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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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Leopard Ladies 2

There are an awful lot of crimes against leopard print going on this winter (and it’s only October!), so here’s a second selection of favourite leading ladies working that loveliest of animal prints, kicking off with Barbra Streisand. She’s not usually a style icon of mine but this coat is inspirational..

One actress who has long been a style icon of mine, however, is the “peek-a-boo” blonde star Veronica Lake who appeared in a string of hit movies in the 1940s. Here she is in leopard print coat, with regular co-star Alan Ladd.

Of course, once a leopard print lover, always a leopard print lover so it’s no surprise to find multiple photos of the same star wearing the pattern. In last month’s Leopard Ladies post on this blog, Gene Tierney was shown in her leopard print bikini; here she is wearing leopard in a slightly more practical way …

Another leopard print fan was the elegant comedienne Carole Lombard, here shown very early in her movie career wearing a leopard-trimmed number.

Carole Lombard and Bette Davis may have worked at a rival studios, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they were styled in the early 1930s .. Here’s a blonde Bette Davis vamping it up in sexy leopard print..

And, proving that it isn’t only vamps who can carry off leopard, here’s Audrey Hepburn in my favourite of her Charade get-ups by Givenchy.

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Unravelling the Fabric of Chanel

 

The inscrutable Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, 1936, (c) Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet

 

Journalist and author Justine Picardie was in Edinburgh last week to launch Coco Chanel – The Legend and the Life (Harper Collins), and to discuss the iconic French designer’s secret love affair with Scotland. I caught up with her for a chat about her elegant expose of the first lady of fashion.

AK: Why did you feel the time was right for a new biography of Coco Chanel?

JP: Well, I suppose there hasn’t been a proper full-scale biography with new material since Edmonde Charles-Roux’s  and that was written in the early 1970s, pretty soon after Chanel died. At that point, a lot of archival material wasn’t even available .. I was given greater access to the Chanel archives than previous biographers, and certainly nobody had looked in the British archives for anything Chanel-related before.

AK: You must have been thrilled to turn up so much British material.

JP: It was amazing finding out stuff about her time in Britain – in London, Cheshire (where her lover, the Duke of Westminster’s mansion was), and in Sutherland in Scotland – where Westminster had an estate, Lochmore.  I knew that there would be a Scottish connection because of Chanel’s use of Scottish tweed. From the 1920s on you see Scottish wool and Scottish tweed in her collections but no-one had ever worked out where that began. I just had a hunch that if I started with the Duke of Westminster it might lead me to interesting places – and it certainly did! It was through her relationship with the Duke of Westminster that she came to Scotland in the first place.

I went to the place where she fished and to the fishing lodge where she stayed with the Duke and Winston Churchill, and when I found those fishing records which listed their names –  you see Mademoiselle Chanel, the Duke of Westminster and Winston Churchill all listed – that was one of the most exciting moments in the book, because it proved how much time she’d been spending in Scotland. And it confirmed the closeness of the relationship with the Duke and also with Winston Churchill.

AK: How well had her friendship with Churchill been known before you turned up these records?

JP: It wasn’t at all known – it was purely speculative. And by looking at those fishing records you could see that she was spending several months at a time in Scotland in the summer and that coincided with her introducing Scottish tweed and so on.

AK: The men in her life really did furnish her with what turned out to be significant sources of inspiration, didn’t they?

JP: They really did!  You can see from those old photographs which I’ve used in the book, and found in private archives here, that she’s using Scottish tweed – these are the Duke of Westminster’s jackets that she’s wearing to begin with.

AK: Boyfriend jackets, then?!

JP: Yes, literally boyfriend jackets. Then you start seeing tweed in her collection. And that, again,  that to me, was the most exciting discovery  - those pictures alone, among them a fantastic picture, which is one of my favourite pictures in the book,  of her with this big salmon that she’s caught …. You know, this was the summer of the little black dress, the Jazz Age, and the story told thus far is that Chanel was shimmying around Paris and the Riviera, which she undoubtedly did, but, as it turns out, she was also spending a lot of time in Scotland – with a fishing rod, playing cards with her boyfriend and his friend, Churchill. And then of course Churchill – that relationship was to prove so important during the Second World War …

 

Chanel & the Duke of Westminster on his yacht, 1928, (c) Chanel - Collection Denise Tual

 

AK: So, after doing all this research, do you like Chanel – I ask because I didn’t much like her as a woman, after seeing the recent films about her ..

