Saturday, January 18, 2014

an introduction

Well, I guess it was inevitable: I have a makeup blog with a pretentious literary-allusive title now.

Elsewhere on the internet, I’m modernfoppery; offline (or still online, given how often I procrastinate), I’m a 26-year-old grad student working toward a doctorate in English literature, with a focus on the 17th century. The phrase “auxiliary beauty” comes from one of the first English dictionaries: A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew, published in 1699 (and available in a modern edition as The First English Dictionary of Slang). The author, the mysterious “B. E., Gent.,” defines “auxiliary beauty” as “Dress, Paint, Patches, setting of Eye-brows, and licking the Lipps with red.” Most descriptions of cosmetics at the time were as dismissive as this one, and I like the idea of reclaiming the phrase for an unabashedly pro-makeup project.

I haven’t always been pro-makeup; in fact, I didn’t wear any makeup but concealer and clear lip balm until I was 23. My mother has never worn much makeup, and when she finds a beauty product she likes, she sticks to it for literally decades. (She’s worn black pencil eyeliner and Jean Naté perfume since she was a teenager in the ’60s, to give you some idea.) My friends weren’t interested in makeup either, not even when I got to college—I attended a women’s college and don’t remember so much as a tube of mascara in anyone’s dorm room. Those were also the days before tumblr and beauty blogs popularized the “statement lip” and cat-eye liner. When I thought about makeup at all, I thought of it as something people with low self-esteem wore to hide or change their true features. 

I have tumblr to thank for enlightening me. In the fall of 2010, I became obsessed with Insolente, a pink lipstick from the Chanel fall collection (shown here on Temptalia). I look at pictures of it now and don’t understand my long-past love: it’s a bubblegum pink that’s slightly too warm for my complexion, and it's one of those dreaded Lip Products with Shimmer. Back then, though, I didn’t care how it would look on me; it was more of a Platonic-ideal situation, a desire to possess the Perfect Pink. It was the first time I saw makeup as a source of pure aesthetic satisfaction and not a form of dishonesty.

When I finally tried on Insolente at a Chanel counter, I recoiled: it really didn’t look good. But if my obsession with that particular lipstick vanished in an instant, my obsession with lipstick in general was just beginning. In the three years since that visit to Bloomingdale’s, I’ve accumulated about 50 lip colors, which brings me to the purpose of this blog. My first project here will be a “lipstick chronology”: an inventory of all my lipsticks and lip glosses in the order in which I acquired them, with swatches, reviews, and reminiscences. Lip colors were my gateway drugs to other makeup, but no eyeliner or blush will ever make me as excited as a fresh tube of lipstick. So I want to record all my favorites, their formulas and undertones and the circumstances under which I bought them—even if the circumstances were “horribly depressed, wandered into the CVS a block away from campus because why the fuck not.” I also want to discover old-new favorites and dissuade myself from buying new lipsticks, because no one needs 50. Not even me.

In addition to the lipstick chronology, I plan to do other stuff: FOTDs, attempts at mastering cat-eye liner despite having an extra crease in each eyelid, whatever. And I promise that no subsequent post will be as long-winded as this one, at least not without the relief of images. I leave you with a photo of me in one of my favorite lipsticks: MAC Candy Yum-Yum, a cooler-toned answer to Insolente.



Bye for now.

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