Monthly Archives: September 2011

My Week in Beauty

MONDAY

Doris Day and I seem to be running into each other a lot just now. Everything I do at the moment seems to end up relating to Doris. I interviewed a jazz musician on Monday and his favourite singer turned out to be .. you know who. A couple of weekends ago, I stumbled across an evening’s worth of programmes about her – one of which I watched a further two times… Then I interviewed another jazzer – and she too turned out to be a DD fan.

She’s certainly not a bad icon to take as inspiration – style-wise and otherwise. A strong woman and a survivor, she endured a violent early marriage, and was left penniless (and in debt) when her long-term husband and manager died – just at the point when she was getting too old for the leading lady roles. Recently, she has had to endure the heartache of her only child pre-deceasing her. I’ll bet she’s still finding some reason to get up in the morning – when most of us would just have given in to sorrow.

Doris is also inspirational style-wise because she’s a lady who knows her own mind about what suits her – and what doesn’t.  In her 1975 memoir, Doris Day – Her Own Story, she wrote:  “Outdoorsy type that I am, I don’t like a lot of make-up…. I don’t want to look contrived. I can’t look slinky or femme fatale-ish, no matter what I do, so it’s silly to try.”

Very much a poster girl for the natural look (achieved through not using make-up rather than using cosmetics to create the natural effect!), Doris said: “All I do for my eyes is curl my eyelashes and use a soft-brown mascara to darken the tips. If I go out in the daytime with eye make-up on, I feel like I’m in some kind of carnival. And at night I feel like I’m pretending to be somebody else.”

I’m not the outdoorsy type – far from it! – but I admire Doris’s strong beauty ideals and love the look she sported in the 1950s (top picture); the hairstyle a sort of feminine version of the DA and the make-up very natural.

TUESDAY

Of course, if you’re going for the natural beauty aesthetic it’s essential to have good skin – and if you’re saving on cosmetics, then it’s worth spending more on the best skincare you can afford. These days, there are probably not many of us who could afford the latest face mask from the luxury French botanical skincare company Sisley but if you look at it as the equivalent price of a couple of express facials, then it takes on a different, er, complexion.

Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask (£88; www.johnlewis.com) is packed with active ingredients which are known for their anti-ageing properties. In just 15 minutes, they boost the appearance of the skin, making it look smoother, plumper and more radiant. The key ingredient is extract of Black Rose which tightens the skin while extract of Alkekengi Calyx (a Sisley exclusive) stimulates collagen production. Amino acids and vitamins revitalise the skin, while a cocktail of essential oils and shea butter moisturise and ensure comfort. I tried it on Tuesday, and there was definitely an improvement to my skin – both immediately and into the next day.

WEDNESDAY
Benefit Watt’s Up! (£24.50; www.benefitcosmetics.co.uk) is a cheat’s way to luminous skin – but it’s very effective if you’re on the go and want to add a bit of va-va-voom to your make-up. It’s a creamy, shimmering highlighter which turns to powder on application. Simply glide it along the top of your cheekbones and browbones and blend it, using the spongey applicator at the other end of the stick. The result? The sort of look that the great Hollywood photographers achieved by using shadows and light… as I found out after a make-up session in my bedroom on Wednesday..

THURSDAY

A night out with the girls was the perfect excuse to try one of the new Les Jeans de Chanel nail varnishes (£17.50) which are on sale exclusively in Chanel boutiques and Makeup Studios (in Harrods, Fenwicks in Newcastle and Frasers in Glasgow).

I sported Le Vernis in Blue Rebel, a dark petrol blue which, although admired, just doesn’t do it for me nearly as much as the midnight blue I fell in love with last month: Le Vernis in Blue Satin. It seems entirely fitting, given that after the excitement of my summer, I seem to be veering between the blues and the mean reds – both in terms of my mood, and my nails!

FRIDAY

Friday should have been a good hair day as I was having it cut and coloured but the colour has turned out to be exactly what I didn’t want – too dark around my face, and with too many chunky dark streaks.. Needless to say, I’m going back soon to have it corrected. There was some good hair news, however: the PR from my favourite haircare brand, Ojon, was in touch to tell me about a fantastic deal they’re doing in John Lewis on Thursday, September 29 (for one day only): take in an empty shampoo or conditioner FROM ANY BRAND and you’ll receive a full-size  Ojon Damage Reverse Shampoo and a Damage Reverse Conditioner (while stocks last) … I’ll be there: Damage Reverse is just the job for coloured hair that gets dried out and is prone to split ends!

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My Week in Beauty

TUESDAY

The big  beauty event of the week was a dinner in Edinburgh’s 212121 restaurant hosted by the glamorous girls from Tom Ford Beauty. Once or twice a year they treat us to a preview of the latest scents and lipsticks by the fabulous Mr Ford, but this was a particularly exciting occasion as they were introducing us to a whole host of new goodies. Mr Ford has obviously been a busy boy: he has just launched a comprehensive skincare range, a full make-up collection and three new fragrances – two of which, Jasmine Rose and Santal Blush (from £120 each; www.harrods.com) are limited editions designed to complement the new make-up. The range will be available in selected department stores nationwide from October 3, but is already in Harrods.