JP: What I felt at the end of it was that I did like her and I felt there was a kind of heroism about her, that there was just something really, really brave and independent, and she just never gave up, she never stopped. I ended up feeling this emotional attachment - partly because I felt that she had somehow kept me going during a difficult time …

She was an icon to me before I started. I was fascinated, I was an admirer. What changed over the course of the book was that I began to feel much more sympathy for her. I went to the convent where she was abandoned by her father. To have endured that, to have escaped that and then to have made it in Paris where she would have had to be so strong to keep going against the ins and outs of fashion. You know, one minute you’re a success, and the next, you’re out of fashion. But she kept going.

AK: You almost have to check your sums when you work out what age she was when she launched some of her most famous creations, don’t you?

JP: I know! She was designing her last collection when she died. She was 87. That’s just extraordinary - and what’s even more extraordinary is the fact that she went into business in 1910, in a world where women were so dismissed, and had no autonomy.

AK: In terms of her personality, what did you find to empathise with?

JP: I spent time with two women who were really close to her – her great-niece, also called Gabrielle (who, as you’ll see in the book, is possibly her grand-daughter), and one of her friends, Claude Delay, who was reasonably young when she met Chanel in the 1960s. They were incredibly warm, instantly sympathetic  women and they spoke with such tenderness and warmth about her that I thought if they really loved her, then she must have had something that could form a very powerful connection.

 

Portrait of Mademoiselle Chanel by Horst, 1937, (c) Conde Nast/Corbis

 

AK: From the films Coco Avant Chanel and Coco & Igor, I got the impression that she was one of those women who gets on better with men than with other women – did you sense this?

JP: Yes, from the films you’d think she hated other women but that is not the impression that I had having talked to Gabrielle and Claude. I mean, yeah, you probably wouldn’t want Chanel to fall in love with your husband – as happened in Coco & Igor – but that’s such a tiny, specific chapter.

AK: Being able to write in Chanel’s own apartment and to spend the night in her room at the Ritz must have helped you to feel a connection ..

JP: Oh my God, yes. Sitting and writing at her desk, that desk with the leather top where you can see the score marks from her pen, was amazing. Her pen was so firm that it went through the paper into the leather. I was allowed to work there late at night when there was nobody there, just a security guard down on the street, that was it – the rest of the house of Chanel had emptied out. Working there definitely helped me feel a connection: her presence is so powerful in the house that it’s impossible not to feel it … you’d be made of wood if you didn’t feel a ghostly but also very potent and inspiring presence. And then when I spent the night in her room at the Ritz, the lights kept going on and off – which was a bit spooky!

AK: How long did it take you to research and write the book?

JP: You know, the first time I went to the apartment and interviewed Karl Lagerfeld was 1997, the end of 1997, and it was then that I thought:  “I wish I could write a book about Chanel”. So I started doing research then but it took quite a long time for me, as British writer, to feel that I had amassed enough new material to take to a publisher … All the previous biographies have been written by French writers. There have been picture books by American writers but they didn’t have new stuff. I’ve done archival research in the past for my previous book about Daphne du Maurier, and I started out as an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times, so I felt I had to know that I had amassed a body of new material.

AK: Some of the other books are really superficial, aren’t they?

JP: They do skim the surface… Also, the same pictures have been circulated over and over again so it was also imp0rtant to me that I find some new ones – which I did.

AK: And of course your book features some beautiful illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld ..

JP: Yes, they were done specially for the book.  that was interesting because Chanel have no editorial control over the book – I mean, I couldn’t have written it if they did have editorial control. I needed access to the archives but I said from the start – as did they – that without independence, the book wouldn’t stand as a serious work. As I went on I did uncover some fairly dark things, especially about the Second World War, but, actually, the truth is not as bad as the rumours.

AK: Did you think it might turn out to be worse?

JP: Well, I did think, having seen the stuff in the Churchill archives, that this isn’t as it’s been told before. But yes, I’m half-Jewish – I’ve got a Jewish father – and I wanted to know the truth and tell the truth. I certainly wasn’t going to give her any sort of leeway. In any case, some of the most interesting creative characters of the 20th Century had very bad wars, and I think that the two are not mutually exclusive: you can be a kind of creative genius and a pretty terrible person at the same time. But if she was a pretty terrible person I would have told that. She did make some serious errors of judgment. This plot she got involved in was always doomed but nevertheless it was to try to bring the war to an end.

