My Very Favorite Dress(es)

Yesterday, I mentioned that I wore one of my favorite dresses for a head shot session. And last week I teased that I would share my favorite Etsy shop. Well, the favorite dress is from the favorite Etsy shop. I cannot remember how I first found Ellaina Boutique on Etsy, but I do remember getting my first crossover-front dress from her. This dress is the most amazing thing ever on my body.

All my life, I’ve been blessed and cursed with a small bust. In fact, it got me one of my first local stage roles! But I yearn to look feminine and curvy. This dress’ unique styling accentuates what little I have up top, while narrowing to a small waist, and then flaring out again to give me the hourglass figure that I wish I had in earnest. But the crossover top is also quite modest. I love the way the top is constructed. It’s a very vintage-inspired look, but in a modern dress. I actually wore this style of dress to the auditions for the 1940s-era play I’m currently in.

I loved this dress so much that since that first purchase, I’ve bought three more in different colors and prints. Sue has an amazing array of fabrics, and she’ll send you a link to her fabric store so you can pick something out that isn’t on her site. Plus, she’s a joy to work with. She’s always willing to bat ideas around and help you come up with something fun. And I love that she’ll always make a dress a bit longer, as I’m taller than the average woman, and I like my dresses to graze my knees or else I feel I’m showing too much leg.

Besides the dresses, I’ve also purchased a retro-print shirt and a custom-made nightgown. I converted one of her dresses into a nightgown by removing the belt and adding lace to the neckline and sleeves. It served me so well during the cold winter months that I’m thinking I’ll need to get a sleeveless summer version soon!

I hope you’ll check out this lovely shop so that she stays in business for years to come!

{the photo above is from Ellaina Boutique and shows one of the prints that I don’t have personally but find lovely!}

The Art of Looking like Yourself

This past weekend, I had an appointment to get my head shots re-taken, as it’s been about a year since my last photo shoot. My hair has grown six inches and I’ve shifted my style towards a more vintage look. I was fortunate enough to earn a favor from a local photographer, so I had a wonderful hour-long shoot at a local park for free, including a few shots of Boyfriend and me.

Head shots are always a challenge for me because I don’t think I photograph well, and I find it difficult to smile on command. Previously, I had a friend with a decent camera take shots that I used for auditions. He’s a good photographer, but his greatest talent is being able to get me to smile well for his camera. That said, we often found that the best shots were ones where I was holding up cards for white balance, goofing off, and not really posing. But the point of head shots is to look like yourself, so it’s great when we end up with those shots. I’ve seen some friends whose head shots look too refined and almost nothing like they do in real life, so I’m always worried my shots will turn out like that.

Of course, leading up to my photo shoot, I was in a flurry about what to wear. I ended up wearing one of my favorite dresses (I have four in the same style) because it’s beautiful, a nice blue color that looks good on me, and feels like I’m wearing pajamas because it’s so comfortable. But I brought a change of clothes for some variety because I hear it’s the spice of life. For makeup, I did not use my standard clean face because the powder would photograph oddly. Instead, I used a matte foundation that I use for stage because I know it won’t melt off in the heat. I mixed it with a little rose-scented day cream for a base, and then used it full-strength on my undereye circles and blemishes. I added a touch of my Vapour multi-stick on the cheeks, and lined my top lash line with a bit of brown eyeshadow. A coat of mascara on all my lashes and I was almost done.

But what about lips?

Head shots are supposed to be about showing your natural look, so I knew I needed shots without my signature red lipstick (which I rarely wear to auditions anyway). But I went back and forth about whether I wanted to include a couple shots of myself with my red lip, for other cases when I might want a head shot. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t need it, and stuck with my natural-but-flushed lip look using 100% Pure’s lip glaze in Raspberry to add a berry-stained flush to my lips. It provides just enough contrast that I don’t look odd without my red lips, but it’s sheer enough that it doesn’t look like I’m wearing lipstick.

