Hellosie, it’s Maisie. A cosmetics company is offering women more than one orgasm. Read me to find out.


Tom Ford’s new perfume is Fucking Fabulous – at least that’s what it’s called. Ford announced his latest fragrance during New York fashion week, and the name alone has caused a stir, with descriptions ranging from “racy” to “obscene”. Certainly, it’s a gear change for the designer, who has previously favoured more literal fragrance names – Tobacco Vanille, Tuscan Leather, Venetian Bergamot – but, in the increasingly risque world of cosmetics monikers, it is unlikely to raise eyebrows for long.

Cosmetics’ names were once chosen for sentimental, rather than shock, value. Chanel’s numbered fragrance line marked dates including her birthday (No 19) for example, and Dolce & Gabbana’s Sophia Loren No 1 lipstick was released to commemorate the actor’s 81st birthday. Meanwhile, Nars’s Jungle Red lip and nail colour reference the nail polish from 1939’s The Women (a film that memorably featured not a single man).

Yet Nars is far better known for Orgasm – a blush colour that managed to overshadow the likes of Threesome, Sex Appeal and, sadly, Mata Hari, in what is a relatively risque range – rivalled perhaps only by (the pigmentally similar) Deep Throat. This year, the brand launched an entire Orgasm collection off the back of its popularity. (Tagline: “Have more than one.”)

“François [Nars, Nars’s founder and creative director] has always wanted to give the products an identity and character,” says Magalie Parksuwan, senior vice-president of marketing at the company. “He wants people to remember the names and to provoke.”

The high street has embraced provocative and “rude” cosmetics, with brands such as Soap & Glory marketing innuendo-laden products, from Sexy Mother Pucker lip shine to Glow Job tinted foundation. Too Faced’s Boudoir Eyes palette skipped the puns entirely, with shadows titled Fuzzy Handcuffs and French Tickler, while the brand’s Better Than Sex mascara proved so popular that it inspired a line of shoes.

Unsurprisingly, the ever “edgy” Urban Decay has its own selection of suggestive cosmetics, including a blusher in Fetish (a name shared with a lipstick by Mac) and a lip gloss in Rule 34 (Google it). Illamasqua takes a more straightforward approach, with a rubber-finish nail varnish in Kink and an eye shadow simply called Sex. But can raunch-based retail really seduce potential customers? “It definitely has an impact,” says Parksuwan, “[but] there’s more to the success of a product than just that.”

When Kylie Jenner, something of a bellwether for millennial makeup trends, released her blush collection in March, she ditched the sentimental nomenclature of her Lip Kits (Mary Jo K was a tribute to her grandmother and Dolce K was named after, er, the family dog) for vastly more provocative names including X-Rated, Virginity and Hot and Bothered. But it was her rosy pink Barely Legal which proved most controversial – sparking a similar backlash to that prompted by Kat Von D’s Underage Red lipstick in 2015.

Even so, an Instagram search for #kyliecosmetics conjures more than two million posts – many of them photos of the products themselves; fully packaged, lascivious labels neatly aligned – which perhaps goes some way to explaining why suggestive stickers, no longer sheepishly consigned to the base of nail varnish pots, proliferate. “Names help to create a story and elicit a reaction [online],” says Parksuwan. And, given the epicurean competition, who would want to be #beige?

That said, the chance to be immortalised in makeup may not yet be dead. Last week, Ford also expanded his Lips & Boys collection, which now features 100 lipsticks – each named after one of the designer’s closest friends.


Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Cross-dressing: are women’s and men’s fashions blending together?


In retrospect, I was not the best choice of person to walk through Harvey Nichols’ selection of “ambiguous” clothing.

The designer store says the latest fashion isn’t about androgyny but a blending of genders. Instead, men are shopping in the women’s department, and vice versa. But I can’t help feeling that the women shopping in the men’s section are Cara Delevigne lookalikes without any hips to distort the cut of men’s clothing – as in, Baggy jumpers, bomber jackets and suits are all very well if they’re draped over a model with the frame of a coat hanger, but can real women really pull off the look?