AK: Has your Chanel research thrown up any other subjects whom you’d like to investigate?

JP: Well, there are  some fascinating characters. Misia Sert, Chanel’s closest female friend, was a fascinating character but I don’t think that her story would have such broad appeal .. And Hardy Amies I got really interested in – he was a special agent during the war as well. The other incredibly fascinating character of course is Karl Lagerfeld but that book will only be written after his death. The story of Chanel couldn’t be told while she was alive because she made up so many different stories.

AK: Do you have a theory about why she did that?

JP: I think she felt intense shame and humiliation about her childhood and her youth. She was born illegitimate so there was the stigma of illegitimacy, the stigma of poverty and then the stigma of being in this orphanage. And then ,of course, her being not only a seamstress but also a demi-mondaine was further stigma. Actually,  where the Audrey Tautou movie worked was in capturing that milieu, that terrible humiliation of being a kept woman and not knowing what your status was. Where that movie is historically inaccurate, I think,  is that Boy Capel [Chanel's lover] is presented as rather honourable – he’s already engaged to an English girl and if it wasn’t for that he would have married Chanel. In fact, he’d been with Chanel for eight years when he decided to consolidate his social standing within the British upper classes by marrying the daughter of a lord.

AK: So, what’s next now that you’ve finished this labour of love?

JP: I’ve got to clear up my house. It’s piled high with archival papers and photocopies.  I finished writing in February but then I did endless, endless corrections on final drafts.  I managed to see inside La Pausa, her house in the South of France, and I found more stuff in Scotland in May, so I had to go back to the publishers and say:  “I have to add these bits..”.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

After a particularly glam night at the movies – local burlesque outfit Club Noir had launched a series of Film Nights at the Glasgow Film Theatre with a screening of Some Like It Hot on Sunday – I was inspired to up the ante, glamour-wise, on Monday and wear a bolder, redder lip than usual.

The decision to experiment with the latest reds couldn’t have come at a more apt moment as I hadn’t yet got round to trying out Chanel’s forthcoming lip lacquer – Chanel Rouge Allure Extrait de Gloss (£22.50; from October 1). Its Exces shade is exquisite  - though possibly not so much the kind of coral red that Some Like It Hot star Marilyn Monroe would have worn; more the sort of cherry red that her Gentlemen Prefer Blondes partner Jane Russell would have plumped for. It will definitely get another outing next time Club Noir serves up a suitably sexy film.

TUESDAY

Movie star make-up requires movie star make-up remover so it’s appropriate that I’ve been using an old favourite of the Hollywood brigade – Pond’s Cold Cream (£3.99, www.boots.com).

It’s no wonder this 103-year-old cleanser is so popular amongst people who have to wear layers of make-up all day: it does what it promises – melts away the make-up and softens the skin at the same time.

Incredibly, I had never used it until I was given a jar a fortnight ago, but I am a convert and at such a credit crunch-friendly price, I’m willing to ignore my slight aversion to its fragrance …

WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday I travelled to London where I was to interview a rising star of the jazz world -Nikki Yanofsky. Arriving early at the jazz club where she was to do her sound check, I had time to give myself a mini-manicure (well, the interview was all prepared..), using one of the two beautiful shades of nail varnish in the new French Coquettes collection from Lancome for autumn/winter.

Lancome Le Vernis in Metropolitan Beige (£12) - what an appropriate shade for a visit to the capital – is one of the prettiest and most delicate nude varnishes I’ve come across. It looks peach-c0loured in the bottle, and glistens slightly. And it dries very quickly.

Its sister polish in from the same collection – the Rouge Noir-esque Black Cherry shade – is also fab, and has quickly become a favourite for nights-out. Indeed, it was my polish of choice for the Some Like It Hot extravaganza at the weekend – after all, how much vampier can you get?

THURSDAY

One style icon who would have appreciated my doing my own nails is Grace Kelly, the subject of the V&A’s wonderful exhibition, Grace Kelly – Style Icon (until September 26) which I finally got to see on Thursday. The movie star turned princess remained refreshingly practical throughout her life when it came to her look: she bought clothes that she fell in love with and then got great use out of them, and she kept to a fairly simple and elegant maquillage.

