Friday, May 30, 2008

Bed Habits: Linen Spray from Jane Inc. and Crabtree & Evelyn

Part of my morning ritual of making my bed is spraying the pillows, comforters and quilt with a lavender linen mist (or sometimes with perfume. There was a week I used Louve every day, and another time it was Bandit. Don't ask). Some of the people reading this are raising an eyebrow. The rest are scent addicts and either already do something similar or are planning to start.

My linen mist of choice for years was the wonderful but little known Sweet Sheets Bedding Spray from Jane Inc. (they also have a laundry detergent and fabric rinse, both excellent, but their dryer sheets are pretty much crap).

The other thing I do to scent my bedroom is using Crabtree & Evelyn lavender home fragrance oil in a lamp ring. Occasionally I switch to the Rosewater scent, but most of the time it's lavender. That's why I decided to give their linen mist a try. I was quite enthusiast, because the Crabtree & Evelyn spray comes in a bottle twice the size of Jane's.

Scent-wise, I like both. Jane's is more astringent and very true to the fragrance in their laundry products, which satisfies me on some weird level. The Crabtree & Evelyn smells very much like the lavender in my back yard. It's a little softer than Jane with just a hint of powderiness. I could have been very happy with it if only it lingered and actually scented the linens. It's quite an amazing phenomenon: I spray it on the bed, but five seconds later I can't smell a thing, so forget about having a lightly scented bed. Jane's Sweet Sheets, on the other hand, is still detectable when I climb into bed some 16 hours later.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chanel Aqualumiere Gloss

Even for the most jaded lip gloss user/collector, she who has more tubes than she'll ever admit, and feels she has tried everything, a new lip product from Chanel is always a must-try (and a must-have. That's just how it works).

The new Chanel Aqualumiere high shine gloss is the latest addition to the Aqualumiere line that also offers some fabulous sheer lipsticks. This is a different product than the classic Glossimer: A lot less shimmer, a smoother texture and more shine. It might be a bit more sticky than some Glossimers, but not by much, and never to an annoying degree. The colors are very sheer and you need to build them up if you want to get the exact effect you see in the tube. As a result, even the darkest shade available, Bubble Plum, is far less scary or intense than it looks, and as a result, very wearable, even if you are paler than me.

As a a matter of fact, Bubble Plum was the only color that looked good on me. The other colors, pretty as they are, were much too light. My rule is that lip products have to add color, not to take away (obviously, Jennifer Lopez doesn't share my ideas), and that was the only one that worked. A light-handed application gives just a touch of plummish color, very suitable for days and looks good with a light (fake) tan. You can add another dollop or two for a sexier look. The brush applicator required some practice (I prefer sponges, but it's not that big of an issue), though once you get the hang of it, delivers a perfect and precise coverage.

Staying power: moderate. It doesn't survive lunch or kissing, but half the fun is in reapplying.

All in all, another little happiness in a tube. I hope to see more colors join the range.

Aqualumiere gloss is available from every good department store that has a Chanel counter, as well as from the official Chanel website. I bought mine at the local Saks for $26.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: My Sin by Lanvin

(I can't come up with a better title than the name of the perfume, created in 1924 by Madam Zed for the Lanvin fashion house and discontinued years ago)

I never met my maternal grandmother. She was a doctor, quite well-known in Vilnius of the 1950s and early 60s. She was probably equally famous for her looks as well as for the scandal of divorcing my high-powered attorney grandfather in 1955. Photos show an incredibly beautiful and stylish woman with dark hair and green eyes. My mom says the only thing sharper than my grandmother's tongue, was her fashion sense and knack for accessorizing. I only have one thing of hers, an amber necklace, made with half polished stones. It's bold and always makes a statement.

She had secrets, affairs and quite a bit of a temper. Her clothes were tailor-made from patterns and fabrics imported from Paris (not a simple task during those years in Communist Lithuania). she wore red lipstick and loved perfume (also smuggled from France). My mom says she didn't have one signature perfume, but always had several of the classics, like Chanel no. 5 and Arpege on her dresser.

