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November 2013

Curator's Corner, 11/30/2013

CC logo Links for the week.

- Clarisonic gets more design-y with their Year of the Horse-themed cleansing system. 

- This account of one woman's experience at Sephora annoyed the hell out of me.  I know it can be overwhelming, but there are literally thousands of beauty blogs that can help you navigate the aisles and determine which products you need.  You're not helpless so don't act like it!  And certainly don't blame the store for you not knowing your own hair type or for having expensive products.  Finally, it's makeup, not rocket science.  You'll figure it out.  And if you buy something and it's not right, return it - Sephora has a generous return policy.

- Diamonds in beauty products, while luxurious, don't offer too many tangible benefits.  Still, if you're Lindsay Bluth Funke, these expensive products are positively a bargain. 

- There seems to be lots of new offbeat scents lately.  In addition to the fried chicken-scented candles there's also George Takei's new fragrance, as well as one developed with a commonly used font in mind.  If you've always wanted to know what Helvetica smells like, now's your chance.

- I must remember to include this Too-Faced Chocolate Bar palette if I ever re-do the Sweet Tooth exhibition.

- Like last year, I fell asleep before midnight on Thanksgiving and thus did not get MAC's Hautecore lipstick (I roused myself at 6am yesterday in the off chance it was still available, but as I expected, it was sold out.)  However, rumor has it that it will be offered in the upcoming Punk Couture collection on December 26th, so all is not lost.

The random:

- Since the births of my nephew and niece, I have aspired to be what this writer describes as a PANK - professional aunt, no kids

- The Punk Singer, the documentary on my idol Kathleen Hanna, has been getting tons of good press.  Check out articles here, here and here.

- On the local front, I'm so excited that Trinacria, a fabulous Italian deli near us, is coming to our very own neighborhood and bringing its delicious sandwiches with it.

- Finally, a Thanksgiving picture!  Museum Advisory Committee member Sailor Babo poses with cookie butter blondies, a pumpkin cheesecake (with a very messy crust, oops), and apple pie.  The husband made the menorah.  :)

Sb thanksgivukkah

Unfortunately, several food disasters fell upon my family this season.  First, my baking confidence took a major tumble.  While that apple pie looks yummy, the filling was completely soupy.  I have no idea why it didn't thicken but I was so upset when we cut it and discovered it was all watery!  Also, not in the picture above, is the chocolate orange mousse I made which was also liquified - it was more like pudding.  But I think these incidents pale in comparison to what happened to my dad, whose turkey brining bag managed to collapse and spill gallons of brine over the entire kitchen, which he then had to spend hours cleaning up.  Oof.  So, not our best Thanksgiving food-wise.

How was your week?

Quick post: Online treasure troves of vintage compacts

Image from geoffpowellart.co.uk

Happy Thanksgiving!  While you're waiting for the turkey to cook or pies to bake, distract yourself till it's time to feast with these online collections of vintage compacts.  And if you're not in the U.S., simply enjoy.  :)




P.S. - If you're in a shopping mood, check out Vanity Treasures.

MM Musings, vol. 14: Visible storage

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the collecting of cosmetics, along with my vision for a "real", physical Makeup Museum.  These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum was an actual organization, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning.  I also hope that these posts make everyone see that the idea of a museum devoted to cosmetics isn't so crazy after all - it can be done!

image from museumheygirl.tumblr.com

Taking into account the storage issues I discussed in the last installment of MM Musings, today's post will focus on the recent notion of "visual" storage, in which some or most of a museum's stored pieces are accessible to visitors, and how this concept could be applied to the Makeup Museum. Typically, only about 5%-10% of a museum's entire collection is on display at any given time.  (This is certainly true of the Makeup Museum as well.)  Visual storage allows visitors to see much more of the collection, and without being directed to follow a certain path the way they would in an official exhibition.  Several museums have adopted this practice, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Clyfford Still Museum, LACMA and the Met.

