Cate Linden

bespoke personal style coaching

How to Dress an Apple Shape

 
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First, I’d like to say that I will never suggest you try to “camouflage” any part of your body with wardrobe trickery. Balance IS an important component to assembling an outfit, but when I see the term “balance out” in regards to dressing your shape, it’s usually referring to some kind of attempt to trick the viewer into thinking you don’t actually have those wider hips or wider shoulders or larger bust or whatever physical feature has been deemed undesirable. (I could go on a whole rant here about how many of those “dress for your body shape” infographics hold up the not-that-common “hourglass” shape as the epitome of female beauty and imply that every other shape needs correction via garments).

There is NOTHING WRONG with the way you look. There is nothing wrong with your bone structure. There is nothing wrong with where and how you carry weight. 

I’d also like to note that the presence of curves and/or fleshiness does not necessarily mean you are a romantic-influenced archetype. Any archetype can be curvy or fleshy. On the flip side, not every woman with a romantic-influenced archetype is extremely curvy. 

Here are just some of my go-to techniques for dressing an apple shape*:

1. Get a bra fitting. Support comes from the band, not the straps. If you’ve found your bra size by measuring your underbust and adding inches, you are not getting your bust support from the band. Cup size is also proportional to band size: DD means nothing without the accompanying band measurement, so a woman wearing a 30DD will be much smaller-chested than a woman wearing a 38DD. Letters do not stop at DD! I’ve had clients shocked to find they are really an H or even a K cup, but they are much more comfortable in the new bras than they were in the old. If you can, get fitted at a local bra boutique or even a Nordstrom; they’ll be able to advise not only on a good fit but on styles that fit your breast shape and your preferred level of coverage. Having a comfortable and supportive bra will make ALL of your clothing look better.

2. Avoid strong waist definition if you don't have a defined waist. You’ve probably already noticed that trying to emphasize the waist via a belt or tucking at the waist just draws attention to the lack of one. Still, you want to avoid adding excess volume, or letting fabric get too far away from the body. Stay away from very boxy/wide tops, such as square-cut shirts or trapeze shapes. Instead look for tops which are more fitted through the shoulders and bust, with a moderate amount of flow beyond that point.

3. Look for thicker knit fabrics vs super thin clingy ones. These fabrics provide comfort and freedom of movement without emphasizing every contour of your body. Sometimes these are advertised simply as “jersey,” which doesn’t help you when shopping online (vs in-store, where you can feel the fabric in hand.) Ponte knit and scuba fabrics are great. Side ruching, princess seaming, and soft draping can help provide a little natural shaping without that ultra-cinched look. Many women with an apple shape prefer patterned tops, or tops with a more open/detailed neckline. 

4. Wear higher-waisted pants and skirts. Lower-waisted styles will often cut into the fleshiest part of a woman’s hip or midsection, which creates a “muffin top” and is just frankly uncomfortable. Higher-waisted styles will also provide some smoothing under tops. Aim for the spot that naturally feels the most comfortable to you and cuts you off the least when sitting/moving around. For some women that will be more of a mid-rise, for other women it will be difficult to find a rise that’s high enough. The best cut of your pants through the legs will depend on your archetype.

5. Let your tops lay over the waistband of your pants/skirts, instead of tucking them in. tucking tops into your pants/skirts. Your ideal shirt length will then depend on the rise of your bottom pieces and the type of shirt you’re wearing (a tunic vs a tee, for example). Slightly flared crop tops are trendy right now and they can often look really chic worn over a skirt or high-waisted jeans.

If you've read this far and you don't know what kind of silhouette strategy, shapes, or design details are best for you - or how to pull them all together into a coherent personal style - I'd love to chat with you. You can schedule a free exploration call with me here.

*I use this term because it’s the term women with this shape usually use when they approach me for help.

 

Do you set style goals?

 
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I’m a planner. I love calendars and checklists - “let’s play it by ear” is my worst nightmare. I’m organized to a fault, because I know that without a specific game plan, I won’t get anything done. Instead I’ll set a grand goal, do absolutely nothing toward accomplishing it, and then sit around wondering why my dreams aren’t coming true.

Within a few months of learning my season and my archetype, my wardrobe not only excited me, but it was full of my most flattering shapes, colors, and accessories. Intuition carried me a long way, and I made the process look easy…but I’d planned it all out, down to the last detail. I did not just wander into the mall and emerge with a fully-formed personal style. I had a clear aesthetic goal in mind and took specific actions to help me reach it.

Let me be clear: PCA and PIA are TOOLS. They are not magic spells which will relieve you of doing the work on your own wardrobe.

You absolutely have to get out there, try things on, come up with whole new questions, and figure out what you like. You have to think critically about your clothes, your lifestyle, your shopping habits, and what you want your style to say about you.

Knowing you’re a Bright Winter who should be wearing tops with waist definition is great, but that knowledge alone won’t build your wardrobe for you.

Every day I help women set wardrobe goals and break those goals down into actionable steps. If you need some help getting started, you can schedule a free exploration call with me here.

Skincare: Before and After

 
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Today’s before and after highlights the importance of a great skincare routine.

