Thursday, October 11, 2007

Henri Bendel and the makeup factory

One of my proudest achievements while working at the gourmet cookie company was getting our product back in Henri Bendel. A quick tutorial for for those of you who don't know what or who Henri Bendel is -- or how to pronounce it -- I was calling it En-REE Ben-DEL, you know, all French like. FORTUNATELY, when you call there they answer the phone "Henry Bendel" and I never made a fool of myself. Anyway, Henri Bendel is like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory for cosmetics.

I'm a makeup slut. I love makeup. I always have. My mom used to have a drawer full of outcast cosmetics that I guarded with my life. I was an expert at putting on makeup by the age of 3. So Henri Bendel is kind of like my Mecca.

The bottom floor holds every makeup line you've ever read about in any fashion magazine and some you haven't. It is literally almost too much to behold. Too many choices. Too many colors. Too many fragrances. In other words, too wonderful. The three upper floors contain beautiful clothes and purses, but I'm a cheapskate at heart and after seeing the outrageous prices on everything never ventured upstairs again.

I had arranged to do a demo of our products because that will sometimes will help tip a buyer over the edge. You might wonder why a cosmetics store would be carrying cookies, but the product my company sold was very "gifty" and the colors of the tins that our cookies came in perfectly matched Bendel's summer theme.

I arrived early because I wanted a makeover. I scoped out the different cosmetics selections and ultimately chose Laura Mercier. I don't remember why I chose her line but it probably had something to do with the packaging. I'm a sucker for cool packaging and I love the color brown. Her line is sleek and all in brown, so there you go.

I almost changed my mind when the Laura Mercier consultant approached me. She was slightly frightening looking and her makeup was....well....let's just say she applied it with a heavy hand. It's kind of like when you walk into a new salon and you meet your stylist and her hair looks like a bird has nested in it for several weeks and you think to yourself "Does she think that looks good?" and whether the answer is yes or no you're in trouble. But all the other girls at the LM counter were busy and I was running out of time.

I sat down and she went to work on me. We talked about how much makeup I generally like to wear (not much), my skincare regimen (very simple), etc. And then we got to the lips. Now I'll be the first to admit that I have kind of a thin upper lip. And we've all heard that if you want to make your lips look fuller that you should line them slightly outside of your natural lip line. Well, she went to town on my lips. She lined them, lipsticked them, and glossed them. And then she handed me the mirror.

Everything was great -- a little more foundation than I normally wear but you kind of expect that when someone else is doing your makeup. But y'all. The lips. She had lined them a good quarter inch outside of my natural lip line. They looked grotesque and swollen. And sloppy. And fake! It was OBVIOUS what she had done. I mean, it's not like anyone would have been fooled by her makeup trickery (for the record, her OWN lips also looked like this so I should have known). I mean, if I were on tv (have you SEEN that home shopping network lady??) or on stage where the audience is so far away I MIGHT have been able to get away with it. But in real life?

"What do you think?" she asked.

"It's great! I love it. I'm not really sure about the lips, though."

"Oh, it looks fantastic!"

"Yeah, well, I'm getting ready to do a demo in here and I'm not really sure I want to wear THESE lips to do it. I'm going to wipe it off, if that's okay."

"Okaaaay. But you have to promise me you'll wear it like this sometime, okay?"

"Okay. (on HALLOWEEN! I screamed inside my head)

So I ended up buying most of what she used on me that day. I did buy the gloss and the lipstick but NOT the liner. While she was away ringing me up, I was mentally trying to tally the damages. I've done makeovers before, albeit usually a the Clinique counter, so I know how quickly things can add up.

"That'll be $253.87."

WHA?? GULP! And of course at that point there's no way to say "Oh, well, you know, maybe I don't need the foundation prep cream after all. Or the concealer brush. Or the concealer, for that matter." You pretty much have to suck it up and fork over the cash. Fortunately, at that time the bank where I had my car loan gave its customers the option to skip a car payment in July and December -- you know, so you'd have a little extra cash for vacation and Christmas presents. I had elected to skip my July payment so I would have a little extra cash to spend in New York. Guess how much my car payment was? $254.

So, I walked out with my cute little Bendel's brown and white striped shopping bag, which, in NY especially, is as iconic as Bloomingdale's Brown Bag and Tiffany's blue one. I was walking on a cloud and vowing never to tell Mr. Daddy how much I spent (and I actually managed it until today's post. Hi honey!)

I went back to Bendel's every time I went to NY after that, but I never dropped so much cash there again. In fact, the only thing I ever bought there again was my Benetint, which I still love. And if I go to New York again -- and as God as my witness I WILL go again -- you can bet I'll be back. With my nose pressed against the glass.


AndreAnna said...

I'm a hop away from NYC - I'll meet ya there next time you go! ;)

Lauren said...

What a great memory!!! Just going out, and letting loose at the store of your choice.

Did you save the little brown and white bag?? I might frame that thing.

Esme said...

OMG, I'm in shock over the $253.87 bill! How did you manage not to fall over right there at the counter?

Love the title to the post!

Amy and Kia said...

And I thought I had sticker shock at the Lancome counter this summer! You always look "marv-e-lous" Madam Queen! :-)

Lulu said...

I love the lip story! That is so funny! Actually, I have a very thin upper lip as well, and I have tried that same trick. It's horrible. Almost as bad as the girls that you see who have lined their lips in a really dark red or brown lip liner and fill in the lips with a really light pink. Hideous.

I so loved your stories of NY!

1blueshi1 said...

ah, the good old days, when I shopped for makeup at Sephora instead of throwing something into the cart at wallyworld...

Lulu said...

Okay - speaking of lipstick, have you read this yet:

What's the freaking deal with ALL THE LEAD this year??

Sophie said...

I love this story! Back in the day, that is exactly how I managed my finances -- buying as much cosmetics as my car payment. That really cracked me up.

And good for you for wiping that gunk off your lips. You know what Jerry Seinfeld says...

Madame Queen said...

Actually, Sophie I don't know what Seinfeld (never really watched the show -- I KNOW!) says and now I'm dying to know!!

Also, Lulu, what IS up with all the lead? I think all these other countries have got it in for us!

Susan said...

Maybe you could auction off the brown and white stripe bag and I could just stick L'Oreal in it or something?! If we go to NY, you can take me shopping there. I'll spend gobs on haircare products to get some volume with my straight-oh-so-fine (but not fine) hair, but I'm fairly cheap with makeup. Those places intimidate me.

Random Blog Reader said...

I LOVED this story!! Good for you for standing up to the lip lady...I can never tell them they don't do great work...I also completely understand the "how-much-is-it shock" and not being able to do anything but fork it over.... ahhh to be beautiful :-)

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