Westmore Beauty Book

The famous Westmore brothers, a brood of five experts in the field of Hollywood hair and makeup, impact during the 1950s cannot be underestimated. Through their collective efforts, these brothers defined the look of silver screen stars in the post-war period. Their renown was such that they were able to publish a book that documented their various techniques and experiences in making people beautiful. Long out of print, this book has finally been reissued for a new generation.

The contents of the book alone are wroth the purchase price. Unlike most makeup and hair manuals that are several decades old, trapped in their context, this beauty book is as applicable today as it was back in 1956. Most of the techniques detailed in this 250 odd page book are not only timeless but extend beyond the simple application of makeup or hair spray.

There are beauty techniques to make women look younger sans plastic surgery. Perhaps these tips are more valuable than the actual makeup secret which are, despite the richness of the results and descriptions, relics of their time. Maybe useful for someone seeking a decidedly retro look.

Nevertheless, the beauty tips in this book are quite valuable. I’d wager that the most insightful and useful for modern readers is the ability to tailor one’s natural appearance, complete with blemishes and flaws, into strengths. This holistic and naturalistic tendency is likely to strike a chord with modern readers.
Makeup manuals often have the tendency to clone its readers into little copies of the models pictured. More of a template than a guide, the results generated can be ill-fitting and discouraging, especially when compared against professional models and a legion of stylists and photographers to make them look beyond the means of the average person.

No, this book enables readers to build their appearances based on their needs. Customization is key and this book provides you with the tools to do so.

Manual of Ladies Hairdressing

It’s interesting reviewing a piece of history such as this. Manuals can tell a lot about the time period they were written in. Not only does one get a glimpse of what constituted the standard craft of the time, but the style of a manual can give you a greater sense of what the expectations and assumptions the writer of the time made on his or her audience. Such is the case with this particular manual.

Stating that the contents of this manual are a little out of date would be a supreme understatement. Hailing from 1899, the styles detailed in this manual are far from in vogue. I doubt very many hair dressers would find clients interested in these elaborate hair styles.

Yet, there is something very interesting in how the manual is presented and an inherent, anachronistic charm, to hair styling instructions such as:
“To make the Virgin bandeau, divide the hair, by a front parting, in two equal portions; make a plait on each side, well smoothing down the hair from the temples to the ears. The plaits may either fall down over the shoulders, or be pinned up at the neck, chignon shape. Another way is to make a front-parting, and cross-parting, and a fastening. It is sufficient to smooth the front hair down; bring up the ends as high as the ears and pin on to the fastening, and arrange a chignon.”

Despite the lack of helpful illustrations, some styles being illustrated while other, inexplicably, are illustration free, this passage says a lot about the audience. There is no step by step layout akin to contemporary how-to books. Instead, the diction is authoritative and conversational, as if one was watching a mother in action or a television show.

Again, one shouldn’t expect to come away from reading this manual with an arsenal of new hair styling tricks. Instead, some to this antique manual for an appreciation of the evolution of the craft and a look back in time to some of the Victorians cosmetic norms.

The Complete MakeUp Artist

Now there are several useful and informative books in relation to the study of make-up. But because there are different levels to it, just like every other subject a person can learn about, there are varying books dedicated to the different levels of skill. “The Complete Make-Up Artist” is a book geared towards those who are beginners in learning about make-up in television, movies, and theater.

Penny Delamar knows what it is that any beginner will need when they start off. She had worked for the BBC for ten years on various projects and is now principal of Delamar Academy, just to name a couple of accomplishments in her career. This is a book just made for the aspiring student.

Because visuals are always helpful, accompanying each of the step-by-step guides for the different techniques there are matching illustrations. That way it allows a comparison for the reader to rely on when trying it themselves. Within each chapter there are tidbits of information added on to help the reader as they learn. It covers the basics as well as principles to make-up without overwhelming the student with too much at once. There are tips and notes on health and safety to make sure they are also aware of what they should be careful of when practicing.

The basics covered in the book apply to both traditional as well as character make-up. Because neither one is more important than the other, Penny Delamar makes sure to cover both styles. And just like any good teacher should, there are plenty of activities and questions inside. It is the best way to ensure that a person is learning and what better way to do that then with a few projects? This tests the person on what they learn and has them put their newly acquired knowledge to use.

“The Complete Make-Up Artist” provides examples of work most notable in the history of entertainment, such as “Gone with the Wind”, to show what can be achieved when someone is dedicated to what they love. Works that were completed by her graduates and had received awards for are excellent examples provided in this book.

