Great Big Lips

Eddie Redmayne's Great Big Lips

As Eddie Redmayne mania continues to sweep the nation so does the preoccupation with those voluptuously pillowy lips, unprecedented in the male since the heyday of Mick Jagger and Michael Portillo. Big generous mouths are the new craze: have you read about that star cricketer whose party piece is to pop a tennis ball into his mouth? With women its a more familiar story; long pre-dating Gloria Grahame, “the girl with the novocaine lips”.

In my Harrods days, hundreds of years ago, the Cheese Counter was run by an egregious film-fan who was much preoccupied by the appearance of British movie star Valerie Hobson. By then, as Mrs John Profumo, she was a regular Harrods shopper and evidently blessed with great patience besides exquisite manners, as her appearance in Cheese was inevitably greeted with a barrage of verbatim dialogue from “Blanche Fury” or “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. “My word,” Mrs Profumo would say mildly, “WHAT a memory, David…perhaps a little Stilton,today?”. As she left, David’s admiring “Great Big Lips!” shouted rather than murmured, followed her to the lifts.

Because the mouth + lips have such obvious sexual + sensual connotations, the fashion in mouths was for centuries discreet for both sexes. A small mouth + narrow lips denoted wisdom, prudence, discretion + continence. Two of our best looking kings (in their golden youth) Edward IV and his grandson Henry VIII had mouths like neat buttonholes; theoretically, the perfection for every boy and girl was a mouth like a tiny rosebud.

As late as the 1920’s the ideal was a mouth smaller than one’s eyes: look at those old silent stars and post card beauties like Lady Diana Cooper, Edward VIII and Ivor Novello. Only when Wall St crashed (IS there a connection?) did what Vogue then called the “bow-tie mouth” begin to manifest. Garbo, Crawford, Gable, Dietrich, Davis, Gary Cooper + Fred MacMurray, thanks to better dentistry and an increasing sexual openness, set a new trend for wide mouths and full, generous well-glossed kissable lips.

Old Hollywood stars of both sexes were generously lipsticked: Ralph Schwieger‘s glorious perfume Lipstick Rose is unconventional but supremely feminine. This is a paean to the scent, the colour and connotations of a gorgeously shiny deep rose lipstick – a child’s memory of his mother dressed for the evening; a waxy pink waft from an expensive bag filled with cosmetics,scent and the scent of suede. It’s a warm fresh flirty scent which perfectly encapsulates that delicious frontier of the senses where smell and taste meet. The rose and the violet (think of the colours as well as flowers) overlap with raspberry and grapefruit; velvety textures are overlaid with a sparkling effervescence. Gorgeous – to coin a phrase: two lips like tulips. Kiss me quick!

The Colour of Snow

The Colour of Snow

You notice in this current freeze that cold certainly does have its own scent.

The sense of smell being essentially a survival tool, it makes sense that we should be olfactorily aware of potential lethal weather, picking up an impending hard frost or the imminence of snow: and a hard,dry,cruel scent it is too which sends us flying for comfort to the perfume cabinet.

And here we encounter a conundrum. There are thousands of fragrances which rely on the evocation of spring and summer, even autumn; and do so by an elaborate arrangement of natural accords generated by the seasons: floral, arboreal, a sea breeze, a hay field, a golden orchard. But a wintry fragrance has to cheat rather, tending to rely on the smell of things which protect against the cold rather than those that thrive on it: leather, fire, scented woods, fur, cognac and rich creamy gourmand insulators.

Creed did try their hand at a deliberately cold winter scent: their now deleted eau de toilette Acier Aluminium which took its inspiration from steel girders, frozen with frost and ice, an effect brought off with bergamot and concentrated orange blossom notes. But even this warmed into an intensely animalic base, it rather lost its nerve. Then there is Villoresi‘s Teint de Neige which always reminds me of the opening lines of Snow White: the image of a beautiful woman sitting at a lace and crystal dressing table, looking through her window at a world of snow. The red winter sun casts shadowy lights of rose, lilac and silver on the snowflakes and on her petally powdery skin……an exquisite perfume, but essentially the scent of feathery sweet warmth of flowers and vanilla: the colour of snow, but not the odour.

But go into the garden even now and thrusting through the frozen soil and iron frosts you can see snow drops, Christmas roses, crocus and the green shoots of daffodils, even early tulips.
The earth, contrary to all likelihood is far from dead: you can almost hear a low chthonic vibrato from deep below, a stirring of growth, and it is precisely this miracle which Frederic Malle and Jean Claude Ellena celebrate in Angeliques Sous La Pluie.

This transparent eau de toilette celebrates exactly this moment of the year, the very first murmurings of spring protesting against winter cold. This is the fragrance of a February day when for a few hours the sun banishes the frosts; a wet morning in early March when you step outside to inhale the scent of earth, germination and growth. Delicately green, barely peppery, allusively floral, Angeliques is an exquisite and unique fantasy of late winter seasonal magic: a perfume of hope, promise and renewal.

Image from Sun-Sentinel.com

Freckles

Eddie Redmayne FrecklesEveryone’s talking about Eddie Redmayne, star of My Week With Marilyn, Birdsong and the new Burberry advertising campaign. The columnists are fascinated by his voluptuous lips but I’m more interested in the freckles. He appears to be entirely covered in them.

Long considered to mar personal beauty, freckles used to be subjected to ritual scrubbings with cucumber lotions,lemon juice + sour milk in a vain attempt to bleach the skin. Yet there is something terribly attractive about them. As a child I was allowed to toddle up the road to a corner shop selling sixpenny packets of seeds,transfers, sweets, newspapers, bars of Walnut Bliss (remember?) + ices. On a good day you would find Kathleen behind the counter, very kind to infants and resplendent in a green overall which set off a magnificent head of red hair: she was completely covered with freckles, enhanced by brilliant pink lipstick and I was mesmerised by the look of her, finding it hard not to rudely stare.

Later on, I discovered all those red-headed movie stars with the same gorgeous look: Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Zarah Leander and most famously perhaps Joan Crawford. There exists a wonderful photo portrait of Crawford near the start of her career, wearing dramatic lipstick + mascara and all the freckles on show: later they would be airbrushed out, covered with foundation or camouflaged by a perfect California sun tan; but in latter years journalists interviewing her were mesmerised by the dramatic pigmentation.

Incidentally why was Damian Lewis hailed as the first red headed star? Besides the above roster, there are also a fine muster of bottle reds: Rita Hayworth, Clara Bow, Lucille Ball, even Jean Harlow who had a dramatic change of look for RED HEADED WOMAN. A film,incidentally that was banned in the UK but privately screened at Buckingham Palace for George V – she was always his favourite star.

It is notorious that the skin type that often accompanies freckles + resplendent red hair can react very trickily with perfume. One of the cult classics in the fragrance hall of fame is Robert Piguet‘s Bandit which was created in 1944 by Germaine Cellier with the French actress Edwige Feulliere in mind – “the French Garbo” who was blessed with a mane of red-gold locks. Bandit is a dry leathery animalic green scent; it eschews the use of those floral notes such as jasmine, tuberose, hyacinth, gardenia that can create such havoc on a “red” skin. On a redhead it is the apogee of refined dangerous sexuality.

Therein lies the clue: avoidance of the fleshy hot-house flowers which can turn sour, catty and acidic. If you are a pale-skinned fiery redhead try to tailor your tastes to chypres, orientals, woods and fougeres which tend to harmonise with your natural skin chemistry. And we never, ever use this awful word “ginger”…

Image sourced from details.com