Friday, June 4, 2010

Two Lipsticks and a Lover

I admit my current book of choice isn't exactly high-brow literature. Sometimes, your bookshelf needs a bit of a break. Much like the guilty pleasure of ripping through Confessions of a Shopaholic in a day or two, Helena Frith Powell's Two Lipsticks and a Lover is a girly indulgence. Though it doesn't really delve deeper than one's undergarments, it's still a jolly good read - what can a sensible English girl learn from the uber chic French when her family move across the Channel?

Not to splash your face with water and assume it's clean, for one. No, no, non - a cleanser for day and another heavier-duty one for night to ensure your makeup is well and truly obliterated. Leaving makeup on overnight can age you by 6 days in a single evening, remember! Sensible English girls don't wear makeup though, do they? Not until they get to France, where even 7 year olds can expertly apply the right shade of gloss and one certainly doesn't pop down the shops without a slick of mascara.

Published in 2005 (yes, I know I'm late to the party but it's been sitting on my shelves for ages), don't let the fact that the first quotation of praise inside the cover is from Richard and Judy put you off. The "hippy chic" clothing that the buyers at the Galeries Lafayette recommend might induce boho-Sienna-flashbacks but bear with it. I liked boho, anyway. It was incredibly comfy. Two Lipsticks and a Lover is all about revealing the secrets of how to be thin, elegant, stylish, and "impossibly French". All in true French form of course - that is to say, with minimal effort.

Things you'll learn: You must move. Don't go to the gym once or twice a week and sweat like a hog for an hour, and then spend the rest of the week eating crisps in front of the telly. Gentle stretching everyday, walk everywhere (this is where shopping comes in handy), cycle occassionally. One thing that has always struck me about Europeans is that they don't binge like we do. They'll always have dessert but only a little. They'll drink with dinner, but only a glass or two, lest they look like "a drunk English girl". We could just blame the Americans for our 'more is more' psyche (in fact, let's), but it's about time we looked back to Europe as the cultural compass.

You also must have well-cut underwear. Not only for when your lover undresses you, but for when you get dressed. It'll make you feel a whole lot more feminine than what your comfy grey Bonds' can achieve. This may be why the French are such infamous seducers - but of course the flipside is that women tend to get possessive and jealous. Your girl friends aren't really your girlfriends - they're just trying to sleep with your husband. Apparently. Even the author has a little honest flirtation with B, whom she meets on the train en route to Paris to interview people about shoes and such. She discovers that while she's not really keen on an actual lover, the romantic French idea of having one just around the corner is what makes her feel attractive, and thus, want to take care of herself. After all, the doyenne of French style, Coco Chanel, did say that "elegance is refusal".

It's still a very British read, thankfully. Lots of tongue-in-cheek (and nowhere else) and dry British wit, coupled with decent common sense (and some lovely pink gingham silky knickers). It should be on every woman's bookshelf becuase even though we may not all be able to visit the hairdresser weekly and spend hundreds on underwear, we could all do with a little bit of je ne sais quoi...and nicer shoes.

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