Gift guide for women, 2017

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So here we are, just a few weeks from Christmas. Soon the lights will be switched on and the festive tunes will be playing wherever you go. As usual, I’ve put together a guide but this year, I’ve decided to do one for women and then a separate one for men by popular request, although of course there are many gifts in both which are unisex. I’ve tried to include a range of desirable things for all budgets but I’m also not afraid to include some seriously expensive ones either because there is no better time to dream of luxury than on those cold, dark nights. My selection is also makeup heavy, reflecting my own personal obsession, but when I contacted several female friends, looking for more inspiration, they requested makeup, perfume and accessories. Your wish is my command. Enjoy! P.S. A final note – all items were in stock at the time of writing but as some are limited edition, certain links may expire.

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Chanel No 5 Fragments d’Or body oil, £70. No other fragrance quite suits Christmas like No 5. The sparkling gold makes is perfect for party season. Limited Edition so hurry!

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A saying from the 1920s stated that no respectable woman should smoke, dance the tango or wear Shalimar. I suggest you at least try the third. Deliciously spicy and comforting for winter. From £51.

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Red lipstick is my great passion as you know and I always have it on my Christmas list. Chanel lipstick is always beautiful and the stunning pillar box shades inside the red casing this year makes them the ultimate object of desire as far as I’m concerned. Limited edition of four red lipsticks, two satin, two matte. But hurry! £30 each.

I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t really wear nude lipstick very often. But I know many women love them and if I do, it’s always one by Charlotte Tilbury. This year, she has created three limited edition matte shades – two nude, one deep red. English beauty (£24) is particularly lovely. There’s also a lip masterclass kit with all three lipsticks, plus liner and gloss, packaged in a stunning box for £130.

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Beautiful quality brushes to take with you everywhere. Magical mini brush set, £45, Charlotte Tilbury

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The year’s most stunning palettes by Nars, inspired by Man Ray (the glass tears one is currently on offer at John Lewis for £27.50)

Buy NARS Man Ray Glass Tears Eyeshadow Palette, Multi Online at

The Veil Cheek Palette is £29.50

Buy NARS Man Ray The Veil Cheek Palette, Multi Online at

Overexposed Glow Highlighter, £23.80

Buy NARS Man Ray Overexposed Glow Highlighter, Double Take Online at

A perfect kit for cat eyes on the move. Eyeko Eye Travel Wardrobe, £20

Eye Wardrobe Travel Size, , large

The best nail polish around in a seasonal sparky shade (you can’t go wrong with Pop Art either if you don’t want glitter). YSL La Laque Couture Dazzling Lights Nail Polish, £19.50.

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Giving face cream as a present is a no-no because nobody wants to be reminded of ageing but a luxurious face mask or a beautiful hand cream is always welcome. At £45, the Chanel Crème Main is super expensive but I love the travel friendly, no mess packaging and formula (a cheaper alternative is the gorgeous L’Occitane Shea Butter hand cream).

Buy CHANEL LA CRÈME MAIN Smooth-Soften-Brighten Bottle Online at

Sadly I’ve run out of the Sisley Black Rose mask (£84.15) and can only dream that someone will give me a tube as a present.

Buy Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask, 60ml Online at

A yummy Christmas candle by my favourite brand. Diptyque Dragon: Fiery Orange from £28.

Dragon: Fiery Orange Christmas Candle, , large

Moomin fans are in for a treat this year with the release of the ‘True to its Origins’ set.  Tove Jansson’s illustrations from her final book, ‘Moominvalley in November’, written just after she had lost her mother, and ‘Moominpappa at Sea’ are incredibly touching and beautiful. The collection comprises a mug, bowl, plate, teapot and cookie jar which can be bought separately. From 24 euros.

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There are also new collectors’ editions of four Moomin books with the original artwork, £9.50 each, published by Profile Books and available here.

