Month: June 2012

Le Debut vanity case

Compact makers: Richard Hudnut

Richard Hudnut definitely stands out as one of my favorite compact manufacturers. Glamourous, sophisticated, high-end compacts with gorgeous details? You got me.

Richard Hudnut vanity case

Art Nouveau Richard Hudnut vanity case with cake powder, rouge, and a lipstick pencil.

Hudnut cosmetics and perfumes first appeared in New York City in 1880. Having toured Europe after graduating from Princeton, young Richard was inspired to launch his own line of cosmetics and perfumes–which he conveniently sold through his father’s drug store. He’s widely considered the first American to have a major impact in the cosmetics field, entering the market six years before the California Perfume Company, now Avon. Before these two major players appeared on the scene, American women exclusively used fragrances imported from Europe.

DuBarry set

A 1960s DuBarry set with powder compact, lipstick, and fabric case.

A number of sophisticated marketing techniques helped ensure the cache’ of the Hudnut brand. After transforming his father’s shop into an upscale boutique, Hudnut reputedly shifted his focus to wholesale, demanding that department stores that carried his wares sign contracts that prohibited them from reducing the cost of his goods or bundling them with other special offers–much like the coupons you recieve today with clearly outlined exclusions.

Three Flowers vanity case

A Three Flowers vanity case with powder and rouge.

The DuBarry line launched in 1903. It still operates today–visit their website for more info.

The Three Flowers line was introduced in 1915, just a year before Hudnut retired and sold the company.  It was acquired by William R. Warner & Company, which became Warner-Lambert in 1955.

The Deauville line launched in 1924: the same year Richard’s step-daughter Natasha married the delectable Rudolph Valentino, who had unfortunately failed to divorce his first wife prior to the new marriage. Richard Hudnut died in France in 1928 at age 73.

To live up to the expectations of Hudnut’s exclusive clientele, each of the cosmetics came in an elegant compact. Face powders, foundations, rouge, lipstick, and perfume boasted beautiful packaging. Hudnut designs embody the art nouveau and art deco aesthetics of their times.

Probably the most recognizable Hudnut compacts, the Le Debut series includes octagonal cases in gorgeous blues, greens, cream, and black. Dots representing stars sprinkled across the enamel somehow add energy and appeal. Some higher-end models offered a vanity case and lipstick tube suspended from a chain with a finger ring. These are some of the cases I love most. While I own the blue one pictured here, I long for one of the turquoise colored ones, preferably with the lipstick. Though the Hudnut company manufactured compacts well into the 1960s, I associate Richard Hudnut with the silent film era and that particular breed of glamour.

Le Debut vanity case

Le Debut vanity case from the 1920s.

Can’t you just picture Theda Bara or Louise Brooks with this compact in her hand? There. You see what I mean.


Vintage-inspired summer top

keepsake cami

I love the pattern. The straps are just wide enough to cover bra straps.

A while back, my friend Dorie became a Cabi consultant…it’s a home sale/party style selling gig featuring clothing by designer Carol Anderson. I went to Dorie’s first trunk show and fell in love with this top, the keepsake cami. Fun colors and pattern, and better yet, the straps button so you can adjust them.

It’s been too cool to wear it much yet this season, but I’m excited about warmer weather and a chance to finally wear it! Slightly blurry photos by my husband.

Once the season ends, each item from the collection gets retired. Dorie’s placing her last orders for this season on June 20. While some of the clothes are more than I’d typically spend (I spent years making almost no money–higher education does not pay well), I love some of the styles and have been impressed with the quality. I’m debating ordering a cute polka-dot cardigan, a nautical-flavored striped tee, and this drapey top, which I already have in gray and LOVE. Due to budget contrains, I’m leaning toward the black drapey top, but I do love the polka dot cardigan too.

Side note: I don’t do a whole lot of outfit posts, mostly because I feel like I don’t photograph well. Look at the clothes, not my weird facial expression, awkward arm position or messy bangs. Thank you.

keepsake cami

I like the shape of the back, too, and the lighter blue highlights the colors in my tattoo. Bonus.

I feel like the back of this top makes me look more hourglassy than usual. I like it. I’m hoping for something similar in next season’s CAbi collection.

Color it is

My hair. Chin-length bob, auburny color.

So I realize that not all of you know what my hair looks like to begin with. Here you go: stick straight, chin-length bob angled toward my face, with some texture at the ends. My natural hair color is…nondescript kinda light brownish. Or that’s what it was last time I checked, which was probably about four years ago. Maybe longer.

While I love the natural look I get from henna, I get bored and want to do something different from time to time. I would LOVE to have bright copper hair. Like new penny copper. Yes, many people see that as brassy, trashy, and undesireable. It looks great on me and I want to figure out how to make it happen. RIGHT NOW, because I lack patience and the common sense to care that it’s probably a bad idea to attempt to put a streak in my hair (I’m considering it a spot test) with a peroxide-baking soda concoction on a Friday morning before I have to go to work.

peroxide paste

Peroxide mixed with baking soda. And a plastic fork, useful for combing the slop through roots.

After scouring the internet and choosing irrationally to trust some chick who probably knows only marginally more about this than I do, I mixed up cocktail of 3% hydrogen peroxide (the stuff you put on cuts) and baking soda to make a paste. Those of you who have read the henna post are starting to wonder if I’m obsessed with putting nasty textured things in my hair. Apparently, yes. Yes, I am. I worked the paste into a strip of damp hair, wrapped it in foil, scrunched it up to my head and held it in place with a bandanna. Then I hit the keyboard and blogged about it for 30 minutes.

