Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Rachel at The Bodacious Beauty, which is scheduled to open at the Twenty Ninth Street Mall in Boulder late December. Makeup by DeAnne Grasinger, using D Lauren Cosmetics, sold exclusively at The Bodacious Beauty. (Photo by Molly Plann of The Bodacious Beauty. )

DeAnn Grasinger had me at the pink claw-foot tub.

Then she introduced me to her Victorian chaise lounge and her closet of corsets and bustiers. And then -- heaven help us, fetch my smelling salts -- she brought me into a pink room accented by pink pinkness, where she introduced me to her own mineral make-up line, skincare treatments and stuff like Boulder's only HydraFacial machine. I wanted to ask her what it was, but instead I think I asked her to marry me.

Grasinger is Boulder County's Superwoman. But I don't mean in the comic book kind of way. She's like a super woman, as in queen she, as in the creator of the ultimate haven for girls.

She calls it a boutique spa like you've never seen before.

And it really is. At The Bodacious Beauty, clients can get a wide variety of spa treatments (chemical peels, waxing, facials, microderm, temporary eyelashes), get a makeover and new makeup, go shopping for lingerie and then capture it all in a boudoir photo shoot. The studio has a half a dozen different scenes, from tall mirrors to a (less subtle) bed. You can bring your own outfit, or shop in the on-site store.

"It's like a haven where a woman can come and be herself in a safe and nurturing environment, and explore who she is and learn what's the best look for them without being chastised," Grasinger says.

And then capture that moment in time, she says.

The Bodacious Beauty (a name Grasinger's father helped her coin shortly before his unexpected death) is currently running out of Grasinger's in-home studio, and is scheduled to open at Boulder's Twenty Ninth Street Mall (on the second floor, above Starbucks) just after Christmas. The grand opening party is scheduled for Jan. 21, Grasinger's 45th birthday and the day that she will realize a dream that started when she was 13 years old.

That's when her Aunty Fanny introduced her to makeup. It became her passion, and Grasinger says she remembers telling her dad that vacation that she wanted to have her own makeup line some day.

She launched it, called D'Lauren (a combo of her name and her daughter's) about 16 years ago. Over the years, the mother of three added more spa treatments, is formulating her own skincare line and most recently decided to expand services to include photography and boudoir.

The idea came after Grasinger and a friend treated themselves to boudoir photos just for fun.

"We realized it was a perfect addition," she says. "Women get skincare treatments, learn make-up and show off who they are, and once they've realized their potential, we can capture that."

The Bodacious Beauty offers membership packages, from $39.95 a month for a twice-a-year makeover and full line of D'Lauren cosmetics. Add regular spa treatments to the package and the monthly rates rise, too.

Photo shoots start with $199 up front and increase based on the add-ons and products (such as books, canvas prints, calendars).

Grasinger plans on franchising within the year, with plans already in the works for DC, Soho, LA and Seattle.

"Watching women fall in love with themselves is the most gratifying thing. It makes my heart swell," Grasinger says. "Whether you're 18 or in your 60s, when you see yourself and you come out of your shell, it's the most unbelievable thing."

For more info, check out

Read more at 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fashion for your left brain

"Bats have feelings too" coat, a haptic coat for the blind. Designed by Lynne Bruning ( Stylist: Courtney Snider. Model: Ellyette. (Carl Snider)

Beauty schmeauty.

Bill Stoehr is more interested in what's captivating.

"I think beauty is a dysfunctional term," he says. "What most people think of as beauty is one of their own personal criteria in some subset of what's captivating."

Stoehr is a Boulder-based painter. But he's intrigued by neuroscience: how art expresses itself in the brain, and how genetics and life experiences weave together to influence what we consider beautiful or interesting.

He organized a recent sell-out series at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, delving into how humans create, perceive and appreciate art -- from theater to music, and down to fashion.

There are certain aesthetics that appear "hard-wired." Stoehr says. Humans appear to be genetically predisposed to be attracted to volumetric curves over straight lines. ("What would Darwin think of that?" Stoehr asks with a laugh.)

But how do we explain everything else? Take Lady Gaga, he says. Not everyone would describe her as beautiful, but who can dispute that she's interesting? And in that, she has become a fashion icon.

"It turns out as humans, brain scientists are discovering that we have a built-in desire and interest and are captivated by something that's ambiguous or that is mysterious or creates a puzzle," Stoehr says.

