Thursday, March 31, 2011

Houbigant Chantilly (Vintage)

Smelling the modern day drugstore version of Chantilly (by Dana, if I remember correctly) gives one a good idea what "smells like a cheap perfume" means (said in that certain tone and with a certain look on my mother's face). This was not what Houbigant, the original house that launched Chantilly in 1941 had in mind.

If you've smelled any of the vintage version (as long as they're marked "made in France" and are by Houbigant), you know it can be described  as a plush floral. It's powdery, almost ridiculously frou-frou, has very clear notes of lilac, carnation and a sweet rose. The dry-down is a dusty leather-vanilla thing and calls to mind old and dignified European hotel rooms, with velvet curtains from floor to ceiling and thick wallpaper in a very elaborate design.

I can rarely stand to give Chantilly a full wearing. I appreciate the composition and find it quite beautiful, but it's the kind of pretty that is not really me, unless I'm fully in the mood for something this pink and fluffy, like a pair of marabou slippers. Even then I feel a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor, not that there's anything wrong with it...

I've played with vintage bottles and samples here and there for years but never owned one until I happened until the one you see above. I've never seen or heard about this Chantilly Collection Royal, but it was sealed, made by Houbigant (and in France) and had this poodle charm. The cellophane wrap was falling apart and the velveteen box is getting bald patches (it was shedding in the plastic). But the Chantilly perfume inside smells beautiful and is so soft and leathery that I grew to love it more than I expected.

For rainy days spent on the couch..

Vintage Houbigant Chantilly ads from
Photo of poodle bottle by me.

Christina Hendricks in Vivienne Westwood Jewelry And Some Really Bad Pants

Christina Hendricks attended the Vivienne Westwood Melrose store opening looking radiant, gorgeous and badly dressed. I could live with the busy and costume-like top, even if it looks like a wardrobe reject from a Tim Burton film. But the pleated ankle pants couldn't be more wrong for Christina's figure (and anyone else's, really). Pleated pants look awful on women's bodies. Pleated tapered pants are even worse.

The Vivienne Westwood brooch, on the other hand is nearly as beautiful as Christina's face.

Photos: Getty Images via Zimbio

NARS Orgasm Illuminator

While the rest of the beauty world has been fawning over the newly released Illuminator colors, I kept my distance, suspiciously eying the two GWP tubes of Orgasm Illuminator (the first one) in my possession. I've had them for some time, put them in my "to test" drawer where I've been giving them the stinkeye every time I reached for something else. I dislike the famous Orgasm blush. It makes me look like a glittered up mango and I'm so over the NARS Beavis & Butthead names. But the tubes were there, mocking me and threatening I'd have to surrender my beauty blogger badge if I wouldn't start using them soon.

So I did. And what do you know? NARS Orgasm Illuminator is quite nice, a lot more versatile and far less orange than anything else in the Orgasm series. The color is an almost natural pink peach with delicate but obvious shimmer. It can be mixed with liquid foundation (or a tinted moisturizer) at your desired ratio, or worn over it. The texture is very nice, non-oily and blends beautifully onto the face and whatever other products you're using. The result, at least on my medium untanned olive skin is a lot more natural than I ever expected. Who would have thought?

Bottom Line: I think I'm going to buy a full size of both Orgasm and Copacabana.

NARS Illuminator ($29) can be found at major department stores, Sephora and

All photos are mine.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Annick Goutal- Gardenia Passion (EDT)

It seems like I've turned a corner in my relationship with big white florals. Ten years ago the coupling of tuberose and gardenia would (and did) send me running for my life while simultaneously  scrubbing myself silly. Five years ago I'd merely wrinkle my nose and walk away fast. Now? I've been wearing Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion and quoting the immortal words of Britney Spears: Gimme More.

Truth be told, Gardenia Passion is more tuberose than gardenia after the first green top notes fade. Also, the tuberose is of the very dirty carnal one. It's sexy, cheesy, almost naked and has steam practically coming out of its pores, and that's how I like my white flowers- not the tender blossom in a debutante's hair or placed in a porcelain vase. It needs to be real, mean business and bloom on the skin, especially on hot days. This Annick Goutal creation (from 1989, no less) does all that.