In the first photo, I’m actually wearing MORE makeup, including concealer on breakouts and a powder foundation. In the second photo, I’m not wearing any foundation whatsoever, though I put a little concealer under my eyes to cancel out blueness. I’ve obviously improved my makeup skills and styled my hair (and gotten happier!) but I’m wearing Dark Autumn cosmetic shades in both pictures.⁣

I’ve always had oily, acne-prone skin. I remember my struggle with blackheads beginning around age 12, and to this day I can wake up without any blackheads and magically have five by noon. For years I tried to combat my skin issues by using apricot scrubs, charcoal soaps, and harsh alcohol-based toners. I rarely moisturized because I was afraid I’d break out, and I only used sunscreen on my face if I was going to the pool. The result? I was 25 in the first photo with dull, extremely sun-damaged skin, and my face always looked flushed. ⁣

A couple of years ago I began researching skincare and I learned that my skin was likely dehydrated, causing it to feel dry and tight even though it was overproducing oil. At first, I bought soooo many products without properly researching them and actually made my acne issues worse. I backed away from skincare for about a year after that, just doing a basic cleanser and moisturizer. I also struggled mightily with hormonal cystic acne during this time, and visited a dermatologist. She put me on a topical acne medication called Aczone, which I adored because it never dried out my skin, and an oral medication called Spironolactone, neither of which I am using at the time of this writing.

When I started exploring skincare again, I did significantly more research and acquired a dream team of products that work for me, including several chemical exfoliants (I don’t use all of them every day- I space them out to avoid overexfoliation), a cosmetically elegant SPF50 (which I wear rain or shine, even if I’m just getting in the car to drive to the library), a low-Ph cleanser, and lightweight hydrators. My skin is no longer particularly oily, though it’s still acne-prone and needs some babying.⁣

You can spend a little on skincare or you can spend a lot, and I recommend thinking about your skin goals before buying a single thing. Are you looking to combat acne? Fade sun damage? Plump wrinkles? Hydrate? Brighten? Honestly, I’m looking to do all of the above, but at the beginning of my journey my main goals were to fade sun damage and combat acne, so I searched for products that did just that. Google obsessively, read reviews on Reddit and blogs, search COSDNA to see how the ingredients stack up. I search every potential product on COSDNA to make sure the ingredients are low on the comedogenic scale. ⁣

I used to buy tons of makeup, always hoping for that magic glow, but now I realize that glow comes from the skin. I still wear and enjoy makeup, I still think it's important to wear seasonally appropriate shades for maximum harmony, but I concentrate my beauty spending on skincare. My skin looks (and feels!) bouncy and hydrated and luminous, and I plan to take care of it for a long time to come.

By popular request I've put together a catalog (with commentary) featuring my skincare dream team. These are affiliate links and I receive a small kickback if you purchase through my link from some (but not all) of these sites. I have only listed products I personally use and love . I fiddle around with my routine on the regular, so I will do my best to keep this current.

 

Dressing my changing size and shape

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After gaining a significant amount of weight in the past 8 months - easily the most dramatic weight shift I’ve undergone aside from pregnancy - I was forced back to the drawing board with my closet.

Practically speaking, I outgrew a tremendous number of things at once, including all of my pants, all of my bras and underwear, and the majority of my skirts and dresses. I lost plenty of basics, and sadly can no longer fit into some of my very favorite statement pieces...including a cocktail dress I was saving for a “special occasion” and never wore. Learn from my mistake: wear your special stuff!

Constructing outfits with such a limited wardrobe was tricky. I wasn’t comfortable replacing everything right away lest I continued to gain weight (which I did, and am still doing), so I wore the same couple dresses all summer long. I was desperately bored. When autumn arrived and my weight gain slowed, I relied on my thrifting skills for some much-needed closet infusions.

My physical archetype and corresponding dressing strategies haven’t changed, but my shape has become an exaggerated version of itself. I’m now much more pear-shaped, which I adore, but I was surprised to find that many of my old outfit formulas no longer resonate with me. For example:

  • Belts used to be the perfect finishing touch for blouse and skirt combos, but now that my waist is wider and my hip shelf is even higher, I hardly wear them.

  • Give me all the bodycon silhouettes! I have so much hip and thigh volume that I don’t necessarily need to add more with a flared skirt, even though I still like them. Clingier shapes play up my curves more than they did XX lbs ago, so I’m having a lot of fun with them.

  • I’ve found myself drifting toward a more simple sensuality in detailing, rather than the more calculated aesthetic I once strove for. Light draping, relaxed florals, and simple jewelry are the sweet spot for me right now.

My style is still my style, and recognizable as such, but there’s been a very real shift in how I dress and what appeals to me.

I love my body’s new fullness and curves, and most importantly I cherish the happiness that spurred my weight gain in the first place. If embracing that happiness means making changes to the way I dress, that’s okay with me. And while living with a leaner wardrobe as I seek out quality replacements for outgrown pieces is sometimes dull, I’m ultimately fine with it, because at the end of the day, I know that personal style is an ongoing project. What worked for you five years or fifty pounds ago might not work for you now, and that’s okay.

Weight loss or gain is one of the primary reasons women seek my help with their wardrobes. If you’re not sure how to dress your new shape or you just want some help fine-tuning your look, I hope you’ll send me a message.

An unexpected testimonial

Scrolling through my newsfeed the other day, I was so touched to see this testimonial from my incredible client Katherine. I'm sharing it with all of you because she touches on one of the most important facets of my work: teaching you to be your own stylist.

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"This is the greatest holiday dress in the history of dresses and Cate Linden is the greatest stylist in the history of stylists.

Yes, I have a stylist. Leading up to my 40th birthday, I decided to systematically annihilate all of my insecurities. For four decades, I perceived myself to be bad at getting dressed. I want to spend the next forty years feeling confident in my clothes.

Cate didn’t pick this out. She taught me how to pick this out for myself. She works patiently, with logic *and* poetry. Hiring her was one of the kindest and wisest things I’ve ever done for myself.

