The Lipstick Conundrum

A couple of years ago I met up with some of my old girlfriends for dinner. I hadn’t seen them in ages and wanted to look my best. It was the middle of winter and as my skin is naturally pale and hadn’t seen anything resembling sunshine in months, I reached for the fake tan. I swear by St.Tropez. If you apply it wearing gloves and have exfoliated etc beforehand, it can give you a very natural looking tan, which usually boosts my confidence.

But …later on that evening, after a few glasses of wine, one of the girls took a photo of the group. When we looked at the photo somebody commented “Helen looks SO brown!” I looked at the photo and yes, I did look very brown, no, orange! My eyebrows were even darkened by the stuff. I looked like an oompa loompa!

I think the problem was this – I had put on the tan on the morning of the event and as such, while I thought I looked naturally sun kissed in a “I’ve just popped back from the South of France” kind of way, the tan had actually had time to develop throughout the day and by the time the photo was taken I was a little overdone. It was then that I vowed to only use the fake tan a night or even two nights before an event, allowing enough time to wash the stuff off and for it to look natural.

So, once I accepted my natural paleness, I decided to embrace it! I love a strong red lipstick on others, especially those, like Dita Von Teese with beautifully pale complexions. The result is so retro and glamorous. So I figured I may as well try vamping it up myself. I went to MAC to talk to one of their makeup artists since usually I’m actually a bit scared of lipstick and only ever shove on a little of their Politely Pink (seriously, that’s what it’s called). The very helpful lady picked out a fantastic matt colour called “Ruby Woo”. Woah! Very red! We put it on and I was all lips! I liked it though.

Feeling slightly self conscious I wandered out the store, towards Pret a Manger. It was lunchtime. But, after tucking into my sandwich I nipped to the loo. There was lipstick on my chin and a weird patchy bit in the middle of my lips where most of the lipstick had been removed. It was hideous! No wonder I had some funny looks when leaving Pret.

There is obviously much to be learned about the fine art of wearing lipstick. If I go for gloss it will always, I mean always, be a windy day and I end up with my hair stuck to my lips and with bright lipstick you clearly can’t eat anything (is this why French women are so thin?)

What do you think? Any tips?

 

 

 

 

Shutting Out The Negative Voices and Why I Wish I Was A Little More Like Adele

Being an illustrator is not like being an accountant or a lawyer. It’s not what you might call a secure career path. In fact, it’s not a straightforward career path. You’re not necessarily guaranteed a career in illustration just by doing a degree in that subject (mind you, you’re not guaranteed a career as a lawyer just by doing a law degree, but you catch my drift). You have to work HARD, be professional, grow a thick skin and learn to bounce back, move forward, be self motivated, keep going even when you’re at a real low point – because that’s usually when something really good happens.

But the hardest thing of all, I have found, is learning to shut out all the negative voices. It has taken me a while. Perhaps this is a British thing? Some of my lovely American friends, use words like “wonderful” when discussing my career path and say things like “you have a real gift. I’m so thrilled you’re capitalising on it”. A gift? …… Me? ……..Really?! Even the ones that don’t gush quite so much give off an air of support and understanding when we talk about my chosen career. Perhaps it’s just more a part of the American psyche to go after your dreams?!

Anyway, of course I have very supportive British friends, not to mention an incredibly supportive family and husband, but over the years I have heard a variety of comments from people who perhaps don’t know me so well. “When are you going to get a proper job?” Seems to be a bit of a classic and it usually comes from somebody who doesn’t love their own job. Another recent one stemmed from somebody who knows my husband (and also hates her well paying job) “but Helen just draws all day, that’s easy”. Hmmmm.

Then of course there are the negative voices you project onto others when they innocently ask “how are things going?”, “Are you busy?”, “sold any paintings recently?” Of course, these could just come from a well meaning friend or acquaintance trying to make conversation, but because you have heard the classic “when are you going to get a real job” a few too many times, you start to project this as sub text.

So the trick I have found is to learn to shut out all of the negative voices (whenever possible) and only focus on the good.