For anyone starting out in make-up, “The Complete Make-Up Artist” is the ideal guide in helping them on their way. It is the perfect book to start one’s collection with as they continue to learn the various arts to make-up.

Special Make-Up Effects

It does not matter what skill level as a make-up artist the reader is. Whether they are an amateur or an expert, “Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” has tips and instructions for all to learn from. The book covers all there is to the art of make-up for theater, television and movie productions.

Todd Debreceni gives us the ideal how-to book when it comes to this type of art. His writing style makes it easy for everyone to understand the different methods he uses. It has information ranging from sculpting prosthetic to painting the model in vibrant colors to give them that unearthly look. The book also goes over the different tools to use, what materials are best suited for what project, and suppliers he recommends for specific materials, just to name a few examples. Both the written instructions and photographs are there to help novices and experts alike.

But he has done more than show the reader how to achieve stunning works of make-up art. Included in “Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” are a variety of features from make-up artists of today. Such artists as Neill Gorton, Christopher Tucker, Miles Teves, Jordu Schell, Mark Alfrey, Matthew Mungle, Christien Tinsely, Vittorio Sodano, and Mark Gabarino. It is as thorough as it can be when it comes to teaching the reader. And by providing this variety and paying attention to so much detail, Todd Debreceni has given the reader a unique opportunity to see into this study.

However, it doesn’t end with the book. Along with the book there is a DVD include that is full of tutorials and recipes that can be found with the book. This DVD guide is the ideal tool for anyone who prefer a real-time visual to help them understand. As bonus there is an illustration gallery consisting of works from experts of this industry.

“Special Make-Up Effects For Stage and Screen” is the resource to use for when it comes to this particular art. It could be a gift for someone who just starting out. Or perhaps a helpful tool for a friend or family member who is already in school. No matter the reason anyone can learn good tips and pointers from this book and DVD combination.

Illustrated History of Magic

Magic has captivated audiences for centuries. From the smallest child to the oldest grandparent, magic and illusions continue to dazzle everyone of all ages. And in “The Illustrated History of Magic”, Milbourne and Maurine Christopher provide for you, the reader, a tour of all things magic.

This is not a book containing how-to or step-by-step tricks and illusions. That is something that can be found anywhere else. Within the covers of this book are four-hundred and eighty four pages dedicated to the very history of magic through out the world from Egypt to China, from Britain to the United States. And names

Stories of different magicians, sorcerers, conjurers and illusionists as well as their amazing feats are here to teach you what magic is all about. Since it’s original publication in 1973, “The Illustrated History of Magic” has been updated by the Milbourne’s wife after his unfortunate passing in 1984 to include stories about Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, just to name a couple. Milbourne Christopher is said to have been major influence in the world of magic as a magician himself, as well as a lecturer and historian. All in which is told in the foreward from David Copperfield himself.

But what makes this book all the more entrancing is that included with all these stories are illustrations. Hence the title. With roughly three-hundred illustrations, this bibliography of magic shows examples of everything written within. Copies of playbills for popular acts can be seen, along with cartoons, advertisements, even photographs, all in which are based on these legendary events and people. This is a book to help both newcomers as well as old friends of this trade to learn what brought magic to where it is to this day. And with pictures coupled with the stories, it is difficult not to find any enjoyment in this enriched history.

Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label

Anyone who’s seen a starlet on the silver screen of 1930’s cinema is doubtless familiar with the glamorous designs of Gilbert Adrian. A leading fashion and costume designer from the 20’s through the 50’s, Adrian’s creativity influenced the entire fashion world, all the way from Parisian couture designs to the day-to-day fashions worn by American women of the era.

The 2008 book by Christian Esquevin, Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label provides a year-by-year summary of the ten years of designing couture and ready-to-wear fashions for his private clothing label, as well as detailing his Hollywood costume designs.

Born in 1903, Gilbert Adrian attended the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts and also studied fashion design in Paris. He designed the costumes for several productions, both in the US and in France, before being hired by MGM studios as a costume designer.

In designing costumes for more than 200 films, Adrian was instrumental in making Hollywood into the new epicenter of glamour on the global scene. He had the good fortune to dress such silver screen luminaries as Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Lana Turner and many others. Adrian even designed the costumes for The Wizard of Oz – right down to Dorothy’s ruby slippers. His designs went on to become the signature look of several trend-setting Hollywood starlets, such as Jean Harlow’s bias-cut silk dresses and Joan Crawford’s strongly-tailored, broad-shouldered suits. Unfortunately for Adrian and his fans, the first Academy Award for Costume Design was not awarded until 1948, after Adrian had retired from designing costumes for film. “When the glamour ends for Garbo, it also ends for me” said Adrian, when asked his reason for retiring from the world of cinema fashion.

