Monthly Archives: March 2010

Style on Film: How To Steal a Million

Tune in to Channel 4 at 1pm on Tuesday March 30 for a chic lunchtime treat: a screening of the 1966 romantic caper comedy How To Steal a Million in which style icon Audrey Hepburn models some particularly modish Givenchy and her first short hairdo of the decade.

Playing the despairing daughter of a wealthy master forger who likes to replicate his own impressive collection of great art works, Audrey has a wardrobe to die for. The only time she doesn’t don Givenchy is when she pretends to be a maid. But even then, her favourite designer gets a namecheck – courtesy of co-star Peter O’Toole who, upon seeing her in her disguise, comments that Givenchy is getting a “day off”.

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My Week in Beauty


Having been very lazy over the weekend , I paid the price at the beginning of the week..  If I skip my moisturiser at night, it’s not long before dry cheeks kick in, and make-up refuses to do anything other than sit on top of my skin, looking like a mask.

However, I have the solution: Chanel’s “Hydramax +” skincare range, which is designed for dehydrated skins like mine.  I’m completely addicted to these moisturisers, especially the Chanel Hydramax + Active Moisture Gel Cream (£41), a terrific day cream for combination skin which can’t handle a rich cream but finds that a fluid is too light. Icy blue in colour, it has a refreshingly cool feel too – perfect if your face is prone to sensitivity. It soothes it beautifully.

My favourite Hydramax + item – and, really, something of a Desert Island product for me – is the Active Serum (£49) which boosts moisture levels and seems to smooth the skin at the same time. Four drops at a time (I use it day and night – or I pay the price) are all you need, so it does last. I’m currently using it in conjunction with the latest addition to the Hydramax  family: the Nutrition Nourishing Cream (£46; available April 23), which is perfect for night-time use.


My day was made on Tuesday when an acquaintance in the beauty biz commented on the lack of fine lines and wrinkles around my 38-year-old eyes.

It’s very gratifying when your efforts pay off – and I’m putting this compliment down to all the eye creams I’ve used in my thirties.

My current favourites in the eye department come from Guerlain, and adhere to the principle that the best thing you can do for the skin around your eyes is keep it well moisturised.

So, these days I swear by Guerlain’s Super Aqua-Eye Serum (£55) which revitalises the skin while hydrating it, and also helps counter puffiness and dark circles. It’s truly a luxury product  – my only problem with it is that it says it has to be used within six months, which is difficult if, like me, you only use it at night.

My other eye essential at the moment is the new Super Aqua-Eye Anti-Puffiness Smoothing Patch (£66.50), a soothing (if pricey) eye mask which moisturises the fragile skin round the eyes and improves the appearance of that area.

Put it this way, when I was assembling a recovery kit for a friend who’d been doing a lot of crying, a set of these masks just had to be included…


The summer cosmetics collections have started to arrive in the post – really, they have been the only antidotes to the return of the winter weather ..

So far, the colours I’ve seen have conjured up images of fresh-faced beauties with neutral tones on the eyes, and coral, cherry-coloured or pink lips – as seen on my current style inspiration, Catherine Deneuve as she looked in the wonderful romantic 1964 musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

It certainly looks as if the 1960s – already the inspiration for the current Lancome collection, with its Brigitte Bardot-inspired items – are the decade du jour.. They have also influenced Peter Philips’s summer collection, Les Pop-Up, at Chanel which has a colour named Nouvelle Vague (the name of the revolutionary style of French cinema in the early 1960s).


Leaping out of bed is not something I make a habit of, but I positively sprang into action on Thursday morning – because I had a date in John Lewis. With a Sisley Botanical Facial. It’s been years since I last had a Sisley treatment, though I use their skincare any chance I get: they are the creme de la creme of botanical skincare; skincare royalty in fact since the company’s owners are the Count and Countess d’Ornano.

This super-relaxing (I fell asleep!)  facial, which is available at most stores which stock Sisley every couple of months (£25 booking fee, redeemable against any two products), is a brilliant introduction to the vast range which, in addition to skincare, comprises fragrances, body products and make-up. The facial is worth having for the smells alone – these are some of the loveliest smelling beauty products on the market. The radiance of the complexion post-facial is simply a bonus..


The weather took another turn for the wintery on Friday and, having ventured out on the school run with my hair tied up, I had to go home and let it down so I could shove my beret on again to warm up my frozen ears. The ponytail will have to go on hold for a while longer..

