Parfum de Vie – The Smells We Love and Perfume Psychosis – A Meditation


Compulsion

Americans are famous for loving shriekingly clean scents, shunning anything remotely unwashed, and themselves smelling like nothing interesting to the point that more than once, when smelling the latest designer released flanker intended for just such an audience,  I’ve wondered if they were simply bottling drugstore cleaning fluid and calling it a day.  Once when sniffing an unlabeled sample I was forced to wonder, “Is this Versace Bright Crystal or CLR?” So I was absolutely enthralled when I posed the question “What are your favorite smells?” on Facebook, and got responses that ranged from earthy to filthy.  A Perfume Freak’s Dream.

Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Scent memories are powerful.  With one whiff of a familiar smell, we can be mentally whisked to a moment in our past, the presence of an old companion, or a particular time or place we will never forget.  I know that when my college friends smell Calgon Turquoise Seas body spray (if it’s even manufactured anymore) they think of me which is pretty hilarious, but whatever.  I cannot deny my past and frankly, I still dig some Calgon.  (And Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Heavenly which resulted in more than one person telling me, “You smell like a stripper….no no!  That’s good.”  Alright, sure.)

My past is full of lots of potent and unforgettable smells (I did live on a farm for some time, you know…) For years I have dreamed of a perfume that would smell like my Dad on a morning before church.  It is the most wonderfully comforting scent of Irish Spring, coffee, toast, perhaps a smidge of smoky bacon, shaving cream, mouthwash, and Tuscany Pour Homme.  Nothing smells more like “home” to me than that.  Penhaligons Sartorial comes close.  As does Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, but the toast and coffee are missing.

Similarly, another scent from my past that I wish I could recreate is the scent my parents seemed to effortlessly emit when they would return from an evening out.  Melded perfume and cologne, a touch of charbroil from the steaks they probably had, someone else’s cigarette smoke, a hint of booze, hairspray, leather, and the fantastic zing of a wool coat that has just come in from the cold.   They would walk in the door looking handsome and beautiful respectively, and that scent would just take over the house.  It was so grown up and mysterious and I miss it, although I suspect that I might occasionally smell this way myself.  There is something about Molinard’s Habanita that grasps this concept for me, and it is downright cheap and cheerful.  CB I Hate Perfume has an offering called Winter 1972 that has that cold wool coat with just a hint of cigarette.  Jasmin et Cigarette by Etat Libre D’Orange gets the smoke, but lacks the beef.

Yet another scent I wish to smell again is that of my Gramps’ basement, which sounds dubious, but read on.  Gramps, in his heyday, had a fully finished basement complete with wet bar and jazzy 70’s organ.  It was a wonderful place.  It smelled, quite frankly, like the business end of a wine cork.  To the wine cork add a bit of pipe tobacco, perhaps a bit of basement-related mustiness, maybe a bit of pine (for the holidays), a lingering waft of cigarette from somebody’s coat (we’re talking early 80’s here), and more than a dash of bourbon (Truly, I thought eggnog was the color of dishwater due to the ratios of rum to mix my Gramps used. Only in college did I discover it’s true density.)  Think about it: wine, cork, smoke, must…truly, if any of these scents are to be taken literally, this is the one that would make a fantastic men’s fragrance.  If only  I were a chemist.

Great smells in their natural habitat need only be experienced, however.  They need not necessarily be bottled. Certainly, they aren’t all meant to be worn on the skin.  That said, owning a bottle of something that, when sprayed, has the ability to transport you is an experience of pure comfort and joy.

Using the scents put forth on my Fbook page, I’m going to offer perfume-related  suggestions that just might spark a memory or two.

Let me first state, however, that the intent is not to be literal.  For an exercise in literal scent recreation, check out the Demeter line of fragrances.  It’s arguable that they are fully-fledged perfumes, but they are a master’s course in scent science. So, truly, if the scent of a thunderstorm is what you are after, Demeter has a scent aptly named Thunderstorm (as well as Earthworm, Funeral Home, and Humidor, just to name a few).  My project, rather,  is an experiment in the art of true perfumery and it’s ability to be an appealingly wearable scent, and yet still evoke an ethereal image of something you love.

In the meanwhile, some of our favorite scents are available quite easily in bottle form.  Flowers, woods,  and bakery treats dominate the perfume market, particularly those available and heavily advertised in the US.  So, for our purposes here, I am far more interested in conceptual scents and oddities.  A good lavender isn’t so hard to find.  Something with the snapcrackle of printer paper straight out of a Xerox or the spice of your dog’s fur may prove more difficult.

What can I say?  It’s a hobby.

Certainly, smell is all about context.  While my friend Nick and I agree that shallots slowly caramelizing in butter is probably the best smell on the face of the earth, I wouldn’t want to smell that way sitting at my desk.  Just like the smell of fresh raspberries might be a delight in nature, and refreshing post-bath, it would be hard to take someone seriously in a business meeting.  As such, I believe that flowers are best experienced as, well, flowers.  They are what they are.  There’s no great lilac perfume because you’re better off just smellin’ a lilac.

I guess this is just my way of saying the following perfumes are all in the name of fun, and if you are so interested, broadening your perfumery horizons.  I will never have smelled All the Perfumes, but I have made a bit of a dent.  I hope you enjoy.


Books, Magazines, and Other Related Paper
:  People love the smell of paper in it’s many incarnations, as do I.  However, the scent of newsprint is not the same as an old book.  Sharp crisp copies still hot off the printer don’t smell the same as a freshly cracked magazine.  A trade paperback smells very different from a leather bound classic.  The library, the used book shop and Barnes and Noble all are singular smelly beasts.  Certainly, paper is, underneath it all, wood.  But if you were only identifying things by smell, a cedar chip and a ream of printer paper wouldn’t seem very near to each other.  The cedar is still rich with it’s oil, the printer paper bleached and sharp.

The creator of the aforementioned Demeter line is also the genius behind CB I Hate Perfume which seeks to create in either water perfume or extrait (pure perfume) form, just such things as these amalgamated dream scents from our past and our experiences.  One such creation is a scent called In the Library.  It’s an intimate scent.  Vanillic in the way that, trust me, a good ol’ book is vanillic.  Warm, aged.  It’s a great pick, and I highly recommend it.  Truly, the love of the scent of paper seems fairly universal.  A newly launched scent called, aptly, Paper Passion has just launched, it’s subtitle – “perfume for book lovers.”

For that hot off the press slightly shrieky cleanness, I recommend Thierry Mugler Cologne.  It is far from subtle.  I believe Perfumes the A-Z Guide calls it “steam iron.”  Like paper, it somehow manages to evoke sharp coldness and steamed fresh ink.

Tires, Cars, Industry, Tar, Gasoline and WD 40.  For all the times I’ve driven through Gary, Indiana and experienced the sulfurous fumes that emanate from Steel plants, one would think I would be convinced that industry = stink.  However, this is not always the case.  The Blommer chocolate factory, on occasion, fills the city of Chicago with a very out of context air of baking brownie.  It is wonderful, and as reported in the Tribune a couple of years ago, likely highly carcinogenic.  BUT with our inherent love of pipe tobacco, gasoline, and vinyl, humans love to stick their noise into a cancer causing chemical and breathe deeply.  I ain’t here for your health.