Now someone throw a party so I can show up wearing the Milky Way, OK?”

Katherine is curating a wardrobe that's polished, celestial, and exciting - a wardrobe that brings her joy. It's my privilege to guide her through the process.

How I Built a Kickass Wardrobe at Thrift Stores

I rarely buy my clothing new anymore, and I’ve never been so excited by my closet.

Switching to thrift stores wasn’t a momentous or even a very conscious decision for me; I was just finding so much amazing stuff that I lost the motivation to look elsewhere. A couple of weeks ago I found a beautiful Elie Tahari cocktail dress with mermaid gathers. It fits me like a glove, and I wore it to a nice dinner with my boyfriend. It was $5!

Thrift stores are carnivals of color and style, a sampling of brands both mainstream and fringe - and that makes them great for surprises. I wasn’t particularly looking for a cocktail dress, and wouldn’t have hunted for one, but stumbling into one yielded a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

I still buy pieces new from time to time, but I buy them very judiciously. Great style has little to do with where you shop or what you spend, and while I don’t mind investing in a high quality piece (with a perfect fit and spectacular design details), I usually wait and see if thrifting will yield a better option.

Here are seven ways I’ve built a remarkable wardrobe at thrift stores:

  1. I shop strategically. I keep an updated list of specific pieces I need in my wardrobe, and I prioritize them when browsing and buying. I totally buy fabulous things that aren’t on my priority list, but I try not to lose sight of what I actually need - and that list is especially helpful when I’m short on shopping time.

  2. I make snap judgments. Not my season or anywhere close to it? Next. Design feature totally incompatible with my archetype? Next. Those two hangers are impossibly tangled together? Next. Don’t linger at the rack trying to make decisions, you’ll exhaust yourself before you even try anything on. When in hopeful doubt, I add the item to my basket.

  3. I take my time in the dressing room. I try everything on. Even if I’m 99% sure it’s perfect. Even if I have the same dress in the same size at home. And especially if I’m skeptical and/or hopeful. Some of my very favorite things are only mine because I took them into the dressing room with me on a whim. I check every item for a perfect fit - close isn’t good enough! Try-ons can also uncover any potential flaws that you may not have noticed on the hanger, like stains, snags, and wonky zippers.

  4. I use my imagination. I don’t have my entire wardrobe in the dressing room with me for try-ons, so I have to think creatively and envision outfits in my head. How will this blouse look with the skirts I have at home? Can it be tucked in or will it result in a bumpy tube of fabric around my hips? I do purchase things without a clear partner waiting at home, but I do so carefully; buying lots of pieces that require buying another piece is a slippery slope. The more pieces I can mix and match in my closet, the better.

  5. I don’t compromise. You aren’t saving money or making wise wardrobe choices if you bring home pieces that aren’t right for you, no matter how little you spend. This is a surefire way to dilute your closet and take you back where you started. If you know perfectly well you aren’t going to have that skirt altered, don’t buy it. If you’ll never be able to wear that dress without a magical strapless bra, don’t buy it. And do NOT buy that shirt you wholeheartedly know is wrong for you under the justification of “it’s so soft and it’s only $2” because you WILL wear it and you WON’T feel good in it. (Ask me how I know).

  6. I shop frequently. I personally feel less pressure to bring home a huge haul (and compromise on my ideals) if I never let my wardrobe bore me or get down to bare bones. I thrive on a steady infusion of new pieces paired with regular wardrobe cleanouts. Most thrift stores turn over their inventory quickly, so you can visit often and still avoid being confronted with things you’ve already passed over.

  7. I donate my unworn clothes. I have no time for wardrobe static, so if I’m not wearing it, I pay it forward. I’m so glad all those other women did!

If you’re reading this and thinking that you have no idea:

  • what kind of pieces you’re looking for in the first place

  • what constitutes a good fit (for you)

  • how to create a practical shopping strategy

  • and how to construct outfits, in your head and in real life

    Send me a message, I’d love to help!

Why I Don't Own Yoga Pants

A few months ago, I emerged from my bedroom on a Saturday morning wearing a pair of yoga pants and a sweater that was, shall we say, less than inspiring. I wasn't feeling it. Not the outfit, not the day. I was planning to wash my face, wrap my hair into a bun and tune out. Until my 6-year-old stopped dead in his snack-requesting tracks and said, 

"What are you wearing?"

What was I wearing? 

My son was very young when I forged my personal style, and he's used to seeing me a certain way: polished, confident, and usually sporting a dress and lipstick. Very little stands to differentiate between an outfit I'd wear to meet with a styling client, an outfit I'd wear to the grocery store, and an outfit I'd wear on a date. My wardrobe is compact, consistent, and comfortable.

My kids see me in pajamas, of course. They see me when I'm sick. They know that I am not always skillfully dressed. But my son picked up the vibe I was putting down that day: I flat out didn't care, and I was advertising my malaise with my outfit.

So I made breakfast. I took a shower. I scrunched gel into my curls. I did my makeup and I changed into a pair of patterned tights and a cotton dress. Ultimately, I was just as physically comfortable as I'd been in the yoga pants and ratty sweater, but I looked like a person who cared about her day. And for me, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you're struggling to dress to your highest potential on the good days, the bad days, and all the in-between days, I can help! I'd love to chat with you.

The Woman in the Photo

 
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The woman in the first photo? She was lost. And she was more than a little miserable.