In other words, what is beautiful in Iowa might not be considered beautiful in Nigeria, due to cultural influences, but underneath all of the attraction is the notion of mystery.

Some scientists believe that's why Michaelangelo didn't finish about two-thirds of his sculptures. He wasn't bored or distracted by another project, Stoehr surmises.

Maybe he did finish them.

"He left something for us to finish, let us complete the puzzle," Stoehr says. "When we see something ambiguous or unfinished, we finish it with our own perfect image, and then we create something that may be better than what the artist could have done, because it's something that appeals to us."
Art and science are not opposites or enemies; in fact, one can enhance the other, as the emerging field of neuroaesthetics teaches.

Award-winning fashion designer Lynne Bruning ( is proof of that. Bruning, of Denver has a degree in neurophysiology. And in architecture. She considers herself equally a scientist as an artist. Which, in a sense, is redundant. Bruning does not see a difference in the two.

"In science, there's an inherent beauty in it. When you look through a microscope, you're privy enough to understand how nature comes together on a cellular level," she says.

Architecture, fashion and art all use the same building blocks, she says.

"Everything's the same. There's nothing new here. You jump scale and you change palettes," she says. "That's it."

Simple. Sure. Like a coat Bruning designed called "Bats have feelings, too." The gorgeous red coat is packed with ultrasonic range finders that constantly sense the environment and feed it into a microcontroller, which activates vibrating motors so the wearer knows when something is in the way.

In other words, it's a fashionable haptic coat for the blind. A wearable cane.

Bruning specializes in technology-based clothing and textiles, including a handcrafted blacklight-reactive 1870s-influenced evening gown, with a corset and bustle illuminated by ultraviolet LED lights. (It took her one hour to weave one inch of fabric, and the dress has 120 inches of fabric.)
As Bruning sees it, something is captivating when it's a fresh interpretation of something you already know. Take her floor-length lace evening coat called "What golden webs we weave." It uses a traditional method of making lace, using nontraditional fibers, such as novelty yarns, metallic threads, ribbons and wool roving -- inspired by a spider web.

"Something can be captivating to me, whether I look at a computer code so elegantly crafted that it's beautifully simple -- just exquisite -- or a painting that's done," Bruning says. "The craftsmanship can be in any discipline, but it has to have rigor and a fresh interpretation."

A surprising encounter at the thrift store

Thrift-store score: This weird lamp with a fake bird. From the collection (cough, cough) of Aimee Heckel.

I'm kind of cynical. So I figured I'd been had.

The old man walked out with the antique lamp. And the clerk looked at me to pay for it. How did I end up in this mess?
I guess it started with stress.

Whenever I hear or anticipate bad news, or worry in general, or worry about worrying too much, I pacify myself via pretty things.

In other words, when the fit hits the shan, I go shopping. I figure it's healthier than boiling crack on tin foil, and only slightly worse than ordering a bowl of gummy bears at Ben and Jerry's, which is my other go-to.

I don't usually purchase anything, because that just leads to more bad news in the form of ramen noodles for dinner for the rest of the month. So I am a looker. A toucher. An admirer from a distance, with such convincing fervor that it's no wonder the older man assumed I was about the buy the lamp at the HospiceCare and Share Thrift Shop in Boulder.

I wasn't.

Still, it was glorious: antique and brass, with intricate detailing and accents that reminded me of an old skeleton key. Suddenly, a white head was peeking around the other side of the lamp.

"Hmm, I could fix that," he mumbled, pointing at a piece near the bulb that I hadn't noticed was busted. Suddenly, I felt protective over the lamp that I wasn't going to buy; was he trying to buy it out of my hands? How did he know I didn't want it even though I didn't?

The clerk joined in the conversation, explaining that the lamp had been a set of two, and a well-known antique dealer had bought the other one because it was in better condition. This lamp would be very valuable, if it weren't a total fire hazard, she said.

Eek. Now I knew I wasn't going to buy it. My kid can injure herself on feathers and air.

Suddenly, the man had the lamp upside down and was unscrewing piece after piece, pointing at wires and fuses (maybe?) and spark plugs (maybe not?) and all of the magical components that make electricity go zap. It looked complicated. But now I couldn't just walk away. I was invested, because I was holding the screws.

Trying to draw the attention back to me, and the fact that technically I had dibs on the lamp, even though it was $21 and way out of my planned budget of $0, I small-talked: "Are you an electrician or something?"

