Friday, September 28, 2007

Miuccia Really Likes Flowers


These Prada shoes (and pants), shown in Milan fashion week, are so incredibly over-the-top, that I just can't stop staring. I'm curious to see a (sane) wearable interpretation. I just might go for it.

Photo: Antonio Calanni/Associated Press from the NY Times

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Three Great Ladies: Michael Storer for Her



When it comes to perfume, the ultimate luxury* for me is not a big name and a famous house but to wear a rare creation made by an artisan perfumer from the best raw materials. Today's niche perfumery world offers quite a few options of this kind. Michael Storer is one such perfumer, and lately I've been sampling his work.

There are three women's fragrances and three men's. The feminine line comes both in EdT and parfum concentrate. I tried the latter. The men range is EdT only (The Blond will be subjected to it, if I can keep my paws off the samples).

I've been having fun. These über-femme scents aren't what I'd usually go for, with my known suspicion towards big florals and weird chemistry that embraces the more funky notes and rejects the prom queens. Apparently, when they are of the highest quality, even some of my sworn enemies are tolerable. Except for peach...

Genevieve- I really wanted to like this one. It's supposed to be the loveliest of them all, made in the tradition of the greatest classics with a long list of pedigreed notes. Every time I had it on I could almost see the beauty, appreciate the quality and the masterful blending, but the reaction on my skin was fruit, fruit and even more fruit. the peach and rhubarb ate every other note and grew louder and stronger with every hour. I fought with myself to keep this on for as long as I could, to try and feel the development into the base notes. Nada. Just more peach that grew fleshier and pulpier till the point I could no longer stand it and just had to scrub. Or try to, as this tenacious scent was pretty soap and water proof.
this wasn't meant to be.

Stephanie- After my first day with Genevieve, I was scared of this larger-than-life gardenia. I was expecting a disaster of the Datura Noir caliber. Thankfully, it didn't happen. Despite the gardenia, tuberose and jasmine, this was not high-pitched. It opened green and soon unfolded the layers of rich but well-behaved florals. I had so many minutes of "I can't believe I don't hate it" moments, as there was no mistake: Very.Big.White.Flowers. But they were held in place by a touch of spice and masterful blending. This perfume was not meant to challenge, only to make the wearer feel like a pretty princess. I enjoyed it a lot, but ultimately, it's not me. It melds neither with my skin nor with my personality. But it was fun to pretend.

Yvette was the one that captured my heart with a boozy, spicy opening, like a rich fruit liquor, that lead to a very sexy setting. There was something honeyed and deep, and I could have sworn I was smelling candied violets, tempting in taste and color. The flowers, tropical and others, are blended wonderfully with the other notes, so nothing hogs the stage. Even in the base, while I could more or less get the tonka bean, nothing else stood out by itself. The drydown was more mellow and close to the skin than with the other two, but like them, lasted from morning to night, staying pretty and a little naughty every step of the way.

Samples of all three (and of the men's line) are available for purchase directly from Michael Storer's site. More about him and his creations can be found on Jenny's blog, Perfume Making.

*The absolute luxury would be to have my own custom perfume made by a genius perfumer.

Images from MichaelStorer.com.

More Gifts and Freebies


It's not just the big department stores that want to give us stuff in October. There are a couple of seriously cool draws and contests in magazines and blogs. Here's the info:

Elle Magazine makeover challenge: Give yourself a makeover, send the before and after photos to the Elle editors and add a short testimonial about the change you've undergone. The winner will be selected on October 12th, flown to NYC the following week to meet with editors, have a portrait shot by a top magazine photographer after a hair and makeup session with some big industry names. The result will be featured in January 08 issue of Elle.

Allure Magazine doesn't require any effort on your side, other than to give them your details. In return, you will be entered into a draw for a huge haul of some of the best and most popular beauty products, worth around $3500. Among the names mentioned are Smashbox primer, Nars the Multiple, Shu Uemura eyelash curler and many others.
The winner will be picked on October 29th.

And last, Ellen from Lipstick, Powder 'n Paint is having a daily contest throughout October to celebrate her one year anniversary of blogging. The prizes seem quite impressive (Benefit Cosmetics, Bliss, Lancome and many other big names). Check out her blog.

Another Sign of Fall


That would be Barneys GWP event, titles "Love Yourself.

