Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins arrived yesterday and I read it straight through.
The book’s really aimed at the post-menopausal reader – the youngest women featured are about 48, and most are in their mid-50s to 60s (Rici, seen here before and after, is 63). But don’t let that put you off if you’re any age over 35 – there’s still a lot of valuable information in here, especially if you’re feeling frumpy or in a rut.
Christopher Hopkins is known as ‘the makeover guy’ but he started out as a hairdresser. Importantly, that means he’s dealt with clients and he understands how (and why) women can be totally intransigent about changing their look. He can also be merciless, which is useful. Camp as a nine-bob note and amusingly full of himself, he started out believing himself an ugly duckling and didn’t begin to blossom till later in life. That is something he and I share, and I note that he fully understands how received messages from your childhood can hamper your personal style long after you become an adult.
The book is designed to be interactive with a website he’s set up, so you can give feedback and suggestions (possibly for later editions), and also download forms to fill in, which also figure in the back of the book. You’ll need these because throughout there are a fun bunch of quizzy tickbox things to fill in (I love this kind of stuff) to work out your style personality, your ‘shadow’ personality, your body shape etc. Interestingly, he looks as closely at your horizontal shape as at your vertical shape, which is rare. This is the kind of thing you only tend to learn about when you sew garments, but it’s useful to understand how to dress when you’re long in the upper body but short in the waist, for instance. Many women’s shapes change with age – protruding belly, flatter backside etc – and he deals very well with these issues.
There’s a lot of sound advice here on how to update the look you’ve always had: how if you’ve always been a classic dresser you can end up boring; if you’re a romantic or dramatic dresser you can end up as mutton dressed as lamb; if you’re an ‘innovative’ you need to tone down your zaniness with age. He doesn’t deal with fashion trends but focuses instead on clothes. The quizzes enable you to quickly identify what kind of dresser you are, and pointers are given to help you find your way in the future.
In case you were wondering, I came out as a classic dresser with an innovative ‘shadow’ side and I think that’s very true. Two thirds of my wardrobe is well-cut basics and the other third is vintage clothes and handmade jewellery. I also scored quite high on casual, and that’s because of my lifestyle, which is a jeans and t-shirts sort of life.
The advice in the make-up section you can mostly get elsewhere, except you will not see anywhere a better description (with pix) of how to shade your eyes if you have drooping eyelids. This is the thing that sends thousand of women screaming for a blepharoplasty, but here you’re shown a really great technique to hide it. He’s also adamant about softer lip colour, which is very sound. In general, though, I found the make up too heavy, which is something I notice all the time in US publications – European women simply don’t wear this much slap. He doesn’t mention products at all, so if you want this kind of advice, go to ‘How not to look old’ by Charla Krupp, which details the best foundations, primers, blusher and eye makeup.
The section on hair is golden – he really does know about cut and colour and their transformative effect. And he is blunt about grey hair – it makes you look older. Striking maybe, interesting maybe, but older – it’s your choice. Many of the haircuts featured show an uplifting effect to counteract a drooping face which I found very interesting.
The before and after section at the back, featuring mainly women in their 50s, is so transformative you can hardly believe they’re the same people (would you guess that Nancy, above, in her frumpy cardi was the same woman as the babe on the right?). No surgery and no Botox – nothing other than clothes, make-up, hair and sometimes some weight loss and these women rewind the clock by 20 years. This section is truly inspirational and it’s a relief to see these makeovers done on women of normal height and weight.
Above all, it’s a peppy book – upbeat about ‘second act’ women and their potential, and worth reading to buck yourself up (and to make you feel ashamed you don’t spend more time in the gym). Probably the next-best thing to having a personal consultation.
Staging your Comeback update
After some email conversations with Christopher, he tells me that the makeup is slightly exaggerated for effect, and also for photography, and that in real life he would have done it lighter. So now you know!
If you want to see some step-by-steps on the makeovers, click on the Amazon links on this page and look at the See Inside pages on the book, where Christopher has uploaded more photographs.