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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back in the day: A woman and her reds

Summer is over, and cooler weather always causes my thoughts to turn to fall and winter smells (Bath and Body Works Creamy Nutmeg in the burner) and red nail polish. While this may not sound like it has anything to do with mid-century life (and even if it does, you male readers may be asking, "So what?"), it always brings back very vivid memories of the 1950s to me.

My grandmother (of Mimi Glam fame) was a woman who appreciated a good manicure. I remember thinking, as a child, how beautiful her hands were...and that she should be a model for Revlon. While she might not have rivaled the glamorous supermodels of the day, such as Suzy Parker and her sister Dorian Leigh, she definitely knew her nail polish. She was the buyer for the cosmetic counter at my grandfather's drugstore and always had a dresser drawer full of the latest Revlon colors.

There are many I remember from my childhood, but the standouts...both the colors and the ads...are Love That Red (launched in 1951), Fire and Ice (launched in 1952) and Million Dollar Red (launched in 1952) and Cherries in the Snow (launched in 1953). The 1952 Richard Avedon Fire and Ice photo became such a fashion icon that Revlon restaged it in 2010, using actress Jessical Biel to stand in for Dorian Leigh.

Suzy Parker in Revlon's Love That Red ad

Dorian Leigh in Revlon Fire and Ice ad

Jessica Biel in the 2010 Fire and Ice ad

Suzy Parker in Revlon Million Dollar Red ad

Dorian Leigh in Revlon Cherries in the Snow ad

My own go-to Revlon reds
l to r:  Revlon RedRaven RedCherries in the Snow

Raven Red on the very fingers that type this blog

While these reds will stay in my nail polish collection as long as Revlon continues to make them, I'm not immune to the charms of some of the newer companies. Since my blog rarely branches out into the world of fashion, I'll take this opportunity to add some entirely gratuitous shots of a few of my favorite not-so-vintage and not-red shades. OPI never disappoints when it comes to giving their colors zany names, so I'm not sure if it's the colors I really like, or if I just like what they're called.

My nod to current fashion
l to r:  Get in the Espresso Lane; Nein, Nein, Nein, OK Fine!; You Don't Know Jacques

Dark brown Get in the Espresso Lane


  1. My mum has amazing nails, always has, sadly the nail gene is not so strong in me but I do like to dabble! I have just bought a nude but am partial to peach! Great ad's, real Hollywood glam!

    1. I wear sheer nudes and a the occasional coral during the summer, but as soon as the weather cools off, I bring out the reds. The dark browns and grays are new for me.

  2. I love a good strong red lippy, unfortunately it usually ends up on my teeth so I don't wear it that often.
    Dana, I am so jealous of your lovely hands. Mine are positively reptilian in comparison. I never paint my finger nails. Polish wouldn't last a day on mine. My hands are always in dirt or covered in paint etc.
    Btw, my first job (when I was still at school Thurs. nights Sat. mornings) was behind the Revlon counter in our local department store. My best friend, who was crazy about make-up scored the manchester department. She was so jealous. Ha-ha!

    1. I had to Google "manchester department," because I didn't have a clue what that was. Now that I'm older, I'd be in heaven in the linens department, but when I was younger, I would have preferred the make-up department too.

      I have to admit that I do a lot less gardening and heavy housework than I did when I was your age, and I'm sure that helps the polish stay on better, but I absolutely swear by a base coat and top coat called Seche Vite...and Dr. Scholl's Intensive Heel Repair cream for my hands as well as my feet.

      Now if I could just find something to cure the red lipstick problem. It's bad enough at your age that it gets on your teeth, but when you get old like me, it can also end up halfway to your nose if you're not careful...LOL

  3. Dana! You have gorgeous hands! Your skin looks so smooth and beautiful. I haven't seen such perfect nailpolish application either. Am I gushing? You better believe it. I like those OPI colours. How do you get the edge of your nailpolish so smooth? Seriously.

    I rarely wear nailpolish. You've inspired me to paint my nails this weekend!

    1. I confess to having inherited my grandmother's love of nail polish, and I have an embarrassingly large collection. I guess more than 50 years of polishing my nails...and being blessed with a remarkably steady hand...has allowed me to hone my polish application skills. (I've always been able to do very intricate pen and ink drawings and oil painting too.) I really don't know how to explain how I do it...except that I try to get the first coat done in only three swipes...once down the middle and then the sides, with just the right amount of polish on the brush. If I make sure I get very close to the cuticle all around on the first coat, I don't have to be so careful with the second coat.

      It's getting harder and harder as I get older though, because I can't see to do work like that without strong prescription reading glasses and a gooseneck desk lamp pulled right down over my hands. I have a feeling it will exclusively be sheer colors for me soon, because I'm so particular that I don't even like the way manicurists polish my nails. (Yep, I'm a little obsessive/compulsive. Does it show? LOL)

      If you can find the product I mentioned to Kylie...the Seche Vite top it! Honestly, it can make a less-than-perfect job of polishing look smooth and glossy. (Seriously, folks, it's good...and nobody's paying me to say that!)

  4. your hands are so beautiful...i remember reading the post about ur grandmom..:) the post

    1. Thank you, Sudha. I've never felt my hands were as lovely as my grandmother's, but they do look more like hers than anyone else's in the family. And I was fortunate to inherit her skin, although my hands are finally starting to get a little wrinkled. I guess, at age 64, I shouldn't complain though. It's just one of those things to be expected.

  5. Oh...and one more thing...Switch to glass/crystal nail files. They make all the difference in the world if you want smooth edges. And if you want great cuticles, buy OPI Avoplex Cuticle Oil to Go and keep it by your computer so you remember to apply it several times a day. (Sorry, men...I'll be back to my usual topics soon.)

  6. YOU GO GIRL!!!! I like this kind of stuff, actually. You are not surprised. I have quite the nail polish collection myself. We could do this for days. Try OPI Big Apple Red. And Channel Vamp. I keep my toes done at all times. Hands are clear for the most part.

    1. My favorite red of all time was Chanel's Rouge Coromandel, which they discontinued in order to introduce a new Coromandel, but I found out that you can still buy some of their discontinued colors straight from their site, and that's one of them. Yay!

      I also love Chanel Pirate and Chanel Dragon, as well as OPI The Thrill of Brazil and OPI Red. I confess that I even follow a nail polish blog. :)