Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!!

I've just got back from an amazing weekend with friends and family, full of food, drink and giggles!

After travelling up to Leicester on Friday night, Saturday was spent putting the finishing touches to costumes (for everyone else, I just cooked dinner), before getting ready and heading to Redeemer @ Leicester Square for the annual Halloween fancy dress bash. I dressed as a gothic doll, complete with make up from Lets Make Up's tutorial, joints ably drawn on by The Beard and a corset from Corsets-UK. I was accompanied by the Beard who was once again wearing the Sexual Harassment Panda outfit from 2 years ago, but made up like a Zombie underneath. He did a pretty good job considering it was his first attempt at proper costume make up!

The friend we stayed with went as Plague Doctor (which a lot of people were amazed that he'd gone as a character from Assassin's Creed... we all despaired at the lack of historical knowledge these days...) and our best mate went in a costume she created inspired by H.R. Giger's Li II and other paintings.

You can only just see it in that picture, and she doesn't have the full costume on.

The club holds a costume competition annually and the first prize is a lot of tickets to festivals. A lot.

Guess who won first prize? Only our Giger lover!! Hands down the best and most original costume in the place!!

It was a wicked night and weekend, finished off by drinking real ale with family. I have most definitely NOT been on plan this weekend with my eating, but hopefully I won't have done too much damage!!

Photos by Ash Smith/Swedish Pete

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

REVIEW: No.7 Lash Adapt Mascara

Another review for you - this time some mascara.

I think mascara is one of those desert island products, and the search for the best one is seemingly never ending. A crucial part of any dark eye make up, it is a product I cannot live without, especially as I have quite light eye lashes.

As I blogged earlier in the summer, although I have found my perfect mascara in Chanel's Inimitable and Base, the price point of £45 for both is not feasible for me any longer. So I started my quest for a mascara that met my criteria.

And then a friend recommended No. 7's new mascara. For those of you who don't know about No. 7, it is one of the instore brands of Boots, our well loved highstreet chemist/beauty shop. I suppose Boots is as close to a drugstore as we get in the UK. No.7 is a well established brand at the higher end of drugstore prices, comparable to Revlon. Generally I find No.7 quality to be pretty good, but I find them a bit bland in terms of colours and formulations, although that is slowly changing. Before she discovered Lancome and other high end brands my mum had a shed load of No.7 stuff. Which I used to steal. I don't know if she knew, she does now!

Anyway, No. 7 have just brought out a new mascara that is absolutely fabulous. I am so glad I took a punt on it (using one of the now legendary £5 off vouchers that seem to breed like rabbits). I am not sure I could ask for a better mascara for the price. Here's why.

The Blurb: "This unique formula puts lash control firmly into your hands, allowing you to take your look from day to night without fuss. Add up to 6 coats, clump free! For more dramatic lashes in the evening, simply add more coats to build, define and volumise lashes to your desired look. Containing Jojoba Oil to condition and moisturise lashes to prevent them becoming brittle, lashes will be left soft, shiny and flexible even after eight layers."

Application: This mascara has a nice brush to it, not quite like a traditional one but not one of the plastic ones you often see these days. It has a good number of bristles - not so many that you feel like the product is stuck between them and applying too much, but not so little that your lashes clump together. A friend described the wand as like 'combing your lashes' and it really is. Each swipe/wiggle/stab/however you appy will leave a thin coat which allows you to build up more and more. Personally I just keep wiggling until I'm satisfied, do the other eye then come back for more. The size of the brush is perfect for getting right into the roots of your lashes without getting it everywhere too.

Buildability: It really does do as it says!! It will just pile on, and my lashes have never been stiff. The thing I loved about the Chanel mascara products was the look of false lashes that they gave me. Lash Adapt gives me a similar look, possibly even better. My lashes are long anyway, but this makes them seem even longer!