"Use to be," he said, while plucking out some more wiry guts. And then, he called across the store to a woman, "Hey, honey, what time is your birthday dinner tonight?" It was at 6. And then to me, "Can you get it before 6?"

I cocked my head like a confused puppy listening to a hamster wheel.

"Here," he said, suddenly grabbing a pen off the counter. He wrote down his name, Bob, and an address. He handed me the paper and walked out the door.

"That'll be $21," the clerk announced, which was my first realization that I had just purchased a lamp. Possibly for a stranger.

As the day grew closer to 6 p.m., I kept eyeing that peculiar piece of paper and wondering what to do. Was he for real?
Was it a scam? Was he a murderer, luring in girls in with antiques? Was he going to charge me $600 for the repairs? Because surely, no one would just do something nice for a stranger and expect nothing -- on his wife's birthday, nonetheless.

My curiosity defeated my skepticism, and I decided to scout out Bob's house. If the address was even real.

It was. They probably wouldn't be home.

They were. In fact, when Bob opened the door, he and his wife greeted me with such enthusiasm that I briefly wondered if they were actually my grandparents but I had just, um, forgotten?

Bob brought me to his garage, where he had completely replaced the head of the lamp, installed a three-level dimmer and even given me a fresh bulb. It looked brand new, and he assured me it was just as safe. I prepared for the catch.

"So how much do you want for the repairs?" I asked, while imagining ramen noodle salad and ramen noodle sandwiches for the next three weeks.

Bob laughed. Now it was his turn to look confused. The thought had never crossed his mind. He was the real deal. An honest to goodness pure and undiluted Nice Person.

Whoa. It was like being face to face with an endangered ivory-billed woodpecker.

Every night now when I get home from work, I flip on my beautiful brass key-pattern lamp -- my absolute favorite possession -- and it instantly diffuses any stress and worries. It fills my house with light and love, like the unsolicited light and love poured into it by a stranger. And it reminds me to keep spreading mine.

And that sometimes the most unexpected, and even unwanted, gifts can be the best.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Grin and beard it: Mustaches aren't funny, and other facial hair trends

A subtle way to celebrate Movember. Photo by Bill Hogan.

Happy Movember, you hairy beasts!

Mustaches aren't funny anymore. There. I said it.

No more mustache theme parties. No more moustachio-etched coffee mugs or pink stick-on crumb-catchers. I am calling for an end to 'stachical jewelry and stickers, and even requesting the removal of all mustache tattoos on the inside of the pointer finger. I never want to see another sarcastic soup-strainer, I swear. Even though they still make me chuckle. At some point, the nose bug has to lose its funny.

Doesn't it?

Look at this guy and his mustache. Just look at him.

Why does the fuzzy upper lip tickle me so, metaphorically and literally? Perhaps it's a passive anti-bourgeoisie statement (because everyone knows all bosses have mustaches, even the women). The nose-tickler denotes control: Hulk Hogan, Magnum P.I., Josef Stalin. Could there be some underlying rebellion rising with this unstoppable trend?

Or is facial hair just plain amusing?

Supporting the latter is my friend Clayton. His wife, Alex, wanted him to grow Elvis sideburns. He wanted a Groucho Marx. The end result was a hybrid of the two, a sort of Sgt. Floyd Pepper from the Muppets. A burnstache. Mustchops.

Clayton grew in a wee soul patch under his bottom lip, just to get wild. He ended up with hair everywhere except his lower jawbones, or the opposite of K-Fed's famous pencil-thin, chin-strap (also known as the "douche beard"). When asked about his unique scruff, Clayton explained that it had been "originally popularized by a U.S. president in the 1800s," if a trend can still be considered popularized 200 years later.

Coincidentally -- purely -- Clayton is also beardbald on his lower jaw area. As far as I can tell, most guys suffer this ailment, where a peculiar patch on their face has zero hair follicles. My husband's is next to his left ear, which results in one Vanilla Ice sideburn, with lines and zigzags naturally shaved in. This has not, however, stopped him from occasionally growing them out.

The plus side: I never have to fear my man attempting the lumberjack fave: mutton chops.

Options for facial hair designs are only limited by a man's imagination (well, and his blank spots).

The Hollywoodian, from This guy is a facial hair genius, that's what.
In a "quest for every beard," blogger Jon Dyer experimented with 42 different scruff styles (, including a few rarer species, such as the Hollywoodian (mustache-beard sans sideburns). Dyer calls himself an annual winter beard-wearer and active celebrator of not only Octobeard and No Shave November (Movember), but also December's MaBeGroMo (Macho Beard Growing Month, which he created himself).

