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My newest installment of Outdated Beauty Advice on The Hairpin started out being about buying mutton tallow at CVS and devolved into found poetry.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New Outdated Beauty Advice column up at The Hairpin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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Disco Aqua Dancer: The W.E.T. Workout

"Water, the 'magic medium,' is what makes my program different from-- ad better than-- most other exercise regimens.  For one thing, the medium itself is delightful.As soon as you get in the water, you feel relaxed as the day's tensions ebb away.  Water is cool and delicious."
Friends picked this up for me on a Greenpoint stoop.  It's full of eighties line drawing depicting such moves as "Spare Ribs," the "Fetal Float," and here, "Disco Aqua Dancer."

I also enjoyed the religious iconolatry of the breast stroke arm motion here:

And this lady's spirited bathing suit and blunt haircut.

In related news, reader Kathryn just e-mailed to recommend Esther Williams' autobiography.  Kathryn says, "They literally stuck her hair to her head with an iron bar that left a permanent dent."  I'm off to look into this...

Also, photos and fonts are driving me insane on blogger lately.  If any of you know WTF is going on and how I fix it, e-mail me please...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Missed Connections, 1879

"Liederkranz Ball — Beautiful young girl with rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes under black mask and laughs like a siren: wore wine-colored satin domino, pearl headdress and jewelry; white camellias; waltzed like a fairy..."

Victorian Version of Craigslist

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Skin of the Buttocks Wins By a Tremendous Margin

"If women, continuing their present tendency to its logical goal, end by going stark naked, there will be no more poets and painters, but only dermatologists."
--H.L. Mencken, The Smart Set (1916)

When I came across The Art of Looking Younger, my eyes needed a moment to adjust. Certainly, the image is striking, but what is it supposed to convey? By the time I found the answer on page twenty-two, I'd begun to imagine that the incohesively-aged lady was doctor and author Bedford Shelmire. And I still do. Doesn't she look like a that would be her name? I've since learned the doctor was a man (who died in 1980).

He writes:
"The scene is a small, brightly lit room containing two persons. One is lying completely naked on a table in the center of the room, while the other, a man wearing a white coat, is carefully examining the naked individual with a magnifying glass. After completing his examination of this area, the man in the white coat turns to his subject's face, which he inspects with equal care and deliberation. Finally, he records his observations in a notebook. Waiting outside in the hall is a group of middle-aged men and women. Each is called in turn, asked to undress, and the procedure is repeated. What is going on here? Is the man in a white coat doing some kind of sex research? Is he casting a nude play, or is he just a wealthy eccentric indulging a peculiar hangup?"

Now I just love spooky little beauty stories. (Nude plays, not so much.) But really, what is going on?

"He is a scientist compiling statistical data on the dramatic skin changes caused by the environment. In order to have a basis for comparison, he has already visited a maternity ward hospital, where he examined both the faces and buttocks of a number of newborn babies. In this younger group, he found that the texture and contour of the two areas was almost exactly the same. His findings in the middle-aged group, however, are remarkably different... In this group, the skin of the buttocks wins by a tremendous margin. The facial skin, almost without exceptions, looks terrible."

At left is a chart depicting the facial and buttock skin of specimens ranging in age from two, to eighty. Click to enlarge. You're welcome.

Bedford continues to hammer the point home here, with a quote that I recall now whenever I (accidentally!) come across celebrity gossip, and overly plasticized faces:

"I have often been struck by the fact that many entertainers have skins that look extraordinarily young. The explanation is that they not only make a greater effort to take care of their skins, but many of these people never see the light of day."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Asking Cybill Shepherd Out Is A Misdemeanor

"She wore two scarves. One of wool to match her coat. The other of cotton to match her dress. She looked stunning. But anyone who dressed up for a Chaucer class would definitely not find me appealing."  

That's from, Sitting Behind Cybill Shepherd, a charming piece by Hal Sirowitz, former poet laureate of Queens.  I just came across it on Mr. Beller's Neighborhood.  Hal was lucky enough to get a view of Cybill's inspiring shoulder blades in 1968, the same year she graduated high school and won a career-launching modeling contest.

I wrote here about my love for Cybill.  At left, she demonstrates that her front is nothing to sneeze at either.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Julie Klausner Drinks Jesus Smoothies

I'm going to an event next week where Julie Klausner will be reading from her new book.  I am somehow not as familiar with her work as everyone else seems to be, but after watching this old video, I do feel a certain kinship.

Note:  I used to have an agent in common with those Skinny Bitches.  They are strident proponents of The Don't Kid Yourself Diet.  Oh, and I just now put together that she did those infamous spoofs of Brenda Dickson's videos.  Yeah, I like this girl.

