Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Skin Deep

"There are no ugly women," Helena Rubinstein declared, "only lazy ones." The cosmetics queen herself was living proof that style could trump mere prettiness. She was decidedly zaftig, and certainly no raving beauty; yet her intelligence, elegance, and innate chic made her infinitely more interesting than many of the vapid glamour girls of her time - and certainly miles ahead of any starlet, model, or (shudder) "celebutante" of today.

For those of us who were not kissed by Venus or Adonis at birth, Ms. Rubinstein (or Princess Gourielli, if you please) is a study in the art of creating one's own beauty through dressing well and refining one's tastes.

It takes a brave woman, indeed, to attempt an outfit such as the one Ms. Rubinstein is modeling above; to actually make it work is the result of a woman who knew herself inside and out, and had not only courage but impeccably good taste. Our dear Joan Crawford, for instance, would look supremely silly in such a get-up (although fabulously, if ridiculously, so); Helena Rubinstein seems completely natural and at ease.

A skillful sense of proportion, and keen eye for color, are probably two of the most important keys to dressing well, and Helena Rubinstein mastered both. Incidentally, her longtime rival was, of course, Elizabeth Arden, who was considered the prettier, more traditionally feminine of the two. But Ms. Arden, for all her brilliant business acumen and undoubted glamour, was no match for Ms. Rubinstein in the field of chic:

A lovely woman, to be sure; but no Helena Rubinstein. As if there could be another.

(Inspired, of course, by SAVOIR FAIRE!)


  1. Miss Arden vs Madame Rubinstein?
    As you say, no contest.
    Arden collected horses. Rubinstein had
    a staggering art collection and was the
    subject, herself, of works by Dali, Nadelman,
    etc and her houses were shrines to 20th century
    art, tribal carvings, baroque consoles...

  2. i say they both look like they should be pulling cows.

  3. Ahhh, to wear Schiaparelli so beautifully....

  4. Love, love, love the combination of orange and purple in the last Rubinstein pic.

    Pulling cows? LOL

  5. I adore the combination of purple and orange, too!

    And, moo, say I!

  6. You couldnt have said it better! Madame Rubinstein is the source of my inspiration daily, and of course she was no match for Ms. Arden who was decidely bougois when compared to Madame. Madame had savoir faire.

    Have you read "War Paint". Another great book is "Over the Top"

  7. MADAME, by Rubinstein's long-term Man Friday Patrick O'Higgins, is one of the 2 or 3 best biographies I've ever read. He gets every nuance of the style, the humor, the madness, the craftiness and every broche she ever owned too.