, Book and Candle – the 1958 romantic comedy about a Manhattan witch who falls in love on December 25th – is one of my favourite festive season films. It may have been James Stewart who attracted me to the movie in the first place, but nowadays I love it not just for his performance as the publisher who falls under the spell of a sultry sorceress – but also for the stylish, beatnik wardrobe slinkily worn by Kim Novak  – and designed by Jean Louis. Here’s how she looks when we first see her, in her character Gill’s primitive art shop – wearing her black polo neck and trousers and red tunic.

The film begins on Christmas Eve when Gill tells her cat Pyewacket how she yearns for a man – before she knows it she’s falling in love with new neighbour Shep Henderson (James Stewart). Later that evening, at the Zodiac Club where she and the rest of the Greenwich Village chapter of the sorceress sisterhood hang out, she discovers that Shep is about to marry her old school nemesis – and suddenly, using witchcraft to get the guy doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Here she is coming home in her velvet hooded cloak, scarlet muffler and bright red gloves which match the red satin shoes she showed off in the club.

Later that evening, as if by magic, Shep stops by Gill’s place – and they get to know each other.. The romance begins on the settee where Shep gets an eyeful of Gill, whose slashed-neck, long-sleeved maroon evening gown looks fairly conservative – until she turns round to reveal that, like many of the dresses that Kim Novak was photographed in during this period,  it has no back.

After the spell has been cast, the couple spend an enchanted night which climaxes with a swoonsome love scene at the top of the Flatiron Building on a snowy Christmas morning. Admittedly, some of the colours in the film are a little dreary (including Kim Novak’s hair which looks slightly pinkish on my DVD) but the simplicity of the clothes and the fact that they all work together makes it super-stylish. Easily the best outfit in Gill’s wardrobe of blacks, maroons and reds is the one which features a tomato-red snood and matching gloves, plus a show-stopping leopard-print cape which is just as fashionable now as in 1958.

Snoods, hoods and cowl necks are Gill’s signature shapes and when she visits Shep at work , she ditches the sexy leopard-print cape in favour of a black one. Or does she? Look closely at the outfit she’s wearing as she enters his office ..

Yup, it’s lined with leopard print; in fact, as the next photo shows, it is actually the reverse side of the leopard print cape.

The leopard print is the most obvious example of why this film is so very now, and such a treasure trove for those of us who like to pinch ideas from the past. There’s also the matter of the make-up: red lips and nails (see the first picture) are the height of chic this Christmas. If you’ve never seen the movie and feel like some festive romance, check it out – there’s lots to enjoy.

 

 

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