I don't like Arpege, though I probably should give the vintage another chance. The Lanvin perfume that makes me think of my lost grandmother is My Sin. The unapologetic name of this fragrance fits the image in mind, as well as the scent itself.

I have a bottle of the vintage extrait, bought on eBay not only sealed, but also wrapped in the original paper. I was a little disappointed the first time I smelled the opening notes. The aldehydes were still fully there, unclouded by the years (my eternal thanks to whoever kept it so well stored), together with the other notes, giving it that almost-generic vintage classic air. But I kept wearing it, studying the development and learning to appreciate its secret.

The opening and the classic floral middle notes still give me a similar feeling like some vintage Guerlains (other than Shalimar. That one starts bellydancing as soon as I put it on) and vintage Calèche, and I almost reach for my pearls. But just almost. It doesn't take long before My Sin moves into the more interesting parts. The base notes are supposedly vetiver, vanilla, musk, woods, tolu balsam, styrax (according to Wikipedia that's benzoin, which is a great relief as I willing to swear I was smelling benzoin) and civet. I can't say I get any vetiver here. Actually, the fragrance is so well blended (other that or my bottle is just old), that other than benzoin no note really stands out to me. It just morphs into a stunning animalic stage, light years away from the pearl and cashmere of the opening, with only a hint of understated sweetness. After a while it settles very close to the skin, a ghost of past sins and memories.

I wish it lasted longer than the 2-3 hours I'm getting from it, because I'd like to explore it and have a little more fun. Every time I put it on, I discover another facet, but still I feel like I'm missing on some big secret that feel forever lost.

Images:, eBay and Ad Vault.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Little Black Book Of Style by Nina Garcia- A Book Review

I didn't expect to like Nina Garcia's book, The Little Black Book of Style. As a matter of fact, I bought the book months ago but haven't touched it and let the pile of books sitting on top of it grow so tall until Miss Lizzy Kitten knocked them all down every time she jumped on top. The truth is that while I love Project Runway, Nina Garcia isn't the reason. She doesn't annoy me nearly half as much as Michael Kors does, but honestly, aren't we all there for Tim Gunn?

I tried to remember anything special she wore on the show, but only came up with "sleeveless", "black" and " an oversized necklace". My impression was that she's always well put together, but doesn't steal the show, which is probably a sign of both good taste and common sense. When you think of it, the 42 year old future fashion director of Marie Claire (Elle Magazine gave her the boot recently) is a pretty good source for style guidance. And she's a proud non-blonde, despite the perfect highlights.

The book puts some flesh on the glossy image. There are a few biographical notes from her Colombian childhood and New England prep school education. We get a glimpse of the elements that shaped Ms. Garcia's fashion sense, and I found myself becoming fond of her, despite her endorsement of fur. Probably because I share many of her ideas regarding style: wear things that fit you perfectly and make you look good while ignoring ugly trends, don't be a fashion victim, don't play safe unless the occasion demands it, go for interesting accessories that speak to you personally, mix things up and buy lots and lots of shoes.

The book expands on all of the above, explains the basics every woman needs (very similar to Tim Gunn's ten essentials: trench coat, cashmere sweater, the LBD, a well-cut dark pair of jeans, a white shirt and more), speaks about finding inspiration (actually, I'm getting fed-up with the Audrey Hepburn talk. Yes, she was amazing. Yes, she was gorgeous. Yes, she was the chicest of them all. But, in reality, unless your name is Natalie Portman, you can't pull it off).

I loved Nina Garcia's definition of a fashion victim (besides her obsession with the "it" bag, a concept she and I both despise): "...count the designer pieces she's wearing. She'll usually help you out by putting the labels on conspicuous display". It reminded me of this photo from two weeks ago (courtesy of Hollywood Rag):

There's some good advice about dressing right for different occasions (Q: What to wear for a wedding? A: Don't be a bridesmaid), she deciphers the mystery of event dress code (what exactly is "creative black tie" or "smart casual"?), encouragement to invest in lingerie and cliff notes of fashion history (I wish this section of the book was longer and deeper, as I find it more inspiring than talking about Uma Thurman's white shirt in Pulp Fiction). The part I found most useless, though, was the brief interviews with designers and other prominent fashion figures (blahblahblah confidence blahblahblah be yourself blahblahblah Audrey Hepburn blahblahblah black turtleneck. You've heard it all before).

