Thursday, February 28, 2013

NARS Rue Bonaparte Larger Than Life Eyeliner


I've worn my Paula Dorf Baby Eyes Enhancer to a tiny stub, so it was time to pick a replacement. I decided on NARS because I like the Larger Than Life Eyeliner formula (I just realized that I have yet to review the pencils I have. I'll do it soon), and find it easy to wear and long-lasting, something that's very important for a brightening pencil you use on your inner rim (the waterline).

NARS Rue Bonaparte is paler and more... beige, I guess, than Paula Dorf's pencil. It's more obvious on the waterline but also brighter, which makes a difference when what you're aiming for is canceling the depressed rabbit look. It's a bit more stark when you first apply, but as the eyeliner settles onto the tissue it appears more natural. I'd say that if you're using an eye brightening to look more awake in a photo, Rue Bonaparte will give you a better result. If you're going out on a date and want to look very natural, Paula Dorf is a better choice. However, since NARS Larger Than Life is much longer lasting, I'd say go with it.

Bottom Line: an essential.

NARS Rue Bonaparte Larger Than Life Eyeliner ($24) is available at the counters, Sephora, and

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer (Honey & Custard)

Concealers can be a girl's best friends, as long as they're in the right color and texture, of course. I guess I have some new BFFs now that NARS released their new Radiant Creamy Concealer. It's a very high coverage concealer with the promised creamy texture that's heavier and denser than a foundation, but still very smooth and pliable. The consistency makes this NARS concealer excellent for covering just about everything and anything: redness, hyper-pigmentation and blemishes.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer comes in ten shades. I chose Honey and Custard (see swatches of the other shades on Cafe Makeup), as they're meant for light-to-medium complexions. I knew I'll have to mix the two together in various ratios to get perfect matches for various areas of my face. I may also be able to get away with ginger, but since the concealer is so pigmented and opaque, Ginger's decidedly golden undertones are a bit too much and too dark-- my undertones are olive and green, and I don't have any hint of tan/golden/sunkissed color (I live on retinoids and high SPF).

Custard is a pale yellowish beige while Honey is decidedly peachy. Peach tones are excellent for dealing with the under-eye area as they neutralize and correct blue and purple darkness. Since NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer is thicker and more opaque than Armani Master Corrector, I only need the tiniest drop of product and get a more impressive (and more even!) result. I mix another drop of Honey into Custard to get a good match for other areas and cover what remains from an old sun spot.

I'm a big believer in setting powders, and as such rarely have any longevity issues. In the case of this NARS concealer, the formula is so long-lasting that some people may be able to get away without powder. As creamy as it is, the concealer stays put and doesn't slide or migrate. It's very impressive, really, as the finish looks like natural skin and doesn't cake or dry. Even in the swatches above, where I used a massive amount of product (about three faces worth), once I buffed the concealer onto the skin there's barely a trace left and no cakiness.

Bottom Line: Highly Recommended.

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer ($28) each is available from and starting tomorrow will also be at the counters. The products for this review were sent by NARS PR.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Etat Libre d'Orange- Rien

The first time I wore Rien by Etat Libre d'Orange was in Paris. It fit right in, just as it does in NYC. This Antoine Lie creation was  launched in 2006 as part of Etat Libre d'Orange's original lineup, and was the one fragrance that made me get what ELdO was about. There was no doubt that Rien was edgy. It's dirty, animalic, leathery, and smoky. There's a hint of hot asphalt and burnt rubber, the kind you get when notes of black leather, cistus, and cumin come together. But Rien is also directly connected to Robert Piguet's Bandit, not just in the smoke, leather and uncompromising oakmoss, but also in the softening that happens when the fragrance unfolds and gives a peek at its floral heart (more apparent in Bandit's extrait concentration).

I used to think of Rien as very butch. I'm not so sure nowadays, though it is completely gender neutral. Rien is urban, has a distinct and deliberate synthetic twist-- rubber, smoke, and some metallic parts, but also very human and warm. Wearing Rien is like taking a whiff of skin warmed under the biker's leather jacket. Rien, like many Etat Libre d'Orange perfumes, suggests an adventure. This one is less of a boudoir experiment and more outdoorsy.