The tuberose smells more nutty than buttery and is far less sweet than in Fracas and its ilk. The green wet leaves from the gardenia in the opening lose their dampness and become quite a bit more dry and crisp. Older note lists mention oakmoss in the base. I'm not sure if or how much of it is left- my post-IFRA samples don't smell particularly oakmossy. I've been trying for days to figure out what was that raspy green stuff I was smelling- at times it was bordering on the edge of my consciousness but kept eluding me at the very last moment. Then I happened at Sali Oguri's review at Pink Manhattan and there was the answer: tomato leaf. Of course.  I have no idea how something so light and naturally fresh as tomato leaf survives in this boudoir-ish toe-curling composition, but it does. I only wish Gardenia Passion (at least in the EDT formulation, not sure about the EDP which is heavier but also less interesting as far as I could tell from a couple of casual samplings ) would last longer. I need to spray myself silly in order to get a full day's wear, and that is a bit of an issue with a perfume I'd label as NSFW.

Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion ($80, 1.7 oz EDT) is available from most major department stores and smaller boutiques such as Luckyscent.

The 1950s photo of Gina Lollobrigida from from



Last night I finally found some attention span for fiction, so I re-started Eva Moves the Furniture, a novel by Margot Livesey. It's been years since I read Livesey and now I remember how much I like her.

As I was searching for the video of Damien Rice's Accidental Babies (nothing to do with K-Fed, I promise), I found a live performance of his somewhat odd version of Jacques Brel 's Ne Me Quitte Pas. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Andy Tauer's new Zeta. Review and giveaway coming as soon as I find the words.

Oddly enamoured with several Laure Mercier items.

Frequently worn outfit/item
A colorful DVF print scarf that enlivens all those black and grays.

Brown rice with fresh avocado, a splash of soy sauce and wasabi. So simple, so delicious. The rice cooker is my BFF.

Right here, right now, with the cranky old orange tabby on my lap, good music and an open window.

Bane of My Existence
I'm having a banelss day.

Lilacs, magnolias and not wearing a coat when leaving the house.


Alexander McQueen Faithful leather clutch. It's such a practical piece- has the elegance of a clutch but actually big enough (8"H x 15"W x 2"D) to hold a lot more than a lipstick. $695 at Neiman Marcus.

How are you? Please share your currents and any random thought in the comments.

Top photo by me- the first daffodils in my backyard.
Alexander McQueen clutch:

La Prairie Quiet Berry Cellular Luxe Lip Colour

It's really unfortunate that out of my entire arsenal of makeup, the everyday lipstick I'm most likely to finish and have to replace first is one that's going to seriously hurt my pocket. Then again it's my fault for even going the La Prairie route in the first place.

La Prairie Quiet Berry Cellular Luxe Lip Colour feels like a luxurious lip balm, looks like something a princess would wear and has a beautiful satin finish that complements and never competes with my eye makeup. Quiet Berry is not that berry-ish, but it is more red than La Prairie Midnight Plum. It's one of those colors that blend perfectly with my lips- they're naturally dark, but I'm guessing would look great (though more dramatic) on paler skin tones. As long as you can pull of mauve and dark rose, Quiet Berry would be very  flattering.

I bought this La Prairie lipstick two or three months ago and I've been wearing it several times a week- day and night. I find that I can make it last for very long hours if I apply two coats: first one with a lip brush and the second straight from the bullet and only do a quick touch up after I eat or drink, mostly for the finish than for the stain. I don't know about the "cellular" treatment claims, but when the result is happy and hydrated lips for days I don't argue (much) with the science.

Bottom Line: Adore.

La Prairie Cellular Luxe Lip Colour ($55) is available from Saks, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

All photos are mine.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guerlain Chant d'Aromes

She's so lovely.

Guerlain Chant d'Aromes is a floral, somewhat aldehydic dainty creature, with rosy cheeks, nice demeanor and wholesome habits. It's like the innocent young teenager sister of Chanel No. 5 who is too sweet to spy on her older sister's coming and goings and tell on her to their parents, but secretly she entertains the thought of reading No. 5's diary (she knows where it's hidden), so the potential is there.

Chant d'Aromes is petal soft, a little peachy pink and abstract- there's no one flower that claims the spotlight or displays any assertiveness. It just wafts in the air around me, making me feel pretty and ready for spring. There are no rough edges, no extra sweetness, none of the Guerlain familiar sex bomb in a pastry shop accord. Just delicate flowers, peach fuzz and tender new leaves.