Before we got stuck into our unusual dinner – 212121 refers to the structure of the menu – we all had a play with the make-up. Most exciting were the exquisite Tom Ford Eye Color Quads (£62), ten eyeshadow quartets boasting intense colour in a variety of textures. I was very taken with the Sahara Haze colourway, which included a beautiful green (I didn’t quite get why it had the Sahara tag), while my colleague Merle – a poster-girl for vivid blue eye make-up – loved the Cobalt Blue variation (right), and immediately applied some over her existing make-up.

There wasn’t actually time (we did have to dine, after all – and there was champagne to be quaffed) to try out everything so I haven’t been able to form opinions on most of the products but they look every bit as sleek and chic as you’d expect – and unusually practical. It’s really a very logical, and thought-through, range.

The product about which I was most cynical – but ended up
being persuaded by – was Shade and Illuminate (£55), which was born of Tom Ford’s belief that the first step to beauty is to understand the “architecture” of your face. Using the two creams in this compact, you can sculpt and contour the face so that it looks more symmetrical, and to create such illusions as killer cheekbones. Don’t believe me? Well, all I can say is that if this product had existed in 1932, Marlene Dietrich might not have had to whip out her wisdom teeth to achieve that chiselled cheekbone effect : applying the darker shade (using my thumbs and pressing then rubbing) to create a shadow under my cheekbones produced amazing results.

WEDNESDAY

After my champagne-fuelled dinner (and nightcap in the pub), my skin looked somewhat the worse for wear – and felt terribly dehydrated. Luckily, I’d been sent a Clarins HydraQuench Mask (£31; www.clarins.co.uk),which contains moisturising hyaluronic acid and katafray bark – to try a while back so I slathered some on and waited to see what happened… It worked a treat. My skin felt comfortable again – and looked brighter and plumper. This will definitely become a staple of the beauty hangover cure, along with Clarins Eye Contour Gel.

THURSDAY

I met my mum for coffee on Thursday and got her verdict on the latest anti-ageing foundation on the market – Sisley Skinleya (£110; www.houseoffraser.co.uk). She loves it! (At that price, she should.. ) She loves the silky smooth feel it gives her skin, and the way it “tingles and feels like it’s tightening” as she applies it, using the brush that comes with it. I thought her skin looked great when she was wearing it – and I felt the same about my own when I experimented with Diorskin Forever Fluid SPF25 (£29.50; from October 3), the latest natural-looking but skin-enhancing fluid foundation from Dior which, like Skinleya, has skincare benefits.

SATURDAY

A screening of Alfred Hitchock’s classic chiller Psycho, with live accompaniment by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, was the hottest ticket in Glasgow on Saturday night. And, really, when it came to painting my nails beforehand, it was a no-brainer: blood red was the only possible colour…

I’m already a sucker for Chanel’s new Pirate shade, so decided to dabble in another scarlet, this time Estee Lauder  Pure Color Nail Lacquer in Enchanted Garnet  (£14, from October 3). This beautiful crimson is part of Lauder’s Christmas collection, but since I’m trying to identify which of the many reds on, or soon going on, sale is my favourite, I thought I’d start the research immediately. Mrs Bates would be proud..

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My Fortnight in Beauty

I was all set to start writing my beauty diary last Monday when I received news of the death of a friend from the jazz world. I couldn’t resume writing about beauty products; it didn’t feel right – and I wasn’t in the mood anyway. But, that said, frivolous though cosmetics can be – and though writing about them is hardly as important a job as news reporting – they do play an important function in many people’s lives. Looking your best boosts the confidence – and the spirits. Just ask the ladies who’ve benefitted from the Look Good, Feel Better organisation’s work for women who are battling or recovering from cancer… And often faking confidence can lead to genuine confidence.

As countless makeover shows have proved over the years, a change of image – even a slight tweak – can work wonders, not just on your confidence but on how others see you.  And that bounces back at you, and inspires self-confidence. I was reminded of the power of the makeover during a recent trip to the cinema to see the classic noir melodrama Gilda, which is currently touring cinemas.

Its star, Rita Hayworth – above (on set) and left (at the start of her career) –  wasn’t a chameleon on the scale of Joan Crawford, but she did undergo a couple of simple yet radical transformations during her career.

Her first occurred when she had the brainwave of having painful and intensive electrolysis to move her hairline back: before the treatments, her hairline was very low and unflattering. Post-electrolysis, her beautiful face was shown to best advantage – and a star was born.

