A Sparkling Vintage Life

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M is for Mascara (and Maybelline)

Image source: retro-advertising.com

If there’s one cosmetic I hate to leave the house without, it’s mascara. Unadorned, my pale lashes cause people to ask if I’m feeling a bit peaked, to use  an antique euphemism for you look like death warmed over.

Today on M-day I’m lumping “mascara” and “Maybelline” together because, for many years, the two words were synonymous. According to The Maybelline Story, a book written by Sharrie Williams (grandniece of Maybelline’s founder), in 1915 Tom Lyle Williams developed a compound to help his sister, Mabel, who had singed her eyebrows and eyelashes in a kitchen accident. Tom observed how she mixed coal dust with Vaseline petroleum jelly to darken the remaining hairs. Armed with a rudimentary chemistry set, Tom worked https://www.amazon.com/Maybelline-Spirited-Family-Dynasty-Behind-ebook/dp/B008RDGIVCout a more suitable substitute. Ultimately the final product–not yet called mascara but simply “Maybelline,” as in “Wait here while I put on my Maybelline”–was manufactured by the Parke-Davis Laboratories in Michigan. Tom Lyle (always the two names together) named his company after Mabel, the product’s inspiration, who was employed at the company, along with several other family members.

While some sources credit Frenchman Edouard Rimmel, a perfumer, with the inventing the product. Rimmel’s mascara also was a mixture of coal dust and Vaseline, Maybelline surely did invent the cake mascara, which consisted of a solid cake of mascara in a tin, accompanied by a tiny applicator brush. (Today Besame Cosmetics makes an up-to-date version of cake mascara, which is surprisingly versatile as an eye liner and brow darkener as well. I’ve been using it with excellent results.) Revlon, a company founded by Charles Revson, later invented the wand-type mascara in a tube we’re familiar with today.

One of the obstacles the Williams family had to overcome in the World War I years was the negative reaction to eye makeup, which at the time was associated with theater people and prostitutes, not “nice” ladies. The company helped change attitudes by hiring wholesome-looking models and film stars in their advertising. In the 1920s, the public warmed to eye makeup as the flapper darkened her brows and lashes. And mascara has been with us ever since. Great Lash, Maybelline’s want mascara in the iconic pink-and-green tube, has been a bestseller since it’s introduction in the Sixties.

I was surprised to learn that Maybelline was headquartered in Chicago for decades. Chances are my fictional characters Marjorie and Dot would have “put on their Maybelline” in the 1920s! In 1967 Maybelline was sold to L’Oreal and today is known as “Maybelline New York.”

 

G is for Genteel

From the dusty archive of antique descriptions we don’t hear much anymore:

Genteel (jen-teel)/adj. From the Middle French gentil = gentle. a: Having an aristocratic quality or flavor; stylish. b: of or relating to the gentry or upper class  c: elegant or graceful in manner, appearance, or shape

It all sounds very Downton Abbey. Is “genteel” a word you ever find occasion to use? Do you know anyone personally who fits the description?

 

With the right lipstick, who needs a time-travel machine?

I don’t do a lot of product reviews on this blog (well, except for books, lol) but I feel compelled to share something that has gladdened my vintage-loving heart, and I thought some of you might get a kick out of it, too.

It’s a cosmetics company called Bésame, out of California. Founded by artist and cosmetic historian Gabriela Hernandez, Bésame produces cosmetics that replicate shades and formulas from the early- to mid-twentieth century (updated to today’s product-safety standards, and all products are cruelty-free and paraben-free).

I’d heard about Bésame a while back, but held off purchasing because the prices seemed a little high for my admittedly modest make-up budget. But I joined the mailing list, and it turns out they offer some great deals now and then that let me try some products without straining the piggy bank. I suppose I should mention here that I have no connection to the company, and any product I review, I purchased with my own money.

The items came packaged with a fun faux-“newspaper,” the Bésame Bugle, that describes not only the products and how to use them, but other newsy tidbits. For example, an article introducing their 1937 “Snow White” collection explains how the color palette was chosen based on the original animated film. Another article tells about Adriana Caselotti, the teenage Italian-American opera singer who voiced Snow White (described as “the perfect mix of child-like innocence with a strong operatic singing voice”). There’s even a word-search puzzle that had me hunting for “Evil Queen” and “True Loves Kiss”! Be still, my heart. These “newspapers” are a great example of how a company can promote its products and philosophy without being sales-y.