Visible storage allows museums to "democratize" their collection by moving previously unseen items out in the open and making them available to the public.  In this way curatorial and director opinions about what should be displayed are somewhat overruled.  Says art blogger Lindsey Davis, "If the works aren’t being used in a particular themed gallery, that doesn’t mean your visitors should be kept from them, especially since it’s just museum management’s decision to hide them away."  Additionally, it's beneficial for museums to offer visible storage to provide a more transparent, open relationship with their audience instead of having visitors believe museums are "hoarding objects in a dark room", as LACMA Director Michael Govan puts itAdds Joanne Heyler, director and chief curator of the Broad Museum, "How in a building can we make it clear to visitors that storage and conservation are a core part of the museum's function?"  In this way visitors get a glimpse of how objects are stored and can understand that they are not actually shoved haphazardly in a dark basement, which might foster a better sense of trust in the institution - helpful for securing those all-important donations.

(image from brooklynmuseum.org

But why is visible storage also popular with visitors?  It goes back to the idea of democratization - people can look at objects that speak to them, rather than being told what pieces they "should" be looking at.  There's a freedom in exploring visible storage that's somewhat lacking in a curated exhibition.  "One of the major appeals of the visual storage concept, [LA Times reporter Jori] Finkel suggests, is its open-ended, choose-your-own-adventure style of presentation, which allows visitors to seek out objects they find interesting and compelling with relatively little curatorial direction, which she likens to the process of searching for images online. 'What we’ve found is that people love visible storage,' [Brooklyn Museum Director] Arnold Lehman said. 'They feel like they’re on their own, not as directed as they would be in galleries, and they get to discover things. It’s like a treasure hunt.'"  In other words, it functions quite similarly to the Internet (or perhaps more closely, Pinterest) where one can freely wade through hundreds of thousands of images and select those that appeal to them.

Indeed, this fits the experience of  Hoarded Ordinaries author Lorianne DiSabato, who shared her thoughts on stumbling across the visible storage section at the Met.   "Had I but world enough and time—had my feet not been aching from an entire day of Museum-rambles—I could have easily spent hours looking at this stunning array of objects—an embarrassment of riches—with only curiosity rather than curatorial captions to guide me. Without the narrative storyline of an curated exhibit to tell viewers what they 'should' get out of these objects, museum goers are left to sift through the troves on their own, picking and choosing their own masterpieces from the aisles."


(images from metmuseum.org)

The above pictures from the Met, I think, are similar to what the Makeup Museum's visible storage would look like if there was a public location.  There's no question that I would have visible storage; the only reason I don't keep more things out on display currently is lack of space!  I would love for visitors to see all the wonderful objects in the collection outside of permanent or special exhibitions.  Visible storage, where items tend to be stored more closely together than in the regular galleries, would be especially appealing to cosmetics junkies.  "Haul" and "stash" pictures are quite popular in the makeup world (as of this morning, googling "makeup haul pic" yielded 8,440,000 results!), and the visible storage in the Makeup Museum would resemble these photos in that it would feature large groups of makeup items in individual cases, organized either by brand or by type (similar to what I do for my "group portraits" but with labels.)  Basically, it would much more aesthetically pleasing than the current storage situation, which is dire. 

What do you think of visible storage in general?  And would you like it if the Makeup Museum offered it?

Lancôme holiday 2013

As I noted yesterday, I am defenseless in the face of glittering, glimmering makeup items come holiday season.  Well, to be honest I can't resist sparkly makeup at any time of the year, but the holidays make me even weaker.  So when I saw what Lancôme had up their sleeve for their collection I pounced on the two collectible items in it:  The Rose Étincelle Highlighter and the Swarovski-encrusted Rouge Absolu lipstick.


Inspired by the "magic of a snowy winter scene", the highlighting powder features Lancôme's signature rose surrounded by star-like snowflakes, making it look as though it's "captured in crystalline frost."  I'd say given the highly shimmery surface, with its miniscule glitter particles, the description is apt.





