Thursday, June 28, 2012

I’ll Have (Monsieur) Champagne With My 15 Minutes of Fame

In 1968, Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Give or take a few minutes, weeks or months, I think Warhol was on to something.

About 15 years ago, Lisa, the wife of a young man who worked with my husband, was living a quiet life in suburban New Jersey when her 15 minutes of fame came calling in the form of an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her friends had nominated her and the staff at Oprah’s show had selected her for a makeover to be done by the then wildly popular British Do-Over Duo, Trinny and Susannah.

They flew Lisa to Chicago where she remained incommunicado for a week of intensive hair, make-up and clothing therapy behind closed doors. Husband, family and friends would not see Lisa again until the big reveal on Oprah’s show. Until then, she was kept well under wraps.

On the afternoon of the show, we were all watching as the curtain opened and a drop-dead-gorgeous Lisa in leather jacket, skinny jeans and stilettos strutted confidently to center stage. Having just seen the “Before” footage of a pretty, but frumpy, young woman in over-sized clothes, the audience whooped and hollered their approval. Even Oprah seemed momentarily lost for words. It was a stunning transformation.

While the clothes and makeup were fabulous, for me, it was all about the hair. The cut and the color set off her delicate features to perfection.

Lisa’s celebrity lasted for months after her return, and she patiently answered all our questions.

The first thing I asked her was, “Who did your hair?”
“Some French guy with a really strong accent,” she replied. “I think his name was Frederick....something.”
“Do you mean Frédéric Fekkai?” I asked.
“Yeah, that’s it,” she responded. “He never spoke to me directly. He’d look at my hair and shout orders at his staff. He must have changed the color four or five times. He was still tweaking it up to the last minute.

“Right before I went on, I reached up to touch my face and he screamed at me, ‘DON’T TOUCH THE HAIR!!’.”

I wasn’t surprised. Like their clients, we’ve come to expect a certain amount of tempérament from celebrity hairdressers, particularly if they’re French. After all, the celebrity hairdresser is a French invention.

Until the early 1600s, the hair of a wealthy Monsieur was in the hands of his valet de chambre, while Milady’s locks were entrusted to her personal maid.
That is, until a young man arrived in Paris and single-handedly redefined the métier of dressing hair for women.

 In the talented hands of Monsieur Champagne, as he called himself, hair dressing rose to the level of high art, and the word coiffeur was invented to describe this new artiste.

We know nothing about the life and background of the first celebrity hairdresser, not even his real name. But we do know a great deal about his work and the influence he had on his devoted clients.


Princess Marie de  Gonzague
In true celebrity hairdresser fashion, M. Champagne rewarded them for their love and devotion with everything from exquisite disdain to scorn and verbal abuse.
Apparently, they couldn’t get enough. They showered him with expensive gifts and much more intimate favors, desperate to keep themselves on his A List of clients.

 When Princess Marie de Gonzague married Wladyslaw IV, King of Poland, by proxy, in Paris, it was M. Champagne who placed the Crown on her head so as not to disturb the Princess’s coiffure.

Suddenly, scores of high-profile women all over Paris feared showing their profiles in public unless M. Champagne had first worked his capillary genius. It was even rumored that one besotted Lady had M. Champagne kidnapped the night before a wedding at the Court of Versailles so that she would have the exclusive benefit of his……magic hands.

Imagine that --- women were worrying about Bad Hair Days 400 years ago !!  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

For better or worse, the legacy of the first Celebrity Hairdresser is alive and well in the 21st Century. I just hope I make M. Champagne's A List when the time comes for my 15 minutes of fame.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Livin' Large and Lovely !

It’s no secret that Americans are getting larger, and we are not alone. Waistlines in developed nations are expanding, and, surprise, surprise!! according to their own government statistics, the French are having to add extra notches to their ceintures.

Back home, the Mayor of New York has decided to tackle the problem head on by prohibiting eateries and fast food establishments from serving sugary sodas in containers larger than 16 ounces. No doubt there are elite Soda SWAT Teams in training even as we speak. (M-T Note: For those of you in the South where Soda is called “Pop,” you can think of them as the Pop Police.)


In the nearby Borough of Brooklyn, a large and lovely lady named Lisa Dolan has taken an entirely different approach from that of His Honor the Mayor.