Another trick I have learned is to ask myself – “what would Adele do?” Sounds ridiculous I know but I just LOVE her. Her music kicks a$$. She is extremely talented and works very hard but more to the point you get the feeling that she wouldn’t take any nonsense. Cut her off mid acceptance speech and what does she do? Gives the middle finger to the fat cats while being shown live to the nation!

Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start being abrasive. Not even close. But with Adele, you get the sense that it’s all about the music. She doesn’t seem to give a stuff what anyone else thinks and if she does, she does a good job of hiding it. She knew what she wanted from a young age and she has gone out and gotten it. Perhaps us polite girls could all stand to be a little more like Adele.

 

What do you think? Anyone else encountered a similar scenario?

 

xx

 

*Seriously, if you ever need your ego boosted, just hang out with an American (a nice one that is) – it works wonders.

 

The Investment Coat?

 

 

As you might have read back in summer, I was in need of a new winter coat this year and having been inspired by all the beautifully fitted coats last year with belts to cinch the waist (including a rather glorious Burberry Prorsum number), I went in search of said coat. Now, my budget does not quite stretch to Burberry (whose does these days?), but I was prepared to spend a decent amount as an “investment”. I mean think about it, if you live in the UK or somewhere with a similar climate – where most of the year it’s, let’s face it, pretty cold and miserable, it makes sense to buy a decent coat because you’re going to be wearing it a lot!

But the trouble was, which one? I knew I needed something to keep me warm, something perfectly fitted (not easy, as I am tres petite) and something three quarter length that would look smart for “dressed” occasions. However, when searching through the shops I was confronted with:

  • Capes – beautifully cut and great for every now and then, but wouldn’t your arms get cold and wouldn’t you have to either; a) buy a pair of snazzy long leather gloves, or b) constantly consider what you are wearing under the cape to ensure your arms don’t clash (i.e. no Christmas jumpers)

 

  • Leather Biker Jackets - I have wanted one of these for years.* They are great for Spring and Autumn and look great either with jeans or skirts and dresses but wouldn’t quite battle a cold January morning. Nevertheless, let me just try on this beautiful Whistles leather jacket. Ahhhh, so soft, so beautifully cut, drool! But no, it will not keep me warm, and besides, if I am “investing” in a winter coat, I can’t afford it!

 

  • Faux Fur - would definitely keep me warm and would be great for Christmas parties…. but is it classic enough for day to day? …..Maybe.

 

  • Military – Ah so stylish! This could be it …. if only I could find one that didn’t dwarf me. I found one in Zara that fitted pretty well but the buttons looked cheap (sorry Zara, you have served me well, but not this time)

 

  • The Cocoon – Looks great with skinny jeans to balance out the lack of shape on top** but wear with anything else and you are at risk of looking like a blob

 

After all this, I found a perfect and affordable single breasted, three quarter length camel coat from Mango. (It looks a bit like something Del Boy would wear but I’m prepared to overlook that.) So affordable in fact that I decided to “invest” in that leather jacket after all!
What kind of coat will you be investing in this winter?
* The reason I have not bought one until now is because my friend Kate bought one a couple of years ago in the sale from All Saints. It is to die for and I have never found one to match it, until now.
** This is on most people but as I am petite and have very short legs, I look like someone who has dressed up as a Christmas bauble at the office party.

 

Brogue Lovin!

brogue lovin!

When I try on a dress in a store I always go up on my tippy toes to imagine what it would look like with heels. My husband always makes fun of me for this but I can’t help it, it’s instinct! Heels are flattering and give confidence – especially if, like myself, you are only 5 foot 2.

But, let’s face it, they’re not the most comfortable thing to wear and I only tend to wear them if I’m going on a night out or to an important meeting etc. If I know I’m going to have to walk any kind of distance or will have to be on my feet for a long time, it’s always flats for me and my flats of choice recently seem to be my brogues. I love the look of masculine wear on a woman and, unlike ballet pumps, you can get away with wearing socks with them, which is great for winter.

What’s your flat of choice? Or do you grin and bear it in six inch heels?

xx

The iPhone Addict

When the iPhone first came out, our friend Q*, who is madly into his gadgets, was the first person I knew to have one. We’d go to the cinema and while we were waiting on the film to start, he’d sit there checking the football scores while the rest of us gabbed about our week…… I put it down to novelty.

