Thursday, 3 December 2009

Slightly Undead: A Beginner's Guide

by Miss Alexandra Oliver

I would have been ever so interested, as a pouty adolescent back in 1986 (see photo by Martin Blache above), to learn that, 23 years on, North America would be in the grip of Vampire Fever. Finally! I would have thought, the hegemony of burnished, big-haired jockitude is over! Then I would have trotted through the Teen Section of my local bookstore, or seen a few rushes of New Moon and I would have gasped, reached for smelling salts and toppled over. For the teen vampires of this day and age strike me as being intense, Clorox-marinated versions of normal, ultimate Frisbee-playing, gum-snapping, text-messaging youth. No fragility! No danger! No true eccentricity! Yes folks, I have had it up the wazoo with the Twilight franchise, with its pre-fab romantic gooiness, its ridiculous martial arts segments and its caravan of perfect GQ men’s hairstyles. I give you Roger Ebert’s own verdict on the latest Twilight installment:
The movie includes beauteous fields filled with potted flowers apparently buried hours before by the grounds crew, and nobody not clued in on the plot. Since they know it all and we know all, sitting through this experience is like driving a tractor in low gear though a sullen sea of Brylcreem.

Yet there are lots of young gals out there who have gone ape over the whole shebang. They trail through my local shopping mall with their Team Edward bookbags, their extra layers of Bare Minerals Mineral Veil, their Alice Cooper eye makeup and their stares designed to seem just a trifle more sepulchral and vacant. Great Caesar’s ghost, I think, where is my Advil? And should I write a handbook for carrying off Slightly Undead properly?

Back in the day, you didn’t need Klaus Nomi makeup and fake teeth to seem of another world. You had to have an imagination. All the kids I hung out with were stealing time from Biology 11 and Debate Club to immerse themselves in Mary Shelley, Goethe, Schiller, Dostoevski and (of course) Bram Stoker. 
A 1921 edition of Dracula (1897)


They were studying the attitude. There really was no name for this attitude, but it was the essence of what made the look authentic. Like Romapen to the Roma and duende to the Flamenco dancer, it was indispensable to pulling the whole look off. So what was the attitude? Well, for one thing, good-old-fashioned elegance played a large part. Entering a room the right way, sitting down the right way, eating the right way, and, well…being polite. Because none of us could have ever imagined Johnathan Harker striding into a room, slapping von Helsing on the back and crowing,”Yo! Wassup, mothafucker!” 

I remember, back in 1985, receiving two gentleman callers in inky Pete Murphy spiked hairdos, cutaway jackets, riding britches and long boots. They had brought flowers not for me but for my mother. Three hours were spent in the family living room with my admirers sipping Irish breakfast tea out of the family Lomonasoff and asking my mum about what exactly women did when nylon stockings ran out during the war. To have that certain vampirical allure, you needed to draw people in. You could be flamboyant, you could be a drama queen, but you had to do it in the most anachronistic fashion possible. And adults were, by no means, the enemy. Not only were they closer to the past than you were, they were (usually) closer to death than you were. How cool is that?

The cult of individual satisfaction so popular in today’s day and age has given rise to a new kind of oafishness. Teens are getting ruder and ruder. Drivers are getting more and more aggressive. The language is peppered with text-message syntactical mutilations (UR SO HOT!), as well as endearing terms of address such as “tool” and “douche bag.” Mystery has vanished into the water closet. I cannot boast of having been called a douche bag, but I have brushes with modern oafishness on an ongoing basis. 

The other day, I found myself virtually pinned (at a children’s birthday, of all places) under a zaftig blond social worker, a devoted Sex and the City watcher, who insulted the House of Basekić by bleating, “Your husband is SOOOOOO YUMMY!” and then (O, horrors!), “I wouldn’t throw him out of MY bed!” What about I throw you out of that window over there, honeybee? Somebody bring me a forklift! But enough on the sorry state of today’s manners. Let us talk about the delights of superficial beauty.

