Beauty Q&A: Blushing, Cobbling, and Black Ties

1. I love blush. I love that it makes me look not like a corpse, and I own a lot of it in all of the colors, basically. I wear it every day! But — whatever blush I use, I pick basically at random, like, whatever is closest to my lazy hand. Shouldn’t my blush match the rest of my makeup? But how do I decide? How do I know what color to pair with what eye, what lip, etc.? Is there a list of questions I can run through every day to pick my best shade? What would be the most essential shades to have? Also, I wear bronzer every day (I want to look tan, contouring is for the birds). Do I have to consider what blush goes with it? I’d love some guidelines!

Did you not read the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar? Simon Doonan declared bronzing and tanning DEAD. (Also declared here since the article is not posted on their website, but this profile of Doris Duke is and it’s amazing.) Simon Doonan is a way of life, so I immediately put my bronzer and self-tanner in a drawer to await our next directive. You must possess both bravery to abandon your beauty safety blankets and juuust the right amount of insecurity to completely fold when a total stranger tells you you’re doing something that isn’t cool any more. Do you have what it takes?

Now that you are a blank slate of foundation and a million other products — none of which are bronzer — let’s talk about blush. Forget matching it to this-and-such: blush matches YOU. That is the key with blush — it should look like your skin, only rosier. Blushier. The only thing to consider in relation to what other makeup you’re wearing is, “Is this a rosier, blushier kind of look I’m going for, or is this a less perky look?” I’d argue that the problem with combining a dramatic blush with smoky eyes and dark lipstick is less an issue of looking like a showgirl — if you got it, flaunt it — and more an issue of conflicting messages. “Look at my deep, sexy, dark eyes and lucious, mature mouth and adorable, cutesy, perky, OMG I AM BLUSHING JUST THINKING ABOUT HOW SEXY THE REST OF MY FACE IS!” See? Don’t do that. Have a lighter, more subtle blush like this one for when you don’t want to seem too embarrassed, and a darker, more dramatic one such as this for when you want to look like Brooke Shields or like you just got done skiing or like you just watched this.

2. I recently wore through a pair of my most favorite flats. I’d only had them for a year and they were so nice and I was so sad when I had to throw them away! I’d like to prevent this from happening again — I think I need a lesson in resoling shoes. I know this is a thing people do, but I don’t really understand it. Can I just take in any shoe that shows too much wear? Should you do it when you first get a pair or after you’ve worn them a bunch? Does it really help make them last? It seems so old time-y, but also smart.

People must use cobblers enough for them to be as ubiquitous as they are, but yeesh, there are a lot of folks like you who are hesitant to go to one. What gives? There is no stigma attached to visiting a cobbler! Shoe repair stores are not all-night massage parlors. Here’s what their job is: fixing shoes. And that includes every part of the shoe: the top part, the side parts, the bottom part, the part that’s all pointy, the part that’s effed up. Guess how much you need to know about fixing shoes? ZILCH. That’s the cobbler’s job. If you’re concerned that a new pair of shoes looks flimsy in the sole, ask the cobbler for advice. And if you wear through one, they can usually replace it, yep!

3. I have a bracelet that I love madly, but I rarely wear it because it is impossible for me to clasp by myself. It’s a pretty standard lobster clasp but I just can not put it on without assistance. So I find myself either not wearing it, or walking around with it in my purse until I find someone I can awkwardly ask to clasp it for me. While the latter is an oddly excellent way to make new friends, it would be nice to be able to get dressed on my own. Do you have any tips for tricky clasps?

Did you know there’s a whole cottage industry of “clasp helpers” for single ladies? Here’s how to DIY one, but you can also find a bunch on Etsy if you’re lazy/wealthy:

4. My boyfriend’s college roommate is getting married in October so, exciting! My first wedding as an adult and not a flower girl. But it is “black tie”… so, panic. What can/do I wear? A long dress, right? I like simpler, more classic styles, and this practical and broke grad student is having a hard time justifying spending a lot of money at a department store for a long fancy gown for only a single wear, or getting something a bit too fashion-y from Rent the Runway. If the invitation said “cute striped sundresses” I would have no problem at all. Any ideas?

Here’s the thing: if they’re asking for black tie, they’re not asking for fashion backward. They’re asking for you to look like a woman attending a fancy wedding. Don’t be afraid!
How often, in this day and age, do you get to wear a gown? Your only concern is not upstaging the bride. So, don’t wear a long white dress, but do wear something fitting the elegance and seriousness of the occasion. Oh, and also try not to be mistaken for a bridesmaid. A quick email to someone in the wedding party asking “what is the color scheme?” will tell you which colors to avoid.

Renting a gown from Rent the Runway is actually great, or so I’ve heard. A friend has used their services a few times and says they’ll send you multiple sizes and they’re great about returns. Plus, they have some gorgeous, otherwise prohibitively expensive pieces. Look at this one with the cape!

A similar, simpler option is Little Borrowed Dress. Their styles also happen to be cheaper than RtR — $75 to rent a long gown, but they do skew “bridesmaid,” so like I said, check that you’re not wearing the same color. These could easily be dressed up with a giant brooch on the waist or shoulder.

If you’d like to own your dress, try searching by price on Go to Clothing > Dresses > Evening. Then select your size and what you’re willing to spend and they’ll search a bunch of sites at once for you. That’s how I found this sophisticated dress for $60. For in-person shopping, T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack-type places usually have formalwear sections. A lot of them will be homecoming dresses, but sift through and you’ll find one with fewer sequins.

5. I have very dark skin patches, like RECTANGLE patches (two of them) right where my moustache would be IF I let it grow to be the mess it wants to be. So, I looked this up, and it says that skin on the upper lip will turn dark from waxing or from sun. So, obviously I need to be pale with a hairy lip, and problem solved, right? Well, I say no to that option. Background: I have been waxing, like really often lately because I just turned 40 and suddenly — hair! And, my kids are competitive swimmers, so I’m outdoors at the pool very often. Ok, so I need to cut back on the sun, I can wear a hat, but in the meantime, I HAVE VERY DARK SKIN ON MY UPPER LIP!!! And, I don’t know what to do. Also, very little money to throw at a dermatologist… so pretend I’m 20 or something with this problem.

Nah. You’re 40 and you are resourceful and you can prioritize. If I were you, I’d:

a. Look into electrolysis or laser hair removal. There are always Groupons for that shit. If you add up what you’re spending to get waxed all the time, I guarantee the permanent option will pay for itself in a year or two, and you have FORTY MORE TO GO. Okay, maybe you’re waxing at home, but even that costs something. Lasering your lip should run you less than $500 and you can always do a payment plan or even cut that in half with a coupon. Or, you can be brave and be the first person I know to purchase an at home laser hair removal thingy for $400. Please report back to us with the results? Remember: as you keep getting crotchetier, your vision is gonna go, and then you’re gonna miss hairs when you wax and no one is going to tell you. I’m just saying! You could accept your ‘stache, which is what I usually tell people, but something (your words) tells me you are determined.

b. Get a skin lightener for the dark patches. They have some cheap ones at the drug store or you can splurge a little, but not a lot, at Sephora.

c. I’d guess the sun, more than anything, is to blame. Get a hat and listen to Simon Doonan, everyone.

Previously: The Most Beautiful Bright Lipstick in the Land.

Do you have a question for Jane?

Photo of Brooke by Francesco Scavullo.