smell this: Guerlain Shalimar

On April 8, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Shalimar is an established classic, designed in 1921 by Jacques Guerlain and still on the shelves. This fragrance has been reformulated at least once but the essential notes remain the same; bergamot, jasmine, rose, iris, opoponax, vanilla. This is a complicated fragrance with a lot of powerful ingredients, and not only a lot on paper – a lot in the nose as well. Smelling iconic perfumes is such a good exercise.  I think anyone who gets sufficiently curious about perfume will want to experience the old classics sooner or later, certain of them anyway, whether a true vintage sample or the nearest one can get.

Shalimar EDC

I have yet to have an opportunity to smell the original formulation and can’t speak to whatever butchery the reformulation represents, but to me the current interpretation has a lot to appreciate. Anecdotally (Wikipedia on perfume histories is an interesting rabbit hole) it’s the result of an entire bottle of the latest synthetic vanillin being experimentally poured into a bottle of Guerlain’s Jicky, and was launched as Guerlain’s showpiece for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925, an art exhibit designed to show the pre-eminence of French taste and style that was the highlight of the early Art Deco period. There is a great history of Shalimar on The Perfume Shrine.

We are discussing the EdC here, as that happens to be what I was gifted recently. It’s strange, I have hardly ever been given perfume. My mom gave me a much loved bottle of Jovan White Musk when I was 13 or so, and my aunt gave me a not especially loved bottle of…what was it? Lady Stetson? (miles away from the awful tropico-chemical aerosol body sprays in vogue in rural Maine in the 90s, which I largely shunned for Vanilla Fields), and I’ve had a few lovely fragrances passed on to me, but I haven’t had that feeling of having a new bottle of perfume in a couple of years. I am so used to being the one who gifts fragrance, I forget it can be given to me, too. How nice it is!*

*Potentially…

I was delighted to receive Shalimar, not because I like it [I’d only smelled it academically in passing years ago, and had only thought about it as a forerunner, a foremother] but because it is iconic, a sound addition to any fragrance library. It’s clearly echoed in later orientals, later leathers, in powdery and floral scents, in ambers and vanillas and incense fragrances…so many of these it seems could not exist without Shalimar.  That said, I do like it, though perhaps this does not translate to wanting to wear it often.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Shalimar EDC

Shalimar EdC opens with a zingy lemon and bergamot (think earl grey tea) accord, really bright, with an insistent sour note like cedar and civet (think animal musk/sweat and cat pee). The animality is strong for me, though for some it takes a back seat to the bergamot and soapy powder (highly recommend browsing the basenotes reviews of Shalimar). This moves promptly -within a few minutes – into the soapy floral heart of iris (for me dominant) and rose, which rose is never fully extricated from that original citrus. There is jasmine as well but for me it is more ‘complex heady floral that you know cannot be only rose or only jasmine’. It’s so over the top to have jasmine and rose, basically the two most expensive floral extracts and Guerlain famous for using the best. Either alone is enough to carry the day, and iris too can hold its own*, so it’s already a busy concoction, and THEN.

*Guerlain’s Apree L’Ondee, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, The Different Company Bois d’Iris – I find iris soliflore fragrances are the best way to teach your nose the iris note, irises themselves are not so helpful, the root being the relevant thing.

On the coattails of the iris is an equally prominent note of leather, with vanilla and tonka bean creeping steadily in. For me the leather is unmistakable, though some seem to read it only as a smoky vanilla, or more like incense. Some people don’t seem to read leather at all, which to me is baffling, but the leather is the illusion, a mirage made of musk, amber, incense, and powder. The resinous note is evidently the opoponax – a note I don’t really have clear in my brain yet but which is a gum resin like frankincense or myrrh (opoponax is also called sweet myrrh) that smells luxuriously of balsamic and honey. Supposedly. I get what I would call sweet (amber, vanilla) and sour (civet, cedar) leather with a backdrop of powdery iris and incense. As time goes by, and this is a defiant fragrance that hangs around for many hours, this cocktail softens more and more, with leather, amber and vanilla waxing as the sourness and florals wane.

