Beauty & style

Beauty and style tips, tricks, and products with a vintage twist.

I guess I need to keep looking.

Once upon a time, I found an awesome perfume that smelled like a delicious Mai Tai. (Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers G, which also came in an awesome anime-character bottle. Yes, I’m a geek.) Naturally, because I loved it, the product was discontinued and I have been seeking a suitable alternative for ages now.

I had to run a zillion errands this morning: hit BJ’s Wholesale Club (because clearly, our two-person household needs toothpaste and spices in bulk). Indian grocery, because we should NEVER EVER EVER run out of frozen garlic naan. Pet store, so the cats don’t devour us in our sleep. Mall, to get pants I had ordered Tim online. and because I have a Sephora gift card burning a hole in my wallet.

While roaming Sephora and realizing that the 42 shades of red lipstick I had tested on my hand all matched one of the shades I already own, I realized it might be a good time to select a new fragrance. Almost everything was too fruity or baby-powder-stripper-scented or old lady for my taste. Except one. Sandalwood and something else a little spicy.

I put it on. Didn’t buy it, just put some on to see how it would break down over time. As soon as I rubbed my wrist on my neck, I started having second thoughts, but figured I’d wait and see what Tim had to say.

What Tim had to say: “You smell like BJ’s. And flowers, kind of…not quite old lady, but…”

Yeah. Because every woman wants to hear that she smells like BJ’s.

The perfume quest continues.

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Craft hack: 1920s head dress

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My successful craft-hackery

One of the highlights of my work trip to Austin: a 1920s themed Christmas party. Good stuff.

Naturally, having to pack for a party away from home poses a challenge, but I was up for it. I had a dress that I’ve worn in the past that elicited comments that I looked like I stepped out of the ’20s. Perfect. Shoes? Easy. Hair? I got a quick trim to make the back of my bob a little sleeker, and felt almost ready.

Almost.

I needed something else to really make everything pop. A quick trip to the craft store, a text to Bernadette, and a few glasses of wine later, I had a fabulous feathered hair adornment.

The supplies:

  • some sparkly tulle or netting
  • a barrette or pin curl clip
  • feathers
  • glue (hot or craft, your pick.)
  • a fancy clip earring
  • crystals and/or jewels.

The assembly:

Pick a few feathers–ideally, one long one and a few smaller ones. Arrange them until they look suitably dramatic, then gently glue them together. Hold them together with your pin curl clip while the glue dries. You want the clip close enough to the spot where you glued the feathers together to keep them properly arranged while they dry, but not so close that you glue the feathers to the clip yet.

Cut a piece of tulle or netting slightly larger than your feather arrangement. This will go behind the feathers.

Now glue the tulle to the barrette (or pin curl clip, if you chose that route) and let it dry. Use the fancy clip earring to hold together your feathers and the tulle. Glue some crystals or jewels to the tulle where it connects to the barrette. Let everything dry overnight, and you’re done!

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The finished product on display.

Break time is over.

I apologize for the lapse in posts. Tim and I have had an extraordinarily busy summer. Work got crazy…my department took on several huge new projects and lost two people, so the workload increased dramatically. Add in a few trips, and…little time for blogging, lots to catch up on.

My Anne Taintor luggage tag, as customized by Butters.

My Anne Taintor luggage tag, as customized by Butters.

My current challenge: packing for two weeks on the road including three cities, two trade shows, and a family vacation. You may recall that I refuse to check a bag when I travel, so I’m trying to plan all my outfits combining a few pieces in different ways so I can pack efficiently. Naturally, I still want to be comfortable and look like myself–I learned a lot from our trip to Japan. Last time I was in Las Vegas, I bought a ton of wrap skirts…you’re supposed to be able to turn them into dresses and wear them 85 different ways, but even with the tutorials, I’m inept and can’t do it. They’re comfortable and versatile, however, so I’m bringing a few of those.

I’m also bringing both my Heartbreaker Milan dresses- I loved it in Lake so I ordered the Slate a few weeks ago. These dresses travel beautifully and make me feel pretty. I wore the Slate version at a tradeshow on Thursday when I had to get up at 4 a.m. to drive into Boston and set up a booth…and I got compliments all day long, despite my lack of sleep.

It makes me feel like a pin-up.

It makes me feel like a pin-up.

In addition, I’ll have at least two–maybe even three–chances to wear the awesome Rocksteady dress Bernadette gave me a while ago, pictured here.

The thing I’m having the toughest time with: narrowing down my shoes. I love shoes. Preparing to traipse all over Disney and San Francisco, do six days as booth-bait, and look good without sacrificing comfort in situations running the gamut from super-casual to cocktail party? Challenging. To make matters worse, my old ankle injury has been rearing its ugly little head for the last few days. Gah. Seems to be better now, but not really what I want to deal with on vacation!

