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.
“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)
I have stumbled upon the most amazing treasure–a book written in 1917 called Woman as Decoration by Emily Burbank, a visual artist’s point of view about how to complement one’s surroundings by what one puts on one’s body–what to wear while sitting in your sun-room, say, or walking in your garden, or ice skating, to form a pretty picture for anyone who happens to be looking. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I must confess, I’m having a hard time putting it down. I’m dying to share more tidbits from this book with you, and I will, but in the interest of time I will begin with this brief but delightful description of what to wear while motoring, to expand on my earlier post about the well-dressed motorist. Just something to keep in mind as you zip around town in your mini-van or Range Rover this weekend!
WOMAN DECORATIVE IN HER MOTOR CAR
IT is not easy to be decorative in your automobile now that the manufacturers are going in for gay colour schemes both in upholstery and outside painting. A putty-coloured touring car lined with red leather is very stunning in itself, but the woman who would look well when sitting in it does not carelessly don any bright motor coat at hand. She knows very well that to show up to advantage against red, and be in harmony with the putty-colour paint, her tweed coat should blend with the car, also her furs. Black is smart with everything, but fancy how impossible mustard, cerise and some shades of green would look against that scarlet leather!
An orange car with black top, mud-guards and upholstery calls for a costume of white, black, brown, tawny grey, or, if one would be a poster, royal blue.
Some twenty-five years ago the writer watched the first automobile in her experience driven down the Champs Elysées. It seemed an uncanny, horseless carriage, built to carry four people and making a good deal of fuss about it.
A few days later, while lunching at the Café de Reservoir, Versailles, we were told that some men were starting back to Paris by automobile, and if we went to a window giving on to the court, we might see the astonishing vehicle make its start. It was as thrilling as the first near view of an aëroplane, and all-excitement we watched the two Frenchmen getting ready for the drive. Their elaborate preparation to face the current of air to be encountered en route was not unlike the preparation to-day for flying. It was Spring—June, at that—but those Frenchmen wearing very English tweeds and smoking English pipes, each drew on extra cloth trousers and coats and over these a complete outfit of leather! We saw them get into the things in the public courtyard, arrange huge goggles, draw down cloth caps, and set out at a speed of about fifteen miles an hour!
The above seems incredible, now that we have passed through the various stages of motor car improvements and motor clothes creations. The rapid development of the automobile, with its windshields, limousine tops, shock absorbers, perfected engines and springs, has brought us to the point where no more preparation is needed for a thousand-mile run across country with an average speed of thirty miles an hour, than if we were boarding a train. One dresses for a motor as one would for driving in a carriage and those dun-colored, lineless monstrosities invented for motor use have vanished from view. More than this, woman to-day considers her decorative value against the electric blue velvet or lovely chintz lining of her limousine, exactly as she does when planning clothes for her salon. And why not? The manufacturers of cars are taking seriously their interior decoration as well as outside painting; and many women interior decorators specialise along this line and devote their time to inventing colour schemes calculated to reflect the personality of the owner of the car.
Special orders have raised the standard of the entire industry, so that at the recent New York automobile show, many effects in cars were offered to the public. Besides the putty-coloured roadster lined with scarlet, black lined with russet yellow, orange lined with black; there were limousines painted a delicate custard colour, with top and rim of wheels, chassis and lamps of the same Nattier Blue as the velvet lining, cushions and curtains. A beautiful and luxurious background and how easy to be decorative against it to one who knows how!
Another popular colour scheme was a mauve body with top of canopy and rims of wheels white, the entire lining of mauve, like the body. Imagine your woman with a decorative instinct in this car. So obvious an opportunity would never escape her, and one can see the vision on a Summer day, as she appears in simple white, softest blue or pale pink, or better still, treating herself as a quaint nosegay of blush roses, forget-me-nots, lilies and mignonette, with her chiffons and silks or sheerest of lawns.
“But how about me?” one hears from the girl of the open car—a racer perhaps, which she drives herself. You are easiest of all, we assure you; to begin with, your car being a racer, is painted and lined with durable dark colours—battleship grey, dust colour, or some shade which does not show dirt and wear. The consequence is, you will be decorative in any of the smart coats, close hats and scarfs in brilliant and lovely hues,—silk or wool.