What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between. (A couple of days late, apologies!)
Doin’ it Flemish style: Artist Nina Katchadourian makes awesome Flemish-school-style portraits using airplane toilet paper, seat covers, and the occasional travel pillow as accessories. (via)
Playing footsie: The “whoda thunkit?” chatter on men getting pedicures continues, this time inching a hair toward the idea that maybe it just, I dunno, feels nice? I don’t like the bumbling tone of this Daily Mail chronicle of a man getting a pedicure (and the headline, “Should you send your other half for a pedicure?” rankles), but at least it’s not trying to paint footsie-wootsie care as somehow strictly medically necessary and therefore legitimately dudely.
…And Everything In Between:
Spending state: “Frugality fatigue” has apparently meant a good quarter for high-end brands like Estee Lauder. But wait! Does this mean the lipstick index could at all be a crock of hype? Naaah.
War cry: What a bidding war over Avon could do to the company’s future, merged or otherwise. (But word up, Motley Fool: Did you really have to compare Avon’s inflated share price to a woman who doesn’t look so hot the next morning? What, you’re too good for a makeover pun like every other news outlet?)
It’s dude perfume week!: New York supreme court judge orders Prince to shell out nearly $4 million to a perfume maker that made a scent that the artist then neglected to promote as promised. And Donald Trump releases his new fragrance, Success, which features a conspicuously low level of Trump branding. “Some people, they see the name on the bottle and are like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to smell like him.’ ” You don’t say.
Tour de chine: This piece about American luxury outlets catering to Chinese tourists (who spend about $6,000 on each visit to the States, compared with $4,000 for tourists from other nations) is interesting, particularly because it never points out the obvious: About half the brands mentioned are luxury brands specifically for women. On a side note: How much Advanced Night Repair do you think I’d have to spend to get a tour of Estee Lauder’s original office? If I have any wealthy Chinese reader-shoppers who want a tagalong on their next visit, holler!
Mixed choir: If you enjoyed last week’s post on race, identity, and being “exotic,” you may enjoy Hapa Voice, a site where people with mixed Asian and Pacific Islander descent candidly share their thoughts on being mixed, and how being visually “othered”—or not—impacts their sense of identity. (Thanks to Savages in Memphis for pointing me to it!) I’m also enjoying Sheena Roetman’s piece at The Blind Hem about appropriation of indigenous culture—and if you want more of that, there’s always the excellent Native Appropriations blog.
Two interesting photo series exploring gender: “Princesses in a Land of Machos” by Mexico-based photographer Nicola “Ókin” Friol, focusing on Los Muxes, or gay men in the Oaxacan city of Juchitan, where their presence is considered good luck. Some of the Muxes make a living in appearance-oriented industries, like cosmetology or fashion design, which is often encouraged by families because it makes them good providers. A separate but thematically related project: “True Men,” by Brian Shumway, a portrait series of men who are privately (and publicly?) exploring what it means to be a “real” man. (via Mikkipedia)
Weird science: This piece on science reporting has nothing to do with beauty, but I get all jazz-hands about beauty science studies here often enough that it’s relevant. Scientific American takes a recent piece by a seasoned NYTimes reporter about the (not necessarily existent) link between exercise and addiction and compares it to the actual study, and lo and behold, science writers aren’t scientists and sometimes get it wrong. And if that applies for pieces that aren’t sociologically loaded, what could it mean for science reporting about work that might go against the gender bedrock of society as we know it?
I think I have a Maltese balcony: Normally I’m against christening “troublesome” body parts with nicknames (I never thought twice about my upper rear view until I heard the term “back bacon”). But I admit to being downright charmed by Rebekah’s recent find of the 1940s-ish version of the pot belly: the “bay window.”
Non/toxic: The willy-nilly nature of cosmetics regulation came into sharp relief recently when it turned out that “nontoxic” nail polishes and other products weren’t nontoxic in the least. Virginia Sole-Smith takes a critical look at what’s going on.
Context collapse: We can’t have a discussion of thinspo without looking at the new ways in which the images that make up their core are spread. Stripped of their original context through sites like Pinterest (which has banned pro-eating-disorder communities) and Instagram, pretty much any photo of someone slender can become thinspo, and Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic looks at what that means.
Plus, cool accents: Turns out Europeans aren’t just terrifically glamorous at all times including REM sleep, they’re also more aware of natural and organic beauty products than Americans.
