Beauty, Betsy Loves, Culture, Fashion

Not another Xmas gift guide

Well, I guess that’s exactly what this is, but hopefully it’ll also be quite helpful! Buying presents for multiple people can be really tough, and more than a little bewildering, so while I might not be able to help you with the men in your life, I might be able to shed some light for the women.

The Red Lipstick

First of all, does the woman (wife/girlfriend/daughter/sister/mother) in your life wear red lipstick? Yes? Then, you’re sorted. Buy her Chanel’s Rouge Coco in Gabrielle, £25. Chanel is a great gift, the packaging is insanely glamorous, the colour is flattering on everyone, and the formula is silky but also strongly pigmented.

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The Cashmere Beanie

Does your lady wear hats? Not a fedora, but beanies? Then go for COS’ cashmere beanie; a steal at £29. Everyone loves cashmere and it’s ridiculously soft. The colour ranges are lovely, and it’s at least half the price of most other cashmere beanies.

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The Expert Tool Kit (no; not that kind!)

Does she enjoy make-up? I mean actively enjoy, as opposed to just wearing it. Then hop on to Space NK’s website, and get a pair of Shu Uemura’s eyelash curlers for £20. These are the best in the business, and will give a lovely curl to lashes.

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The Luxury Make-Up

Another option is to dive into Charlotte Tilbury’s new make-up range. This selection is utterly glamorous and totally lust-worthy. Her Filmstars On The Go (£42) palettes look divine, and are pretty easy to choose from. If you’re scared about picking the wrong colours, jump over to her eye crayons where you can buy individual ones according to eye colour (£19) or buy a selection pack for £75.

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The Silver Bangle

Does she wear jewellery? And is that jewellery delicate? Then look no further than Links of London’s karabiner bangle. Yes, it’s a bit more pricey for £140, but it is stunning.

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The Designer Candle

Is she house proud? Does she lust over elegant interiors? Then go for a decadent scented candle from Jo Malone (£40). Far from being a naff present, scented candles are great, and Jo Malone is pretty high up there. Diptyque candles are super duper pricey, but these look amazing and save you some pennies. Every fragrance they do is delicious, but ask one of the lovely saleswomen to guide you between fruity and floral if you need.

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The Coffee Table Book

Does photography rock her boat? Or perhaps Kate Moss? Or fashion? Easy peasy – Kate: The Kate Moss Book (£32.50).

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The Beauty Must Have

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream (£26). Until you’ve tried it, you don’t know why you’d need it, once you have, you don’t know how you lived without it. Trust me.

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The Glam Watch

Large faced watches are all the rage at the moment, and Olivia Burton does some of the best for a really good price. My personal favourite is the large white face with black leather strap (£75).

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Hope some of this helps! And if it does nothing else, it means I might be getting a cracking stocking from my nearest and dearest this year. Hint hint.

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Beauty

The perfume hunt. The update…

Gosh, it’s proving scarily difficult to rediscover my writing mojo after so long away. Rather than tackle anything complex or attempt some creative writing, I bring you this – an update to my perfume hunt.

It was all getting terribly frustrating, trying to track down that one scent that would express all the nuances of my personality (!), and then I realised two things:

1) Stop being a pompous arrogant idiot. If one scent doesn’t jump out at you or its base, heart and top notes don’t immediately tell everyone around you exactly who you are as person, then that’s absolutely fine. So I decided to simply search for any and all perfumes that appealed to me, and just see how that went.

2) Of course, I couldn’t quite be that simple. So I went scientific. Very very scientific. I discovered several websites – Fragrantica and Base Notes – that break down the components of thousands of fragrances. I racked my brain for all the scents I’ve enjoyed in the past, noted down not only their base, heart and top notes, but also what category they fitted in, and lo and behold, suddenly I had a starting point…

What was that starting point, you ask? Well, apparently I’m rather fond of the old Floral Woody Musks (I know! Who knew?), and once I’d established this, I could search the databases for other fragrances that fall into this category.

This left me with a satisfyingly (yet simultaneously scary!) long list of perfumes to consider. I am a diligent student, always searching for the gold star, so off I popped to various retailers with my list in hand, aka stored on my iPhone. First up, Chanel’s ‘Coco Noir’ again, and I have to admit, it’s growing on me, and I adore the bottle, and well, it’s Chanel!

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Then there’s Estee Lauder’s most recent launch – ‘Modern Muse’. I’d toyed with this earlier and quite liked it, I quite liked it when I sprayed it again this time, but later, armed with a teeny tiny sample, I decided it was a bit too chemical-y.

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Next is Acqua di Parma’s ‘Rosa Nobile’. Now, I almost forgot to mention that another way I found floral woody musks was through Space NK. I love that place, and could, quite literally (if I had the funds) spend thousands and thousands of pounds. Anyway, when I was buying some essential new beauty items (Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, since you ask), the girl serving me (who was an example of EXCELLENT customer service) popped a roll on sample of this scent in my bag. I almost told her not to bother as I’ve never seen myself as a particularly rosy person (in outlook or scent), but hey ho, a free sample is a free sample. I opened the mustard yellow box, unscrewed the gold cap, and had a sniff of the rollerball, and my my, wasn’t I pleasantly surprised? When I searched it in the perfume databases, I gave a sort of knowing nod to myself when it revealed itself to be a floral woody musk. ‘Betsy,’ I said. ‘Betsy, you might be on to something here.’ So anyway, back to the latest perfume hunt, and a good old spritz of ‘Rosa Nobile’ still had me smiling with pleasure. Huzzah!

