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· Culture Notes: On Ginger Rogers
· Fashion Notes: A Pop Of Color
· Beauty Notes: The Basic Eye
· Fashion Notes: Nina Garcia's The One Hundred
· Fashion Notes: Best in Show, Resort 2010 (Part II)
· Fashion Notes: Best in Show, Resort 2010 (Part I)

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Culture Notes: On Ginger Rogers
by Dorothy

Ginger Rogers in costume for Swing Time (1936). Just look at all those perfect seams.

As I've mentioned before, I love Fred and Ginger, which is why I was so tickled to read "Style Wars: Ginger vs. Marlene" from Peter at Male Pattern Boldness. I'm not familiar with Ginger Rogers' work after 1939, with the exception of the "reunion" picture The Barkleys of Broadway, which I disliked. Peter uses the perfect word — "shellacked" — to describe the look Ginger developed in the '40s: that stiffness appeared in her dancing too.

But in those movies from the '30s, Ginger is always the pretty girl next door, a little smart-talking, a little vulnerable, a little no-nonsense, drawn into a fantasy world of perfect romance, Big White Sets and outfits that need never nod at practicality.

(I fear this video will be pulled, but enjoy it while it's here.)

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2/24/2010 [1]

Fashion Notes: A Pop Of Color
by The Kindly One


Among the many issues recycled in women's magazines is the issue of color, specifically, how to incorporate color into a mostly black or neutral wardrobe. The answer, like the question, is usually recycled and both less thoughtful and more complicated than necessary, reciting the old line that the easiest way to incorporate color is through bright accessories that lend a pop of color. Really, it doesn't have to be so complicated. The idea of a pop of color is exactly that - taking a mostly neutral palette and letting one colored item stand out against it. Color will naturally stand out against neutrals, so it's unnecessary to specifically go out looking for bright accessories, not to mention potentially unwise. Some of them can be awfully bright. Likewise, a pop of color doesn't have to be reserved exclusively for accessories. A gold top against an otherwise black outfit will serve the same effect as a gold bag.

That said, I really like this look on Betty, who's incorporated a bright color to great effect against blacks and greys. Betty's chosen well, wearing a hue that's bright, not obnoxious, and pairing it with a spectrum of neutrals rather than just black. The spectrum of greys creates depth that juxtaposes nicely with the vibrancy of the scarf and shoes. What I particularly like about this outfit is I don't get the impression that these are Betty's "bright clothes." All too often in women's magazines, products specifically get promoted for adding a pop of color, and it's easy to see why. They're mostly obnoxiously bright to the point that no one could miss them. This is the fallacy in most magazines' promotion of a pop of color. What works well in editorials rarely translates to real life. It's better to take that bit of color you do have and work it in rather than try to apply editorial styling to real life.


2/23/2010 [0]

Beauty Notes: The Basic Eye
by The Kindly One

It's rare to find a makeup tutorial that's so basic that it can be applied to a variety of looks, so when I found this video, I was thrilled. I love this video for its wide applicability and versatility. This lining technique can easily be modified to produce a smoky eye, a lock-tight line or shadow wash, or even a multi-color smoky eye. The technique isn't hard, and products used don't have to be expensive. What I like best of all, though, is the color Marlena used. I wouldn't have thought to use such a vibrant color with this technique, but it really adds interest to the look and opens up the possibilities of other colors and color combinations to be tried.

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2/18/2010 [1]

Fashion Notes: Nina Garcia's The One Hundred
by Dorothy

I love browsing books on style. I've read a lot of them, although I usually only borrow them from the library -- how often is one really worth keeping? In my experience, the advice in style books doesn't really vary that much: buy quality, buy classics, buy pencil skirts.

I wonder about giving voice to my irritation with this book: it's a charming, fluffy, frivolous thing, obviously gimmicky (exactly one hundred essentials!) with adorable illustrations. Subtitle aside, it's clearly not meant to be a style bible, even for people who adore Nina Garcia. Complaining about this is like saying that America's Next Top Model is unrealistic about the fashion industry. Duh. But since being churlish is what I'm good at, I'm going to complain anyway.

Garcia herself writes that this is not meant to be a definitive list of garments every woman must own; this is a starting point, a guide to her personal style ("reading this book is...like walking you into my closet.") However, it's written as advice, probably because that's what her publisher wanted. I imagine Garcia and her publishers planning this as a quick follow-up to The Little Black Book Of Style, which I haven't read yet. The initial concept: an alphabet of fabulous pieces for fashionable women to own! Great, right? Except that at some point, they changed their minds -- maybe they realized no fashion essential starts with X, maybe The One Hundred sounded classier than The Alphabet of Style, who even knows (or cares) -- and they ended up with this padded-to-hell mishmash.

