Monthly Archives: December 2010

My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

They may – as Woody Allen said in Annie Hall – have come by way of the Panama Canal, but when the items in Lancome’s Christmas range finally turned up on Monday, they proved to be well worth the wait.

Designed by hot American fashion designer L’Wren Scott, this compact collection includes a lovely eye palette based around her signature favourite shade of grey.  However, my favourite items are the beautiful nail colours – Lancome Le Vernis in Le Gris L’Wren and Le Rouge L’Wren (£12; www.lancome.co.uk), which can be worn by anyone – and therefore make great presents. The grey is a chic gunmetal shade, while the red is a dark garnet not too far removed from the Black Cherry shade of the autumn collection. Last minute stocking-fillers, anyone?

TUESDAY

Tuesday was the press night for Aladdin, the fantastic new pantomime at the Clyde Auditorium in Glasgow. Not only does this spectacular show star the gorgeous John Barrowman, who gives a tour-de-force performance and seems to be having the time of his life, but it also boasts some priceless comedy from a double-act I remember fondly from my childhood, The Krankies.

And it was The Krankies who effectively tested the Dior Extase Mascara (£21.50) for me. Why? Because even though tears of laughter were streaming down my face – not least during Jeanette Krankie’s hilarious SuBo impersonation (and Barrowman’s reaction to it) – the mascara didn’t budge.

And that is always the final test for a mascara as far as I’m concerned. I was so pleased because I was already thrilled with the way it beefs up the lashes and creates the impression of volume..

WEDNESDAY

Hoorah! Just as I was despairing about how lank and lifeless my hair had become in the run-up to getting it cut and coloured, a bottle of my favourite styling product, Aveda Phomollient (£13.50; www.aveda.co.uk), turned up.

This liquid, which turns to foam once released, is a bit of a miracle worker for fine, floppy hair. It helps to create volume but doesn’t weigh the hair down with product.

THURSDAY

Ssssh, don’t tell my mother, but my visit to the Chanel counter was very productive, present-wise, as I picked up the latest incarnation of her favourite fragrance, Chanel No.5 Set of Three Perfumed Soaps (£34; 0207-493 3836) – though she’ll probably be reluctant to take them out of the box as they look so pretty.

Also very tempting at the counter – but just a bit out of my present price range – is Les Minis de Chanel ( £66.50), an elegant and dinky black pouch filled with mini make-up brushes. I can think of quite a few Chanel chicks who would be thrilled to find that Santa had left them one of these …

FRIDAY

I was sent Lancome’s spring colours on Friday – and thank goodness they didn’t come the scenic route, because among them is a lipstick that I’ve fallen for. Big time. Lancome French Touch lipstick (£23) is its name, and although it was launched in the autumn, it slipped through the net a bit – probably because the colour I was given then was way too dark for me to wear.

Anyway, had I tested it back then, I would have been wearing it continuously these last few months: this is the most beautiful lipstick I’ve tried in ages. The colour is intense and elegantly glossy and, what’s brilliant for someone like me who finds many supposedly hydrating lipsticks too dry is the fact that it is extremely comfortable and moisturising. Check out the existing shades on the Lancome website, and watch out for the new colours launching on January 9.

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Book Review: Fifth Avenue, 5am – Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I hope none of my girlfriends reads this review. Why? Because it’s about a book which should be in the Christmas stocking of every chic movie lover and every Audrey Hepburn admirer – and I know a few.

To be honest, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the 1961 film which transformed Audrey Hepburn from stylish gamine into style icon, is not this movie fan’s favourite Hepburn movie. With a heroine, Holly Golightly, whose “kookiness” irritates and enchants in equal measure, its outrageously offensive and ill-judged portrayal of a Japanese character (by an OTT Mickey Rooney) and its slightly wooden leading man (George Peppard), it’s far from perfect but, as author Sam Wasson points out, it was still a gamble which paid off – for almost everybody concerned – and a film which bridged the gap between the prudish Hollywood output of the 1950s and the more relaxed movies of the sexually-liberated 1960s.

In Fifth Avenue, 5am, Wasson skilfully weaves together all the many strands of the creation of this much-loved movie into a book which is, at times, irritatingly kooky itself (he even adopts Holly Golightly’s habit of dropping des mots francais into the prose) and sometimes unfairly dismissive (he writes off Hepburn’s subsequent film Charade in one line, while the Alastair Sim comedy Laughter in Paradise is, he says “regrettable” apart from the short scene which introduced the beguiling Hepburn to the world.