Rien can be downright dangerous in large amounts. I've noticed it the very first time I tried it and I maintain this view to this day. It's one of my favorite perfumes from ELdO, but its non-perfuminess and the medicinal quality it takes when sprayed lavishly can be a major turn-off for those who don't appreciate its style and heavy dusty leather boots. Applied responsibly (dabbing is better, by the way, the fragrance last forever anyway), Rien is seductive and daring, like the road-trip you still dream of taking.

See also Victoria's review on Bois de Jasmin.

Notes: Incense, rose, leather, cistus, oakmoss, patchouli, amber, cumin, black pepper, aldehydes.

Etat Libre d'Orange- Rien ($80, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, Twisted Lily, and

Photo: Elspeth Beard in London after completing her solo ride around the world on her bike 1984, by Peter Orme.

New From Edward Bess

There are new products coming from Edward Bess, as well as the much awaited re-release of the lipsticks in their previous formula (and round packaging) with new shades joining the existing ones (and a couple of reissues).

There's a new compactblus, Blush Extraordinaire, in three shades (Bed Of Roses, Secret Affair, and Filled Desire). Take note that the older Blush Imperiale no longer appears on Bergdorf Goodman's site (it's still at Sephora and on Edward Bess website, both not yet updated to include the new products). $43.

The revamped lipsticks include old favorites as well as new ones. I'm especially curious about Endless Dream and Island Blossom. $32.

There's no release date yet, but the new products are available for pre-order from

Addiction Sheltering Sky Eye Shadow

Addiction is a high-end Japanese makeup brand designed by makeup artist Ayako (@ADDICTION_AYAKO on Twitter). It's another one of those highly-coveted lines that get us jumping through hoops to acquire, as it's not available in the US or in Europe through regular retail venues. My first Addiction item was their beautiful blush in Rose Bar. I've now added  a few eye shadows, and all I can say is that it's true love.

Addiction eye shadow in Sheltering Sky is a medium blue, somewhere between cobalt and sapphire with a slight purple leaning, and has a very (VERY!) subtle pearlized finish. The pigment intensity is out of this world: the swatch above was done with a MAC 217 (not an ideal tool for this product) brush that has barely touched the pan's surface. I'd recommend working with smaller and very soft brushes when dealing with Addiction eye shadows (unless you're going for a more edgy high-fashion look), use a light touch and blend with a neutral matte. The eye shadow offers excellent longevity and doesn't lose one bit of oomph. I apply it over a primer/base and the color stays put through thick and thin, NYC weather, mall overheating, and a rainstorm.

Bottom Line: worth the effort.

Addiction Sheltering Sky Eye Shadow is available in select Japanese department stores (¥2000 JPY) or online through with a substantial markup (¥3200JPY).

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ramon Monegal- Pure Mariposa (Neiman Marcus Exclusive)

I keep a playlist on my iTunes titled "Happy Morning".  There are no Nick Cave or Jeff Buckley songs on it, nothing particularly current or edgy (the newest song is Sirena by Calexico); instead it has oddities such as Sing (Travis), Beautiful Worls (Colin Hay) and far too many 80s favorites (Toto's Africa, Laura Branigan's Gloria, and New Song by Howard Jones) next to wonderful oldies such as Sittin' On The Dock By The Bay and a long forgotten gem from Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. Other than revealing the murky place that is my brain, what does it have to do with perfume? Probably not much, except for the uplifting  effect of listening to these songs, which is oddly similar to how I feel wearing the new fragrance from Ramon monegal, Pure Mariposa.

Pure Mariposa was composed by Ramon Monegal exclusively for Neiman Marcus. The white packaging is decorated with Neiman's butterflies (mariposa=butterfly in Spanish) and has a white cap, to differentiate from Ramon Monegal's regular line that's encased in black. The fragrance has a major spring theme, full of sunshine, colors, flowers, a touch of fruit and daytime lightness.

The note list sounds like a botanical garden (orange, grapefruit, bergamot, yuzu, black currant, plum, osmanthus, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose wardia, tuberose, sandalwood, cashmeran wood, iris, peach, tonka bean, amber), but what's more interesting is that Ramon Monegal chose to also list several of the synthetic molecules: helional (a green hay-like grassy odor), melonal (excatly what it says), calone (usually the worst marine-ozonic offender), ultrazur (another fresh-ozonic beast, sweeter and greener than calone). It sounds like a warning sign and it took all my trust in Ramon Monegal's perfumery skill and style to make me take that first spritz on my wrist.