During the 1940s as her studio experimented occasionally with Technicolor, Rita went red – it’s still the hair colour with which this beauty is most associated – but for the stylish film noir The Lady From Shanghai, made in 1946 by her then-husband Orson Welles, she not only had her hair cropped but hit the bottle and went platinum blonde (see right) for the first and only time. And that looked fab too!

Mind you, I don’t think Rita was too taken with it: she was never seen with short, uber-blonde hair again…

Of the new products I’ve experimented with over the last couple of weeks, No7 Lash Adapt Mascara (£12; www.boots.com) seems to me to be an essential for achieving movie star looks. The USP of this mascara is that you can add up to six layers without it clumping … though I found that my lashes did start getting lumpy before I got to layer five. Where this mascara really triumphed was in its ability to curl the lashes: after just a couple of coats, mine had been teased into a beautiful curve, with minimum effort.  And, as we all know, every femme worth her fatale tag has to have battable lashes. Lash Adapt looks terrific teamed with the beautiful eye shadow quartet from Lancome’s autumn collection: Lancome Les Oeillades in Blondette Fatale (£33; www.lancome.co.uk)

Skincare-wise, these last few weeks have been dedicated to trying out latest wonder serum. Lancome Visionnaire (£57) – yup, the one that the Middleton sisters were rumoured to be using – has certainly got some impressive claims to live up to. In independent tests, more than 50% of women tempted to undergo a dermatological procedure decided to postpone it in favour of continuing to use this skin-correcting serum. And 88% of women considering fillers, lasers or peels said that they noticed a visible improvement in their skin after using Visionnaire.

Actually, I can see where they’re coming from. I’ve noticed that the redness on my cheeks has calmed down considerably, that the lines on my forehead may be a little less pronounced, and that the texture of my skin is markedly improved.

Hair-wise, I had a brief dalliance with Aveda but found that the dry, split ends which often occur at this stage in the cycle of highlights only responded to help from Ojon, and, in particular the Ojon Damage Reverse Restorative Hair Treatment (£32.60; www.johnlewis.com) and Damage Reverse Restorative Smoothing Glaze ( £29).

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Style on Film: Gilda

This is arguably the most famous dress of the 1940s – and certainly the most iconic film noir frock -and it’s worn by the luminous Rita Hayworth in the 1946 noir melodrama Gilda which is currently enjoying a revival in British cinemas. However, it’s not the only gorgeous gown in the film: Rita gets through several wardrobes’ worth of Columbia Studios designer Jean Louis’s finest creations in the course of the movie, starting with the shimmering gown which her power-crazed husband has to help her in – and out – of.

For her second outing to her husband’s Buenos Aires casino, Gilda glides around in a Grecian-style gown – very now-looking, with its belt and matching cuff. And she carries her cigarettes in a teeny clutch bag..

Having left the casino with a new man, she hits the town wearing a sensational, sparkly, jewel-encrusted evening coat.

The first time we see Gilda in daywear, she’s singing her signature song – Put the Blame on Mame. Her chic outfit is – like her (or rather singer Anita Ellis’s) performance of that bluesy and witty song – extremely simple yet effective. The plain, slightly toga-esque, dress is accessorised with a studded belt and a deep, gladiator-style cuff. As a fan of cuffs (if you have skinny wrists they’re a godsend), I recommend this film as a source of inspiration! They’re definitely a running theme.

For her wedding to Johnny, about two minutes after her husband has apparently died in a plane crash, Gilda sports a chic black satin skirt suit – just the right touch for a widow-turned-bride, n’est-ce pas?

The pearls are a nice, un-Gilda-like touch – but the black sandals with ankle straps are pure femme fatale… Here’s the full-length rear view.

For her visit to her new husband’s office (it used to be her old husband’s), Gilda smoulders in a pale-coloured satin column gown; fur coat draped casually over one shoulder or held in front of her. Indeed, she never puts it down – even though she walks about the office smoking a cigarette. Was Rita perhaps sporting a baby bump? The positioning of the coat over that part of her dress makes you wonder..

With her husband disinterested in her, Gilda goes on the rampage – here’s the risque gown she wears as she seduces one poor chump …

Gilda flees her gilded cage and relaunches herself as a nightclub singer and dancer. For her first big musical number, she borrows Barbara Stanwyck’s signature midriff-bearing style of dress.

Returning to Buenos Aires to file for divorce, Gilda is very business-like in a pinstripe suit not dissimilar to (though not as sharp as) Rosalind Russell’s in His Girl Friday or Bette Davis’s in Now Voyager.

I don’t know that Gilda saves the best dress for last – but it’s certainly the one that is best remembered. Rita Hayworth was asked later what had held up the black satin column dress during the nightclub performance of Put the Blame on Mame – it comes dangerously close to slipping down as the song goes on. She replied: “Two things.” Here’s the number, followed by my preferred version of it (the day dress one) and the other song from the film, Amado Mio.

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