This lipstick shade is a reissue of a "heritage" shade from 1955.  While I was frustrated at not being able to find much on this vintage color, I loved the use of tiny silver beaded crystals on the cap.


I also liked the relatively restrained use of the crystals.  Instead of covering the entire cap, Lancôme left the middle portion unadorned, leaving the sleek black of the case to shine through.




I really could not find anything regarding the Étincelle shade or heritage collection from 1955, other than this French ad.  Sadly it's in black and white so we can't even see the color to compare to today's version.

(image from hprints.com)

If anyone can provide any insight on the original Étincelle, I'd love to hear it!

What do you think?  Will you be picking up anything from Lancôme's holiday lineup?

Couture Monday: J'adore this perfumed powder from Dior

As the holidays near, I become less resistant to the lures of any luxe, shiny, metallic makeup items, particularly those with a pretty pattern.  Initially I wasn't going to purchase the Illuminating Powder but ultimately found myself helpless against the elegant gold packaging and shimmery delicate beaded design.  Plus, it's perfumed with Dior's J'Adore fragrance.  

There is another one available in Rose d'Or, which has a more pink hue, but the gold Perle d'Or appealed to me more.





The pattern reminded me of the dazzling gold beaded necklace Charlize Theron wears in the J'Adore ads.

(image from thebeautysmith.com)

What I didn't realize at first was that this necklace, and others in previous Dior ads like the one below, was used in the bottle's silhouette as a result of former Dior designer John Galliano's Maasai-inspired collections.

(image from thenonblonde.com)

His first collection for Dior debuted in 1997 and contained a high-fashion Western spin on the traditional bead and wire necklaces worn by the Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania.

(image from maliciousglamour.tumblr.com)

More variations of these necklaces appeared in Galliano's 1998 creations as well.



I think the design on the Perle d'Or powder most closely resembles the pearl version of the necklace...

(image from styleregistry.livejournal.com)

...especially when you see it open.

(image from 1stdibs.com

I don't really want to get into how Galliano appropriated Maasai culture or his other racist views, but I will say that it's interesting how Dior reinterpreted some of their past designs in this powder. I like that's it not clear whether it's a literal representation of one of Galliano's necklaces or if it's vaguely based on the J'Adore perfume bottle and ads. 

What do you think of this compact?

Curator's Corner, 11/23/2013

CC logoLinks from this week and last...I failed to post a Curator's Corner last weekend as I must have gotten distracted by my b-day.  ;)

- Buyer beware:  the author of Collecting Vintage Compacts warns about unscrupulous sellers who glue on embellishments in attempt to inflate the prices of their wares. 

- NARS is opening a new boutique in Soho, which I'm happy about since 1.  their current NYC boutique is nowhere near as nice as the one they opened in LA last fall, and 2.  I tend to stay in Soho when I visit NYC so that's pretty convenient for me.  :)

- Yet another MAC/Disney collab come spring.  I can't help but feel this is going to be very similar to their previous Venemous Villains collection. 

- But what is on my radar from MAC is their "Hautecore" matte black lipstick, which will be available, fittingly, on Black Friday.  I just hope I remember to order around the stroke of midnight this year rather than passing out and having the husband order it for me like I did with their Grey Friday lipstick last year.

- Trendwise, the big product craze now is hair chalk.  This temporary, colorful hair makeup allows one to color just a few sections of hair rather than having to dye it all over - perfect for a fun night out, since a shampoo will rinse it right out.  Bumble and Bumble debuted their hair chalk product at Sephora a month or two ago, and L'Oreal is following suit.

- This is a little troubling - Estée Lauder in apparently "in talks" about buying nail polish line Butter London.  The reason I worry is because in general I'm always a fan of smaller, more indie lines and I don't want to see Butter London lose any of its original oh-so-British cheekiness, and also because there's not a great track record for Estée purchases - my beloved Stila went downhill after it was bought by Estée.

- Check out this very illuminating interview with a cosmetic chemist over at XO Vain.

- Best Things in Beauty takes on the myth of beauty product expiration dates and shuts. it. down.