Back to the products. First off, the packaging is lovely–burgundy and gold in an Art Nouveau floral motif. Just looking at them on my shelf makes me happy. Two shades of lipstick I’ve tried are Victory Red (a vivid patriotic red–I believe it was a special edition, as I no longer find it on the website) and American Beauty (a softer berry red). The formula is more matte than glossy, which is good for me because gloss never seems to last too long on my lips. The instructions explain how to apply with the angled tip and blot with a tissue, which is exactly how I remember my mother applying her lipstick, back in the day.

I also remember my mom using cake mascara before the advent of the applicator-in-a-tube. Hers came in a little red box from Maybelline and was applied with a tiny brush that looked like something a doll would use. Bésame’s comes in a red-and-gold tin containing a cake of mascara and its own tiny brush. So far I’ve been a little too clumsy with the brush to make a success of it on my lashes, but I’ve found that I love using it as eye liner. I wet a narrow brush with water, brush it over the cake, and apply a thin line right next to my lashes. Works great!

Next I tried Cashmere Foundation in True Beige. It comes in stick form and takes a bit of blending, but I like how well it covers the redness in my face. I tend not to apply it all over, just in the areas where it’s needed, and I blend, blend, blend (sponge or fingers work well). Then I set it with Vanilla Brightening Powder, which comes with it’s own darling little puff. although I prefer a fluffy brush. It’s a finely-milled powder in a light, translucent color with a delicate vanilla scent. There are, of course, multiple shades to choose from, even color-correcting rose and violet. There are several cream and powder rouges available, too, but I usually skip rouge because of the aforementioned redness.

Finally, I picked up a sample set called “Decades of Fragrance.” The set contains six sample-size vials of colognes named–get this, vintage lovers–1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, and 1960! According to the company website, each scent “uses familiar ingredients from each period to create an impression of a decade of time.” (Note: The vials came packaged in a small cardboard box, not in the red velvet bag shown in the photo above. The bag is my own–but what a cute way to package them for Christmas, dontcha think?)

To wrap up, I feel like this company really “gets” me, as a customer and a fellow lover of all things vintage. I’m eager to try other products as needs arise and the coffers allow. Even if I’d just bought one lipstick, I would have enjoyed feeling transported back to the grace and elegance of an earlier era, connected somehow to generations of ladies who came before us. If that sounds like your kind of travel, visit Bésame and check out what they have to offer.

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When Yoga Pants Intrude on the Human Eyeball’s Safe Space

yoga-pants-protest

Photo source: Boston Globe/Jim Davis

Here’s a shout-out in support of Alan Sorrentino.

In case you haven’t heard of Alan Sorrentino, he’s a Rhode Island man who ignited a firestorm of protest when he wrote a letter to the editor of his local paper. The letter criticized the widespread practice of women wearing tight yoga pants in public. To register their disapproval of Mr. Sorrentino’s opinion, a coterie of ladies decided to parade past his house wearing yoga pants. Because, of course, they are more than entitled to adorn their backsides with unflattering clothing, and heaven help anyone whose opinion differs from theirs.*

As an aid to those who don’t get out much, yoga pants are extremely tight-fitting pants that aren’t so much figure-flattering as figure-outlining. They leave little of the female anatomy to the imagination. In their proper place–i.e., a yoga studio–they are stretchy and comfortable and help instructors observe that poses are being done correctly, that the proper muscles are being engaged, etc., –similar to why ballet students wear leotards and tights. Except that leotards and tights have never caught on as a fashion trend for grown women, unless gracefully covered by a skirt or wrap when the wearer leaves the studio. Yoga pants, on the other hand, have been embraced as an everyday clothing choice by women everywhere–meaning that eyeballs everywhere have been  subject to some pretty blush-inducing views.

I wrote about yoga pants nearly two years ago, which would indicate that the trend isn’t fleeting. As they are the antithesis of Sparkling Vintage style, no regular reader of this blog should be surprised at which side of the debate garners my sympathies.