Longevity: This mascara is not billed as waterproof. I initially thought this was going to be an issue, but although I haven't tried swimming with it on, I have been to the gym, been out in the rain, been in the wind, to a wedding, had a full on cry.... and nothing. I've even slept in it and woken up with perfect mascara the next day. Seriously. I can imagine that if you did get this one wet, unless you rubbed your eyes really hard, it still wouldn't budge. After sleeping in it there is a little bit of creep, and sometimes when I've been to the gym and on the cross trainer for 30 minutes then lifted weights there is a smidge of creep, but seriously, that's pretty high energy, high sweat activity!

Colour: A good deep black, with no hints of grey.

Easy to remove? I think it is... but then I use an oil based eye make up remover (also by Boots) that has shifted the hardest to shift eye make up.

Here it is in action... (my face isn't really that shiny - flash and MSF is not a good mix!):

Where to buy: Priced at £12.50, Lash Adapt is available in Black and Brown in Boots stores or on

Monday, 24 October 2011

REVIEW: MAC Matchmaster Foundation SPF15

Picture via Temptalia

I'd been dying to get my hands on this foundation all summer, so when I finally had a moment to spare I hotfooted it to the MAC counter in Plymouth. I've been a lover of MAC foundations for years now, and although I have found others that I like a lot, I always find myself coming back to MAC for my base. I know that they often get mixed reviews but for me, MAC is what works for my skin.

So how did this foundation shape up? There was a lot of hype around it, particularly as it is a new avenue in colours for MAC. I know I said I loved Illamasqua's Skinbase (and I still do), I love this even more. It is oil free and has an ingredient that helps reduce oil production and just works amazingly. The new colour scheme uses a simple 1-10 numbering system, with no NC or NW base like other MAC foundations. 1 is the lightest, 10 the darkest, with quite a few x.5 shades in between. I was matched to 1, prior to going to the counter I was unsure whether I would be a 1 or a 1.5.

The Blurb: "New Foundation technology using translucent pigments to enable a fully personalized finish influenced by the subtleties of your own skin's undertone. Moisturizing demi-matte finish. Medium buildable coverage. Line-reducing soft-focus powders."

Application: When I went to MAC in Plymouth to buy this, the MUA applied this with a regular type foundation brush - flat and rounded top. I experimented a bit at home but eventually came back to my trusty Real Techniques brush which applied pretty much every foundation amazingly! You do have to work quite quickly as it is quick drying, but it dries down to a lovely soft focus finish. It is best to apply in thin layers to avoid pooling and uneven patches, but the only time I have had any problem with that was when I was having a bad skin day - by and large I find this quick and easy to apply well.

Coverage: This foundation is billed as medium buildable coverage and I think I would agree with that statement. It is one of those weird ones that feels really light on your skin but actually covers really well. I use about 3-4 pumps to cover my face, and I find that that covers my acne scars, and any 'live' spots really well. I do still need to use concealer on the worst bits, but if I was having a really good skin day (they do happen sometimes!) I could ditch the concealer and just wear this. Like the Illamasqua Skin Base, this can be built in specific areas, and I tend to do that before I reach for the concealer, so that I'm creating the best base possible.

Colour: This is by far and away the best colour match I have ever had in a foundation, and it definitely lives up to the claims of personalisation. I bought this 3 weeks ago at the end of the summer, when I still had a hint of colour in my face. Now the winter is rapidly setting in my face has lost all trace of tan, but the foundation is still working with my skin tone. I have often avoided the sun like the plague in the summer to ensure that I don't have to buy an additional bottle of foundation, but with Matchmaster, I think I will be able to venture out into the sun a bit more (obv. still with high factor SPF to protect my skin).

