Monthly Archives: October 2010

Happy (and Stylish) Hallowe’en

My favourite screen sorceress is also one of my favourite actresses and beauty icons – the wonderful Veronica Lake, she of the “peek-a-boo” hair and cheeky, knowing smile.. In 1942, she starred in I Married a Witch, playing an impish witch named Jennifer who wants to wreak revenge on the ancestor of the puritan who had her burnt at the stake a few hundred years earlier.

Unfortunately for Jennifer, her permanently tipsy wizard father is a bit of a liability on the revenge front, and events don’t go quite according to her centuries-in-the-making plan.

I’ve been thinking about I Married a Witch a lot lately – not just because it’s appropriate viewing in Hallowe’en week, but also because it features in a superb new book which I’ll be writing about in the next few days: Edith Head, The Fifty Year Career of Hollywood’s Greatest Costume Designer (Running Press).

The legendary Miss Head designed the chic chiffon number that Veronica wears in this picture – along with the rest of la Lake’s gear plus the gowns worn by her love rival, played by fiery redhead Susan Hayward. The film is available on DVD so check it out – and watch out for my celebration of Edith Head, who kitted out Grace Kelly, Barbara Stanwyck, Tippi Hedren, Elizabeth Taylor and dozens more during Hollywood’s most stylish decades …

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My Week in Beauty


There are glamorous weeks and then there was last week; a week which begin with a party hosted by movie director-turned-food critic Michael Winner and attended by the likes of Sir Michael Caine, Sir Tim Rice, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber – oh, and me.

The party was to launch Michael Winner’s new book, Unbelievable! (JR Books), which is a collection of stories about memorable meals he’s enjoyed with his famous chums over the years. One famous chum who doesn’t figure in the book but whose presence upped the glam factor at Monday’s party was the ever-bubbly Barbara Windsor.

She may be in her seventies, but Barbara looked much, much younger – and not only that, but she was wearing a very sexy fragrance which turned out to be the classic oriental, Guerlain Shalimar (from £32.50 for the eau de toilette). “I’ve worn it for years,” she told me, adding that after wearing it at an event once, she was thrilled to receive a jumbo-sized bottle from the one-time Guerlain ambassador, perfume expert Roja Dove. Perhaps it was this gorgeous ad for Shalimar from the 1960s that also inspired Barbara’s beehive-like hair style..


Barbara Windsor didn’t enquire as to my preferred perfume – mind you, given that it had been applied at 7am, it was probably barely noticeable 12 hours later! My favourite for the last couple of years, since it came out in fact, is Chanel 31 rue Cambon (£160), from the Exclusifs collection created by Jacques Polge.

I’m mad about this elegant yet sensual chypre which comes in a magnificent 200ml bottle (and – unfortunately for me, has a magnificent price tag to match!). Due to the size of the bottle, I couldn’t bring it with me to London but I’m thrilled to learn that a small bottle is in the offing, hopefully for next year.

In the meantime, anyone who fancies trying out one of these less commonly worn Chanel fragrances (there are five other perfumes in Les Exclusifs collection) will find them at a handful of department stores (including Frasers in Glasgow) – previously they were only available in Chanel boutiques. Call 020-7493 3836 for stockist info.


On Wednesday, back in real life after my star-studded soiree in London, I decided to nail down my verdict on the latest mascara – Revlon Grow Luscious Mascara (£8.99). Like my favourite mascara of the year so far, Lancome Hypnose Precious Cells, it conditions and strengthens the lashes while making them look longer and fuller.

I loved the thick wand which was very easy to use. And my lashes did indeed look about significantly more luscious than they would without cosmetic help, but I’m afraid I won’t be keeping this mascara. Why? Because I ended up with my old affliction – panda eyes…

For some reason, some mascaras just don’t stay on my lashes.  It doesn’t happen with all mascaras so I only stick with ones that have passed the panda eyes test. This one didn’t – so it’s being lined up as a successor to Mum’s current fave, Topshop mascara …


Thursday was the annual Estee Lauder companies’ Christmas press day in Scotland. Which means that all the Lauder-owned beauty brands set up stalls in a trendy media watering-hole, and we journalists get briefed on all the goodies that are coming out for Christmas.

I always think that Clinique does Christmas with THE most style – and at great prices. It’s a bit early to post pix of Christmas gift sets, I think, but it’s never a bad time to write about beauty treats for oneself.. and Clinique Limited Edition Strawberry Fudge Colour Collection (available from November 12; is likely to be just the job for brightening up dull November days.

Not only is this mini-collection very pretty, it’s also very easy to wear – rosy cheeks, toffee pink
lips and lashings of black mascara. The star product is the Clinique Limited Edition Strawberry Fudge Holiday Compact (£25), a lovely silver compact containing three eye shades and a blusher. All very wearable – and the perfect present.