Good for you, Alan Sorrentino, for expressing your opinion. A few years ago, I expressed mine concerning the disconnection between young girls’ clothing choices and their desire not to be “objectified” by males. At that time I suggested that if they (or their parents) did not want men to view them as sexual creatures, perhaps they should not dress in a way that flaunted their sexual characteristics. I was subsequently accused of everything from being hopelessly old-fashioned (okay, guilty) and a wizened old prude who wants to restrict everyone’s Freedom to Be Themselves, to downright hating women and letting myself be manipulated as an unthinking tool of the patriarchy. A few people told me privately that they agreed with me, but they did not wish to say so publicly so as not to be similarly tarred and feathered.

So that’s why I’m standing up for Alan Sorrentino today. Kudos to you, Mr. Sorrentino, for having the courage to state your opinion. Thank you for expressing a wish to see both women AND men dress with dignity. The only place where we disagree is that you think women “over twenty” should not wear them in public, while I don’t think any woman should wear them in public, unless with a shirt long enough to cover the aforementioned area. My feelings about the matter have little to do with how much they flatter or frumpify a woman’s figure and everything to do with how they smash her grace, modesty, and dignity to smithereens.

Sparklers, what do you think of yoga pants worn in public?

*(As an aside, I find it puzzling that people have a “right” to wear whatever they want, but other people don’t have the “right” to object to the trend. What’s up with that? And when did the concept of “rights” degrade this far? This is what our forefathers and foremothers–or rather, our nongendered, inclusive forecaretakers–fought for?)

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Sparkling Vintage Style: Lounging Around

Here’s another great video from vintage-wear icon Lilly Jarlsson. Love her! This time she talks about what to wear when lounging around at home.

I, too, hate jeans, plus my body shape is not the least bit flattered by jeans. So why do I keep wearing them?? *sigh* Old habits die hard. Bring on the soft cotton and rayon!

The rightness of white for summer

white suit

Christian Dior, 1952

Inspired by this post by Jessica Cangiano over at Chronically Vintage about wearing white, I’ve got white on my mind as we swoop toward summer and, in particular, Memorial Day–the traditional kickoff to the season of wearing white, at least here in the U.S. Although this “rule” is no longer strictly adhered to, there is something fresh and clean about white that belongs to summer.

White calls to mind fluffy clouds blown about by warm breezes, damp cotton flapping in the sunshine, June brides, sails on boats skimming over blue lakes, thick cream poured over fresh berries, and great bowls of vanilla ice cream (my favorite!). White was the favored choice for Edwardian tea gowns and nightgowns. And who can forget the “girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes” immortalized in the song, “My Favorite Things” from The

"Young woman in a white dress" by Harry Watson

“Young woman in a white dress” by Harry Watson

Sound of Music?

That said, I admit that there’s not a lot of white hanging in my closet at the moment. Just the stray shirt or tank-top. Why is that? I tend to steer clear of white on the bottom because of my size (white enlarges, visually). And white worn on top can seem impractical, an invitation to spills and stains.But the more I think about it, the more I want to incorporate more white in my wardrobe this summer, even if it does require a little extra care and vigilance.

Source: modcloth.com

Source: modcloth.com

 

What do you think about white?

 

Old-fashioned but modern? Hurray, I’m not the only one!

I often feel alone in my passion for all things vintage, and have trouble explaining to others exactly what fascinates me so much about life 70+ years ago. So I was thrilled to find a series of videos on YouTube by German vlogger Lilly Jarlsson, whose view on vintage vs.modern lifestyles frequently resonates with my own.

In this video Lilly explains what attracts her about the vintage lifestyle. Starting at around 7:35 on the video, she talks about modern manners vs. vintage manners, and manages to express a concept I’ve stumbled over:

“Politeness is a different thing from being good, being right and being able to determine right from wrong. So of course that was always a problem in every decade of our world, and since you’re a human being whenever you were born, you have a personal responsibility of deciding if you want to be good or bad. This is something that has nothing to do with the style or the decade or the political situation. I think that at one point a person has the possibility of deciding who and what you want to be. So this is definitely something I don’t want to sugar-coat too much, the times back then. I believe every time has its good and its bad sides as well as our world today.”