The shop within the exhibition is a little treasure trove of Grace-inspired costume jewellery (mainly pearls, of course) and accessories, but one item that was missing was the compact – an essential if you plan to emulate that ladylike look which is so current  this autumn. Grace, like any 1950s woman, would not have left home without some pressed powder in her purse.

I couldn’t have got round that exhibition in what I like to think was a Grace-ful manner had I not brushed on some of the new Clinique Redness Solutions Instant Relief Mineral Pressed Powder (£24; www.clinique.co.uk) – it was so hot and stuffy in there! It undoubtedly saved me from an oily T-zone and flushed cheeks .. The same, yellow-coloured, powder got me through a particularly uncomfortable train journey home, on a ridiculously crowded Virgin Pendolino train. I wonder how the ever-cool Grace would have fared under such trying circumstances..

FRIDAY

It’s only five weeks since my hair was last coloured but it’s been driving me mad – and by Friday I just wanted to tie it back and not think about it. I remembered that I’d been sent a rather scary-looking new hair tool – the Goody Spin Pin (£4.99; from Asda stores) – and decided to give it a go. It’s actually two spiral pins – and it turned out to be surprisingly easy to use. You pull your hair back into a pony tail, twist it round into a bun shape then effectively screw the pins in – one from above the bun and the other from below.

With my fine, poker-straight hair, I found that a low bun, at the nape of the neck or over to one side, looked particularly pretty. In fact, it looked a little like the sort of style that Grace Kelly and the other great Hitchcock blonde, Kim Novak, favoured in the 1950s.

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Beauty icon Jean Harlow, known as the Platinum Blonde bombshell of the early 1930s, liked to contrast her beestung, scarlet lips with pale, milky white skin – and loose powder was a staple of her make-up regime.

Miss Harlow was a big fan of Guerlain fragrances  so I have no doubt that had she lived to be a grand old grande dame (and I mean seriously old – next year is the centenary of her birth), she would have loved the latest incarnation of the classic loose powder from the luxury Parisian beauty house.

Guerlain Les Voilettes Mineral (£33) is a lovely powder, scented – like Guerlain’s celebrated Les Meteorites – with a parma violet fragrance. It comes in a handsome, smooth gold tub and is applied with a decadent black puff.

My mum had been asking me for some powder and I thought I’d give this tub to her after I’d tried it out. I fully expected not to want to wear it much because I’m not a fan of parma violets, but I loved the feel and look of the powder on my face and, frankly, the scent wasn’t obvious after the initial application.

Mum’s had to make other arrangements …

TUESDAY

By strange coincidence, I was thinking about Jean Harlow as I headed to Hotel du Vin in Glasgow on Tuesday to meet the chic PR for Tom Ford Beauty. Tom Ford’s fragrance White Patchouli, with its Art Deco-inspired white bottle, always brings Jean to mind. After all, she liked to wear gleaming white gowns, and her era (she died, at just 26, in 1937) was the age of Art Deco..

Melissa was in town, however, to talk to the local press about the arrival in Frasers, in Glasgow, of The Tom Ford Private Blend Collection later this month. These 16 scents, many of which appeal equally to both sexes, represent the designer’s fascination with the world of artisanal perfumery – in other words, they’re not your run-of-the-mill, easy-to-wear, suits-anyone type of fragrances.

Strangely, given my recent predilection for wearing men’s fragrances (read on!), I was drawn to the floral-oriental Champaca Absolute (£110 for 50ml), a mysterious and complex scent – more Garbo than Harlow – with cognac amongst its top notes and a spicy floral heart…

WEDNESDAY

I rekindled an old love affair (well, not that old) last week – with Dior Homme (from £42), a gents’ fragrance which came out a few years ago and which I used briefly then set aside and forgot about.

Anyway, when I chanced upon it at the weekend, it seemed like the time to give it an outing – and I ended up wearing it for most of the week. I think it’s one that many women pinch from their partners as it is, unusually, a “masculine floral fragrance” with iris at its heart, as well as top notes of sage, lavender and bergamot and a woody/leathery base.