The icy blast also brought back everyone’s colds, and there were several outbreaks of chapped lips in our house. So it seemed the ideal time to try out the e.l.f. (eyes, lips, face) products I was sent last month.

The new Studio Lip Balm SPF 15 (£3.50) is a must for anyone, like me, who suffers from dry lips and likes to be able to wear balm under her lipstick. It comes in a tube – by far my preferred option for a balm. I won’t be sharing: the rest of the family can use pots of balm.

I felt duty-bound to try out the e.l.f. nail polishes I’d been sent as well, and since my toes have been seriously neglected in recent months, the timing was perfect. There are six colours in the new spring/ summer collection of e.l.f nail polish (pictured is Punk Purple) and, at £1.50 each, you could reasonably treat yourself to the whole set.

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Style File: Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall was one of the sexiest and most elegant stars of the 1940s and 1950s.  On screen, she was often seen  in sharp little suits and slinky evening gowns – which still look utterly fabulous today. Here’s how she looked teaching Humphrey Bogart to whistle (“You just put your lips together and blow… “) in her debut movie To Have And Have Not, in 1944 when she was 19 years old.

She had a different checked suit but a similarly sultry pout and sullen mood in her second movie with Bogie, The Big Sleep, the archetypal film noir, which was made in 1946 not long after their marriage.

As the spoilt daughter of a wealthy colonel, Bacall’s character Vivian spent a fair bit of time in the casino – and this black satin gown with the cutaway midriff made a big impression on audiences at the time.

In the noirish thriller Dark Passage (1947), Bacall played a San Francisco-based writer who lets escaped convict Bogie hide out in her dupleix while he recovers from the plastic surgery which he hopes will make him unrecognisable. Bacall looks quite different in this film, with her hair tied up in a super-feminine chignon.

Bogie and Bacall’s final film together was John Huston’s atmospheric thriller Key Largo, in 1948. This film featured Bacall’s most relaxed wardrobe to date, and she looks the picture of laid-back elegance in this simple ensemble.

Searching for photos of Bacall for this item, I stumbled across this shot which looks like it could have been taken during the filming of the 1950 melodrama Young Man With a Horn, in which Bacall played a jazz-loving ingenue.

Finally, one of my favourite publicity pictures of Lauren Bacall – one that looks as if it belongs to an Estee Lauder advertising campaign for a new lipstick ..

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My Week in Beauty


An afternoon involving the school run and a children’s sports class meant that nothing too adventurous could be tested.. So I was happy to stick to my favourite new neutral eyeshadow, the Elegant Taupe shade of Givenchy Le Prisme Yeux Mono (£19).

Being a beauty writer who tries gazillions of new cosmetics every year, I can’t remember the last time I actually wore an eyeshadow compact down so that the base shone through..

But I’ve managed it with this Givenchy eyeshadow quartet which contains four variations on the same shade: a matte powder, a shimmery one, a sparkly one and an iridescent one.

And the little pamphlet which suggests different looks that can be created is well worth experimenting with! As I said, the one I’ve worn out is the very easy-to-wear, suits-all shade of Elegant Taupe, but I’m dying to try one of the vibrant purple or blue shades…


A totally indulgent lunchtime trip to the cinema to watch Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell light up the screen in the classic 1953 musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes proved inspirational. Their ruby red lips look fantastic in this sparkling new print, and inspired me to try out the new Lancome gloss, L’Absolu Creme de Brillance (£18;, I was recently sent. My shade, Rose Mythique, wasn’t ruby red like Lorelei or Dorothy’s pouts, but it was red enough for me: a lovely, coral colour which lasts well, moisturises the lips and isn’t remotely tacky.


It always happens: you’ve got an important meeting or a night out, and you wake up with a giant spot – or a “plook” (as we, ever so poetically, put it here in Scotland) – on your chin. What can you do?

Well, Clinique’s Anti-Blemish Solutions Liquid Makeup (£20 ; available April 1, ) is the answer. I turned to it on Tuesday when a big PMT-fuelled plook popped up on my face. I think it was it fate because who was I meeting that day? Two of the glamorous (and spot-free) girls from the Clinique team..

I can report that not only did the foundation, which is not for anyone who prefers light coverage, conceal the plook very skilfully….


… but it also cleared it up: by Thursday morning, there was only a very slight, pink hint that it had ever been there.