In my opinion, there simply aren't a hundred pieces "every stylish woman" must own. Garcia throws in some obvious choices (ballet flats, little black dress, cashmere sweater, jeans, red lipstick, pencil skirt), some nice things I'd hardly consider essential (real or fake fur, leather pants, Missoni knits, cape), some things I can't imagine ever wanting (caftan, Wayfarers, Havaianas) and some things that aren't clothing or accessories at all (iPod, BlackBerry).

A few more thoughts:

- Does anyone really need ankle booties, knee-high boots, Frye harness boots and cowboy boots? If you really love boots, sure. Otherwise this seems like overkill, especially the last two.

- I don't think the A-line dress is the universal flatterer Garcia seems to think it is. Perhaps this is the case if it's very well cut and made from good fabric. However, I am a size-0, just-this-side-of-petite woman with a flat chest, a small waist and curvy hips, and the A-line dresses I've tried on obscured my best features and made me look like a little girl. A pear-shaped little girl.

- Actually, while I'm navel-gazing, a lot of the advice in here is just inapplicable to a woman my size. Maybe if I read "Man's White Shirt" as "Little Boy's White Shirt"?

- M is for Mad Money, Q is for Quality Champagne (heaven forbid you should drink prosecco!), and V is for Valid Passport. (You know, just in case some aspiring fashionistas are walking around flashing invalid passports.) Sometimes you just gotta say ferchrissakes.

On nail polish: "Go for either the vamp red or a light, light pink. Maybe black satin if you feel like being goth or punk rock. But do not dip into a middle-ground palette. Corals and fuchsias are just asking for trouble." What kind of trouble? I'm assuming she's thinking that "middle-ground" shades look unpleasantly old-lady, but I don't think this is universally true.

- On perfume: Garcia recommends the signature scent, which, fine, but she also suggests wearing "any man's cologne." Oh no no no. I love wearing masculines -- I just bought a full bottle of Chanel Pour Monsieur -- but you do not want to wear just any man's cologne. Sheesh.

- On choosing red lipstick: "For fair skin, go for a red that has blue undertones." Nina, this pale orange woman is frowning at you.

I'm not sure it's possible to write a definitive guide to style, which is so much about individual preferences and associations anyway. Certainly, I've yet to read one. This book is charming, but I wouldn't recommend it as anything more than eye candy.

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2/10/2010 [2]

Fashion Notes: Best in Show, Resort 2010 (Part II)
by The Kindly One



3.1 Phillip Lim wins this category hands down. Lace has been an occasional trend in fashion recently, spurred by Prada's Fall 2008/2009 all-lace show, and Phillip Lim shows a very approachable, wearable version of it here. Devoid of the more stuffy, starched, high fashion elements of late, this lacework is girly, youthful, and exceedingly pretty. As with the majority of Lim's work, these are pieces that can easily, almost intuitively, be incorporated into the rest of your wardrobe, adding that punch you lacked before without disrupting the flow of your ensemble.



Again, 3.1 Phillip Lim knocked it out of the park. Between his beautiful lacework and the fluidity in his tulip skirts, Lim has almost made a skirt believer out of me. His tulip skirts were what really sold me on his collection. Beautifully draped out of light, soft fabrics, these skirts provide an approachable, American form of elegance that will neither alienate nor intimidate those around you (or, for that matter, the wearer herself). In addition to tulip skirts, Lim featured both lace and cotton straight-cut skirts that lend instant youthfulness and cool, all of which were wearable and provided just enough fashion to keep things interesting.



Surprise, surprise - 3.1 Phillip Lim again (up until I saw Lanvin's collection, Phillip Lim was my pick for best collection). Foundational pieces are really the hardest to find, at least for me. They need enough interest in and of themselves that they can stand on their own (the draped waist, three-quarter sleeves), yet be quiet enough to blend into the background (neutral color, simple design). This dress achieves that rare task of being both neutral and interesting, maintaining the idea of the shift dress without drifting into a sartorial snooze. An additional plus - how often do you find a dress that looks dressed up, even complete, with the simple addition of a workaday brown belt?



I cannot see how this dress would fail to flatter most figures. From the Yves Saint Laurent collection, this dress features enough flare at the bottom, width at the top, and definition at the waist to even out and flatter most figures (a feat that used to be what dresses were all about). In addition to beautiful figure flattery, the dress hits at just the right point, hovering around the knee. Between where this dress hits on the body and how it skims over it, this is an ideal cut for a dress.