You know the drill. You go on a shopping spree, spend $175 on fragrance and/or cosmetics and in return they give you the little bag full of samples you see in the picture. It runs now both in store and online, but the only problem is that nowhere in the newsletter or on the website do they list what exactly is in the goody bag. Some, like a sample of Kai perfume, are pretty obvious. Others- not so much. Actually, the web site has absolutely no mention of this GWP, not even when you check out. I've gone through the whole ordering process, up until the "click to confirm your order", and it doesn't say there's a gift in my future. Must be an honor system. Or faith.

Since I'm already ranting about Barneys web site, let me just say that their online beauty department is a disgrace. Poor presentation and navigation, questionable information architecture, and to top it off: No color swatches. At all. They must underestimate the importance of online shopping (and researching) to their business, but in 2007 this is not a good excuse. They need an e-business pro on their team.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Pear for the Holidays: Caldrea


Speaking of limited editions, Caldrea has launched their Holiday Collection in three fragrance ranges: Cognac-vanilla-limon, Seville orange-amber and Italian cypress-pear. A liquid hand soap in the latter is now residing in my bathroom, and even I, a fruit-hater (in fragrance, that is) have succumbed to its charm.

The scent isn't cloying. The green cypress is seeing to that. Instead, it's spicy, festive and quite addictive. The soap is gentle and doesn't dry my skin. They also have a hand lotion and the usual cleaning products (dish soap and countertop spray), as well as a candle. The two other scents also come in a room spray (Caldrea room sprays are among the longest lasting I've came across). What I'd really like to see is a full range of bath and body products, like oils, bath powders and body balms, but their focus is on the home front and less on personal grooming.

If you sign up for their holiday newsletter, you'll get right away an email with a link that will enable you to get free samples (no shipping charge, either) of the three holiday scents.

Countdown to October


Considering I've been wearing the fall collections' makeup since they came out in July, it's a good thing that October is just around the corner with the holiday collections (lots of gold flakes everywhere, who would have thought?). Another October launch is the Lancôme-Peter Som collaboration for the Pout-à-Porter series. The lipstick,“P.S. Kiss” is another limited edition (also known as "straight to eBay"), exclusive to Bergdorf, Nordstrom and Lancôme's website. It's right on the much darker lip trend. It's in the Color Fever range, a line which I love for the comfortable wear and beautiful, luminous look it gives the lips.

While I can't wear this gorgeous Peter Som sweater (hint: short women should not make their waist look bigger than their boobs, especially if they are quite nicely endowed in that department, thankyouverymuch), I can definitely do the makeup look.

Here's a short video clip in which Peter Som talks about the inspiration for his fall collection and the makeup look:



Photo from Shopbop.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Clinique Full Potential


The lip gloss/plumper with the longest name I came across is Cliniquq Full Potential™ Lips Plump and Shine. It looks like a good idea on paper (or on screen, in this case), and I was ready for some mild tingling and a lot of plumping action, only to be quite disappointed.

Don't get me wrong: As a gloss, this product is adequate. It has a nice shine and despite the very mild tingling it wears almost comfortably. But if there is any plumping, it's very marginal and doesn't go beyond what you'd see from a high quality gloss or moisturizing lipstick. The main problem is the stickiness. I thought most good glosses have gotten over this problem, but Plump & Shine obviously didn't, despite it being a new product. Everything stuck to it: My hair, cat hair and the filling of my favorite Vietnamese spring rolls. The last one was embarrassing. Shredded lettuce and ground brown rice are not a lip accessory, and it took quite an effort to discreetly remove them.

The color swatches on the Clinique web site are a bit off. I tried Blackberry Bloom, which isn't as loud or as purple as it appears here (it's a very pretty sheer wine color), and Glamour-full which far less rosy and a lot more nude (actually about half a shade lighter than my natural color, so it would look better on paler complexions). I actually liked it best when I mixed the two shades together, only by that point my lips were covered with a thick layer of goop and I was worried it would get random objects or small animals stuck. And with this mental image I say goodnight.

A Visit to the Le Labo Boutique


I spent a joyous afternoon sniffing and trying on perfumes at the NYC Le Labo store (233 Elizabeth Street). They have good stuff in those modest looking bottles. Everything is openly displayed on small side tables as well as on the main counter. Visitors can play on their own or be helped and advised.

I went straight for Labdanum 18, which is everything they promise. It's surprisingly powdery-ambery, very soft and sexy (and lasts forever). I would have bought it on the spot if it wasn't so close to Barbara Bui (at least on my skin).  I'll have to test it further but it's good to know I have an excellent alternative for when my Bui bottle runs out.