Shalimar will smell naggingly familiar to most, as it is still selling and still being worn, for many it is the scent worn by their mother or grandmother. Then, too, it is the ur-oriental, and all orientals are reminiscent of it. It’s had a cult following for nearly a century, the house’s flagship fragrance; innovatively sweet and exotic for the daring 20s. In addition to selling steadily in the main formulation, has spawned several offshoots or flankers, which surely sell in no small part due to the gorgeous bottle they keep re-releasing with slight variations on the original Baccarat design.

SHALIMAR08010 BASEA

Make no mistake, to my nose Shalimar is old-fashioned. It should smell old fashioned, formulated some 90 years ago and, from my point of view, worn by people much older than myself. Then, powder to me nearly always smells old-fashioned, as do basically all orientals, orientals being amber dominant scents with rich ingredients like musks and resins along with (often eastern) spices and florals. It’s strong! Not in the brassy 70s way or the cloying 80s way, and not in the modern Tom Ford way, but in a complex everything-but-the-kitchen-sink way that a number of iconic fragrances from the 1910s and 1920s demonstrate for us (ahem, Chanel No. 5 (1919)).

The beauty of Shalimar today is that it’s at a point where it’s so old it can be new again. It’s a potent, grown-up fragrance, even in the relatively sheer EdC formulation, and I can see it reading fresh and interesting on a younger woman, say under 40. Not that age matters, but youth provides a great contrast with these notes. Worn with complete at-homeness as a signature fragrance by someone older is a great look for Shalimar as well.

It appeals to me especially in the rain (that’s the iris), and it smells about a billion times better on skin than it does on fabric. No spritzing the scarf with this one for me. I need to power through the civet-heavy opening to get to the leather/iris bit, which is the part I can appreciate. I encourage anyone smelling Shalimar to spray it on and give it an hour. I can see myself more realistically layering this with a musk I actually like to add interest (say the Kiehl’s musk oil, or this one I like that I found on Amazon), or with a straight rose (say Tea Rose, or another straight floral maybe) to add interest, such that the layering fragrance provides a new driving force and Shalimar a soft ambiance. A dominant leather could be a nice pairing as well. Hm. Let’s talk about Tom Ford Tuscan Leather later, which is perfection all on its own.

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bottle image via pinterest

golden bronze

On March 21, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Though my taste is all over the place, were it necessary I would find no difficulty in choosing a favorite style of makeup; the archetype of the golden goddess wins it for me. There is some competition from Old Hollywood Glam and Classic Pinup, from Ethereal Futuro-Avant Garde and Effortlessly Chic Parisienne…but the Golden Goddess, healthy and glowing, aligned with other personally powerful figures like the Amazon and the Pioneer, has a voice that speaks to me with purity and directness, nothing lost in translation and everything just as I would have put it myself. How could I not want to aspire to such a radiant state?

Here are a few products I’m enjoying at the moment for a minimal version of this kind of bronzed, glowing look (manifestations span the range from a touch of bronzer and highlighter to dripping gold, we are working steadily toward the far end of the spectrum).

theseventhsphinx golden bronze

Becca blush in Wild Honey, MAC Mineralize Skin Finish in Soft & Gentle, Tom Ford Cream Color in Spice, MAC False Lashes. Brushes: Morphe E4, Japonesque fan, NARS Yachiyo, Morphe M441.

I was a bit late to the party with Becca’s Wild Honey blush but (despite the hype, which is just as likely to turn me off as get me interested) I really do enjoy it. A bronzer and blusher in one, essentially. There is an extremely fine shimmer that doesn’t read explicitly on the skin but imparts a pretty sheen. For a clearer punch of glow I layer on MAC’s Soft & Gentle, which I cannot imagine finishing in this lifetime. Love to use this with Japonesque’s fan brush, a brush with relatively few bristles of a good stiffness (contrast with the jumbo fan brushes from Morphe or EcoTools with fluffy, tapered bristles, great for bronzer but not accurate/small enough for highlighter, or the e.l.f. fan brush, which is too flimsy and yielding for me).