Guerlain released Chant d'Aromes in 1962 and I can see how it fits in that time. Think about Peggy Olson buying her first real perfume after she got promoted. She wouldn't have dared to wear Shalimar, Joan's perfume, right? Instead she'd go for the soft and nonthreatening but still very French Chant d'Aromes.

According to Dr. Luca Turin in the Guide, Chant d'Aromes has been through a couple of major reformulations, so neither the newest juice nor my somewhat older bottle of EDT are the original thing (in who knows how many ways). All I can say is that it's a happy, wearable and pretty perfume that doesn't last more than a couple of hours on me but while it's alive gives me an uplifting sillage.

According to Guerlain's international website, Chant d'Aromes is around and well in the 100 ml bee bottles. Finding it in stores is a bit tricky (Bergdorf and major Guerlain boutiques have it), but searching online might still bring something up (just make sure to buy from a reputable seller).

Art: Solace by Pino
Chant d'Aromes vintage ads- 1964 (via and 1967 (via Savoir Faire).

Notes (from Guerlain website): citrus, honeysuckle, gardenia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, vanilla.

Trish McEvoy Brush 30 Eye Blending

As a makeup brush geek I was quite thrilled to see a new plaything from Trish McEvoy. Trish is responsible for one of my favorite blush brushes, the Sheer 2B, so I had high hopes, especially for a blending brush.

Trish McEvoy Brush 30 Eye Blending is probably meant to compete with the classic MAC 217. They're quite similar in shape, though since the MAC is slightly bigger and wider, those who found it uncomfortably large might be happy with Trish #30. The new brush is of the same softness level as the 217 but less dense, which doesn't make me happy. It's very similar in shape and dimension to Paula Dorf's regular eye shadow brush (though Paula's brushes are softer and feel like they're better made than #30). I also find the blending. You can also see how it compares to Paula Dorf Sheer Crease brush.

I have to say I'm not impressed. My preference for serious blending is bigger and fuller brushes that cover more lid space (I have some serious real estate up there), such as Chanel or Edward Bess. I also get a better performance from Paula Dorf brushes (the Sheer Crease you see above or the wider Blender). When it comes to more elaborate color buffing and placing, I feel the denser MAC 217 does a better job.

Bottom Line: nothing special.

Trish McEvoy Brush 30 Eye Blending ($28) is available from most department stores.

All photos are mine.

Laura Mercier Black Carat Baked Eye Colour Wet/Dry

It looks like almost everyone is launching shiny and new eye shadow formulas. And I mean literally shiny- some makeup counters look like little disco bombs lately (hello, Armani). Laura Mercier, until not long ago Queen of Understated Makeup has her own interpretation of the subject with the new  Baked Eye Colour Wet/Dry (wasn't she the one who said in an interview that she's trying to get American women to tone down the color? Ha!).

Don't believe the photos and swatches you see on Laura Mercier's site. Seriously. These colors are hard to photograph and I spent quite a bit of time and effort on the sub-par pictures you see here, so I'm not surprised the official swatches are crap, but still. I bought mine at the counter where I played with several other colors. I was originally interested in Lagoon and Violet Sky but upon seeing them in person I realized they were far too much for me. I can wear bold colors and know how to blend them into a not-crazy look, but these were little glitter monsters. Pretty monsters, but not something I need. Except for Black Karat, that I knew I could easily make it work.

Black Karat is a metallic golden brown with black marbling that mixes with the main color and takes it towards the taupe side of things. It's not just wearable but also beautiful- both wet and dry, and as long as you don't do a full wash of color, the glitter shouldn't get out of hand. It would make a great evening look, but I also used it on the lash line, top and bottom, for a subtle smoky eye  during the day on the weekend. I used Edward Bess Nude as a base, Dusk on the lid and Black Karat as a liner (using Laura Mercier Smoky Liner brush). I also applied a Bobbi Brown  something or other (a matte taupish one, I just don't remember which one) to bring everything together and tone down the effect.  This might not have been something I would wear in an office environment (or were I still teaching fifth grade), but I really really like this eye shadow in small amounts.