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The catalogue from one of the year’s most beautiful exhibitions to make you dream, £50

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The most luxurious vanity case ever to make you feel like a silver screen goddess, even when you travel economy. I’m unlikely ever to own one but have been dreaming of it ever since I saw this in someone’s Instagram gallery. Safari 13″ Vanity Case, £695 from Globetrotter.

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Leather gloves from Madova (from 32 euros) a very old company in Florence, to remind you of the wonderful time you spent there. Marks and Spencer also do an excellent range, starting at £17.

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A beautiful leather bag in a stunning shade of green to enjoy using for many years. £135, And other stories.

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A couple of cosy scarves

John Lewis glitter yarn scarf, £30

Buy John Lewis Glitter Yarn Scarf, Teal Online at


Oasis Jenny chunky knit scarf, £20

Oasis, JENNY CHUNKY KNIT SCARF Bright Yellow 0


Some Art Deco inspired statement earrings, £20, Accesorize.

Or some sparkly ones for the party season. Monsoon short sparkle teardrop earrings, £8.


Some stunning silk pyjamas for that Carole Lombard glamour. Pure silk tie front long sleeve pyjamas, £150 Marks and Spencer (there are also some beautiful black satin ones for £35).

A personal notebook to inspire you to keep a journal. Kate Spade Initial Notebook, £16

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The best marzipan there is in a cake form. Amazon, £6.99

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A selection of Christmas teas, Fortnum and Mason, £13.95.

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And finally some of the finest shortbread biscuits to go with the tea. Traditional shortbread fingers, £5.95 from Fortnum and Mason.


Summer things


Big Sur, 1946, by Ansel Adams

I never long for my school days and would hate to be 17 again, but I look back with more than a touch of nostalgia at the school holidays. Six whole weeks, free from from any worries or obligations.  There were family holidays abroad in Spain, France and Switzerland, lazy days in the garden and hours of television – trashy MTV, and plenty of American shows like Saved by the Bell, My So-Called Life and Beverly Hills 90210. While summer generally doesn’t live up to expectations – British ones are generally a wash-out, Roger Federer doesn’t win Wimbledon, people ask my constantly why I’m so white and mosquitoes drain the blood from my arms and legs whenever I go abroad – I still feel excited around this time of year thinking about it. Long evenings, dinner in the garden while listening to birdsong, the chance to wear summer dresses and go out without a jacket, picnics and cool drinks. So I thought I’d put together some of my favoute summer things for inspiration. I’d love to hear what your essentials are.

Aperol Spritz

My favourite summer drink along with Bellini which reminds me of being in Venice last year, sitting on the terrace watching the sunset. Although I must admit to also enjoying a large glass of Pimm’s whenever Wimbledon is on.

The perfect summer dresses

This one, with a pattern inspired by the Royal Porcelain collection, is for me the essence of the perfect English summer and ideal for tea in the garden.


Royal Worcester Jacquard dress, £78, Oasis

And I can’t resist polka dots


Navy spotted ruffle sundress, £22, Dorothy Perkins


Red shoes to brighten up any outfit


Lily suede flats, £198, J.Crew


The best facial sunscreen to wear under makeup


Murad Luminous Shield, SPF 50, £55

A perfect orange red lipstick

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Nars Audacious Lipstick in Lana, £25

A straw shopper for that Jane Birkin feelinghmprodStraw shopper, £17.99, H&M

A cute hat for protection from the sun


Marl Scarf Summer Hat, £17.50, Marks and Spencer

The perfect tea

This delicious blend can be served hot or cold as according to the Fortnum and Mason website, it’s also excellent for iced tea.

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Afternoon blend tea, from £5.25, Fortnum and Mason

The most delicious summer scent, as worn by Cary Grant, David Niven, Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn

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Acqua di Parma, from £66

And of course, books for summer

It goes without saying that I’ll be reading the blog written by my friend Jan over the summer.