The random:

- One of my favorite Tumblrs, My Vintage Vogue, turned 5 this week.  Hooray!

- Oh come on, Wall Street Journal, not ALL runners are self-important douchebags.  I mention my running here, but it's not to brag - it's to remind myself that even though I'm so incredibly unathletic I can still exercise.  In fact, I'm so self-conscious about how slow I run I register for races under an alias. 

- So excited for Tim Gunn's new show!  He is the best part about Project Runway, in my opinion.  Well, him and Nina Garcia's hair.

- How is Baltimore one of America's "most hipster cities"??  I'm genuinely puzzled.  Maybe it's all the crazy MICA kids.

- Mmm...world's most expensive pizza.  I certainly don't think it's worth over 4 grand though. (via Serious Eats)

- And lastly, speaking of food, is everyone getting ready for Turkey Day?  I'm in charge of mashed potatoes and dessert.  This year I'm making apple pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate orange mousse and cookie butter blondies. 

 (image from someecards.com)

If you're in the U.S., what are you doing for Thanksgiving?  And if you're outside the U.S., what fun plans do you have for the week?

MM Mailbag: a Stila surprise

Talk about a RAOK (random act of kindness)!  Last week a very mysterious person emailed me, saying that she had a bunch of vintage Stila memorabilia, and asked if I would like any of it.  She had no room for it anymore but hated the thought of throwing it away.  I eagerly responded that I was interested and inquired about pricing.  Not only did this marvelous mystery person say that she would give it all to me for free, she even refused reimbursement for shipping!  I was, and still am, totally stunned by this act of generosity.  And the quality and quantity of the goodies she bestowed upon the museum left me flabbergasted as well. 

Without further ado, I introduce the Mystery Stila Lady collection!  Whoever you are, I cannot thank you enough!!

Rock the Vote postcard - on the back it had instructions for voting. 


Pamphlet (from 1999!):




This was one of my favorites - a postcard set from the 2001 fall collection.







Then there were the workbooks/product guides - I'm assuming these were for Stila employees.









You may recognize this Stila girl - she also appeared on the 2013 holiday palettes, albeit in a different outfit.






Some other great items in the bounty included a cute paper box and silver bag:




I loved everything, obviously, but my favorite item was this 2003 calendar.  It's interesting to see how it foreshadows both the 2004 Nordstrom calendar palette collection and the more recent travel palette series.














You may have been wondering where the month of June was.  I had to save the best for last.  Behold, a Stila mermaid!


My mermaid obsession knows no bounds, so I got heart palpitations when I saw this!  Plus, it may be proof that I'm not completely senile in remembering a long-lost Stila paint can that was created in honor of their counters opening in Copenhagen, which I discussed in my post on mermaids in cosmetics ads and packaging.  I said that I could have sworn the mermaid was blonde, and here she is!  I'm almost positive now that paint can existed and this was the same mermaid used.

Which of these images from the very generous Mystery Stila Lady collection is your favorite?  I still can't believe she donated all of this!!  I'm both a collector and Stila fanatic, so naturally this is awesome, but what's more is that the Stila girls were what got me collecting makeup in the first place so having these really means a lot.


Couture Monday: Marc Jacobs Lightshow Luminizing Powder

The Curator was ever so pleased to see that Marc Jacobs Beauty wasted no time in making the leap to collectible items since the introduction of the line in August.  We've seen shimmery sequins on palettes before, courtesy of Chanel, but Jacobs' Lightshow Luminizing Powder presents a markedly different treatment of this motif.  Instead of Chanel's Lumière d'Artifices palettes' scattered sequins neatly contained within horizontal bands of color, Marc Jacobs' holiday 2013 highlighter features radiant, criss-crossed strands placed diagonally. 







I hesitated in buying this palette because I wasn't sure if the pattern was based on a design from Jacobs' fall 2013 collection, but this sequinned oversized fishnet weave appeared in many pieces, from blouses and dresses to bags and shoes.

