Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the Street

Today started badly, with that particular assortment of missed appointments and frayed nerves and thwarted plans that doesn’t really seem like that big a deal until you’ve been out of the house for a few hours and have achieved absolutely nothing, then suddenly you’re standing in a coffee shop and feel like crying because the poor counter girl got your order wrong.

But things got better when Rob and I took in a matinee. Things nearly always look better after an afternoon at the movies, certainly, but today we saw Bill Cunningham New York, and it restored my faith in humanity.

If you don’t know who Bill Cunningham is, read his Wikipedia entry or watch a few of his wonderful "On the Street" videos for the New York Times. Then go see the film. It doesn’t matter if you give a toss about photography, or fashion, or anything, because even though Bill’s made a career of taking pictures of clothes, it’s about so much more than that.

This is a film about art, and about loving beauty. It’s a film about a monastic devotion to one’s work, to the exclusion of everything else. It’s about principles and self-respect and stubbornness and possibly loneliness. And yes, it’s about the joys of fashion.

One of the many things that struck me about this documentary is that it’s populated by old people. I like seeing and hearing from grown-ups in their seventies, eighties, and nineties. These are people who’ve lived—and continue to live—amazingly rich and fascinating lives. When I watch television (or consume any mass culture, really), all I see are the very young. It’s easy to forget that old people exist at all, much less remember that they’re doing cool stuff and that they have things to share with us. What could a rich twenty-two-year-old celebrity, compared to these individuals, possibly have to say about the world?

Another thing that intrigued me was seeing someone still shooting rolls of film. He's probably the only guy at the Times who has to go and pick up his negatives, then painstakingly go through all those images to select the ones to run in his columns, then have them scanned, then pull up a chair beside John, his layout guy, and argue about what should go where (the source of some of the movie's funniest moments). I guess it's a testament to how far and how fast technology has come that I find this process so deliciously old-fashioned.

There’s so much to enjoy about this lovely movie, and so much to talk about, but I just hope you’ll go and see it. Bill Cunningham New York is as charming, confounding, and delightful as the man it follows. “We all get dressed for Bill,” says American Vogue editor Anna Wintour in the film, and even though I don’t live anywhere near New York or Paris, I want to get dressed for Bill too.

Here's the trailer--now go!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My crush with eyeliner.

I’ve had a few requests to discuss long-wearing eyeliner, or rather, how to do eyeliner that doesn’t smudge. Unlike advanced makeup tricks, like putting on false eyelashes or doing your own nail art, applying a bit of eyeliner—and having it stay where we put it—is something many of us want to be able to do, at least some days. So! Let’s figure out how to do that.
First things first, though—if your liner always ends up fading, or migrating onto your lids and creasing, or smudges like crazy below your lower lids, there are things to help it “set” a bit better. But the main technique to master is picking up your wallet and keys and getting your ass to the store, because you probably need to buy a new eyeliner! Take comfort in knowing that if you’ve got major issues with a liner, it’s not you; it’s the liner. Just like lovers, there are a lot of bad ones.

When you’re shopping for liner, you’re looking for the right balance of “slip.” Slip is the smoothness and glide of the product. Liners with great slip are easy to apply and blend, but may sacrifice durability. On the flip side, some liners labelled waterproof or long-wearing might last all day, but if their application feels like you’re sawing at your eyelid with a Crayola, that’s a less-than-desirable experience.

(Let’s take a moment to note that this here post is specific to eyeliner pencils. There are myriad liner formulations out there, including cake, liquid, pen, and gel, and we can talk about all of them later, but when it comes to the basics, most of us are gonna choose pencil.)

Because I have ridiculously sensitive eyeballs, I need a super-smooth liner. But I also like to line the waterline (this is the tender and juicy inner rim of the top and/or bottom lid.) It’s hard to find a liner that’s soft enough to apply here, but will still stick to the area. EW IT’S A MUCUS MEMBRANE YOU GUYS but once you’ve started lining it, just try to stop. So, when Auntie Jenni recommends a liner, you know it’s gonna stay put. I’ve tried about a billion, so here are some of my favourite brands for every budget.

At the drugstore:
It’s no fuckin’ secret that I’m a big fan of the drugstore. Many makeup products here can be just as good or better than the snazzola department-store stuff. But when it comes to liner, I’ve found only a few cheapos that meet my high standards.

Revlon Colorstay
This is a good basic liner that wears well. I haven’t used it in a while, since I’ve since found the liner of my dreams, but you could do worse. Not a ton of colours, but it does the job.

Covergirl Liquiline Blast
This product promises “the intensity of a liquid in a pencil” which is a load of utter horseshit, but it is a good, well-pigmented product that has the added bonus of a smudger do-dad on the end. It also has a pretty good colour selection. It requires sharpening, and some people have a hard time sharpening them, which always surprises me. Are they trying to hack away at it with an old Buck knife or something? If it does go a bit crumbly on you, put it in the freezer for a few minutes before sharpening it.

Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner
A word of warning—don’t even bother with the other liners that this brand makes. You want the pencil in the link. Yep, that one.

At department stores/Sephora, etc:

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil
If you’ve been looking for the liners required to complete your Rainbow Brite costume, look no further. These are fantastic pencils, with excellent wear and fantastic slip. They glide on like a dream and are smudgeable for about twenty seconds, then set and will not budge. They have a huge following, and despite their relatively high price point, it’s easy to see why. They also have awesome names: my faves include Bourbon, Rock Star, 1999, and Zero.