My father, an engineer in the automotive industry has a job that is both white collar and yet requires trips to the plant floor donning earplugs and goggles.  When he arrives at home, he smells like a freshly sprayed can of WD 40 and it is one of the world’s most wonderful smells.

My husband loves a fresh tire.  He describes them as “sweet” and so they are, and of course rubbery.  Bvlgari Black is the premiere rubber perfume.  It looks like a puck, it is unisex and it smells great.  Women the world over have been attempting to woo men with bottles of fruity silliness, clean musks, and flowers, when all the time it was grease they were after.  Good, clean, grease and rubber.

Grass, Snapped Grean Beans, New Mown Hay, Horse Barns, Alfalfa, and Good, Clean, Dirt.  Only a kid from the country could assert that, in fact, cow shit is a vast improvement on all other kinds of barnyard shit including pig and turkey, in particular.  It is second only to the nicely grassy horse or rabbit shit which, in comparison isn’t just “not bad” it’s sort of kind of nice.  Even comforting if you were ever on first name basis with a horse or rabbit.

And I was.

I mention this because in perfumery there is an aroma-chemical called Indole that makes an appearance in both white flowers and poop, so if I mention that something has a barnyard quality or rather lacks a barnyard quality, I mean it with much affection and all seriousness (as the discussion of perfume allows).

But let us begin with a proper lawn mowing which engages no indolics whatsoever.  Newly mown grass is one of the world’s most wonderful, fresh and naturally occurring smells.  Frankly Gap’s recently re-issued Grass scent smells just about like it.  I’ve never smelled Demeter’s grass scent, but I bet that ‘s pretty great too.  I often wonder if Californians or Floridians feel quite as passionately about grass as we Midwesterners.  Surely they don’t have that bleary eyed look we all get stumbling our of homes in late March and maniacally fall to our knees, praising the heavens taht we have seen something that is both naturally occuring and green.  LOOK AT IT!  IT’S GROWING!!!!!!!  I sort of get why dogs roll around in things.  I bet they are just grateful that it’s there at all.

But I digress.

Moving away from the literal green of grass and moving on to the conceptual family of “green scents.”  Galbanum, a resin, is the primary player in the most famous green scents:  Chanel no 19, Gucci Envy, Chanel Cristalle (a green citrus).  Many Iris perfumes find themselves in the green family.  The Vintage Vent Vert.  Parfums di Nicolai’s Odalisque.

Diptyque’s L’Ombre Dans L’Eau is a trip through a rain-soaked garden on a hot August morning.  Tania Sanchez says it better than I that it smells like a “snapped green bean”.  To that I would add a dash of tomato leaves.  To anyone who grew up with and/or now tends to a veggie garden, this is a trip down memory lane.

Hay is sweet.  Not straw, but hay.  I prefer alfalfa, myself.  Green, sweet, fresh, and earthy.  I’ve read that Hay Absolute is a perfume in and of itself, but I’ve never had the pleasure.  And, unfortunately, for me I am allergic to it all.  Still, I rarely let that stop me.  Parfums di Nicolai has a very sweet offering both in scent and concept with a delicious hay accord that is actually a bit sweet for me.  It’s called Kiss Me Tender.  Serge Luten’s offering, Chergui, is hay inspired with a dash of honey and tobacco which evokes something of a Baltus Van Tassel-like character, in my mind:

Baltus Van Tassel from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Baltus Van Tassel’s Bursting Barn from Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Bath and Body Works had a “clover” scented lotion that came as close to my childhood memories of an alfalfa field that anyone has ever gotten (that I know of).  I long for someone to recreate that scent.  I’ll help if I have to.

Love, Sex, Bodies, Babies’ Heads, and other Animalic Bits:  This would be the area in which Americans tend to squirm and look around for their Puritan bonnets, buckled shoes, and bottles of Dolce and Gabbana Blue.  One whiff of Muscs Kublai Kahn has the potential for the sniffer to look at you like you’ve just told a dirty joke in church.  If you’ve ever met someone from basically anywhere BUT the US, Canada, and the UK, you’ll quickly come to realize that the rest of the world just isn’t bothered by the natural smell of the human armpit.  In fact, during the creation of Sarah Jessica Parker’s perfume, Lovely, she insisted on a little body odor because, “Secretly I think everyone likes it.”  While I think the true dirty animalics were probably focus-grouped out of the formula, a bit of duskiness remains.  And, indeed, it’s one of my favorite perfumes.

The new formulation of the perfume classic Femme by Rochas has a distinct and dirty-minded cumin note, and cumin smells like pits.  The Chanel orientals do not shy from the civet, leather, or animalic notes available to them in quality form.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:  Often these big ol’ classics (Chanels, Lauders, Guerlains) are quickly dismissed by people of my generation and younger as “old lady perfumes” but per usual, your grandmother has lived longer and knows more than you do about such things as quality and class.  So to dismiss her Youth Dew as a scrubber is to dismiss the true art of perfumery.  Sniff again, and notice the cinnamon, vanilla and booze.

Lovers of Mad Men and all things retro, I implore you to move beyond the Chanel no 5 and experience the Guerlains, Balmains, Lanvins, and other grand players from the great age of perfume.  It will challenge you.  You will have the urge to wrinkle your virginal little nose in distaste.  THIS IS THE MODERN ERA OF PERFUMERY’S INFLUENCE ON YOU AND MOST OF IT IS CRAP.  Not all, certainly.  But our noses have been trained to love nothing but what amounts to hand soap and shampoo in EDT form.

Grab a bottle of Shalimar and experience the genius of Guerlain’s inedible desserty masterpiece.

If you can, find a bottle of the long discontinued My Sin and prepare yourself for a perfume adventure.  It loops from aldehydes to grimy leather in the blink of an eye.

Sarah Jessica’s Parker’s Covet perfume was said to be inspired by the scent of her babies’ heads.  Now, I have never smelled the noggins of her children, but this perfume smells more chocolatey to me (if my memory serves.)  Still, thought I would mention.  Rather to capture the close to the skin-ness that I think one is looking to evoke here, I would suggest an oil based scent.  Perhaps Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely in the oil form.  I have a great little amber oil I picked up in the hippie dippie section of Whole Foods (is there any other section?) for 8 bucks.

Leather, while a chapter of perfume that stands alone, is by all accounts animalic, no?  So is honey, if we’re getting technical.  In a more specific area of perfumery lies the animal fur.  Clean, living animal fur is a spicy natural wonder.  We have a cat that is downright perfumed naturally.  Peppery.  Dry.  And comforting.  We have another cat who some people say smells like butt, and I say smells like beeswax…which probably smells like bee butt.  If so, count me in as a fan of bee butt.

Just one more weird statement I have made when talking about perfume.