"Growing a beard is one of the simplest, zero-effort, macho things you can do," he writes on his blog.

When selecting your beard style, experts recommend complimenting your face shape. Let it grow for two weeks, and then re-examine your creation, according to At this point, the Web site says, you will have experience two bouts of itching and you possibly look homeless.
My friend, Greg, after four minutes
of not shaving.

Considering your follicular strengths, choose a style. A weak stache? Opt for the Lincoln. Bare cheeks? A goatee is your friend.

Are your strengths on the edges of your face? If so, grow it long and flowy, a la Amish, or if you want to get beat up all the time, step into the chin strap. Feeling innovative? Shave everything except the edges, sideburns and then shave your head, except for your bangs. Voila -- you've mastered the Hair Ring of Fire. I'm pretty sure that was popularized by a red-headed U.S. Secretary of State in the 1700s.

With options like that, how can anyone ever laugh at Tom Selleck again?

Important vocabulary
Increase your knowledge and impress your friends by incorporating these terms into your daily life. Source:

Stache-ism: Prejudice or discrimination toward individuals with mustaches.

Beard Goggles: When you see a man with a beard, and you automatically think that person is awesome, funny, chill or just an overall cool dude just because he has a beard.

Beard of Shame: The beard that a man will grow after his girlfriend has broken up with him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hot boots

Duo Boots, will you marry me?

If I want to know how to build a house, I will ask a carpenter. If I want to know how to bake a great cookie, I'll talk to the chefs at Old C's.

So obviously, if you want to know about good boots, you gotta go to the most esteemed expert: a Brit.

Ah yes, London. How many times have I cursed that frigid air because I attempted to wear heels? I have decided that even in summer, the only shoe suitable for England is the boot.

So when my British pal, Catherine, sent me this e-mail tip the other day, I knew it was legit. Not to mention, I love how British people write. Tea!

"Check out They are a company based in Bath who make simply the best long/mid-calf boots in lots of different width fittings. I've had a pair that have made it through three winters of 'I want to wear a dress but it's cold and wet,' have been resoled and reheeled and still survive. They are brilliant and the more people who know about them the better the range will become, so I thought you'd like them, too! I have to say that I'm starting to think on this rainy Sunday that I should buy these: Jesolo boots, Textured metallic patent leather boots with leather covered platform sole and heel. So I'm going to have a cup of tea."
I love the idea of patent leather boots. And tea.


"You know you have an amazing pair of shoes when . . ."
" . . . when your feet hurt but you love them so much that you just walk through the pain."
-- My friend Devon

Be my friend on Twitter: @Aimeemay
Or Facebook: @Boulderandbeautiful

Read more fashion stories, along with other stories, at 

Don't by a fashion sloth: Gluttony is so 2006

Blame it on the economy, or whatever your opposing political party is, or on the weather. But fashion around here has a whole new meaning.

The magazines and catwalks are still so old fashioned; they haven't even yet released designs for the season of Recession 2007-11. I laugh at the "Lust/Must" pages, featuring billion-dollar couture items and their "inexpensive" inspirations -- for only $559 per glove!

Right. Sure, let me just count that out in coins from under my car seat. And then run that "must-have" shopping list past the "Occupy" crowd.

Sure, a few Boulderites have squeaked by in lucky oblivion, but for the former CEOs now scraping by on $10 an hour (or journalists who have been broke since the advent of the Gutenberg Press), true style is about creativity, prioritizing, recycling and a darn good deal.

Style is about being smart. It is no more sexy to be gluttonous with your credit card than it is with your lunch menu. Sure, a grease-soaked bag of French fries is novel on occasion, but balance it out with some leafy-green discretion, or you're honestly kind of gross. Same goes with your labels. Head-to-toe inflated price tags lacks individuality -- and discretion.

My BFF Brittany and I have a bit of a competition going on (although she doesn't exactly know -- yet) for who can best rock Recession style. One point for cuteness. One point for craftiness/DIY. Two points for creativity. And one point per every $10 saved, per item.

Take a flower-accented belt that Brittany saw in the store for $40. She bought a fake flower, glued it to a clip and affixed it to a belt she already owned, totaling $5. That's like 293.5 points, if my math-for-liberal-arts-majors training is correct.
I can't DIM-A (do it myself -- anything ). But unfortunately for Brittany, I've got a new secret that is about to take her down: Hip Consignment, 1468 Pearl St. in Boulder.

