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The Lipstick Page Forums Beauty & Fashion Blog
Fashion Notes: Is the bride too beautiful?

Posted by Colleen Shirazi, Thursday, October 11, 2007 2:28 AM (Eastern)

"I want to give women an artificial perfume," said Chanel. "Yes, I really do mean artificial, like a dress, something that has been made. I don't want any rose or lily of the valley, I want a perfume that is a composition." No. 5 is famous for being the first perfume to heavily rely on synthetic floral aldehydes as a top note. Before synthetics, perfume either had to be applied very heavily before going out to ensure that the fragrance would last, or frequently throughout the night.

Chanel applied the French aesthetic theory that "ugly" placed next to "beautiful," by contrast, makes the beautiful object appear more so. In this era almost all perfumes were floral and "pretty" - designed to enhance a woman's beauty with more beauty. Instead of the scent of flowers, Coco wanted a perfume that "reflects my personality, something abstract and unique." She believed that a perfume should serve to spotlight a woman's natural beauty using contrast - i.e. the artificial perfume would make the woman's natural beauty more evident.

From Chanel No. 5 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I read the Chanel quotes quite some time ago, about No. 5 being a deliberately "un-beautiful" scent, but it took me a long time to fully grasp the theory. I think we are conditioned to perceive if we choose the most beautiful cosmetics and accessories, it will make us the most beautiful overall, but it's been some time since I believed that.

I feel there is a balance, or should be, between the beauty of your accoutrements, and your own natural beauty. In short, whatever you're wearing, should not be too much more beautiful than you are. (Nor too much less so.) It should complement (often misread as "compliment") and enhance, rather than dominate.

It's a fine balance, and I've seldom seen it done well these days. I suppose the obvious example would be modern celebrities, who are dressed by modern stylists. Most of the time I hate their look. Not that I hate how they look, most of them look great, if a tad thin these days; what I dislike is few stylists seem as interested in enhancing their clients' looks as in making some kind of artistic statement (presumably to get other, better stylist jobs). It's not the same thing.

I stumbled across this amazing, if short-lived, blog: An Alabaster Brow, and was struck anew at how customized the older film stars' clothing, hair and makeup were, relative to what you see today.

joan crawford

Check that smokin' Joan Crawford! (Crawford was incredibly beautiful in her youth, before The Brows.) Some of the looks are really quite simple, others lush, even jaw-droppingly elaborate; what's consistent is how perfectly each look is tailored to the actress.

I also propose that online shopping has contributed somewhat to a gap between what looks good "on paper" and what looks good on. Where women would have tried on each item before even considering buying, we now tend to decide first what we might buy and then try imagining what it looks like on. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it is well to be conscious that that's what we're doing; that the focus of clothing and accessories has subtly changed from (or reverted to) "is fabulous on" to "looks fabulous in a picture" or "sounds great in a description."

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Colleen Shirazi continues to blog here: Life of Colleen
2 comment(s)
October 11, 2007 3:08 AM, Blogger Dain said...

It's freakin' Lucky! The whole wear-it-all-at-once, reference-everything, describe-cheekily thing is such a plague. They're always yammering about new talent and "ideal counterpoints", which usually means weird clothing that looks interesting on the rack but isn't really that flattering on, and some outfit that has six items layered willy nilly, like sartorial throw-up. When you've got to dissect every single piece--it's about the clothes, not the woman. I mean, it's great to break the rules and follow your own intuition, but it's like what they say about poetry, it stretches language to its limits, you've got to know in your bones the rules of language before you break them. I think it's the same with style.

[sighs] I love old Hollywood. I'm glad that retro is back, except... I suspect it's the same contemporary obsession with the possession rather than the woman, just in a different guise. I once heard, of all things in an anime, "When you look back on it, fashion is always born and cultivated in an idle era".

October 11, 2007 12:58 PM, Blogger Colleen Shirazi said...

I rather think our "capitalism returns with a bang" period has already peaked.

Americans are a funny group...America is still more "a country people go to," than "a country people come from." Since most of us came from somewhere else, often quite recently, we do have first-, second- or third-hand (still not bad) experience with at least one different culture.

Ultimately it's hard to sell us a way "we have to be." It works temporarily but never over the long run. You're talking about people who didn't accept it wherever they were from. Why should they accept it here?


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