The Grand Joke played on the world of perfumery by Etat Libre D’Orange comes in a small glass bottle adorned with the infamous “crying penis” artwork that I am downright not joking about.  It is called Secretions Magnifique and it is nauseating.  However, it fits the category as it is an experience, most certainly, and moreover inspired by all bodily secretions that are not urinous or fecal.  That still leaves a lot of secretions.  They also threw a little jasmine in there for good measure.  But then again, sometimes jasmine smells like floral bad breath.

The ocean, salt, beaches and the primordialDune by Dior is considered a marine scent.  This doesn’t quite do it justice.  But, in fact, there is a dry salty note in it.  It’s wonderful.  Vetiver is a dry grass that rasps, in a way.  I burn the essential oil sometimes, and if I overdo the vetiver I feel like I’m mummifying.  That said, vetiver fragrances are downright sexy.

Hermes Eau des Merveilles is salty and incensy and very very calm.  Very close to the skin, and very dry.  It is unisex, and I would recommend it for somebody who wanted to broaden their horizons beyond fruity florals, without announcing it to the world.  A good subtle experiment, and nicely beachy.  But not summery beachy – Eau des Merveilles is a beach after the tourists have left for the season.  It mysterious and moody.  I suspect it would layer nicely with a bit of amber or vanilla, as well.

In a complete reversal, let’s talk about the old school european suntan lotion fragrances.  Those would be Bobbi Brown Beach and Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess.  I have a mild distaste for white flowers and I feel that these fragrances, Bronze Goddess in particular could be my in road.

Tobacco, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Burnt Sugar, Espresso, Booze, Ground Coffee and the gourmand.  These are the least challenging and easy to come by perfume offerings.  Prada’s latest:  Candy.  The cognac firm Frapin’s offerings.  Aqualina Pink Sugar.  On a more classic note, Guerlain’s Shalimar and L’Heure Bleu.  If you walk up to the department store perfume counter and say you want something that isn’t floral or citrusy, you will walk away with one of these most likely. 

So, I’m going to go a bit weird with this one and give you some slightly less literal takes on the gourmand.

Ready?  Let’s go.

Anne Pliska is a bit Christmasy.  There’s gingerbread here.  And oranges.  Apparently, orange is not an easy note in perfumery.  Mainly because I can only count about three of them that manage to have an orange note that sticks around.  While it is a gourmand, it’s also icy.  It’s frankly gorgeous and completely reasonable in price.  I only hesitated to tell you about it because I wear it and I convinced my mother in law to wear it, too.

Sacrebleu is a gourmand in the sense it has gourmand ingredients…but you wouldn’t want to eat these.  It’s one of the few fragrances with a  detectable tuberose  that I still love.  (Tuberose is very challenging for me.  I’m trying to push myself.)  IF I had a “signature scent” which I just don’t, this would probably be it. Similarly (with FAR more tuberose) is Dior Hypnotic Poison.  I am convinced, if the Bronze Goddess thing doesn’t work out,  that this will be my in-road to tuberose, because THIS tuberose is covered in coconut and almonds.

Coco by Chanel.  I call it the Brunette of the Chanel bunch.  It’s warm, spicy,  a bit loud but never shouty, and full of layers.

Tabu by Dana.  Now listen.  It’s going to stonk your socks off the first time you smell it, and if you are just dipping a toe into the older perfumes, maybe avoid this one.  It smells cheap.  It IS cheap.  But it is very hilarious and a great gourmand.  My advice is look for the root beer.  There is a distinct root beer note to Tabu that can be heard about all the shoutin’, and there IS shoutin’.  Patchouli has some things tosay.  As does clove.  Musk.  Heavy hitters all.  Seek ye the root beer.

Coffee – Bond no 9 has a very warm and welcoming frag called I Love New York.  And even though it’s never been my experience, their version of loving New York smells like coffee.  Still, not a bad thing to smell like.  My only qualm is that it might smell slightly too much like coffee.

The best vanilla ever created is the aformentioned Shalimar.  There is no getting around it.  It is the finest, Frenchiest, richest, most sumptuous vanilla to be had.

If, however, you were looking for a lighter vanilla.  Less creme brulee.  Check out Vanilia by L’Artistan Parfeumer.  Sadly, it’s been discontinued, but it wasn’t discontinued very long ago, and thanks to the Internets, you can get your hands on a decant, or even a bottle.

Lolita Lempicka – I talk about this perfume a lot.  It was one of my Autumn picks.  It is one of my faves.  And it is a vanillic licorice with herbs.  Grand.  Distinct.  And very well done.  Also can easily be had for a reasonable price.

I put tobacco under the gourmands because it smells like you could almost eat it.  When, as a teenager I smelled an unlit cigarette up close and personal fo rht efirst time I shouted “IT SMELLS LIKE A FIG NEWTON!”  Uncool.  But accurate.  Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille makes you want to eat yer tobackey.  How very un-Ford like behavior.  A drier and smokier tobacco you might want to check out is Sonoma Scent Studio’s Tabac Aurea.

Wood, Forests, Workshops and Cedar Chips

Wood smells great.  It has natural oils.  It smells clean and warm at the same time.  Each wood has a distinct smell.  While we may not be up on the obscurities of the many different trees, certainly we know the difference between pine and cedar.  Sandalwood is the queen bee of the wood perfume family.  Mysore sandalwood oil (heavily overharvested and endangered) is supposed to be a perfume in and of itself.  I’ve never had the pleasure.

Ormonde Jayne Woman lists Black Hemlock as one of its primary notes.  When you sniff Ormonde Jayne Woman for the first time, when you look up you expect to have been magically transported to an enchanted forest where you may or may not be in danger due to the local sorceress.

On an more earthly plain, fresh unsullied hamster shavings smell downright grand.  The cedar ones in particular.  Cedar oil, in it’s essential form, somehow isn’t quite as warm and cozy as the wood itself.  In fact the oil can be a bit harsh.  Lately, the cedar that has been invigorating my pulse points is Commes des Garcons White.  It’s cinnamon and cedar and it’s downright cozy.

Recently…very recently, as in I got the sample a couple days ago, I discovered Sonoma Scent Studio. Perfumer Laurie Erickson’s work is just great.  Honestly, I can’t recommend it more highly.  Her perfumes are old school good.  They aren’t dumbed down.  There’s no flash.  They are adult and really well crafted.  My personal favorite at the moment is Winter Woods (I got this last Friday and I’ve already gotten several compliments).  It sort of combines the mystery of Ormonde Woman with a very really woodsiness and just a hint of smoke.  Although it isn’t listed in the notes, I get a very subtle vanilla and a pure incense in the drydown.

And then we have agarwood or oudh or aoudh or any of the other spellings that indicate as an American, you are just not gonna pronounce it right.  I say oudh with an “oo” that sounds like the “oo” in “foot.”  Here’s hoping I won’t get laughed at.  Anyhoo, I don’t know too much about oudh except that it’s like Hansel:  So hot right now.  I’m only just teaching myself about it, and will just have to report back.  I CAN tell you that if you are just dying to drop insane amounts of cash on perfume, start here.