The swatches show how Black Karat looks both dry and applied with a damp brush. You can see how it changes with the amount of light and the direction it comes from. I'd suggest not to order it sight unseen- one should really like the color and shine to be willing to commit, as it's not the easiest formula to wear. Still, the quality is very good. As long as you clean up the initial fallout (see shiny particles all over my hand in the pictures), the eye shadow actually stays put nicely. It hasn't creased, crumpled or changed on my lids (over a primer) for at least 14 hours.

Bottom Line: Like.

Laura Mercier Baked Eye Colour Wet/Dry ($22) is available at the counters and from

All photos are mine.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jo Malone- Lime Basil & Mandarin

Jo Malone fragrances are often mentioned as a sort of getaway to niche perfumes. I'm not exactly sure how wearing Lime Basil & Mandarine (or Sweet Lime & Cedar, I often mix up the two and had to label my samples carefully) prepares one to Serge Lutens or Frederic Malle. However, I'm willing to admit that the Jo Malone line (nowadays owned by Lauder) might give some the first glimpse of what thoughtful perfumery can and should be.

Lime Basil & Mandarin is a simple perfume or cologne or whatever you want to call it. It's a green citrus over dry vetiver, with no twists or turns other than the moment the lime softens into a mandarin. It's really nice. I like it a lot because, really- vetiver and green stuff- what's not to like? Like most Jo Malone perfumes, including those that are utterly not my thing, it's very well done and is dreck-free. Just crisp, refreshing herbs, fruit and grassy vetiver that is quite prominent from the very beginning.

The biggest complaint one hears about Jo Malone perfumes is the lack of tenacity. I'm always surprised that Lime Basil & Mandarin is actually among the ones that cling to my skin the longest. Must be the vetiver. The thing is that it's boring. There's very little story there or anything to hold my attention. I much prefer the line's bath and body product, and in fact, there's a Lime Basil & Mandarin dry body oil that might be quite heavenly on a hot summer day.

Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin ($55, 30ml) is available from Nordstrom, Saks, Neiman Marcus and

Art: Lime Water by Craig Stephens

Lashes And Shoulders At Nylon Magazine Party

There were some impressive lashes on display at Nylon Magazine 12th Anniversary Issue Party. The blondes, Brittany Snow and Nicky Hilton, kept the balance with nude pink lips, while Vanessa Hudgens opted for berry lips that go perfectly well with her coloring (yes, I'm a bit biased here).

Speaking of Nicky Hilton, she and Abbie Cornish wore dresses with some extreme shoulder pads. I don't know, maybe it's because I've been there before or perhaps it's my aversion to body-distorting silhouettes, but I can't help thinking one day they'd look back at the photos and cringe. How about you? How do you feel about supersized  shoulders?

Photos:  Getty Images via Zimbio

Edward Bess Island Escape Eye Shadow Trio

The Island Escape (01) eye shadow trio by Edward Bess is a makeup bag essential and a staple for those mornings that the idea of choosing, matching and planning an eye look before the second cup of tea is too excruciating for words. The trio looks like the most mundane basic brown eye shadow palette, but we're talking Edward Bess here, so you know it's special.

The eye shadow trio includes  a shimmery ivory (brighter and more shimmery than Edward Bess single color in Nude), a medium matte brown and a dark matte. The colors are different than any of the singles, so there's no redundancy (not that I would mind a travel-friendly palette made of the mono shades). They are also incredibly beautiful when applied; blending them is easy, fool-proof and results in a very professional and sophisticated look. Edward Bess uses his own  eye brush to apply, define and blend all three colors into a very French style- add some black eyeliner and mascara and it's done (red lip optional). I don't have his brush skills, so I prefer using a couple more tools when applying the eye shadows, especially when working on the details. A contour brush and a smudger/liner brush are important to me, as well as a smoky liner (like Laura Mercier's) if I'm going between and under the bottom lashes.

Like all Edward Bess eye shadows, Island Escape trio is soft and luxurious. The powder melds with your skin and becomes one with it, staying put over a primer the entire day. This palette has seen a lot of action since I've taken the first photos and has traveled with me quite a bit. It doesn't take much space and the velvet pouch keeps the compact scratch-free and in nice shape. It makes life easier on the go and can be easily spruced up by blending a smidgen of a  bolder color (navy, jade, teal...) onto the lid.

Bottom Line: a must-have for me.

Edward Bess Island Escape Eye Shadow Trio ($60) is available from, Bergdorf Goodman and select Neiman Marcus stores as well as online.

All photos by me.

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