Month: January 2011

The lady is a vamp

I’m going to surely date myself by bringing this up, but remember how back in, oh, 1997 or thereabouts, everyone was snapping up (or, like me, admiring from afar) Chanel’s “Very Vamp” dark burgundy-black nail polish? I’m pretty sure that, more than once, I tried to re-create the magic on my university-student budget with cheapie drugstore nail polish – without a lot of success. Dark nail polish is tricky; it can’t be too watery or too gloopy, and applying it is a pain in any event because it has to be perfect (no smears, scratches, chips, etc.). But Chanel had it right – there is something subtly edgy, and sophisticated, about short, dark nails. And, yes, it’s a classic.

More than a decade on, I finally found the perfect solution. Check out my new manicure:

OK, so I lied. It’s not your garden variety mani; it’s gel nails. Gel nails in the perfect dark plum/chocolate brown colour. Solid colour gel nails are the latest trend, according to my fabulous nail tech, Erin. [I am devoted to Erin, who helped to overcome my hate/hate relationship with my nails. I would not be exaggerating when I say that the very last beauty ritual I will ever give up is my monthly fill.] I’ve been getting gels for the past 4 or 5 years, and though I love my usual French manicure, this is an awesome alternative – and a great way to experiment (which, as we know, I love to do with beauty products). 

This also has to be the easiest way to do a dark “nail polish” look – no uneveness, no chips, no fuss, no muss. The only downside, if you want to call it that, is having to commit to one colour for 4 weeks at a time (unless you get a re-fill sooner); that’s why it’s a good idea to go with a classic colour, something that will work with your general wardrobe. I’ve already told Erin that I would love to try a ballerina pink next, and she’s promised to work on mixing the perfect shade. I can’t wait!!


One caveat: if you are (ever) looking into getting a set of gel nails, I strongly recommend researching the salon/nail tech you’re considering, or asking friends for their recommendations. As in all things, quality varies with price, among other factors, and when it comes to your nails, cheaper is definitely not always better. There are also different kinds of gel nails – some use powder, some use gel, some (shudder!) acrylic tips. Always know what you’re getting before you sit down in the chair!

The beauty aisle

It may be the frustrated artist in me, but I love experimenting with make-up, especially colour. This past holiday season, my Boxing Week shopping consisted almost entirely of beauty aisle purchases – and splurges at that. As it happens, I realize that there is a bit of a theme to my new “toys”; I call them my Transformer tools – the way they look in their packages is misleading.
Take this Stila Custom Colour Blush ($30, Shoppers Drugmart):

Barbie pink in the compact, it adjusts to your skin tone once you apply it, and you can control the intensity (a good blush brush is a must). I’ve been searching for the perfect blush colour for a while, and, against the appearances, this proved to be it. I know people say that redheads should avoid pink, but it really depends on skin tone; mine has pinkish undertones, and I find that pink blush looks more natural than apricots or peaches (common recommendations for redheads). A good tip is to go with a colour similar to your natural, well, blush.
My other big splurge was this YSL Mascara Volume Effect Faux Cils ($38, Murale):

As far as mascaras go, I usually stick with drugstore brands (L’Oreal or Maybelline); I like “thicker” formulas that layer well, as opposed to stuff that takes 5 coats to show up properly. I don’t buy the overblown claims of manufacturers about what miracles of lash lushness can be wrought from a tube of mascara, so I didn’t buy this YSL version because of its supposed “false lashes” effect, or because I thought it could do something my regular mascara can’t, volume-wise. No, I bought it because it comes in purple.

I saw it in a magazine and some impulse moved me to want to try it. I’ve never tried coloured mascaras before, and purple is pretty out there, but I thought it might be a nice contrast for my (green) eyes. The result was actually much more subtle that the picture above might lead you to believe – it gives a suggestion of purple, without the merest hint of “80s make-up crime”. And it layers surprising well, with good lash separation to boot.
My final splurge was actually an old favourite I had abandoned because, well, $18 is a bit much for “almost lipstick” … at least on a regular basis. Still, I love the colour of this Clinique Almost lipstick in “Black Honey” – in the tube and on my lips:

As with the other products, this looks deceptive in the packaging. I promise you, I’m not turning Goth at my age (although I’ve read that dark purplish black lipstick is making something of a comeback). The colour is actually very sheer,  natural-looking, and flatters almost everyone. Don’t believe me?

Take a look.

Here is blush, mascara (I’m not wearing any eye shadow), and lipstick – altogether, a soft, natural look. Love it!
What new and exciting beauty products are you mad about? Share your discoveries in the comments!

Awards season, Vegas style

On January 16, the 2011 Hollywood awards season kicks off with the Golden Globes. For folks like me, who care about the red carpet fashion statements as much, and perhaps more, than the on-screen performances being feted, this is an exciting time. So many dresses to peruse, so many judgments to pass. All the hoopla of nomination announcements and prognostications gave me an idea – why not an awards style pool? Everyone can play along at home; just review my picks below and pick the person you think will come out on top, in the style rankings, this awards season. We’ll review the progress of each candidate as the various awards shows take place, and then (democratically) crown a winner after the Oscars in February. Interactive fun!

