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.