I shouldn't have worried. While Pure Mariposa opens with a burst of sharp and fresh citrus oil, I don't smell the sea or any rotten melons; just air from a window opened early in the morning, letting in cool air. It's a mix of bright yellow and bright green: the freshly mowed grass, a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, meyer lemons arranged in a bowl on the table. Then things become more floral as the day (and Pure Mariposa) starts to unfold. New blossoms open every day, white, pink, and orange. The heart is rather abstract, I can't say "here's muguet! there's rose!", but it is very floral, slightly honeyed (those fresh water molecules are gone and forgotten), juicy and a bit pulpy. I do smell quite a bit of peach and it goes hand in hand with a strong tuberose note. There's a point that Mariposa becomes a blend of powder and tuberose, very feminine on my skin (dry and woody on the husband) and if you over spray it really takes over the room.

 It's a good thing that I fully enjoy this ride, because the longevity and sillage are both very robust (16 hours easily). Pure Mariposa is a daytime fragrance, but be careful if you're around grumpy office people who don't appreciate this colorful scented presence. Personally, I think it's a fun first date perfume, or something to wear for a Sunday brunch. We're at the tail end of a semi-miserable winter and the ennui is at full swing; it's a good time as any for some butterflies.

Ramon Monegal- Pure Mariposa ($200, 1.7oz EDP) is exclusive to Neiman Marcus, available online and in store. A press sample for this review was provided by Ramon Monegal.

Artwork: Butterflies (Abstract) by Marcia Baldwin.

Washing Makeup Brushes

There are many guides and tutorials for cleaning makeup brushes, some written/demonstrated by pros who are much more qualified than me to advise on the subject. But I keep getting asked how I wash and dry my brushes, and since I'm still working on my comprehensive brush guide (it takes forever), I figured this is a topic worth discussing.

I'm only semi-fussy about the soaps and detergents I use. Whatever shampoo I have on hand, Dr. Bronner soap, Caldrea gentle dish washing liquid-- they all work. I also use various face washes, especially Shu Uemura cleansing oil. I only have one rule: if it's bad for my skin it's also bad for the brushes. My hands are very sensitive and dry, so that's a good guideline as far as I'm concerned.

Another thing I do: condition. Natural hair brushes, just like or own hair, benefit from conditioning (synthetic brushes don't need it and can usually undergo a more vigorous washing with more stripping detergents, especially if you're suffering from acne and use liquid foundations and concealers). Again, I'm not fussy, and any conditioner formulated for dry hair will work (I'm partial to TreSemme for this purpose, as the bottle is massive and cheap). Do make sure to wash the conditioner thoroughly and then some, since product buildup reduces the brush's performance.

The most important thing in washing brushes, though, is to never ever soak the head above the ferrule. You need to make sure to let as little water as possible get into the base where the fibers are held together, otherwise the glue is softened and compromised and the brush will start disintegrating. So: as little soaking as possible and always in the shallowest water, even if it means placing ten different cups with varying levels of water on the counter.

Rinse in plenty of water, make sure the water run clean with no makeup or soap residue.

The rule of drying is always with the head down (again, to preserve the glue). That's why the cute brush tree from Benjabellle ($34.95, is a good solution. The design isn't perfect (I wish the silicone parts were stiffer as to not let the brushes move), but it's good and effective. I stick several brushes in each slot, except for massive kabuki brushes, and it keeps them in place with their head down and out of harm's way. The other essential drying aids are brush guards in various sizes ( or through Amazon). They prevent splaying and loss of shape, and are the only way to make newer MAC 217 brushes last (it's infuriating how ten year old 217s retain their shape better than the newer ones, unless you use these hairnets). Yachiyo brushes (both Hakuhodo and NARS) also benefit from using these. Brush Guards come in four sizes and I use all of them. They make a visible difference and can restore even older brushes to a better state.