Delectable Dita

Last Sunday night, my friend Lisa and I headed to Boston to take in Dita Von Teese’s burlesque show. Neither one of us had ever seen Dita before and didn’t know quite what to expect. We did not expect a line all the way down the street and around the corner. Thankfully, it moved quickly and we were surrounded by pleasant people.

One side of the street: Fenway Park. The other: burlesque fans.

One side of the street: Fenway Park. The other: burlesque fans.

I was pleased to see that in many ways, her show mirrored the old vaudeville tradition. Murray Hill served as MC, keeping the audience lively between performances. (Although I would have loved to hear an interlude that didn’t begin with, “Holy SHIT!”) The show included male and female performers with a variety of body types — all daring, confident, and wonderful. Selene Luna, Monsieur Romeo, Natasha Estrada,  America’s Got Talent finalist Prince Poppycock, Lada Nikolska and Perle Noire… a great mix.

Louise Brooks in "The Canary Murder Case"

Louise Brooks in “The Canary Murder Case”

Dita herself did four numbers: the famous martini glass bath, the pink-glitter rhinestone cowgirl act, a Josephine Baker-inspired number complete with birdcage, feathers, and fans, and finally, a striking performance as a Geisha in a red pagoda. The feather act also reminded me of Louise Brooks in “The Canary Murder Case.” (Lisa pointed out the Josephine Baker influence to me, as I’m woefully uninformed about her…which makes it easy to pick out reading material for my next plane trip…any recommendations for a good Josephine Baker biography?)

While I enjoyed all of Dita’s acts, I think I liked the rhinestone cowgirl one best, as she was out on the stage more for that and we really got to see her strut around and flirt with the audience, whereas in the birdcage and pagoda numbers, she was somewhat obscured from view by the set (at least from where we were sitting). I loved the music, too–an instrumental medley of country classics. I also loved the music to the birdcage set–Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Esquivel all rolled together.

Incidents that may have been unique to the Boston show: Selene Luna lost a pasty. She handled it beautifully, just put a hand over her nipple and kept on with her act. Also, Prince Poppycock lost his towering wig…which he also handled well once Murray Hill handed him a microphone and he could resume singing. Both performers got huge applause for handling their flubs so well, just shrugging them off and going back to giving a great show.

I really enjoyed Selene Luna. But I think my favorite performer aside from Dita was Perle Noire. More Josephine Baker influence coupled with a beautiful athleticism, grace and charisma. She just seemed FUN. And like she absolutely loved what she was doing in the moment. She had a striking presence, energy and joy to her that I’d love to see again.

The crowd was a crazy mix that made for good people-watching. Lots of great hair and dresses! I decided not to get all decked out because of the rain, then I kicked myself for that decision once we got there. Lisa looked great, and we ran into my friend Tracey MF Vaughn, who was all dolled up in a blue swing dress with matching shoes. I’ve been feeling kind of blah lately, and in need of a haircut, so hopefully once I get that taken care of I’ll be more inspired.

After the show, as Lisa and I were walking back to the car, we ran into Dastardly Dave, a kick-ass photographer I was lucky enough to work with once during my roller derby days. Don’t let the name fool you – he’s delightful to work with. 😉 He and his friend had been right in front of the stage, so they were able to tell us what went on inside the pagoda during Dita’s finale. Hearing that the other women on stage had their arms through the back of the pagoda, reaching out to Dita, who portrayed some sort of opium trance, made me wish we had seen that part even more! Damn you, House of Blues for not advertising things as obstructed viewing seats!

Overall, it was a great evening. If you have the chance to see this show, I’d definitely recommend it.

Jeans quest and Vegas adventure prep

Sunday, I had to prep for another work trip to Vegas at Caesars Palace for a conference. I decided to actually prepare for this trip in advance, unlike last week’s complete last-minute packing scramble.

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My lovely Atomic Testing Museum T shirt, as customized by B

In honor of the destination, I wore my Atomic Testing Museum shirt, customized by Brazen Bernadette. I hate crew necks, and the rest of the shirt was shapeless, so she broke out the scissors and worked some magic to turn it into something just for me.Alas, on Friday, one of my favorite pairs of jeans began to split along the inseam, perilously close to my crotch. NOT COOL. Especially since I was working at the time. Gah.

While I love vintage, I confess that I’m not one who wears it all the time…I’m more likely to pair modern clothes with vintage/retro-flavored accessories. I also lean heavily toward rockabilly tough-girl. I like a combo of girly and bad-ass. I try to choose classic silhouettes that let me throw off a retro vibe without giving the impression that I’m trying to recreate a specific point in history. While I admire folks who can comfortably sport head-to-toe vintage, I’m not one of them. Don’t judge.

Anyway: Jeans. I have long been a fan of Levi’s. 515, boot cut, just below waist, dark wash, please and thank you. I loved knowing that I didn’t have to try them on, I could just grab and go. But now…Levi’s has gotten all crazy and changed cuts and added weird slimming stuff and blinged out pockets and switched to fabrics that don’t work for me and I can’t find my freaking jeans any more. Grrrr. So on Saturday Tim and I braved the mall to see if I could find some last stronghold that carried my faithful 515s, in the right size and wash.

