Friday, January 29, 2010

Legumes of the Week #13

I didn't do a Legumes of the Week last week, so this list will be a bit longer (and some of the links are to blog posts that are older than a week):
  • First off, how riveting is this illustration from an 1896 book called “Safe Counsel: Searchlights on Health: Light on Dark Corners”? I found it via a Web site called From Old Books, which is exactly what it sounds like. Lots and lots of transfixing graphics, borders and fancy lettering from out-of-copyright books. Hours of intriguing searching!
  • Hello Sandwich on Japan 7-Eleven's new healthy bento plan. I love this! I hope the concept comes over here to Taiwan because our 7-Elevens have bentos that are basically sodium molecules bonded together by rice and meat.

Cosmetics: how much does the outside count?

All photos by me unless otherwise noted

Above photo from Jill Stuart Beauty

A couple weeks ago, I went to the launch of Jill Stuart Beauty's (site in Japanese, but graphics intensive) latest collection for spring, Angel Rocker. The eyeshadows and blush are too glittery and perfumed for my taste, but I was entranced by the ornate and extremely princess-y packaging. Most of my everyday make-up is from MAC or Nars, and their plain, black, "we are professional makeup artists and we mean business!" packaging is completely different from the shiny crystal-clear compacts and ornate, jeweled nail polish bottles I saw at the Jill Stuart Beauty launch. The brand is very popular in east Asia, but (as far as I know) available only at certain Jill Stuart stores in the US.



I can see how pulling out a crystal-like compact when you are touching your make-up in the middle of the day might give you a small lift, even if you are just quickly swiping on some lip gloss at your cubicle or patting on some powder in a flourescent-lit office washroom.

This made me wonder how important packaging is to women when they make cosmetic purchases. It was to me when I was younger and make-up seemed like a magical thing. I wanted enameled compacts that closed with a satisfying click and lipstick in gilt tubes. When Coty still sold lipstick, I bought them even though the texture was too dry for me because they came in vintage-style packaging; even the lipstick had that mid-century bullet shape. I also bought Coty loose powder because the packaging had not changed since the 1930s). I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes I'd just wave the puff in front of my face and enjoy the scent, which just smelled so vintage-y. I felt like a character in a Rosamunde Pilcher novel!

1939 ad found on Cosmetics and SkinProduct photo found on [drumroll] Walgreen's online store

Coty still sells the same boxes with the powder puffs against a golden background (the harder to find blue packaging indicates formulation for sensitive skin). I remember passing by a store here in Taipei that had rows of Coty loose powder boxes and feeling a nostalgic thrill, even though I haven't used their products in 10 years (alas, I've forgotten where that store is!).

Credit: Ad Classix... the vintage ad is for sale

When I used Coty make-up as a vintage-obsessed teenager, I felt like I was playing a role. I'd swivel the lipstick out of the tube and pull it against my lips. The almost paste-like texture didn't bother me because I figured that was what women in the 1950s were accustomed to. I set my precious Coty powder box on my dresser next to my iridiscent Caboodles case and felt like I'd been transported into a more glamorous era.

I no longer pay attention to cosmetics packaging, however -- I just want make-up that doesn't irritate my skin, give me a headache with too much perfume or wear off quickly. But when I saw the Jill Stuart cosmetics and all the fans of the brand who were at the event, it made me wonder: what do those compacts and bejeweled brush handles symbolize to them? I got the feeling that most of the women were young professionals like me. Is part of the reason they chose make-up brands like Jill Stuart and Anna Sui over Mac, Smashbox and Nars because the packaging gives them a bit of escapism in the middle of a stressful day?


What do you think? Is fancy, ornate packaging a marketing trap or a way to inject some beauty (or at least prettiness) into your day? Would you be willing to spend extra for product in ornate containers? And (since I'm on this topic) what brands do you think have the most attractive packaging?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In My Pod: Shelves in my home office

Sir Horseman

Photography and vintage clothing books
Left to right: Japanese photography magazines, Dover reproductions of vintage Sears catalogs, Taiwanese photography books and "Ways of Seeing" by John Berger

Cyanotype print of my family
A cyanotype print I made from an old photo of my family


I eat too much candy
Candy doesn't count as empty calories if it comes in cute tins.