I remember this day with remarkable clarity. My then-husband and I had taken our children to an outdoor festival, and I was wearing jeans, because although I actually owned a modest collection of both skirts and shorts, I hated them on myself and rarely wore them. Which was as good as not having them! So there I was, on a humid summer day, sweating in jeans that were not only hot but fit poorly. I spent half the day trying to discreetly tug them back over my hips. My shirts consisted almost exclusively of Target tanks, so I was wearing one of those too.

I’d purchased the handbag because it looked very chic online, but it was so bulky and square on me that every time I carried it I thought I must look like I was on my way to rob a bank. Plus, it was heavy. And while I was wearing makeup (because I never left home without it), I certainly can’t tell, even if I ignore the blown-out photo quality.

On that day I felt so grateful that I was able to hide myself behind my baby. Nothing about my outfit expressed even a glimmer of who I truly was. Not a single thing about it made my heart leap; in fact, the entire outfit made my heart sink. And to make matters that much worse, I felt intense guilt that my wardrobe woes were front and center in my mind on a day where I was supposed to be enjoying my family.

In the end, I held my lanterns high and found my way out of the maze. And if I’m ever having a bad day, my outfit has nothing to do with it.

My Blue Skirt and the Magic of Personal Image Analysis

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I bought this skirt three years ago. I'd found a wonderful etsy seller who sewed custom skirts. She had a couple different styles available, and you could use her in-stock fabric or send your own. I ordered some fabric samples, picked out a navy linen (probably Soft Autumn, but close enough for me) and shipped her the yardage. I gave her my waist measurement and my preferred hem length, and a couple weeks later my skirt arrived. It was a moderately expensive garment, and at the time I remember feeling very fancy and even overly self-indulgent having something custom made for me.

I have now worn this skirt so many times that it has cost me a quarter or less per wear. I've worn it in every season, in multiple states. I've worn it on playdates, on real dates, for professional photos, for PCAs. I've worn it with sweaters and with tanks, with belts and without. One day I snagged it on a nail and felt real panic. I had it darned.

I'd invested in wardrobe pieces before, to ill effect: a very tailored Mad Men-style dress that made me feel claustrophobic and left me tugging the skirt down all night, cashmere v-necks that looked elegant online and frumpy on me, pointy-toed flats that felt like a costume. These pieces depressed me when I looked at them; they were beautiful (and expensive!) but wrong for me, and I didn't know why. Like many women, I blamed my body. 

When I was draped as a Dark Autumn during my PCA training in March 2014, I had one autumn shirt in my wardrobe, and I'd spent the previous five years pregnant or nursing. I needed a new wardrobe badly. But when I wandered into the mall, I was still confused. I knew I needed rich autumn colors, but what about shapes? I knew what I liked, but buying what I liked had led me astray so many times that I knew it was not a reliable strategy.

Rachel Nachmias of Best Dressed was truly my guardian angel during this time. A fellow color analyst, she had fine-tuned an image archetype system based on your bone structure, your flesh type, and your individual essence. I was fascinated, and like I had with PCA before my training, I tried to figure out my archetype myself. This did not go so well. In fact, it went just like all of my shopping experiences before: I bought things and felt wrong in them.

Eventually I came to Rachel for help, and she explained to me, through a detailed analysis of my features, why I am a Yin Natural and no other type- much like your color analyst explains to you during a draping why you are a Dark Autumn and no other season. She indulged my many neurotic "Huh! Really? Well, what about this?" questions, gave it to me straight when I was trying to rationalize iffy purchases, and frankly turned my wardrobe completely around. When shopping during those first couple years, I held close the "autumn wood nymph" nickname she'd given me. It was an image that resonated with me, an image I could easily visualize, and an image I could build a workable- but not boring- wardrobe around.

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For the first time in my life I felt that I was well dressed, and without any agonizing effort. I bought things according to the guidelines for my archetype, and I felt good in them. I learned how to stay true to my own personal taste while choosing shapes that flattered my body. I did this on a budget, picking up pieces here and there, and I still maintain a smaller wardrobe. When I purchased my beloved blue skirt, I knew where and how it would sit on my waist. I knew it would be the proper length for my proportions. I knew the cut of the skirt would allow for the curve of my hips without distorting my shape. It was a purchase made in simple confidence, and that confidence has extended to each and every time I've worn it. 

Over my four years of providing Personal Color Analysis, I regretted that I could not personally help my clients with this other, crucial piece of the getting dressed puzzle. And so I am completely over-the-moon thrilled to announce that after an intensive training with Rachel, I am now offering Personal Image Analysis to my own clients.

This transformational service can now be scheduled via my calendar, with appointments beginning in May. 
 

YSL Vinyl Cream Lip Stains

Lots of to-do lately about the Yves Saint Laurent Vinyl Cream Lip Stain line. These are fairly similar to the YSL Glossy Stain line, which my colleague Rachel swatched and reviewed.

First, a review-

Application: It took me about a week of regular use to master crisp lines with the spongy doe foot applicator. If you wear liquid lipstick regularly, you'll probably have an easier time than I did. You have to work quickly, because if you go back over the stain before it has set, the finish will become tacky and the color patchy. I found it was best to apply one coat, then wait a couple minutes and apply the second.

Finish: These are less, well, glossy than the Glossy Stains. "Vinyl" is a fairly accurate description, as the finish isn't ultra high-shine, but it isn't satin, either. They do have a creamier look than the glossy stains. The difference in texture is akin to the difference between berry juice (glossy stains) and melted ice cream (vinyl stains), but they aren't thick going onto the lips. If you gently blot the top coat after letting it set, you'll have a slightly more satin look, which I like.