 

Then, a little while later, Chris (my husband) got an iPhone. He works for himself so it’s really useful for him in terms of checking his diary and keeping up with emails and phone calls while out and about. But then he grew slightly obsessed (and annoying), laying in bed at night looking at his phone and watching youtube videos while I was trying to sleep …. “seriously, I am going to throw that phone out of the bloody window!!”

 

But then, once I started out as an illustrator, I could also see how useful it would be to have an iPhone. I was chatting with my sister in law about it and she very casually offered to give (yes, give!) me her iPhone when she upgraded to the newest model. Wow, so generous – I was thrilled! and yes, I too am now slightly obsessed. First thing in the morning and last thing at night, what do I do? you’ve guessed it! Etsy, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter …. not to mention email, the occasional ( or not so occasional) online mooch in my favourite store.

 

The result of all this is RSI in my right thumb (seriously!). I’m sure it’s not good for my brain either as I find I can’t sleep if I check my phone too late at night and I definitely didn’t feel like I missed anything when I only looked at my phone every couple of days to see if I had any calls when we were on holiday in Italy this summer. If anything, not using my phone helped me to de-stress a lot quicker.

 

It has to stop!

 

Anyone else got a similar addiction? Or at least some advice on how to use an iPhone in moderation? Please!

 

*Obviously not his real name. I went to see Skyfall last night and it seemed a suitably techie name. I’m not feeling very inventive today…. great film though.

 

 

 

50 Shades of Natural Darkest Brown

I found my first grey hair at the age of 19. I was on holiday in Greece and an old Greek man remarked that it was a sign of wisdom. Well, 10 years on and  I’ve been telling myself that ever since!

I started out with very dark hair. My Dad and brother were the same (though annoyingly my bro has only just found his first grey hairs despite the fact that he is 3 years my senior). Perhaps it’s linked to stress? Humph!

My point is, at what age (if at all) is it okay to accept the inevitable and stop pouring horrible chemicals on my head every 6 weeks? Meryl Streep looks so glamourous with her white hair. It’s almost empowering to see. But for a woman in her 20s (yes, I’m holding on to that title for as long as I can), wouldn’t it look a bit odd? Moreover, I don’t think I’m quite ready to go grey!

 

Grey Eyes

Helen Simms Illustration Grey Eyes

Antoni and Alison @ LFW 2012

Antoni and Alison Fashion Illustration by Helen Simms

I absolutely LOVE mens clothing on women – especially men’s watches and shirts and shoes! There’s something very sexy about it – perhaps its because men’s clothing doesn’t show too much flesh, or perhaps wearing men’s clothing and accessories serves to highlight our femininity – who knows? This gorgeous androgynous outfit stood out for me at Antoni and Alison’s show at London Fashion Week.

 

Brow Envy

Helen Simms brow envy

 

The people that know me really well are the ones that know just how obsessed I am with eyebrows…. and I mean seriously obsessed! Since I was, I don’t know, I guess, 12, I realised just what a big deal they are in terms of shaping and enhancing your whole face. However, unfortunately, at that age, I got hold of my Mother’s tweezers, armed with magazine pictures of popstars and actresses and just started to pluck. Ooops! Needless to say, I over plucked! My eyebrows were too short in length (I did not adhere to the old rule of holding a pencil at the side of my nose and lining it up with the edge of my eye to show the place at which my eyebrows should stop), generally over-plucked and uneven (not helped by the fact that in my teenage years I would constantly raise one eyebrow, largely because most of my friends couldn’t).

I have been paying for these early mistakes ever since and I’m sure I’m not alone. I even remember one girl at my school decided to shave (yes, shave!) her eyebrows. Gah!! Oh, how I long for big, beautiful Audrey Hepburn-esque brows!

Anyway, just over a year ago I discovered a new phenomenon known as HD Brows. It’s a 7 step process in which they do all kinds of things to your brows – including threading, dying, waxing etc. and after the year, I must say I can see a huge difference. The downside is that it’s quite pricey – (£35 a pop!) and that they recommend you completely leave your brows alone between your 6 weekly visits, which is very hard for someone as obsessed as myself : )

Anyone else got any good brow recommendations?