Now, as much work and thought as I put into washing the hair part of my brushes, I'm much harder on the handles. I make sure they're clean and shiny, often using wet wipes between washings, and I don't mind that some of them lose the embossed letters or numbers (Hakuhodo brushes are especially prone to it). Makeup brushes are tools, not home decor, so I want them clean and in tiptop shape, but don't mind normal wear and tear to their handles. That said, you can coat the handles in clear nail polish if that's your thing, and wash them gently.

Rouge Bunny Rouge- Delicate Hummingbird Long-lasting Eye Shadow

Rouge Bunny Rouge Long lasting Eye Shadow in Delicate Hummingbird has a cult status that's much deserved. Fans of Rouge Bunny Rouge (and I'm definitely one) adore the texture of all their eye shadows- both matte and shimmery. Delicate Hummingbird is of the latter group, and it adds light and life to the face without any glitter or particles that get everywhere. It's the right kind of shine that comes with a very complex and hard to describe color- a purplish taupe? a plummy milk chocolate with pink glaze? or maybe the most accurate description comes directly from Rouge Bunny Rouge: "Cool, dusky sugar-frosted plum, iridescent with pink shimmer".  All of the above, if you ask me.

The beautiful shade of Delicate Hummingbird works for countless looks from a daytime neutral to attention-grabbing evening glam (apply over a dark cream base or a black pencil, add some cobalt blue). The texture is wonderful and easy to work with. I'm a Rouge Bunny Rouge devotee who hopes to own every single color from their When Birds Are Singing range, but if you're new to the brand this is not a bad place to start.

Bottom Line: Gorgeous.

Rouge Bunny Rouge- Delicate Hummingbird Long-lasting Eye Shadow ($27 full size, $19 for the smaller refill) is available from BeautyHabit, Zuneta (for international shipping) and directly from Also: several eye shadow colors that were phased out from the other retailers were NOT discontinued, just made RBR site exclusive.
The product for this review was sent for my consideration by the company.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tommi Sooni- Eau de Tommi Sooni I

Tommi Sooni's Eau de Tommi Sooni I smells very romantic. It has an almost-vintage-but-not-quite vibe, probably thanks to its full body feel and a smoky oakmossy dry-down that fills the heart with a certain longing. Eau de Tommi Sooni I was released in 2011, proving that there are always exciting surprises where and when you don't expect them: a brand new Australian perfume house in this case.

Eau de Tommi Sooni I opens with a very rich and lightly spicy citrus and leaves accord. Citrus is everywhere, of course, but not like this. My wrist gets glued to my nose immediately, as I try to figure out what it is exactly that captures my attention and heart. It's the lime and bay leaf, I think, that make this such an interesting dry and spicy opening. I don't get any of the rose listed in the nose and have to really look for the jonquil. Eau de Tommi Sooni I is not a floral perfume in my opinion; instead, it's about many shades of green, from the cool and dusty pine and moss to the bright and zesty lime.  The whole thing becomes smooth, slightly sweetened and with a hint of booze and smoke.

If you look for Eau de Tommi Sooni I on Luckyscent's website you'll see that they place it at the very feminine end of the gender spectrum. However, I think it's as unisex as they come. There's nothing girly or soft there; Eau de Tommi Sooni I is not scruffy, but it has a pulled-together toughness that can go either way. The hint of chyper tradition will appeal to lovers of this style of both genders, as will the clean green aspect. I simply think that it's beautiful, easy to wear, as well as highly satisfying.

Notes: Lime, lemon leaves, bergamot, bay laurel, jonquil, rose, Cuban cigar accord, Huon pine, sandalwood, benzoin, oakmoss.

See more reviews on EauMG and NST.

Tommi Sooni-  Eau de Tommi Sooni I ($165, 100ml high concentration EDT) is available from Luckyscent (right now on sale for $125!) as well as directly from The samples for this review were acquired during the Elements Show in NYC.

Photo of Bogart and Bergman on Casablanca via

Discontinued: Le Labo Aldehyde 44

As you probably know, Barneys New York is closing their Dallas store on March 2nd. Barneys Dallas had a Le Labo counter that offered the city exclusive Aldehyde 44. I was just informed by Le Labo that as a result of Barneys Dallas shutting down, Aldehyde 44 will be discontinued. We'll have one last chance to stock up on this perfume as it will be sold online ( throughout March, and will continue to refill customers bottles (50ml, 100ml, and 500ml) until they run out of juice; after that it's a goner.