Bottom line: a fun read that actually makes sense. A fabulous gift for the young or for yourself if you've been stuck in a rut for too many years and need to find a new path. Worth reading if you find yourself having to pass some time at Barnes & Noble on a rainy afternoon.

The Little Black Book of Style is available from every book seller. I got mine from Amazon (cover price is $17.95, you'll probably find it for less).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cherry Ice Cream Smile I Suppose It's Very Nice- Caress Brazilian Exotic Oil Infusion Body Wash

As far as my skin is concerned, testing mass market bath products is like playing a Russian Roulette. I'm allergic to several of them, as well as to some of the most popular shampoos, and have stories to tell that are only funny in retrospect. And if you're not me.

The reason I even agreed to try Caress Brazilian Exotic Oil Infusion body wash was the promise of a unique cream and oil formula, and the mental image of sleek Brazilian bodies (stop laughing). What didn't take into account were a) that they promote this product using Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls who sings butchers a staple of my long lost youth, Duran Duran's Rio (you're still laughing. Stop it), and b) that people's idea of a tropical Brazilian scent is death by mango.

Now, I can try and forget that I've ever heard this version. But getting over the initial fruity blast (plastic passion flower) I got when opening the lid was harder, and the bottle was put aside until I got braver. The good news is that when actually pouring some out onto my loofah it was less sugary juice and more of a Piña Colada. And I'm marginally fond of Piña Colada, even if I'm not sure I need to smell like it.

The good news continue: The scent is much more subtle when confronted with hot water and it doesn't linger. By the time I'm out of my bathrobe and ready for body butter, all I can smell is "clean". The even better news is that the formula is quite nice. The texture is lotiony-creamy, it glides smoothly and doesn't dry the skin even one bit. The foaming is minimal and people who don't suffer from a Cuir de Crocodile might have a problem with a bathing product that feels almost oily, but for me it's quite pleasant.

There are two other scents: Japanese (white lotus cream and kukui nut oil) and Moroccan (cassis cream and starflower oil). I'm curious to know if any of you tried them and have any insight. I understand that it's not realistic to hope for a lovely wood-incense scent of a drugstore product that sells for $4.29, but one can dream.

I don't like the scent enough to buy a replacement bottle, but it's a very decent body wash and would probably be a big success with those too young to have had fantasies about John Taylor.

Ingredients (yay for no parabens):
Water, Glycine Soja Oil or Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Cocamidopropyl, Betaine, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Lauric Acid, Cocamide MEA, Polybutene or Polyisobutylene, Fragrance, PEG-5 Cocamide, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Oil, Passiflora Incarnata Flower Extract, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Isostearic Acid, DMDM Hydantion, Propylene Glycol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Etidronic Acid, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Titanium Dioxide, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.

The bottle was a PR freebie. You can find it everywhere under the sun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Glam Queen- Dior Vernis 708 Gold Nugget

As far as I'm concerned, the best part of Dior's summer 2008 look, Golden Dior, is nail color. The collection has two colors, Coppery Ginger, pretty and lighter than you'd expect from the name, and Gold Nugget, which is more of a metallic mocha with golden shimmer. According to the sales assistant at my local Saks, the former is the bigger seller, which is understandable, as it's the more predictable of the two. But I prefer Golden Nugget.

This color is dark enough to make a statement, but still very summery. It goes well with the distinct 70s glam look of this collection. You just know the model is wearing classic white pants with a metallic belt and black strappy stiletto sandals (hopefully, her perfume is a vintage Miss Dior and not Charlie). What you see on the model is what you get in full light. The color in the photo bottle is closer to what it looks like indoors and at night.

The polish goes on smoothly, but you do need to stay focused, keep your hand steady and avoid streaks. I needed a couple of tries to get it right, and in the process was reminded why I rarely buy Dior nail color: the quality is excellent, but the brush is tiny and hard to maneuver, at least for my freakishly large hands. But other than that, Gold Nugget is my first choice for summer nails.