Nope.

But I did find Levi’s that I liked. Good fit, fabric, and wash. Done. Then I hit the MAC counter and got sweet-talked into some Russian Red lipstick. Adore the color, and it’s not quite as drying as the Ruby Woo. I love it. Forgive the entirely blown-out lighting in the photo below.

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The bejeweled front of the shirt and my delicious new lipstick.

I definitely felt ready for Vegas. I wanted to hit the Burlesque Hall of Fame Museum, but they weren’t open during times I could actually go. Instead, I settled for the Bettie Page stores at Caesars and the Miracle Mile. This time I had better luck than in San Diego, but I’ll save that for another post.

Bettie Page Clothing in San Diego

When I walked in the store, I was thrilled. I loved the style and all the clothes.

And then I started trying things on.

Rita dress in rust

Rita dress in rust

Sadly, the fabrics and sizing just didn’t work for me. A lot of the dresses I tried on were a thick polyester blend that made me itch. I may have had some kind of allergy to a component of the fabric. Everything they had in cotton was much too similar to something I already own for me to be able to justify it. Especially for the prices.

In addition, I’m halfway between sizes. The sleeves are too tight on the L, the bodice is too loose on the XL. Waist height was good though, which is normally a problem with my long torso. Some of the skirt lengths weren’t quite right for me either. Which I know I could fix…if that was the only thing that stood between me and a fabulous new dress. Alas, none of these made me feel fabulous. Mostly, they made me feel itchy. Occassionally, boxy. Which I am not.

Rear view.

Rear view.

Cute, right? Great color and style. Loved the way it looked. Until I actually wore it for say, two minutes and the fabric did this:

bunchy fabric.

bunchy fabric.

Which is totally not selling me on this dress. Yes, I have gained weight since I stopped playing roller derby three years ago and my stomach is no longer perfectly flat, but I do not have a pot belly like that. Believe me, I know, because I scrutinize my body in the mirror daily. I am not fooling myself into thinking I have the body I used to…but this dress makes me look lumpier and dumpier than I really am.

The Captain dress in red flare.

The Captain dress in red flare.

I tried on a few other dresses with the pencil silhouette and quickly ruled them out.

So I switched over to swing dresses. Plenty of options there. Starting with the Captain dress in red, which I’ve been coveting online for ages. LOVE the color and the white piping – great details. But…the fabric was really stiff and heavy and scratchy.

When I looked again, the shoulders were bulky. And the skirt length didn’t feel right. Meh.

Potential, but...no.

Potential, but…no.

 

On to the Alika Circle dress in green. It’s a lighter fabric than the Captain, which seemed promising. Sorry it’s bit blurry.

Cute neckline and sleeves. Great color.

Cute neckline and sleeves. Great color.

The bust darts were in an unflattering location.

The bust darts were in an unflattering location.

I liked this much better, even though the waist could have come in. But the fabric was still not working for me…The bustline bulged where the excess fabric from the neck folded over inside, doing odd things with my bra. You can see it a little in this picture. It was much more apparent and awkward when I moved my arms. In addition, the bust darts just didn’t look or feel right to me. While it may seem like I’m being overly picky, I honeslty believe that you should love your clothes and feel great when you wear them. Instead of feeling sexy, playful or glamorous, I felt awkward, itchy and self-conscious.

I’ve seen other women look completely AMAZING in BPC, so I’m not in any way saying don’t shop there…the current styles available just didn’t work out for me. The staff were all helpful and encouraging, without trying to force me into anything. This trip just didn’t pan out. I’m still planning to give the Vegas store a go when I’m at Ceasars Palace next month for work. Maybe I’ll have better luck.

Meet Bettina

At the flea market on Sunday, I dropped $5 on this awesome vintage hair dryer:

Not that I ever really set my hair, because it’s completely curl-resistant and I feel like I look funny with curly or wavy hair, but something about this piece spoke to me.

It could be the great ostrich case…

ostrich case hairdryer

I love the rich caramel color.

Or that she comes with a name…

Bettina, the Universal Hair Dryer

Bettina, the Universal Hair Dryer

Or that there’s a nail dryer…

I'm not sure how you're supposed to position your hand, but I'll figure it out.

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to position your hand, but I’ll figure it out.

Or that she came from New Britain, Connecticut, near where I grew up…

Just in case she needs a tune-up....

Just in case she needs a tune-up….

Anyway, she lives with me now. Welcome home, Bettina.

Our friend Jack thought she was built in the mid-sixties based on the artwork. I found a newspaper ad from November 21, 1963 touting Bettina’s “New ultra chic high-fashion styling with dramatic new gift case” on sale for $23.88 (regularly 29.95).

Bettina the hair dryer.

Bettina the hair dryer.

Once I take her out for a test-dry, I’ll report back on my ultra chic-ness. Stay tuned.