Harvey Nichols promises that it’s not just the Kate Moss types who are shopping in men’s stores. More than 60 per cent of 25- to 35- year-olds admit to cross dressing and men are just as keen to embrace more feminine shapes and sample from their partner’s wardrobe.

And as they’re shopping in Harvey Nichols, it must be fashionable. The gender neutral looks come from designer brands that make me feel guilty just looking at them. We start in Givenchy (gee-ven-chi? ji-von-chy?) and tour racks of perfectly tailored jackets, T-shirts and trousers that cost more than my monthly rent. There’s a leather-trimmed wool coat that is undeniably beautiful, but some other items look more bizarre than fashionable once off the hanger.

I try out an outfit worth £1,295 and while I’m sure there are some very cool fashionistas who could totally work the look, Though the jeans made me look “like a mum”. My usual size of jeans are far too tight when they’re cut for a more masculine shape, and I have to get Harvey Nichols to courier over a bigger size, which classifies as my first ever fashion emergency. The colour of the jumper is suitable for high-fashion devotees of either gender but a size small was baggy on my shoulders and tight across the chest. The Madonna T-shirt was a far better fit though, and I could see myself wearing it with some black leggings (though I may need more attitude).

We’re seeing “a new wave of gender ambiguity” in fashion, according to the people at Harvey Nichols – who have put together a range of items that could be worn by men or women.

It’s great to discover you’re ahead of a trend. I have a couple T-shirts that have been moving round my wardrobe for years, though considering one is a lurid purple and the other a souvenir from a Kylie Minogue concert, it may be for the best that both are currently kept there.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Seeing the ego and vanity of D. Trump and Kim Jung Un may just affect my future. I thought I’d write something irrelevant about men, their ego’s, vanity, and make-up.


It costs a lot to look like Emmanuel Macron. His personal make-up artist recently filed two claims for payment: one for €10,000 (£9,200) and one for €16,000 (£14,740) – both for doing his make-up for press conferences. The claims cover his first three months in office, meaning he’s been spending almost €10,000 per month on make-up since becoming president. Which shouldn’t be too surprising, when you realise there is a whole industry, literally, a whole self-help industry consisting of earnest books and stripy jumpers and diets, selling us tricks to appear more French.

But the international outrage expressed is at Macron’s vanity. Male vanity, this perfumed albatross that men must hide beneath their blazers like a goitre for fear of seeming vulnerable, but with a gravitational pull so strong it leads them to organise speeches at sweet little places like the Palace of Versailles.

The real problem with vanity is being caught in the act. This “expenses reveal” is the media equivalent of somebody catching your mirror face, the pony-like pout your lips stiffen into when they happen upon a reflective surface, be it a car window or the back of a dessert spoon. Worse than being caught masturbating, worse than a stranger walking in on you in the Tesco’s loo, somebody seeing your private mirror face, and therefore not just the real you, the vain you, but the you that you most desperately want to present to the world, is the most excruciating of embarrassments.

The associations we have with make-up and that me-time in the mirror are largely shameful, and grimly gendered. There was some kerfuffle after comments Zadie Smith, about limiting her seven-year-old daughter’s mirror time, were miss-framed as a way of scoffing at women’s vanity. Out of context, Smith’s quote, her insistence that an hour and a half for contouring was too long, was pinned to the women’s wall on the internet and pelted with darts by people who felt she was judging their choice to wear make-up. It’s something about the way news works today that leads to these high-pitched rows between otherwise sane and clever women, as if the reporter had chucked a stink bomb over the fence before running away. Is it because we’re trained to rise to it, like mice in a lab? Or because, while we’re primed to resist, it’s easier to slap out against the people we saw as allies – they’re closer, after all?