Multiple Inventions and Ring-Tailed Lemurs: Kirstie Alley's New Reality Show

No matter who you are or how your tastes run, I defy you to describe an earthly entertainment finer than this, Kirstie Alley's upcoming reality show:

"In addition to chronicling her weight loss battle on TV, the show will also feature her  'producing a feature film, patenting multiple inventions, working hard to raise two normal Hollywood teenagers, True and Lillie [her adopted sons with ex Parker Stevenson], taking care of eight ringtail lemurs, and on top of everything, looking for love -- nothing like a little pressure,' according to the release."

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Eyes Like Goddamn Seashells: J. D. Salinger on Beauty

    Part of what I like about Salinger's writing are his little remarks about pretty girls.  But when I began to round up those bits to show you, I couldn't help remembering something he wrote, not in a story, but in a letter to a friend. On the marriage of his teen-aged sweetheart, Oona O'Neil, and the much older Charlie Chaplin:

    "I can see them at home in the evenings. Chaplin squatting grey and nude, atop his chiffonier, swinging his thyroid around his bamboo cane, like a dead rat. Oona in an aquamarine gown, applauding madly from the bathroom. Agnes [her mother] in a Jantzen bathing suit, passing between them with cocktails. I'm facetious, but I'm sorry. Sorry for anyone with a profile as young and lovely as Oona's."

At right is the profile in question.  This particular passage came out in court when Salinger sued to stop Ian Hamilton's biography from being published.  Odd that Salinger took issue with the age difference.  But I love that image.  So comic-book macabre.

Anyway, here are some things about pretty girls that Salinger actually wanted us to read, starting with a couple from Catcher In The Rye:

     "I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down.  That's the thing about girls.  Every time they do something pretty... you fall half in love with them, then you never know where the hell you are." 

    "If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she's late?  Nobody." 

Next, from the story A Perfect Day for Bananafish:
     "She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing. She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually ever since she had reached puberty.  "

From Franny and Zooey:
     "There were half circles under her eyes, and other, subtler signs that mark an acutely troubled young girl, but nonetheless no one could have missed seeing that she was a first-class beauty. Her skin was lovely, and her features were delicate and most distinctive."

From the story, De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period:
     "I saw her coming to meet me -- near a high, wire fence -- a shy, beautiful girl of eighteen who had not yet taken her final vows and was still free to go out into the world with the Peter Abelard-type man of her choice."
And from the story, Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes:
     "Christ, it's embarrassing--I start thinking about this goddam poem I sent her when we first started goin' around together. `Rose my color is. and white, Pretty mouth and green my eyes.' Christ, it's embarrassing--it used to remind me of her. She doesn't have green eyes--she has eyes like goddam sea shells, for Chrissake."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Mascara Horses" and the "Beloved Cleavage Area"

You've seen at least a few of Sarah Haskins' Target Women videos, right? This one is from a few months back, but I just now watched it and learned about a peculiar beauty device that even I was unaware of, the Kush Support. I do not at all understand what that thing is meant to ameliorate, though I do fall into two categories (the first two) of women to whom this product "offers comfort". All I know is it looks dirty.

And "mascara horses" remind me of this.

I found this on the testimonial page of the Kush site:
"It's such a nice, light and comfortable device that snuggles perfectly in the cleavage area – I am amazed that I can't even feel it’s there. I am so happy a product is now here to help women do away with those wrinkle lines in our beloved cleavage area"

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hand Mirror, Flashlight, and... This

So My New Pink Button has been all over the web today. It's a "simple to use Genital Cosmetic Colorant that restores the 'Pink' back to a Woman's Genitals." But apparently that description still confuses some. From the FAQ's:

Q. “Where do I put it exactly”?
A. Please see our detailed instructions with the self-explanatory diagrams. Its easy as 1-2-3!

But what to do if you've shelled out your $29.95 for this important new product, only to now find your other intimate areas suddenly and sadly lacking in dazzle? Here's a suggestion that ties in with the other big beauty news of the day, Neanderthal glamour.

"Egyptian beauties were the first to use body glitter, gilding their nipples with an elegant gold frost. When you are entertaining a special someone, you might try using a gold or bronze mica powder on this super-sexy part of you, for a special under-negligee surprise."

--Barbara Walden, Easy Glamour (1981)

Ayla Could Use a Little Color on Her Lips

The discovery of pigment inside shells at an archeological site in Spain suggests Neanderthals may have used cosmetics. Sparkly ones at that:

"The small quantity of pigment recovered in the oyster shell also led the archaeologists to speculate that it had been made for use on the body. According to Zilhão, the effect of the darkly sparkling preparation would not have been too different from today's coruscating skin powders.

"The idea that came to our minds was that it was some kind of glitter or makeup like the shimmery stuff that people were wearing a few years ago," he said." --The Guardian

I enjoy it when science that indicates creative grooming is an instinct, instead of a misguided social construct.