Staying Power: Pretty incredible. These take about 10-15 minutes to fully set. If you apply and immediately reach for your coffee cup, there will be a crescent of lipstick on that coffee cup. This problem is easily solved by light blotting (I usually am fervently anti-blot, but for this formula, I'll change my registration to pro-blot). I find many lipsticks, even traditional formulas, do this within the first 15 minutes, or will come off on your coffee cup once and then be sufficiently blotted down by the cup, and stop transferring after that point. Anyway, I digress...

I recently put on two coats of 409 around 8 am, blotted very gently with a tissue, and headed to my studio for drapings. I talked a lot that day, drank two bottles of water (from a Camelbak spout, no less), ate two meals, and when I properly assessed my lipstick again around 7 pm, it had settled down to a beautiful rosy stain with no unevenness. This formula is my new go-to for days and situations when the last thing I want to worry about is reapplying my lipstick.

Other Comments: These do boast the standard YSL rose scent. I love it, but it may not be to everyone's taste. In any case, I don't think it lingers long. At $36 a pop, these are NOT cheap, and certainly a treat. I haven't used up a tube of lipstick since I was 13 and wearing a shimmery mauve Jane lipstick that was certainly not my season, so I'm not sure how long it takes one to go through a stain like this. Readers, feel free to chime in if you've ever used up a Glossy Stain or other liquid lipstick. I salute you.

Keep in mind the standard color disclaimer of differing monitors, etc. etc., and the fact that my photos turned out a bit muted.

The seasons as I see them-

401 Rouge Vinyle - I see this as a pretty classic Bright Winter red, like maraschino cherries. There's a lot of blue, and a lot of pink.

402 Rouge Remix - Bright Spring. Good middle of the road choice, which is not to say boring. Saturated pink coral, what's not to love?

403 Rose Happening - True Spring and Light Spring. True Spring doesn't always mean orange, and while Light Spring is delicate, it is also vivid. I find this kind of midrange warm pink often works on both seasons. (RIP, Bite Rose).

404 Nude Pulse - Light Spring, pretty shell pink.

405 Explicit Pink - True Winter, though True Summers who wear higher saturation well could try it, especially blotted. I don't see why it couldn't work on both. Very clear candy pink.

406 Orange Electro - Bright Spring and True Spring. Quite orange, and quite bright.

407 Carmin Session - I'm still dithering between Soft Autumn and Soft Summer for this one. It's an elegant, muted burgundy and I can picture it looking beautiful on both seasons. Worth a try for either.

408 Corial Neo-Pop - True Spring, very similar to 406 but slightly more muted.

409 on Dark Autumn, two coats, lightly blotted.

409 on Dark Autumn, two coats, lightly blotted.

409 Burgundy Vibes - Dark Winter, though Dark Autumns like myself who wear cooler berries well can try it. Really gorgeous rich burgundy.

410 Fuchsia Live - Bright Spring, very warm bright pink. Just stunning, a Marilyn Monroe kind of pink.

411 Rhythm Red - Also Bright Spring, a lot of orange to this red, like a strawberry daiquiri.

412 Rose Mix - Light Summer, a quintessential rose.

My Thoughts On 12 Blueprints Cosmetics

After a Personal Color Analysis, the very first thing most of my clients do is this:

They buy makeup.

They stop at the drugstore on the way home, or they wait for my makeup list to show up in their inbox so they can carefully craft a shopping list.

So when Christine Scaman announced the 12 Blueprints Cosmetics, I was pretty excited. My clients are generally more enthused to shop for makeup post-PCA than anything else, especially if they've spent their lives wanting to wear it but not knowing what to buy.


I was also extremely skeptical. I'm makeup picky. I want great colors, great pigment, great staying power, and great packaging. I had no interest in using, selling, or recommending makeup I didn't care for. I had the opportunity to play with Rachel's makeup when we traveled to Asheville together, and I was impressed. I went home and placed my own order.

Now, don't get me wrong. This isn't Guerlain we're talking about here. I'd put the quality ahead of MAC but below Estee Lauder, for example.

Here are my completely honest thoughts on the 12 Blueprints Cosmetics, divided by Color, Quality, Packaging, and the Bottom Line.

Color:

Surprise! The colors are top notch. There have been a couple duds, normal in the first stages of launching anything. A Light Spring lipstick was pulled because it looked like chalk on the lips, etc. Color is clearly the main draw here, and Christine hasn't disappointed. Some of these products are colors I've wanted to add to my studio kit for ages, but haven't been able to find easily, or haven't been able to find in formulas that are even remotely cost-effective. I'm particularly impressed with True Summer's Centre Stage and Supreme lipsticks in this regard. A lot of things swatch True Summer on paper but look like dust on a True Summer woman's lips, for example.

For my personal use, I'm 3 for 6 on the Dark Autumn lipstick options. Love two, like one, and the other three I would never purchase, simply because they aren't *my* most flattering lipsticks. I have seen my least favorites look fabulous on other Dark Autumns. Always remember: no two women within the same season will wear their makeup exactly the same.

Quality:

I'm a blush fiend and the blush is, simply put, pretty amazing, to the point where I'm annoyed there aren't as many Dark Autumn options as other seasons. They're extremely pigmented, extremely finely-milled, and extremely creamy, without being powdery. The color payoff is scary good and I find them easy to blend.

Lipsticks come in several finishes and the quality is somewhat variable, depending upon your personal lipstick preferences. Some of the matte lipsticks can be quite dry, while others are so creamy it's hard to believe they're matte. The creme finish is lovely and, well, creamy, same with the high gloss.

