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· Hit List: Beauty (Dorothy 2009)
· Perfume Notes: My Grandmother's Cupboard

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Hit List: Beauty (Dorothy 2009)
by Dorothy

Yeah, Anne Taintor is overexposed, but I couldn't resist.

2008: the year I learned to stop worrying and love being high maintenance. Seriously, while I'm absent-minded, untidy, don't wear foundation, avoid wearing a bra whenever I can, and can easily go a winter week in the same ratty jeans and flat boots, by the standards of those around me, I am pretty high maintenance; I love pretty, impractical things, proper perfumes, visible makeup, and clothes that have to be delicately handled. My hair is not wash-and-go. I have a skincare routine, albeit a fairly minimalist one. I have more pairs of shoes than I need.

It's been my observation that, fashion magazines to the contrary, this is not a great way to attract a man. Overall, men my age (27) seem to prefer that women look minimally made up, smell of soap or shampoo, and not make highly visible efforts at dressing and grooming, which is not to say that those of us with different preferences ought to change our habits; only that -- just as there is no perfume guaranteed to "drive a man wild" -- attracting a mate is no reason to put yourself to an effort you don't feel like making. Neither does there seem to be any other practical benefit to making that effort; the magazines aside, most women don't seem to suffer socially or professionally for not being beauty addicts.

But I get genuine pleasure out of my routines. While blogging about fashion, beauty, and perfume feels a bit odd -- we're at the intersection of intensely personal habits and a very impersonal market -- I can write about it because I enjoy it; as Naomi Wolf put it in The Beauty Myth -- hardly a pro-cosmetics screed -- there's genuine pleasure to be had in shapes, colours, the game of referencing that is fashion. Anyway, here are some of my staple items:

A good flat-iron. I have decided, for the new year, to be less reliant on the straightening iron; when I put aside neuroses carried over from high school, I know there's nothing wrong with my natural waves. But I have bangs, and if they haven't been straightened, they stick up in all sorts of funny directions. I recently had to go more than a week without my flat-iron due to a luggage mix-up, which confirmed my dependence on the thing. (Mine is a few years old, from Hot Styler, but Sedu flat irons have become something of a cult item in the meantime.) Handled correctly, this can straighten and curl; with a bit of styling creme (I like Kiehl's Creme with Silk Groom or Rusk Phyto-Marine Lusterizer) it makes hair shiny and smooth. I do recommend spending a bit more on flat-irons; the $20 ones from Conair will do in a pinch, but really they don't get hot enough.

Besame Souffle Foundation. Hard to imagine using this as a foundation, as it's rather thick and high coverage for my liking, but that's what makes it a fantastic concealer for my perennial dark circles: it's light, creamy, and stays put. Alas, Besame no longer offers this on their website and are noncommittal about when they will carry it again.

Pressed powder. I don't wear foundation, but I have very shiny skin. I've just finished a container of Besame's loose powder, but I am too messy to deal with loose powder. I'm partial to Physicians Formula's mineral-based powders; they aren't glamorous, but they work.

Eyebrow definition. I rarely have to tweeze my brows; I've received compliments on their natural shape. (I have to say the whole notion of a proper arch kind of escapes me; I get that they shouldn't look like tadpoles, beyond that it's a mystery.) The downside of this is that they are fairly sparse. For a long time I just used MAC eyeshadow in Charcoal Brown and an angle brush. I have Anastasia's pencil in Ash Blonde now, which works well (it has a small brush at the end to blur overly sharp pencil lines), but am not convinced it's worth the expense. Still, I've come to rely on having some definition; all that magazine pablum about framing your face is true.

MAC Fluidline in Macroviolet.
I love the retro liquid-liner look, I love gel liners, and I especially love this one: it's easy to apply (I use an angle brush), dark enough to pass for black, but less harsh, and more flattering to green eyes. It can be sheered out for more colour.

NARS eyeshadow in Cairo. Looks boring in the pan, but on me, it's the perfect neutral eyeshadow: a softly shimmering taupe with a hint of rose.

Peachy blush.
MAC Tenderling is my standby, NARS South Beach a bronzier alternative; I'm eager to get my hands on NARS Amour. I still have enough of a natural flush -- not to mention a natural concentration of freckles on my cheeks -- that I can go without blush, particularly when I plan to have a couple of drinks; still, a good blush makes one look healthier and better rested, instantly.