Dior Vernis is available from most department stores. I bought mine at Saks ($19). You can find it online at (bottle image comes from there). It's a limited edition, but still widely available, so don't give in to the crazy prices this is getting on eBay.
Golden Dior image:

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everybody Loves A Limited Edition- Ava Luxe Sacred

There are people who start getting twitches in the credit card area as soon as they learn that something is a limited edition, limited quantity, here-today-gone-tomorrow, buy now or forever hold your lemming. Sometimes, I'm one of these people.

I know I'm not the only one who reached for her purse within minutes of receiving the Ava Luxe newsletter about the new creation, Sacred. The email promised high quality rare materials, exclusivity and a cute bottle. I had to have it.

The bottled arrived quickly and it was as cute and as potent as expected. I liked the first whiff of a dense, herbal potion that's almost chewable. While very different, it has a similar feel (not smell) to the opening of Ambre Sultan. It becomes a potent herbal rose. Not a pretty, girly rose, but a dark goth one, which I actually prefer. The problem for me starts as the rose withdraws and the myrrh takes center stage.

Now, I like myrrh. It's the main player in my beloved and discontinued L'Eau Trois, but the Diptyque fragrance is very dry and has a warm, dusty element. Here, there's a musty thing that takes over and makes the scent uncomfortable, especially if you make the mistake of underestimating the potency of this oil and over apply. It can become suffocating in large doses, and at the risk of sounding like Luca Turin, I'll also say that somewhere in the never ending dry-down the whole composition and structure falls apart.

I remember my first tries of Regina Harris' Frankincense Myrrh Rose Maroc. It took my a long time to get it, but eventually I learned to love this very complex bomb. Sacred, despite several common notes/ingredients, doesn't smell anything like FMRM. It's not as complex or exuberant, and it lacks the sex appeal. However, there's no denying that the quality is amazing, and that the myrrh overload might be a trick my skin is playing, as it is known to amplify this note. I'm not giving up on the bottle just yet, but I'm going to be very careful in applying it, since it's not a husband-pleaser and the scent lingers even after a shower.

Ava Luxe fragrances are sold through the artist's Etsy store, which was where I bought my bottle ($75). It seemed that the first batch of Sacred was sold out within two days, but now there are four more bottles available. Look under Limited Edition in the Pure Parfum section.

The Posh Peasant- New Option For Online Perfume Shopping

One of the most frequently asked questions in emails I get is about perfume shopping and sampling. My advice is always to get samples. Reviews and note lists are nice, but I'd hate to see anyone buy a full bottle of Miel de Bois just because I adore it, only to discover that their skin does the unthinkable and pushes forward the funk described by haters as feline waste. Sometimes you can't even count on your scent twin. If you're a regular reader, you might remember that Tom and I share an almost identical skin chemistry, except for Luctor et Emergo, which on me is all kinds of cherry incense goodness with a side of marzipan, and for him it's nothing but play-doh. So, I urge everyone to get samples first before going for the full bottles, but let's face it: Many of the most interesting scents can't be found in Sephora or Macy's, but there are few places to get samples and decants of these perfumes.

This is why I was happy to see a new online venue joining this very exclusive club: The Posh Peasant. The store offers both full bottles of brands like Aroma M, Sage Machado, Keiko Mecheri and others, as well as samples, sample sets and decants of many classic and niche brands. There are dozens of them: from Guerlain and Caron to Serge Lutens (including several of the exclusives), Frederic Malle and also really small houses like Ava Luxe.

The lovely bottle in the photo is the special Sage Machado Onyx Vanity Bottle (a 1/4 oz). The weather is getting warmer, and despite the gloomy, rainy weekend we just had here, I'm getting a craving for this gorgeous dark coconut and tobacco scent, and after going through numerous samples of both the EdT and the oil, it just might be time for a full bottle.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Balancing Act- Biotherm Biopur Pore Reducing Toner

You know this kind of a day: the change of weather, the monthly, the environment, something you ate or the government are sending your skin into an overdrive. Even if your skin is usually dry and your main concern is to keep it from flaking, suddenly you feel a need for some extra cleansing. But you also know well that any shift in balance might cause either super dry patches or a starved and over-compensating skin ( a nice way to say "here comes the zit").