As for books, this year, I’ve got my eye on The Riviera Set about all the glamourous people who spent time at the Château de l’Horizon near Cannes, from Coco Chanel to Rita Hayworth. There’s also Dolce Vita Confidential about 1950s Rome and I’m dying to read The Unfinished Palazzo which tells the story of the three women who lived in the Palazzo Venier in Venice – Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim.

Or if you prefer fiction, can I recommend something by Patricia Highsmith or Ross Macdonald (I love gripping books in summer), some John Cheever short stories, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell about his eccentric childhood in Greece or The Great Gatsby which is the perfect choice at any time of year.

Wrapped in plastic

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Twin Peaks haunted my imagination from the moment it aired in the UK. Not that I was allowed to watch it then – my parents rightly decided I was too young. But it gripped people in a way few shows had done before and in the days before social media, they would gather round the water cooler at work the morning after each new episode was shown to discuss what had happened. The famous image of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic was everywhere and fascinated me – more enigmatic in death than she could ever be in life, I wondered who she really was. People talked about “damn fine coffee” and cherry pie like the kind they served in the Double RR diner and a gorgeous actress called Sherilyn Fenn who played Audrey Horne appeared on the cover of our Radio Times and became my new beauty icon with her dark retro waves and arched eyebrows. Occasionally, I could find a pretext to go into the living room while it was on and get to see a few minutes but that wasn’t really enough. I got my hopes up when my mother bought a copy of ‘Laura Palmer’s Secret Diary’ to give to my father but it was returned to the bookshop after he complained about the bad language and violence in it (why he watched the show, I’ll never understand) without me even managing to open it. It only took me 17 years to finally get around to watching it myself.

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Fast forward to winter in Berlin, 2012. I immediately regretted my choice of footwear the moment I stepped out of the door because it had started to snow. A white blanket covered the city, muffling the sounds of traffic and giving the streets a mysterious quality. Hurrying across Alexanderplatz to change U-Bahn lines, I slipped on a grate and landed flat on my back. This being Berlin though, nobody so much as batted an eyelid as I got up and dusted myself off. Outside the venue for the all night Twin Peaks event in Neukoelln, just one other person was there, a young performance artist who had just moved to Berlin and was working as a waitress to earn some extra money. When doors finally opened, inside I was amazed to find the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks faithfully recreated with its zigzag floor and red drapes and wondered how on earth the large numbers of people who were attending could fit into such a tiny space. I reserved two wooden chairs and was soon joined by my friend Gabi who had never seen the show before. As Angelo Badalamenti’s famous music began, coffee and cherry pie were served and later on red wine. People sat on the floor or crowded round at the back and soon the room was filled with cigarette smoke. Watching Twin Peaks there all night, I realised why I love it so much – part detective story, part teen drama, it manages to be in turn funny then scary in a way no other series has managed to and has a wonderful retro look and a quirky charm.

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I realise it isn’t a show for everyone and has its flaws – too weird or scary for some, it lost its way in the middle of second season which led to a fall in ratings and ultimately its cancellation – but whenever I watch it, I’m reminded of my childhood obsession with it and that wonderful snowy night in Berlin just before I returned to the UK and can still smell the freshly brewed coffee in the Black Lodge. For that reason, it’s like a comfort blanket I reach for whenever I’m ill or in need of cheering up.

Twin Peaks makeup inspiration

The women of Twin Peaks are fabulous and I love the fact that they all have their own looks. I’ve limited myself to focusing on just four – Audrey, Shelley, Donna and Josie.


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The most iconic and popular character from Twin Peaks, Audrey has the most classic, retro makeup, harking back to the Old Hollywood actresses of the Fifties with a flawless base, a soft smoky eye and red lips. Strong brows are the key to this look.