(images from style.com)

A closer look at the accessories - I love how it looks on those shoes! 


(images from style.com)

I thought this was a great example of how the fashion arm of a company translates a detail or item from the clothing into cosmetics.  The sequins are easily recognizable from the fall 2013 collection but tweaked ever so slightly to lend themselves to a useable palette.  In this case, the black threading was eliminated and the gold emphasized so as to create a versatile highlighter that will, no doubt, be in heavy rotation once the holiday season is in full swing - if you can bear to use it, that is.  (Obviously mine is for exhibition purposes only!) 

What do you think of this palette?  I know I was delighted to see this brand-new line come up with something collectible so soon after its launch.

Vintage ad round-up: not quite all there

Oftentimes I'll be researching a topic for a blog post and stumble across something else entirely that leads me to concoct a new blog post.  This was the case with today's round-up of vintage ads which feature some form of disembodiment.  (In case you're wondering, this idea came up as I was scouring ads for my previous post on cultural appropriation in cosmetics ads.) 

It's common nowadays to see close-ups of models' faces or heads or any other body part by itself to advertise a new beauty product.  However, these images never strike me as odd or somehow detached from the rest of their bodies, whereas with some vintage ads I got a decidedly eerie, surreal impression. 

Let's take a look at these ads, starting with lips. 

Pond's lipstick, 1941:

(image from grafficalmuse.com)

Max Factor, 1942:

(image from jezebel.com)

Lentheric, 1947:

(image from tias.com)

Du Barry "Glissando" lipsticks, 1964:

(image from flickr.com)

In the case of Max Factor and Du Barry, I can sort of see the use of lips by themselves in order to showcase the various shades that the lipsticks come in, but they're still markedly different than what we see today.  The other two ads for Pond's and Letheric are downright strange - in the case of Pond's, a pair of lips is just floating on the right side, while in Letheric multiple pairs of lips are patterned diagnonally across the ad, almost like wallpaper. 

Next up we have hands - or rather, ads for nail polish.

Some of these by the better, more skilled fashion illustrators aren't so creepy, like these Dior and Elizabeth Arden ads from 1957.


But in most other vintage nail polish ads, the hands seem to be severed at the wrist.

Chen Yu, 1942:

(image from hprints.com)

Or in the case of the Peggy Sage ad on the right, emerging from a mysterious opening within the ad:

(images from ebay.com and hprints.com)

In the case of Guerlain, an assortment of white, ghostly hands float against a charcoal background, almost like they're made of smoke.  Interestingly, the company is using disembodied hands rather than lips for a lipstick ad (although they did go that route as well for their original Rouge Automatique circa 1936.)


Here's where things get really weird.  Dura-Gloss depicts not only bodiless hands but ones growing out of the center of a flower (1945 and 1951):

(images from pinterest.com and Found in Mom's Basement)

Then we have the ATTACK OF THE GIANT HANDS!  They're coming after planes and puppeteering women from above.  Not only are the hands/fingers coming out of nowhere, they're in a clearly disproportionate scale to everything else in the ad.  I understand the need to highlight the product that's being sold, but why do it in such a strange way?

(images from ebay.com and hellcat-vintage.com)

And sometimes we a get twofer:  an ad that has both disembodied hands and lips, as in these ads by Mary Dunhill (1946) and Lancome (1955):

(images from hprints.com)

Finally, we have some decapitation.  A single head drifts in an undefined space or several smaller heads are scattered across the ad.

Coty Tan, 1920s:

(image from vintage-makeup.blogspot.com)

Maybelline, 1936:

(image from maybellinebook.com)

Tangee, circa 1930s:

(image from sarapaynemcfarland.wordpress.com)

Richard Hudnut, 1936:

(image from pinterest.com)

And as we saw with lips and hands, we have twofers here as well, except in this case it's disembodied heads and hands.  The ad for Naylon nail polish (1948) on the right is one I find to be especially disturbing - given the pin on the lower right and the envelope on the lower left, is this supposed to be a bulletin board with the woman's head trapped in some sort of sheet that's pinned to it?