A few of the autumn lipsticks have a fabulous metallic quality that can be hard to find without winding up in glitter bomb territory. I'm especially smitten with the True Autumn choice of Flame here, for example.

As for staying power, the range goes from good to awesome. I wore True Brit recently from about 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and that's with eating, drinking, chatting, and probably biting my nails. It wasn't at full-strength that entire time, but nonetheless, I was impressed. I've had others wear off a little faster, but it just depends. In any case, they won't disappear quickly.

Lipsticks do have a slight scent, sort of a clean vanilla. I find them much more mellow than MAC, which smells way too sweet and ice cream-y to me. However, I don't have any extreme scent sensitivities.

Packaging:

The packaging is quite cute, actually, black with a nautilus motif.

Lipstick comes in a semi-matte bullet which bears a striking resemblance to the standard NARS lipstick packaging. The bullets are lightweight and streamlined, also similar to the standard NARS, with a nonmagnetic closure. They look perfectly adorable when you whip one out of your purse to reapply.

Blush comes in a little plastic pot with a clear screw top. The screw top is a touch aggravating if you're used to snap containers, but it doesn't mis-thread. My main issue is that it's quite bulky. The pot is similar in diameter to the Clinique Cheek Pop line, but a fair bit thicker with a slightly domed lid, and that makes storage bulkier than I'd like. I do appreciate that the top is clear, because I like to see my blush.

The Bottom Line:

Well, I'm selling these in my store, so clearly I'm a fan. If Christine were to throw in the towel today, I'd probably go order 5 bullets of True Brit and cry into my wine, because I love it so. However, I will absolutely continue to use other brands personally, as well as in my studio. I'll still be out swatching, I'll still be offering my custom makeup bags.

If you're really into the whole package of luxury cosmetics, these might not be what you're looking for. They're not intended to rival Tom Ford, no one's going to resell them on eBay for $50/pop, and the packaging isn't particularly thrilling.

If you're looking for tried and true seasonal colors, a nice, reliable formula, and a reasonable price point, you're in the right place. Mine have found a comfy spot in my mid- to high-end makeup stash.

Blush samples are still being reviewed for a couple seasons: Soft Summer, Soft Autumn, and True Autumn, and in the future I believe there will be brow products, eyeshadow trios, and lipgloss.

Art Stick Obsession

Last fall I discovered my favorite lipstick formula: Bobbi Brown Art Stick. I was in Sephora, minding my own business, and something called me over to the Bobbi Brown display. I bought the only Dark Autumn shade and rode off into the sunset with my beautiful new lipstick. Months later, I'm still obsessed.

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What I love about this product:

  • It looks classy. I love elegant packaging, no matter the price point. Most jumbo lip pencils come in cheap plastic tubes, even the pricey ones like Tarte. These are wooden and look like oversized colored pencils, only with lipstick. The cap is plastic.
  • Liner and lipstick in one. I usually use a clear lip liner, because I'm too lazy to match liners to lipstick (and let's be real, I don't need another product type to start stashing around here). But I always wind up correcting application mistakes with a lip brush. Art Sticks to the rescue: even when the point has worn down and become rounded, I can easily line my lips and then fill them in, no correcting required. If your lips are very thin, this may be more of a problem for you, but then again, it may not.
  • Liner and lipstick and...blush! I'm not that in to makeup multitaskers but these are so creamy and pigmented that I really like using them for blush. Just pat a little on and blend. No grease or stickiness whatsoever.
  • Pigmented, buildable color. Make no mistake, these are lipsticks! Not balms, not glosses, lipsticks. One pass is enough for opaque, beautifully colored lips, but you can easily build the color to be more dramatic.
  • Matte-to-satin texture. Bobbi Brown describes the finish as "creamy matte," which is pretty accurate. A light application will yield a semi-matte finish, while building the color delivers a satin finish with a very subtle sheen. Interestingly, I see some microshimmer in my swatches, but have never noticed any shimmer on my lips, just gorgeous color. Mark of a job well done.
  • Staying power. As long as I refrain from drinking anything within the first 15 minutes or so after application (a good guideline for any lip product), this formula sticks around for hours. Even after drinking from a Camelbak bottle, or eating (non-oily) food, this stuff stays! I frequently wear it when traveling or draping, as I don't have to worry about looking up to see the dreaded ring-around-the-mouth. The formula becomes very slightly drying around hour 5, which to me is no big deal. It fades very evenly, into a light "stain" which nevertheless can be easily cleaned off.
  • Price point. These are $26 each, which sounds like a lot, until you take into account that I've had mine since November, wear it multiple times per week, and have sharpened it only once. The pigmentation is no joke! They also come with their own jumbo sharpener. Just take care not to lose it, because as far as I know, the sharpener isn't sold separately. Nice excuse to buy a second color?

Truly, my only complaint is that I want Bobbi Brown to make more of them.

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Here are the colors as I see them:

Bright Raspberry- True Winter. Very cool, bright pink.

Cassis- Dark Autumn. Gorgeous berry, more red than brown. I have a backup, it's that good.

Cherrywood- Soft Summer. This particular color is much sheerer than the rest of the line, and I could see it working really well on both Dark seasons for a more natural look. Clinique's Black Honey is a bit redder.

Dusty Pink- Soft Autumn. I'm convinced that at least 1/3 of the world's makeup is Soft Autumn, but that doesn't stop most of it from being lackluster. This color, on the other hand, is worth picking up. (Note that the swatch of Dusty Pink above is inaccurate. For some reason it photographed much darker and cooler than it truly is.)