Smoke, Fire and the Burned.  Growing up staunchly Protestant, I never experienced what my Catholic and formerly Catholic brethren think of as “church smell”.  To them, church smell is distinctly related to incense.  To me, church smell is a combination of green beans with ham in it, that cheap pink public bathroom soap, floor cleaner, Youth Dew, coffee in styrofoam cups and cheesey potatoes.  It’s true, being a Protestant just isn’t quite as glamorous as the ritual-practicing incense-burning Catholics, particularly when talking perfume.  Thankfully, through perfume, I can still relive what I never experienced.  In perfumery, incense goes far beyond a gas station purveyed joss stick.  Incense ranges from cracklin’ breath-takin’ frankincense to sweet purrin’ myrrh.  Resins.  Saps.  It’s fascinating. I like Armani Prive Bois d’encens, Annick Goutals Encens Flamboyant and Sonoma Scent Studio’s Incense Pure.  The best, however, is Chanel’s Coromandel which is just wonderful and I would bathe in it if I could.  White Chocolate Incense is the best way I can describe it.  Imagine having a mug of spiked hot white chocolate placed in your hand and a cashmere blanket wrapped around you.  You are ushered into a room that is bathed in silk, cashmere, angora and leather.  There is the purest frankincense burning in the corner and the floor is of the smoothest cedar.  That’s Coromandel.

It’s not just incense our noses like to burn.  Wood, fireplaces, even sugar (which I will address under a different category.)  Smoke is downright a-okay.

I mentioned CB I Hate Perfume earlier.  They have a particularly smoky offering called Burning Leaves.  If that is a bit too much bonfire for you, I recommend Sonoma Scent Studio’s Fireside Intense which is smoky but a bit closer to the skin and wearable.

Patchouli 24 by Le Labo is more than just smoke, but it’s the smoke that helps it stand apart.  Frankly, I could have thrown this under many categories such as the Animalics, or even the blurb on Books.  As Luca Turin says, There is a vanillic sweetness to an old book, and you will find that here in Patchouli 24.  Fear not the Patchouli, my friends. We all have our hippie related patchouli fears but patchouli is used is many many perfumes to round them out.  If you are a fan of the more oriental Chanels or Diors, it’s patchouli that is toasting your toes.  Think rich sumptuousness not raspy head shop.

Herbs

The Aromatic Fougere incarnate

In perfumery, herbs range from the very literal to the very weird.  The oldest cologne recipes originating from medieval times (even Egyptian) utilize thyme, rosemary, mint, and many other aromatics.  A perfect example of British style apothecary perfume (ie smells “older” than it is) is one of my faves: crisp, clean and herbal L’Eau by Diptyque.  In fact, L’Eau was one of my “in roads” to niche perfumery, but that’s a different post.  Herbs tend to be a bit masculine in perfumery.  The classic “masculine” scents are called Aromatic Fougeres and are packed with Lavender, Rosemary, Thyme and Vetiver.

However herbs are not always so very manly.  An herbal selection that falls under the “minty” category (a notoriously difficult note to achieve…however, I love mint in most forms and am therefore not as picky as your average perfume freak bear) would be a selection from the Guerlain Acqua Allegoria collection (a very reasonably priced way to get some Guerlain).  It is called Acqua Allegoria Herba Fresca. Another great mint pick is Dirty by Lush, and the solid is about ten bucks.

Herbs and Citrus often go hand in hand in the perfumery world.  One of my summertime picks is Eau d’Hadrian by Annick Goutal.  It’s unisex, fresh and decidedly herbal.  I wear it on the hottest days of summer when most perfumes are too much but none won’t do.

If you are really into aromatic herbs, however,  you should probably wade into the men’s department (that goes for both men and women.  Perfume is invisible. The only gendering happens in the marketing.  Again, another post…) , but keep your wits about you.  Head for the older stuff.  Perfumes for men are notoriously badly made and insulting to it’s audience.  The reason many people hate fragrance is because of newer Versaces and anything with the label of “sport.” Look for the classic Guerlains, Diors, Chanels.  Tom Ford has done well for men. A good in road for those who are nervous about crossing gender lines is the classic Acqua Di Parma or Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage.

A classic that has maintained a little world of it’s own is Clinique’s Aromatic’s Elixir.  I’ll be honest.  It’s a bit of a love-hate perfume and I am just not on the love side of the aisle.  However, much reading and research tells me it is very well done and a true classic.  It’s clear it is made from very high quality ingredients and is incredibly well made.  It’s distinct.  It smells like a classic from its era (the 70’s.   A wonderful time in perfumery.)  I’m just…not there yet.  (This opens the opportunity to discuss, “Why can’t you just not like it?”  I can.  I mean, I don’t.  I don’t like it.  But I know that Aromatics Elixir can teach me something about perfumery.  Whereas Fame by Lady Gaga, another perfume I don’t like, is just more of the same old crap that’s been flooding the shelves for all of the 2000’s.  As a cultural figure, she might have some lessons for me to learn, as a perfume figure, I’ve heard it all before.)

Seasons, Holidays and Memories – In a previous post, I attempted to capture All That Is Autumn To Me via perfume, and I made much headway.  Above, I’ve mentioned more conceptual memories I’d love to recreate.  My next project will probably be The Ultimate Christmas Perfume.  It’s hard to recommend perfumes for other people’s memories.  But even my own can be perplexing.  One of my favorite scents in the whole wide world is very specific and very strong.  It is Opening Night at a Theatre, Act Two Post Intermission.  The smells range from fresh sawdust, the oily smell of stage makeup, the heat of the lights, the booze in the patrons, the faint scent of cocktail meatballs and party trays, the range in perfumes in colognes, sweat, nerves, paint, leather, dust, hairspray, cigarettes,mentholated cough drops, mints….  The amalgamated smell is so wonderful and singular
and in some form has been a part of almost all of my life from my Dad’s performance of King Arthur in Camelot to my latest opening night just a couple months ago.  I don’t know if I’d want to wear it on my skin (if I don’t already by rote) but a candle would be nice.

Speaking of candles, sometimes this category is better served by atmospheric scents.  Every year my Momma (and now me and my sisters) make “Christmas smell” which is just a saucepan filled with all things Christmasey and simmered.  I love pine-scented candles.  Vanilla hand lotion.  Scent doesn’t always have to be EdP.

Nor does it need to be artificial.  Each March, some day comes along that registers above 60 degrees and I fling the windows open with glee to smell fresh air, soil, and green sprigs.  It’s a perfect scent, and one that must be walked into rather than put on.