I loved Iris 39. It's an elegant woodsy iris, nothing like my current favorite iris, Parfumerie Generale Iris Taizo, but still gorgeous and interesting. It's extremely well-blended and balanced, none of the notes is allowed to take over. I found it very feminine, but that might be just my skin, as there's no specific girly note in this.

I also tried the NYC exclusive, Tuberose 40. I should have tested Rose 31 instead, as the chances that a big humid white floral would agree with me are slim, while a spicy rose is much more interesting. But I gave the tuberose a chance, discovered that it's pretty, full of orange blossom but I really need to stay away from these kind of scents.

The other discovery was that The Blond can pull of white flowers beautifully. On a whim I made him try Fleur d'Oranger, and it worked. His skin made smell like smokey honey made of orange blossoms. It was quiet, not heady at all, and surprisingly masculine. Maybe he was the one who should have tried the tuberose.

The Blond also tried two more traditionally manly scents: The vetiver, which we both felt was too clean and sheer, and the patchouli, which was strangely appealing. Patchouli 24 smells like the love child of Il Profumo Encens Epice and Andy Tauer's Lonestar Memories. If you like smoke, birch tar and distressed leather, this would be your scent. I think I need more of this stuff.

I'm still undecided on which of those I should get and regretting not trying the rose. I'll have to go back soon or just order the Discovery Set. That would give me enough to play with and also perform some olfactory tests on the husband. That's what loving wives do.

Photo of Le Labo NYC boutique from wrinkleintimephotoblog.com

Monday, September 24, 2007

It's the little things


I'm not a fan of anything extreme in makeup, crazy eyebrows included. But you can't deny that darker, more defined eyebrows are an important trend this season and there are ways to do it right without becoming unrecognizable to anyone but our mothers, like Gwyneth Paltrow (from a photo spread for W magazine). Or clownish, like Sienna Miller.

My eyebrows are very very dark brown, but not black, which is why I'd avoid using black for eyebrows, unless this is really your natural color. Instead, I discovered that Bobbi Brown Espresso eye shadow is an excellent choice. It's darker than my actual color and makes them stand out just enough to get the elegant and polished look, without channeling Dita von Teese just before a show where she's about to take most of her clothes off.

The secret to keeping the well-defined eyebrows to stay put all day is to use the miraculous Paula Dorf Transformer. Just like you would use it for turning an eye shadow into a long-lasting eye liner: Put a tiny drop on the plastic lid, dip the brush in it and swipe it over the the edge of the shadow pan (don't let the transformer all over the compact) to collect a little color, then paint your eye brow in small, feathery strokes.




The right brush for this endeavour is an angled eye brow brush. Bobbi has one as do many other brands. I had good results with a small angled one from the Sonia Kashuk line for Target. Don't use an eyeliner brush (too thin, requires too many strokes) or a straight, flat brush (the kind you'd use for applying contouring eye shadow to the lash line (too wide strokes, harder to get a natural look).

Friday, September 21, 2007

Robert Piguet- Bandit



My first meeting with Bandit by Robert Piguet was a head-on collision. I bought a bottle of the (modern version) EdP blind, based on the notes that I was supposed to love (and on the fact that Sephora had it on sale for a drugstore-like price): Spice, carnation, leather, jasmine, vetiver, patchouli and musk. What's better than vetiver and leather? The problem was spraying it in abandon on a hot summer day. The result felt nothing like my dream of spicy, carnation-laced leather. Instead I got an ashy, rancid old boot that was tossed out of a car into an old swamp. Extreme? You bet. But I wasn't ready to give up on this classic from 1944 (re-issued in 2005) with a cool note list and even cooler name. I was going to tame the bandit and make it work.


It needed to wait till the worst of summer was over, and then spray carefully. That helped. A lot. All of a sudden the actual perfume part of the juice started to reveal itself. It's so well blended that the florals don't stand alone: They are smokey, leathery florals (or the leather is smokey-floral, take your pick). OsMoz doesn't list oakmoss as a note, yet it's definitely a chypre, big in presence and character, unapologetic and very demanding.

