Monday, September 26, 2011

Of Fire and Shadow

The other day I put on brown eyeshadow.  Unimpressive, I know, especially considering the sheer amount of makeup I own and have tested. For every item in my drawer, I have probably passed on 3 pieces of briefly tested goods to friends and their nieces.  Then there are the ones which cannot be shared--all those mascaras I subjected my lashes to, assigning all the annoying ones in the bin.  So many foundations, concealers, liners, lipsticks and oh-oh-ohhh so many shadows.....

Rimmel's quads have been my recent discovery and I LOVE THEM.  Also checking out the 'new' winter Fiery Lips and Gloss trends, I picked up Maybelline, Revlon and L'Oreal glosses, and a Revlon lip stain in Gothic red.  The Revlon gloss is in Fiery, just bright and warm enough but not too yellow for a pale Irish girl.  I say "Trend" but have Red Lips ever gone out of style? It shifted to Orange over summer which I considered an affront to anyone with normal skin tones. 

What? Really, Orange?

Now the fashion world has returned to it's Crimson senses.  But for Fiery Lips, one requires Neutral Eyes.  Thus Brown Shadow.
Glameyes Quatro
Glam'Eyes Smokey Brun

Which I have not worn in nearly ten years.  Thinking back now, Brown Shadow seems to be a Ten Year Cycle for me.

Something sniggled in my head as I walked the aisle, considering the Neutral shadows of Cosmetic Powerhouses, selecting the high-quality, versatile Rimmel one. Brown brown brown.  I have brown tops and sweaters but rarely wear them. I have brown pants, and wear them with green tops and red danskos. The bright reds of my hair are founded by a dark mahogany layer, but it's the boldness of the cherry red that people see.  My life is filled and surrounded by color, very little of it, save home furnishings, anything as bland as brown.

I've been chewing this over and over all weekend until I realised the Legacy of Brown.

Kathryn Sharkey would be 105 years old this year.  She married a Sicilian immigrant, Angelo Campello, and their first son was born in 1928.  Their second son was born in 1946, and he is my father.  His brother's children are much older than my older sister and I've never met them, but I've seen photos of the entire immediate family.  I introduce you to Kathryn here because we are the only two people in three generations who look alike.  Pale, creamy Irish girls, tendency to blonde and red, the only difference being our eyes and nose which my sisters, father, cousins and uncle all derive directly from our Sicilian heritage.  It's hilarious, really--we all look disparately different until you line up all the photos and follow the eyes/noses alllllll the way down the generations.

Then there are Kathryn (Grammy) and Me.  Growing up, once my parents bought our house and we moved from our apartment, I had a huge double-closet.  Half of it was taken up with storage of everyone else's stuff--a hideaway bed, boxes of--hell, I've no idea what was in there, but then--ohohohoh my, there was the Dress Up Stuff.

Hanging bags of Grammy's most glamourous clothes, a couple of hat boxes, clear plastic boxes of accessories and oooohhhh the furs! And if you ever see me in these, don't you dare throw red paint, these things are nearly 80 years old, those critters ain't never comin' back.

But what about the box of accessories?  Some pretty little powder compacts, a small box marked 'Mad Money!'.  And a small compact of brown powder.  On the lid was printed the name of a bank, so this was a premium for opening an account, like a toaster or a change purse, but such a strange thing to offer....

I would dress in these beautiful clothes with my tiny little sister, the two of us as adorably ridiculous as a Hallmark commercial, wearing an equally ridiculous hat of incongruous style, then crack open the little tortoise-shell shadow box and just fluff it on all over the place, then assault my sister with it.  It was just so plain. It was the past-- it was a box that closed, placed on a shelf and left.

Several years later I entered the realm of Adolescent Grooming, and unfortunately, this was in the 80's.  This was about the time Revlon created a black compact with a white hinged insert that would lift up and you could buy colors to pop in then click the white plate down to hold them into place.  Your choices were Pink, Baby Pink and Blue.  Which went with our Feathered Hair, Plaid Flannel Shirts and Stirrup Pants.  As I started my first job, my Grandmother Naomi decided to fix my errant taste with the gift of a color consultation by Beauty for All Seasons so I wouldn't be Wasting My Money and would Look Like a Lady.  

I was an Autumn, and ended up with a lot of green and brown eyeshadow. There was the brilliant Clarion Cosmetics computer system at the drugstore where you entered your eye, hair and complexion colors and it gave you number-letter combinations to find on their product packaging.  Lots of brown and gold. That christmas my family, in an attempt to lure me out of a closetful of black, bestowed upon me what must have been $400 worth of brown, cream, green and red clothing from Limited.  Didn't last long.

But as I said, I seem to return every so often the shades of Fall and forests and chocolate and deep wood.  Yet this time, I realised how I've come full-circle, or rather, realised that there is A Circle Unbroken.  Since Naomi passed last summer, I've spoken of her and the influence she had on my life as the person who was with me so often.  She also had style, a mid-century, cosmopolitan, international style full of clean lines and jewelry from foreign countries she had visited with Rotary.

Grammy, however, died when I was about 6 1/2, and while I remember nearly every single square inch of her beautiful home in Los Altos, 32 years later I remember precious little of her (except that she could apparently see through walls an entire house away,  knowing I was shoving peas under my mashed potatoes).  But the photographic evidence belies her early-century refined style.  I have her rhinestone and pearl brooches and jewelry which have stayed in fashion for nearly a century.  I cover our creamy, fragile complexion with levels of SPF unimaginable in her lifetime.  I still have her black velvet cocktail dress with a full circular beaded crystal collar. I'd need to lose about 110 pounds to get close to fitting into it, so I'm looking for a beautiful mannequin to display it.

And in order to assume the mantle of Beautiful Fiery Lips, we see this Circle described:  At the dawn of modern cosmetics, Max Factor and Revlon created a powerful, cultural icon in their Red lipsticks.  Think of a 30's Lucille Ball:

Not Just a Funny Dame

...or the 19-year-old Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not --black and white, but you know just how Red those lips are when she turns to Bogie...


....she just puts them together and blows....

In all of those early black-and-white photos, Grammy's dresses and suits are carefully adorned with accessories and scarves and hats, her lips are that same Red-- the Revlon Red I stained my own with Saturday morning before work.  And her eyelids were the same smokey brown.

A Strong, Powerful, Fiery Mouth.

Stubborn, Proud, Resiliant Brown Eyes.

100 Years of Legends. Hope I'm living up to it.

Pin It Now!

No comments:

Post a Comment