Most of us keep an extra tried-and-true product just for these times. I usually reach for a toner, something I don't use every day, as I prefer wash/rinse products, but I always have one on hand, just because. The brand new Biopur from Biotherm came here at a perfect time, just as I finished a bottle of something else and my face demanded more.

Now, reducing pores isn't exactly a huge skin care concern of mine, so I was a bit hesitant about even giving it a chance and can't comment on this aspect. What I can say, is that the toner picks every last bit of goo, goop and residue from my makeup removers and smooths the skin to a noticeable degree. It feels clean, but there's absolutely no tightening and drying that most products of this kind give me.

Looking at the ingredient list, it seems like a fortified witch hazel product. It would not get a crunchy endorsement, since it does contain methylparaben and a couple of unpronouncables, but it's also enriched with several plant extracts and many ingredients are natural. Also of note are the citrus oils, which can be irritants for people who have certain skin sensitivities. For me, they just make the toner smell nice (it's pretty faint and the citrus is down at the bottom of the ingredient list, but if you know that peeling an orange makes your hand red and itchy, you'd better stay away).

The entire Biopur line should be available any day now from Biotherm's website. I recieved the toner, which retails for $20, as a PR freebie.

Art: The Delicate Balance of Nature by N. Robert Wagstaff.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nail Candy- Zoya ChitChat and Gossip Collections

I needed a good pick-me-up this week, and the second thing that worked (the first was perfume, of course) was making my nails look like candy. Zoya launched two collections for summer: ChitChat, which has six sparkly colors, all named after beauty bloggers, and Gossip, which I'm doing my best to ignore the fact that it was inspired by The Hills (said she who watched every episode of the Real Housewife of NYC and has no ground for being a snob).

The colors are so happy I couldn't resist playing with the bottles and taking the pictures, even if I can't actually wear many of them. The quality is as wonderful as ever. They go on easily and smoothly, the creamy ones only require one layer, a fact that I appreciate beyond words. It almost guarantees perfect, no mess application. All the colors, including the creams are quick-drying (see again: no mess, even if you're an über-klutz). And the best part is that the formulas are, as always, toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) free, which translates to less toxic and less stinky than most polishes.

I'm one of the bloggers who had colors named after them. The others are Erika, Annie, Bekka, Lianne and Elke. My favorites are Erika and Gaia (what are the chances?), frankly, because they are the less intense of the bunch. Erika is a very sheer baby pink that would require three layers to get the color of the bottle, but I'm very happy with only two. The golden shimmer looks lovely in the sun and gives the summery look without going overboard. My color is a shimmery white, with some gold undertone. It's classy and I wish it was available last year when I desperately searched for a white polish and ended up with a disaster that looked like I was playing with Wite-Out.

The one I really wanted to love was Bekka. Chartreuse is one of my favorite colors, and unlike many other people, I can actually wear it. In clothes and accessories, that is. But as much as I tried, it is just wrong for nails of a warm-skinned person, and please (please!) don't attempt it on your toes. Some things should never be yellow.

The Gossip collection is just as bold, but somehow easier for me to wear. Most of the colors make for very happy toes, and Audrina, a plummish fuchsia, is incredibly pretty in the bottle and even more gorgeous and flattering when you put it on. I have a feeling it'd look good on most hands (normally I'm not a fuchsia person, but this is balanced just right).

Bottom line: These colors might not be appropriate for the Queen's Garden Party, but they sure are fun.

I received both collection as a PR freebie. They are available from Zoya's website for $34 for a full collection or $6 per bottle.

Photos (and a back stairs handrail in a dire need of painting): all mine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez- A Book Review

The amount of mental energy I've spent over the last three weeks deliberating if I should review the book or not, could have been spent on something far more productive or inspiring. Like catching up on email or organizing my shoes by color. At first, even before actually buying the book, just from being aware of the concept and reading the marketing hype, I already knew (more or less) what to expect and have concluded that while I was certainly interested to read it, it was not "A definitive guide to the world of perfume" (direct quote of the back cover). It's a book of opinions about scents. How is it different than any of the major perfume blogs?

