Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shrieking During Sleep; Dislikes Husband: the found poetry of homeopathic remedies

My newest installment of Outdated Beauty Advice on The Hairpin started out being about buying mutton tallow at CVS and devolved into found poetry.  Here is a brief selection of homeopathic remedies and their suggested uses:

Cimicifuga Racemosa (black cohosh)
Sensation of a cloud enveloping her
Great depression, with Dream of impending evil
Fears riding in a closed carriage, of being obliged to jump out
Wild feeling in brain
Tongue pointed and trembling.
Brain feels too large

Pulsatilla (wind flower)
The weather-cock among remedies
Mentally, an April day
Thirstless, peevish, and chilly
Fears in evening to be alone, dark, ghosts
Shrieking; during sleep
Sits quite stiff; still

Sepia (inky juice of cuttlefish)
Acts best on brunettes
"Ball" sensation in inner parts
Indifferent to those loved best
Pain in teeth from 6 P.M
Flabby feeling; internally
Dislikes; husband

More on The Hairpin.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Natural Deodorants? Don't Kid Yourself

So I hear some of you are into natural deodorants? How lovely. And, in an effort to be more “green,” or perhaps more French, some of you have decided to forgo deodorant altogether, and keep bathing to a minimum? Brilliant.
It just might remain a mystery to you why you get left out of everything nice. If your best friend wouldn't tell you, I would. And supposing we worked or studied together, I'd start by asking you to tell me if I ever smelt even slightly stale or unpleasant, because I know that it's possible to get a little careless, or perhaps to use an anti-perspirant-deodorant that isn't effective for some reason (maybe it's time to change to a new one). I would talk in exaggerated terms about my absolute horror at the mere thought that I might smell of perspiration. And I would be putting on this act for your sake hoping that you would get the message.
—Mary Young, The Best of Yourself (1970)

New Outdated Beauty Advice column up at The Hairpin

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Jill Clayburgh: Seventies Adults, Jogging in Sweaters, and Your New Fall Look

Jill Clayburgh died yesterday. I loved her and so did many of you. I know this because people land here all the time after googling "Jill Clayburgh in her underwear."

She was a star of one of my favorite genres of film: the sprawling nineteen-seventies divorce epic. Here's something I wrote about Jill,  those movies, and the clothes in them, a while back. If you don't know what to wear right now, scroll down for a prescribed wardrobe.

(originally published June 30, 2008)

I love the New York of 1970s film, a grownup city populated by adults with bad hair and brown sweaters. The Seventies Adult is a style character in my mind, a mostly imaginary person that I often reference when talking about fashion.

Jill Clayburgh's character, Erica, in 1978's An Unmarried Woman, is a great example of The Seventies Adult, and that lost New York.

The movie begins with Jill dancing around in just her underpants and sets the fashion tone of the film for me. Her underwear is just that: plain white cotton underwear. Jill is quite lovely, but she is not overly sexualized in this scene, or in the film, though her character is a sexy woman and there is plenty of sex in the movie. There is a difference.

If the same movie was made now, thirty years later, the star would have been in racier underthings, and the camera would have lingered on her breasts, toned abs, etc. Jill's body doesn't looked worked out worked on, or implanted. The sex scenes aren't lit or posed to look like perfume ads.  

The wardrobe for Jill's character is brilliant in its normalcy. She wears things more than once and that almost never happens in current American films. A royal-blue, floofy, silk blouse makes a couple of appearances, but mainly she wears neutrals. Throughout the film, she wears a creamy-beige, cashmere, wide-collar, trench, accessorized with a leather shoulder bag and matching gloves in a shade of tan then referred to by the pleasingly utilitarian name, luggage.

In one fantastic scene, Erica goes to lunch with friends. All are in full Modern Career Gal regalia: blazers, brushed-out roller sets and lavender eye shadow. (By the way, I actually do think lavender is an almost universally flattering color for lids when done with subtlety.) The Seventies Adult always puts effort into planning a sensible work wardrobe. When Erica goes to work as a journalist, she wears wide, A-line, mid-calf beige dress, brown boots and a loose, open, brown-plaid, overshirt.

One of my favorite style guides from that era is Looking Terrific, by image consultant Emily Cho and soap writer Linda Grover. The excellent illustrations by Catherine Clayton Purnell perfectly reflect The Seventies Adult aesthetic. This outfit is almost identical to an outfit Jill wears in the film.

As Jill traipses through Manhattan, newly single in Fair Aisle sweaters, beige capes and neutral slacks, I enjoyed the set design almost as much as the fashion. The bachelor pad-loft of one of her suitors is decorated with hanging spider plants; the sunny office of her hippie therapist is furnished with floor-level couches covered in tapestry.

