3.28.2011

Le No Makeup Look- An Anecdote



As I write this post it is a Saturday evening. Earlier in the day I went for a massage and then met up with girlfriends for lunch. I didn’t wear any makeup to the massage, because I knew any makeup I wore would get smudged. After a blissful (and much appreciated) massage I went home as I had some downtime before I needed to be at my lunch date. I was dressed nicely but wondered if I could be bothered to put any makeup on to meet my friends. Maybe I could get away with not wearing any and go with a real ‘no really I’m not wearing any makeup ‘ look.

I went to the bathroom mirror to assess. Now it’s not that I’m horrified with what I look like without makeup- not at all. I don’t have a negative self image. It’s just that I didn’t look polished. There were faint dark circles under my eyes (from lack of sleep) and tiny veins that show themselves on my cheeks (that have always been there). My eyebrows were just a little sparse. All in all, I was looking a bit wan and thought I could use some color.

I thought about the friends I was about to meet. They are two very close friends and I hadn’t seen them in a while. We were bringing our babies and planned on dining al fresco as the weather was nice. I looked at my outfit- I was dressed nicely enough- white long sleeve top with embellished gold shoulder, black trousers and ballet flats… No, I couldn’t let this nice outfit go to waste.

There are times when I feel perfectly fine going out of the house without makeup on. More often than not, however I wear le no makeup look. I believe one’s makeup should be in correspondence with their outfit. If I am wearing a tracksuit and plan on hiking with friends and then having lunch, I would probably only wear mascara and clear lip gloss. If I were going out in the evening and wearing a black dress and heels, I would amplify my le no makeup look by donning either the defined eye or the defined lip. But for this lunch, I needed something natural, effortless and quick, as I was running out of time!

I whipped out my makeup bag and 5 minutes later (not exaggerating) I applied a 5 minute le no makeup look.

Here’s what I did:

Applied Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer spf 20 in Nude on my face. This one step does so many things- moisturizes, conceals and provides sheer, natural looking coverage (not to mention sun protection!)

Filled in my sparse eyebrows with Lorac eyebrow powder in brunette.

Curled my eyelashes and applied mascara. I love Chanel Inmitable Intense mascara- it provides volume, length, curl and separation... amazing.

Patted on Benefit's Posie Tint gel blush with my fingers

And lastly applied Chantecaille lip gloss in Love

Voilà. It only took 5 minutes, and in exchange I received an afternoon of looking polished. When I feel pulled together and well groomed, I can go about my day with more confidence. Just by touching up the unevenness of the skin and adding slight color and definition I felt perfectly comfortable chatting and laughing with my girlfriends and our babies under the afternoon sun.

I would love to know… what is your version of le no makeup look?

And to continue the theme stay tuned for next week's post where I interview Chanel makeup artist Shadi Molavi on the perfect red lip


Pictured above is the head of Athena in marble dating back to 160 - 150 B.C. Wouldn't you love to know about her beauty routine? She is featured at the Getty Villa in Malibu...

3.21.2011

The Search for a New Signature Perfume



For the past 7 years I have worn Stella by Stella McCartney as my signature perfume. I have a lot of affinity for Stella- for me, the fresh rose fragrance is not too heavy and not too light , but à la Goldilocks and the three bears, just right. Over the years I have worn other fragrances- for special occasions or when going out in the evening, but Stella was the scent I chose to wear on my wedding day, and, subsequently most every other day of my adult life.

Then this Christmas we had some house guests- my brother-in-law and his new girlfriend came to stay with us for a week. This was my first time meeting his girlfriend- she is a nice woman and we hit it off. One day I went into the guest bathroom to change out the towels and freshen up their room. While doing so I spotted a bottle of perfume on the bathroom counter in amongst other cosmetics of my guest. I moved in closer and confirmed my suspicion. My brother-in-law’s girlfriend also wore Stella.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I will not lie and say I wasn’t slightly disturbed. After all a perfume is a calling card of sorts, and a very personal one at that. Was there room for two people in the family to wear the same signature scent? I relayed my concerns to my cousin over the phone the next day. She said I was crazy and needed to calm down.