The answer to that is approximately $20. That's what you pay for the book (if you're a B&N member), while we, bloggers, give our opinion for free.

My original suspicion was correct. There's no way one could refer to this book as a definite guide to anything but the authors' tastes and preferences. While Dr. Turin is highly educated in the science and structure of perfume, and Ms. Sanchez has obviously smelled her way around the block, in the end of the day, their reviews are not a perfume encyclopedia. I had a little chat about it with Marina of Perfume Smellin' Things, where I told her that I'd just as much be happy to read a book that collected the best reviews by a bunch of bloggers. Now that I think of it, such a book could be extremely fun to read, and probably very educating, considering the different angles and perspective we all bring to the table.

Entertaining is a key word here. The book is a fun read, full of quips and at its best, razor-sharp observations. At its lower points, the snark crosses into personal insults. I'm not one of those who took offense when some of my favorite scents (Miel de Bois and Mechant Loup) got panned just as I didn't gloat or feel especially validated when scents I dislike were dismissed (save for one little moment of schadenfreude at the expense of D&G Light Blue and Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist, two bestsellers that have never worked on my skin). I would probably have been less amused had my two favorite perfumers, Andy Tauer and Vero Kern, and their creations, received a similar treatment to the one poor Mona di Orio got. But how seriously can you take a bad review from the people who wrote odes to Tommy Girl, Beyond Paradise and the barfalicious Missoni? All I can say is that MdO Carnation, which I have always liked, was just bumped several notches up in my "to buy" list. I wish the authors had remembered the difference between a big, cynical company that releases scents created by a committee and tweaked according to focus groups and the work of independent perfumers who put their hearts in their bottles. You can hate the juice, just don't take it out on the artist.

That said, I'm glad that Dr. Turin has made it a point to drag into the spotlight the problem of cheap and sloppy reformulations, like the ones that killed my beloved Lauren and brought down the mighty house of Caron. People still waste money on these perfumes and they need to be aware that the juice is not what it used to be. The companies are trying to cover up and deny, but a credible voice saying that the Emperor is not only naked, but also has a hairy back is what we all needed.

Perfumes: The Guide is available from Amazon and, as well as from just about every bookseller. I bought my copy at Barnes & Noble.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Michael by Michael Kors

Against All Odds- The Magic Of Different Concentrations

Michael has everything going against it. From the smugness of the designer (Project Runway viewers can join my cringing every time Heidi Klum introduces him as "top American designer, Michael Kors!", though it gets better once the guy actually starts snarking), to the big tuberose heart that takes over the fragrance. In Perfumes- The Guide, Tania Sanchez called it an "evil tuberose" and declared it "One of the worst ever". My shameful confession is that I love Michael.

Now, I have no problem seeing how it can get this bad reputation. While I own and wear the parfum, and only dab it carefully, the EdP that's widely available is, indeed, an evil tuberose. Spraying it with abandon results in a skanky cloud that would rival some of the more infamous 80s gassers and calls to mind lucite heels and Fredrick's of Hollywood lingerie. What does a nice (ahem) girl like me is doing with a bottle like this?

The answer is, again, in the concentration. The parfum is significantly more well-behaved than the street version. While it's very tuberosy and I'm not exactly the queen of white flowers, I have discovered that I can actually deal with either tuberose or gardenia, as long as they do not reside in the same bottle. Also, they must have other notes to keep them busy enough as to not try and strangle me. In this case it's mostly a game of incense and sweetness that rounds the edges and makes it interesting. I'm not saying that Michael in parfum is modest or demure, because it's not. It's openly sexy, somewhat come-hithery, but more playful than porn.

The official notes are-
Top: Dewy Freesia, Tamarind, Incense, Chinese Osmanthus .
Middle Notes: Tuberose, Blue Orris, White Wings Peony, Arum Lily .
Base Notes: Cashmere Woods, Musk, Vetiver.

