Friday, September 30, 2011

Three Lip Liners I Love: Paula Dorf, Armani, Sisley

Lip liners are an essential item for me despite their questionable reputation. I'm not talking about this look, of course, but of a subtle way to extend the wear of lipstick and make it look polished. Or, when the lip pencil is especially good and creamy, used as a base color under a gloss or a lip balm. These three lip liners by Giorgio Armani, Paula Dorf and Sisley are exactly that.

Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk lip pencil in Pale Raspberry #9 is a lively plummish mauve that offers the "my lips but better quality" and works with many of my lipsticks as well as by itself under Armani's fabulous lip gloss, Gloss d'Armani.

Sisley Phyto-Lèvres Gloss Lipliner is actually a hybrid: a glossy moisturizing lip pencil that actually smooths the lips and gives them a nice boost. It's still quite tenacious and holds firmly in place. Thé Glacé No. 1 is a warm shade, a light brick color mixed with beige.

Paula Dorf lip liner in Retro is a classic lip pencil. It's smooth to apply, gives full coverage and stays put no matter what, keeping your lipstick and balm where they need to be. This one can be drying if your lips haven't been moisturized prior to application, so my favorite way of using the Paula Dorf pencil is over my lipstick, for an extra hold. I also do the makeup artist thing by mixing it on the back of my hand with a lip balm and applying with a brush.

Giorgio Armani Smooth Silk lip pencil in Pale Raspberry #9 and nine other shades ($26) is available at Saks, Nordstrom, Barneys and
Sisley Phyto-Lèvres Gloss Lipliner ($40) comes in four colors, of which Thé Glacé is the lightest. Available at Bergdorf, Saks and Neiman Marcus.
Paula Dorf lip liner (Retro is one of ten shades, $20 each) is available at Henri Bendel in NYC and

My beautiful assistant is Sophie.



Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's sci-fi, which I should love, but I'm not enchanted with the writing or the level of sophistication. The 80s pop culture references are fun, though.

Marcus Foster

Andy Tauer's Tableau de Parfums Miriam (the giveaway is still open!), DSH Pandora and Uncle Serge's Chergui. Please tell me not to try and layer them.

I got a Shu Uemura makeover while in Paris and I'm more in love with the brand than ever. Please come back to the US.

Frequently worn outfit / item
I had a couple of "get ready quickly and head out of the house NOW" instances in the last couple of weeks that found me putting on a print DVF wrap top and interesting accessories while wearing black yoga pants. I promise not to do it to often, but it works in a pinch.

I shouldn't even be thinking about food after Paris. I could use a nice eclair now.

Bane of my existenceMy right wrist has seen better days.

Their names are Olivia (left) and Cedric.

The new TV season. Could I be any lamer?

Wish List

Something about this Lanvin look really speaks to me. The problem is that the cardigan is actually cocoon-shaped and gives one a saggy butt, unless she's extremely tall. Which I'm utterly not. I guess I'll have to settle for the gloves.

Random Thoughts
The very last musical bits in the teaser for American Horror Story (a series I have no intention to watch) sounds both haunting and familiar. Anyone knows what it is?

What are your current loves, recommendations, banes, wishes and random thoughts? Please share!

Art: Red Citroen by Miguel Freitas
Lanvin cardigan from
Everything else by me and the husband.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tarte Park Avenue Princess Mineral Powder Bronzer

Yes, I know bronzers are a bit of an odd topic for a fall post on a stormy day, but I'm feeling the need for some color, so a bronzer it is. I could definitely use a more lively look this week, that's for sure.

Six or seven summers ago I was still maintaining a tanned appearance (and having the occasional mishaps with self tanners). Back then I was going for the darker shades since I tan very quickly, easily and deeply, so one of my summer staples was Tarte Mineral Powder Bronzer in Hotel Heiress (I hate the name to this day). It's a mid-summer tropical vacation kind of bronze that I can no longer wear: my religious use of sun blocks that revealed that I might be olive-toned but also naturally ashy gray, which requires a far more subtle approach to bronzing. All in the name of not looking so dead.

