The Art of Reinvention

At this time of year, with the Christmas and New Year festivities over, we can feel a little anti-climactical. So it helps little that the colder weather and maybe just a little over-indulgence appear to have taken their toll on our skin and hair. We look in the mirror and feel, frankly, a little lacklustre. Instead of moping, it's time to do something about it! In my case, I know when I'm busy or under pressure my 'me-time' takes a backseat and, despite having plenty of lotions and potions, I end up doing a patch-up job and layering on the concealer to make up for it. This is fine. None of us have time for pampering when we're ultra-busy but just by going back to that skincare routine, by taking a bit more care with the products I use, I know I can make an enormous improvement to the way my skin looks. And, if we're honest, can't all of us find five minutes at the end of the day to remove ALL our makeup and put on a good moisturiser? Late at night we might not feel like it, but we can certainly manage it. It won't turn us into Cheryl Coles but at least it'll make the most of the limited 'equipment' we have.

And this is why, from time to time, I like to do a little reinvention. After all, all the greats - Madonna, Kylie, Lady Ga Ga - do it regularly. Okay, I know I'm no Kylie and this all sounds a bit 'rock star', but hear me out. We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday (okay we may not want to some days, but we have to!) and the same face looks back at us. Unless you fancy spending tens of thousands of pounds on the services of a plastic surgeon halfway up a mountain in Switzerland, this is the face you are going to see for the rest of your life, so it's little surprise that sometimes we get stuck in a rut or hit a wall, or any other cliche you might care to choose. Yet someone like Kylie must see a different person all the time. One day she's a showgirl, the next a sultry siren or a disco diva. So how does Kylie do it? 

"With the help of several professional stylists, the assistance of a record company and a great deal of money" I hear you yell. Well that's true, but can the rest of us hope to change things up a bit, even though we're not so 'loaded'?

If you're planning a complete Kylie-style change of image then the answer is probably 'no'.


After a bit of hunting around, even I can find a photo I'm happy with …

If the nice Bobbi Brown artists are going to 'do you over', you might as well go out for lunch somewhere a bit swish!

But very few of us are planning to leap into a pair of gold lame hotpants any time soon. The truth is, there are countless inexpensive, and sometimes absolutely free, ways to reinvent ourselves. At least on the kind of scale most of us want to achieve. And many of us already do this. Most of the women I know colour their hair. Just about the only exception is my Mum who is blessed with the most wonderful curly near-black hair that, once it began to 'grey' did so into the most perfect pure white that means that Mother Nature (and Mother Rippon) need no chemical assistance whatsoever). Most of us, however, are less lucky and, besides, most of us start colouring our hair long before the odd stray white becomes an issue. The fact is that even the tiniest tweak with our hair colour can make us feel completely different. When I was a teen I was a big fan of those 'wash-in, wash-out' colours that came in sachets free with Jackie magazine. But it wasn't until I was 30 that I began tinkering with my colour in a more serious way. I'd been with the same hairdresser since I was eight years old and it was only when he passed away and I had to seek another stylist that I even began to rethink my hair.


To be honest it took me long enough to find a salon I was happy with. I'd decided it was time to go somewhere more grown up, somewhere a bit more trendy but I found most of the high-end high street salon chains intimidating. I mean, come on, some of them make you feel you need to audition for them before they'll even open the appointment book. I won't even do that for a nightclub so I'm certainly not doing it for a hairdresser! But eventually I found somewhere 'posh' and comfortable and, slowly, and bit-by-bit we tweaked my hair's style and gradually its colour. Ten years on from that first tentative step, there's scarcely a colour I haven't tried. I've been blonde, red and brunette and had highlights, floodlights, graphic panels and all-over colour. And I've loved it! I'm not saying I feel like a different person when I have my colour freshened, but I certainly feel like a more glamorous, more confident version of myself.

But, of course, hair colour, and its upkeep, can be an expensive choice and there are more affordable ways of making a change.  For example, many cosmetics brands offer free makeovers, or makeup lessons.


Nothing like a bit of wild hair colour to perk you up a bit!

Now, if you're like me and you've sampled the wrong kind of department store makeover (as in fashion-house-turned-makeup-brand) you'll doubtless be wary of the makeup counter mavens with their over-bronzed cheeks and three-inch nail extensions. I, too, have been made-up for a treat only to discover I look like Lily Savage on a hen night!
What you need to do is take a good look at the makeup artists themselves. If you like the look of their 'faces' it stands to reason they'll do a good job on you. I absolutely swear by the Bobbi Brown counter at my nearest House of Fraser. Not only do the artists there look groomed yet slightly glamorous, they are helpful, will answer countless questions and aren't going to hold you to ransom to buy something there and then. While their counter is often busy, it is possible to get some one-on-one time with a professional and highly-skilled makeup artist. You may have to make an appointment but several times a year, when the range has a new collection to showcase, Bobbi Brown counters offer free makeup lessons using the new products. It's always an informative and comfortable experience and the girls (and fellas) make sure that you are happy with everything before they apply it. The colours are always flattering and come in a huge range of shades. Even I can find a foundation that matches my pallor (it's called 'Alabaster', by the way) and the 20 shades go well into the darker skin tones too as far as 'Espresso' - a real rarity with department store brands. Other brands offer similar experiences and the very best should be able to demonstrate products properly and offer decent, and helpful, advice. Above all, don't be afraid to ask about a product or for colour suggestions. Okay, we can't all have the movie star lifestyle, but we can pretend for a while. And why not?

After all a little rock star love doesn't go amiss either. I'm not talking about hooking up with that dancer on the tour, or the hot young film director who wants you for his muse. No, I'm talking about a good old-fashioned sycophantic love-in. You may not have your own entourage to tend to your every need, or to tell you how fabulous you're looking today (if you're Mariah Carey then I apologise - clearly you do) but you can give yourself a boost by being your own 'cheerleader'. I know this is starting to sound like one of those self-help guides favoured by Bridget Jones, but sometimes it's not all twaddle. I'm not suggesting you spend hours staring into a mirror chanting the mantra 'I am beautiful, I am gorgeous, I am hot!', but, it'll do you no harm to congratulate yourself from time to time. Call me shallow, but I take great pleasure from the tiniest things. And while it might be more 'not so bad today', than 'bootilicious' every little counts.

I have always hated having my photograph taken, but having to provide a decent and recent one for professional purposes meant I had to bite the bullet and at least try. And you know what? Even I managed to trawl through the archives and find a few where I look acceptable. With today's digital cameras you can have hundreds of photos taken, heck even take some of yourself, until you get a few you're happy with. Finding photos where you look truly happy, confident and groomed will give you a tremendous boost. Plus, you'll have a photo ready for Auntie Maude when she wants something to put in a frame. If you get your photo taken after you've been for your Bobbi Brown makeover, then even better!

Of course, even the discovery of a nice photo won't make you into a different person and if you really want to make wholesale changes to your lifestyle, it'll probably take a bit more than a new lipstick shade. But the same is true of Kylie, Madonna and Lady Ga Ga. It's all really an illusion, but it's an illusion that, as long as we don't become fooled into thinking it's real, can do us a mighty bit of good!