THURSDAY

I’ve been trying to continue with some of the Elemis skincare programme which was prescribed to me during my recent facial at their spa pod in Debenhams and, by Wednesday, I realised that I’d have to make it official and admit that I am now addicted to Elemis Pro-Radiance Cream Cleanser (£27; www.elemis.co.uk).

Like that other fab, wash-off cream cleanser, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, Elemis Pro-Radiance is a pleasure to use. It has a luxurious texture, smells lovely (orange, lavender, ylang ylang and patchouli) and it leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth and looking radiant.

I’m not sure about the anti-ageing bit but I’ll be using it religiously and shall certainly notice if it starts to turn back the clock, complexion-wise.


FRIDAY

My revival of interest in men’s fragrance couldn’t have been more timely: Chanel has just brought out a new perfume for men.

An elegant square bottle of Bleu de Chanel (£42) arrived chez moi on Friday and I was delighted to find that it’s another men’s fragrance which I would consider wearing myself. First impressions are of a slinky, seductive scent – undoubtedly a midnight shade of blue..

As ever with Chanel, there’s a stylish advertising campaign with strong cinematic credentials – this time, director Martin Scorsese and actor Gaspard Ulliel, shown above. You might recognise him from some of the notable films he’s already been in (he’s only 26): Summer Things, in which he seduced Charlotte Rampling, A Very Long Engagement and Paris Je T’Aime..

Here’s a link to the film and the concept behind Bleu: http://www.chanel.com/en_GB/fragrance-beauty/Universe-Bleu-de-CHANEL-118651

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Aaahh!!! Monday was what the French call La Rentree – back to school day – so I was up with the larks, or at least with two very excitable six-year-olds, despite having gone to bed at my usual ridiculously late hour.

So, how to deal with the resulting tired eyes? Well, luckily, I had just started using the new Jurlique Herbal Recovery Eye Cream (£33; www.jurlique.co.uk), a gorgeous botanical cream which is soothing and refreshing – and helps to counter those dark circles and morning puffiness..

TUESDAY

Tuesday morning was a struggle – thanks to a late-night viewing of the glorious Woody Allen comedy Annie Hall, which I hadn’t watched in ages. While  Annie (Diane Keaton in her most stylish role) favours black soap for her complexion (“Say, are you joining a minstrel show?” asks a bewildered Alvy), I have found that both complexion-wise and wake-up-call-wise, the best face wash on the block just now is Origins Zero Oil Deep Pore Cleanser (£15; www.origins.co.uk). Thanks to the saw palmetto extracts and mint which are key ingredients, it is incredibly thorough and gives the skin a tingling, awakened feeling ..

WEDNESDAY

The combination of this strange, changeable weather and the arrival of autumn/winter clothes in the shops made my Wednesday play date with the new season’s cosmetics very timely.  There are some stunningly beautiful new products being launched but few as exquisite as Lancome’s La Rose Deco compact (£32; from Harvey Nichols stores now, and other Lancome counters from September 1), which is one of the stars of the lovely French Coquettes collection. In fact, it’s so exquisite that I can’t actually bear to use it and spoil the pretty picture…  I’ll be writing more about the French Coquettes collection – it’s very inspiring, and was itself inspired by three icons of Parisian life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Wharton and Kiki de Montparnasse. Chapeaux off to Aaron De Mey for his most covetable collection to date.

THURSDAY

After the success of its initial, core, range of make-up, Topshop is launching a seasonal collection named Heavy Duty in late September. Inspired by the grunge aesthetic of such LA “boho” girls as the Olsen twins, it features inky, murky shades on the eyes, crumbly black kohl eyeliner, and a “bitten lip”. One essential component, to which I’m already devoted, is the thick black mascara, Topshop Mascara in Carbon (price TBC but under a tenner; www.topshop.com, from late September) which does a brilliant job of creating that dramatic, heavy lash look that sixties beauties like Brigitte Bardot (right) perfected when they combined it with layers of kohl eyeliner. Watch out for it going on sale and buy yours while you can as this limited edition mascara is going to fly off the shelves.

