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Makeup for the over-40s

If you've never worn makeup at all, your 40s and 50s is a good time to start.

Graftobian colour palette

Recently I had to make up someone for a film role and that was an interesting experience. 

M doesn't usually wear much makeup other than mascara and I had to make her look unflatteringly older, so basically did the opposite of what you'd do normally. But that led to some discussion about how to do her makeup in everyday life - she liked mine but didn't know what to do for herself - and it made me realise that there must be many women out there who aren't au fait with makeup. 

Makeup can be a good friend to you as you get older. At 50, I'm now at the stage where I think I look a bit ill without it. Days that I don't wear it - and I don't wear it every day, on principle - if I catch sight of myself in the mirror I often feel I look a bit tired and grey. At this age, makeup isn't about looking sexy any more, it's about looking healthy.

Given that M was also astounded by some of my kit, such as the length of my makeup brushes (she was using the tiny ones supplied with products), I thought I'd write a quick guide to making up in your 40s and older, and the key equipment you might find useful.

Here are my key makeup items, though you don't by any means need all of them and I don't use all of them every day. Some of the multiples of an item are products I bought to test, or for my 'professional' kit. 

Elf Studio colour corrector palette


* BB cream: currently Diadermine Lift+ BB Mousse in Nude.
* Primer: Smashbox Photofinish original (black tube); Monistat Chafing Gel (a dupe for Smashbox); Bourjois colour-correcting cream; Boots colour correcting cream.  
* Foundation: Clinique Superfit (discontinued) in Neutral (used as a concealer); Clinique Redness Solutions in Calming Ivory; Graftobian HD cream foundation neutral colour palette 1; Beauty UK cheapie foundation from a discount store.
* Concealer/corrector: YSL Touche Eclat in 01 and 02, Maybelline Dream Lumi Highlighting Concealer in nude, Diadermine + Retouche Jeuness BB Crème Pinceau; Shamy six-colour concealer palette (part of box set).
* Blusher: Maybelline Dream Touch Blush in Apricot, Peach and Prune; Shamy six-colour powder blush palette (part of box set). 
* Powder: Yves Rocher loose translucent powder; Corn Silk loose translucent powder; ELF Studio High Definition Powder in Shimmer; Dior pressed translucent powder; Rimmel Stay Matte pressed powder; ELF Studio Tone Correcting Powder; Ben Nye Luxury Powder in Banana.
* Makeup fixative: ELF Studio Makeup Mist n Set. 

ELF 144-colour palette in neutrals

* Mascara: La Roche-Posay Respectissime Ultra Doux, black; La Roche-Posay Respectissime Densificateur, black; Ben Nye mascaras in plum and clear; L'Oréal Voluminous x 5, carbon black.
* Eyeshadow: Maybelline 4-colour Smokey Eyes palette; Terre d'Oc mineral eyeshadow; various cheapies; ELF 144-colour neutrals palette; ELF 100-colour brights palette; Shamy 112 colours in four palettes (part of box set). 
* Eyeliner: Revlon Dipped End Pencil in Underwood.
* Kohl eye pencils: Revlon Crayon Eye Liner Suede Brown; Revlon Wet n Dry in brown; several cheapies from a discount store in black. 
* Eyebrow colour: Ultima eyebrow pencil with built-in brush (discontinued) in Dark Blonde; HB pencil.

Chanel Rouge Allure 14 Passion

* Lipsalve: Klorane raspberry flavour; Carmex; Elevation 3196 Mallow Soothing Balm; Vaseline. 
* Lip liner: Yves Rocher and Terre d'Oc - half a dozen different colours; eye liners by Arcancil in pink and orange. 
* Lipstick: various, by Chanel, Maybelline, Revlon, Serge Lutens, Yves Rocher, Cien etc, mostly in shades of red and pink, decanted into a colour palette. 
* Lip gloss: 16-colour palette in Shamy box set; flavoured lip glosses.  

The tools I use to apply these are:

ELF studio flat topped powder brushFACE
* Sponge wedges: Alcone and ELF
* Beauty blender: Camera Ready Cosmetics
* Foundation brush: ELF, Nocibé, Yves Rocher and cheapie TomTop from Ebay
* Stipple brush: ELF
* Fan brushes: Tomtop 
* Flat topped powder brush: ELF 
* Powder puff: ELF, Boots' own
* Concealer brush: ELF Studio line 
* Blusher brush: Nocibé  

* Eyelash curlers: Boots own-brand, ELF own brand
* Eyeshadow brushes: Nocibé, ELF Professional and Studio lines and TomTop 
* Eyeliner brushes: Nocibé and TomTop 
* Eyebrow brush: Ultima, TomTop, spoolies (disposable mascara wands) from Camera Ready Cosmetics. 

* Lip brush: retractable from Nocibé, TomTop 24-piece and 22-piece sets.

In Part Two, I'll look at how to apply a daily makeup.  


Sober times at the haute couture

Times are tough, and Paris haute couture week reflected that

Chanel suitHaving had a look at the major collections from Paris haute couture week, I would say the general feeling is sobriety.

Orange Dior suitFrom every designer, the palette was dark - black, navy and grey for the most part - though there were splashes of other colours (at Dior, take your pick from acid green, acid yellow, acid pink, acid orange...Dior is clearly the only house where anyone's having any fun). 