The highlight of Thursday was dinner with friends at my favourite restaurant in Glasgow, Rogano.  Time to get out my evening wear for the eyes. The basics for me are Clarins Eye Liner (£18;, which is the best liquid eyeliner in pen form that I’ve found, and Bobbi Brown Party Wear Mascara (£17.50;, which is the ultimate mascara for transforming short, stumpy lashes into luscious ones. My other night-out staple at the moment is the gorgeous, but almost unavailable now (it was a limited edition, launched back in January), Bungalow Pink shade of the Estee Lauder Michael Kors Very Hollywood Nail Lacquer (£12; I’m thinking of snapping up all remaining bottles of this deep  pink polish which has the intensity of a cherry red but suits me much better.


Friday morning was wet and wintry, so my cheery pink nails from the night before would have been the perfect antidote to the gloom but I had already resolved to switch over to my other current favourite: Chanel Nail Colour (£17) in Inattendu (on the right in the picture). For the non-pink days, it has to be this chic nude polish which suits me better than the mushroom or so-called “greige” shade of Particuliere (pictured far left) that came out in the same spring collection or the bubblegum pink shade Tendresse.

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He Should Coco

Peter Philips is like a kid with a new toy – or perhaps that should be a new set of toys. Why? Because the 40-year-old Belgian make-up artist and Global Creative Director of Make-up at Chanel, the man responsible for making “greige” all the rage for nails this spring, is unveiling his first collection of lipsticks. And to say that he’s eager to show off his creations would be an understatement.

Rouge Coco is the name of the lipstick, available in every shade you could desire – from barely-there nude to full-on red. In the Salon Vendome, a gleaming white room in Chanel’s fine jewellery boutique, beauty editors from the top magazines squeal with delight as they play with the sleek black tubes of lip colour and watch the  Rouge Coco ad, which stars French beauty Vanessa Paradis.

Beaming with satisfaction, Philips says: “This is what happened when I showed the lipsticks to the models. As soon as I open the boxes, it’s like I don’t exist any more!”      

Philips had a very clear desire when he embarked on this project. “I wanted to make lipsticks more accessible again, to seduce women into rediscovering lipstick,” he explains. “I was thinking about how to win over girls who have grown up with gloss and are afraid of lipstick.

“I wanted to make a lipstick in a range of colours that was accessible to them and with a texture that was easy for them to wear. Lipstick gives them a different attitude – a bit more maturity, maybe, and certainly a bit more sensuality.”

For Philips, lipstick is the ultimate in elegance – and Chanel’s lipsticks have always been the most chic of them all. Pointing at a shiny black tube with a gold rim, he says:  “This is what a lipstick looks like. It was created by Mademoiselle Chanel and it’s the most copied pack in the world.”

Part of the inspiration for launching a new collection of lipsticks was the popularity of the iconic quilted Chanel bag. “Chanel lipstick has as strong a design as that handbag,” says Philips.

Lipstick was an essential part of the Chanel look – so much so that, to ensure that she (and her clients) never mislaid hers, Coco Chanel also designed a special, tubular, pocket in her handbags specially for  lipstick.

Philips wanted to make sure that there was a lip shade for everyone – hence there are 31 different Rouge Coco’s. Most importantly, since every aspect of the collection is a homage to Coco Chanel (even the number 31 is significant as it refers to her Paris address, 31 rue de Cambon), it had to have a choice of reds – no fewer than three, in fact, including the one which he reckons “Mademoiselle” would have worn: Gabrielle.

When he was working on the colours, Philips drew the outline of empty lipsticks and filled in the shades, working his way out from his core reds. On one side, the line went darker, through dramatic russets and browns, while on the other, it grew lighter and more subtle.

Explaining the profusion of near-nude shades, Philips says: “I  had to have a lot of beiges and pinks to justify my motive of appealing to girls who weren’t used to lipstick. It was kind of tricky because some of the shades are really similar but once they’re applied, they give a different makeup result depending on the lip.”

Asked if he’s particularly proud of any of them, he replies: “Well, of course they’re all my babies. I’ve been working on them for two years, and I’m proud of them all.” But he points out that he’s delighted to have been able to include some classic Chanel shades from the past, among them the elegant coral Sari Dore, which was one of the colours available when Chanel first launched lipstick back in 1954.

“Yes, I brought some shades back, but not literally because some of the pigments are not allowed any more, and we had to change the texture to make it more contemporary and comfortable.”

For Philips, the revival of classic Chanel lip colours within the range gives it a bit of vintage appeal, and fits in perfectly with the current obsession many women have with the looks of the past – especially the 1940s and 1950s, when lipstick was at the peak of its popularity.