Retro Taiwan toys
Reproductions of toys once popular in Taiwan and a card deck with vintage cartoon illustrations

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jean Simmons: Strength and Beauty


As you may have heard, actress Jean Simmons passed away last week. I knew her work through two movies at opposite stages of her career: Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" (she played Ophelia when she was just a teenager) and "The Thorn Birds," in which Simmons portrayed Meggy's distant mother.


Simmons was an intelligent, feisty and well-spoken woman who had a long, distinguished career; she also overcame alcoholism at one point in her life. Her amazing personality really comes out in all the obituaries I've read so far -- in fact, every thing I've ever read or heard about her sparkles with Jean Simmons' spirit.



All above photos from the Life magazine archive

Monday, January 25, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': Bavarian Barney

Vintage dirndl: eBay, jersey top: Target, cardigan: H&M, vintage wooden heart pendant: Shida night market (師大夜市), shoes: Sogo Zhongxiao (Sogo 忠孝), tights: I have no idea, headband: Forever 21
This dirndl is one of my favorite dresses -- and the best thing about it (besides all the flaming purple) is that it came to me though eBay serendipity. The woman selling it had photographed it backwards on a dress form, so it looked like a plain sleeveless dress with embroidery around the bottom. When I saw the thumbnail, however, I was like "hey, that 'sleeveless cocktail dress' looks just like the back of a dirndl!" Apparently, the seller thought it was supposed to be worn with all the embroidery accentuating the back. I guess that's one way to remix the it!


The rest of my outfit is plain black, as I wanted to put the emphasis on the purple-ness, but I do like my vintage wooden heart necklace and my bandeau-style plastic headband. I forgot to take a close-up, but it has a airy, lace-like pattern on it. People often comment on it when I have it on. I've had some nice conversations with strangers in New York City and Taipei because of this headband. I guess that's one way to get to know people when you're new somewhere -- wear a statement accessory.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I've Bean Sproutin': Feeling Dotty. A Bit Squirrely, Too.

Cardigan: H&M, top: Cartoon House (卡通工房), skirt: Modcloth, tights: the depths of my tights box, boots: Sogo Fuxing, headband: Shida night market, necklace: Haoshi

This has got to be one of the weirdest photos of me ever taken! I totally don't look like myself! I think that's what having a combination of pale skin and small features does to you -- gray light totally washes you out! Boo. Anyway, my outfit here is yet another attempt to mix up prints, only in this case there were two things with polka dots, so I guess that doesn't really count as mixing. I do like how the size of the dots and the spacing differ, however!


I've realized that I can mix a lot of black/white/red/gray outfits with the stuff in my closet. I don't know why. I like red, but it's not my favorite color. I do, however, own a lot of black clothing. Maybe buying more and more red stuff is my subconscious way of brightening up my dreary wardrobe. I used to wear all black, until one day I realized I bored myself to death every time I looked in a mirror. Also, it drives me crazy when two black items of clothing don't match EXACTLY. I'm kind of weird that way. I do, however, still buy a lot of gray clothing, or gray and black pieces with interesting patterns, details or shapes, like this skirt.



My squirrel pendant is from a Taiwanese indie design team called Haoshi. Their Web site is in English and Chinese and has the cutest little back stories for their resin animal pendants. The one for the squirrel is: "I move in the forest. Every direction or signature, they all lead me to hope." I love that! I think it's a good mantra for life. I've made some major decisions in the past few years (well, all twentysomethings do, I guess), including moving to a new country and getting married. Not all of them were easy choices (well, getting married was a pretty easy choice, especially since there was a huge chocolate toffee cake involved, heh heh), but all have indeed led me to hope.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Legumes of the Week #12

Illustration by Cat Maske
Image is used with permission. © CJM 2010 All Rights Reserved

  • A coterie of very talented female animators and artists draw girls -- pin-up girls, space girls, kawaii girls, eerie girls, crazy girls, all awesome girls -- on Girls Drawing Girls. The above illustration is by my wonderful friend Cat Maske.
  • Hello Sandwich always finds the best blogs! Here she introduces us to Tokyo Connection, which has the most gorgeous photography of everyday sights in the city that is currently on top of my "must visit" list.
  • Dear Golden Vintage shares a creepy/cool/pretty/thought-provoking photography series by Ofer Wolberg.
Have a wonderful weekend! Ron and I are hoping to finally see "Avatar" in 3-D. It's been a busy few weeks, but we won't let this weekend pass without going!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An old friend from long ago...