The fashions were also buttoned up and protective - not snuggly protective, but more like armour. Corsets, basques, double-breasted jackets, heavily constructed skirts, leather trenchcoats. This is a definite sign of the times - clothing for getting caught in the rain or standing in the dole queue. There was little that looked positive or optimistic.

Gaultier jacketAlong with the distinctly military-style wear seen at Wimbledon (trenchcoats on Serena, full quasi-naval uniform for Federer), this is a worrying trend. You tend to get it when the right-wing is on the rise, as seen in about 1938, before the First World War and during the Napoleonic wars. Arm for war and war will follow. The only thing that makes me less worried is that these fashions also offer the distinctively feminine post-war New Look design of skirt. 

There was also a whiff of 1950s glamour about most of the collections - a serious, sober, grown-up era - and conversely the early 70s with a rather Muir-ish Biba-eyed smoky decadent look, particularly the tight head wraps at Lacroix. At Gaultier, we were back in the 60s, with Bardot beehives, but his collection in general was a bit of a mess, as were several others, including Valentino and Chanel. Whatever the decade, with the future uncertain, designers were clearly taking refuge in the past. 

LacroixPerhaps the best collection was what may prove to be a swansong - Lacroix's. Once again he is facing bankruptcy, but pulled a rabbit out of a hat with a collection which was sober, restrained and perfectly cut rather than his usual flower-festival style of clashing colours and patterns. (For those who have never seen his flamboyant haute couture style in the flesh though, it is unbelievably beautiful in close-up - much more so than you would ever guess from a picture.) In his new restrained mood, I absolutely love this black dress with its three different fabrics and subtle pattern. It also shows one of the signature shoulder treatments of all the collections: if you want to update your little black cocktail dress this year, an ample chiffon wrap tied around and secured with a pin will be much more on-trend than a shrug.  

Armani jacketFor me, the main garment that really stood out in every collection was the jacket. You could probably update your whole wardrobe this winter with just one new jacket - look for something with a bit of neckline interest, which is very flattering for women over 40. 

In the main these jackets seemed designed to shield the wearer from the elements - structured rather than flimsy, and glamourously practical, with proper buttons and often high necklines. Distinctly waisted, too, and soemtimes with a peplum. A peplum is a useful disguise if your waist is thickening, btw, as it introduces a shape you haven't got. 

Pink dior jacketHowever, at Dior, always an exaggerated show, Galliano morphed the peplums into full-on version of New Look on steroids, wth padded hips, tiny waists, basques and corsets galore. (He also sent his models down the runway half-dressed, though this need not concern us.) What it does show, though, is a definite return to a tight-waisted silhouette after a decade and a half of a longer, more elongated silhouette. 

Armani pantsuitIt remains to be seen whether the fashion industry can foist this on us. It is good news for me - this style suits me and I have many vintage jackets in this style - but it isn't for most women, who are generally more flattered by an elongated shape than an hourglass one. Many women will greet it with dismay.

For a small-busted British pear with no belly fat, it's a good shape - the wider shoulders balance the silhouette and give you a figure you haven't got. But apple-shaped or oblong women, beware. Your best bet is to hope that those Armani pantsuits with a longer, narrower jacket hit the shops in watered-down and more affordable guise. 

For hundreds more photos and reviews of all the collections, visit

Whiter than white

The colour message from the Chanel show was white, white, white - sometimes with black trim - an endlessly classic combination

Chanel suitI really rather liked the clothes at the Chanel show for Paris Haute Couture Week yesterday. Crisp, clean, very white, pretty businesslike.

It was a strong image, with an A-line skirt (flattering for most women) and a neat shoulder, slightly wide, to balance the hips. 

Most of us will have to make do without the lovely bits of extra trim that made the Chanel collection so exquisite, of course: wafer-thin wisps of thread, cut-out paper flowers, crystal beads and all the rest of it (this is couture, after all, not ready to wear), but silhouette is always the strongest message in any fashion collection, and clearly here, Lagerfeld meant business. 

The look reminds me rather of Cardin in the 1960s, or Oleg Cassini (more Jackie O references), especially the standaway collars, which came in all kinds of designs. Very clean, ladylike and grown-up. Clothes for responsible adults, by and large.

Colour was replaced almost entirely by texture - guipure lace, crystal beading, ostrich feathers, all kinds of chiffons and voiles, and stiffer fabrics such as pique (aren't these meant to be autumn/winter clothes?). If you didn't fancy white, there was cream or ivory (OK: not exactly much of a choice), or - a perennial favourite - white with black trim. 

I have always liked this look. One year, I made myself a white sundress with black polka dots, trimmed with black and white striped bias binding - it could be worn with either black or white shoes and jacket, and always looked clean and fresh no matter how hot the weather got.

What's nice about monochrome as a fashion look for this year is that it's eminently easy to copy on a budget (not that this is of much concern to Mr Lagerfeld, I imagine). A quick swap of white buttons onto a black cardi, or vice-versa, a white dress pulled in with a big black belt, or a fluffy white collar added to a black coat and you've nodded to the zeigeist without having to break sweat.

I note, too, a tendency for layering, which is quite appealing - a cropped jacket over a hip-length top, over a knee-length top, over narrow trousers. The key is to keep it close-fitting and neat, rather Nehru in style, rather than baggy and enveloping.  

For a full view of the fashion collections, visit


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