There’s another category of scent is one that I think probably is the most fun, and also marks the true perfume geek:  The scent memory of an experience you’ve never had.  I remember the first time this happened for me.  I knew that my Aunt had worn White Shoulders for years.  And when I came across a description of White Shoulders in a book, I figured, “What the hell?”  A bottle of the EdC concentration is about 12 bucks at Walgreens.  If nothing else, the bottle is pretty.  I grabbed some on my lunch break.  When I smelled it, I expected to have immediate thoughts of my Aunt assuming I would remember the scent from childhood.  Instead, for some reason, I was mentally whisked to Ginger’s first visit to her new house in the movie Casino.  “What a Difference a Day Makes” was playing in the background and the world of the early seventies appears in a classic Scorcese long shot through closet upon closet of fur and jewels.  I just knew that the house smelled like White Shoulders.  And White Shoulders is just the sort of thing Ginger would have worn.  That day at least.  Trying to prove her innocence with an innocent perfume.  I just have to figure out what she must have worn at night.

Jean Claude Ellena, Hermes’ in house perfumer, says he is inspired by the paintings of Cezanne and Matisse.  Not their literal contents, but rather their spirits.  This appeals to me.  What’s the point of these big human brains if we can’t stretch out senses a bit?

Movie Hero of the Week – Myrna Loy*


(Haven’t done a Movie Hero of the Week in over a year.  But I love doing them.  Decided to jump back in.  Although “of the week” is decidedly a misnomer.)

I love Myrna Loy.  I love all the actors I put in my Movie Hero of the Week posts in one way or another, of course (a dash of tongue in cheek notwithstanding).

But Myrna.  Myrna Have I Loved.

She was the ultimate co-star. ” Never a stand alone pillar of female power onscreen, she excelled at sharing the frame and reacting, what Cary grant called tossing back the ball.  Here she differed from her dynamo friend Joan Crawford and from such dominating female screen icons of her generation…most at home in comedy, she achieved her best effects by underplaying, by suggesting meaning rather than hammering it home….Extremely modern in her minimalist technique, she remains our contemporary in her ability to grow, to stay in the game and continue evolving.”  (Quoted from Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood)

She had a grasp of comedy and rhythm that was so subtle and filmic, and yet she could her hold her own with even the slap stickiest of Cary Grants.  She was smart and ferociously opinionated, often challenging the studio system, which was a dangerous thing to do.

What I admire about her most is her on screen partnership with William Powell, but I will get to that in a bit.

IMDB credits her with 138 movie and television titles.  She was around during the silent era and successfully transitioned to sound.  Not bad for a girl straight out of Montana.  It’s funny.  Her life had a span similar to my grandfather’s.  She was born in 1905 and died in 1993.  He was born in 1906 and died in 1995.  To look at her movies is to see the twentieth century, nearly in it’s entirety.  I feel like through her I am able to see the world he saw, in a way.

For a Chicago connection, she “was supposedly the favorite star of famed outlaw John Dillinger. He came out of hiding to see Manhattan Melodrama (1934), in which she starred, and was gunned down by police upon leaving the theater.” (source: IMDB)

In the summer of 2008 (I think) I trudged through the few remaining titles I had left to see on the AFI 100 list.  (I know there is a separate dimension in which I am still watching Shane.)  One of the joys of that project (the most dubious of New Year’s Resolutions) was The Best Years of Our Lives.  It is simply stunning.  Her performance of the supportive, understanding and solid-rock-strong Milly Stephenson left her with the nickname “The Perfect Wife.”  Veterans pined for Loy’s presence in their post-traumatic lives.  She said, “Some perfect wife I am. I’ve been married four times, divorced four times, have no children, and can’t boil an egg.”

She was principled and fought for what she believed in.  She was even blacklisted by Hitler himself.  She fought against discrimination in public housing and Hollywood alike, pressing studio execs to portray African American actors as briefcase holding executives not servants. According to the book Myrna Loy: The Only Good Girl in Hollywood, “Along the way, in her eighty-eight years, she found the time to…fight the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, become a UNESCO delegate, campaign for various Democratic Party Candidates, serve John F. Kennedy on the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, help found the American Place Theatre, and rack up credits in radio, television, and stage.”

Myrna and I share a belief about film and acting in general.  “I admire some of the people on the screen today, but most of them look like everybody else. In our day we had individuality…Most of the sex I’ve seen on the screen looks like an expression of hostility towards sex.”

One of my all time favorite movies is Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House starring one of Loy’s frequent co stars, Cary Grant.  It’s a hilarious comedy about how absolutely insane and yet alluring building your own home can be.

In this clip, Mrs. Blandings chooses her paint colors.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had a conversation with my Mom that didn’t allude to this clip:

But hold on, because I saved the best for last.

The Thin Man

One of the great joys of my movie loving life has been The Thin Man movies (I own the whole set), which Loy is most famous for. The plots are kind of hard to follow but it simply doesn’t matter.  The point is Nick and Nora.  William Powell is Nick.  Myrna Loy is Nora.  They are one of the grandest  pairs that ever was.  Rhett and Scarlet, MacB and Lady MacB, George and Martha, Beatrice and Benedict,  and Nick and Nora.  I would…hell, I don’t know what I WOULDN’T do to be able to take on any of those pairs.

This clip is Nick and Nora at their best.  Seriously.  Seriously.  Somebody let me take a crack a this.:

Including the Thin Man movies, Loy and Powell made 14 films together.  They were artistic partners and friends.  Powell was a practical joker and sent Loy a funeral wreath for her 35th birthday with a note that said, “Be brave, dear.”  Of Powell, Loy said, “I never enjoyed my work more than when I worked with William Powell. He was a brilliant actor, a delightful companion, a great friend and, above all, a true gentleman.”

If you’ve never come across a Myrna Loy film, give one a try.  She had many nicknames, but the most famous was The Queen of Hollywood.  Her star may have faded a bit since the golden age of movies, but her performances never will.

And also, I’m serious about doing a stage version of The Thin Man.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.

My So Called Style – Fall Wishlist 2011


Angela Chase

Flannel shirt. Check. Ripped jeans. Check. And you guys, I totally married Jordan Catalano.

Or Dillon (90210). I don’t know for sure, but I bet he’d prefer Catalano.

I officially can’t wait for Fall.

Yesterday I posted my inspiration for Fall fashion this year. Never has it been more near and dear to my heart.

The key to a, shall we say….nostalgic look is to have the spirit of the era and yet not so authentic as to the point of costume. Part of the many reasons I count myself a Johnny Depp fan is that he embodies the spirit of the kind of fashion I like. Weird. Slouchy but not sloppy. Sexy. With a sense of humor. And a product of the 90’s. In the best way. He also knows how to rock an arm party (I will detail below). That’s the thing about the 90’s. So much of it isn’t gender specific which is not usually my style. But certain elements rise to the top. The white tshirt. Jeans. A leather jacket. Boots. These are human items of clothing. They are inherently cool. They are also a blank slate. Built for customization, and it is the accessories that define the person and the outfit.

The Spirit of the Season

I would wear this.

Yesterday, I established that Alicia Silverstone/Cher Horowitz is very much a fashion icon for me. As is Johnny Depp, as I said above. Other 90’s style icons include Eddie Vedder. Fairuza Balk. Linda Evangelista. Meg Ryan. Karen Elson. Kate Moss. Lisa Loeb. My So Called Life. Drew Barrymore. 90210.