Insert appropriate "not amused" emoticon.

Photo courtesy of Le Labo.

Ginnifer Goodwin In NARS Makeup- Vanity Fair Oscars Party 2013

Yes, I know we're all celebed out after last night, which is why I won't even bother to comment on the dress Heidi Klum wore for the 2013 Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscars Party. But I couldn't pass on the stunning look NARS makeup artist Mai Quynh created for Ginnifer Goodwin who attended the Vanity Fair Oscars party. I love Ginnifer, and I love blue eye makep. According to NARS PR, the products used on Ginnifer's eyes were Larger Than Life eyeliner pencil in Abbey Road, and eye shadow duos in Rated R and Cordura. I don't know about you, but I see some NARS shopping in my immediate future.

Photos of Ginnifer Goodwin: Getty via Zimbio.

Kjaer Weis- Romance Lip Tint And Lip Brush

Kjaer Weis products are a feast for the eyes and a pleasure to use. They offer what I consider the most beautiful and sleek packaging on the market (designed by Marc Atlan), and incredible textures in flattering wearable colors. Take, for example, this Kjaer Weis lip tint in Romance. The pink coral shade looks a bit menacing in the pan, but the balm-like sheer texture makes Romance an everyday color that adds just the right amount of life to the face. I've been using it on its own and also mixed with Kjaer Weis Passionate Lip Tint (I'm on my second refill) to add a bit more red.

Kjaer Weis lip tint doesn't have a discernible scent and barely a taste. The product is easy to spread on the lips and color intensity can be built. The tint holds onto the lips, and depending on the amount one applies, it's fairlylong lasting, drink resistant and leaves a light stain when it fades (quite evenly, I must say). I always use a brush-- not a fan of dipping my finger into the pan, but it can be done for a very natural and casual effect.

Kjaer Weis lip brush is an effective tool. It's elegant, of course, and matches the rest of the line, but also well-designed (Kirsten Kjaer Weis, the founder and owner of the company is a makeup artist). I like the tapered round edge of the brush that makes it east to do precision work, line the lips and reach every corner.

The formulas of Kjaer Weis products are 95% organic (and even the ingredients that aren't certified organic- certain color dyes- are FDA and EU approved). The packaging is refillable (the refills are reasonably priced), and the overall feel of the brand is very luxurious.

Bottom Line: Love.

Kjaer Weis- Romance Lip Tint ($48 with the compact, $24 refill only) and Lip Brush ($18) are available at select salons (Woodley & Bunny in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, if you're in the NYC area) and online from The products for this review were sent free of charge for my consideration.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Estée Lauder- Estée (Super)

When it comes to classic Estée Lauder perfumes, popular lore states that the original Private Collection was Mrs. Lauder's personal fragrance. However, it's the 1968 Estée that is her namesake and defined by the company as "The Signature Scent". Estée  is probably also the first Lauder perfume to spawn a flanker, as Estée Super (aka Estée Super Cologne) was released only a year later, in 1969. From what I was able to gather, Estée Super is simply a lower concentration of the original and they have exactly the same note and marketing story. Estée Lauder perfume are often vague about the real concentration, especially on older bottles such as the one I have. This "super Cologne" is most likely somewhere between an EDT and an EDP, though its strength is pretty nuclear (I've smelled vintage Estée and it was somewhere between a supernova and the Big Bang).

Estee is a warm aldehydic floral perfume with a green and decidedly mossy dry-down (told you, my bottle is pre-IFRA). The husband claims that it "smells vintage", which is his way of complaining about aldheydes in perfume. I think that while it does have that obvious 70s vibe (that I love), it also smells like a warm spring day, hope and leisure. The floral notes are abstract, but I do smell a hefty dose of muguet (I'm probably hypernosmic to the aromachemical used to create it), a rosy heart and a dry and powdery iris.