Now that I had my wardrobe and look down, I went out for my appointment. The photo shoot took place at one of my favorite places: a local park with a lake where I spent so much of my time, in all weather, walking or jogging, or just wandering about. The background of nature definitely felt very “me” and I think set off my peculiar coloring better than a studio might. And the lighting was perfect.

The photographer seemed very pleased with the shoot, and I was pleased with the thumbnails I saw on his camera screen. I’m looking forward to see the final shots after he edits them. My hope is that I’ll have a lovely shot that I can use for the next year that really and truly makes me look like myself.

Florals for Spring

As I sit at my desk at work sipping a mug of jasmine green tea, I inhale the heady floral scent of it. I love florals. I wear floral prints, I love the scent of floral perfume, of floral tea, I decorate with flowers where I can. And now that we’re in the full throes of spring, nature has responded with her own florals.

Floral tea is one of my favorite flavors. I don’t go in very often for flavored tea, save the classic Earl Grey blend, but floral flavored teas will make me forget my preference for unadulterated teas. Green tea with jasmine. Oolong tea with the sweet scent of magnolias. Black tea with roses. The perfume of the flowers mingles with the perfume of the tea itself. My favorite blend is Earl Grey tea with red roses and a splash of rosewater, to supplement the fragrance of the roses. It’s lovely with just a touch of honey or sugar.

I’ve baked flowers into my cookies, cakes, and scones. Rose petals, lavender, and rosewater come together with butter and sugar for a fragrant treat. I received a madeleine pan for my birthday several months ago, and it might be time to bake a floral-scented batch of tiny French cakes.

And of course, it’s the time of year for flowers. I shared the photo above of a rose I got after my matinee this weekend. The theatre company had decided to have roses for all the mothers and far fewer mothers showed up than expected, so I got a rose of my own. It now sits on my breakfast table, brightening up the place, and bringing it’s soft floral beauty into my morning routine. It makes me want to have flowers more often, although there isn’t a very good source of them nearby. Some of the farmer’s markets, though, have great buckets of flowers on occasion, so perhaps I will start haunting the stalls waiting for them to have another lovely addition to my table.

Happy spring, all!

Red Lipstick Challenge: Week one (plus a bit)

So I’ve finished up one week, and a little bit more, of my Red Lipstick Challenge. I started with my least favorite products so I could weed them out. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I’ve outgrown the bright, orange-toned, Fire & Ice reds that started me on my red lipstick journey. I still enjoy wearing them, but I prefer a truer red now.

2. I’ve got a lot of lines on my upper lip, and some of my lipsticks feather into them when I don’t use lip liner. My Julep invisible lipliner has gotten a lot of use this week.

3. I’m just not a fan of liquid lipsticks. I’ve found one that I can deal with because of its longevity (Stila’s Beso), but I’ll probably save it for parties and date nights where I don’t want to touch up my lipstick so often. I also learned that Beso is Boyfriend’s favorite red of mine.

4. No one at work has commented that I’m wearing red lipstick every day. I think this is more a testament to how often I’ve started wearing it, rather than a testament to their perceptiveness, as they’ve never been shy about commenting on things like that before.

5. I love, love, love the experience of putting on lipstick from a bullet-style tube. I’m already predicting the outcome of this month based on this.

6. I am not a fan of the vanilla-y scent of Lipstick Queen lipstick. I’ve been loving the feel and the color, but I keep getting a whiff of vanilla and it’s my least favorite scent. Also, they fade surprisingly quickly.

Next week, I’ll be getting into my favorites and starting to wear things again. I’ve actually already retired most of the lipsticks I wore over the last nine days, so I’m down to only about four or five favorites.

Vintage Exercise: Ballet Class

You don’t get a whole lot more old-fashioned than dance. It’s probably one of the oldest forms of human expression. And as far as dance goes, ballet is the epitome of old-fashioned grace to me. It seriously took a lot of doing to update ballet even a little, and even then, most of the updates are considered “modern dance” instead of ballet and are kept separate from classical training. There’s a reason it’s called “classical training.”