Love Angela’s layering. Hipster’s dare to dream of Rayanne’s style.

I adore this top. I’m not usually into crochet, but the fit is great.

When I was 11, I thought Jennie Garth was the prettiest girl in the world with the best hair I had ever seen. I continually strived for and failed to achieve this style. The jacket, however, would totally work this year.

While I love Seinfeld, I never got into Elaine’s style. It was a bit too Amish for me. Jennifer Aniston’s look on Friends was a bit too “done,” however I always loved her way with a white tshirt, and her coffee shop outfit, with the black mini and the black tights was adorable. This is another of my fave’s:

This is summery, but I dig it.

The hip hop United Colors of Bennetton thing was also a bit too bright for my palette. It’s funny. While the clothing of the nineties was relaxed, often the hair and makeup was intense, if not severe. Dark lips. Pale matte skin. Thin but dark brows. Slicked back hair. It was the era of grunge. But it was also the era of high glam and the supermodel. Cindy Crawford had the big hair, the perfect makeup.

But let me also say that my 2011 Fall wishlist is not entirely circa 1993. What I am focusing on is iconic, quality items, with some cozy autumn in between. I stopped short of Birkenstocks. 1. More of a summer shoe. 2. I don’t know if I’m THAT nostalgic. Still, having graduated in 1999, you would assume (and would be correct) that a lot of my present wardrobe is already apropos for this fashion season. I did pick up a flannel last year. It was like coming home. My Dad is probably glad I bought this one rather than raiding one from his closet. I have something else I plan on raiding from his closet this year. I’ll let you know when I’ve secured it. Anyway, I have several pairs of ripped jeans, and dammit I love them. Lots of white tshirts, although it’s time for a new one. Such a classic item, but you have to refresh your supply. A denim jacket. Sweater vest. Button downs. Plaid school girl skirt. I am heavily editing my 90’s style for this year. Anything post ’96 feels not right. No ringer tees. No huge jeans (I was never into that in the first place). No baby hair clippies. Oversized is not going to be the fit I’m looking for. Rather, I want to mix proportions.

Aside from the 90’s, the runways were packed with 60’s style. I have cute little kitten heel slingbacks that will do the trick. Lots of shift-ish dresses, a plaid jumper. My black turtleneck. I picked up a pair of perfect black mary janes I can’t wait to wear with fun tights. I also have a pair of Marcia Bradyish plum t-straps. More of an early 70’s look, but it applies. One thing I adore about 60’s style is the fantastic, and highly linear tailoring. So flattering. So chic and dressed up and so very easy! If you throw on a cute a-line shift, and slingbacks, you’re done and you look polished. Being such a child of the 90’s, I very often could use a 60’s spit shine.

Plaid is big this year, with both a 60’s and a 90’s feel. I’m Scottish (and other things) by way of ancestry AND I love the early 90’s. Trust me. I dig some plaid.

The way I come up with my wishlist is a combination of items that really reflect the look I am going for, and also items that I could really use in my wardrobe. My lifestyle calls for lots of different types of outfits. I’m an actor, so I audition a lot. I feel like personal style is a major part of showing who I am. I also work 8-5 in an office in a business dress environment. I see a lot of theatre. I go to Ohio a lot. These are all situations that dictate what I wear. My list is much more unisex than past years. I expect next year it will be lots of feathers and bows and sky high heels. But this year…. without further ado – Here are my edited wishlist/shopping list items for Fall 2011!*

1. Leggings – black full length leggings. Perhaps a heather gray or a navy. Maybe even an olive green.

2. Slouchy sweaters/perhaps a tunic. I am not a tunic fan, in reference to myself, really. However, certain forms of the tunic appeal to me. One in particular is a collared version. It looks like a button down, except it isn’t. I love this shape because it does actually have a shape.  I’ve heard it called a Popover.  I like this. With leggings and maybe riding boots, I think this could be a comfy and cute Saturday outfit. Slouchy sweaters, on the other hand, are all about proportion. I’m looking for very thin knit, with slim arms, and probably and off-shoulder or boat neck neckline. No bulky knits, for the most part. I would even consider a cheery henley neckline. (Makes my boobs look fantastic. Not gonna lie.)

3. Black leather jacket – This was on my list last year. Will has one. I may just borrow. Although a super soft girly one would be awesome.

4. Varsity jacket – I never got one in high school. I will have you know I lettered twice, too. Cheerleading and choir. Guess who majored in theatre?! I didn’t buy one for many reasons, the main being I was too busy dressing like Angela Chase. Also I had recently moved from another school district and old alliances are hard to beat. Anyway. It only took me 16 years since my freshman year to finally give in. I want the Buffy look. Varsity jacket. Leggings. And a ponytail.

5. Doc Marten’s – I never actually owned a pair. My huz has a pair of really kick ass ones I bought for him one of our first Christmases as a couple. Nearly knee high. I can’t decide if I want the boot or the oxford. Probably the boot.

6. Hoops – Hoop earrings are kind of my signature. I get made fun of all the time. You should know they were also Brigitte Bardot’s signature jewelry. You just couldn’t see them under all that hair. They are on the list this year because I would like to shell out for a nicer pair than the Target multipacks I buy every year.

7. Cropped sweater/vest. Per yesterday’s post, I want to mess with proportions this season. Long shirts topped with cropped sweaters feels so dancery and cozy.

8. White shirt – This has been rotting on my list for years now. It’s no fun shopping for this staple. Particularly with my chest. Finding the right top can take forever, and you have to try it on. You can’t order this one. Still, once I secure the wardrobe holy grail, playing with it will make up for the drudgery of finding it. I want an oxford style, regular cuff, white shirt. Broadcloth, or something similar that is slightly thicker than the average blouse. I may peruse the menswear department and then have it tailored on the sides.

9. Straight leg jeans – versatile, cuffable. Ever so slightly slouchy. Dark but not indigo.

10. Ribbed tights – fall colors and jewel tones. Maybe a pair of cream. Only for my brown riding boots, though. I’m going for equestrian, not little girl.

11. Mod A-line dress – I’m picturing short or long sleeved. With tights. Probably solid color.

12. Red or grey low chuck taylors

13. Red Minnetonka moccasins – I have a pair of the classic that I use around the house. I need a pair to wear outside. They are too cute and comfy. Very bombshell in the woods.

14. Bibs – I miss them. I can’t help it. I think they look sexy, if done right. Fortunately for everyone groaning right now, outside the local Tractor Supply in Ohio, I think they are going to be hard to come by.

15. Madewell Plaid Coat – It’s not even available yet. I saw it in a magazine. To quote 90’s icon Wayne Campbell, “It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.”

16. Mad about plaid dress – Donna Ricco is a genius. She does one thing and she does it really well. That thing she does is dresses. And this is one from her line this year.

17. Jersey long sleeved maxi dress – Another item to wear with a cropped sweater. Such a dramatic sillhouette.

18. Maybe a slouchy harness boot or Frye Campus boots – Frye Campus boots in Banana have been on my radar for many a year. Will has harness boots. I’m not looking for a true harness, rather a slouchy piratey looking pair.

