Monday, August 29, 2011

Grab the Cats and the Kelly and Go!

Well, by the time she reached us, the full-blown fury of Hurricane Irene turned out to be just a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum, thank Heaven; nevertheless, I always like to be prepared, and I was. By that I mean I had prepared a survival kit containing everything a woman needs to look her best while braving a disaster of the natural or unnatural variety.

My survival kit included Q-tips, cotton balls, safety pins, lingerie, tinted moisturizer, concealer, lip gloss and Deva Curl Mist-er Right revitalizing spray in case, among other indignities, I had to face a case of the frizzies.

My husband left the office early and was just getting home as I assembled survival kit, cat carriers and a large black plastic bag in the foyer waiting for the signal to Grab-n-Go. He looked at the plastic bag and said, “Is that what I think it is?”

Indeed it was. That plastic trash bag contained precious cargo. Inside, nestled in its brown velvet, drawstring pouch in its original orange box was my black pebbled leather 28 cm. Kelly bag with brushed silver hardware.

Moments of crisis often force you to make cold, clear-eyed choices, and I had made mine. I would leave behind my entire collection of Hermès jewelry, accessories and scarves, but, come hell or high water, the Kelly was coming with me.

My mind travelled back more than 25 years to a blustery night in December. A blizzard had knocked out the power lines and I was wearing two heavy sweaters to keep warm, wrapping Christmas presents by candlelight and singing “Jingle Bells” softly to myself when the phone rang. My husband was calling from the office. There were no cell phones in those days.

“I’m leaving the office now. Can you be ready in 10 minutes? We have to get up to King of Prussia a.s.a.p.” King of Prussia was at least an hour and a half away from our house on a clear night with no traffic.

“Are you crazy? It’s Friday night before Christmas. The traffic will be horrendous!”

“Don’t worry, nobody’s crazy enough to be on the road in this blizzard.”

“So, why are we risking life and limb to get to King of Prussia?”

“Well, Gisèle called and your new Kelly bag is in.”

“What??? My Kelly Bag? Wait…wait…who’s Gisèle?”

“I’ll explain everything in the car on the way up.”

As we drove through the snow storm, he told me the whole story.

Several years earlier while in Paris we had stopped at Hermès on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré for some of my favorite perfume, “Rouge.”

In the display case way above my head and far, far out of reach in every way was a gorgeous Kelly bag in royal blue crocodile.

Whatever I said about it, and I honestly do not remember what it was, it set my husband on a three-year odyssey through the idiosyncratic labyrinth of the world’s most luxurious of all Houses of luxury handbags, Hermès.

Along the way, he would endure shocks, insults and obstacles sufficient to dampen the fervor of most men, but my husband is not most men. He was a man on a mission.

The first thing he did upon our return stateside was to call Hermès in Manhattan. When he asked the officious Frenchman on the other end of the line the price of a Kelly bag, he received his first shock. Upon recovering from the shock of the price, he pulled himself together and said, “Well, I’d like to order a Kelly bag for my wife.” The stunned salesman replied, “Non, non, non, non, non, Monsieur, you do not ‘order’ a Kelly bag, you ‘await’ a Kelly bag. They are made, they are shipped, you wait. Et voilà!”

For an entire year my husband repeatedly called New York, Paris and Los Angeles, always with the same result. They would not even deign to put his name on the waiting list.

Then one day, while on business in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, he found a tiny Hermès boutique in the shopping mall. He thought he’d give it another go.

A saleswoman named Gisèle was behind the counter that day, and he told her the whole sad story. She took pity on him.

“How tall is your wife, Monsieur?” she asked. He told her. “And how much does she weigh?” she asked. He told her.

“Eh bien,” she said, “the 28 cm Kelly will be a perfect fit for her. We don’t receive many in that size, but I will put your name on the list et on verra.”

Two years later, on the Friday before Christmas, Gisèle called my husband at the office. Because of the blizzard she was unable to reach the three names ahead of ours on the list. So, if we could make it to the store before closing, the Kelly bag was ours.

I don’t know what it is about my Kelly bag that makes me love it so – maybe it’s the story of how I got it – maybe it’s that it’s so classic and goes with everything – maybe it’s that it’s now worth more than twice what we paid for it.

Or maybe it’s just that I own a piece of French culture that is timeless – its roots firmly in the past, giving vitality to the present and life to the future. That is the essence of the house of Hermès.

Whatever it is, I knew for certain that I wasn’t going to let that Bitch Irene come anywhere near my Kelly.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fall Sneak Peak – And It’s One More Time, Again!

I know, I know….the weather is still stiflingly hot and all you want to do is sit back and sip your frosty Margarita, but I just thought I’d give you a little sneak peak at what to expect for fall. I promise; this won’t take long.

We will be seeing lots of Retro chic circa the 70s. O.K., O.K., I can see you yawning already. Yep, what goes around comes around -- one more time. Yadayadayada. No surprise there. Have another sip.

But look at it this way -- what is just recycled fashion to us looks new and fresh to our children and, dare I say it, to our grandchildren.

And, the good news is that most of the recycled 70s fashions are very classic and very wearable. The bad news is that at our age, Ladies, we have to be careful to avoid head to toe “classic,” as that can easily tip the balance into dowdy.

With that caveat in mind, have another sip and let’s check out a few of my favorites.

Bows, ruffles and fringe once again take center stage. It’s a lovely, feminine look that can take you from day to evening with a few tweaks.

The bow blouse is truly a classic and, like all classics, has staying power, or should I say “come back” power, as it has a habit of popping back on the fashion runways periodically.