Tarte Park Avenue Princess Mineral Powder Bronzer, the lighter shade of their two popular products, was not really on my radar, but I got the mini size as a GWP a few months ago. My sister has been using it for years, but she's much (MUCH!) lighter than me, so I never thought Park Avenue Princess would be nice on me. But I tried and got hooked, despite the fact Tarte has loaded it with shimmer. The texture is very light and delicate, so with careful application (a fan brush, not a regular bronzer brush, unless I'm adding color to my shoulders or shins) the final result is glowy more than shiny. I only use a little and place it on the bones, where I'd regularly use a highlighter, so this is a sort of a multi-tasker.

I swatched the bronzer somewhat heavily, so you can get a better idea of the actual color. It's more golden than orange and should look nice on most light-to-medium skin tones.

Bottom Line: nice to have (but nothing beats Edward Bess bronzer. Nothing!).

Tarte Park Avenue Princess Mineral Powder Bronzer ($29) is available from Sephora, Ulta and

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Paris Perfume Shopping: Colette and By Terry (!)

Colette was an obvious stop during our Paris adventure. The loud and chaotic concept store might not be 100% my thing, but they have a reasonably interesting perfume section, and you can count on their buyers/creative directors/powers-that-be to find interesting items to keep you amused. Such as the Paris vs. New York exhibition by Vahram Muratyan that occupied Colette's walls:
A friendly visual match between two cities told by a lover of Paris wandering through NewYork. Details, clichés, contradictions.
The one above was my favorite (I'm considering getting a print for my dressing room), but there are many other amusing ones, such as this:

And you can see all of them on the artist's blog.

But back to perfume. The main attraction Colette offers for those of us with access to just about everything else is Le Labo Vanille 44, the Paris exclusive. Of course, there are the rest of the Le Labo perfume range and that's well worth the visit for anyone who doesn't live near Barneys or any of their other points of sale. There are many other great lines at Colette, such as Diptyque (including the body and home products), Byerdo, Juliette Has A Gun, Heeley (not everything was stocked), Eau d'Italie (only the two newest perfumes), Ineke, CdG (not the entire line), Odin, Six Scents, Escentric Molecules and Honore de Pres. As you can see, the selection is very unisex with a modern minimalistic edge. It doesn't exactly explain the presence of some Marc Jacobs perfumes, Chloe and Balmain Ambre Gris, but- hey, whatever sells, I guess.

A brand new line that's worth exploring is Type, by Danish fashion designer Henrik Vibskov. There are three perfumes in this series, dedicated to three cities: Type B (Berlin, a smoky wood scent), Type C (Copenhagen, an aquatic) and Type D (Damascus, a floriental). They're interesting, though not as long-lasting as I would have liked and somewhat pale in comparison to robust stuff like Le Labo, but I plan to explore a bit further, since Type perfumes are also available at Henrik Vibskov NYC boutique (456 Broome Street).

Before we left Colette I had to browse the Famous Faces book by Takkoda and various related  merchandising. I have no idea how I managed not to buy several items with this face:

I had a nice surprise at the By Terry boutique (36 Passage Véro-Dodat, not far from the Palais Royal). I went in to play with the fall makeup but discovered they also had a nice selection of excellent perfumes. The entire Memo line, Eau d'Italie, Juliette Has a Gun and best of all: Mona di Orio. As I was busy testing eyeliners, the husband tried to talk perfume with the SA, but unfortunately he was the more knowledgeable one by far regarding those brands. Still, between the gorgeous makeup and the hard-to-find perfumes, it's well-worth the visit.

Paris vs. New York by Vahram Muratyan
Karl Lagerfeld's pug face by Takkoda
Type Perfumes from  Henrik Vibskov's Facebook page
By Terry boutique by The Blond.

Happy Birthday, Brigitte Bardot!

Brigitte Bardot is 77 today.

Chantecaille Eye Perfector Brush

If you're even a little obsessed with eye brushes for detail work, Chantecaille Eye Perfector Brush might be one you'd want to check out. This kind of brush, with its small head, classic C-shaped edge and no visible frills aren't the sexiest makeup brushes around, yet they're an essential when you're doing more than a quick wash of color. Hence the passion for the perfect little brushes among some of us.