BaseGuerlain Parure Gold Fluid Radiance Foundation, £55

EyesCharlotte Tilbury Sophisticate palette, £38

Guerlain Liquid Eyeliner in Noir Ebène, £23

BrowsAnastasia Beverly Hills Dipbrow Pomade, £15

LipsNars Audacious Lipstick in Rita, £24


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Glamourous waitress Shelly is always groomed to perfection with her strong brows, full lips and thick wavy hair.

BaseCharlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation, £32

EyesTom Ford Cocoa Mirage Eye Colour Quad, £64 (I know it’s expensive but this is my favourite nude palette ever)

BrowsAnastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz, £15.50

LipsMac lipstick in Whirl, £15.50 (those with very pale skins might prefer Bobbi Brown Lip Color in Brownie, £21)


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Donna Hayward is always fresh faced and glowing. She doesn’t seem to wear much makeup so opt for a light base that lets your skin show through and subtle touches of colour to accentuate your natural features.

Base – Laura Mercier Illuminating Tinted Moisturiser, £34

Cheeks and lips – Stila Convertible Colour Dual Lip and Cheek Cream in Peony, £16


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Described as the most beautiful woman in Twin Peaks, Josie has a gorgeous red lip and soft smoky eyes but is there a dark secret behind the exquisite face?

Base – Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick, £42

Eyes – Topshop Smoky Eye Palette in Enigma, £12

Lips – Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet in La Fascinante, £26

Le Rouge et le Noir gift guide, 2016

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Christmas Tree Lane in 1953. Courtesy of the USC Libraries – Los Angeles Examiner Collection

I’m going to start with a confession – I enjoy the process of getting ready to go out much more than the night out itself and frequently, after washing and styling my hair, doing my makeup and choosing an outfit, I prefer to simply curl up on the sofa, watch a film noir and order pizza. It’s the same with Christmas presents – I feel the actual buying and requesting presents for myself is less enjoyable than the window shopping, both real and virtual, and also selecting presents for others. This guide is partly based on things I already have and love and partly, on things which have caught my eye, although not everything here is red or black.

Burberry Lip Velvet in Military Red, £26. I always have a new red lipstick to wear on Christmas Day and this is my choice for 2016.

In terms of eyes, my favourite purchases this year were the Victoria Beckham Estée Lauder Eye Ink in Black Myrrh (above) and the Eye Metals in Bitter Clove and Charred Emerald, £36 each. The packaging for all of these is stunning, very Tom Ford and satisfyingly heavy.

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Paul and Joe beauty mirror, £14, from Asos. Every makeup addict needs a beautiful compact and this one comes in a bag with cats on it.

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The cutest hand creams ever by Tony Moly, £10 each, from Cult Beauty.

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The cherry lip balm, £8, is also pretty irresistible too.

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My favourite cleanser in the world by Emma Hardie, from £38, although I much prefer hot cloth cleansing with a flannel to the scratchy muslin cloth that comes with it. Smells divine too.

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My favourite winter scent, from £105, which is both soft and warm and then cool and elegant.

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This new one, Scent of a Dream by Charlotte Tilbury, from £68, is also lovely, very vintage and sexy. Great if you want a change from Chanel No 5, although personally, I can’t get enough of it.

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Diptyque Christmas candle in Le Roi Sapin, £48, so that everywhere can smell woody and festive. There are also two others, Un Encens Étoilé and Épices et Délices, that sound lovely.

Every year, I buy a new Christmas jumper. I love this one by Boden which is available in white or grey and it currently has 30% off, £69.65 (run, don’t walk!).

A sparkly Fair Isle scarf to brighten up grey winter days, £12, from Tesco

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As a Christmas gift, it’s hard to beat a new pair of pyjamas. I especially like these, £40, from Marks and Spencer’s.

2 Pair Pack Thermal Socks

And some cute thermal socks with wool and silk to go with them, £10 for two pairs, also from Marks and Spencer’s.

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I always look forward to the Moomin winter mug each year, £19. The design for 2016, with the snowhorse, is so beautiful.