There's a duality in this scent. A modern nose would not label it as a woman's perfume. On the contrary: Most of us wouldn't even blink had it been issued as a masculine fragrance. Yet, here and there there's something very femme about it if worn with the right outfit and matching makeup (red lipstick is a must here). The leather and smoke are sexy, yet I get a clean and soapy note in the drydown that keeps the garter belt and Cruella de Vil hidden, and wouldn't cause children and small animals to flee in terror.

Bandit is worth at least sniffing and trying. At the right moment it would make you hear Nina Simone singing Pirate Jenny. I wouldn't recommend buying unsniffed (which is true for every perfume, actually), especially since it's no longer dirt cheap and it's a challenging fragrance that requires getting used to, unless one has been rocking dry chypres and big leathers on a daily basis. I love it now, adore it with no reservations. Bandit is at the top of my favorite leather scents (Cuir Ottoman, Lonestar Memories, Daim Blond and Dzing!
).

...
And the ship
The Black Freighter
disappears out to sea
And on it
is
me

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Comparative Mascaraizing


While writing a perfume review is probably the hardest part of my blogging, testing and writing about mascara must be the easiest. The requirements are simple: define, lengthen, hold a curl, don't smear/flake/clump/dot and be easy to remove. There are only so many colors to choose from, texture is rarely an issue and the best part is that most mascaras on the market are quite good. In a year and a half of beauty blogging I came across only two disappointing products.

Projectionist from Estee Lauder is another good one. I already have their More Than Mascara in my regular rotation for its great, natural looking and well-defining action. There's a big marketing spiel about "moisture binding molecules", but honestly, I can't tell if it's any different than other mascaras I've been using. All I care is that it makes my lashes look pretty.

Projectionist has its own story. Something about "Hollow spherical polymers act like inflated balloons that volumize and lift". I can't say that I'm feeling or seeing a difference, even when I wore the two Estee mascaras together, one on each eye. They looked the same, added a touch of volume, a hint of length (nothing extreme, just the right amount for my already not short lashes), held the curl nicely enough and darkened my lashes. Although the MtM color is the one called More Black and the Projectionist was a regular black, I couldn't see a difference. I even tested them on my lower lashes to try and see variations in color, but got none. As a last test I asked my husband if he could see a difference between the eyes. For what it's worth, he couldn't.

Projectionist endured both nights out on the town and several warm days, never smeared or flaked and was easy to remove without extra rubbing both with Almay oil free pads and with the ubiquitous Lancome Bi-Facil.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Laura Mercier Lipstick


A message to my reader J. from the Block:

Do you remember when we discussed nude lipsticks for girls like us, whose lips are naturally pigmented? We came to the revolutionary conclusion: Beige lips aren't a good thing for us. I've found a great alternative for us. Laura Mercier Creme Lip Color in Pink Champagne is a perfect nude for us. It's a neutral rose, dark enough just to cover our lips without washing them out, but doesn't make a statement and works well with heavily-done eyes. The texture is creamy, the finish is smooth without any shimmer or sparkle, it feels great on the lips and holds for a couple of hours.

Now, about that scary husband of yours...

Gift with Purchase

Fall is the season of beauty events and extra generous GWP offers. Two of the best ones at the moment are from Laura Mercier, on her web site and Beauty.com (the site had a much-needed makeover and looks great).

Laura Mercier offers (when you spend $100) a gift bag full of these samples:

Full-size Platinum Metallic Creme Eye Colour
0.5 oz. Foundation Primer
0.4 oz. Moisturizer Cream
0.4 oz. Face Polish
1.0 oz. Almond Coconut Milk Souffle Body Creme
0.10 oz. Wildberry Lip Plumper



Beauty.com have an even better offer: Spend $50 and get a little red beg that includes:

Cocoon

From the "One day you'll look at your photos wearing it and really, really regret this" department comes to you the Cocoon Coat. Because we all want to look thick in the middle (and also stupid). Have another look:

These coats are both by Thakoon and are available (for an arm, a leg and your firstborn) from eLuxury.com. The olive jacket looks even worse when it's buttoned:

Another head-scratching moment, courtesy of Acne Jeans (possibly the worst name ever for a fashion company):

There are other options on the site, though. Capes, swing coats, trenches and several gorgeous classics, like these two (actually worth the price because you'll be wearing them for years, until they fall apart):

Roberto Cavalli classic red coat

D & G, wool crepe coat

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Guerlain Vol de Nuit- The Night Flight (Vintage Perfume)


It doesn't happen every day that a perfume gets a hold of you and doesn't let go of your heart. Guerlain Vol de Nuit has done it to me.