Chantecaille Eye Perfector Brush is closest in size and shape to Chanel #4. The hair is slightly longer than in Louise Young LY16 and Hakuhodo K005; it's definitely longer and narrower than Paula Dorf's Smudge Brush. So Chanel is the most similar, but Chantecaille's little brush is far superior in my opinion, because the hair is packed tighter, collects more product and has more bounce. I also think the Chantecaille brush is generally better made and certainly retains its shape and performance better despite frequent use and washing.

I use my Chantecaille Eye Perfector for various tasks: highlighting the inner corner, drawing a thick line of non-black color, smudging, applying powder shadow over a liquid line... it can do many things. I've also reached for it as a lip brush on occasion and for concealer.

Bottom Line: great.

Chantecaille Eye Perfector Brush  ($25) is available from top department stores, Space NK and online.

Kevyn Aucoin Patina Single Eye Shadow

Patina, a shimmery single eye shadow from Kevyn Aucoin, stands out even among other top-of-the-line olive-ish  eye shadows. It's a golden-brown olive with a subtle metallic finish that changes slightly with the light. I tried to capture these nuances and show how Patina moves from a brassy brown to a gold tinged olive. It's a color that works for an understated daytime look (try pairing with LMdB Jojo) . It's not too green, so no one should be scared of this Kevyn Aucoin color, and while on me this is a neutral shade that can be worn very casually, if you're pale and blue-eyed, Patina will be stunning and striking against your features.

If you're familiar with Kevyn Aucoin's eye shadows you already know the texture is soft and easy to apply and blend. The shimmer/metallic finish is subtle with no glittery particles and no fall-out. Over a primer, the eye shadow lasts from day to night and I appreciate how it retains its finish.

Bottom Line: Pretty.

Kevyn Aucoin Patina Single Eye Shadow ($28) is available from Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tableau de Parfums- Miriam (and a giveaway)

Those of us who sniff obsessively and/or write about perfume are always seeking a background story and a cultural context for the perfumes we review. We make connections and associations, look inside us for what the scent makes us feel, hoping to be transported and transformed in the process. To borrow a phrase from Tim Gunn, we're looking for a "soul stirrer". Let's just say we rarely find it at Macy's.

Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes and filmmaker Brian Pera, two indie artists, collaborated on a soul-stirring project. It's a ten year collaboration (!) of film and perfume: a new line of fragrances, Tableau de Parfums, and the series Woman's Picture, an ongoing collection of short films that inspire these scents. The Tableau fragrances are packaged with the films and accompanying novelettes inspired by the principal characters of the series:

Miriam, the first fragrance of the Tableau de Parfums line, reaches back in time. It is a fragrance inspired by the first episodic short of Woman’s Picture, featuring Ann Magnuson in the title role, which gives life to a character in the middle of a storm of memories and an uncertain future. The Woman's Picture series and Tableau de Parfums focus on perfume and memories: To celebrate the launch of the projects, Brian Pera conducted filmed interviews with women involving their childhood memories of the perfumes their mothers and grandmothers wore.

You see, it's all there: heartbreak, memories and a mother-daughter connection amplified by perfume. Such perfumes have a certain nostalgic character. They're decidedly perfumy, with every intention to be smelled and noticed. Miriam by Andy Tauer is exactly that. The aldehydic floral opening is unmistakable "vintage". You don't get to smell such things unless your collection includes gems of yore that have retained their potency like vintage Arpege or Chanel No. 5. But Miriam, despite that beautiful and almost familiar rose-violet-jasmine veil does not imitate the past. As a matter of fact, even while evoking the elegance of the past, fans and followers of Tauer's work will be able to identify his thumbprint.

In an interview with Elena of Perfume Shrine, Andy Tauer says:
My challenge was to come up with a fragrance that is born in the forties of the last century, but created today: How to find an aesthetic language that bridges this gap! How to create a fragrance that conserves this vintage spirit but fits with Miriam who lives today. I hope I managed. Miriam is definitely vintage, or rather vintage-like.

It's quite interesting, actually, to smell Tauer's recognizable ambergris accord behind and around the various facets of Miriam. Petal pink that draws you closer with its soft smile; a crisp but almost sweet green that speaks of neat dresser drawers that hold mysterious feminine accessories; a compassionate warmth of a woody embrace. It's all there, as well as an elegant powder puff that was left on top of the vanity.