L-R: MAC Studio Sculpt NC15, MAC Studio Sculpt NW15, MAC Matchmaster Shade 1, Illamasqua Skin Base 3, Illamasqua Skin Base 4, Estee Lauder Double Wear Shell, Estee Lauder Double Wear Ecru

I'm not sure how useful the above picture is - even though it looks as though Studio Sculpt in NC15 would be my perfect foundation, I can assure you that on its own it is way too light for me, even in the depths of winter. I tend to mix it with NW15 (which as you can see is a widely darker colour!) to achieve the right colour. Also good to remember that the Matchmaster will adapt as you blend it out. 

Longevity: For me, using it as I do set with MSF Natural, Finishing Powder and a spritz of Fix+, I find that Matchmaster lasts an entire day without bother. My chin has a tendency to get a little shine but that is my chin and not the product. It doesn't slide, or fade at all. The first major road test it had was a wedding that saw me apply by 2pm, and remove at 1am the following morning, including dancing and a fair amount of wine, and still I had a good looking face. It did wear off a little over my spots, which were quite raised, but I hadn't used concealer so I thought that was pretty good going.

Some full face shots with and without flash:
Without flash

With flash
Additional products used (MAC unless otherwise stated):
Select Cover Concealer NW15
Mineralise Skin Finish Natural in Light
Paint in Bare Canvas
Brule e/s
Dark Soul pigment
Illamasqua Medium Pencil in Sophie
No. 7 Lash Adapt Mascara in 01 Black
Eyebrows in Stud
Browset in Clear
Cubic blush
Petticoat MSF
Prep and Prime Finishing Powder
Fix +
Nivea Pure and Natural Milk and Honey Lipbalm
Prep and Prime Lip
Myself l/s

Where to buy: Available in 14 shades from MAC or Debenhams

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Jehovah made this whole joint for you....

 Is the title of one of my favourite songs ever, by the New Radicals. It has the immortal line, which I often quote:

"So original in her black lipstick; listening to some obscure band
But isn't she pissed that all the other non-conformists; listen to the same obscure band"

Sometimes I feel very much that way about the alt. scene. Sometimes I feel it can be a little, well, samey. You only have to walk into to the local branch of Blue Banana to get what I mean. Pick up a copy of Bizarre magazine and the same half naked women in latex stare at you from the inner pages of this hallowed 'alt.' tome. I think I'll leave my feelings on those latex clad ladies for another post though!

So how can you avoid looking like just another face in the crowd? How can you turn a pallette of blacks and greys into a distinctive style that noone misses?

1. Think about your inspiration. 

Is music your first love? How do the songs make you feel? Maybe a song will make you feel like wearing a striking red lipstick, another a pair of fishnet tights.
Maybe films or tv shows fill you with ideas. Or print media. Maybe art. Figuring out your inspiration is a pretty good starting point for creating your own personal style. If you see something that inspires you, take a picture, or make a note of it.

2. Do some research.

There are loads and loads of different styles of clothing in the alt. world: rock, metal, goth and all its subsets, steam punk, post apocalyptic, military, fetish, burlesque etc. Google is your friend here - just pop a term into the image search and start working your way through the tabs. 

3. Mood Boards. 

What catches your eye when you browse the internet or the shops? Are you drawn to particular styles over and over again?  Using a service like Pinterest may be of help here, as it allows you to 'pin' your images to a virtual board and keep them in one place. You can browse other people's boards to gather more inspiration.

Build a mood board or two (I have one for make up and one for clothes) and after a while you may start to see some patterns in your likes, and use that as inspiration for your style choices.

4. Figure out your colours. 

There is no point in fixing your heart on a wardrobe of black and grey if those colours don't suit you. Contrary to popular belief colour is not banned in the alt. scene! It is crucial that whatever style you develop suits you, from the shape of the clothes to the colours that you wear, otherwise you end up with outfits that come across as pastiche, or just plain trying too hard.

5. Shop around.

There is absolutely no point buying up the entire stock of Blue Banana or whatever your local goth shop is, if you want to retain some individuality. Sure, pop in for particular items, but don't base your entire wardrobe on their stock. You can be sure as hell someone else already did that.
Regular high street stores have plenty of pieces you can work with, and incorporate into your style. Often specialist shops are actually really expensive, so buying off the high street often works out cheaper.