She also broaches the topic of people who make fun of those who are out of step with the modern world:

“This group of people will always find something, even if you’re “normal” in other people’s eyes, that they can take as a reason to bully you or mock you. If it’s not the vintage style, they’ll find something else that they don’t like and that they have to use as a reason against you. You don’t have to swallow everything. Of course life is cruel and people are cruel and there will always be mocking and ridicule, no matter how old you get, but I think it’s important to understand that you have a right to live, in a free society, where you decide who and what you want to be.”

If you enjoy vintage style, especially from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, check out Lilly Jarlsson’s YouTube channel for inspiration.

Down to Business: To rouge or not to rouge?

Photoplay-cover-flapper-applying-lipstick-1920s-221x300“To rouge or not to rouge–is it even a question nowadays? When the daughter of the most exclusive* family paints her face for her afternoon walk as did the soubrette** of former years to counteract the glare of strong footlights, one can hardly blame the business woman–often overtired and wan–for doing likewise. Yet the girl of office or shop who uses her rouge pot without conscience, her powder puff without mercy, and her charcoal pencil without discretion, and who plasters her lips with a vermilion cupid’s bow, is oftenest the one who is heard complaining because she ‘never gets a raise.’ The wise business woman will distrust the appeal of over-artificiality and if she coaxes a tinge of color into pale cheeks and touches a shiny nose with a film of powder, will know when to stop. Perhaps the best description of the competent business woman has been given by Fannie Heaslip Lea: ‘Neatly dressed, smoothly coiffed, closely hatted, as neutral as a mail-order catalogue, as harmless as her own clacking typewriter, as controlled as an electric bulb–and just about as warming.’ ” (From The Complete Book of Etiquette by Hallie Erminie Rives, 1934).

*”Exclusive” used to be a compliment in those pre-“everybody-must-be-the-same” days. Today, “inclusive” is the sought-after adjective. Interestingly, to be called “discriminating” in the olden days was also a compliment, meaning you had refined taste and good judgment. Today, the meaning of the word has shifted to something negative” “judgmental,” or worse, the ridiculous non-word that grates the ear: “judgy.”

**”Soubrette”: a coquettish maid or frivolous young women in comedies, or an actress who plays such a part (per Merriam-Webster)

Go Mad for Plaid (31 Days to a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 30)

plaid adPlaid fabric has long been associated with fall for a very good reason: it’s warm and cozy as the temperature drops! Weather in Scotland, where plaid originated, can notoriously blustery and harsh. During the 1500s, a “plaid” simply meant a kilt or blanket meant to keep the wearer warm. “Tartan” refers to a specific, unique pattern in the weave of a plaid that signified a particular clan, group, or home territory . . . “team colors,” you might say. Highlanders wore, and still wear, their tartan-bearing plaids with great pride. In fact, the wearing of tartan was banned by the English government for a time in the 18th century, as it was considered sign of rebellion against British rule.

Clan Lamont tartan--my family's plaid. Source: tartanregister.gov.uk

Clan Lamont tartan–my family’s plaid. Source: tartanregister.gov.uk

Buffalo plaid shirt, favored shirt of lumberjacks and grunge rockers. Source: bustle.com

Buffalo plaid shirt, favored shirt of lumberjacks and grunge rockers. Source: bustle.com

During the 19th century, American importers and manufacturers applied the term “plaid” to any tartan-patterned fabric. “Buffalo plaid,” the red-and-black fabric long associated with lumberjacks and other hardy outdoorsmen, is distinctly American, first produced by the Woolrich company in the mid-1800s. Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills began mass-producing their iconic buffalo-plaid shirt for men in 1924 and for women in 1949.

Plaid enjoyed another flirtation with rebellion in the 1990s, when it was favored by grunge rockers.

The fashion world has once again proclaimed plaid “new” again. But this classic never really goes out of style.

 

Decorate for Fall (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 15)

I don’t have much in the way of autumn decorations–just a few candles, leaf garlands, a leafy wreath for the door. Historically the homes I’ve lived in have had limited storage space and thus not a lot of room to store seasonal decorations. But frankly it doesn’t take all that much to celebrate fall’s beauty and embellish a room with seasonally-appropriate grace notes. Victoria editor Phyllis Hoffmann DePiano, over at the Ribbon in My Journal blog, offers up some great ideas for vintage-inspired fall decorating, such as making the most of the warmth of wood and putting family heirlooms to good use. I might have to take a second look at that soup tureen I keep tucked away!

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