(images from vintageadbrowser.com and etsy.com)

This 1943 photo by John Rawlings for Vogue is fairly unnerving as well.

(image from partnouveau.com)

So what does all this mean?  We see disembodiment in contemporary ads, and many argue that it objectifies and dehumanizes women.  So are these vintage ads relentlessly sexist as well?  Many of them appear long before feminism's second wave, and thus also before most women were able to hold a position of authority in many fields, including advertising, so the argument could be made that male ad executives simply reduced women to their parts to sell beauty products. 

However, I do think there's a big difference between today's images and these vintage ads.  I think the impact of surrealism was more far-reaching than we recognize.  For example, here we have a 1931 Guerlain lipstick ad showing a floating, upside-down woman's head.  This would seem creepy...if we didn't consider that the illustrator, Jacques Darcy, was most likely referencing Surrealist artist Man Ray.

(image from vintagepowderroom.com)

As the author of Vintage Powder Room points out, the image is strikingly similar to Man Ray's photograph of Elizabeth "Lee" Miller from 1930.

(image from pedestrian.tv)

Coupled with the tag line, "The lipstick of your dreams", this image shows a strong surrealist bend, as the surrealists were fascinated with the subconcious mind and dreams especially.  And could Man Ray's Observatory Time:  The Lovers (c. 1931) be partially responsible for all the floating pairs of lips we see in advertising over the next 2 decades

(image from wikipaintings.org)

Or what about Horst P. Horst's Hands (1941) and Dali's Portrait of a Passionate Woman (The Hands) (1945)?


(images from pleasurephotoroom.wordpress.com and pinterest.com)

As for heads, there is a parallel between the floating, antiquity-inspired busts of some surrealists and the ones used in some Lancôme ads...perhaps this connection is the inspiration for the other disembodied heads we've seen.

Take, for example, De Chirico's Song of Love (1914) and Magritte's Memory (1945):

(image from moma.org)

(image from en.wahooart.com)

And these Lancôme ads from 1950 and 1957:

(images from hprints.com)

Or this Man Ray photo and a 1945 Lancôme ad:

(images from pinterest.com and paperpursuits.com)

I'm pondering whether the surrealist interest in antiquity carried over into using comparable images in makeup ads.  Of course, there are differences - Lancôme's ads obviously center on Venus, goddess of beauty, while the surrealists generally didn't specify which god/goddess they were referencing. But it's still an interesting theory. 

In conclusion, it's my opinion that these vintage ads aren't actually misogynist, but came about as a result of a heavy surrealist influence, a movement that was rooted in the early 20th century, but still pervasive through the early '60s.  And even today we see uncannily similar ads, ads that don't necessarily sexualize and objectify women through disembodiment but rather give off a surrealist energy.  This 2012 video for Lancôme's Rouge in Love was described as "a surrealist take on a typical cosmetics ad — disembodied lips sing along to the words of the song and apply the new lipsticks to their floating pouts while the Eiffel Tower and Times Square loom in the background."


We also saw it earlier today in Stila's holiday palettes - lips and eyes looming across the front of the "canvas" the Stila girl is painting.

What do you think about these vintage ads?  Were they at least partially feeling the effects of surrealism?  Or was it that these types of illustrations just happened to be the most popular stylistically for cosmetic ads at the time?

Stila Holiday 2013

Here's another quick post, this time on part of Stila's 2013 holiday collection.  While it doesn't read particularly festive to me, as we know I can't resist a Stila girl and bought two of the four palettes featuring them.




There were also these two, which I did not purchase:


(images from stilacosmetics.com)

Additionally, there were the usual lip glaze sets and a very nice "Masterpiece Series" set with just about all the makeup one could want (well, the average makeup user, anyway...for addicts like me it wouldn't be enough - it never is!)  What I like about these is that they'll fit in to any seasonal exhibition.

Will you be buying any Stila holiday goodies this year?