You wouldn’t guess it to look at me, but I have been fascinated by fashion and beauty for as long as I can remember. I spent many blissful summer hours in my grandmother’s house in Las Vegas staging “fashion shows” which featured outfits put together from her glorious stash of designer scarves, gloves, and costume jewelry. Even as a tiny girl, I knew her shoes were something special. There were gold gladiator sandals encrusted with faux stones, gold mesh mules embellished with a metal flower that made a satisfying slap on the floor with every step, and a pair of black and one of brown pointy-toe crocodile pumps lined in gleaming cream satin that still inspire a sense of reverence in me when I think of them.
I never saw her wear any of this finery—by the time I knew her, her uniform had become the muumuu. I asked her once why she never wore any of the jewelry, and her reply was that she was allergic to it. I wondered to myself how she was able to bear this cruel deprivation without even seeming upset about it. I surely didn’t know the name of Audrey Hepburn, but when I tied a black and white scarf around my head, put on some giant black sunglasses and slipped my feet into the alligator pumps, all felt well with the world.
Playing dress-up was always the best thing to do next to reading a book. Remember Color Me Beautiful from the 80’s, when everyone was having their “colors done” to find out what season they were? Fascinating.
And I have ALWAYS been a sucker for a skillfully-done makeover. Mind you, there are plenty that aren’t. Back in the day when I used to have just one fussy infant and no cable, I used to turn on the Oprah Winfrey show (there, I said it) if they were doing makeovers of people or home interiors. I stopped, though, not only because I was sickened by the sight of Oprah basking in the shrieking adulation of grown women who should know better, but also because I was not at all impressed by what her team accomplished. Another show that was on at the same time was Ambush Makeover, and those stylists knew what they were doing. Everyone looked better at the end.
Major life changes for me in the past few years have brought all of this to the forefront of my mind. I now have a body that’s had two kids. I no longer dress to go to the office every day. What the helk (as Nels said the other day) do I wear now? How do I balance the need to look presentable with the need to get five extra minutes of sleep? Why get out of my pajama pants? I no longer have hours to myself to comb through thrift stores for great finds. Solutions that worked before no longer do, and I will descend on the steep path to severe schlumpiness if I don’t work it out.
So I’ve been mulling this all over lately. Believe it or not, this is only the first half. I have more thoughts on makeover shows for the next installment. For anyone at all interested in beauty and popular culture, I would highly recommend this short but extremely insightful article by the scintillatingly named Garance Franke-Ruta. She’s got a very interesting perspective that goes against the popular wisdom of the day.