Quite Continental Charm School: Day 16 — Select a Signature Scent

16/02/2012 § 7 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Taken by Hans Wild for Life Magazine, 1947.

Editor’s Note: I’m very pleased to introduce our next guest speaker!  My good friend Anne, founder of the fashion and culture blog Ritournelle, is a lovely French expat currently living in New York City.  She works in the beauty industry and is my frequent partner at some of the best museum and auction house exhibits in the city (where I frequently act like something of a living duck blind so that she can sneak photos, sshhhh!).  Her encyclopedic knowledge of beauty and fragrance companies, especially French ones,  is second to none, and as I am always in need of a good tip — and who isn’t?! — I quite enjoy picking her brain for new discoveries.  The fact that she almost always comes bearing some sort of French delicacy is icing on the cake.  She’s like my own private Inès de La Fressange.

Ritournelle is a place to visit if you love Paris, Dior, Charlotte Gainsbourg, fashion history and would like to practice your French language skills (all her posts are in both French and English!).  If you are not yet familiar with Anne or Ritournelle, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Anne’s tip for a charmed life.

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Day 16: Select a Signature Scent
My perfume is one of my most treasured possessions. I grew up in the rainy Normandy countryside, surrounded by a lush garden from which scents of moss and flowers, surprising by their variety, would compel me. Nothing stirs me more now than the green notes of galbanum and earthy iris roots from my Chanel N°19 bottle. You will often find me obsessively sniffing my wrist like a drug, a gesture that appeases while revitalizing me.

In France, fragrance is an essential and intimate part of a woman’s life. She would not consider starting the day, much less leaving her house, without a spritz. Moreover, each perfume worn over time defines a certain period of her life. The chosen brand and perfume, its concept and notes reveal much about her personality. Think about it: the woman who wears the strong, oriental, in-our-face Opium by Yves Saint Laurent leads her life far differently from the one who favors fruity, playful and innocent Petite Chérie by Annick Goutal. Yet, I quote Hermès perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, “The perfume must say, ‘I have many secrets: I am who I am, but you may not know everything about me.’ In any case, the perfume builds up the other self. The one I am and the one I wish I was.”

In order to find the perfume that you can call your own, got to the brands which values you cherish most. Are you more drawn to traditional and Parisian houses like Guerlain and Hermès or to modern, urban ones like Le Labo and Byredo?

Make your purchase an event to look forward to: experience it during a trip abroad or in a refined store where you will get the best advice (like MiN or Aedes de Venustas in New York). Try fragrances first on blotters, but be aware that what you smell on paper is very different than on your skin. Let your emotions guide you and take your time; it can be a lengthy process with several trials. The ideal fragrance should surprise you by its power of bringing out your emotions all while being the perfect olfactory expression of yourself. (For example, I adore Iris Nobile by Aqua di Parma, it’s a great fragrance, but that solar citrus note is just not me). When you come down to a couple you like, spritz each one of them on a different wrist (without rubbing!) in the morning and see how they evolve during the day to measure their quality and chemistry with your skin.

You needn’t be loyal to your fragrance. Think of it as a wardrobe: you have your outfits for work and days off, and those that you save for a special occasion. Likewise, adopt a more sensual perfume for nights out. For example, I’ll trust the rich and voluptuous 34 boulevard saint germain by Diptyque to set me in the right mood. Then, I change perfumes according to the season: when spring comes and temperatures rise, I will switch to a lighter fragrance, like Un Jardin après la Mousson by Hermès.

How do you choose your fragrance?
Do you stay loyal to one perfume or do you experiment with different scents?

by Anne, of Ritournelle.

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The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Your Thoughts? Wedding Hair

05/08/2011 § Leave a comment

Hold your horses…

No, I am not getting married — take a breath — but in the spirit of the hair question I just answered, I thought I might turn the tables and ask your opinion.

As I mentioned, I am heading up to a New Hampshire wedding this weekend and have yet to decide what to do with my hair.  Ground rules are (1), it must be up and off of my neck, due to the neckline of the dress, and (2), it can’t be too complicated because I do not have the patience.  The DIY hair tutorials on Joanna Goddard’s blog Cup of Jo are right up my alley and I find myself torn between two somewhat similar styles and wondered which one you might prefer?

 The Gibson Roll

Or,  Three twisted buns

What do we think?  All rolled up and tidy?  Or a bit messy and disheveled?  Or something completely different?  Thoughts?

If you want to try these out yourself, head over to Cup of Jo for the easy, completely illustrated, step by step hair tutorials.  I’ve already practiced both styles, and they are quite easy.  Perfect summer updos, even if you aren’t going to a wedding.

Image 1 via FGR., images 2 through 5 via Cup of Jo.

Ask Me Anything: Curl Tamer

04/08/2011 § 2 Comments

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

Yours Truly.  My specialties are curly hair and mischievous looks.

Hi Mariah,
I noticed you’ve got curly hair, just like me.  I was wondering what products you use?

Over the years, I’ve gone through a number of phases in my relationship with my hair.  (I blogged about it a few months ago, if you’d like to read it.  It’s a bit wordy, so consider yourself forewarned…)  But yes, my hair is definitely curly and rather full.  I had a Brazillian Blowout back in the winter, which rendered my hair completely — amazingly! — straight.  I loved it and completely recommend it for curly girls who want  wash and wear straight hair for a couple of months.  It gradually has worn off and this summer I am rediscovering my love for my curls.  You can see the current state of my locks above.

