So, I do have a bit of a thing for this kind of book – the coffee table types that tackle different aspects of vintage style. I’m always hoping I’ll learn something I didn’t know, while enjoying some pretty pictures along the way. So really, what I want from this kind of book is just that: interesting facts presented really well. And that is precisely what this book does! At this point, having read up on vintage style for a number of years, clearly there’s going to be overlap in what a book can tell me vs what I already know, but actually I was pleasantly surprised at how much was new to me.
I have to start by saying that I especially loved that the author began the book by mentioning how a joy of living today is being able to pick and choose and mix eras of vintage style in your look and how her aim was to give tips and tricks to do this. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen a book on vintage acknowledge the perks of mixing eras and it’s something I wholeheartedly support so big tick for that – and I was totally up for some tricks to factor into my current beauty routine.
I then became completely engrossed by the explanation of Westmore’s (a Hollywood makeup guru) Seven Face Shapes theory that appears early on in the book. We’ve all heard of the different face shapes (heart, square, round etc) and how you should and shouldn’t apply makeup to them, but this theory of ‘Ovalesence’ being the key to facial beauty was particularly intriguing – especially as the book includes a supporting diagram! The tips around how to apply make-up to flatter certain face-shapes and make them appear more like the oval ideal were really interesting – particularly as it was the first time I’d seen advice for applying blusher to the top of the cheek-bones of my heart-shaped face (something I’ve long thought suits me best but no guide ever agreed with – they always say it should go in the hollows instead!). However, I perhaps wasn’t so thrilled to realise my large, wonky nose and pointy chin meant I had a lot of work to do with the warpaint…! Anyway, this kind of thing in books really pleases the nerd in me – in fact, it was probably my favourite part.
You’ll go on from this section to read lots of tips for your make-up bag and ways to perfect your beauty routine, many of them from the horses’ mouths of the Hollywood starlets. Some of them made me recoil in horror, such as the idea of Ginger Rogers regularly smearing egg whites on her face to tighten her skin! And I had to laugh at Elizabeth Taylor’s theory that doing all her hair and makeup and then getting into a hot bath straight afterwards before a date gave her an irresistible ‘inner glow’ – I think that’s called sweat, Liz. But I do genuinely find this kind of thing fascinating and it all flows really nicely, so I ate it up. It also seems completely in the ethos of what you’d expect from a Hollywood beauty book.
So, all of the information and facts about cosmetics and how the stars applied them were a big part of what I loved about this book. I wasn’t, however, quite so keen on the pages of very detailed information about recreating exact looks today. Generally, a) I’m not going to recreate a famous lady’s exact look because it wouldn’t look as great on me (I’ll leave Jean Harlow’s half moon eyebrows, thanks) and b) it felt a bit against the ethos that the author set out – aren’t we supposed to be taking tips away to build our own make-up routines, rather than trying to look like a clone of Audrey Hepburn? Plus there’s a lot of tutorials out there in the world doing just that (I’ve even written some myself on this blog back in the day!). But even more weirdly, the book concludes as it starts by saying that no one can carbon copy someone else’s look and be as good as the original, so you have to be your own form of beautiful… But hang on, you’ve just spent pages telling me how to look like Brigitte Bardot!
There’s also quite a lot of information about hair and how to get certain starlets’ hairstyles etc, which I was a bit surprised to find in a beauty book actually. I’ve got so many books on vintage hair that it did make me glaze over a bit and again I’m not sure why so many instructions about how to look exactly like someone else… If you want two in one advice though you’ll be more of a fan.
Anyway, these are minor gripes about a very informative and enjoyable book and as I say, I’m very glad I read it for the first part alone. If you haven’t read up on hairstyles as much as I have and do want to copy Marilyn’s make-up, even better! Now, if you excuse me while I try to make my face look like a perfect oval with a bit of well-placed blusher…