Now obviously I know that many other women wear Stella... it is a best selling scent after all! And I also know that the same perfume will not smell the same on different people- body chemistry can change the dynamic of the fragrance (Which is probably why I didn’t notice it on my brother-in-law’s girlfriend in the first place- I just thought she smelled good!)

Perhaps I was overreacting. Maybe I didn’t need to find a new signature scent… But the following morning when I went to adorn myself with the fragrance I paused while looking at the familiar deep purple bottle. I began to ruminate on the concept of a signature scent. Is one supposed to wear their signature scent until the day they die? Or does one change it up every decade when they analyze where they are in life? I picked Stella as my signature scent in my early 20s. My life is dramatically different now than it was back then. Does Stella aromatically encapsulate all that my new life has become?

Of that, I'm not sure... but I aim to find out!

Gradually over the next few months I will share with you my thoughts and notes on fragrances I’ve tried in the search for my new signature scent. Hopefully, at the end of this journey, I will find a new perfume to call my own.

What am I looking for? Something a bit more niche (less commercial) and unique. A scent that is moving and evocative. Not too bold, but rather something I could wear every day. A fragrance that my daughter will smell in 20 years time and think of me...

I would love to know… what is your signature scent… and is it time for a change?

Perfume flasks from ancient Rome, dating back to A.D. 200 - 400 are pictured above. They are featured at the Getty Villa in Malibu


Also, I am featured this week in Black Is the New Black. Click here for the link, or visit: www.thenewblackisblack.com to read my thoughts on style...


The Daily Connoisseur is now available on Amazon Kindle.

3.14.2011

Cultivate an Air of Mystery Part II



Before this week's post begins, I would like to send my hope and prayers to the people of Japan. If you are looking for a way to help (and are in America) you can text REDCROSS to 90999 and $10 will automatically be donated from your phone bill and go towards the relief effort in Japan...

And now for this week's post...

In my ongoing quest to not tell every person I come in contact with my life story (i.e. cultivating an air of mystery), I have been doing a lot of experimenting. Every day is an opportunity to cultivate an air of mystery and for me it really does take daily practice. One must become comfortable with silence when amongst other people, and learn how to cope with it- in a way that is specific for you.

There is a neighbor of mine who is quite mysterious that travels a lot and is often out of town. He has his air of mystery mastered because whenever I see him he alludes to his travels but does not tell me what he does for a living (and, as the French do, I would never think to ask). But inevitably when he asks me how I am I say something lame and unmysterious and laugh shrilly. Not because I am interested in him particularly, but because this is what I do with everybody. It is a malady of mine.

So one day I decided to practice cultivating my air of mystery with my mysterious neighbor. I saw him while I was taking Gatsby out for his morning walk. I had the baby strapped to my chest in the Baby Bjorn, and Gatsby on his leash. It had been a particularly long night of not sleeping with the baby (teething) so I employed one of my techniques of ‘looking presentable always’ by putting a long coat over my pajamas. I must have looked silly because it was about 80 degrees outside and there I was in a winter coat complete with baby and dog- but never mind. At least I wasn’t in my pajamas.

This is how our conversation went:

“Hello,” said the mysterious neighbor (from here on out known as MN)
“Hello”, said I (from here on out known as DC for daily connoisseur)
MN: “How are you?”
DC: “I’m great, thank you. How are you?”
MN: “Life is treating me well. And you are you happy?”
DC: “Yes, very. I haven’t seen you recently, you must have been traveling”.
MN: “I have. Doing a lot of traveling and a lot of work”.
DC: “How wonderful. It was lovely to see you”.
MN: “And you”.
DC: “Good bye”.

Now keep in mind this conversation was peppered with looonnng pauses- which was excruciating for me. But I stuck with it and was rather pleased with the result. Nothing of substance was said, but in these particular circumstances, things of substance aren’t generally said anyway. I have a close circle of friends who know my life story and day to day occurrences, and with whom I can have substantial conversations with, but for relative strangers and passers-by (like my neighbor), I would like to remain mysterious.

