Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dispatch from the Recovery Room

If you live in New York, chances are good that you've gotten sick recently. If you haven't, count yourself lucky so far and look out. I don't usually get really sick more often than once a year, but in the last two weeks I've been knocked off my gartered ass into oblivion, first by my first-ever case of food poisoning (suffered simultaneously by my man) and then by an extremely nasty cold, the dregs of which I am still fighting. It's not even March and I've already used up half my sick days. This does not bode well for a year where 100% of my vacation time has to go to my wedding and honeymoon.

Whenever I'm sick, I find it really hard to be a pinup. All I have to do is wear little or no makeup to work, and suddenly people are telling me how awful I look and that I should just go home and get some rest. I use this trick sometimes when I'm leading up to playing sick for a day, but when I actually am on my deathbed, it pains me to think that the sight of my face inspires pity. Like mercury rising in a thermometer, my health can often be surmised by the shade of my lips. Nude to pale pink means I'm struggling, but red means I'm back in business.

Today I'm wearing heels for the first time in a few days, hoping that by looking better I will feel better. It seems to be working a little, as the phlegm in my throat is intimidated to the point of moving on. More importantly, perhaps, I feel like myself again. Being removed is one of the hardest things about being sick, and coming back, though difficult, is your reward. Although days of camping out by a humidifier with my faithful pets, a hot pot of tea and old movies is a welcome respite from the grind of my day job, I eventually find myself in a state of depression at being a total waste of space. My man is happy to take up the slack around the house when I'm sidelined, but it doesn't take long before my innate sense of guilt takes over and I'm beating myself up for being an invalid slacker.

Slowly but surely, the pinup awakens from her slumber.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Tighten Up, Part III

I have been extremely remiss in not being a better blogger lately, and to atone for my sins I'm finally going to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time and answer the following question left by a reader in response to a post:

Elizabeth said... I just came across your blog while I was searching the net for info on tight-lacing.

I really want to start wearing corsets. But I don't want them to be completely noticeable through my clothing. What type of clothes are appropriate to wear under corsets? Do the laces show through your back?

This is a perfectly valid question. Once you've got the right cincher, of course you want to wear it out and show off your curves. And you should. A corseted figure is simply too good to keep to one's self.

In my years of tightlacing, I have found that nothing works as well as a dress. When you wear something in two pieces, it's very easy for the waistband of your skirt to get caught in the bottom of your corset, making your clothes bunch up in back. You also risk the possibility that someone would see your corset peeking out from the bottom of your shirt when this happens. Yet, with a such worry. That said, I do love my pencil skirts. When I'm not wearing a dress, I'm sure to wear a long camisole that I can tuck into the bottom of my corset, both to hide it and prevent it from any damage that may result from being constantly rubbed by a waistband.

I write this with the understanding that some people don't mind it being brazenly obvious that they're wearing a corset under their clothes. I am not one of those people. I like to have my secrets. And you'll be surprised how few people realize straight off that you must be wearing a corset to have that waspy waist. I've had people make comments about my 22.5 inch waist, and they are almost always surprised when I tell them that it's not natural and I'm wearing a corset. I think perhaps most people don't realize that there are still people who wear them on a regular basis, and so they don't expect that I'm anything but a lucky girl with an enviably small natural waist. Whether or not you'll tell people outright that you're wearing a corset is up to you. I'll say something if I sense the person is genuinely interested in knowing about my waist--is it natural? what kind of crunches do you do to get that?--but otherwise I find a simple thank-you is sufficient.

To best show off your waist, look for items that are belted. Empire waistlines can be quite flattering, but you just can't see the waspish hourglass you've perfected. I personally prefer dresses with a small bodice and a full swing skirt, but again pencil skirts are great, as is anything A-line. It really depends on your figure, the occasion for which you're dressing, and your own personal style. However it's worth noting that we tightlacers are in luck. After years of designers claiming that the cinched, waist-accentuated look will return to the streets, it might actually be true (click here for an example of some favorite looks from NY's Fashion Week). The high-waisted pencil skirt can now be found even at Express, and super wide belts certainly call corsets to mind.

If you have other specific topics or questions that you'd like me to address, please do let me know. I promise I'll get to answering them faster.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Perfecting the Pucker

Makeup is key when it comes to recreating classic pinup style, and knowing how to get glamour girl lips will take you far. Wearing red lipstick is certainly more maintenance than wearing a barely-there lip color, but the feeling of confidence you get with a perfect pout is well worth a few more peeks in a mirror. (Note: I'll be recommending several products in this post, but I'm not paid in any way to do this. No kickbacks for me.)

Before you get started, you should have smooth lips. I have a terrible habit of biting my lips, especially in cold weather when they get chapped, but I've recently started using Lipscription from Benefit. They give you one tube of lip buff which takes off all the dead skin, and another of lip balm. I use both right before I go to bed a few nights a week, and the result is like a ribbon of satin on your mouth.

Next, you need to pick a color. I'm not very adept at seeing two colors and determining which one has more blue undertones and which has more brown overtones; I just know what I like. I'm quite pale, and when I was looking for my perfect red lipstick I found that the right red can make the difference between looking healthy and looking like a crypt-keeper. If you're like me, pay special attention that your red lips don't wash out the rest of your face. As I've mentioned in a previous post, my favorite lipstick is by Besame Cosmetics, due in part to their color selection. Their shades in Red Velvet and Cherry Red seem to be universally flattering. I tend to wear Red Velvet to work, and Cherry Red for the evening, as the Red Velvet is just a little more muted. Another thing to note in choosing a lip color is the texture. Classic pinup lips tend to have more matte than shine. If you want a bit of shine, smooth just a bit of gloss over your matte color, but in general you'll want to stay away from any all-over lip color with a Vaseline sheen.

Once you've found the right shade, you need a liner. A lip liner will define your lips and help your lipstick stay in place. I choose a relatively neutral red, as I find the neutral to be the most versatile. Another thing you can do to achieve a distinct line is bled your foundation just around the edges of your lips before you line them.

Your final task is to pick the shape you want to draw. In the 20s, a heart-shaped style was fashionable, with the cleft of your upper lip rounded just like...a heart. You can even ignore the corners of your mouth for a mouth that's more bee-sting--see silent film star Clara Bow (top left). She was famous for popularizing this style, and the lip-cleft was once even known as a Clara Bow though now it's more commonly called the Cupid's Bow.

In the 30s, lips were flattened. The slope of the upper lip was drawn gentler than when drawing a heart-shape, with the lines elongated and flared outside the bow. This is sometimes called a rosebud shape...see Joan Crawford (up left) or Bette Davis (up right) as examples of this shape. Moving on to the 40s, the lip shape stayed closer to the natural shape of the lip--in my observation, the edges of the bow were a little sharper. The difference from the 30s to the 40s wasn't quite as drastic as the change from the 20s to 30s. Take a look at Hedy Lamarr (below left) for inspiration. Tip: To achieve a sharp bow line, draw an X at the center of your bow.

I hope this is helpful--if nothing else it should help you skip right to the best part of Valentine's Day!

(One very helpful source for this post was the 20-to-40 Style Makeup Guide.)
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Pinup Tales by Kitty du Vert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.