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John Lewis is a middle-class mecca, yes? And they’re about as desperate to please as I am, which makes them about as cool as I am, i.e. not very, but, it does make them useful. On my last visit, I was accosted (the only word to use) as I pottered about the fragrance section by an extremely earnest young woman keen to show me the niche perfume ranges that the company had invested in. Apart from when I’m in a toweringly black mood, I’m too polite to refuse, so I obediently trotted after her, and I’m glad I did, as I discovered Evody – a small French mother-and-daughter perfume house – and their fragrance ‘Musc Intense’, which, surprise surprise, also turned out to be a floral woody musk (FWM from here on out!). I wasn’t sold, but I really liked it.

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The other FWM that intrigued me was Narciso Rodriguez’s ‘Narciso’. My research showed that people raved about his ‘For Her’ scents, but something about them turned me off. ‘Narciso’ is his latest release in a beautifully chic white bottle, and I’d be lying if I said the perfume bottle itself didn’t have an effect on my attitude to it. I grabbed a spritz (poor Mr T was getting soon bored by this point. Bless) and I bloody loved it! Thank god!

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So, after my extensive search, I think that I’m popping ‘Rose Nobile’ on my list as well as ‘Narciso’, and as soon as I get down to Boots (where I have a £5 off voucher, got to watch those pennies…), I’ll be making a purchase of the latter.

There you have it, I’ve finally found a perfume I’m happy to buy and wear, for now… However, I still have a very very very long list of other FWMs to try (I’m particularly keen to get my hands on Tom Ford’s ‘Violet Blonde’) but I’ll do my level best not to bore you with a terribly long update like this again. For those who are interested, I’ve pasted the list below – go forth and smell!

Floral Woody Musks to try:

Aerin Lauder – Iris Meadow

Agent Provocateur – Agent Provocateur, Au Emotionelle, DD Edition, Strip

Bex London – W11, W1X

Bobbi Brown – Baby

Burberry – Burberry Brit Rhythm, The Beat

Bulgari – Jasmin Noir, Omnia Crystalline

Byredo – Rose Noir

Cacharel – Noa

Calvin Klein – Downtown, Reveal

Carven – Le Parfum

Cerruti – Bella Notte

Chanel – No.19, Jersey, 1932

Chloe – Love Chloe Eau Florale

Christian Dior – Dior Grand Bal, La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Milly La Foret

Diptyque – Eau Moheli, Eau Mage, Tam Dao, Vetyverio

D&G – Anthology La Temperance 14

Elizabeth and James – Nirvana White

Estee Lauder – Modern Muse Chic, Very Estee

Floris – Sirena

Frederic Malle – Eau d’Hiver

Ghost – Captivating, Serenity

Givenchy – Neroli Original, Naturally Chic, Ange ou Demon

Gucci – Premiere, Forever Now, Flora Generous Violet

Guerlain – Eau de Cashmere, Eau de Lingerie, Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique, Le Bolshoi Black Swan,

Issey Miyake – Pleats Please, Summer Glimmer, Light

Jasper Conran – Nightshade Woman

Jil Sander – Sunrise

Jo Loves – A Shot of Muguet & Cedar

Jo Malone Intense – Iris and White Musk

Kenzo – Madly Kenzo!

Kiehls – Patcholi and Fresh Rose Blend

Korres – Tonka Purple

La Perla – Charme

Lacoste – Femme de Lacoste

Lancome – Tresor Midnight Rose

Lanvin – Jeanne Lanvin Couture

Le Labo – Aldehyde 44 Dallas, Belle du Soir, Jasmin 17, Rose 31

Loewe – Aire Allegro, Aire Evasion, Aura Loewe Magnetique, El 8 de Grand Via, I Loewe You,

Marc Jacobs – Daisy (Silver, Pop Art and Black), Splash Cotton, Splash Grass,

Michael Kors – Gold, Michael, Michael Kors and Suede

Narciso Rodriguez – Essence Musc, For Her L’Absolu, Narciso Musc, Narciso Rodriguez for Her (Black)

Nina Ricci – L’Eau du Temps, Mademoiselle Ricci

Oscar de la Renta – Coralina, Oscar Gold, Rosamor,

Paul Smith – Extreme Woman, Summer Rose, Sunshine

Philosophy – Sunshine Grace

Prada – Infusion d’Iris

Richard E Grant – Jack

Tom Daxon – Crushing Bloom, Iridium

Tom Ford – Violet Blonde, Musk Collection

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Beauty

On the scent

I have the ultimate First World dilemma. Let me introduce you to women and perfume. This relationship can go one of two ways – either you’re an ardent supporter of a single scent and wear it all day, every day; or you’re fickle and flutter from one perfume to another depending on your mood, season, etc.

Until recently, I’ve been the signature scent kind of gal since falling in love with Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir about ten years ago. Every now and then I had a spritz of something else but I mostly remained faithful, and it’s what people associated with me. But then, suddenly, one morning, I woke up and wasn’t in love any more, at all. (And no, I wasn’t pregnant.)

Since then, I’ve toyed semi-seriously with another Jo Malone – Vetyver – but that’s being discontinued (sigh) and Liz Earle’s Botanical Essence No.15 which, while delicious, sadly lacks staying power; more recently I’ve dabbled all over the shop – from Chanel to Chloé – but I’m not head over heels for any of them.

Shopping for a new perfume is an olfactory minefield: what smells lovely on paper, can smell completely different on your skin, and then, after you’ve tried several scents, you can’t distinguish between them all anyway. After a couple of years of searching, I got so desperate recently I went back to Pomegranate Noir just to see if I’d changed my mind again. I haven’t.

I’ve grown up adhering to the first perfume principle that without my signature I’m all at sea; my perfume had almost become part of my personality and now I’m adrift. First World problem or not, any suggestions will be gratefully received. Until then, I’ll continue to sidle up to strangers, sniff deeply, ponder, before asking the all-important question, ‘What perfume are you wearing?’

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