That’s why this exercise was very important for me. Normally at the first sign of silence I would have laughed shrilly (i.e. uncomfortably) and said something to my neighbor about the weather or apologized for my appearance or made a joke about how the baby is teething and I am a zombie on 4 hours of sleep. But I just stayed with it. Good for me…

I would love to know… how is your air of mystery coming along?



The folded arm figures pictured above date back to 2,700 B.C. and are quite mysterious in their own right. Scholars have conjectured they could represent everything from concubines, to ritual dancers, to goddesses and symbols of fertility. They are featured at the Getty Villa in Malibu.

3.07.2011

By Request: Quality Wardrobe- How much to Spend



This post comes by request from Shelley, who writes:

I know that quality over quantity is the way to a French woman's wardrobe. You read in loads of places about spending the most you can afford on various pieces. My question is, how do you decide how much you can afford? All your savings? What's left at the end of the month? A portion of your clothing allowance? How does one set the clothing allowance and how does one decide what proportion of it will go for a given piece? I think this is important info for a world gone mad with spending.

This is such an excellent question. Of course, everyone is different as we all have different budgets. I think the first thing to ask yourself is- what is your clothing allowance? If you’re not sure, it’s time to calculate one. So many of us (in the past, myself included) just spend here and there with a sort of wishy-washy idea of what our budget is. We roughly do the math in our head and then at the end of the month when the credit card or bank statement comes we think What?! How did I spend so much??

Tally up all of your monthly expenses: mortgage or rent, car payment, health insurance, bills, groceries, emergency fund, entertainment (such as books, films, plays) retirement savings etc., and generally whatever is left is discretionary and part of that can be your beauty and clothing allowance. For many of us this usually isn’t very much. The important thing here, however, is to be brutally honest with yourself. Is what’s left $30? Or $300? Either way, you can work with it.

Now that you have a capsule wardrobe, you won’t need to go shopping as much anyway. Gone are the days where you overspend on clothes and feed into the clutter of your closet. From now on your purchases will be well thought out and most everything you add into your space will be quality, investment pieces. So here is where Shelley’s question comes into play.

Let’s say your monthly wardrobe allowance calculates to $100. You have assessed your wardrobe and you come to the conclusion that you could really invest in a high quality trench coat. You don’t have one, have always wanted one and can see that there is a gap in your wardrobe for such a thing. You picture yourself in a gorgeous, camel colored trench- with the waist cinched in- belt artfully tied and collar jutting out just so, traipsing down a cobblestone street, or perhaps canoodling in a café... with Johnny Depp... in Paris! (OK this fantasy just keeps getting better).

But don't get carried away too quickly- first you need a trench coat. So what constitutes quality? Of course you would love a Burberry trench. There is no doubt about quality there- but that will run you around $1,000. And with your monthly $100 clothing allowance, you would have to save up for almost an entire year for that without buying anything else. If that is feasible for you, then make that your goal. If you can't see yourself saving for 10+ months, then set your sights on another quality item that is less expensive. Let’s say you find a chic, French minimalistic trench coat by A.P.C. (one of my favorite brands- and the make of my own trench coat). Their coats will run you around $400. You could realistically save your allowance for 4 months and purchase one. Or you could go the J. Crew avenue- where a nice trench will probably cost you around $250. The choice is yours. Either way, you are going to get a quality product as long as you take care of it.

What I wouldn’t suggest doing is buying a really cheap trench out of frustration (unless you’re desperate and are literally caught in the rain without a coat). While it is OK to get cheaper versions of most things, for something like a trench coat, you really do want quality (Remember coats, sunglasses, cocktail dresses, handbags, shoes and jewelry should always be quality- the rest can be less expensive). And if you end up buying a poorly made trench, you will probably have to replace it next season and in the end, spend more. So take your time to find just the right one and save up your money while you do so- you won't regret it.

In short, the final message is to scale your purchases to your budget to determine what quality means for you- ultimately allowing you to live a quality life- one within your means.


Shelley, thank you for your question. I hope I answered it for you!


If you have a question you'd like me to address on this blog, please leave a comment or email me @ jenncouture (at) gmail (dot) com

Above, pictured from my recent trip to the Getty Villa, are gold Italic necklaces dated between 500 - 400 B.C.


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