19. Arm party. I love tattoos. Just not on me. Rather, I dig an arm party. I have always been a fan of bracelets. Necklaces aren’t really my style, minus a couple special ones. An army party is the equivalent of one bracelet inviting all it’s friends over to play. The key is mix of textures, widths, and metals. I am looking for fun invitees to my fall arm party. I’m thinking hammered metals, bangles, and friendship bracelets. If you look at Rayanne in the above photo, she’s got a tape measure as part of her arm party. Creativity is key, and there are no rules. It’s a party!

20. Chambray shirt. – Fairly deep in color. I like the versions that are available right now. I’m picturing with leggings and also with my plaid kilty skirt.

21. Another flannel – I have one that is yellow and blue. I need one in the red/black/green area. I’m thinking with leggings.

22. Raglan sleeve grey crewneck sweatshirt

23. Brown High Heeled Boots

24. Black ballet flats

25. Day/Play dress(es) – Think Alicia Silverstone in the Amazin’ video. Not tooo hippy dippy. I already have the floral one. Could be worn with leggings?

* I won’t be purchasing all these items. This is just a list of items that would be welcome in my wardrobe.

* The total list has about 50 items on it.  That is true.

Fall Wishlist 2011

All Saints long sleeve dress
$44 – allsaints.com

Ted Baker tee dress
49 – johnlewis.com

Carven long sleeve sweater
58 – theoutnet.com

Reiss shirts blouse
110 – johnlewis.com

James Perse white short sleeve shirt
$50 – jamesperse.com

Aryn Glasser hoody
€179 – conleys.de

J Crew vintage chambray shirt
$98 – jcrew.com

H M studded jacket
30 – hm.com

Levi s romper
$55 – macys.com

Madewell knit legging
$22 – madewell.com

Ribbed stocking
$20 – topshop.com

Madewell knee high heels
$325 – madewell.com

Repetto ballerina shoes
$280 – ssense.com

Steve Madden black heels
$85 – heels.com

POL gold silver earrings
$17 – target.com

G by Guess post earrings
$15 – gbyguess.com

Rhinestone jewelry
$5.99 – tillys.com

Dr. Martens 1460
$120 – zappos.com

Converse All Star Oxfords Shoes
$30 – piperlime.gap.com

SO Striped Varsity Jacket
$20 – kohls.com

Minnetonka Thunderbird Ii
$39 – zappos.com

Happy Rex Manning Day! – Fall Fashion Lookbook 2011


Part One of Fall Fashion 2011 (Tune in later this week for my 2011 Wishlist)

For past Fall Fashion posts:

Fashion 2010

Fashion 2009

Fashion is a huge ocean of which some waves I ride, and some I ride out.  The past couple years definitely had some trends I was into.  While I’m not a huge Mad Men viewer, I don’t mind the sweeping sixties vibe that followed in it’s wake, but with all the benefits of women’s lib already fought and somewhat won.  Still, while I love mid-twentieth century fashion all the way from the 20’s-70’s, the heart and soul of who I am (for better or worse) resides in the years 1991-1995.

I waited patiently for many years.  Sure, fashion hinted, or rather hiccuped in this general direction.  A ripped leg here, a doc marten there.  But now…now the 90’s that I know and love have returned to the fashion world.  Leggings, slouchy sweaters, tartans, doc martens, rugged mixed with classic.   Sure most of the mags are touting 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s fashion but if you look, that’s not exactly what you will see.  That combo, combined with the demands of 21st century lifestyle has ressurected the decade of my style influence, my artistic soul, the 1990’s.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I am above most things, a movie fan.  This isn’t to imply that the 90’s were influenced by movie fashion.  90’s fashion was almost entirely influenced by the music scene.  What I love about 90’s movie fashion is that it is edited and it is usually not the point at all.  Lucky for me, that equals inherently wearable outfits.

Friends, do you know what I’m getting at here?  Do you know what I’m saying?  I’m saying Cher from Clueless represents everything about this season for me.   I’ve been waiting, dear God, 15 years for this.

Ignore the pouty face, this outfit is one of my favorites from the movie and the essence of what I'm looking for this season. Cropped sweater, button down, plaid skirt, and you can't see them, but she's wearing mary janes.

But let me not get ahead of myself.  Last year, while poodling around in my physical look book (a couple of very messy but inspired binders full of clippings) I sorted out the genres of fashion that I love and that work for me.

  • Classic
  • Dancewear and Dance inspired
  • Bombshell
  • Baroque
  • Bohemian
  • Romantic
  • Glamour

The 1990’s have a solid representation when it comes to Classic, Dance, Baroque, and Bohemian.  I love the Bombshell look and I LOVE Glamour but this year, I’m going back to my roots.

The following are examples of 90’s movie fashion that are serving as my inspiration this season.

"I really think Musictown is torn on the revealing garment issue. "

There is not an uncropped sweater to be found on those ladies.  Worry not, for I am not a midriff barer.  But I AM a cropped layerer.  And thus I shall continue to be.

"Okay, so you're probably going, "Is this like a Noxzema commercial or what?" But seriously, I actually have a way normal life for a teenage girl. "

"I have direction." "Yeah, towards the mall."

I love schoolgirl chic: button downs with sweater vests, little shift and wiggle dresses, tartans,  mary janes and wide headbands.  If viewed through a nineties lens, you really have created the ideal space for my style to work.  Thus Cher is one of my fashion icons.

So is Buffy.  The original Buffy.  See this post for a full run down on Buffy style, particularly her prom ensemble.

"Get out of my facial."

"Great. My secret weapon is PMS."

I am IN LOVE with this outfit, varsity jacket included.

Even the cheerleading outfits kick ass!  I mean, I WAS a cheerleader.  These things appeal to me.

How funky is your chicken?

The following picture is important to me, for you are seeing my high school style sitting next to my adult style.

"I totally paused!"

But the boys have much to offer.  The following examples ARE early nineties, but by way of the 50’s and early 60’s.  No fashion era is without influence.  Take for example, the regency era.  Think Jane Austin.  Those fashions while being their own look, have a distinct Grecian feel to them.  Just an example.

Anyway, I give you the boys of Dead Poet’s Society and School Ties.  The clothing is 50’s prep school, but the slouch, the attitude is pure 1990’s.

"I sound my barbaric yawp."

"The honor code is a living thing. It cannot exist in a vacuum. "

Here is a pic from My Own Private Idaho.  This is unisex fashion that looks sexy on anyone.  Honestly!  Picture Alicia Silverstone in that leather jacket.  It would rock!

"I'm afraid if I shared your wine, I might catch this awful disease you appear to have. My jacket would grow little zippers all over it and my toes would have jingle bells on them like those there. "

In a bit of a different take on 90’s fashion, here is the character Carrie (Michelle Forbes) from the movie Kalifornia.

"Too graphic. Too overt. Not suitable for mass consumption."