Nevertheless, the story of the film is a rivetting one: considered simply too risque (Holly is a happy-go-lucky hooker) for audiences who were used to seeing bad girls being punished and only good girls getting the guy and the happy ending, it faced all sorts of obstacles. And one of the major ones was in persuading the practically perfect Audrey Hepburn to take a chance on playing a part which author Truman Capote had wanted for his friend Marilyn Monroe.

Wasson takes as his starting point the story behind Capote’s creation of the original novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Capote’s flighty mother, Lillie Mae, who routinely abandoned him in their native Alabama as she was lured back to the bright lights and rich men of New York, was part of the inspiration for the character of Holly  (nee Lula Mae) – along with some of the once wild, now tamed society women whom Capote counted as friends and confidantes.

Alongside the gradual evolution of Holly’s story and the birth of Breakfast at Tiffany’s the movie, Wasson describes the asteroid-like early career of Audrey Hepburn who shot to fame and won an Oscar for her first Hollywood film, the sublime Roman Holiday. While her career was on the ascent, her personal life in the 1950s was punctuated by miscarriages and disappointments – and her husband, Mel Ferrer, as sketched by the anecdotes included here, was a control freak who was jealous of his wife’s success and scolded her in public if she didn’t behave as he expected her to.

Their relationship – his dominance and influence over her; her capitulation and deference to him – moves centre stage late in the book when Wasson reveals that Ferrer’s opinions about Holly Golightly and his wife’s portrayal of her began to interfere with Hepburn’s own instincts, and those of director Blake Edwards.

Indeed, as well-documented as Hepburn’s life and career may be, hers is a particularly compelling strand of Wasson’s book, and his description of how she must have been feeling – an evocation drawn from a number of reliable sources (there is a vast, and extremely readable, notes section at the end of the book) – when she began filming outside Tiffany’s at dawn on October 2, 1960, is quite moving.

A new, first-time mother, she had had to leave her ten-week-old baby on another continent to play a part she wasn’t sure she could pull off and which could, potentially, tarnish her carefully constructed and trusted screen image once and for all. Where we see an impossibly elegant swan
gliding around the pavement of Fifth Avenue, Hepburn herself was a bag of stomach-churning nerves.

That’s just one of a tidal wave of behind-the-scenes insights in this chatty, highly enjoyable book which sheds light on every aspect of Breakfast at Tiffany’s – from the fashion, for which it is legendary, and Hepburn’s relationship with Parisian couturier Hubert de Givenchy, to the ways in which Capote’s story had to be adjusted and altered to fit the requirements of a 1961 Hollywood film.

Fifth Avenue, 5 AM – Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Aurum, £14.99), by Sam Wasson

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The Little Red Dress

Forget the little black dress, this festive season its little red sister is a sexy and stylish alternative to that old party staple. Here’s a selection of inspirational red dresses from the movies, including the one I’ve spent 20 years coveting – the crimson halterneck number in which The Fabulous Baker Boys’ Suzie Diamond (Michelle Pfeiffer) so memorably makes whoopee one New Year’s Eve:

Suzy Diamond’s look throughout the super-sexy Fabulous Baker Boys film is very now – from her camel coat to her black beret, via her red lipstick. Actually, watching it recently, I realised that I’ve been subconsciously channelling her look every winter for as long as I can remember.. But for a classic red Christmas party dress, we should hark right back to 1944, and Meet Me in St Louis.

Judy Garland never looked more beautiful than in this movie, and in this scene she’s especially gorgeous – thanks to the killer combination of red hair, scarlet lips and scarlet dress. (She’s probably wearing her ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz under the long skirt.) Admittedly, hers is hardly the sexiest of red dresses, however. For that we need look no further than the sparkling tomato-red number that Cyd Charisse wore in her most celebrated movie dance routine – in The Bandwagon (1953).

Little red dresses seem to have seen a lot of movie action in the early 1950s – and in 1953 they were particularly popular: in addition to Cyd’s Band Wagon version that year, both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell showed off their equally shapely, er, shapes in glittery red dresses in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Here they are poured into their slinky gowns… I’d say that the inspiration here is less the style of the dresses – wear that today and you’ll either look like Liz Hurley or a drag queen – but the attitude of the wearers!