Best of all is what Jill wears to jog (and run into her ex-husband) by the East River: a beige sweater! Sure, she has on simple running shorts, but I love that people used to exercise in regular clothes. It wasn't to be that way for long. Just two years after the film was made, Cheryl Tiegs crowed over the arrival of high-tech workout wear in her book, The Natural Way to Beauty:

"Leotards and tights are now available in shimmery synthetic fabrics (Lycra and nylon) and cheerful colors. I have a drawerful and just looking at them inspires me. Jogging suits also come in a variety of attractive fabrics and designs, and even jogging shoes are now full of life."

Albert Wolsky designed the costumes for An Unmarried Woman. He won Oscars for his work on Bugsby and on All That Jazz, and was also nominated four other times including for Sophie's Choice and last year's Across the Universe.

Just like me, the ladies in the movie are nostalgic for the style that they missed. Lounging on Erica's bed, she and her depressed friend, Elaine talk about old movie stars and the self-confidence they exuded. After a good cry, Elaine looks up from under her Dorothy Hamill cut, and says wistfully,

"I liked Rita Hayworth. She was pretty."

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Hairpin: sharp and useful

Miss me blathering on about weird old beauty stuff?  Stop by my new column at The Hairpin.  I chortled about Edith Zimmerman a while back and now I get to work with her.  To celebrate, let's look at a couple of off-label uses for that iconic of lady tool:

One of the first principles of home remedies for the ears is to keep these organs free of wax... This treatment must be carefully administered, so the delicate structure will not be injured.  A safe way of removing the wax is with a wire hairpin.
   Margaret Mixter, Health and Beauty Hints (1910)

Until recently, hot grease cosmetique was used exclusively for stage make-up.  If discreetly applied, it exaggerates the length of lashes and lends an air of sophistication when this is desired.  The cosmetique is obtained in sticks.  A small quantity is placed in a spoon and then heated until it melts.  It is then applied to the tips of lashes with the round end of a hair-pin.  The grease must not be too hot or too liquid.  The object is to place a tiny blob of grease on the end of each lash.
    Sonja Joslen, The Way to Beauty (1937)

Drop by:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Autobeautyography: more on the genre

If you've arrived here after reading my piece on Jezebel perhaps you're new to autobeautyography.  That's my name for the genre of literature created when eccentrics, often famous eccentrics, set out to write a helpful how-to on skin care, diet  and makeup tips, and building a wardrobe that works, and end up writing their life story by revealing insecurities and deeply weird habits, confessing various secrets and betrayals, and perhaps letting a giddy need for attention push them too far.  These books were my secret pleasure for most of my life.

Now with blogs and reality television, it seems to me that autobeautyography is everywhere.  Nearly everyone wants to show the world their underwear and share their disordered diet tips.  Everyone has become their Own Grandchild.  Sadly books by today's eccentrics are often overly ghost-written and slickly produced, safely devoid of personality.

But perhaps you're familiar with a certain autobeautyography in the form a e-mail newsletter?  It has all the makings of a classic.  The author insists the tips within are there to inform and help, but GOOP's appeal seems to lie only in the personality and attitudes revealed.  A book is inevitable!

I have to be honest here.  It is difficult for me to even mention GOOP, and believe you me, I have wanted to for quite some time.  But I have a complicated, if albeit distant, relationship to Gwyneth.  I have always loved to watch her on screen.  It's her face.  I could watch that face watch paint dry, as they say.  That news letter fascinates me in that it is much like reading her write paint dry.  Does this make any sense?

Anyway, welcome new readers!  All the links above will take you to some of the best autobeautyographies from my collection.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Greatest Hits: Go For the Complete Finished Look

This is Megan. She modeled for Carole Jackson's 1987 follow-up, Color Me Beautiful MakeUp Book. She is featured here just in case her loved ones haven't been giving her enough crap about this for the past twenty-one years. Megan is a perfectly lovely woman under the hair and all, but if she was my friend, I'd dress up like that every Halloween to lovingly torment her.
The makeovers in this book seem to run on the theory that one should use every color of their personal seasonal palette on their face every day.

"I urge you to go for the complete finished look. A dash of hurriedly applied blush and lipstick is OK for the tennis court, but for the rest of life, it's not enough. Whether at the office, a party, or among friends and family, you're cheating yourself from looking your beautiful best if you don't take the few minutes it requires each morning to achieve a natural but but "complete" look. You'll look more polished, more elegant, more professional, and you'll feel better about yourself too. You deserve all the compliments that come your way!"

At left, Nancy has gone overboard with under-eye concealer, but displays stunning hair and earring geometry.

The eighties were astounding in the sheer amount of makeup applied. Soon, I'll do a post on cheekbone contouring alone. 

Breaking: I just tried to access Carole Jackson's site for more research and received the following error message: Your page is blocked due to a security policy that prohibits access to category Glamour & Intimate Apparel. I'm using the wireless at a cafe, but clearly I can never write here again. Approximately 60% of the sites I visit probably fall under that category. You know how often I write about underwear.

(originally posted August 2008)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Makes A Thoughtful Gift

I just saw this asinine new lotion at the drugstore.  I was going to make a lame joke about the puberty version for teens, but the fact that Electric Youth perfume exists tops anything I could come up with.