Sage advice from the cool old ladies and their dressers.
My maternal grandmothers (up to the fourth consanguinity) were always very particular about their grooming. They would spend hours in the bathroom and longer primping in front of their boudoir dresser—often with a steaming cup of coffee on the table as they did so.
With barely any playmates of the same gender, as my female cousins live in the US, I used to entertain myself by rifling through said boudoir and playing glamour. I would sit and watch, completely rapt in awe, when all the women in the house would get ready for events and bustle around me with curlers in their hair or hot irons in their hands.
Way before I was even aware of the existence of beauty trends and routines, they were already being drilled into me. So I am sharing with you a rundown of sage advice from my ancestral boudoir, passed on from my maternal great-great grandmother.
These nuggets of wisdom I am gifting are not a cure-all and are definitely not a one-size-fits-all, but they have been deemed no-fail by the women who preceded me. So don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it!
Your soul should be made of magic, so people crave your vibe.
It may sound cliche, but they really advocated that beauty came from within first and whatever you do externally is just to enhance it a hundred-fold. It’s been repeated by women from all over the world and ladies from varying timelines: you are what you eat. My great-great-grandmother Lola Gelay termed it quite differently though, and used to say that foodmust always be soul quenching as it resonates physically
As suckers for sweets, they would say that you should take what you will in whatever form they came in as sweets would give you a healthy glow of happiness; which was why a careful balance of chocolates and pastries and fruits were always stocked and a staple in the house—even up to this day. Seriously, ask anyone in my family.
Speaking of quenching, never forget to hydrate 24/7. It honestly makes no sense if your soul is metaphorically hydrated but your physical body is literally a dried out husk.
Your body is a temple, respect it by investing in it.
My great grandmother Lola Puring always said that bathing is an investment of time, there is never any need to rush—so don’t! And honestly, why would you want to rush through it? You risk not being able to fully cleanse yourself both physically and mentally—bath meditations are one of the most effective relaxation techniques. Do avoid bathing with hot water to maintain skin elasticity and avoid premature wrinkles, if you can’t help it then splash on some cold water before finishing up. Always pat yourself dry and do not rub post shower so as only to rid of excess moisture and not irritate your skin.
Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. And do it right after you’ve patted your skin dry so as to be able to lock in that much needed moisture. A pro tip from my greats: apply a layer of dry body oil, let your skin absorb it, and then slap on some lotion for maximum hydration. No one wants to look like a prune when they’re geriatric, you’re welcome.
At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, hija you must put down that razor and do not shave anything because you will come to regret it when you develop chicken skin, grow thicker hair, risk ingrown hair, and definitely ruin your skin. Once you take to the razor blade, there is no going back. Opt to sugar wax versus hot wax as it’s definitely less painful and you risk less irritation to the skin.
To attain and maintain that baby’s-bottom-smooth skin we’ve always coveted, try to invest in a monthly appointment for a full body scrub. If you can’t afford to maintain a body scrub appointment, then invest in a good physical exfoliating scrub and do it once to twice a week depending on the sensitivity of your skin. Don’t be disgusting, you can never afford to be crusty. Also, they help with the dark spots that are such a pesky problem that I honest-to-God pray you never have to encounter them. But if you happen to come across a couple spots that will just not budge, then you’re in luck! You can rub half a calamansi fruit (calamondin) on those dark spots as it is a natural remedy proven to be ever effective because it contains a high concentration of citric acid and Vitamin C, well known bleaching agents.
Never leave the house without getting your nails done, it’s unseemly and you will be judged for it. My grandparents and my parents are very meticulous about our nails, even if we’re now full grown adults—always checking if they’ve been manicured or if our toes haven’t transformed into talons.
This has to be one of the most important of my grandmothers’ rules: you must care for your lady bits, hija (cue a finger wag). Until the invention of feminine wash, my great grandmother used to use cane vinegar diluted with water for the upkeep in hygiene. Honestly, I can’t imagine using vinegar, but it works wonders apparently. My grannies never really owned granny panties either because they barely wore any as they would aerate their lady bits, a practice which is actually recommended by OB-GYNEs all over. (Quick reminder, please do see your doctors regularly.)
As smelling good is intrinsic to good hygiene, you should always smell divine or at least smell clean. Invest in your signature scent, it’s what you’d be known for when you walk into a room, when the wind decides to huff and puff, when it’s years down the road and your grandchildren decide to open up your baúl of treasures. Spritz it on your clothes (front and back) and then apply purposefully on your pulse points—inner wrists, neck, behind the ears—to last longer. Pro tip, just a bit on your pelvic area (you never know, wink wink).
And to beat the blues, a trip to the spa or the salon is always a great way to brighten your mood! A pampering day of self-care brightens your outlook and gives you the glow only a beauty salon can. But only ever go to your specific and tested establishments—go to one manicurist, go to your most trusted hairdresser, go to the one wax technician you’re most comfy with etc.
Your face is the visual of your branding; keep it polished.
It takes approximately seven (7) seconds to make a lasting impression. What exactly do you want people to make of you? They size you up from your head to your toe, and zero in on your face as it is the visual of your branding that they are confronted with most often.
First things first, and I feel like a broken track record by now when I say, keep hydrated. Sis, it is so better to have to run to the toilet multiple times a day versus battling a stubborn zit because you decided to be a dehydrated husk.
In the case of makeup, these are the four (4) things that are ever present in my ancestral boudoir: lipstick, eyebrow pencils, press powder, and rouge. You must never leave the house without lipstick; it’s akin to leaving the house sans underwear. Grandmas knew the saving power of a press powder because no one wants to look like a greasy midday mess darling. The image of hulas (melting) makeup is so unsightly, I can already hear them screaming “polbo!” in my head as I write this.