OK, down to the nitty-gritty. In order for this to be as fair a contest as possible, I had to pick candidates who are likely to make the rounds at most, if not all, of the major awards shows. Red carpet junkies aside, the best way to do that is to go with nominees. Although the grand-daddy of all awards shows (the Oscars, natch) will not announce its nominees till the end of the month, it’s a safe bet that most of the names that have been showing up on other nomination lists will pop up again come January 25. So, in no particular order, here is the awards style pool shortlist, along with my initial thoughts on each candidate (including my picks for best/worst looks):

Natalie Portman (SAG, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards; Black Swan)

As if the buzz off Black Swan was not enough, with a recent engagement/baby announcement, Portman is guaranteed to be the belle of the 2011 awards season. On the red carpet, she’s rarely put a foot wrong in the past, and although her choices sometimes leave me cold, I put that down to style differences. I do love Portman in Lanvin, though; this recent look is one of my faves:

However, while I like eclecticism, I’m not fond of this  everything-and-the-kitchen-sink Rodarte dress:

Nicole Kidman (SAG, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards; Rabbit Hole)

In a field of relative newbies (yes,  I know, Natalie Portman has been acting for a long time), Kidman stands out as a red carpet veteran. She’s had some amazing, memorable looks on the Oscar red carpet in past years, so it will be interesting to see what she pulls out this time. I have to admit that, lately, I have not been overly impressed by her outfits, which have tended to be reiterations of the same silhouette (tight all over, mid-calf length). I understand a style rut as much as the next gal, but hope Kidman re-discovers her taste for adventure, and goes for something as risky and fabulous as her Oscars Galliano dress:

And less like her recent Clements Ribeiro pick for the Rabbit Hole premiere (is that … tinsel??):

Amy Adams (SAG, Golden Globes; The Fighter)

I have to confess that I’ve never paid a ton of attention to Adams on the red carpet, which is a shame – after all, gingers have to stick together. But as a result, I don’t have a clear idea of “who” Adams’ red carpet persona is, and I’m not really sure what to expect this time around. Much like Mila Kunis (below), she’s a bit of a dark horse. But she has proved that she can shine in the spotlight, as this gorgeous mermaid dress by Proenza Schouler attests:

However, her other Oscars dress, by Carolina Herrera was a “miss” for me (though I looooved the necklace):

Anne Hathaway (Golden Globes; Love and Other Drugs; Oscar presenter)

In researching Hathaway’s red carpet history, I quickly realized that it might easily be summed up thus: very, very pretty dresses. She wears a lot of them, especially Valentino. Pretty, princess-y dresses are one of my weaknesses, so Hathaway has an edge, in my book, over her competition on that score alone. She’s also consistent; even when her look is not mind-blowing, it’s still solid – she’s rarely on the “what was she thinking?” lists. In terms of my favourite Hathaway look so far, I was torn between this Valentino gown, and the one she wore to the Venice Film Festival (sea-foam, ruffles, looks far better than it sounds), but in the end of the sparkles won out:

Though I applaud her for experimenting with a different look, this Marc Jacobs dress, on the other hand, is a bit of a tragedy as far as I’m concerned:
Mila Kunis (SAG, Golden Globes; Black Swan)

While she’s certainly no unknown, Kunis doesn’t seem to have spent a lot of time on awards red carpets in the past (and, if she has, I can’t find the pictures). Her various movie premiere looks have not overwhelmed me, but there is clearly room for a few surprises this year. She certainly has an eye for the unconventional, if this Monique Lhuillier gown (from the 2009 Emmy’s) is anything to go by:


On the other hand, this Elie Saab dress is a bit “blah” (the kiss of death on the red carpet, as far as I’m concerned):

Michelle Williams (Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards; Blue Valentine)

I’ve added Williams as a 6th pick to my shortlist because she may turn out to be true dark horse of awards season – particularly where the awards themselves are concerned. Her movie, Blue Valentine, is getting a ton of great reviews … and, hey, it doesn’t hurt to co-star with Ryan Gosling in a movie that boasts sex scenes sufficient to warrant (an initial) NC-17 rating. Style-wise, I will always have a soft spot for Williams, both for her adorable pixie haircut and for wearing one of my all-time favourite Oscar looks, this stunning yellow Vera Wang gown:
On the other hand, Williams’ apparent love for the off-beat can be a little … well, too off-the-beaten path for me. Take this bedsheet-esque Chanel dress:

So, now that you have reviewed the candidates (and some of their past red carpet efforts), it’s time to name your pick. Make your choice known in the comments to secure bragging rights in the event that your pick ends up reigning supreme in the 2011 awards season.

To get you all started, here is mine. After much deliberation, and with some regret (Michelle, you were my close second), I’m going to go with my “safe choice”, Anne Hathaway. See – it isn’t hard! Your turn!