In the 80’s, paleness was everything. To the mirth of family and schoolmates, my cronies and I hid from the sun at picnics and on the beach (see Miss Brown’s excellent entry on the same subject.) I actually used to play softball for my school in an enormous hat. As for makeup, this had its own set of rules. My circle associated foundation with the orange masks sported by the bouncing, athletic big-hairs we so assiduously avoided. Powder on the other hand was greatly prized and applied with a generous hand. My favorite was Christian Dior’s loose powder (in Ivory), which came in a handsome lapis-coloured box. Add to this some smoky black Lancome eyeliner and some blood red lipstick (I wore a wine shade pilfered from Mum, again from Christian Dior) and you were good for a night out. Blush was never spoken of, nor was lip gloss. Highlighter had not yet been invented, but if it had been, we would have probably gathered up all the tubes we could find, put them into a giant wicker man and burned the whole thing.

Vampirella gets her beauty routine underway (a gratuitous offering, but who can resist?--ed.)

Today, being a busy mother, lady of the manor, writer and grad student, I have had to change things. I often air-dry my hair. I wear items that can be easily purged of yoghurt and crayon. I even wear sneakers (my ancient Coq Sportif ones) to go and get my son from school. And makeup? That’s changed, too. I no longer have the time to emulate the elegant severity of my 1980’s face. Instead, for my day makeup, I take my cue from, for example, Edwardian ladies: pale skin, slightly rosy cheeks and a stained mouth. It communicates “wan and interesting! No tanning bed and French Pedicure for me!” without taking an age to effect or breaking the bank. How do I pull it off, you ask?
  1. After rinsing my face in the morning, I hydrate with a good moisturizer and sunscreen (I’m chugging through a jar of L’Oreal RevitaLift Day, at the moment.)
  2. I pat on some Olay Regenerist Eye-Lifting Serum. I wait five minutes.
  3. I apply a tinted moisturizer with a foundation brush or damp sponge. (In this department, I like to mix Laura Mercier’s Illuminating Tinted Moisturizer in Bare with Roche-Posay Hydreane Tinted Moisturizer in Light. The former is too expensive to use alone every day, except for special occasions.)
  4. I apply a little concealer (I love Stila’s Cover Stick, but, in a pinch, I quite like Rimmel’s deadly cheap Rimmel Recover.)
  5. I reach for my lip and cheek stain, the astonishing LORAC Sheer Wash in Sheer Luck ( Though tricky to apply at first (blend! Blend! Blend!), this is a rare and flattering burnt rose colour. A lot of stains, I find, veer towards Barbie Pink or fuschia. This one does the trick. Sheer Emotion (in the same line) is great too, but definitely deeper and better for the night. Being a stain, it can be a bit drying, so I top it off with a smidge of Poppy King’s Medieval or the indispensable Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
  6. I attack my brows. My drugstore find of the year is unquestionably Maybelline’s Define-a-Brow pencil in Dark Blonde. It’s a truly authentic ashy shade and comes with a nifty, sharp little comb. To groom, I use a clear mascara such as Rimmel’s Style and Shine Clear Mascara or more Smith’s Rosebud Salve.
  7. I treat my lashes to one coat of Lancome Definicils mascara in Deep Brown, and the eyes are done.
  8. If I have time, and my son has not hammered the bathroom door down, I swish over some BeneFit Georgia powder ( with a large Kabuki brush to add brightness and to fix the whole deal and, bada-bing, bada-boom, I’m ready for my close-up.
    Fair, smooth skin, ironic eyebrows and stained red lips. Creatures of the night, look out! This is how it’s done. Team Edward, take note. And while you’re at it, watch your manners.

1 comment:

  1. Alex, very enjoyable and entertaining post. it's ironic that I feel too old to watch movies about vampires these days. That shouldn't be possible. Lestat had manners, these youngsters, I'm not so sure. And I get the feeling that Pattinson and his ilk's motto is: We don't want no ugly vampires.
    cheers, tami
    ps. that photo of you is gorgeous.