Estée dries down as a classic chypre into a cloud of green oakmoss and wood. It's a tad soapy, especially when my skin is very warm, and smells very ladylike and well-dressed. It's perfumy, for sure, and will delight lovers of this particular style, while some might find it dated. I adore Estée Super and think it's superior to the most recent EDT versions of Chamade or Goutal's Grand Amour (the higher concentrations are otherworldly and irreplaceable, though).

Both Estée and Estée Super are still in production ($44, 2oz)  and can be found in the back of Estee Lauder counters and on

Notes: aldehyde complex, raspberry, peach, citrus oil, muguet, rose, jasmine, carnation, ylang-ylang, honey, orris, cedarwood, musk, sandalwood, styrax, moss.

Photos of Mrs. Lauder via W Magazine and

Shiseido Perfect Rouge Lipstick Salon RD305

*Apologies for the smooshed lipstick in the photos. I dropped it on the floor the second I removed the cap for taking the pictures*

Shiseido Perfect Rouge formula is still among of my most favorite for lipsticks. I've gone through quite a few of them and I always find a new shade to love. Perfect Rouge RD305 (Salon) isn't new but I was still happy to add it to my arsenal of wearable red lipsticks. It's a medium intensity burgundy, more red than pink; it can be built into a dramatic effect just as it's perfect blotted down to a stain or sheered with a brush.

Shiseido's formula is rich in hyaluronic acid and feels as good on the lips as it looks. There's no feathering and flaking, and the color doesn't sink into the scar on my lower lip. The finish of this Perfect Rouge lipstick is satin-like, not glossy but not matte, either. It lasts longer than Shiseido's corresponding Sheer formula (about 4 hours, longer if you layer with a brush). There's no detectable scent and only a very faint taste.

Bottom Line: Beautiful.

Shiseido Perfect Rouge Lipstick Salon RD305 ($25) is available at the counters and from

Sephora Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush #57 (New Version)

Sephora's "Professional" line of brushes has always been a very solid one that offered good design and a great value. It's gone through several changes over the years (I still have a few with the original thicker black handle that were made in France about ten years ago). Late last year Sephora redesigned the brushes again, replacing the Platinum Professional range with the Pro brushes that have black tapered handles. They look nice and seem to have been through a visible upgrade.

Sephora #57 Airbrush Concealer Brush was one of the last additions to the "Airbrush" series. I bought the original one as soon as it was launched only to find it lacking in comparison to #55 and #56. From the info I gathered it seemed like a quality control issue more than a real flaw, and  indeed, the new Sephora Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush #57 is excellent. It's a fuller and rounder, the bristles are of a higher quality and have a better movement , and the result is better buffing and blending.

Do remember that Sephora Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush #57 is a relatively large concealer brush and is not meant for pinpoint concealing and precision work. The brush aims to give a smooth and flawless finish when applying concealer (or a cream highlighter) to larger areas that need to blend seamlessly into your foundation.

Bottom Line: a must-have.

Sephora Pro Airbrush Concealer Brush #57 ($24) is available in store and online.

A Late Start

We're having a late start today because of a home improvement project. The living room is in total disarray with furniture everywhere and piles of books standing on the floor up to my waist. Most of the cats have taken refuge in the basement, and the ones who didn't are giving me a look that says "The last time this happened you packed us in the car and transferred us to this house". It's just some reshuffling and installing a new TV (so Lizzy and Sophie can watch the Oscars in HD, like the rest of the civilized world), but it was distracting and messed up our schedule until now.

Next: some good old fashioned beauty blogging.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tocca- Liliana

A confession: I've been spending a lot more time than necessary wearing Liliana, the new perfume from Tocca. Based on the list of notes and a preliminary sniff I was expecting to hate it. A fruity floral with a prominent watery peach note, a hefty dose of muguet, and a sweet musk base? Give me a break. But somehow, perhaps through Tocca's uncanny ability to churn out easygoing crowd-pleasing perfumes without insulting the intelligence of their customers in the process, I had enough fun with Liliana to warrant making it my scent of the day several extra times over the last few weeks.