Anyway, Zadie wasn’t dismissing those of us who enjoy make-up, she was pointing out the disparity between the grooming that is expected of men and women, and teaching her daughter the reality of what those before her have labelled the “hair and make-up tax”. “I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time,” she said. “Your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up.” The cheap alternative, of course, is that men like Macron encourage everybody to take the time to enjoy the thrill of a flattering mirror, and the magic that comes with a really good mattifier.

It’s not that men like Macron or children like Smith’s daughter shouldn’t care about how they look, though the arguments that have bubbled up around them have sought to debate that point. The service these arguments have provided instead is that they’ve opened a window into the twitchiness so many have about vanity, and what is correct.

There are seas and oceans between enjoying the sport of painting your face, and the dangerous pursuit of perfection or even “normality”, and I write this having dabbled in both, my face having caused me such anxiety in the past that I’ve cancelled plans, not wanting to be seen. And now having grown a bit older and a lot busier, and formed whole personalities around eyeliner, time spent in front of the mirror with a make-up bag, while sometimes frustrating, is largely jolly and joyful, and pockmarked with nostalgia.

It’s not nothing, the time spent looking at ourselves. It has value. Whether that’s €10,000 a month I can’t say, but I do know vanity is not simple, and making-up is not wasted time. The danger is in the risk of falling into the mirror as if a deep lake, and drowning for a little while.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Women are overcharged all the time. Imagine if that happened to men.


Just when you think society was making progress on women’s issues, the corner store proves you wrong.

An investigation by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that in a study of nearly 800 products – from toys to personal items like shampoo – many were priced differently for men and women. Men’s razors went for $14.99, for example, while the same razors marketed toward women were being sold for $18.49. A pink Radio Flyer children’s scooter in pink was double the price of a red “boys’” version. In total, the investigation found that of the products they looked at, items were priced on average 7% more for women than those for men.

A report this month on products in the UK found something very similar: when it came to the same products marketed differently for men and women, there was a whopping 37% difference in price. Beauty products, toys, everything. It doesn’t even get better as you age: adding insult to injury, women are even charged more for adult diapers.

Beyond the profound unfairness of having to pay more for the same products (while making less money, to boot!) there’s something quite frustrating about the fact that shopping is something that has long been used to paint women as frivolous and financially irresponsible.

Since it seems women have been overpaying for everyday items, perhaps it’s time that drugstores and clothing shops even it out by making some products that men use more often than women more expensive. Spread the inequality around!

And, since women have historically been responsible for and spent out-of-pocket for birth control, maybe condoms should be priced at $20 a-piece. That would come with the added bonus of men finally realizing the cost women bear for hormonal birth control (the cost of the pill without insurance is more than three times the lifetime cost of using condoms).

Or perhaps we could jack up the price of boxer shorts to $70 a pair. Though that might have the unintended consequence of men not changing out their underwear as often as they should, so … never mind.

Fine. Gouging men is a terrible idea. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that pricing products based on gender isn’t just discriminatory, it’s silly. A razor is a razor, a pen is a pen – no matter who is using it. If only manufacturers and stores realized as much.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Beauty: my holiday essentials.


By the time you read this, I’ll be packed for London and home. Now with traveling on holiday I’m decidedly more high maintenance, and mindful of sun damage and hygiene, so balancing a satisfactory number of products with bikinis and toys is somewhat challenging. I welcome the social acceptability of looking rough on arrival, without wanting to go completely native, and so I’ve been mentally editing my travel bag.