6. Learn to sew. 

The ultimate in individual personal style is hand made clothing. With sewing the hobby du jour at the moment, sewing equipment has never been more available and affordable. A basic sewing machine that will perform well enough to make simple garments will cost between £50 and £70 brand new, or pop into your local sewing machine shop to see what second hand reconditioned machines they have.
Sewing classes are springing up all over the place and the internet has a wealth of resources available. Handmade clothes are truly original, as no 2 garments will be exactly the same. The possibilities are endless and once you have a handle on working with patterns and fabric, you can expand your horizons beyond the regular.

Most important of all, go forth and have fun! Personal style should be about expressing our personalities and working that into every aspect of our lives. I don't claim to be an expert by any means, but I like to think that the way I look reflects me as a person, and that means the way I dress will change from day to day, depending on how I feel when I wake up, and what I have to do for the day.

Look out for further posts on worker a more edgier, darker sense of style into everyday wear (including work wear!).

Further reading: Wiki entry on alternative fashion, Devolution Magazine, AltFashion Magazine

Monday, 17 October 2011

Hello again!!

So it is done. Completed. Finito. Over.

Well hopefully my exams are anyway. I still have a small matter of getting a pass on them, and then in about 5 months starting my dissertation, but meh, I'll think about that later.

For now, I have time. Precious time. I am looking at my weekend coming up and wondering how to fill the hours that I will have. Currently my plans include make 2 dresses and a skirt, adjust a further 2 dresses and finish cleaning the house. There might be some wine in there somewhere as well. But not too much, I'm trying to stick to Slimming World.

Speaking of which, I lost another 1lb last week (roughly 0.5kg for the metric fans out there), which takes my total loss over the last month to 7lbs or half a stone (3.5kg). I'm really pleased about this, and the difference is quite noticeable (hence having to take in 2 of the dresses I have made recently, including the one I made 2 weeks ago!). I'm back to the weight I was at the end of last year I think, but I feel and look slimmer. But the good news is that I feel great. And Slimming World is really really working for me, I think mainly because it has only involved a slight adjustment to the way I eat. I seem to be craving chocolate a lot though, which I don't really understand because I've never been a serious chocoholic! I'm trying to be good for the next couple of weeks because for Halloween we are going to a big night out in Leicester with some friends and there will be a lot of alcohol involved!! There will definitely be pictures of outfits - I am not pushing the boat out massively this year because of the time with my exams and stuff, but I'll look good for sure :)

In my other 'sorting myself out' line of thinking at the moment, I have been to the doctors about my skin today. She was very sympathetic and totally understood that nearly 10 years of penance is enough! She also didn't push me onto things I didn't want (benzoyl peroxide or topical anti b's), so I came away with a script for 2 months worth of anti-bs (and apparently they don't use the ones that make your skin really sensitive to the sun anymore), to be followed up at the end of that time. Likely I'll need to be on them for 6 months, maybe more, but if that is what it takes to have the skin of a grown woman then that is what it takes. I've also been (after some careful consideration and the Dr didn't tell me it was a terrible thing), been bathing my face and upper back with a weak Dettol solution every mornign and night after using a toner, which has helped enormously with the outbreak I had last week and keeping my skin relative clear. A few spots have come up but nothing too major. I intend to carry on with that treatment for 6 weeks and see how things are then.

So... sorry for the rambling post... I have other things to ramble about as well, but that's enough for one night! For now I'll leave you with a video that amused me and The Beard no end, to the extent we had to try it with Suki, our little furry princess.

Monday, 10 October 2011

'Trip The Darkness' - the new single from Lacuna Coil

I know I said I wouldn't be posting until after my exams, but I just couldn't resist mentioning this!

Lacuna Coil's new single, 'Trip The Darkness' is now available to buy on iTunes (which means I won't be purchasing it just yet).