Her style is simple, severe, and awesome.  It’s grey tshirts, black tshirts, that incredible haircut, and one of the best leather jackets in movie history.  The cigarette is nearly it’s own character.

In that same vein, we have the ladies of The Craft.

Their skirts were either very short, or very long.

"Hail to the powers of the Watchtowers of the East."

Let us not pretend the maxi dress is something new.

This is my fave: prep school style combined with early 90’s attitude.

We are the weirdos, Mister.

The trap (that I consistently fell into as an adolescent) of 90’s fashion, for women, is that it can quickly become so masculine, it’s shapeless and sloppy.   So what I hope to be at 30 is what I wanted to be at 13.

If you combine Alicia Silverstone’s fashion in Clueless with her looks in the Aerosmith Amazing, Cryin’ and Crazy videos, you have now seen my Fall Fashion Inspiration for 2011. Ditto for Liv Tyler in Empire records and the videos.

Say what you will about Aerosmith.  I have mixed feelings myself, and they are all ignoring the past 15 years.  Those are three of the greatest music videos ever made.  It doesn’t hurt that I had a huuuuuge crush on Jason (NOt, I repeat, NOT Jeremy) London.  Have you seen Man in the MOon??? (Not Man ON the Moon…that’s the Jim Carrey pic).   Okay fine.  Amazin’ is the least amazing of the three videos.  The whole virtual reality thing sort of dates it.  Okay, fine, I love the song Amazing.  I totally do.

But look at her dress!!!

That dress with Doc Martens is perfection.  She hitches a PLANE with it.  Not a car.  A PLANE.

Moving on, with a slightly more beachy vibe, we’ve got Lori Petty in Point Break.

Add a touch of the West for the ladies of Gas Food Lodging.

Let us not forget Singles.  The single most 90’s movie ever created.  I defy you to find one MORE 90’s.

I know that, if you are a fan of the early nineties, you would expect to see Reality Bites here.  Howev, while I love Betty Page, the Betty Page bang doesn’t work for me, nor does the waify hipster look of the movie.  I’m as preppy as the nineties get, which isn’t very.  But it is enough.  And it is what ultimately leaves me just a bit cold towards the movie.  I respect it!  It just isn’t “me.” In me there is a conflict of yuppie, hippie and grungey that basically rivals that of the plot of PCU.

I’m in my element, people.  I’ll come up with a wishlist tomorrow, but I think you can see where I’m headed.  We are shaped by the styles of our coming of age.  I will now attempt to improve upon them.

Movie Hero of the Week* and Style Icon: Katharine Ross



Fashion Post

Movie Post

Katharine Ross

Katherine Ross costars in two of the greatest movies of my parent’s generation:  Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Graduate. She just seems to embody something about the late 60’s and early 70’s as I understand them.  I love looking at my parents’ yearbooks and checking out what they wore.  I love the long hair, and the bell bottoms, and the quirky ringer tees, and wooden platforms, and floaty tops.  Katherine Ross sort of represents that to me.  Her style is outdoorsy, natural, and sexy.  She was born in California and just seems to exude a sense of the American West both in style and presence. Even her husband, Sam Elliot (another future Movie Hero of the Week), fits into this idiom.

Katherine Ross belongs to a group of actresses I like to call The Grand Brunettes because I believe they exude what is an inherent brunette-ness.  Katherine Ross, Barbara Hershey, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Vergara (actually a natural blonde, but she has taken brunette as her own), Anne Bancroft, Vivien Leigh, Sophia Loren, Lena Olin, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Jane Russell seem to say “brunette” the way Marilyn  says “blonde.”

Perhaps someday I will post about The Great Blondes…but I doubt it.  That’s played, y’all.

Hair

There isn’t one hairstyle that says “Katharine Ross” in particular.  She wears it up, down, half up, in braids.  The key is a loose and slightly messy take with face framing layers. The key would be shine serum and a teasing comb.

Makeup

Her makeup rarely changes.  She always has a softly smudged lined eye in a deep brown or black with thick lashes.  Everything else is light and neutral.  Nude lips, with maybe a dusting of color on the cheeks or a bit of bronzer for that tawny look.

When I’m going for a Katharine Ross look, I use the following:

  • MAC lip pencil in “Spice” applied over a little chapstickOr, for a slightly more 60’s nude lip, try a Clinique nude lipstick.  I think Clinique nails nude and beige shades really well.  For a truly 60’s look, try to keep the shade a true beige with little to no pink.
  • I like MAC eye pencil in “Buried Treasure” for eyes.  It’s a very dark brown with little gold flecks.  It’s pretty soft in texture so it blends well.  L’oreal’s Le Kohl eye pencil in Onyx is a highly pigmented and blendable black.  I like true pencils and not automatic liners for this look.  To intensify and add a 60’s vibe, use liquid eyeliner on top of the pencil and wing at the ends.
  • I go with a matte face, with a very slight dusting of a tawny blush or bronzer where the sun would naturally hit.  Cheekbones, bridge of nose, a little on the forehead.

Movies

Katherine Ross as Edda Place in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

One of my favorite movies of all time is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   In fact, that very film was the first time I saw Katharine Ross.  I loved her style and I liked how she held her own with Robert Redford and Paul Newman.  Having had many odd bondings with friend-boys over the years, I particularly loved her scenes with Butch.

Other films that should be included in a Katharine Ross movie marathon:

The Stepford Wives

The Graduate

Style

Of all my favorite style icons, Ms. Ross is probably the most casual.  Fabrics and textures included in a Katharine-themed wardrobe are cognac and lighter brown leathers, cotton eyelet, gingham, wood, denim, all-season tropical wool, prints – liberty and mod florals.

She often wears simple countrified styles, equestrian wear with a slight Victorian feel.  California cool bell bottoms and shirts tied at the waist with clunky platforms or riding boots would be an easy-breezy way to invoke some comfy late sixties style.

Check out this Polyvore set I created using Katharine Ross as inspiration:

embellished border maxi dress
14 GBP – janenorman.co.uk
Maxi dresses »

Winter Jumper
$270 – allsaints.com
Long sleeves sweater »

Classical Dressage Coat
$162 – modcloth.com
Tweed coats »

Etro Skinny Jodhpur
160 GBP – brownsfashion.com
Pleated pants »

Vince Camuto Fays Boots
$100 – piperlime.gap.com
Over the knee boots »

Open Heel Strappy Clog
$52 – needsupply.com
High heel shoes »

Hats in the Belfry Fascinator
$35 – modcloth.com
Party hats »

Brooks Brothers | Straw Boater Hat
$198 – brooksbrothers.com
Straw hats »

Anna Lou of London | Umbrella
20 GBP – annalouoflondon.com
Anna Lou »

D&G Tie-front gingham cotton shirt
135 GBP – net-a-porter.com


I hope you enjoyed this trip through the work and style of Katharine Ross.  If nothing else,  watch Butch Cassidy.  It’s divine.

*What is a movie hero? An un or under-sung member of the film making community who deserves more of the spotlight. And yet lack of such a spotlight often adds to their charm.