Holidays are one of my few concessions to wipes – there’s no use fighting it. I still believe the best are by Simple (£3.25) – they stay wet, remove makeup better than most, and are usually on offer somewhere. Then I’ll slap on Superdrug’s Simply Pure Hydrating Serum (for £2.99, who cares if someone nicks it?) and baste myself, optimistically, in Murad’s Luminous Shield SPF50, £55 (from the neck up) and Nivea Sun Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF50+, £6 (from the chest down). For colour, cover and belt-and-braces backup, I’ll follow with Full Coverage SPF50+ CC Cream from IT Cosmetics (£35), a makeup brand with ugly packaging and the occasional flash of brilliance. This has a smooth, blendable texture and great staying power. To hide inevitable tiredness, I’ll wear Estée Lauder’s Pure Color Envy Lip and Cheek Stick in Rose Exposed, £28, and swap the grotty black liner for Burberry’s Midnight Brown Eye Colour Contour, £23 (both packed in slim, durable aluminium tubes), M&S Autograph Fibre Sculpting Brow Gel, £9.50 (the best I’ve tried in ages), and Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, £8.99.

I’m someone who, like a watch-wearer who’s left their timepiece by the sink, has to run home if I forget perfume (or at least to a department store for a tester). Glass is forbidden on holiday, making YSL Rive Gauche (£34.99) a straightforward choice. This isn’t just an olfactory masterpiece, it’s a design classic. Its chic, stripy aluminium canister is easily the most efficient way to store perfume – opaque to avoid spoiling by light exposure, unbreakable for travel.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Summer dresses. They allow you to dream, to slow down – to be girlish, even.


I used to own the perfect summer dress. It was navy blue silk with small white flowers, little capped sleeves, a fitted bodice and it swirled narrowly rather than frumpily around my mid calves. The general fashion of the day was skewed towards short skirts, but this vintage dress by Edina Ronay made me feel wonderful whenever I wore it.

Therein lies the mysterious power of the summer dress. If you, like me, are a “dress” person you will know what it is that a dress, quite unlike trousers, skirts, shorts, blouses and jackets brings to the way you feel. It offers the promise of a life that is deliciously removed from the pressures of every day, the repetitiveness of routine, the need to be somewhere, do something, that makes up so much of our time, and transports you instead to something far more enjoyable and gracious. It allows you to dream, to slow down – to be girlish, even.

As a child, longing to get out of scratchy and confining winter clothes, I seemed always to be told, “N’er shed a clout till May is out”, or was it June? Every year I can never quite remember, as I dither about whether it is too early to pack up the winter clobber and unwrap summer, which is how it feels when one replaces the winter woollies in the drawer with T-shirts and sarongs.

As soon as the clocks change I crave those dresses, bundled up in polythene bags at the top of the cupboard, that will emerge crumpled and smelling faintly of the suntan lotion that has permeated my holiday wardrobe stuffed up there with them.

Summer dresses are completely different from winter dresses, which, although they should offer the same one-stop ease when you are thinking about what to put on in the morning, somehow seem to bring with them more problems. What tights to wear? Should it be boots or shoes? Will you need a jacket and a coat? You just slither into the ideal summer dress and that’s it.

At the optimum summer-dress occasion last year, my friend’s annual croquet match, most of the women were in dresses. Because surely that is one of the things a dress allows you to do, in prints that ranged from ditsy florals to brash brushstrokes, hair piled up in dishevelled nests, arms uncovered.

Most dress-buying nowadays is accompanied for many women by “top” buying as well for when there’s a chill in the evening air, to compensate for the lack of dresses with sleeves. Boleros, shrunken cardigans, Chanel-style jackets, short coats – all of these are on offer as accompaniments. But the very fact of needing or wanting them destroys some of the unique appeal of summer dresses. You should not have to wear them with anything else.

Sleeves, on the other hand, need not compromise the summeriness of a dress. Sleeves are many women’s security blankets, soothing and protective. There is something cosseting about a soft, billowing sleeve after a day in the sun or on the beach. There is an elegance about the bracelet-length sleeve, which delightfully throws the emphasis on the thinnest part of the arm – the wrist – while covering the fleshy upper arms so many women hate. One of my own favourite dresses is a decade-old black one from Ghost that has elbow-length sleeves and which, I like to think, has a touch of the glamorous Italian widow about it – Coco would be a nice reference point.