I have a vintage bottle of the parfum extrait, which doesn't seem to be available anywhere at the moment (though an EdT can be found from several e-tailers if you google it, and I also saw it in my local Nordstrom a couple of weeks ago). The bottle itself is beautiful, as is the velvety animal print box. But the surprise for me was the juice within, because I rarely fall this hard for something that smells so classic and so very French.

Since my bottle is vintage and seems to be dating from either the late 60s or early 70s, the top notes are mostly gone. It still has the chypre kick, that thing  my little sister describe as "old-fashioned", but even she would find this to be very mild. It slides easily into a lengthy dry down that is mostly wood and iris, with that vanillic Guerlain thing that makes their classics so recognizable.



Vol de Nuit, Night Flight, was created in the early 30s as a tribute to author and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote a story by this name. Back then, aviation was a new and romantic idea. A lone man in his little airplane against the night sky. It's as far removed from our big, bustling airports, security checks, travel size cosmetics packed into clear plastic baggies and easy to slide off shoes. There's more than a touch of tragedy there: Saint-Exupéry disappeared with his plane into the night, just like another aviation heroine, Emilia Earhart.



The perfume was launched in 1933, four years before Earhart's doomed flight. It is said that Vol de Nuit was described as fit "for women who like to take risks", which describes her adventurous spirit perfectly. I can't say it really smells risky. Not today, not to my nose. But the romance is alive and well in this bottle. It does have a slight edge here and there, it isn't always as smooth as it seems, and the iris has some darkness to it. It's a rich, elegant perfume, fit more for a long dress and vintage jewelry than for greasy coveralls and a helmet. I can picture myself wearing it and quietly slipping into the night.

1979 Vol de Nuit ad from Okadi.com
Photo of Emilia Earhart via her official site.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not Gone

Remember how I whined about the disappearance of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails polish in the lovely Stony Creme? Last Friday I found it again at my local Target. The bottle was changed into a sleek, more narrow one and the packaging somewhat updated. The color is the same. My toes rejoiceth.


Thanks to Marie-Hélène from The Scented Salamander I no longer fear for the life of Sonia Rykiel Le Parfum. The designer has a new web site dedicated to her fragrances (the home page has a short clip which might not be safe for work). There are only two problems: The site is in French (no English option) and they don't ship overseas. But the fact that the Le Parfum is available both as an EdT and an EdP (my preference) and sold online is promising.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Velvet


This looks like a great season for makeup. There's a wonderful abundance of textures and colors, so when a product manages to shine and stand out among the bounty, it has to be a good one.

Bobbi Brown Velvet Plum Metallics, one of the four limited edition mini palettes, lives up to the promises. It's a sparkly, color-rich and smooth formula. Despite the metallic finish, it isn't too bold or shiny, and the colors are sophisticated and actually toned down enough to make them very wearable and elegant.

I was surprised to see that the Velvet Plum trio is more neutral and brown than purple, and somewhat lighter than the colors appear online. They are rich and nicely pigmented, even the light Champagne Quartz, and shouldn't give you the black eye effect that many purples have on darker skin tones. They blend seamlessly into each other and create a lovely look.

The texture is smooth, long wearing and the shine keeps on for hours. I wear it over the Urban Decay primer, which ensure it stays put with no creasing or fading. The primer is important here because metallic colors tend to cling to skin and highlight its surface, so you want said surface to be as smooth as possible. Thus, if you find yourself lately seriously considering Botox, I'd recommend giving the metallics a full day test before committing to buying it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Agent Provocateur and MPG Ambre Precieux- Perfume Undercover


Some scents are playing games. They pretend, they conceal their real ingredients and they pose as masculine or feminine while hiding their true nature. Or maybe it's the nose of the beholder...


Agent Provocateur (the original): I had plenty of opportunities to sniff this one, and tried my best, mostly because I loved the bottle. There's something extremely sexy about its shape and color. The problem was that I absolutely hated it. I'm fond of many chypres and was never scared of them, but the rose in this one did me in every time I tried. In a very bad way. A few months ago I ended up with a bottle of the mini EdP among my possessions, which lead to more experimenting and the discovery that if I only spray a teeny tiny drop of it on a day the stars are in the right alignment, I get a boozy, saffrony opening, not unlike my beloved Black Cashmere or Idole de Lubin. Also, the rose is tamed and I can smell something almost violety, though there's none of that in the official notes. But what do we know? This secret agent of a perfume also doesn't have any oakmoss in it, though I'd swear I sense it all through the development.