Everyone’s hair is a bit of a puzzle/middle school science fair project.  You’ve got to experiment until you find what works for you, but here are some of my tips for taming curly hair:

  • Never ever EVER brush your curls…unless you want to look like a poodle.  Curly hair should be combed through when soaking wet, and left to its own devices after that.  I only use my fingers to style my hair after it is dry.
  • Curly hair is thirsty.  After you think you’ve put in enough product, add more.  And don’t be afraid to double or triple up on your products.  At present, I’m working with three or four to get the curls you see above.  In the shower, be sure to use a good conditioner, as dry hair invites frizz.  Lastly, unless you have super oily hair/scalp, don’t wash it every day.  Try going a few days.  If you absolutely can’t go without washing your hair, try merely rinsing and lightly conditioning it.
  • Air drying is always best.
  •  Lastly, find a stylist who understands curly hair.  In New York, I go to Angela Soto at the Whittemore House Salon in Greenwich Village, and I **highly** recommend her.  She’s amazing.

Secret summer weapons.

So what’s on my hair right now?  The two products you see above have been a godsend to me this summer: Je Veux Argan Oil and SACHAJUAN Ocean Mist.  Both were recommended to me by Angela, and can be purchased at the Whittemore House, if you’re so inclined.  I especially like the Je Veux because it conditions my hair without weighing it down — a problem I had when I tried using pure argan oil.  The Ocean Mist does an excellent job of defining my curls, especially in the morning after I’ve slept on them.  I’ve also heard good things about Fekkai Beach Waves and Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray.

My summer regimen is as follows:

  1. Wash, comb through a deep conditioner (the only time I comb my hair), wrap hair in towel to wring out excess moisture
  2. Apply generous amount of Je Veux Argan Oil, evenly spritz SACHAJUAN Ocean Mist, scrunch
  3. Air dry.  Once dry, finish off with a bit of hairspray.  I love Elnett.

Hope that helps.  Do let me know how it goes for you!

**Sidenote**  It seems like argan oil is everywhere lately, and I didn’t have the faintest where it came from, so I asked  Tara Cole, holistic health and nutrition coach (and good friend/partner in crime) to explain:

“I am always on the search to uncover healthy, holistic solutions to heal the body.  I discovered argan oil and its multitude of uses last year, and have been hooked ever since.  This amazing oil keeps my skin young and healthy and looking fresh. 

It can also be used to re-hydrate the body, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and soothe skin ailments such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.  It can reduce appearance of scars and stretch marks, moisturize cuticles, and it’s a great way to nourish and add shine to your hair.  I also dab a little on insect bites in the summer to heal quicker.  

This ancient healing oil is derived from the kernels of the slow growing argan tree, exclusive to the dry lowlands of Southwest Morocco.  I recommend finding an organic, cold-pressed oil for best results.   I like both Josie Maran Cosmetics argan oil, and Arganica Oil.

For help with organic questions and holistic health tips, you can visit Tara at her website, Green Tara Wellness.

If there’s anything I might be able to help you with, drop me a line: contact@quitecontinental.net

28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things: Day 21 – Fix Your Face

21/02/2011 § Leave a comment

**QC’s 28 Days**
In February I will be bringing you daily tips
to cultivate more classiness and fabulousness in daily life!
Image via LIFE

Day 21: Fix Your Face
When moving through an exceedingly classy life one must make sure that the face they show the world is a true reflection of how fabulous they feel.  While the mademoiselle above has masterfully made herself up with mascara and lipstick, please do not think that today’s tip requires you to wear makeup.  Au contraire! I love natural beauty, and I love my male readers! (I do have male readers, yes?)  Today I merely implore you to take care of your beautiful face.  Have a regimen and try to stick to it.  Experiment with different products until you find something that works for you, and definitely wear sunscreen.  Below, two products that I love:

Remove
Every year I make a New Year’s resolution to always, always, take off my eye makeup before I go to bed.  Can you guess my level of success since I continue to make said resolution?  Good guess, cherie.  While I am not always good about using it, I find that Sephora’s own brand of waterproof eye makeup remover is excellent.  Scoop it here.

Moisturize
I am relatively new to eye cream, but I am a fanatic convert.  As a contacts wearer, I frequently find my eyes are a bit dry.  I adore Kiehl’s Abyssine Eye Cream because it keeps puffiness at bay and is deeply moisturizing.  Scoop it here.You, my darling, are timeless, but your face is not.  Especially if you wash it with whatever old soap you find laying around.  A well-tended face is truly fabulous and will age gracefully.  Pure class!

Earlier: Quite Continental’s 28 Days of Classy and Fabulous Things

Confessions of a Curly Girl: A Hair Evolution

26/11/2010 § 3 Comments

I’ve been a curly girl since birth, but I haven’t always loved my unruly locks.  I was blessed with rather thick hair that isn’t very coarse, but is extremely strong — I can pretty much do whatever I feel like to my hair and it will bounce back.  I’ve bleached it to blond, made it magenta (oh, the follies of youth), skunkily highlighted it, hit it with so much heat that the bathroom was full of smoke and the acrid smell of burnt hair, subjected it to the illustrious Dominican blowout, shellacked it down with super mega hair spray, etc. etc.  The worst thing its ever done is get a little dry and frizzy, and was easily corrected with a bit of deep conditioning. My curl is well-defined, but not so tight that I can’t force it to be stick-straight with a good blowout and a bit of flat ironing.  My relationship with my hair has gone through a few phases, which I think will be familiar to all curly girls.

Hit the flip for the full story.

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