On Friday, my friend Kim – whom I met when we covered the beauty beat for sister newspapers back in the mid-1990s – hosted a soiree at which I sold off some of my unwanted beauty products, in aid of charity.

The night was a huge success. In fact, it was nearly over in five minutes as that’s the length of time it took for every last lip gloss to disappear. Judging by what I brought home with me (not much), everyone is on the look-out for a beauty bargain but nobody is prepared to compromise on their looks. Which makes the job of beauty writers like myself all the more, er, important as we really don’t want readers wasting their money on products which don’t deliver.

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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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The Fragrant Mary Greenwell

As I wrote in my beauty journal, renowned make-up artist Mary Greenwell was here in Glasgow last week to show off Plum, the perfume she has just launched.

Over lunch, she invited questions – but, really, there was only one question on everybody’s mind, so I asked her: “Why a fragrance, rather than a make-up line?”

Mary explained: ” Well, to me fragrance is absolutely the final veil of beauty. I’m passionate about it – and have always been known amongst my friends for loving it. I didn’t want to be behind yet another black make-up line with 100 skus [items]; you can’t really make a make-up line personal – but fragrance is totally personal. This fragrance has come straight from my heart, and I’ve really put my heart and soul into its creation.”

Two years in the making and with a fourth generation perfumer (Francois Robert) at the helm, Plum is a gorgeous, grown-up scent which not only reflects Mary’s sophisticated yet uncomplicated tastes but also captures her warm personality. With its fruity top notes (plum, of course, plus blackcurrant, peach, bergamot and lemon), sumptuous floral heart and woody base, it’s a modern variation on the classic chypre. Needless to say, Mary loves it. “I think it’s delicious,” she said. “It wraps you up and lets you be completely free.”

And being free – from the gruelling demands of being a first-call make-up artist at catwalk shows the world over – is one of the reasons for Mary’s move into the fragrance industry. “I want to do business – I can’t do make-up forever. This is a lovely way to move my life forward, without having to compete with my peers – people like Laura Mercier and Francois Nars – whom I love and adore.”

What I forgot to ask her was whether she was aware that Plum was the nickname of one of my favourite writers – PG Wodehouse. That’s the first question of the next interview taken care of!

* Plum by Mary Greenwell (£60 for the 50ml eau de parfum bottle) is available exclusively at House of Fraser stores (

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My Week in Beauty


My week got off to an unexpectedly glam start when I decided to have a play about with some of the dark lip glosses I’ve been sent recently. There are currently umpteen variations on the uber-dark lip theme, from the dark berries and plums that swing back into fashion every winter to the deep purples and even blacks which are very winter 2010.

I plunged straight in at the deep end, colour-wise, by starting with the brand new limited edition black lip gloss from Dior: Dior Addict Ultra Gloss in Noir Lame (£19.50; available now from Selfridges, and nationwide from November 1) . As I opened the tube, I thought to myself: “This’ll be a good one to scare the kids with at Hallowe’en”. But as soon as I looked in the mirror, I was completely smitten with the total transformation that I’d undergone with just one swipe of the wand… It was positively vampish, very 1920s silent movie star – shades of the original “It” girl, Clara Bow (above) and her exotic-looking
contemporary Theda Bara. Indeed, they probably did use black lipcolour to create their famously bee-stung lips – black would have showed up best on film…

After that, the purples and plums looked tame and, frankly, less dramatic. Strangely, the black – spread evenly across the lips (which does take a little time) – suited me much better than dark purple which can make me look rather ill… Teamed with a simple, nude-coloured eye dressed with just liner and mascara, it looked beautiful but you can bet I’ll be doing some more experimenting very soon!


Tuesday was lunch with Margaret, my beauty therapist pal whom I met years ago when she worked as a make-up artist on shoots for a magazine whose beauty section I edited. Of course, she had a report to file, this time on the latest addition to the Chanel Sublimage range of luxury skincare – Chanel Sublimage Essential Revitalising Concentrate (£290; call 020-7493 3826 for stockists).

Here’s what Margaret said: “With all good serums, I expect an almost instant boost of some sort and this certainly didn’t disappoint. With just one application, my face felt firmer – it was like Spanx for the face!

“The instruction manual with this product read like an adventure novel: ‘Driven by a tireless quest for effectiveness and perfection, Chanel researchers travelled the world to discover new natural treasures  – to India and the Himalayas at the altitude of almost 10,000 feet, the Chanel team discovered the Golden Champa..’