After working in Hollywood, Adrian truly struck out on his own, refusing to collaborate with or hire any other designers for his private-label couture designs. He also only permitted his ready-to-wear designs to be sold in one store in each city, to promote their exclusivity. Despite this, his groundbreaking designs were widely copied in the marketplace and even termed “the Adrian silhouette.” At the high point of his success, Adrian had salons in New York City and Beverly Hills. His private label enjoyed a decade of success between 1942 and 1952. He retired to Brazil with his wife Janet Gaynor and lived there until his death in 1959. These days his name is not as widely known as other famous fashion designers, but his influence is unquestionable, as the man who was responsible for bringing golden-age cinema glamour to American women everywhere.

In this book, Christian Esquevin captures the essence of Adrian’s stylistic prowess in beautiful descriptions and photos of his classic designs. Covering the 1920’s through the 1950’s, we see the glamour and elegance of his influential creations on-screen and off. From the show-girl costumes to his private label creations, all are beautifully rendered and worthy of the great designer’s impeccable style.

50 Dresses that Changed the World

While I am certainly no fashion expert, I do have a cursory understanding of fashion to understand that there are some dress styles that undoubtedly revolutionized how women dressed, be it the 1947 Christian Dior “New Look”, the miniskirt, Jackie-O’s sense of style or Chanel’s forward thinking business attire. However, I never imagined that this diversity ranged across fifty different styles of dress.

Sadly, I feel one of this book’s first flaws is its misleading title. A large number of the featured styles seem to exist in a world entirely of their own. A few of the entries I seriously doubt are known to anyone outside of the immensely tight inner fashion circle. Perhaps relabeling this book as the “fashion world” rather than just the world in general would be more hopeful to readers beyond fashion students.

While the book is well constructed and embossed with crisp, sharp photographs, much of the accompanying text appears to be an afterthought. Some entries provide interesting context for why certain styles altered the way women dressed but very few do this in detail. Far too much telling, rather than showing, is done in this book.

It is true that this coffee table book is more geared towards casual readers who want to see the pretty pictures, it is a bit insulting to see typos and editorial errors abound alongside last minute or inconsequential text. More substance would make this book more of an enjoyable, or at least informative, read.

Nevertheless, as I’ve said before, this book is far more interested at examining the effects of certain fashions on the world of designers rather than customers. I feel the book works best as a form of escapism, mental role playing or princess fantasy, rather than an engaging and educational text. If so, it succeeds wonderfully. Still, there are missed opportunities here to allow the reader to connect the clothing of everyday to the clothing on the runway. There is already a vast chasm existing between these two worlds and this tome does little to help bridge that disconnect.

Fifty Dresses That Changed the World
by London’s Design Museum

The Dress Doctor

There is admittedly a generational component to people’s awareness of Edith Head and her stature as the most accomplished costume designer in history. If you are a fan of Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and others from Hollywood’s heyday, chances are you’re very familiar with Edith Head. If you’re of a later generation who has only watched these actors on Sunday afternoon TV matinees, you are most likely wondering who she is and why the fuss. Well, as the hands-down queen of wardrobe design, she has had an impact on Hollywood that still reverberates long after her death in 1981.

The Dress Doctor was first published in 1959, and was written as a memoir and style guide. It is also as much about Hollywood personalities of the time as it is about the fashions that Edith Head created for them. This is a book filled with advice and gossip, style tips and fashion no-no’s. In writing this book, Head wanted to leave a legacy that would help bring fashion to the everyday woman and teach that style is simply a matter of understanding one’s own image – and working to enhance it. The book became a sensation and was re-issued three times during her life.

In its latest edition published in 2008, it has been given a complete makeover. In fact, you could say it is a different book entirely. This fourth edition of The Dress Doctor has been subtitled, Prescriptions for Style from A to Z. And an A to Z collection it is. It has taken all of Edith Head’s most profound advice and best-loved stories, and has compiled them into a catalogue ranging from Audrey Hepburn (who Head called the perfect figure model) to Zooture. This new edition is beautifully illustrated by Bil Donovan, a fashion illustrator who is imminently worthy of the task of recreating Head’s famous designs.