Well, like Zelda Fitzgerald, I’ve come to ballet late in life. I did my turn as an adorable a 5-year-old, but decided not to pursue it. Then, when I turned 30, I decided to take a class with a friend of mine from my original ballet class, at the original studio where we took classes. She’s since fallen out of the habit, but I’ve continued to go. Since starting theater a year ago, I’ve lapsed a bit, but I still love class whenever I get to it.

I finally got back to my favorite mid-week class this week, and loved it. The teacher is tough and doesn’t go easy on the combinations. Her only concession to the fact that it’s called a “beginner” class is that she’ll take an extra minute explaining the steps. Sometimes. But I like that. I’ve taken other dance classes and over the years have decided that I’d rather be the lowest level dancer in a class than the highest level. I learn more.

Ballet, and dance in general, has given me a strong sense of poise and body awareness. The costumier of a show I did over the winter commented on how I was able to wear her beautiful vintage 40s and 60s costumes so well, and I credit a lot of that to my dance training. It makes you look taller and more confident. And, given that I’m actually quite clumsy, can disguise a multitude of awkwardnesses under a veneer of control.

Dance is one of my favorite forms of vintage exercise. In addition to ballet, I also do some modern. I’ve taken classes with a company, but I also do some freestyle dancing on my own. When I read the autobiography of Isadora Duncan, her approach to movement as something that is inherently natural resonated with me, and now when I have my own private dance time, I try to mirror her philosophy, if not her exact movements.

Sadly, this week, upon my return to ballet class, I learned that the nagging soreness I’ve been having in my toe while jogging is not just stiffness that needs stretching out and loosening up. It’s probably a sprain. So I will have to take a few weeks off both jogging and dancing while it heals. But I’m excited to return once more.

In My Queue: The Bletchley Circle

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Netflix find that I thought my readers would appreciate. I’ve been terribly busy with rehearsals and such, but I have found the occasional moment to toy with Netflix and find new shows. One that I’d had in my queue for a long time was The Bletchley Circle. As a woman with a technical background, I was intrigued by a show I thought was about women working at Bletchley Park during World War II.

Well, I was wrong, it’s actually about a group of women who used to work at Bletchley Park, but the show’s main action follows them several years later as they’ve tried to return to “normal life” after the war. None of them can say what they did during the war, and instead are officially named as secretaries and bookkeepers. For the first series, they solve a series of murders when the first-series main character, Susan, notices a pattern while listening about the killings on the radio. She gathers together Millie, Lucy, and Jean, her old colleagues from Bletchley, to help her. Each has a specific skill that helps put together the clues they find.

It blends a period drama with a crime procedural, something I’ve pointed out before as a particular favorite genre. But it then goes a step further and instead of introducing strong (but peripheral) female characters, it bases the entire show on four women’s experiences. And it captures the frustration of intelligent women being underestimated by the men in their lives.

The show also captures the atmosphere of post-war England well. While the US was celebrating victory in a war that virtually never touched their own land, England was picking up the pieces from having its major cities bombed and all their supply chains disrupted. Luxuries, like perfume and lipstick, were hard, if not illegal, to come by. So the women of The Bletchley Circle are not the carefree, red-lipped women of the 50s that we might picture, but instead are, for the most part, honest, unglamorous, and relatively free of makeup. The only character that regularly wears lipstick is Millie, the “bad girl” of the group.

The Bletchley Circle has sadly only made seven episodes that are on Netflix right now, so it’s a quickly-consumed series, but the characters and the plots are worth waiting for more.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine: New Beauty Finds

I’ve written previously about my vintage-inspired beauty routines, but I thought I’d add some updates and new finds. I alluded to some of these in my last post about my face prep for red lipstick, but I thought I’d give specifics.