“The science pitch with this product is that the Golden Champa detoxifies the skin cells, allowing them to be reborn. Well, after three weeks, my skin is looking great – though I wouldn’t yet say ‘reborn’. I’m looking forward to seeing the final results after I finish this 30ml bottle (and I’m nearly there). I only have two criticisms: the first is that it is very heavily fragranced  and for a sensitive skin this may present a problem, and the other is the price which means that very few women will be able to afford it!”


Bobbi Brown products seem to be getting harder to come by if you’re a beauty writer, but I managed to snag a couple of items from her new Hydrating Skincare range to try.

Hydrating skincare is exactly what my permanently quenched complexion needs so I was the ideal guinea pig for the Hydrating Face Tonic (£18.50; and the Hydrating Face Cream (£33, above). And they exceeded my expectations.. The tonic comes in a clear bottle (emblazoned with Bobbi’s crest) which resembles the flacons of old-fashioned toner that I used to buy in Italian beauty halls. And the contents – a calming, soothing fluid made with minerals and cucumber – continue the retro theme. It’s a very comfortable and pleasurable product to use.

Ditto for the cream, which I used at night instead of my regular serum and cream combo – though it’s probably intended more as a day cream. With a texture of thick, whipped cream and an ingredients list which includes soothing caffeine and moisturising algae extract, it’s soothing, hydrating and great even on sensitive skin like mine.


Thursday was the official opening of the newly revamped beauty hall at Frasers in Glasgow – and who better to do it than Elizabeth Hurley (left), who was in town anyway in her role as a spokesperson for Estee Lauder.

Not only did Liz pronounce the slick and gleaming new hall open, she flicked a light switch and turned the historic Frasers building pink – so that it joined the other landmarks across the world which are marking Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.

A vision in pink Herve Leger, she then did a brief signing – of products from the limited edition The Elizabeth Hurley Lip Collection (£25; which is being sold as part of this year’s Pink Ribbon Collection. For your £25, you get a shocking pink mock-croc clutch bag containing two double-ended glosses from the Pure Color Gloss range. From each purchase of a product from the Pink Ribbon Collection in the UK, £7.50 will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for its research programme at the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research.


Elizabeth Hurley’s sexy make-up look (smoky eyes, pale-ish pink lips) was created by the renowned make-up artist Mary Greenwell who took advantage of being in town to introduce the Scottish beauty press to her “baby”, her first fragrance – Plum (from £60 for the eau de parfum; available from selected House of Fraser stores).

Over an informal lunch, Mary – whose gold baubly bracelet evoked the weighty, gold- plated, stopper of her Plum bottle as well as the case in which the Solid Parfum (£70) is housed – chatted to journalists about her luxurious, very feminine scent. A classic chic chypre with a fruity twist, it has sparkling top notes of plum (natch), blackcurrant, peach, bergamot and lemon; heart notes of gardenia, tuberose, orange flower, rose and jasmine, and a base of sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, amber and white musk.

I’ll be writing more about Mary and Plum later this week …

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Style on Film: Now, Voyager

The onset of winter always makes me think of the fashions of the 1940s, perhaps because some of my favourite 1940s films are set at Christmas-time. We’re not quite at Christmas yet, so the stylish 1940s film I’m celebrating today is the legendary Bette Davis’s Now, Voyager (1942) – a fashion film if ever there was one, and one which emphasises the power of clothes. After all, the sack-like dresses that the troubled Charlotte Vale wears reflect her psychological state, and as she is transformed from browbeaten nervous wreck into a worldly woman with a newfound confidence, her wardrobe  – designed by the great Orry-Kelly – goes from dowdy spinster to chic fashion-plate. So much so that she attracts a suave man on her maiden voyage as a new woman…

Reinventing herself, she has to play the part of the sophisticate very consciously and deliberately to begin with, using her stylish new outfits as props. When she dresses in the evening wear shown below, she uses notes from her fashion-savvy sister-in-law to direct her as to which accessories to team with the gown. “Silver slippers and silver evening bag will be found in accessory chest,” advises the handwritten slip of paper pinned to the chiffon dress…

Luckily, Jerry (Paul Henreid) spots and removes another note, pinned to the cape, before Charlotte heads off down the deck…

The daywear Charlotte wears during her cruise is nothing much to write home about, in my view, but yowser!, the nifty little monochrome outfit she wears as she disembarks for a reunion with her astonished relatives is fabulous – my favourite in the film. Indeed, finding a similarly squishy and capacious black leather clutch bag was an obsession of mine two winters ago … I eventually  found one, and I use it at every opportunity.