Makeup Forever Aqua Eyes
Another great choice for those who love colour, although they come in plenty of “normal” tones too. The one thing I’ve noticed about these is that some colours don’t seem to apply/wear as well as others, and I think they dry out more quickly than the Urban Decay ones. But your experience might be different, so give them a try. And never leave your lids off!

Stila Smudge Sticks
It’s really hard for me to talk about this liner without GETTING A BIT SHOUTY. This is my Holy Grail of eyeliners, the liner I would have made myself if I had a chemistry degree and a makeup company. Named after their beloved “Smudge Pots”, these are a relatively new product, and I’m praying that Stila never discontinues them. The word “smudge” is totally misleading here, since these babies set within moments of application. They’re twist-up and don’t need sharpening, which is a bonus in my book. Don't twist up more than a millimeter at a time though, because they’re soft enough to break off. And when a product ounce for ounce costs more than ACTUAL GOLD, you don’t want to waste a single crumb. The colours have a subtle, metallic shimmer that’s just lovely. They stick to the waterline like nobody’s business. Worth every penny. Just think of all the money you’ll save never buying a shitty eye pencil ever again!

Coming very soon: A freaking VIDEO how to put on your pretty new eyeliner and keep it there! Plus: Um, how do I get this shit OFF now?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I wear black on the outside, because black is how I feel on the inside.

You know those days when life has worn you down, and you have to attend a social function in the evening and you are SO not feeling it? You feel lumpen/bloated/zitty/tired/ill, and everything in your closet seems to mock you. Every garment seems hell-bent on making you look like the least-cute version of yourself that you could possibly be. That dress is stupid and too young for you. Those sandals pinch your toes. The waistband of those pants only feels good about twice a year, right after a case of the flu. Long story short, you’d like to curl up on the couch with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and watch something asinine. But no! You must venture into the cruel world, where you’re sure everyone will look better than you and be having way more fun.

Chin up, little bunny. When life hands you lemons, tell those lemons to fuck off. My fashion advice for when you’re just not feeling it is simply this: Go tough.

“Going tough” means giving up on pretty, and working with the bitchiest, rockinest look you can get away with. You’ll feel more comfortable for starters, and you’ll hopefully project an attitude that suggests you’re so cool, you just couldn’t be bothered to dress up—while still looking foxy as hell. And that’s infinitely preferable to having pinched toes and a sour expression all evening. Who knows, you might even end up enjoying yourself!

Wearing “Casual Tough”:

If the occasion is just drinks, a launch, or a gig, go with jeans that you love and feel good in, although the darker and slimmer the better. Add a rock t-shirt, a masculine-cut tank top, or an untucked button-down in any colour, as long as it’s black or white. Converse All-Stars, lace-up boots, or any heavy soled footwear complete the look. Bare feet are totally tough, but flip-flops never are. Try not to carry a purse if you can manage it. We’re going for off-duty rock star here.

Icons of casual tough: Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde

Wearing “Dressy Tough”:

When you’ve got to look a bit more pulled-together, the goal is still to look like you don’t really give a shit. “Underdressed” is usually something I avoid, but here, it’s the whole point. Keep the jeans if you can get away with it. Black cigarette pants can also work, but don’t wear them with a top that makes you look like you’re part of the catering staff. A leather or jean jacket is wonderful here, as is a black turtleneck or a Hanes white t-shirt. Skip the jewellery, save for a big silver cuff, a man’s watch, or a chunky ring or two. Hold the gold! If you can stand it, wear wedges or boots with a heel—the highest and meanest-looking you can manage. Nobody ever looked like they could kick ass in a pair of ballet flats.

Dressy tough icons: Kate Moss, Joan Jett

Makeup: You’re looking to strike a balance here between looking like you don’t care and not actually caring. Do something simple but bold, and pick one thing to focus on--lips or eyes. My decision-making process goes like this: If I’m going to be eating or drinking a lot (no comment), I go with the eyes. Take a black eyeliner pencil and line around the entire eye. It’s okay if you half-ass it, because you should immediately smudge the heck out of it with a finger or a q-tip or something. You want to look like maybe you haven’t taken it off since yesterday (you animal, you). Lips are easy—go red or don’t bother. This requires that you own, enjoy, and feel confident applying and wearing red lipstick. If you don’t, we can work on that later.

You’re done. Shove a couple twenties in your pockets, flip your head upside down, mess up your roots, and get the hell out of there. Everyone will think you’re super cool and you can get away with either sulking in the corner or being a loud, obnoxious drunk. Ladies’ choice, bitches!

You asked for it.

Welcome. So yeah, this is a blog about a bunch of things related to shopping, and fashion, and “beauty” (by which I mean the construction of standardized ideals of beauty through the application of makeup—woo-hoo!). I hope you enjoy reading it, even if you’re not the sort of person who gives a toss about any of this stuff—and I certainly welcome contrary opinions. What I hope to do here is illustrate that a person who enjoys these pursuits isn’t necessarily young, or stupid, or wealthy, or superficial, or a victim of the patriarchy. I don’t think I’m any of those things. Okay, well maybe a little bit superficial. They don’t call me Fancy Lady for nothin’.

In the meantime, your suggestions would go a long way to making this whole project more interesting. What do you want to read about? How to put on eyeliner that doesn’t look like you let a four-year-old do it? The very best stuff to buy at the drugstore? Product reviews? How to put together million-dollar outfits that cost $9.75? I am utterly at your service.

Fancy xo