In reviewing The Dress Doctor, one must understand the era in which it was written. The major studios of the time had contracts with stars for creating movies and essentially controlling their careers. Edith Head worked for both Paramount Studios and later, for Universal. She was regarded throughout her career as one who could design an image for a star. As she established herself among the elite of fashion cognoscenti, the studios gave her unprecedented creative latitude in formulating the “look” of their star actors and actresses. This creative license helped to make her book a true Hollywood inside story and, along with her advice for the masses, made it an instant success.

Edith Head was given the moniker ‘the Dress Doctor’ early in her career, while working for Paramount studios – the most successful movie studio of the time. As the chief costume designer for the biggest studio, she was given the duty of transforming the average girl-next-door into a glamorous screen presence, while maintaining the genuine good looks of these stars and stars-to-be. She was privy to all of the Hollywood drama that took place off the screen, and was discreet enough to continue having access to it for her entire career.

Even after publishing The Dress Doctor and her follow-up book, How to Dress for Success in 1967, Edith Head was able to maintain her position and stature among the Hollywood elite – likely because of her unmatched skill at producing the best costumes and styles Hollywood had seen. Throughout her career, she was nominated for 35 academy awards and won the Oscar 8 times. She received more than 1000 screen credits in her 50 years in the industry.

Above all, Edith Head was about style. She believed that everyone should dress their best and that we can all learn style. One of the quotes she is best known for, and the one that closes The Dress Doctor is this; “You can have anything you want in life, if you dress for it”. Here’s to you Edith, and to your style.

Makeup 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique by Virginia Vincent

As a book, Virginia Vincent’s Makeup – 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique is a poor read. However, those picking up this book aren’t looking for helpful insights or provocative stories that showcase some of the Hollywood excesses during the 1930s. Instead, this book is an instructional guide straight out of 1932 that acts as a thirty-six page primer for aspiring makeup artists at the time. Recently reissued in 2008, this title is a relic of its time that aspiring makeup artists should familiarize themselves with for nothing else than a bit of historical perspective.

What can be gleaned from this book for modern readers? While the information presented is informative and there are some details I imagine would appeal to makeup artists, both aspiring and established, who need some inspiration, much of the instruction detailed in this book is grounded in the 1930s.

Essentially, the only people who will walk away as a more competent makeup artist will be those looking to duplicate the styles presented in this book. A good deal of the information is based on products that either do not exist anymore or have been replaced with better modes of application.

However, it is interesting to note how well this text was presented in 1932. Originally published as a full color photo book, Makeup – 1930s Beauty Instruction and Technique is a sort of textbook for the masses. Created for the sole purpose of sharing insights into the application of makeup, this book seems to have been a timely arrival when cosmetics had just become a commercial necessity the decade before. In a way, this guide was a primer for women of all ages who were just starting to stretch their legs in terms of applying makeup daily.

That alone justifies reading this book. For those who are fascinated with makeup or those who want to be makeup artists, starting here at, arguably, the start of commercial makeup is a fine place to start. Casual readers will likely get very little out of this text that is barely two score pages long.


Star Style: Hollywood Legends as Fashion Icons by Patty Fox

Hollywood is commonly viewed as a fashion Mecca since so many of the top designers cater exclusively to this crowd of celebrities and starlets. Patty Fox’s book, Star Style: Hollywood Legends, examines the highs and lows of the fashion world from the rose tinted lens of Hollywood. Organized by celebrity, each entry examines the role this person has had on the development of fashion and how the stars of the silver screen not only are at the forefront of the fashion world but also set the tone for most people’s fashion sense.

Although I expected this book to be little more than a fluff piece that focuses on a few tried and true fashion icons, there are a whole host of lesser known fashion icons who usually fly under the radar when it comes time for a retrospective on the best dressed in Hollywood. While stalwarts in the annals of fashion like Audrey Hepburn are present, lesser known ladies, like Delores Del Rio, are also included to provide a far more nuance retrospective on Hollywood’s fashion successes.

Each entry is also chocked full of interesting stories and entries detail the various ladies of Hollywood and their dalliances with fashion. While the information present is hardly provocative or juicy, tending more to be sentimental trips down memory lane, they are nonetheless entertaining to pass the time in between the glossy photos of leading ladies tearing up the red carpet.

Furthermore, a revised edition was released that included some more contemporary fashion figures like Gwyneth Paltrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Cher, keeping the book relevant and not merely a relic you would encounter at a dentist’s office.

Although most of the info in this book is good natured accounts of fashion successes and faux pas, the reader from cover to cover is enjoyable. This is highly recommended for red carpet aficionados or rabid fans of the shining stars of Tinsel Town. For those more interested in the evolution of fashion, give it a look through but don’t expect enlightenment.