My own mother wears bold white flowers with an enviable flair. She avoids anything aldehydic, as those were the signature perfumes of her mother whom I never got to meet. Maybe that's why I find it so easy to wear Miriam and make it my own. It's both a luxurious and a very sexy perfume that sits beautifully on my skin for very long hours (the entire day, actually). Once the initial assertive sillage disappears, I'm left with a just-above-the-skin sweet woody and creamy perfume. To me, Miriam is a very feminine fragrance: pearls, girdle and silk stockings. Of course, it is just as seductive in jeans and boots, maybe even more so, as it hints on some delicious and hidden secrets.

As part of the blogging project, Brian Pera has conducted a series of interviews with women about their childhood memories of the perfumes their mothers and grandmothers wore. I'm proud to present you with a very special video, an interview with a beloved perfume blogger, Pat of Olfactorama:

"Couldn't afford it, but I bought it anyway": Pat from brian pera on Vimeo.

Notes for Miriam: bergamot, sweet orange, geranium, violet blossom, rose, jasmine, ylang, violet leaf, lavender, vanilla, orris root, sandalwood

Now, for the giveaway:
Brian Pera and Andy Tauer have provided five lucky winners with samples beautifully packed with a DVD. In order to participate, leave a comment on this post and tell us either about a scent memory, a beloved long lost perfume or a special scent that, like Pat, you "couldn't afford it, but bought it anyway" because it meant that much to you.
Sadly, I have to limit this giveaway to US resident. Our post office has become more impossible than ever, to the point that the last package I tried to send overseas was returned to me a couple of days later.
You will get an additional entry to the draw by tweeting or retweeting this post, just make sure to copy me @the_non_blonde on the tweet so I can add it to my list. The draw will be open for exactly one week, until  Tuesday, October 4th at 11:59PM (Eastern time).

Miriam EDP will launch in early October in Los Angels at Scentbar/Luckyscent. It will also be available for purchase on Evelyn Avenue. I don't have pricing information yet. The sample for this review was provided by Andy Tauer and Brian Pera. Also, don't forget to visit Perfume Posse next week for the last part of this exciting project (and another giveaway).

A 1950s photograph of Barbara Goalen by John French and a 1946 hosiery ad, both from

NARS Eye Conrour Brush #14

It was brought to my attention that while I've been showing NARS Eye Conrour Brush #14 in many reviews for comparison, I have yet to actually talk about this brush. This must be rectified, as NARS #14 is a staple and a starting point in assessing brushes of similar size and shape.

Made from 80% goat hair and 20% pony hair, NARS #14 is dense and firm, perfect for applying dense colors to small areas such the crease, lash line and even the inner corner. It's not super soft and has little to no give, making it close in performance to smaller pencil brushes. It's not meant for blending or diffusing, but it does a reasonably good job when going over pencil-drawn lines with a powder eye shadow, creating a defined outer V or highlighting a small area just under the brow.

This NARS brush is obviously very versatile and has seen quite a lot of use. It's maintained its shape and hair texture through countless washings, and was packed many times and traveled the world with me.

Bottom Line: an old reliable.

Sue Devitt Belize Silky Blush

Fans of cool-toned blushes should take a look at Belize Silky Blush by Sue Devitt. Described as a "shimmering pink-plum", but actually low in shimmer and more pink than anything else, this is a very pretty color that balances out a bronzed look and appears more natural on the face than on my arm. Still, if it weren't a gift with purchase and I could have had my pick when I got it, I'd go with Katherine, a deeper and not as cool a shade.

I swatched it a little heavily, so take note that when applied with a fluffy blush brush or a Yachio, Sue Devitt Belize is more sheer and has a fine glow. Like all Sue Devitt blushes I've tried so far (see my review of Tralee) , it's easy to blend and has a very fine and light texture. Speaking of Tralee, I sometimes mix the two together and it looks pretty- not too nude, not too cool.

Bottom Line: worth testing.

Sue Devitt Belize Silky Blush ($20) is available at many department stores (my local Macy's has a fully stocked counter) and from I got it as a GWP months ago.