Electric Pink- Bright Spring. Similar in color to MAC Fusion Pink, but without the pearly finish (which can render it a bit neon sometimes).

Harlow Red- Bright Winter. Perfect bright maraschino cherry red!

Rose Brown- Soft Summer. It looks exactly like it sounds, a browned rose. Certainly not the most exciting Soft Summer option out there, but worth a try.

Sunset Orange- True Autumn, quite red and bright, but muted enough to look dirty on a spring face (got that?)

Bobbi's Spring 2015 Hot Collection features three limited edition shades:

Hot Berry- True Winter? This is the one LE shade I haven't swatched in person, but it sure looks True Winter from here.

Hot Pink- Bright Winter. Cool, hot pink!

Hot Orange- Bright Spring. Fabulous color, on the bridge between coral and orange.

When Birds Are Singing

The firefly festival is eagerly awaited all year in the Enchanted Garden. For then on this very special day, the best voices of the bird-world feed on tiny fireworks to embellish their voices and then gather to perform a single concert together. Their jubilant musical notes are inscribed in a syrup of figs and milk and preserved in tiny pots to be enjoyed all year round. Like this golden froth of musical syrup, WHEN BIRDS ARE SINGING... eye shadows are a time defying exotic enigma. This is plumage to adorn you in shades as deliciously mellow as soft silence that flows, or as brilliantly potent as jewelled notes. So addictive are these morsels that you’ll be causing your own kaleidoscopic ripples every time you wear them.

I'm a sucker for anything hinting at the otherworldly, so Rouge Bunny Rouge pretty much had me at "firefly festival." Everything about the brand speaks to incredible luxury and a fairy tale sensibility: two qualities that send my heart aflutter.

Rouge Bunny Rouge is a Russian brand, produced in Italy, with very few counters in the United States. Happily for me, Circe Swag in Louisville carries a large variety of RBR products, and I walked in ready to do some swatching.

I was immediately impressed with the range of colors, which are light years beyond the typical autumnal nudes--and only autumnal nudes--offered by many brands. The range is weighted toward satin and shimmer with only a few matte selections, but rest assured, these are not your chunky glitter nightclub shadows! Each shadow is finely milled and buttery--never chalky or powdery--and I haven't seen a speck of fallout. Most impressive for this color geek is how truly multidimensional the colors are. Like beautiful paintings, the longer you look, the more colors you see. In fact, the danger of trying them is that you may begin to look upon your old favorites with condescension. As I have.

Creasing hasn't been a problem for me with these shadows. I have somewhat oily lids and any shadow will crease on me without it. Fading is another story; many brands fade on me throughout the day even with said primer. These don't. When I remove my makeup at night, the colors are just as luscious as the moment I put them on. Every shadow is easy to blend and nicely pigmented. Top notch.

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Abyssinian Catbird

Of course, there's a teeny list of things not to like. I wish there were a few more matte shades, simply because these mattes are unlike any other mattes I've tried, with subtle color shifts usually reserved for satin or shimmer. That's a small quibble. My main criticism regards inconsistency in sizing and availability. For example:

  1. Refill pans are smaller and less expensive than individual pots. That's normal and great. However, about half of the shadows are currently unavailable in refill form. Only one matte shadow is currently available as a refill.
  2. A couple shades are sold as individual pans, not refills, because they aren't magnetized for the pans. They are also a couple dollars cheaper.
  3. Single pots come in two sizes (2g and 2.4g). Read carefully!

Flawless packaging design, however: duo keeper and single eyeshadow pot.

Clearly the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide, since I'm so obsessed that I may never use another eyeshadow brand again. Whimsical names, beautiful and flexible colors, gorgeous luxury packaging, what's not to love?

Here are the products I was able to swatch, with RBR's description in parentheses.

First, the mattes:

Stila Chinois on top (Winters) and RBR Papyrus Canary on the bottom (Autumns and Springs). Easy to see its warmth here.

Stila Chinois on top (Winters) and RBR Papyrus Canary on the bottom (Autumns and Springs). Easy to see its warmth here.

  • 42 Papyrus Canary (semi-opaque palest creamy beige) - Autumns and Springs. This is the one matte shade that comes in a refill pan.
  • 43 Chestnut-Napped Apalis (semi-opaque chestnut puree with a hint of cocoa dust) - Everything an Autumn ever needs. Use it all over the lid or as a contour, you can't go wrong.
  • 44 Grey Go-Away Lourie (semi-opaque smoky slate grey) - This grey is grey. Just grey. And that makes it very flexible. All three Winters will wear it well. Bright Spring can use it as a contour. Could be too cool for Dark Autumn but worth trying; the same goes for True and Soft Summer due to darkness.
  • 45 Blackpepper Jay (semi-opaque smoky black brown) - Dark Autumn and Dark Winter.
  • 71 Sweet Dust Seriema (semi-opaque cool dusty mauve taupe) - Soft Summers, you need this. You need it badly. Dark Winter is pretty in it, too.

L to R on my warm-neutral DA skin: Sweet Dust Seriema, Blackpepper Jay, Abyssinian Catbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Chestnut-Napped Apalis, Papyrus Canary, Unforgettable Oriole. I don't wear all of these personally.