It's a cute one, after all, though I don't get the sex siren it's supposed to be. Maybe because when it comes to lingerie I've always preferred La Perla.




Ambre Precieux by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier: Despite a sharp opening that reminded me of too many men colognes, I liked Ambre Precieux. from the start. Something about the lavender and greens with an ambery promise has caught my nose and my heart right away. The woody development didn't hurt, either. It softens and becomes less and less masculine and more girl-friendly (though still very wearable for both genders, at least if you're me). I consider a full bottle every time I put it on, until the drydown. Not that it goes bad. Quite the opposite, actually; The vanilla takes over and the perfume becomes almost identical to Mazzolari Lei, a perfume I love with a passion. It manages to be both sexy and comforting, sweet, powdery vanilla with a special edge. Patchouli isn't listed among Ambre Precieux's notes, but once again, I smell it, just like in Lei.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lace




I'm enough of a girly girl to like lace in theory, though I tend to restrict it to a camisole picking under a jacket or to lingerie. I didn't have any lace on my wedding dress, so I doubt I'll ever have a use for a gown of this kind (from Life & Style magazine). As always, Angelina Jolie is perfection, while Vanessa Minnillo isn't doing herself much of a favor in this oddly-proportioned frock (and since when do I take fashion cues from someone who's claim to fame is posing with Lindsay Lohan and from having sex in public with Nick Lachey?). Charlize Theron is gorgeous, but I could live with seeing less of her torso and more of her legs. As for Uma the Ethereal, wearing such a dress must be her reward for wearing size 11 shoes. No one else can pull off a dress like that (and, please, don't even try).


My consolation will be cute lacy accessories, that can be worn with more pedestrian outfits. I'm not sold on the lace pumps: Wearing them with jeans would be just a little too Jersey for my comfort level. But the rest of these, especially the clutch are lovely.

Images from the latest issue of Life & Style magazine.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Barbara Bui- Another Lost Perfume




Barbara Bui Le Parfum is another victim of the Fragrance Grim Reaper, the mysterious Power-That-Be who discontinues lovely and interesting scents . This one didn't fall victim to the oakmoss curse (there isn't any of that in the juice), but probably to some bad (or non-existent) marketing. As a side note, while it's definitely discontinued here, in the US, it still appears on the designer's (terrible, flash-ridden) web site, so it might be available overseas.

The scent itself is as pleasant as Bui's fashion designs. It's pretty, sits well on the skin and has a certain quiet elegance that you find in many of perfumer Anne Flipo's creations. A warm incense perfume, with quite a bit of heliotrope in its heart, and a lot of soft, dry, ambery wood in the base. It's a bit powdery and I'd label it as a mostly feminine scent, but I'm pretty sure that an incense-loving man might wear it just as nicely. It might actually be sexier on a man.

On my skin it's very clean and proper. The minimal sillage contributes to the reserved and collected feel of it. Barbara Bui refuses to last long, unless I make sure to drench myself in jojoba oil before applying, but when I do, it gives me about four hours of its presence.


Both images are from the designer's website. The outfit is part of the Spring 2008 collection. I see a visit to her NYC boutique in my future.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Someone needs to say it



Once upon a time, a TV executive in England had a brilliant idea: Let's create a TV show in which an average woman opens her heart and her wardrobe to the scrutiny of two semi-celebs/fashion gurus, wins some tough love and a chunk of money while confronting her demons and her muffin-top in front of the nation. This concept has launched the careers of Trinny and Susannah, spawned an American version and brought Stacy and Clinton into our lives. Your mileage may vary.

It's been years since the first seasons. Everyone and their husbands have learned a few basics. We all know now how to elongate the leg, get our jeans tailored and find a well-fitting bra. I've met people who have drinking games around words and phrases like "Shut up!", "ruching" and "cinch the waist". Trinny and Susannah have started to delve into the psychological aspects of women's wardrobes. They have shows in which they literally walk in the women's shoes: They change places with them, wear their clothes and try to understand what made them buy that hideous Laura Ashley-on-crack dress. Meanwhile, on our shores, Stacy and Clinton have been bringing their 360-degree mirror to exotic locales like Miami, saving the happy winners from schlepping their college hoodies all the way to Manhattan. Not a bad idea, but doesn't show much evolving.