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Iittala cranbery kivi, £33, because it looks so festive and pretty. Some of the other colours are much cheaper but not surprisingly, I’m drawn to the red.

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I’ve always wanted one of these iittala Aalto rain vases, £95.

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And I so love this Marimekko teapot, £65.

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Christmas spiced tea, £15, Christmas Coffee, £12.50 and Christmas biscuit tin, £17.50, all from Fortnum and Mason’s.

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A selection of favourite beauty books: Pretty Iconic by Sali Hughes, £12.50, Face by Sam and Nic Chapman, £9.99 and François Nars by François Nars, £42.25.

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And to finish, a selection of non-beauty books. Conclave by Robert Harris, £9.50, The Invention of Angela Carter by Edmund Gordon, £17, Boys in the Trees by Carly Simon, £6.99 and A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford, £20.37.

All change


Le rouge in all its lipstick forms

Le (film) noir with Rita Hayworth as Gilda

If you regularly stop by here, you may have noticed something different. ‘Chimes at midnight’ has become ‘Le rouge et le noir’. In a way, I felt a little restricted by the original name, as if I had to call it that because of my Instagram account and I kept thinking that people would imagine it was only related to films and Orson Welles.

My friend Jan suggested exploring le rouge et le noir through different posts and then I thought it seemed like a more appropriate name for this blog, in light of the fact that I love all things red, particularly lipstick, and that film noir is my favourite genre.

I hope you will get used to the new name and I look forward to taking the blog in new directions which reflect the things I love most.

Things I’d like to bring back

However much I like to complain that I was born in the wrong age, I can’t deny that there are certain aspects of modern life that I love like Instagram, blogging,  DVDs, digital photography and online shopping. Not everything was better in the past. But as a lover of vintage glamour and old films, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are quite a few things I regret the passing of and that I wouldn’t hesitate to bring back if I had the chance to. Here are some of them:

Double features

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There’s just something really cool about hanging out all day at the cinema, seeing two films which complement each other. The Pan-Pacific cinema had a double feature, plus a Disney cartoon and the bargain matinee before 5pm cost just 20 cents. I defy you not to feel nostalgic!


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Which brings me to B-movies. There were films made on a shoestring budget, said to be of inferior quality and designed to fit into the second half of a double feature. Some of these weren’t great but a tiny budget meant directors had more freedom and needed to be even more creative to achieve certain effects. Think of the classic horror films Val Lewton produced like ‘Cat People’ (above) and ‘I Walked With A Zombie’ (and how much less interesting his A-pictures were), or ‘Stranger On The Third Floor’, considered today to be the first film noir or the brilliant ‘The Narrow Margin’ with Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw, below.

Comfort and glamour on air travel

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I never knew the golden age of travel with comfortable seats, champagne, a huge amount of legroom and decent food on board. But when I had just moved abroad and started flying back to the UK, British Airways still had some tiny planes with single rows of window seats on either side, there were not yet any restrictions with liquids and you could check in less than an hour before take-off. It seems like a lifetime ago. Anyway, these vintage photos show that air travel could be luxurious – there was even a ladies’ powder room on board which should definitely be a standard feature on all flights.

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Railway porters

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Porter at a railway station, around 1960, by Bob Collins

Unlike air travel, for me travelling by train still retains a certain old fashioned glamour. Until you consider hauling heavy cases off and on, trying to get it into an already cramped compartment or struggling to lift it overhead. And then repeating all this when you change trains. To this day, it remains an inexplicable mystery to me why there are no porters to help you any more.

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Will Hay and Moore Marriott in the classic ‘Oh, Mr Porter’.


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I’m not a big hat wearer myself, for the simple reason that I’m not sure they really suit me, but I do love to see others wearing them, like in the photo above by Vivian Maier.Maybe if they made a comeback, I’d feel brave enough to wear them regularly too.

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There is a great scene in Jacques Tati’s ‘Trafic’ where the woman gets out her hat instead of a spare tyre from the back of the car.

