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The Beheld
By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
Examining questions surrounding personal appearance: What does it mean to be seen? What is the relationship between "beauty labor" and cultural visibility? And why do two lipstick shades combined always look better than one?
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‘Tis the Season: The Beheld Gift Guide

I hesitated at the idea of doing a gift guide at first. I mean, for a “beauty blog” I already mention, like, no beauty products, so it seemed disingenuous to suddenly mention a bunch of “stuff I love!” on here. But it is a gift-giving season, and there are things I love, and things you love—and just as there are 364 posts on The Beheld that aren’t about any specific product but are about beauty nonetheless (and exactly three posts that are about specific products), there are plenty of potential gifts out there that are related to beauty but in an indirect fashion. So! Here we go.

 

 

The “boot” part of “boot flask” here is optional.

For the fan of the Two-Cocktail Makeover: Now, of course I’d never suggest that you encourage anything illegal (except maybe civil disobedience and jaywalking), but you might know someone who enjoys a good old-fashioned Two-Cocktail Makeover now and again, and wouldn’t you like to enable her to have one anytime she wants? Makeovers on demand? In my twenties I gave flasks as a standard sort of gift, and more than one friend has reported back to me, years later, that it’s come in unexpectedly handy. Think of it as the gift that keeps on giving. (I also sort of want to do my part to reclaim the flask for women; the “Flask Gift Set for Women” at eflask.com isn’t quite cutting it.) $17 and up, liquor stores, or Etsy if you’re so inclined


For the reader of The Beheld: You’ve told your friends all about this blog (thank you!), and at least one of them has cottoned to it (right?). Option A: Since you’re enjoying your subscription to The New Inquiry so much, why not give it to that friend as a gift? Option B: Give her a subscription to Worn Fashion Journal, tout de suite. This is the fashion magazine you and your smart, critical, stylish-but-not-trendy friends have been longing for, as reflected in the tagline: “Where ideas get dressed.” Every page of the most recent issue, which had a hair theme so was particularly delightful to me, was filled with treasures: a feature on the importance of wigs in the drag community, a cheeky but informative rundown of hairstyles in contemporary history, a look at modernized versions of Victorian hair art—each of these pieces took a topic I thought I knew something about and spun it in a fresh manner, with a sort of open inquisitiveness that marks the best fashion journalism. It’s skilled, it’s thoughtful, it’s—may I resort to a cliché here?—like sitting down with a particularly well-informed stylish friend who manages to tell you exactly what you want to know about style without boring you with the stuff you don’t. If you’re giving this as a gift, your friend already has you, of course, but don’t you want to broaden her horizons? thenewinquiry, $2/monthwornjournal.com, $48 CDN/two years

 

For the massage junkie: The obvious here is a massage gift certificate (or, if this is your thing, a gift certificate for one by you). But speaking as a recovering massage addict (they get expensive!), I can say that this is the next best thing, and it’s one your gift recipient can access anytime. The Bed of Nails is a mat (it’s also available as a pillow) with short, sharp plastic spikes that you lie down on. The spikes work as a sort of allover acupressure system, stimulating endorphins and giving you that tingly “good pain” feeling that’s parallel to—though different from—the sensation of a massage therapist doing deep work. It’s both relaxing and invigorating, and after 10 minutes on it I have the sensation of my blood somehow flowing more easily. I’m fairly certain that’s a psychosomatic sensation, but never mind that! It feels good; that’s the point. I also enjoy standing on it for a moment or two after a day traipsing about town, giving myself the foot-massage shivers. bedofnails.org, $40

  

For those interested in but ambivalent about fashion: One of the reasons I’ve always been more interested in beauty than in fashion was because beauty just seemed…easier. I was always confused by the “dress for your figure”-type pages in magazines; I never understood how to put separates together (and still don’t, hence my collection of dresses that mask the fact I’m clueless). Cross that with my generalized body issues and it’s no wonder I always thought of fashion as someone else’s game. Enter Sally McGraw of Already Pretty, whose blog shows up so frequently in my roundups because it’s so spot-on and useful—and her book of the same name only magnifies those qualities. The workbook of sorts (though McGraw also has an actual workbook) approaches personal style from a perspective rooted in the fact that you’re, well, already pretty—instead of telling you what to do to minimize your waist, your size, your self, the book emphasizes identifying what you feel best in, and then tells you exactly how to do it, step by step. I’d say it “takes the guesswork out of building a wardrobe,” especially for the fashion-ambivalent like myself, but it’s more that it takes out the uncertainty, leaving in all the little thrills of discovery that go along with the right kind of guesswork. Plus, it’s an investment in the future of independent publishing, something I’m eager to support. alreadypretty.com, $20 hard copy, $8 digital

For your friend who forwarded you that link to Native Appropriations: If people in your midst get as grumpy as I do about the long line of pop figures (No Doubt, Ke$ha, Victoria’s Secret, Outkast, etc.) who have used American Indian symbols with apparently no thought or background research whatsoever, they’ll appreciate receiving a piece of jewelry that A) is made by Real! Live! Native jewelry artists, and that B) is so beautiful and eye-catching that C) it’ll give them a built-in opportunity to talk about cultural appropriation, as they’ll be getting so many compliments on it. Beyond Buckskin has reasonably priced pop jewelry (in addition to the higher-end couture fashion and accessories) from a breadth of nations. As the site’s “about” page puts it, “In effect, the artists represented on Beyond Buckskin reclaim Native America’s right to determine what is ‘Native’ when it comes to fashion.” Sing it, sister. shop.beyondbuckskin.com, $15 and up

 

 For stuffing anyone’s stocking: Okay, okay, one sorta beauty product on this list. Literally the only product I’m diehard loyal to—I’ve used it since college and will likely use it all my life—is Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. I hate the sensation of my hands being greasy, but they also get dry really easily, and this stuff manages the miracle of absorbing quickly while still lubricating your hands enough to soften skin. It also makes a nice lip balm. It also probably has nothing to do with Norway, but let’s not hold that against it, eh? drugstores, $4

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