I always keep a few in my closet in silky prints and solids that I take out every time the bow blouse gets “rediscovered.”

The blouse on the left is a perfect choice for those of you gals with ample bosoms. Note the solid color, the deep “V” which opens up the décolletage area, and the low set, small bow.

The blouse on the right is more flattering to those of you with smaller chests. Note the bold print, high neck and larger ruffled bow near the neckline and over the bust area, which will make a small bust look larger.

Both blouses are available at Nordstrom for around $60.

In keeping with the retro fringe and bow theme, both of these platform shoes could have been worn by any of us baby boomers in the 70s, assuming, of course, we could have afforded them, which most of us couldn’t.

I know I couldn’t. I was a struggling university student at the beginning of the decade and a married woman struggling with a mortgage at the end of it.

The YSL sling back in khaki suede (on the Left) positively makes my mouth water (yummm!!) and my arches ache just to look at it. This gorgeous little number, called “Tribute,” will set you back about a cool $1,000.

The Ferragamo peep toed pump in grey suede (on the Right) with that flirty little bow is utterly irresistible. I want to scoop it up and take it home with me RIGHT NOW!! The “Grazia” will only set you back about $500. At that price, I’ll have one in every color. Well, O.K., but I can dream, can’t I?

Perhaps the most surprising element of the 70s revival trend, at least to me, was not so much what we will be wearing, but where most of us will be buying it.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, Department Stores where we shopped as kids and young adults during the 70s are becoming cool again.

20-somethings and 30-somethings are abandoning specialty stores and boutiques in favor of Macy’s, Nordstrom and good old JC Penney's, and the Department Stores are responding accordingly.

Because of the size, scope and variety of merchandise they can offer, including their own in-house lines, they have the ability and the flexibility to pivot on a dime to satisfy their customer, and their bottom lines are beginning to reflect this. This is definitely a trend worth tracking. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, sit back, relax, cool your heels and have another sip!

Aaaaah! That's better.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Give Your Makeup the Brush - Eyes and Lips

In my Post earlier this month, “Give Your Make-up the Brush!”, I introduced you to my Grandfather George, an actor turned make-up artist, and we discussed how to choose the best make-up brushes for your face.

Today, we’ll talk about choosing the best make-up brushes for your eyes and lips.

But first, a quick review.

There are basically three types of make-up brushes:

1) Natural bristle;
2) Synthetic bristle; and
3) A combination of natural and synthetic bristles.

Have I lost you yet? Hope not, because here’s where it all gets demystified.

1) Natural bristle brushes work best with powdered make-up (face powders and blushes and eye shadows);

2) Synthetic bristle brushes work best with creamy make-up (concealers, cream blushes, liquid foundations and cream eye shadows); and

3) Combination bristles work best with liquid make-up (foundation).

O.K.. here goes…..

This is Laura Mercier’s Angled Eye Color Brush. It is a natural bristle brush and, hands down, the best eye color brush I’ve ever used.

The flat part of the brush makes overall application and blending a snap and the angled area is ideal for contouring the crease area of your eye and/or for running a smudge of color along your lash line.

If you only own one eye color brush, this is the one to buy.

You simply cannot go wrong with this brush in your make-up kit.

The Flat Eye Liner Brush on the Left by Laura Mercier is a synthetic brush with narrow, stiff bristles which allows you to create a very thin line of color right along the lash line.

The Pointed Eye Liner Brush on the Right by Laura Mercier is also a synthetic brush with stiff bristles that taper to a point which allows you to control the width of your line based on the amount of pressure you apply to the point. You can also add tiny dots of color in between your lashes for a more natural look.

I own both of these brushes. They work best with cake eye liner (moisten first) and the Pointed Eye Liner Brush is the perfect way to apply Bobbi Brown’s Gel Eye Liner, the best gel eye liner in the business (doesn’t smudge, lasts all day!!).

Quick tip: Keep a Q-tip handy to smudge liner into your lash line for a natural look and to remove any unwanted smudges or mistakes.

This Brow Definer Brush from Laura Mercier is a synthetic brush whose flat, stiff bristles work well with powdered or gel brow color and the angle allows you to perfectly define your brow.

Laura makes several angled brow brushes in different sizes, but this is my favorite. It’s just the right size to fill in my brows where needed and, let’s face it, Ladies, after a certain age, our brows begin to thin and fade and, like our eyes, need special attention.

Don’t overlook them. Remember, great eyebrows make the perfect frame for your beautiful eyes.

Some make-up professionals prefer a natural bristle lip brush, but I love this synthetic bristle Lip Brush from MAC.

Its slightly rounded tip creates a nice, clean outline, and it’s large enough to fill in perfectly with color.

When it comes to choosing the right brush for your lips, it’s definitely your call.

Here are a few final thoughts on the subject of make-up brushes.

 Your biggest investment should be in natural bristle brushes. If you take care of them (i.e., wash and dry them properly), you will have them forever. I’m still using a Prescriptives powder brush I bought more than 25 years ago.

 When choosing a natural bristle brush, run it over the back of your hand. You should barely feel it. A good quality natural brush will be as soft as a whisper.

 You can definitely skimp on synthetic brushes, as even the expensive ones need to be replaced more frequently than natural brushes.

 Brushes you use every day should be washed once a week in a gentle cleanser (mild shampoo or your facial cleanser) in tepid water. Rinse gently, blot with a towel, reshape and dry flat. If you stand them on end to dry, over time the water will collect in the base of the brush and melt the glue that anchors the brush to the handle.

And there you have it, Ladies. Everything you really need to know about the care and feeding of your make-up’s BFF – the Brush.