However, unless one has a super-skin and/or a super-nose, this is much more a "tuberose and friends" affair. Don't go looking for the orris or musk, because the tuberose has eaten them whole. It's not well-blended enough to be anything but a sweet, oriental tuberose scent. Even if you manage to find the parfum, don't wear it to meet his parents or for a PTA meeting. You'll get a reputation. But when it's ok to be a little naughty in a weather that makes floral bloom, this is a non-caloric guilty pleasure.

Image: (yes, I know it's not tuberose, but I liked the painting and it has the right feeling) Brugsmania 2 by Judith Barath.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stay Away From The Sun- Golden Dior Summer 2008

While we're waiting for Chanel's golden collection for fall, Dior already has something for us. It's more of a concept than a full line of products, because some of the items that make the look aren't really new and/or limited edition, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Imagine that: you might actually be able to find a favorite color several seasons in a row!

I was instantly drawn to the poster and the display on the Dior counter at my local Saks. It looked gorgeously summery and promising on a rainy and gloomy spring day. Upon closer inspection, while the whole thing was lovely, most of the individual items were not my thing. The glosses too light, the blush and one of the lipsticks too orange and I really (really!) don't need another bronzer. I loved the look and the idea behind the 5 color eyeshadow palette: gold, earth and khaki metallic tones, but it was too pearly and just not practical enough. Not to mention, way too close to other shiny eye shadows I already own, though nothing is quite like that, I admit (an excellent substitution, especially if, like me, you already have several shimmery and iridescent golds and browns, but are still mesmerized by a golden khaki: Bourjois Wet/Dry eyeshadow in Kaki Etonnant. I just saved you $40).

I ended up buying two things: a nail polish (the one you see in the picture, review soon) and a lipstick, Rouge Dior, in Must See Mauve (#713).

The lip color, while part of the Golden Dior look, is part of the regular collection and seems to be available everywhere: Sephora and all major department stores have it in stock. When trying at the counter, I liked the subtle shine and the sophisticated color. It's a mauvish, toned-down bronze, not too warm but definitely summery enough. However, the first time I tried to wear it at home in natural daylight I was mortified: the shine looked frosted (think 80s chic) and the formula clung to the lips emphasizing the natural texture and the tiny scar on my bottom lip. It was a disaster begging to be returned.

However, I gave it another chance at night and wore it over a non-sticky lip balm (Benefit Smooch, one of the best lip treatments I know). Apparently, that's how it meant to look. Beautiful color, a lit-from-within effect and an even coating of the lips. the quality is what I expect from Dior, reasonably well-lasting and comfortable to wear. Just avoid daylight.

Rouge Dior is available at every Dior counter for $27. I bought mine from Saks.

Golden Dior image from, of all places.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bésame Cosmetics Waterproof Mascara

I've said this before, and it's worth repeating: There are so many great products on the market today, that a mediocre mascara is simply unacceptable.

I usually love the makeup from Besame Cosmetics, a small and semi-exclusive line, famous for elegant and vintage-inspired packaging, but something is going on there and it's not necessarily good. They are no longer sold at Henri Bendel, though there are quite a few more new locations. Most of the original products are being phased out and discontinued (I just stocked up on my favorite lip gloss in Berry Red), while new ones are replacing them.

This is the case of the new mascara. I liked the previous, non-waterpoof version and didn't have many issues with it, though I know that others have experience more racooning than is acceptable. I enjoyed the thick, very black and very glossy formula that added volume, curl and definition. The new waterproof mascara doesn't come close, as much as I'm concerned.

While it's easily removed and doesn't smudge or 'coon, it doesn't do much, either. In fact, I had to pile on layer after layer in order to see any results. I'm not looking for much lash drama, but I do want to see some action, and it just doesn't happen here. Do you remember beauty advice in old magazines telling us to powder our lashes between layers of mascara? The 70s are over, though, and I'm expecting more.

Besame Waterproof Mascara ($24) was sent to me as a freebie for review.

Photo of Joan Crawford and her lashes is for Tom. Just because.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Nocturnes De Caron

There's something about Nocturnes. While I can be fond of some aldehydic florals from a safe distance, I usually prefer not to wear them because if the age-old reason: They're not "me". I prefer thicker, darker compositions, enigmatic personalities and more spunk. Nocturnes, maybe one of the most famous misnomers in perfumery (other than Victoria's Secret Very Sexy), is not that perfume.