Vanquish any idea you have of consignment shopping. Because if I didn't tell you (well, that and the store's name), you wouldn't know. You'd just think you were in a beautiful boutique hallucinating over finding designer dresses around $40, accessories from $5 and, um, excuse me while I weep in delight, but is that a brand new Diane Von Furstenberg line?

The 8-month-old store was designed to break the stigma of consignment shopping, while hooking ladies up with fancy-pants clothing for Marshall's sales rack prices.

I'm going to need a new fashion point system. Either that, or more fingers and toes to count on.

 Like Hip Consignment on Facebook ( and get in on regular specials, including the Mad Dash Lunchtime Specials from noon-1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Select merchandise goes on sale for just this one hour, like 30 percent off boots for winter.

Coming up
 at Hip Consignment: The Holiday Dress Extravaganza, Nov. 26-27. The plan: Accumulate 100 fantastic
holiday dresses to put on sale the weekend of Black Friday.

Read more at 
Check out my BFF Brittany's blog at

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Finding your inner steampunk

For more subtle steampunk style, check out the brown lace-front Sarai top, $70, by Australian-based With cap sleeves, high turtleneck collar. Also check out the shops' Gothic Victorian-inspired dress ($160) with a standing lace collar, short puffy sleeves, layers of ruffles and tulle and carved wooden buttons up the back. (Jeremy Sypniewski)
Steampunk is second nature to modern-day alchemist, Joshua Onysko.
Beyond the fact that he moved to India in 1999 so he could ride steam-engine trains, in his practice, and in his daily life, the Boulder man enjoys combining different elements to create something else. Whether it's as simple as adding a brass belt buckle to a regular outfit, or as complex as deconstructing plants chemically and them recombining them to create a mood-enhancing candy.

In fact, Onysko used ancient alchemy to create a cutting-edge skin-care line, Pangea Organics (, an organic, fair-trade, natural skincare line that boasts a long list of awards and national accolades. Including the (very) lesser-celebrated Aimee Heckel Test; I use and love the Italian Red Mandarin with Rose face cream, ($36 for 2 ounces).

On Halloween, Onysko organized a steampunk-theme fundraiser at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. The party raised money for the campaign Hey GMOs, Stop Trying To Get In My Plants, a media campaign to raise awareness about the risks of genetically modified organisms in our food.

"I've always been fascinated by combining two different cultures, and that's what steampunk is," Onysko says. "It's combining the steam era with futurism."

As Onysko sees it, adding steampunk to your daily wardrobe can be as simple as copper earrings, aviator goggles, puffy shirts, brass jewelry or boots. Imagine futuristic innovations as Victorians may have imagined them. Some call it neo-Victorian: a mix of clothes from 1950 to 1910 with technology using gears and mechanics, instead of computers.

But it's more than "brass and watch parts," according to the blog

Antique black leather Victorian lace-up boots, $175, from Boulder-based Made by Peters Shoe Company in the 1900s, and in excellent condition, too. Granny meets old school teacher meets a Salem witch.
"It's finding a way to combine the past and the future in an aesthetic (sic) pleasing yet still punkish way. It's living a life that looks old-fashioned, yet speaks to the future. It's taking the detritus of our modern technological society and remaking it into useful things," the blog explains.
Want to infuse a little more steaminess into your punk this fall? Check out these items from local Etsy sellers:

Compass necklace,
 $55, -- Wrapped in chain mail, made from a variety of metals, including brasses, stainless steal and aluminum. The Boulder-based designer, Peter Cacek, has been immersed in medieval art forms his whole life, "ever since my dad worked a blacksmith's forge when I was a child."

Antique black leather Victorian lace-up boots,
 $175, from Boulder-based -- Made by Peters Shoe Company in the 1900s, and in excellent condition, too. Granny meets old school teacher meets a Salem witch.

Here are some other Etsy ideas from around the globe:

For more subtle steampunk style,
 check out the brown lace-front Sarai top, $70, by Australian-based With cap sleeves, high turtleneck collar. Also check out the shops' Gothic Victorian-inspired dress ($160) with a standing lace collar, short puffy sleeves, layers of ruffles and tulle and carved wooden buttons up the back.

For blatant steampunk,
 go for a handmade Alfresco-style mechanical bracelet watch with a skeleton pattern, $109, by Leather band wraps around your wrist twice from both sides. And to be extra authentic, this watch works without a battery.