Handsome model: Kosh

More Paris Perfume Shopping: Le Bon Marché And Printemps

The perfume department at Printemps (a gorgeous department store, 64, bd Haussmann) has gone through an upgrade since my last visit. It now hosts mini-boutiques of several important brands, including a full-size Frederic Malle area with sniffing booths. The Serge Lutens perfumes (export line only) have their own purple and dimly lit, Palais Royal-style cavern, and Tom Ford's counter is huge, well-lit and stocked with the new lipsticks as well as with the Private Blend perfumes (and an overly aggressive sales team).

Other familiar lines were Aqua di Parma, Nez a Nez, By Killian, a huge Guerlain counter that stocks the more exclusive perfumes, Annick Goutal and L'Artisan. But the most impressive display in the place, if you ask me, belongs to Dior Collection Privee. Dior has a separate area, elegant and inviting at the same time. There's a sitting area with white leather chairs (a very welcome feature after a full day of walking, sniffing and eclair-consuming) where you can relax and sniff the basic essences and notes used in the Colletion Privee perfumes. Then there are the bottles themselves, in three sizes that remind me of Starbucks: big, bigger and are-you-kidding-me. If it weren't for the small thing called budget I could have come home with 1/3 to half of these scents. But I took my time, sniffed and re-sniffed, and eventually chose one that I ended buying at the other fabulous destination, Le Bon Marche.

Le Bon Marché (24 Rue de Sèvres) was under an English invasion. The massive So London campaign could be seen all over town. The photo above was at almost every Metro stop, you couldn't escape London this month in Paris. Fashion, design and art- it was all there, including Bryan Ferry: Still Rockin’ After All These Years a photography and music exhibition at the ground floor of Le Bon Marché. As for British perfume lines, the store offers the unavoidable Penhaglion as well as Miller Harris, where I got to try the two newest perfumes in the line, La Fumée (=smoke) and La Pluie (=rain), which will be at MiN New York (on Crosby street) in a matter of weeks. You can guess which one of the two was my favorite.

Another special line at Le Bon Marché is Memo. The line has closed its free-standing boutique but has a great presence at several locations throughout Paris. It has grown significantly since my 2008 visit, improved the packaging and offers the perfumes in several sizes, including the fragonerd's friendly 30 ml (1oz). A bottle of the beautiful oud scent Shams (=sun) came home with us, as the husband and I found it utterly irresistible.

Speaking of oud, the store had a full display devoted to oud perfumes, showcasing offerings from each major line. They had all three By Killian ouds, Tom Ford Oud Wood, the aforementioned Shams, Dior Leather Oud, the classic YSL M7 and probably a few others I'm forgetting. It was a little too much after a while, but I liked the concept and the thought behind it. You don't see anything similar around here where each brand is a little overprotective of its shelf space and wary of direct competition.

The Dior area was not as impressive as it is at Printemps, but they have the entire line and the service was Bergdorf Goodman-worthy, something I appreciate greatly after a week in Paris (and that's all she said).

Top image of Printemps around the turn of the (previous) century by Oldimages on Flickr.
So London ad from Le Bon Marché .

Monday, September 26, 2011

Smashbox Powder Brush #1

I was surprised to discover I like Smashbox Powder Brush #1 a lot more than its sibling, Face & cheek Brush #2.  It starts with quality: Smashbox Powder Brush #1 is softer and feels better on my skin, but it's also a matter of shape an usability. Since the #2 is best for Smashbox Soft Lights but far less impressive as a blush or bronzer brush it sees limited use. The big and fluffy #1 is a good classic powder brush. It's not as humongous as Louise Young LY07 nor as floppy as Shu Uemura #27, but performs quite similarly, though the Shu has the advantage of  having a flatter head that makes pushing powder onto the skin a bit more efficient.

I find Smashbox Powder Brush #1 quite similar to Eco Tools Powder Brush (which I've always liked) in terms of dispensing the powder, but superior when it comes to buffing, as the Eco Tools brush has a lot of give. Smashbox Powder Brush #1is great with light finishing powders and does the job without smudging any makeup you've previously applied.

Bottom Line: a good option.

Smashbox Powder Brush #1 ($48) is available at Nordstrom and from