Heavens, even the normally demure Grace Kelly got in on the racy red act. In Dial M for Murder (1954), the least memorable – both in terms of suspense and of style – of her Hitchcock movies, one dress stands out. Yup, you’ve guessed it: it was red. Red lace, in fact. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of coloured lace (black, white and flesh tones are best), but this is the exception:

And, no Style on Film would be complete without Audrey Hepburn who knocks ’em dead when she descends the steps of the Louvre in this show-stopping tomato red Givenchy dress in the sublime musical Funny Face (1957). As with all the other ladies featured here, she’s wearing matching red shoes – take note: black shoes and a red dress just will not do …

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My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

After being confined to quarters as a result of the first big snowfall of the year (which caught everyone offguard), it was time to venture out on Monday. I don’t have an array of ski-wear like Audrey Hepburn’s alpine wardrobe in Charade, but what I do have – in lieu of her very cosy, complexion-protecting headgear – is Clarins HydraQuench skincare range (www.clarins.co.uk).

I had been sent this recently, after my fantastic Tri-Active facial at the new spa in Glasgow’s Frasers, and it had just started it using at the weekend. Immediately I applied the rich yet easily absorbed Clarins HydraQuench Lotion SPF15 (£32), I felt that my skin was ready to take on the
elements. It’s the perfect day cream for those of us whose skin is prone to dehydration, and particularly sensitive to the cold.

And it’s especially effective when worn over what Clarins considers the star product in the collection – Clarins HydraQuench Intensive Serum (£37.50), a comforting, hydrating liquid which, despite a slight oiliness, is a pleasure to use and really does deliver. There are two other moisturisers in the range, plus a lip balm.

TUESDAY

Being stuck indoors – apart from the very occasional venture out to shops/school/pillarbox – I had plenty of time last week to assemble my cold weather emergency skincare kit.

A key component is Elemis Gentle Rose Exfoliator (£25; www.elemis.com), a brilliant exfoliator which I’ve been using since I had a facial at their SpaPod in Debenhams in Glasgow a couple of months ago.

I wouldn’t use it every day – though Elemis says it can be used daily – but it’s certainly gentle enough to be used frequently, and on sensitive skin. In this cold weather, it’s a must to keep the skin smooth, soft and ready for all the lovely comforting moisturisers I’ve been falling in love with.

WEDNESDAY

There’s nothing like a compliment to boost the spirits, especially on a dreary winter’s day – and I received a couple on Wednesday when I revisited one of my favourite lipsticks from last winter: Rouge Dior Serum de Rouge no.760 – AKA Raspberry Serum (£24.50).

Actually, whenever I’m feeling a bit blue, I stick on this beautiful reddish-pink, super-glossy lipstick and I immediately feel brighter. Dior calls this lipstick a treatment because it contains ten times more concentrated skincare ingredients than your average lip colour; I call it a treatment of the spirits as well – prozac for the pout ….

 

THURSDAY

I had a bit of haircare epiphany this week thanks to the discovery of Aveda’s Pure Abundance range (www.aveda.co.uk). This relatively new collection turned out to be just what I needed for my hair, which, since it was treated with Aveda’s all-natural highlights, had looked good colour-wise but been very limp, lank and fine-feeling.

The combination of Aveda Pure Abundance Shampoo (£13.50) and Aveda Pure Abundance Volumizing Clay Conditioner (£15) was an instant antidote. These plant-based formulas manage to make the hair look and feel fuller but without weighing it down. Frankly, I was amazed at how effective they were – and the results were even more impressive the next day, after I’d slept on it. (Ordinarily, it’s only immediately after having my colour done that I can get out of washing my hair every single day.) Oh, and the smell is sublime…

FRIDAY

Finally, on Friday a chance to get out on the town. Going out for cocktails for a friend’s 40th at the Blythswood Square hotel was the perfect occasion to road-test the primer to which I’d been introduced when I had a makeover at the Giorgio Armani Cosmetics counter in Frasers.

Giorgio Armani Fluid Master Primer (£32) is a silky-smooth, transparent gel which evens out skin tone, mattifies the skin and smoothes away fine lines. My foundation went on beautifully afterwards and looked great. Indeed, for once I didn’t feel the need to check how shiny I looked – in fact, when I looked in the mirror, shininess didn’t even cross my mind. I think it’s safe to say that this is my latest must-have. Especially for brightly-lit bars like the Blythswood’s Salon.

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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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