And the rest:

Unforgettable Oriole

Unforgettable Oriole

  • 14 Unforgettable Oriole (delicate, metallic white gold) - Oh, an absolute Bright Winter dream! Lovely for Bright Spring, too.
  • 15 Abyssinian Catbird (metallic bronze with golden highlights) - Dark Autumns, buy this and thank me later (with more RBR eyeshadows, of course). One blog described it as "Think MAC Sumptuous Olive mating Woodwinked on crack." That's pretty darn accurate, a lovely olive bronze. True Autumn could wear it too.
  • 17 Delicate Hummingbird (cool, dusky sugar-frosted plum, iridescent with pink shimmer) - all three Summers, with a lighter hand for Light Summer due to the dusky quality. Really striking. It brings my Summer envy out of hibernation.
  • 27 Solstice Halcyon (semi-matte mauve beige) - Interesting color with a lot of pink in it. Soft Summer and Soft Autumn.
  • 64 Golden Rhea (iridescent pale gold, pure and simple) - all Springs and Soft Autumn. Very peachy yellow compared to Unforgettable Oriole. Beautiful.
  • 65 Olive Violetear (smoky olive with satin finish) - Hard to pin down, a beautiful warm greened grey. Soft Summer and Soft Autumn, certainly. True and Dark Autumn wear it well. Bright Spring and True Spring could give it a shot. Just an amazingly versatile color.
  • 66 Bohemian Waxwing (iridescent bronzed champagne) - This is a taupey rose gold. I had hopes that it would be similar to MAC's Woodwinked, but it's quite a bit lighter and cooler. All Autumns, but Soft Autumn will be especially lovely in it.
Blackpepper Jay

Blackpepper Jay

  • 67 Lilac Reef Curassow (pale lilac with iridescent effect) - All Summers. Gah. Stunning.
  • 68 Trumpeter Koel (dark lead-grey with lilac blue iridescence) - Soft Summer. Dark Winter could wear it well, too.
  • 69 Umber Firefinch (iridescent dark umber chocolate) - all Autumns. Since it's fairly dark, Soft Autumn would wear it as a contour.
  • 73 Snowy Egret (smoked palest gold iridescence) - Shines for Summers, but I could see True Winter in it, too. Very ethereal.
  • 74 Eclipse Eagle (dark brown-grey plum with platinum iridescence) - Absolutely MADE for Bright Winter. Similar to Merle Norman Storm in theory, but prettier and plummier. I think Dark Winter and Soft Summer could wear it very well too, as they do nicely in greyed plums.

There's a hefty handful of other lovely shades available on the Rouge Bunny Rouge website, including cherry blossom pink, apricot pink, peacock blue, silver moss, sterling silver, blackened silver charcoal, rich fern green, and others. Yes, I am drooling on my keyboard right now.

You can purchase RBR products online at Beautyhabit (U.S.-based) and Rouge Bunny Rouge. I've found their descriptions and swatches to be quite accurate. At the time of this writing, eyeshadow pots are $25, refills are $19, unmagnetized pans are $15, duo keepers are $12, and trio keepers are $18.

I've also swatched blush, mascara, glitter pigments, and highlighters, so look for that post in coming weeks.

My PCA Philosophy

I believe that everyone is beautiful.

I used to scoff at people who said things like that. I'd roll my eyes so hard my head hurt. I'm not a touchy-feely-kumbaya kind of person. Compassionate, sure. Emotional, absolutely. But I was convinced that "everyone is beautiful" was some kind of special snowflake campaign, a pat on the head from the true beauties of the world (in whose company I did not consider myself).

I'm ashamed of that now, because I had no idea.

I had no idea that everyone's eyes were capable of glittering, the rind of the iris crisp and clear. Eye patterns? What's that? If you'd told me that an eye could contain spokes, webbing, or little stars, I'd have given you major side-eye. My awareness of eye color was limited to the information required for a driver's license: Blue, Green, Brown, maybe Hazel. I didn't know that an eye could resemble cracked aqua glass, or licorice nestled among moss.

This is the eye of my lovely friend Emily. Stunning.

This is the eye of my lovely friend Emily. Stunning.

I didn't know that hair color like dishwater blonde or mousy brown were mirages. I've seen ho-hum hair gain subtle highlights with the change of a drape. Hair that appears coated with baby powder against one drape is freshly-washed with the next. I dyed my own "dusty" hair red for years, trying to match the brightness level of my clothing. When I stopped dyeing it, I was shocked to find that it was, indeed, rich.

I grew up on a media diet of airbrushing and Photoshop. I had no idea that rosacea, vitiligo, freckles, birthmarks, crow's feet, and other "imperfections" were no more imperfections than the texture caused by hammering silver.  I'd always found crow's feet particularly adorable, but in my mind they were something I found appealing in spite of their flawed nature.

I bought into my generation's truths about beauty and measured my worth against them.

In 7th grade a boy told me I had a big nose, so I spent over a decade assuming I'd get a nose job one day. I had a big gap between my front teeth, so I stopped smiling with my mouth open. I decided my breasts were too small, so I decided to wear push-up bras forever.

My daughter Simone is 5. She's funny, empathetic, terrifyingly smart, and very pretty.

She has a gap between her teeth just like I do, and I think it's precious.

She tells me that she loves the gap between her teeth because it makes her look like me.

At a bookstore last weekend, Simone was coloring at a table with another little girl. I heard the little girl ask Simone if she had lost a tooth. Without looking up from her picture, Simone said, "No, I just have a space between my teeth." The little girl passed her the sequins.

I believe that everyone is beautiful.

When you're sitting in my studio, I'm not interested in changing the architecture of your face, giving you paler skin or an artificial tan, fitting you into a fashion mold, or insisting that you need makeup to look your best. Makeup can be fun--clearly my daughter thinks so too, since she's always asking to try on lipstick--but it's not necessary.

I believe that everyone is beautiful. Sometimes we just need help seeing it.