I recently got a sample pack of lipsticks from Vapour Beauty, in my attempt to find a non-toxic lipstick that I could feel comfortable eating when it ends up as lip prints on my sandwich at lunch. Sadly, none of their red lipsticks were at all what I wanted, and I was at a loss for what I might use the $10 off code from the sample pack to buy. I decided to take a chance and buy one of their Aura Multi-Use color sticks in the color Courtesan, a lovely rose pink. I simply adore this shade. It’s rosy and neither too warm nor too cool a pink. It looks like a natural flush, and blends easily because the cream formula slips like a powder once you get it on your skin. It’s a little dry on the lips, so I only use it as a blush.

I’ve also upgraded my face makeup. I now use three separate products to conceal imperfections. I mentioned BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Gel Cream, which I adore, especially with the sun out in full force again. I’ve also found a stick makeup, W3ll People’s Narcissist foundation stick. I use it mostly as a concealer, but it will work as a fuller-coverage foundation for days when I need to look tip-top, like when I have an audition. I use that for spot-concealing most days; the formula is fairly matte, although I do get a bit greasy under it after several hours. For my undereye circles, however, I prefer Tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer. I found a shade that looks slightly too orange on my hand, but blends perfectly under my eyes. It kind of sinks in and just looks velvety instead of like makeup. This gives me an everyday flawless look without looking too perfect, like when I’m in my stage makeup.

On top of all that, I set my makeup with a rose-scented rice powder based on a 1908 recipe, made by Little Bits Historical on Etsy. Her shop is a treasure trove of vintage-recipe beauty goodies, and I was drawn to this powder in one of my favorite scents, rose. The powder itself is a lovely, fine-milled rice powder that buffs into my skin easily and keeps me from getting shiny or greasy all day. It also has the most intoxicating scent: roses, but a little deeper note from the sandalwood she includes. And it’s very lightly pink to help brighten my warm complexion. I only wish she had a mini version that I could keep with me at work for touch-ups, maybe with a mini powder puff!

Just a note: None of the links above are affiliate links. I get nothing for raving about these products, just the satisfaction of sharing things I’ve enjoyed. Also, stay tuned for next week, when I’ll share my all-time favorite Etsy seller!

Cottage Herbalism

I don’t remember how I first learned about herbs and herbal remedies. Probably my mother made a tea of some sort. But at some point I developed an affinity for herbalism. I’ve taken a few classes, but am mostly a self-study, and at this point in my life, have settled into a kind of casual, cottage herbalism, as I like to call it. A kind of timeless healing that eschews potent herbs or attempts to break in and heal aggressively in favor of gentle remedies that supplement a healthy lifestyle and modern medicine when needed.

My favorite remedies are herbal teas. I often buy blends from Traditional Medicinals, although I dislike that they use stevia and liquorice to flavor many of their blends, so I also love the single-herb tea bags from Celebration Herbals and Alvita. I find that using simples (single herbs) to start is good to make sure you don’t have any adverse reactions. And a basic herbal book is nice to keep track of any obscure contraindications, like avoiding parsley and rosemary in medicinal quantities during pregnancy.

But my herbalism is relaxing and soothing. It is a cup of chamomile-lavender tea before bed to soothe strained nerves. It’s a brew of ginger root for an upset stomach or red clover, echinacea, honey, and lemon for a cold. I once developed a really nasty, flat-on-my-back-on-the-couch cold the day before an audition that I really, really wanted to go to. I drank echinacea, honey, and lemon tea 4-5 times that day and was easily well enough to audition.

From there, I occasionally turn to tinctures and extracts when I need a bit more support. My favorite company right now is called Urban Moonshine. They primarily make delicious herbal bitters, which I take to help digestion sometimes. They’re also tasty just added to a glass of sparkling water. But their tonics stand out to me. They keep their recipes simple and don’t use very potent herbs, but their Joy Tonic, a blend of linden, rose, and motherwort, helps balance me during the high stress times of my life.