I absolutely love this dress. Also from YSL, this dress has the most beautiful racerback cut to flatter the shoulders. I also love the pattern, which came as a surprise to me. I'm not generally big on anything that hints at animal print, but the reddish tone to these browns, as well as the vertical print, got me. Overall, this dress achieves something the two before it cannot. While both of the previous dresses, and all the previous looks, have interesting details, this is the only look that actively draws your focus, but it still avoids ostentation and an obnoxious monopoly on your attention. It is the neutral for those who do not wear neutrals.

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2/09/2010 [0]

Fashion Notes: Best in Show, Resort 2010 (Part I)
by The Kindly One

It was easy to pick the best show from the resort collections. There were many great clothes shown in the collections - easy to wear, ready to transition from the store to your own wardrobe - but there was only one presentation that really breathed life, though, and that was Lanvin. Between the humor (which is rapidly evaporating from the world), the movement and youthfulness of the clothes, and the liveliness of the presentation itself (featuring a backdrop of fashion-obsessed spectators), both the presentation and the clothing had vitality, wit, and a sense of festivity that made me want to join that world. Besides being the most joyful presentation, the clothing revealed a side to Alber Elbaz's talent that I really appreciate. Despite his ability to cut beautiful clothing, there is something about Elbaz's work that has always struck me as being old. Maybe it's the 40s references or his insistent presentation of ladylike silhouettes - regardless, I've never quite jived with it. Here, though, all thoughts of old ladies and past decades were done away with as Elbaz presented brilliant shots of color, youthful cuts, and the most beautifully flowing clothes seen in all the resort collections. Here are a few of his show's key points.



In this collection, Elbaz adopted the current fervor for jackets by widely useing trenchcoats to formalize the youthfulness of the clothes, as well as to provide that finishing polish to the more sophisticated outfits, as seen here. Without the trench, this would be a nice dress, but the overall look would be a bit undone. Add the trench and suddenly the outfit seems finished, though no small part of that finished effect is derived from the beautiful cut and fabric of the trench.

In an unrelated sidenote, what initially piqued my interest in this collection were the Cuban heels, in particular, and the footwear at large. True, some of this footwear is dowdy, but all of it is wearable. None of it will elevate you into a human crane, nor does any of it require a whole new wardrobe just to match the shoes. I dearly, dearly hope this is a trend designers keep up, because it is nearly impossible to find good shoes these days.



Volume is a central theme for Elbaz, who has previously shown parachute dresses, puffy sleeves, and the ridiculously high heels aforementioned. In this collection, volume takes on a more youthful, festive feel in the form of circle skirts. There is a far more casual feel to the volume in these skirts than in previous collections, making them appropriate and wearable for day. It is almost as if the stuffy formality of previous formality has literally been ripped away from these skirts, leaving only a kind of casual looseness and informality perfect for wasting away the days aimlessly on vacation.



This is easily the most youthful presentation I've ever seen from Lanvin. Between the jolts of color, the styling, and the clothes themselves (jumpsuits, harem pants, hi-tops), this collection very easily and successfully combined the fluidity and luxury of Lanvin's cuts and fabrics with the playfulness and experimentation of youth. It's easy to see how the models were so able to get into character - these clothes are fun. What's more, they are so elegant in design that they may be both dressed up and played down, proving truly versatile and functional. Both the top and the trousers of this outfit are of a highly sophisticated cut and fabric, and either may be used in conjuction with more neutral foundational pieces to provide a punch of color and liveliness to the standard wardrobe. To my mind, though, this outfit is right as it is. I couldn't wear it, lime green and harem pants not being my most flattering looks, but I appreciate the playfulness of the color and the willingness to dress down multi-thousand dollar Lanvin with hi-tops (if there's anything I love, it's the unexpected).



I cannot say it enough - this is the most colorful Lanvin presentation I've ever seen. Elbaz has used color before, but this intense saturation of neons, acid hues, and primary colors is something new. It can be particularly difficult to make a very bright, tonal look like this look sophisticated, but Elbaz achieved this through luxurious fabrics and a mature approach. Though bright, the trenchcoat keeps the outfit elegant and adult, leaving all eccentric touches to the accessories rather than the clothes themselves.



Lanvin easily presented resort's most beautiful evening clothes. Full-length, fluid, and highly romantic, these are evening clothes that seem light enough, both in weight and mood, to carry into the day. These are beautiful, beautiful dresses, the best part of them being that they highlight the wearer than themselves. Though not usually a fan of prints for evening, I particularly like this dress. The print is muted enough that it maintains dignity, and it hasn't been so widely advertised as to immediately date itself. This is a dress that you could easily pull out of your closet for years to come.

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2/04/2010 [2]

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