Enter Tim Gunn's Guide to Style.

The show may be trying to go that extra mile: To give someone a fashion makeover combined with a deep and meaningful epiphany (the sound you might be hearing is Stacy and Clinton snorting in amusement). The problem? It fails miserably. This isn't the fault of Tim Gunn and his new sidekick, Veronica Webb. Mr. Gunn is as charming, mentorish and lovable as ever. You'd still want to take him home and let him rummage through your unmentionables. Even with the scary and tall ex-supermodel hovering in the background. You might even tolerate her as a shopping companion, knowing she'll never scream at you or talk about the size of your "girls". Neither would Tim, for that matter.

It's not the concept as much as the format, editing and directing that is failing Tim Gunn. He's as gracious and as authentic as ever. I met him earlier this year in a charity event, and can testify how his charm and manners light up the room and make you feel oh-so-special when he's talking to you. All these charm and grace can't help when molded into a tacky and cheesy opening sequence in which our candidate receives a "surprising" phone call telling her Tim and Veronica are coming. Seriously, this is a script worthy of the HSN or QVC. Who needs it?

The "life coach" (the guy looked 19. How much life has he really seen, to be "coaching" others?) part was edited to death, making the whole session look more goofy than life-changing. While it was fun to watch the dress fitting with Catherine Malandrino, the rest of the show was much more about emotional manipulation, both of the show's subject and of the viewers than about fashion, style or Tim Gunn. I'm all for family reunions and young love, just not with my fashion fix, thank you very much.

Tim Gunn's Guide to Style airs on Bravo every Thursday night at 10 PM/9 CT

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Serge Lutens Santal Blanc


Serge Lutens Santal Blanc is easy for me to love. Unlike Little Miss Banshee, Datura Noir, this is a quiet, elegant scent. The opening is a bit boozey, along the lines of Cedre, Idole de Lubin or Black Cashmere. There's spice aplenty, from sweet fenugreek to hot pink pepper and cinnamon bark (the latter is further explored in the wonderful Rousse, a review coming soon), just the right amount of benzoin sweetness and a rich woody drydown.

As I said: An easy love.

The Copaiba balsam is probably the same copaiba wood from (duh!) Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba, which is another beautiful scent that shares the woody-spicy-boozey spotlight. The pink pepper in Santal Blanc makes it more naughty next to PG's elegant scent, as does the somewhat musky drydown. It's interesting to smell the two next to each other, as while they share some notes, they are in no way variations on the same theme.

Also, the whiteness of the white sandalwood is indeed there, keeping this perfume somewhat more transparent than any of those I mentioned above. While having a naughty, peppery streak, it's nowhere as dark and mysterious as Black Cashmere and its pals, and thus easier to wear in hot weather and not making one search for something like opera gloves when accessorizing.

While this is most definitely a unisex scent, in my household I'm the one wearing the sandalwood. It might be the benzoin note that sits better on my skin, and probably also the musk that makes the Blond a bit uncomfortable. This only means one thing: More for me.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Testing Chanel Foundation



When it comes to foundation, I'm of the opinion that there are no shortcuts. A product that isn't a perfect match in texture and color will ruin the best makeup and the most perfect and skilled application. I've been a Chanel devotee for the last five years and it doesn't seem to change. I usually go for the light coverage provided by Vitalumier in liquid form, but recently I had the opportunity to test the more opaque Creme Compact Foundation.

The cream is thicker, of course, and requires a sponge (it comes with the compact, as you can see in the picture). It goes on smoothly and is very easy to blend. I tried it with and without my beloved Smashbox primer, and the results are great either way. However, when not using the primer, my skin needed to be exfoliated and deeply moisturized for the cream to look good and not flaky.

The coverage is better than what you get from the fluid Vitalumier, yet it's not cakey and doesn't cover my skin with a coat of paint. It does a great work making my complexion even and nearly flawless, but it doesn't completely conceal (what's left of) my infamous three freckles. I don't have a multitude of facial sins to hide, but the red patches near the nose and the little imperfections here and there are properly covered, while the skin still looks natural and radiant. I can't recommend it enough. It's that great, just make sure your skin is well hydrated before you try this on.