* Rouge Coco Hydrating Lip Colour lipsticks (£21 each) are on sale now. Visit to see the shades. For stockists, call 020-7493 3836.

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Daryl Sherman

One of my favourite CDs from last year was a tribute to the songwriter Johnny Mercer by a woman who is something of  New York institution: Daryl Sherman.

She has been performing in the city’s swankiest spots for years and has amassed a phenomenal knowledge of the Great American Songbook, especially some of its lesser-read pages. On this lovely CD she was joined by such A-listers as Wycliffe Gordon, Howard Alden and Marian McPartland for a Johnny Mercer tribute with a laid-back, joyful feel to it – and with several of the lyricist’s more obscure songs (among them Little Ingenue and The Bathtub Ran Over Again) as its highlights.

Whether she’s managing to include these numbers in her repertoire during her current UK tour I’ll find out on Sunday, when she makes her debut in Glasgow (visit for details), but with such top-notch musicians as guitarists Nigel Clark and Dave Cliff and vocalist Todd Gordon joining in the fun, I’d say there’s a good chance..

* For information on Daryl’s tour, visit; Daryl Sherman – Johnny Mercer Centennial Tribute (Arbors Records, £12.99)

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Letter From an Unknown Woman

Ladies, if you’re in need of a good weep, watch out for one of the greatest tearjerkers of them all coming to an arthouse cinema near you..

The film is the lush romantic melodrama Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948), which although very European in style, was actually made by director Max Ophuls while he was in Hollywood.

It stars  Joan Fontaine – an actress whose drippiness is normally downright annoying (Rebecca, anyone?) – gives a moving performance as Lisa, a young woman who has been obsessively in love with a suave cad of a concert pianist since she was a girl living in the same apartment block. He has only been aware of her existence for a fraction of the time that she has loved him, and their one encounter has drastic consequences.

It’s easy to feel for Fontaine in this movie. Not only does she capture perfectly the young Lisa’s all-consuming fixation with her neighbour but we can share it – after all, the  object of her obsession is played by Louis Jourdan, who seldom looked more swoonsome.

Sumptuously filmed, against the beautiful backdrops of Vienna recreated by Ophuls, this is a real gem of a film – sophisticated and affecting in a way that it probably wouldn’t have been in the hands of most Hollywood directors at that time.  If ever a film evoked the exquisite agonies of a young girl in love, this is it…

* Letter From an Unknown Woman is currently playing at selected cinemas across the country. For more information, visit

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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

I was thrilled to discover that one of my favourite films from the 1950s, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), is getting a new lease of life in cinemas this month – and I’ve been polishing my tiara in readiness for a girls-only outing to see it at my local cinema.

There’s nothing like watching a brilliant old movie on the big screen, and in the company of others (as opposed to watching it alone, on TV, in your jammies).  I’m even hoping for a bit of a singalong as this is the film in which Marilyn Monroe performed her iconic Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend number (pictured above).

This was one of Marilyn’s breakthrough films – and her performance as dopey, and utterly transparent (except to men), gold-digger Lorelei Lee is hilarious – and beautifully complemented by Jane Russell’s priceless turn as Lorelei’s wise-cracking, worldly-wise best pal, Dorothy Shaw.

The pair set sail for Paris in the hope that Lorelei’s wealthy fiance will shake off his disapproving father and follow her there for their wedding. But en route, Dorothy, the supposed chaperone, is distracted by the Olympic team while Lorelei is distracted by the diamond tiara owned by the wife of English aristocrat Sir Francis Beakman (played by veteran character actor Charles Coburn, pictured below).

Not only is the film sparklingly funny (it was directed by the great Howard Hawks and based on Anita Loos’s dryly witty book), and glorious to look at, but it also boasts some terrific songs – including the Hoagy Carmichael/Harold Adamson number When Love Goes Wrong (above), which our heroines sing at a pavement cafe in Paris, accompanied by an accordionist. Marilyn was really a very good singer and this movie – along with Some Like It Hot – showcased her oft-unsung vocal talents.

Ironically, Marilyn was not intended to be the star of the film – she actually gets second billing after Jane in the credits, and her salary was considerably lower. But her response to being told that she wasn’t the star was: “Well, whatever I am, I’m still the blonde.”

Despite the potential for rivalry, the two stars got on famously, and 20th Century Fox sought out other projects for them to work on together – but, sadly, that onscreen reunion never happened.

*The new print of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is showing  at selected cinemas now.

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