A few indulgent purchases represented here! Having missed out on the previous limited edition cream shadows from Tom Ford I hustled to pick up one of the new shades just added to the permanent range. I pat this on with my finger and sheer it out with a tapered blending brush. This did crease on me after 4 hours or so the first time I wore it (solo, with nothing else on the lid), so I like to set with eyeshadow. Everything creases on me, basically, so I don’t hold this against it in the least, the ease with which I was able to get a smooth, uniform application…money well spent. [For the record the Charlotte Tilbury cream shadows last longer on me, will have to have a cream shadow smackdown later.]

Another treat to self: the NARS yachiyo brush is my favorite blush brush, full stop. It’s known for being excellent at a sheer application of highly pigmented brushes, but I use it for all blushes, and happily with highlighters and bronzers as well. The Morphe E4 angled blush brush I picked up recently and have been liking for blushes with friendly pigmentation levels. In this case I used it to apply the blush as a bronzer (and I used the yachiyo to apply the blush as a blush…if that makes any sense). I love those looks that are effectively one color in varying concentrations on the face. Reminds me of the great Kate Moss look by Charlotte Tilbury on Lisa Eldridge’s channel, wherein she uses the Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate palette to sculpt the cheeks, jaw, and forehead, and a nearly identical cream color on the eyes. Such great information in this video. It’s a shame that her own videos aren’t as informative as this guest one created so long before she developed her own channel.

MAC False Lashes mascara I like so much more than I anticipated. It’s funny because I recently decided (after doggedly working through a deluxe sample) that I can’t stand Benefit’s They’re Real mascara. False Lash, ostensibly supposed to look like false lashes, provides a nice, separated natural look, and They’re Real, ostensibly supposed to cause some confusion as to the authenticity of the lashes, looks clumpy and rubbish and not at all like fake lashes. What is the opposite of separated in lash-speak?

But, you know, what does it matter to anyone but me? I have decent lashes and don’t usually like a clumpy or super voluminous look, so I’m not the target audience.

Lashes are so personal. Faces are so personal.

Picked up a few things from Morphe, which will show you soon enough.

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monochrome: camel ii

On March 5, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Camel, tan, honey, sand…whatever you want to call them, they are my colors. I never get sick of these slightly warm mid-to-light-range browns. A monochromatic look is such an easy way to look pulled together, especially dramatic when that color is not black or brown but also so so good when it is. We’ve been here before.

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Mixing it up with varying textures, wool, suede, fur (faux here), pebbled leather, wood, gold, creates the interest we otherwise might achieve with color, as demonstrated so masterfully by Haider Ackermann in nearly every collection somewhere. I love when the hair and skin play into this, additional human textures in the same shade range for a truly limited palette.

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Dress, asos. Boots, UGG. Bag, Mulberry Roxanne. Watch, Skagen. Cloak, thrifted.

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On the lips: Urban Decay Naked liner and MAC Velvet Teddy lipstick

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playtime with Sephora

On March 1, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

As far as I’m concerned, Sephora has always been about play. Play and skincare. Makeup for me is about playing, fiddling, experimenting. Trying.

This I think is part of why I was interested when I heard they were launching a subscription box, though I have not purchased any of the myriad boxes on the market (popular for years now), nor do I feel any inclination to do so. Boxes have the appeal of presenting you with (potentially) new products and brands but, after watching/reading dozens of reviews, they are full of random junk, too. I have enough random junk, thanks, I prefer to be more discerning in my acquisitions. [Or, I like to imagine I am. I mostly am, with lapses.] In the main I like the process of research, reading reviews, comparing swatches, thinking, deciding. I don’t want that done for me, and I certainly don’t want it done for me for $20, $30 a month, and I certainly don’t want it done worse than I could do it for $20, $30 a month.

The beauty of the Sephora Play! subscription box is that it is $10. It’s breezy of me but this seems like an easy risk. A mere $10! At even $15 I might begin to squint and doubt, but $10, it might as well be $5 in my mind. Marketing geniuses. Earlier today I was at a shop selling cookies for 50¢. Who even sees that symbol anymore?! Damn straight I bought a cookie.

While Sephora carries dozens of brands, there is a comforting sense of curation in the chaos; I am confident of recognizing the brands represented and likely to be interested in them. Then, too, as it’s obvious how many eyes will be on the box, and how many brands eager to participate, they are fools if they don’t make it solidly good. And the machine behind Sephora…it is no fool.