I was trawling through Vintage Ad Browser when I found an old friend. This vintage advertising poster from China used to hang on my wall when I was in college. I bought it at the Union Square holiday gift fair. The woman in it appealed to me because she seemed bookish, shy and in her own world despite all the busy little graphics around her; during my freshman year of college I could certainly identify with that. I also loved her outfit -- the sleekness of her qipao, the surprisingly modern vest with its rosette and the strands of pearls. It's good to see her again (and it's also good to be able to read Chinese now and know that the poster is advertising the awesome flour and vegetables you'll grow after using ammonium sulfate!).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bean Listenin' to... School of Seven Bells

"Flaunt" editorial photo and CD cover from School of Seven Bells' MySpace
I adore School of Seven Bells, which melds dreamy lyrics with electro-pop. Two of the trio are identical twins (Alejandra and Claudia Deheza) and they named their band after a mythical South American pickpocket training academy which supposedly teaches that seven minds working together accomplish amazing feats of thievery. What's not to love?

Listen to their single, "Half Asleep," below:

Monday, January 11, 2010

What I'm Sproutin': Black, white and read all over

Dress and cardigan: H&M, leggings: American Apparel, pumps: Green Pine from Sogo Zhongxiao (Sogo忠孝), poppy pin: Accessorize, bag: Cambridge Satchel Company

So what exactly is black, white and read all over? Well, I hope I am, since I'm a reporter who wears a lot of black and white (haha, I love bad puns!). In fact, I think I've been wearing way too much black and white. My New Years style resolution is to stop buying so much black clothing. It will certainly making organizing my closet easier (right now the main way I find things is by touch).


My husband, my mini-me Blythe doll, Catherine Jr., and I all own black and white gingham clothing. We actually had a black and white gingham day last year, where all of us dressed up in matching duds. Then we went to one of those Japanese photo booth places and took ridiculous pictures that Ron refuses to let me post on the Internet. I can, however, show you a photo of me and my doppelganger (or should I say my dollpelganger?) in our twin outfits:


This was also back when my under layer of hair was dyed bright purple. I loved it, but the upkeep was crazy. First I had to go to a salon to double process my hair and then I had to touch up by myself once every few weeks. I used Special Effects Dye. The instructions say to leave the dye in for 30 minutes before rinsing it out, but I let it dry (which usually took a couple hours) before washing to make sure my hair soaked up as much pigment as possible. I had a lot of fun with it, though. This isn't the best photo, but it shows off what my purple hair looked like when it'd been freshly retouched:


I thought about keeping it for my wedding, but then I decided I missed my regular hair color and wanted it back for our wedding photos. I might dye my hair a wacky color again someday, though! Next time I think I'll try blue or fuschia.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Legumes of the Week #11

Chester the Retrobot

The first Legumes of the Week of 2010 covers everything from vintage Nintendo game characters to knitting patterns. Happy reading!

Yarn pirates take note! There are some awesome new patterns out there...
  • Mesh crochet necklace from a common thread. This one is very versatile -- I can see it complementing different styles when made in different yarns.

Say hey to Booday

Booday 蘑菇



If you've been following The Renegade Bean for a little bit, then you'll know that Booday (蘑菇) is one of my favorite brands in Taiwan. The Booday team started as a graphic design firm with a small magazine they launched as a creative outlet; today, they are a lifestyle brand with a line of t-shirts (now made exclusively in organic cotton), canvas bags and home accessories. Booday's Taipei store also has a cafe on its second floor, where they host art exhibits, talks, music performances, readings and classes. I recently took a cyanotype class there, which I'll write more about later. For more about Booday and their address, check out the article I wrote about them a couple months ago.


Booday 蘑菇


Booday 蘑菇






Here is a sampling of Booday's items from their online store.


My current favorites include:

A t-shirt with drawings of paper airplanes made from international mail envelopes (this resonates with me because I'm an expat and though I love living in Taiwan, sometimes I wish visiting home were as easy as folding a paper airplane!).

A pencil bag shaped like an eggplant.

This neat noggin bag.

I know they ship internationally to some Asian countries. Here is a list of stores that carry their items; if something catches your fancy and you can't read Chinese, try shooting them a note. Several staff members are fluent in English. If you can read Chinese, check out their adorable blog.

Have you have a nice Booday!