As a rule, Tocca's Liliana is a bit too wide-eyed and innocent for me. It's girly to a fault and on bad chemistry days the watery aspect bothers me even more than the daintiness of the floral notes. But a lot of the time Liliana feels and smells like a lighter and airier relative of Jean Patou Sira des Indes which I truly love, banana and all. I appreciate that Liliana is more pretty than cute and isn't very sweet so it never smells cheap. The dry-down has a fruity musk quality that I tend to enjoy, and while the official notes mention sandalwood, I smell something closer to a very smooth cedar.

All in all, Liliana is a rather safe spring choice that's perfectly blind date or office appropriate and will make a nice gift for a loved one starting high school or college. It lasts for a full day (two sprays are enough) and offers a polite sillage and projection.

Notes: Italian Bergamot, Neroli, Watery Peach, Lily-of-the-Valley, Gardenia, White Peony, Sandalwood, Musk, Benzoin, Patchouli.

Liliana by Tocca ($68, 1.7oz EDP) is available from Sephora and select department stores. The press sample for this review was sent by the company's PR.

Photo: Model Evelyn Tripp for Harper's Bazaar, 1952, via

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible- Book Review

"We have a glorious design tradition to be proud of here in this country, and it's a shame, in my view, that American designers of today know so little about American designers of the past."
"Every item we wear has a glorious (or sometimes not so glorious) history, and that history extends back years-centuries, even- before Oscar de la Renta's 2002 collection."    ---Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, 2012
Season after season on Project Runway we get to see young designers who have little or no knowledge of fundamental fashion history. Nothing is more infuriating in this context than seeing a twentysomething guy gets the 1970s and 1980s all mixed up and claim he shouldn't be expected to know any of it because it happened before he was born. Then there's the vacant stare at the mention of Christian Dior's New Look (obviously, 1947 and the Mesozoic Era are one and the same if you were born in 1991). Tim Gunn who must have heard it all by now shares these frustrations and set out to do something about it. After all, he's first and foremost an educator (his short bio on both Facebook and Twitter says: "Educator, Author, Fashion Therapist, Project Runway Mentor"). That's where his newest book, Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, enters the picture.

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible was written in collaboration with Ada Calhoun who also worked with him on Gunn's Golden Rules. It's worth noting that the Tim Gunn-Ada Calhoun partnership somehow flows better and reads more Gunnish than his first book, Tim Gunn's Guide To Style that was written with Kate Moloney.  The book takes us on a tour from the beginning (well, not the fig leaf, but the toga, and even touches on cavemen apparel), explaining the origins and reasoning behind past and present fashion:
"In other words, the American wardrobe staple's likeliest origin is this: a German inventor used an English fabric with a French name to make an Italian pant".    --Tim Gunn on Denim
The book covers almost every clothing item in our closets, making sense of their evolution and gives advice on how to choose well. Tim Gunn includes both men and women's apparel and answers some of the most common questions, from what color of belt goes with brown shoes to what exactly to wear for a  formal morning event. In between, Gunn gives us his personal opinions on everything from pleats ("I maintain: never.") to Europeans ("I think of Europeans as being very fashion conscious, but their proclivity for wool socks with sandals is one egregious exception.").  It's an entertaining read just as much as it's educating, and Tim Gunn's beautiful personality shines through.

Now, about the name. I'd bet good money that Tim Gunn wasn't the one who came up with this name. It sounds like something from the publisher's marketing department and I can just about picture Tim Gunn's facial expression when he first heard it. This is a great book, but not quite a "fashion bible", and I don't think the author meant it to be one. Tim Gunn is just doing his part in broadening our sartorial horizon and making us give an extra thought to the clothes we wear, how we wear them, and why it matters:
"We should feel proud if we care about our appearance. I know vanity is supposedly one of the seven deadly sins, but I don't agree. I consider it a virtue. ... I think we owe it to ourselves and to each other to be a little bit vain. Pride may goeth before a fall, but it also goeth before a good social life and career advancement."      --Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible, Concluion: How to Shop With The Past, Present, And Future In Mind.

Tim Gunn's Fashion Bible ($12.74 for the Kindle edition) is available from Amazon.

Photo by Perry Hagopian

Becca- Moonstone Shimmering Skin Perfector SPF 25+

Some years ago when Becca was sold at Sephora for the first time (Becca's products were phased out from the stores some time in 2006 or 2007 and reintroduced last year) I spent several store visits desperately trying to like the very popular Shimmering Skin Perfector and make it work on my skin. It didn't. I tested every available color but between the texture, the finish, and the shades it was never a good fit. However, when Becca released Moonstone a few months ago I was willing to give it a chance, and I'm very glad I did.