Sephora Play subscription box

This is the February 2016 box, the program launched last September. I’m not exactly blown away by this stuff but I’m not disappointed, either. The Tom Ford perfume is a little trendy/obvious/boring but not bad, the MUFE lipstick is a crowd pleasing rosy nude shade, the Tarte mascara I’ve been curious to try, the Lancome eye pencil I don’t care about but don’t mind, would happily give away to someone who uses eyeliner more (or maybe I’ll try it?), and the BareMinerals lip oil balm thing* is the surprise favorite here, a creamy, sheer pigment that gives a luscious, semi-glossy, balmy look to the lips. Oh, there was a Bumble and Bumble dry shampoo, too, which I will gladly give away. Dry shampoo, it is not for the likes of me.

*I am also really liking the new YSL tint-in-oil, which leaves a plush, soft look to the lips while being so sheer as to allow the true sense, the natural shape and texture of the lips to come through. A lovely, sensual effect. More liquid than the BareMinerals one, which is more like a lip balm and more opaque…maybe I am slightly preferring the YSL one but it’s close, I like both. The YSL smells like ultra tropical guava candy, which could put some off on application, but that doesn’t linger.

For me the more lip products the better, but just being pleased with 3 out of 6 I’m feeling I got my money’s worth. Am I being too generous? This is partly because I have a system in place for diverting beauty stuffs that won’t work for me to better homes (everyone must have such a system, no?), and partly because I have a play budget, in my mind, which this does not exceed.

Not planning to cancel anytime soon, even if it is annoying to have punctuation built into a product name/title.

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no excuse

On February 22, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

There is no excuse, really. If I’m not wearing lipstick, it’s because I didn’t take the time, because I thought something else was more pressing, more important. And sometimes there is, are, genuinely several things much more important…and sometimes I don’t care about lipstick, or mascara, or what have you, or how I look beyond basic presentability. I take care of my skin and get my hair in order in this 40 second bun thing and get to work.

Sometimes, though, I do care. I miss it. I wish I’d taken the time to do something, so I could have that feeling of looking purposeful, looking put together, not because I have managed in a rushed 15 minutes not to look not put-together, because I have literally put a selection of choices together. Because I am polished, styled. I don’t just mean makeup here, but makeup is especially powerful because faces are powerful, faces are where we connect, and if I make some…effort* on only my face while leaving everything else on autopilot, there is a difference. It doesn’t have to be much to make a difference.

*I mean this in a broad way, I mean to give it some special attention. I know my face, so small changes look quite dramatic to me. Just blush and highlighter are transforming, or just a good skin serum and mascara.

I look fine with just my skincare regimen, sure, I look fine. At moments, when I’m well hydrated and my skin is in good shape, I love this default mode. I’m so not the kind of person who won’t go outside without makeup. Most days I wear, if anything, very little, though this is not entirely by choice…there seems to be so little time.  If I had more time I would play around more, I maintain, though I can’t help but wonder if there is something hollow in that. Isn’t it just a reflection of my priorities if something I say I want is continually dropping to the back of the line? Am I not, with my actions, saying that I want something else more?

I think there’s something more, too. A certain reluctance to show others what I am thinking. The playful spirit that moves me to muck around with beauty and style is an instinctive creature, and I, though you might not guess it from the existence of a blogsitething, am a private person. I have a resolution to share more but the sharing is the part that is work for me. Creating, playing, I am doing that…but quietly. I think, too, the sharing is not the critical part of the process (the journey of creating one’s own style and one’s own self), and this contributes to my not always making the effort to do it. Sharing is good for me, though. Like talking, it forces me to make my thoughts, in the case of style my concepts, coherent in some way. Finished in some way. It makes me part of a larger conversation as well, and this is good.

Recently I did this look, after a two, three? week stretch of having no time or energy to do more than be clean. A kind of beauty binge.

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NARS Train Bleu Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, so good. This hazy photo doesn’t show it but one thing I like to do is use a brighter liner under dark lip colors like this. Here MAC Nightingale gives a fuchsia halo to the dark aubergine, softening it slightly. Who are these bloggers who seem to have endless quantities of daylight at hand? They are probably in California…sounds nice.

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