NARS lipstick in Niagara.
An obsession, but this really is fantastic, applied lightly for a soft blush or full-on for 1950s good-girl pink. (This was apparently inspired by the film with Marilyn Monroe, but I don't recall Marilyn wearing anything but red lipstick in that film. Perhaps it was the colour of her femme-fatale dress -- but that looks like magenta, while Niagara is a bright coral-pink. Or perhaps it was inspired by the other female lead, the unmemorable one who almost dies going over the Falls?)

NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Forbidden Red. Yes, two lipsticks; I love lipstick. I especially love red lipsticks, I hate to commit to just one, but if I had to it'd be this one: intensely pigmented, stays on for hours, bright without being overpowering, wearable all year round.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. It has been said already, on this blog, today, even; this stuff is great. Cetaphil never quite feels rinsed off to me, and this does; it dissolves eye makeup; it's even reasonably priced, considering it takes me only one pump to wash my face. I haven't settled on a moisturizer yet; right now I'm using Complex 15, which is good and inexpensive, but not quite rich enough for me.

And lastly, something not so pleasurable, but necessary: sunscreen. Mind you, there's a lot of silly nonsense written about sunscreen: I recall a recent Lucky issue that informed us that even indoors with the curtains drawn, we are constantly being "bombarded" with terrible! aging! solar rays!...which strikes me as just a little phobic. I dislike sunscreen, always find it a little occlusive, rarely reapply, and often skip it in the winter, rationalizing that I won't be outside for very long -- but I see the difference when I do. I no longer have the bright orange hair I had as a small child, but I still have pale, freckled, easily sunburnt skin. Sunscreen has been part of my daily routine since I was 16, and I have no doubt that my skin is healthier -- and looks younger -- for it.

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1/22/2009 [0]

Perfume Notes: My Grandmother's Cupboard
by Dorothy

I received Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent as a Christmas gift; I'm reading it now and shall post something about it when I've finished. I'm nearly done; the highlight for me is definitely his vitriolic take-down of the Hugo Boss line, but then I love watching articulate people bitch about things they dislike. (I was also fascinated to read the lists of 2003's bestsellers in America and France; American women really love florals, so it seems.)

On Christmas Day, I mentioned my developing perfume habit to my grandmother, whom I associate very strongly with the smell of Jean Patou Cocktail and, to a lesser extent, Joy. As it turns out, she said she has never worn perfume, but had a collection of scents she'd received as gifts over the forty-plus years she's lived in her house, which she urged me to take.

And so I have a small collection of minis, mostly from the '60s and '70s, revealing as examples, not of my grandmother's particular taste, but of what people thought suitable to give a woman in her forties at that time. The most exciting thing, to me is a full-sized bottle of vintage Chamade EDC, 2/3 full, still nearly fresh. Chamade is a heartbreaker on my skin; the first fifteen minutes (particularly in the vintage) are phenomenally beautiful, the most lush, creamy hyacinth imaginable, and then it becomes dried-rose potpourri, a high-quality potpourri to be sure, but still too, too sweet. I must put it on fabric and see if it fares any better there.

Larger than actual size, of course. Is this not the most darling thing? Houndstooth! I think I would keep this even if the juice had turned. Chandler Burr writes that vintage Miss Dior smells like armpit. I didn't believe this until I tried it on and...I'll be damned, it kind of does. I think it needs to grow on me; at present the leathery bitterness (a scent related to armpit, evidently) is a bit disconcerting, although it softens and sweetens in the drydown.

My grandmother also had a half-ounce bottle of Helena Rubinstein Courant.

This surprised me: a chypre, on the sweet side, with the warm-skin feeling people call "animalic". I think the top notes have suffered some from being in a cupboard for 30 years, but I still find it lovely, eminently wearable. I suppose it isn't surprising it was discontinued; it was released in 1972 and is recognizable, even to me, as a 1970s chypre, a style that went out of fashion (as did Helena Rubinstein, to a great extent; certainly the brand no longer has the profile it once did).

And now, dear readers, a mystery -- what is this?

There was no box and there's no label anywhere on the bottle. It smells like an oriental (through the seal beneath the cap, as my grandmother never opened it). It looks a little like a Youth Dew bottle, which would certainly make sense, but I'm stumped.

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1/03/2009 [3]

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