Lisa had a love affair with fashion for as long as she can remember, but her lifelong battle with weight made it an unrequited love.

Five years ago, she and her husband sank their life savings into an empty warehouse property – that was the easy part. The hard part was finding fashionable, plus-sized clothes to fill it. With no background in the fashion industry, Lisa decided to design her own clothes, drawing on her experience and knowledge of what does and does not work for the plus-size woman.

The success of her boutique, Lee Lee’s Valise, proves that Lisa Dolan is filling a need long ignored by fashion designers.

And every week, on The Learning Channel’s (“TLC”) new hit series, “Big Brooklyn Style,” customers from sizes 10 to 28 leave Lisa Dolan’s store looking and feeling fabulous, often for the first time in their lives.

So, to those of you who are waiting for some “magic” number to pop up on your bathroom scale before you give yourself permission to look your best....and I know you're out there....I have only this to say:

It's time to dress the body you have and stop obsessing about the body you would like to have. Life is too short not to look your best right now!!  Tic Toc!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

All Things Bright and Beautiful

“The Nun’s Story” 1957

The first time I ever saw Audrey Hepburn was in “The Nun’s Story.” I will never forget that luminous face framed in pure white. I had never seen anything so radiant and so beautiful.

She took her vows, as all nuns do, in a white bridal gown and veil. A gold wedding band was placed on her finger, a symbol that she was the bride of Christ.

Sadly, the marriage did not last, and the movie ended with Audrey and God going their separate ways.


"My Fair Lady" 1964

“How to Steal a Million" 1969
Most people think of Audrey in that iconic black dress from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but, for me, Audrey in white will always be all things bright and beautiful.  

White is the color of summer – brides in radiant white; crisp, white cotton blouses; and little girls in white dresses running barefoot on green lawns.

Surely God wears white, as do His heavenly cherubim and seraphim. If I make it to heaven, I just hope He won’t ask me to wear it, too; because, to be honest, I look like Holy Hell in white.

Ruffled Blouse from Livingwellvintage Etsy

Every summer I look longingly at those crisp, white cotton blouses and sigh.

For those of us with pale, ivory skin, bright white drains every ounce of what little color we have.

White looks best on those with cool skin tones, you Winter and Summer gals.

Those of us with warm skin tones, Autumn (moi) and Spring, must be content with oyster and ivory.

But not to worry, Autumn and Spring, here are some ways to wear bright white and not look as if you are recovering from a deadly disease.

Rule of thumb #1: The color that counts is the color closest to your face.

Here we have a classic white Tee over khakis with navy blue blazer. The classic scoop-necked Tee creates visual distance between the white top and your face.

The color closest to the face comes from the navy blue jacket.

Rule of thumb #2: Pair white with warm-toned neutrals.

Navy blue is a neutral and all neutrals come in warm and cool tones – the lighter the navy blue, the warmer the tone.

 Don’t you just love how she’s put this all together?

Very classic, very daytime-to-early-evening chic.

Here we have a classic white suit from Banana Republic. The above Rules still apply.

She has paired the suit with a blouse in warm neutrals of beige, brown and oyster in a bold print that draws your eye to it.

The V-neck focuses attention upward to her face and away from the jacket, and the braided brown belt adds a big dash of warmth to the whole ensemble.

This is one of my favorite color combinations.

Rule of thumb #3: Add a bright scarf from your color palette.
If you still can’t resist buying that crisp, white cotton blouse, wrap a colorful scarf around your neck or your hair to bring color and warmth to your face.

This Sun Burst scarf from Banana Republic contains some of the most flattering colors in the Autumn and Spring color palette. You simply can’t go wrong with these colors.

Add some great, gold hoop earrings and you’re ready to give it a go.

May your summer be filled with all things bright and beautiful.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Slaying the Closet Monster - Parts 1 and 2

While Tish Jett of “A Femme d’Un Certain Age” has been busily working on her latest book, which will surely be a “Must Read,” I was delighted to fill in once more as guest blogger.

It may be a little late for spring cleaning, but it’s never too late to clean out that monster of a closet in your bedroom. No time like the present.

In Part 1 of “Slaying the Closet Monster,” I clean out my client’s closet; and in Part 2, I organize it.  Along the way, I include some great tips and a very surprising find.

Hope it inspires you. Remember, Ladies – Take charge of your closet; take charge of your life.