I used to make some simple tinctures of my own, but I’ve fallen out of the habit. It’s not difficult, and you can use either fresh or dried herbs. The important part is to use a lot of herb, steep it for at least a month, and shake it often. A few years back, I made a set of tinctures that served most of my needs. Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) for low times, Viburnum (Crampbark) for PMS, and Leonurus (Motherwort) for stress. While I’ve largely replaced these with the Joy Tonic (and a little ginger tea for cramps), they served me well for a long time.

And, of course, I have my own Gardener’s Herbal Tea blend, which I haven’t drunk as faithfully, but may end up back in my morning routine. The nettles will help calm my sinuses, and the other herbs will support a rather frayed system from the stress of preparing for my show’s opening weekend.

Do any of you have favorite gentle herbal remedies? Anyone experiment with casual herbalism, rather than trying to be very medicinal about things?

Wisteria and Sunshine 

This weekend, my show opened, so the weekend was busy, to say the least. But I still got a moment to sit and relax and enjoy the lovely weather on the deck. The view reminded me of the ad from Enchanted April, which I also watched this weekend. And I do enjoy wisteria and sunshine.

Sunday was the first really warm day we’ve had since spring began. I had risen early to set my hair for a matinee performance, and had watched the film with my breakfast. The local bakery has chocolate-cherry bread for sale on the first Saturday of each month, so I had special bread, tea, and melon. Then, as the weather warmed up, I found myself with an hour to spare while baking a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for the post-matinee party. So I made another pot of Earl Grey, grabbed a book of short stories, and found a shaded spot on the deck to sit and read and sip tea. You see, Boyfriend and I plan to move at the beginning of the summer, and I thought I ought to enjoy it while I can.

I took a little turn around the yard at one point. It’s not a long walk, but you can see there is some interest. There at the back, there’s what looks a bit like the foundations of an old stone house or shed. I examined it a bit, although I’d looked at it before, and went over to check out the jungle of flora growing around the decorative basin to one side. Quite a lovely little garden. So lovely, in fact, that I decided I didn’t want to leave after all. But that is a story for another day.

A Clean Slate for a Red Lip

So today is the first day of my personal Lipstick Challenge. My goal is to wear a red lip every day, so that I can get a good idea of where my collection stands before I buy new lippies. In order to really make the red shine, I like to keep the rest of my makeup incredibly simple. A nice clean slate for the lip to shine.

I’ve talked about my beauty routine in the past, so I won’t go into detail here. I rinse in the shower with warm and then cold water and then pat in a couple drops of facial oil. This soaks in while I eat breakfast and have my tea. Then, when I’m ready, I brush my teeth, do my hair, and finish my makeup.

I’ve actually stopped wearing eye makeup since I started wearing my glasses all the time, partially because it makes my eyes itch a little, and partially because I don’t really need the emphasis when I wear bold frames. So my makeup routine, before my bold lip, focuses on creating even-toned, but naturally-beautiful looking skin.

I prep with a swipe of rose toner to remove excess oil, then apply BareMinerals Complexion Rescue gel cream. It’s an oil-free, silicone-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free tinted moisturizer that leaves my skin glowing and slightly evened out. The lovely thing is that they make all three undertones in all their shades, so I can finally embrace my proper pale skin (I’m light but warm, so generally have to go with “medium” shades to keep from looking chalky or too pink). I apply my gel cream, undereye concealer, and concealer on any spots, and let that sink in. Then, I blend out the concealer and apply a bit of cream blush on the apples of my cheeks. I follow this with a dusting of rose-scented rice powder made from an historical recipe from 1908. I promise I’ll go into detail in the future about these last two, as they are recent discoveries.

This leaves me with soft, clean skin that’s ready for a bold lip! And it’s not just for red lips, either. Because I knew I was bidding au revoir to my non-reds yesterday, I decided to rock a deep berry lip. Against pale skin with just a hint of blush, it was very Gothic looking without looking Goth.