After that, I took off the bandanna, unfurled the tin foil, and broke out the hair dryer. Chunks of dried baking soda peroxide paste fell all over me. Fun. Once the chunk of pasty hair felt dry, I showered, washed and conditioned my hair. The results?

Absolutely no change.

Disappointing. I wasn’t expecting Marilyn Monroe platinum blonde, but I was anticipating something. Maybe a honey color a few shades lighter than what I have already. But no. Which shocks me, honestly. Do I have some kind of freakish hair that’s immune to peroxide?

streak? I can’t see anything.

OK, my coworkers are saying they can see it stripe. I can’t see it. You decide.

 Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Hair change/personality change?

I’m due for a haircut on Saturday and have to make a decision. I’ve been thinking about growing my hair out a bit so I have more options. The chin-length bob doesn’t offer much in the way of variety.

Then I remember that I don’t usually like myself with long hair. Not the way I look–the way I behave.

Somehow, the times in my life that I’ve had long hair (past my shoulders is long for me) have all been pretty unhappy. Most of high school, my junior and senior years of college, the crumbling of my first marriage….If I check the photo albums, I had long hair during all those miserable periods. I’m trying to decide if this is just some crazy association I have, or if long hair actually changes my decision-making process/sense of self/identity.

With my hair too short, I just look androgynous and don’t feel attractive. So that’s off the list.

So now I’m torn because I want to change up my look, but I don’t want to alter my personality.

I also know myself well enough to realize that I am NEVER going to spend more than 5 minutes (probably more than 2 minutes) on my hair before I walk out the door in the morning. Also, because of the henna, adding crazy color streaks isn’t possible. Besides that, I love my hair color–that’s one thing I don’t want to change. I’ve got seriously limited options here.

Any suggestions?



Style icons: Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger

Over the weekend, Tim and I watched the 1983 film The Hunger, Tony Scott’s directorial debut. It’s a wonderfully dark film, drawing heavily on noir imagery. But what really captivated me? Catherine Deneuve. Forty years old at the time the film was made, she looks absolutely stunning. Her hair, her makeup, her wardrobe….utterly captivating. The film is worth watching for her looks alone.

The Hunger, 1983

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie play lovers who live in an absolutely gorgeous New York brownstone.

So striking. The hat, the sunglasses, the lipstick…

I want my hair to do that. Sophisticated, sultry, and timeless.

reptile _purse2

Hideous Handbags: June ’12 episode

On the first Sunday of each month, we’ll reflect on hideous handbags… we began our critique last month with this gaudy number.  You remember.

As a refresher, here are the guidelines: vintage, modern, large, small, formal, casual…the bag need only meet two criteria.

1. It must be some form of bag. Whether you call it a purse, pocketbook, tote, or clutch, as long as it’s a bag, it qualifies.

2. It must be ugly.

Bernadette and I stumbled across three atrocities a few weeks ago while prepping for our adventure at the car show at Ralph’s Diner. While we did encouter several lovely vintage bags, one of which I bought and may keep for myself, despite my original plan to resell it, these vintage creations are anything but lovely:

furry purse

Some kind of fake fur purse that resembles no living animal, but reminds me a great deal of Fozzy Bear, Yes, the Muppet.

Wouldn’t real fur look so much nicer? Or at least more realistic-looking fake fur?

Oh. Wait…

reptile purse

I’m all for the alligator purse, but this seems to be taking it a little too far. Maybe even a lot too far. Creepy.

Nope. The real animal hide is creepy, not classy. At least in this case.

Know what’s even creepier? That we saw two of these purses. In the same antiques shop.

reptile _purse2

That’s not just a different angle – it’s a different bag. Really.

We were repulsed enough by the first one – the second one practically sent us over the edge. So, that’s the review of this month’s hideous handbags. Remember, every month we’ll explore new fantastically ugly bags. And you can get in on the commentary–just email photos of the bag to along with a brief editorial on its flaws.

If it’s too wretched for words, just send me photos of any fantastically disastrous bags you come across. The Powder Keg does not take holiday breaks: tune in next month for another post on hideous handbags.

Happy June!

I can’t believe it’s already June 1. This year has been flying by–work has been really busy lately, and I’ve started exercising in the mornings again recently, which cuts into my blogging time. I’m trying to find the right balance and set realistic expectations for myself.

When I realized that I hadn’t blogged in a while and was wondering what to post today, I remembered my 1949 Earl MacPherson sketchbook calendar. The cover has a tantalizing description of the booklet: “Glorifying the lithe and langorous lovelies who linger in the path of the sun, these choice treasures captured by MacPherson have been selected for your entertainment throughout 1949.”  And far beyond…hard to believe this flimsy paper calendar has survived more than 60 years. June’s image:

MacPherson pinup

June’s illustration.

While MacPherson isn’t my favorite pinup artist, I do enjoy the sketchbook – I like the intimacy of seeing work in progress. Frequently, I like the pencil sketches more than the finished drawings. While I think MacPherson’s depictions of breasts are entirely anti-gravity unrealistic, I LOVE the way he draws legs and hips. Rich, curvy, voluptuous hips and thighs that make me appreciate my own shape a little more.

I also love the main girl’s shoes and bikini bottom. I would wear either the shoes or the bathing suit in a second. What do you think?