Railway dining cars

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These featured in my post about vintage rail travel so it’s no surprise they’re here too. In the UK today, catering is limited to the buffet car if you’re lucky where you can get hot drinks in paper cups, sandwiches, chocolate and packets of crisps. If you’re unlucky, it’s a refreshment trolley which may or may not pass through the coach you’re sitting in. I love the idea of dressing nicely and having a decent meal at one of these tables while glancing out of the window at the countryside and towns whizzing by.

Pneumatic tube systems 

Truffaut Baisers volés chemin de la lettre pneumatique from Laboratoire des Hypothèses on Vimeo.

There’s a wonderful scene in François Truffaut’s ‘Baisers Volés’ where Jean-Pierre Léaud’s Antoine Doinel decides to send a pneu to the glamourous Fabienne Tabard, played by Delphine Seyrig. We see it through every step, from the posting of the letter and its insertion into the tube, the journey it makes through the network under the different parts of Paris and finally its arrival into the recipient’s beautiful hands. Of course, emails and SMS removed any need for this outdated technology but it’s hard to imagine them being used in a film to the same effect.

Confessions of a beauty addict


My first beauty idols were my paternal grandmother, never without a cigarette and a glass of gin, who smelled of Yardley’s English Lavender, had a Mason Pearson hairbrush on her dressing table and a compact of Max Factor Crème Puff in her brown handbag whose smell makes you think of Old Hollywood the moment you get a whiff of it (and despite the fact it looks dreadful on my skin, it has a permanent spot in my bathroom cabinet for this very reason), and my mother who will never leave the house without being fully made up and wearing Guerlain’s Mitsouko.


My own love of all things beauty began as a teenager wandering round a department store when I spotted a Clinique Bonus Time gift, consisting of a shiny makeup bag full of miniature products in their trademark green packaging as well as a full size lipstick in Black Honey. I simply had to have it and even though the yellow Clinique soap left my skin feeling like a wrung out dishcloth and the clarifying lotion stung like crazy, I became an addict in constant need of a fix. My parents despaired as I splurged all my money from birthdays and Christmas on trips to the magnificent beauty halls at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Liberty where I could buy famous brands not available elsewhere like Bobbi Brown and Origins. I sold my CDs and anything else I possessed to buy grey eyeliner and concealer from Lancôme, Clarins skincare, Christian Dior plastic shine lipgloss as worn by Emmanuelle Béart, the dreadful YSL Touche Eclat undereye concealer pen which didn’t cover my dark circles, made me look like death warmed up and is still a best-seller today for some inexplicable reason, single gold eyeshadow and foundation from Chanel.  What I couldn’t afford to buy, I enjoyed vicariously through catalogues and magazines where I skipped over all the clothes to get to the beauty section, something I still do today. As you can also see from the photo, my early fascination with Guerlain did not prevent me from becoming a lover of Chanel No. 5.


Then about ten years ago, the unthinkable happened. I gave up wearing makeup altogether because my man I wasted the best years of my life on preferred me to look natural and thought cosmetics were simply a waste of money. It was only years later when I developed a chronic skin condition and discovered Sali Hughes’ column in The Guardian that I realised how much I had missed wearing makeup and how badly I needed it to get me through the misery of acne rosacea.


Today I wear more than ever, all day and every day and have no intention of going bare-faced anytime soon. I don’t judge others for not wearing it but am aware that being a beauty addict provokes a wide range of reactions, mostly that of incomprehension or disapproval. Why do I possess 50 lipsticks, mostly red, when some shades must be similar, or why do I buy more makeup than I could possibly ever use? Beauty is frivolous, vain and expensive. But I would argue they’re missing the point. Makeup is fun and creative because you can play with different colours and looks, it’s powerful because once you wear it, you feel as if you’re ready for anything, and I find it a great comfort knowing that however bad things get, I can always reach for my makeup bag.