Creature of the night? Not this one. It's too rosy-cheeked pretty, more cashmere twin-set than a black velvet dress with a slit up-to-there, and completely lacks cleavage. I can't help but remember that old quip about Caron being the wife's perfume while Guerlain is for the mistress. Whatever. It's annoying, but I'm a Guerlain girl through and through.

It's not all sunshine and roses, because Nocturnes is the girl he married after he broke up with you. The memories, the longing and a certain hint of sadness are there, peeking behind the giggly aldehydes and cheerful floral bouquet, as the scent moves into a smooth yet slightly brittle dry-down. It's not so girly then, not as simple and uncomplicated as appeared at first. There's a secret hidden there if you pay attention. Nocturnes still doesn't develop a cleavage, but even if it's not completely me, given the right circumstances, I can pretend for a while.

The notes according to Jan Moran are a bit questionable, considering, for example, the little fact that cyclamen (despite being a long lost relative of violet) is pretty but doesn't smell like much:
Top: Aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, greens
Heart: Rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, stephanotis, lily of the valley, orris, cyclamen
Base: Vanilla, amber, musk, sandalwood, vetiver, benzoin

My money is on this (from ):
Top: Orange, Aldéhydes, Fleur d'oranger
Heart: Jasmin, Rose, Tubéreuse, Ylang-Ylang
Base: Vanille, Santal, Vetiver, Musc

This review is of the vintage parfum extrait. My bottle is a late 80s/very early 90s creation. Rumor has it that none of the Caron scents are what they used to be, so your mileage may vary.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Pretty Little Things- Lisa Everett Design

Lisa Everett is one of the artists I recently found through the EBSQ gallery. She makes lovely hand-painted pendants using ceramic tiles in several sizes, but mostly 1" squares. I have a thing for color, and these pretty little things are great mood boosters. They make a simple t-shirt come alive and feel just right for the season. I like the abstract designs best, but there are also very nice floral patterns, birds and other critters. Some of the items are one-of a-kind, but most are available at larger quantities. The Etsy store is frequently updated so I find myself coming back often. And placing orders.

I also ordered a black cord with my first purchase (they come in several lengths). I'd pass on a white one, because I suspect it wouldn't look so nice after soaking up my moisturizer and perfumes.

The pendants are sold online through Etsy, which is where I bought several items. Prices are $7.99-$20.
Image: Lisa Everett

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Red Lipstick- Julie Hewett Coco Noir

It's all about red lipstick, lately, and there are many beautiful options. Not that it's making finding the right one any easier. A line worth checking is Julie Hewett's Noir Collection which includes six reds with different undertones, so hopefully there's a red for everyone.

I bought Coco Noir, which is described as "brick red", but on my lips, which are darker than most, the warm tone of brick isn't very visible, and it's more of a true Gwen Stefani red. It's pretty and surprisingly wearable once you get over the initial "I'm wearing a red lipstick" shock. The pigment level is unbelievably high. It requires careful application, starting with a liner (I use the matching pencil Julie Hewett offers. It's good, easy to apply and, of course, a perfect match), and putting it on with a lip brush. Despite how it looks in movies and commercials, where a Marilyn-looking (or the real Marilyn) woman in fishnets and a little black dress is sensually painting her lips dark red straight from the tube, in reality, this purist approach would only result in an uneven layer of color and possibly red teeth.

When I say "highly pigmented", I mean it. Coco Noir lasts through a cocktail party and dinner. It doesn't go away until you make it, which is another reason to be careful and precise when applying. And you'll need to make sure no trace is left before going to bed. Otherwise, your pillowcase will suffer. Also, be careful with your man's collar. I'm just sayin'.

What I love best about it, is the comfortable texture. Long lasting matte colors usually scare me and they tend to be scorchers. Not this one. It's soft, creamy without being oily and you won't feel like you have a layer of deep red goop on your mouth.

I think I'll need to get Sin Noir next. A wine/eggplant red sounds excellent.

Julie Hewett makeup is available through her website,