She-bulk: Caitlin on women who resist weightlifting for fears of “bulking up”: “Listen, ladies who bulk up—your bodies are telling you something. Your bodies are saying, We want to be strong, we want to be muscular, we want to be ripped! If your body puts on muscle this easily, it’s because your body wants to be muscular. If your body thought muscle was a bad thing, it wouldn’t build it so easily.”
Hoarders: This article isn’t terribly interesting in and of itself, but I’m intrigued by the sentiment actress Kate Walsh expresses about holding onto old makeup (guilty!): “The biggest tip is to throw out your make-up. I think as women even if we don’t mean to be hoarders, when you buy make-up it’s just so juicy you’re like, ‘Oh, I’ll keep it forever!’ and it’s like no, no, no, it all has an expiration date on it and you have to be really careful to get rid of it.” I’ll hold onto anything until it stops working, bacteria be damned, so don’t listen to me…but I do think there’s something here about hoarding makeup because of its emotional implications. I don’t hoard anything else (well, papers stick to me like glue); even if I had the psychological inclination to do so, I live in a restricted New York apartment so it would be difficult to do so. But makeup—yep, I save it all, and the “juiciness” Walsh fingers here is part of why.
It’s what outside that counts: How much does cosmetics packaging matter to consumers? Given that so many products are repetitious, I’d say a whole lot.
“You show them by being more than your looks, even if that’s all people comment on”: This “Dear Daughter” letter about girls kicking ass has been making the rounds, and it’s a great read. What drives this home for me is the heartbreaking exchange described between the letter-writer’s preteen daughter and an adult man who tells her she’s pretty. She thanks him, and then—oh, just read it.
Stop in the name of love: Rosie Molinary nails it again, with her signature way of giving readers concrete tools to funnel into amorphous concepts of self-love. At Voxxi: How to put doable, reasonable limits on appearance obsession.
YouTubed: With all the recent buzz about teenagers using YouTube to ask if they’re pretty, I’d sort of forgotten about the positive ways young women use the medium. My aunt sent me a link to this photo of a woman doing a half-face makeover (thanks, Michele!), which led me to this video of a makeup tutorial on covering cystic acne. The transformation is dramatic, yes, but what really stands out to me is the honesty here: Acne can have a severe psychological impact on its sufferers, and she’s using this space to both provide solutions to its visibility and to sort of educate people on what acne “really” looks like, hopefully lightening the burden of isolation however subtly. (Late addition: It turns out I’m hardly alone in noting the openness of this vlogger; she was on the Today show talking about isolation from acne: “Makeup is what helped me break out of that sheltered period…Confidence is beauty, essentially. You can’t have one without the other. And I think that makeup is that gateway for a woman to feel confident until they overcome whatever insecurities they have so that they can feel beautiful with or without.” I think it’s more complicated than that, but this is an excellent platform to start from.)
“And so modest!”: With the rise of modesty-oriented fashion bloggers, The Blind Hem asks if it’s a contradiction in terms. “The blogger is showcasing their sartorial talents in the most prideful, vain way possible—endless pages of photographs of their self, of their body, of their gently smiling face staring off into the horizon in that damned ubiquitous field they all seem to live near. They are displaying their selves in a way that screams ‘Look at me! Look at what I am wearing! Look at how amazing I am!’ In the case of modest style bloggers, they are also screaming ‘Look at how modest I am!’ We could (and I do) argue that this negates the idea of being modest.” I don’t agree with the thesis here—I think that when modesty is constructed as being about women’s bodies and their inherent licentiousness, it only makes sense for modesty bloggers to apply “modesty” judiciously—but the contradiction is undeniable. Our culture’s definition of “modesty” is tricky indeed (note how it’s never applied to men being modest in where their attention goes) and the conversation needs to not be binary; this piece does a great job of looking at the complexities and contradictions of the term.
Bobbed: I love it when I see people making an appearance change that goes against what the magazines say is right for their face shape, as Kourtney does here with the big chop for her hair donation. (Spoiler alert: The jaw-length bob! Looks great! Why any magazine would say otherwise is beyond me.)
Royal vision: Danielle continues her series on fashion queens. Up now: Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Eleanor of Aquitane, and Nefertiti.
Pajama party: Terri of Rags Against the Machine is having a virtual pajama party, and she probably won’t even freeze your bra. This is also a good opportunity to point you toward her window shopping project, in which she’ll be working her way up the class scale of retail outlets to see how far a dollar really takes you. This month: Kohl’s.