I have a number of dresses by Legacy, an American brand stocked in the UK. For several years they were perfect. With slightly capped sleeves, a bias cut, a low neck and in a variety of feminine but not sickly silk prints, they ticked a huge number of boxes.

But whatever the shape, colour, fabric, or length or your summer dress, the main point is that it is so much more than the sum of it and your parts. When you find the right one it is like a new lover – the world just seems a better place.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Sunday morning is being free of my hair and make-up routine.


I’m beginning to have a problem with the concept of “perfect”. I love the purry sound of it; I admire it as an aspiration – the perfect frock, the perfect day, etc – but it’s become a buzzword in the beauty industry and as a result I think it’s being devalued. There are more skin and hair “perfectors” around than there are skin and hair types to go with them. Everywhere you look there are Skin Perfection (L’Oreal), Perfect Skin™ (advertised by massed ranks of Kardashians), Miracle Skin Perfector (Garnier), Perfect Look Skin Miracle (This Works), Shimmering Skin Perfector (Becca) and then there are all the attendant primers, lash builders, hair boosters, lip plumpers and whatnot. Is anyone else a bit fatigued by all this perfect-ness?

All these little pots, tubes and bottles of promised perfection are the cosmetic equivalent of airbrushing and I can’t say that I’m really a fan. I’ll grudgingly concede it’s OK, but no more than that, on young people – but I don’t like and don’t want to see any more characterless waxy faces. We’ve gone from “natural” through “enhanced natural” to “weird natural” (which isn’t natural at all). OK, everyone knows that ‘natural’ takes more skill and effort than it should.

I don’t need so much stuff on my face and what’s more I don’t want so much stuff on my face. If I start aiming for a flawless porcelain complexion on my face what do I do about the rest of me? Do I “prime” and “perfect” my whole upper body? Who are you trying to kid when you smooth out, fill in and “pixellate” (another buzzword) your face unless you extend whatever you’re doing down your neck and décolletage.

It’s part of a trend that supersizes everything – perfect isn’t perfect unless it’s super-perfect – so I worry too about haberdashery-sized false eyelashes and that they seem to have become a required part of everyday grooming. It’s quite common to see some poor thing blinking asymmetrically under a massive pair of eye merkins. And then there’s the hair – huge Disney hair, straggly hip-length hair that used to belong to someone else. Barbie hair. Barbie has got form in this respect, having her dabs all over a number of earlier anti-feminist body trends.

So why have current trends brought out such an insane degree of feminisation, doll-ification and perfectionism among young women? Aside from the obvious wider issues of objectification, lads’ mags and sexualisation it bafflingly seems to mark a return to some of the less healthy and more restrictive ‘beauty’ activities practiced by women centuries ago. Hairpieces and wigs (itchy and lice ridden), smooth complexions (a veneer of toxic white lead), features and expression painted back onto a blank canvas (mouse skin eyebrows anyone?). The wearers of today’s tattooed eyebrows and permanent makeup, who are perma-tanned, acrylic nailed and hairless everywhere except for yards of pretend stuff glued to their heads have been persuaded to turn themselves into superficially perfect, characterless, wax faced mannequins and they are, quite frankly, outrageously dull.

The whole point of genuine, heart-stopping beauty is that it’s not perfect. There is always something that’s slightly out of kilter that catches the eye of the casual observer – something arresting, imperfect and gorgeous: Georgia May Jagger, Lara Stone, and Lauren Hutton with their wonky teeth, Karen Black with her slight squint, Sophia Loren with her “too big” mouth and nose, the elegant, lovely facial planes of Katharine Hepburn.

The new “perfect” is insipid and anodyne and far too easily achieved with a nip here, a tuck there and the occasional shot of dermal filler. There has to be, must be, something more – What a fembot lacks we have by the barrowload – humanity, character, personality and wit and I’ll take that, over this so-called “perfection” any day.