I love it. I absolutely love it. Mind you I like pretty much all their stuff, but this just blew my mind when I heard it. It is quite a departure from their more recent sound, it is heavier and gruntier in some respects. Andrea Ferro's vocals are the most polished and smooth that I have ever heard of his and totally justify his position in the band (not that I've ever questioned it, but there is a lot of derision of his singing out there).

I'm now even more excited about seeing them live again this year, in a month's time in my home town. The album, 'Dark Adrenaline' is coming out in January and it will definitely be on my purchase list.

Edited to remove dead video link - as I predicted Century Media were pretty swift at getting the videos down! I'm sure there will be something official when it gets the full release next week.

An update from me

Sorry I've been absent again - it has been a bit of a hectic couple of weeks with dressmaking, work, sorting the house out after weeks of neglect...

The next seven days sees the final 2 exams of my MSc, so I'm going to be focussing on preparing for those this week, but once I'm done with those I can definitely come back to blogging properly. I've got loads of post topics lined up to research and write, and I'm really really looking forward to getting into it! So for now, an update on a few things!

Slimming World is working really well for me - I have lost a total of 6lbs since I started 3 weeks ago and am actually finding it really easy to stick to. We started to get a veg box to help with food shopping and that has been fantastic.

The dressmaking last week went well and I managed to pull out the bag a gorgeous spotty dress that fitted perfectly with the 1930s theme of the wedding I wore it to. At which The Beard actually danced (he was very dashing in his press photographer outfit):

Nope, I don't know what we're doing there either.
Unfortunately getting caught up in the fun and festivities meant that all thoughts of proper full length dress photos were forgotten. So, you'll have to wait - I shall be doing a round up of all the things I've made this year in a month or so.

Sadly my skin has taken a bit of a turn for the worse and I have now plucked up the courage to go and see a Dr about it. I'm not fond of Drs, and last time I asked about my skin I got fobbed off. Right now just the thought of going to the Drs next week is making me feel anxious, as well as the feelings of hopelessness about my skin - quite frankly at the moment I just want to cry. But, after nearly 10 years of skin misery, something needs to be done. I'm going to see the nice Dr who has been lovely to both me and The Beard, so I'm hopeful that I will be taken seriously.

This is what I'm living with and have been for nearly 10 years.

Good make up can and will cover a lot of this up and make it look better (the new MAC foundation is fabulous - review to come shortly) but it can only do so much. The bunch of spots on my jaw in the top photo have been there for about 3 months now, in varying states. Sore, red, inflamed, I'm simply fed up of looking in the mirror and seeing those images. I'm fed up of photos being ruined by those spots, because even if I manage to cover them up with make up, the camera seems to be able to see right through it, unless I wear super thick foundation which I hate doing.

Luckily my skin hasn't really scarred at all, so if the spots can be made to go away, then my skin should be quite nice again. Seeking medical help really is a last resort - I've tried every lotion and potion known to man, I don't have oily skin so most of the formulations to tackle acne don't actually help because they make the rest of my skin look terrible, I've tried treating it as if it is sensitive, but again, I don't really have dry skin and the majority of the formulations are suited to that skin type. I actually have very normal skin apart from the acne! I've tried herbal supplements which sort of work, I eat well, drink loads of water, all to no avail. In all likelihood it is stress that causes it but I don't think I have any more stress than the next person, so unless I win the lottery and can give up work and lounge around eating grapes, there isn't much room to wiggle on that!

My appointment is next Monday after my final exam, so I will report back then.

On a cheerier note, I have some gorgeous fabrics with which to make some fabulous outfits, so I shall be endeavouring to make those soon. Once I'm done with those I'll do a round up post of all the clothes I've made this year (which will actually be quite a lot).

So, almost there and I really hope you can bear with me just a little bit longer until all the studying is done. I promise there will be bigger and better posts afterwards, and I do have some interesting ones lined up.


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