As for color, I had a surprise. Apparently, my anti-sun and vitamin C serum regimen (not to say obsession) have made my skin lighter than it's ever been. Usually, my Vitalumier color is Beige (intensity 2.0), but here I discovered that somewhat lighter Cameo (1.0) is a great match.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Work Horse



I'm often asked about finding good office-friendly eye shadows in muted, wearable colors in matte textures: no shimmer, no pearlized, frosty effect and absolutely no glitter. There aren't that many of those left. My fall-back item in this category has always been Clinique Pair of Shades Eye Shadow Duo. It's a no-nonsense, reliable compact, with two shades that go well together without too much fanfare. The pairs are usually in the same color family, without a contrast. They blend well together and create a very put-together look.

The only problem with the concept is the lack of highlighter in most pairs, which often means you need to add a third color, because the shades are too dark to go under your eyebrow. For this reason, I always thought it would have been better to have it as trios.

The eye shadows are moderately pigmented, which makes them almost fool-proof, just don't expect dramatic results, especially if your skin tone leans towards the dark side. Both the No-Show Taupes and the Spring Wedding duos work well for me, but I was really sorry to see they discontinued my favorite: High Drama. It was an unusual pairing of matte black and chocolate brown. Despite the name, it was elegant and very wearable. I use the black for lining, with or without Paula Dorf Transformer, and the brown on the lid and in the crease. Carefully blended and with a beige highlighter, they make for a great casual look. Too bad it's no longer available outside of eBay.

I hope the rest of this line isn't going the same route (it might be, since Clinique has greatly paired down the number of colors they're offering). I know the big trend for the season is dramatic eyes (see the Sephora catalog for some scary looks), but reality is that sometimes we need to look sane, pretty and like we aren't trying too hard.

(makeup photo is of Sephora Purple Reign look. Please don't try this at home)

Little Pleasures


Fabulous coverage of fashion week:


  • NY Magazine has photos, videos and interviews and blogs. They also added “The Model Manual,” a guide to over 200 models, with career bios, quotes, video, and photos (50 per model on average), and “Runway Rankings,” live updates of the top 100 favorite (and least favorite) looks from the collections, as voted by readers (http://nymag.com/runwayrankings). A great time waster if there ever was one.

  • InStyle magazine isn't bad, either, with live coverage, photos and videos. More reasons not to do any work this week.

Also, tonight is the premier of Tim Gunn's Guide to Style on Bravo (10pm/9 C). My TiVo is giddy with anticipation.


(photo from BravoTV.com)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Catch-Up

Many thanks for the anniversary wishes. We had a great time playing in the city, had some excellent food (Café Boulud offers several vegetarian options), visited CB I Hate Perfume and added a few items to the ever-growing bottle collection. Now it's catch-up time. I'm still behind on email and beauty-related reading, but I'm getting there.

Speaking of email, here are a few of the highlights from my inbox. There are many offers, sales and events going on now that summer is officially over. Some more worthy than others:




  • The Neiman Marcus Beauty Event: Any beauty or fragrance purchase over $100 would award you with a metallic tote and seven generous size samples. There are a couple of skin care items (from Orlane and ReVive. I wish the latter was not the eye cream but their amazing C serum, which is worth its weight in gold and costs as much), a sample of Infusion d'Iris, the new Prada perfume (not exactly the way to my heart, but what can you do?), a Molton Brown shampoo (you can't go wrong with that, but I wish it was a shower gel) and three makeup items (Laura Mercier and Clinique lip color, Estee Lauder mascara). I've seen better offers in the past, but this isn't a bad haul and can sweeten the deal if you're already in the market for a Serge Lutens fragrance.

    What's even better are the specific brand offers you'll find there, which will give you an additional GWP. There are several worthy deals in the list, especially if you're already planning on doing some damage. The best offer must be the one from Dior: If you spend your $100 on their products, you'll get a five shadow palette (that one alone is worth the hassle and the money), a mini lipstick and a mini brush set. The Emilio Pucci offer is worth mentioning not so much for the fragrance and body cream samples as much as for the adorable cosmetics case. Like every Pucci print, this is a collectible item. I've sniffed the new fragrance, Vivara, and quite liked it. I have yet to actually test it, though.
    The most ridiculous offer comes from YSL Beauty: You need to spend $200 in order to get a tiny eye cream sample and a mini mascara. I'd skip that one.


  • This picture was part from a Sephora Beauty Insider newsletter. It must be the ugliest manicure I've seen since Fergie's bumblebee nails. I almost didn't notice the lashes. Does it make you want to buy anything from her?

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