When Charlotte’s monstrous mother claps eyes on her new look, she is horrified and, desperate to re-assert her authority and to prevent her now glamorous daughter from stealing the limelight, she tells her to put on one of her old frocks for a family dinner. But the new Charlotte stands up for herself and defies ma by knocking the relatives dead in a simple, elegant black gown which she customises with the camellias sent from New York by her admirer..

For her debut on the Boston social scene, Charlotte wears another exquisite gown, this time a sparkling white and silver beaded number – no wonder she takes Jerry’s breath away when – to the strains of Cole Porter’s Night and Day – they’re reunited, though only briefly.

By the end of the film, Charlotte is a confident and self- assured woman- and her final outfit, in which she sashays about during a tea party, is another winner.. Here she is, posing with her cigarette from the celebrated “Don’t let’s ask for the moon – we have the stars” speech which ends the film and cements her never-to-be-consummated relationship with Jerry.


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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


My week got off to a glamorous start, with a trip to the cinema to ogle Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and the beautiful Deborah Kerr (left, and sadly no relation) in the 1953 melodrama From Here to Eternity.

Despite being a fellow Scot – she was born just outside Glasgow – Deborah Kerr has never been one of my favourite actresses, probably because she often played prudish characters. Let’s face it, the collection of governesses’ dresses and nuns’ habits that made up her movie wardrobe were hardly likely to rank amongst my top choices of stylish films.

Anyway, I was struck by how sexy, indeed vampish, La Kerr looked in FHTE, playing the rather promiscuous army wife who becomes romantically entangled – most memorably on a Hawaiian beach – with Burt Lancaster. It’s not just the long legs which are shown off in shorts that could have been borrowed from The Postman Always Rings Twice’s Lana Turner; it’s the loose, and rather wild blonde hair, the scarlet lipstick and, especially, the long, long eyelashes which turned in their own Oscar-nominated performance.


Only vamps need apply for the new limited edition Tom Ford Black Orchid Collection (£100;  Harvey Nichols stores and Frasers, Glasgow) – of solid perfume, lipstick and nail varnish – which is coming out for Christmas.

At an elegant dinner in Glasgow on Monday, beauty writers were given a sneak preview of this lovely Christmas gift as well as the latest Tom Ford Private Blend fragrance, the gorgeous Azure Lime (£115).

I know we’ve got a few months to go but given that everyone at the dinner was dressed in little black numbers (even our favourite male beauty writer was a vision in noir) with sparkly jewellery (and, in a couple of cases, nails), it definitely had the feel of the first Christmas night-out of 2010!


Tuesday evening was spent in the cosy yet chic surroundings of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh where the journalist and author Justine Picardie was giving a talk on the subject of her latest biography – Coco Chanel – The Legend and the Life. This seemed like as good an occasion as any to road-test one of the latest nail colours from the Parisian beauty company, so it was with Chanel Nail Colour in Jade Rose (£16.50) adorning my talons that I watched Justine’s fascinating slide show and listened to her stories of Mademoiselle’s adventures in bonnie Scotland.

Jade Rose is a lovely, delicate variation on the nude theme  – not as readily identifiable as last year’s Jade or this season’s Paradoxal, but undoubtedly a future classic nonetheless. A bit like Justine’s book – which I’ll be writing more about shortly.


I was starting to feel unwell by Wednesday, thanks to some bug that was presumably brought home by one – or both – of my six-year-old sons. So I let my pal Lizzy do the talking when we had a chat about beauty products which I’d asked her to try out for me.

A couple of months ago, I shared a batch of hair masks out amongst my friends and Lizzy bagged the Jo Hansford Intensive Masque for Fine Hair (£25; It certainly got a good review from her, despite a “weird” texture which was “a cross between putty and chewing gum”. Lizzy said it had a lovely scent, reminiscent of pink grapefruit, and that, once she had got over the texture and worked it in her hands for a few seconds, it was softer and very easy to apply.  And the results? “Softer, glossier hair which smells really fresh after it’s dried.”


I was determined to ignore my burgeoning bug on Thursday as I had a meeting at Glasgow’s newest old hotel – the Grand Central. As the name suggests, this is a station hotel and now, as in its heyday (when it was merely the Central Hotel), it is somewhere you would want to see and be seen in … (In the interim decades, it had been somewhere you wouldn’t set foot in!)

Anyway, to get myself in the mood for the hotel where vampy comedienne Mae West stayed for two memorable weeks (in 1947, since you ask), I upped the eyeliner ante by swapping my usual semi-subtle chocolate brown liner for the forthcoming Benefit Magic Ink Jet-Black Liquid Eyeliner (£14.50; from October 31).

The verdict? Very sexy, very femme fatale – the ideal liner for creating a feline flick and the sort of come-hither eyes that Deborah Kerr works so memorably in From Here to Eternity ..

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