Becca  Shimmering Skin Perfector in Moonstone is exactly what I wanted YSL Dare to Glow luminizer to be: an effective yet subtle pale gold highlighter that lends itself to various methods of application (under or over foundation, as well as mixed with it). Moonstone gives a visible highlighting effect without a metallic finish or a noticeable change in pigment (YSL's major downfall), and the color is a perfect match for me.  The smooth texture has no visible particles (one of the issues I had with older Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector shades). I'd say that Moonstone has earned its place next to my other liquid highlighter favorites from Rouge Bunny Rouge.

Bottom Line: Gorgeous.

Becca Moonstone Shimmering Skin Perfector SPF 25+  is available from Sephora and Dermstore ($41).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince

Let's put one thing out of the way: Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince is a fruity berry fragrance much more than it's foresty, woody or enchanted. But it's a pretty and quite grownup berry scent that doesn't smell like anything out of Bath & Body Works. While my personal taste usually keeps me away from blackcurrants in perfume I do like the way a real fruit smells, and I think Enchanted Forest is as close as it gets.  So where does that leave us in regard to Enchanted Forest?

It's complicated.

The Vagabond Prince is a new perfume house from the owners and founders of Fragrantica ( This means that the people behind The Vagabond Prince and its first offering, Enchanted Forest, have a true passion and love for fragrance as well as an intimate knowledge of the online perfume community. They weren't going to send out into the wild a juice that smells like half the stuff at Sephora. Instead, they went all the way in: hired Bertrand Duchaufour, designed an impressive bottle (I held that thing in my hand. It's heavy) and packaging, and rolled down a massive marketing campaign where it counts: among the fragonerds online who're always searching for a new indie/niche line.

The result is a very congenial perfume that offers enough hooks and little twist not to bore even the more jaded among us. No one can deny that it hits with a massive basket of blackcurrants on the head and in your face again and again and again, but Enchanted Forest isn't syrupy or cloying in the traditional sense. It also keeps the fruity musk away until the later part of the dry-down, so it's not as predictable as one could fear. And the best part is that the fragrance does offer quite a bit of prickly green leaves, broken stems and crunchy evergreen needles on the forest floor-- that's my favorite part of Enchanted Forest. This forest may be a bit too clean, though. While patchouli is listed among the many notes and I can smell it when I put my nose to it, there's not much earthiness, dirt or decay on the floor of the enchanted forest (maybe that's the whole point). But there's also no pixie dust or magical light penetrating from above.  The berry bushes have taken over a lot of the surface and the seem to be multiplying right in front of our eyes, bearing an incredible amount of juicy and luscious fruit.

So, yes, Enchanted Forest smells good and far more natural than most fruit-centric perfumes from big and small brands. It's also incredibly long lasting and very concentrated, high in quality and crafted with care and thought. The thing that makes it less desirable for me is that eventually I do get tired of the endless blackcurrant (my skin tends to play it up and amplify it to high heaven) and I want something more. The smooth vanillic dry-down doesn't give me enough balsam and wood as I would have liked. I keep wishing it were heavier and darker-- that eventually the forest itself would become thicker and more mysterious-- to keep my full interest and attention for the full lifespan of the perfume on my skin.

See other reviews on All I Am A Redhead and This Blog Really Stinks.

Top notes: pink pepper, aldehydes, sweet orange, flower cassis, blackcurrant leaf, hawthorn, effects of rum and wine, rosemary, davana.
Heart notes: blackcurrant buds absolute),  blackcurrant, Russian coriander seed, honeysuckle, rose, carnation, vetiver
Base notes: opoponax resinoid, Siam benzoin, amber, oakmoss, fir balsam absolute, patchouli, castoreum absolute, cedar notes, vanilla, musk

Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince ($180, 100ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent, MiN NY, and directly via Samples for this review were acquired at the Elements Showcase last month.

Picking Berries by Joyce Ann Vitek
Fairytale: Fairy Folk by Yelena Bryksenkova