FRIDAY

When the latest foundation from Laura Mercier – Creme Smooth Foundation (£40; from September) arrived in the post, I dismissed it. It looked too old-fashioned, too heavy and, even in the Warm Ivory shade (one of 12), too dark. How wrong I was! When I gave it its first proper outing on Friday, I found that appearances can be deceptive. This is actually an incredibly light-feeling foundation which glides on to the skin (as opposed to having to be dragged across it – which is what I was expecting) and provides good coverage. It leaves the complexion looking naturally radiant, and much fresher than most medium coverage foundations, and its optical diffusers help to reduce the obviousness of fine lines and wrinkles.


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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY


Dear beauty diary, I’ve been on holiday so apologies for the lack of entries. However, I must tell you about my holiday beauty crisis – or near-crisis. Thankfully, I had just the right products with me to avert a disaster.

We were in St Andrews, the picturesque Scottish seaside town and we enjoyed a typical Scottish seaside holiday – with weather a mixture of gorgeous sunshine, drizzle, torrential rain and wind. Even on the warm days, the wind was a nuisance, not least to my hair and skin. Using not one but two Ojon conditioners (a rinse-off and a stay-in) sorted out the drying effects of the wind on my hair (which I took to tying up as the windswept look just doesn’t do it for long, fine, poker-straight hair),  and the new Chanel Hydramax + Active Moisture Mask (£34; from August 13) successfully tackled my weather-beaten face, but it wasn’t till I remembered to start using my Clinique Deep Comfort Hand and Cuticle Cream (£14.50; www.clinique.co.uk) that my hands began to feel more like themselves.  This is a rich but easily absorbed cream which sorts out dry skin quickly. I’ve yet to find a lotion that cut the mustard in this department.

TUESDAY

The night before our trip, I should probably have been packing but instead I was at a dinner hosted by the glamorous Estee Lauder PR girls who were in Glasgow to show off the first colour collection by Tom Pecheux.  Forgetting to pack my favourite jeans was a small price to pay for the  sneak peak at the Pecheux goodies …

To be honest, I was sold on Pecheux’s collection before I’d even seen it – thanks to its exotic name, Blue Dahlia – the title of a film noir starring one of my favourite 1940s actresses, Veronica Lake.  I took the gorgeous Pure Color Five Color Eyeshadow Palette in Blue Dahlia (£34; www.esteelauder.co.uk; in Selfridges and Brown Thomas now and the rest of the country in August) with me to St Andrews and experimented with the more subtle possibilities it offers.  There’s a lovely dove-grey shade which looks fab with a wash of one of the three deep blue tones – particularly the teal one. I’ll report back anon on my attempts at the full, Blue Dahlia, monty – as seen on the model pictured above.

WEDNESDAY

I know that as a beauty writer, it’s time to get excited about the autumn collections but I’m still finding gems in the summer ones… Having been hooked on Dior Addict Lipcolors (£21.50)  in Coral Craze and  for much of the summer, I just stumbled across Pop Red on Wednesday and am completely smitten. It’s a perfect pinky, cherry red – and since it’s glossy and extremely moist, it doesn’t have the harshness of many other reds out there. Which means it’s perfect for red wimps; those of us who are too fair or too afraid to go for full-blown red…. Okay, it’s red- lite but who cares if it makes you feel like Veronica Lake? And, yes, it goes a treat with a subtle wash of Blue Dahlia on the eyes.

THURSDAY

On Thursday I finally got round to experimenting with a new-fangled hair accessory that I was sent. Goody’s Modern Updo Pin (£4.99; available from Asda from August 18) looks like a giant, malformed kirby grip and like the kirby, it can do wonders for the hair. Once you’ve mastered it, there’s no need for any hair pins or other tricks of the pinning-up trade. It is ideal for creating chignon styles, whether tidy, formal affairs, or loose, relaxed ones, and keeps its hold even on the finest, most unco-operative hair. Mine would have been with me on holiday – but was another casualty of the champagne-quaffing the night before the trip …

FRIDAY

I don’t normally get excited about toner but I’ve just about finished my bottle of Origins Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner (£15; www.origins.co.uk) and I feel quite sad at the prospect of being without it.. Tragic eh? But this is a really great toner which refreshes the skin while removing any last vestiges of make-up or dirt. It really makes your skin feel like it’s sparkling – and a bonus, in St Andrews, was its ability to sniff out tiny traces of sand which my cleanser had missed …

It has quite a strong fragrance, which did send off alarm bells for me initially as I have a very sensitive skin, but I would happily use it again – in fact, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t get to!


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