Pro tip from my lola: always keep a spare lippie in your purse, in your car, and in your office desk. Just in case you forget to swipe some on during the morning bustle.
As they believed that whatever you painted on your face should only ever enhance your natural beauty, the best route to go down is to keep it simple. So they insisted on perfectly drawn and filled in eyebrows. You could forego the eyeshadow and the eyeliners and the mascara, but never forget to draw on your eyebrows—how are you supposed to wordlessly communicate with your girls without it? Also, never ever pluck or shave your eyebrows, they’ll never grow back properly, if at all, and that shit hurts a like a b***h. You don’t need that kind of painful regret in your life. To tie your look together, rouge is so important because you don’t want to look like a walking corpse, no one wants to look like the dead, hija.
Way before the skincare diet trend swept the world by storm, my grandmothers’ have been swearing by it by streamlining their routine with certain products like Pond’s Cold Cream. Thus, I’ve taken a page out of my grandmothers’ beauty book and taken to hopping on the train to an anti-10-stepskin care routine. Cutting down on the many products and finding your HG skincare routine is so important because they are your skin’s most loyal crew. Love them forever, use them for always once you’ve identified your skin’s dream team, and you’re basically set for life. Take my great grandmother, Lola Puring, for example as I would always hear my mother, her siblings, and her cousins rave on about and her love for Olay—then called Oil of Olay—which she discovered after migrating to the United States in the mid 70s. She used to stock it in her dresser in fear of running out. But it was proven to be ultimately effective as her skin was so supple well into her golden age—you’d think she was a vampire.
To maintain that glowing healthy skin, you should never crash into bed without removing your makeup. All that gunk on your face is an overnight hotbed for bacteria that will guarantee a horrible breakout. Hilariously, this is always coupled with the sentiment, “Naku, don’t come crying to me if you find a giant zit in the morning”. Of course, sometimes I just can’t help it and I do end up breaking this cardinal rule especially after a fun night out or an extremely stressful day. So when a giant and angry zit makes itself known, I usually come crying to my mother, who would nag my ear off as she injected steroids into the offending thing. Et voilà! It’s gone by the next morning, as if nothing happened!
An important note: My mother’s a licensed and experienced physician, she knows what she’s doing. Please do not ever try this on your own or with someone who isn’t a licensed physician.
Your hair is your crowning glory and a determinant of your mood and perception.
After all, a good hair day foreshadows a great day. To ensure healthy scalp and enviable luster, my grandmothers recommend a routine twice-a-month treatment of coconut oil by extracting it from boiled coconut milk and then leaving it in for half a day. Opt to wash your hair at most twice to thrice a week and reach for the shampoos with the least chemicals so that it doesn’t strip your hair of its essential oils and moisture.
What are you going to do with to-die-for locks when it’s a nest on your head? Never show your face in public without running a comb or brush through your hair at least once—you’d be called a bruhita and be cussed out in Spanish (and Tagalog) before you can even say hairbrush. My maternal grandmother, Lola Babes, would keep another in her purse for safety.For my wavy haired ladies, you can use a wide toothed comb to detangle your hair while washing, then let it air dry to maintain your waves.
Can I just say that the amount of times I have heard my mother and grandmother scream in scandal when I’ve tied my hair, I cannot count on both hands. But, like a good child I have learned to never tie my hair when it’s dripping wet lest I risk it smelling like a used wipe-cloth—believe me when I say, you will not love yourself for it.
Out of all her grandchildren, LolaBabes would look at me and blatantly call me out on my ka-artehan (mannerisms) at times. To which I would only shrug and say that it’s in the genes and then go about my way, not bothered in the least—scratch that, as I sashay away much to the exasperation of my many titas and my late lolo.
I hope that this little love letter of beauty secrets from my ancestral boudoir has given you an insight or two. Got any beautè tips that you’ve inherited from your grandmother’s baúl of secrets? Share them in the comments below!
WAIT! There’s more! The whole package isn’t complete until you’ve donned your sartorial armor. So if you’ve not seen it yet, don’t forget to check out Julia’s article for tricks from her family’s wardrobe here.
BUT WAIT! There’s STILL more! We’ve also got a little announcement for you! We’re so excited to share that our Instagram is now live and kicking! Pop on over to http://www.instagram.com/talktayo for a quick look-see and follow us (but only if you want to)!
✨ Ta for now!
A 24-year-old writer, producer, and stylist who’s got the starry-eyes of a shopaholic with an irrefutable love-hate relationship with carbs and wine.
Looking good and spending a lot of money isn’t necessarily synonymous! Here are some handy tips I learned from my family on cleaning up well without draining my wallet.
At our core, my family and I are very simple people, and though we still love to enjoy the finer things in life, we elect to spend our money on trips, relaxation, and gastronomic experiences rather than clothes. Nonetheless, in the 23 years I’ve lived on this Earth, I’ve picked up a couple of tricks from the people I hold closest to me that have aided in keeping me grounded and trimming down my closet expenses without risking the term ‘shabby’.
Now, while a person’s sense of fashion is entirely their own and I have absolutely no intention of swaying yours, I do hope you find something useful in this list to help you as much as it helped me.
Grooming is absolutely everything.
This is something both of my lolas always made sure of and their key to looking good no matter what: simple clothing, good grooming.
The main difference between wearing cheap clothes and looking cheap lies entirely on how well you present yourself. It wouldn’t matter how expensive your clothes are. There’s nothing that degrades an entire look more than appearing unkempt. As my sister says, dressing casually doesn’t excuse you for looking sloppy. Doing your brows, putting on some powder, and swiping a bit of lipstick on never hurt anyone. And please brush your hair, lest my grandmothers come back from beyond the grave to haunt you.
Bank on basics, but stay excited.
As a family that looks for longevity rather than trend, basics and normcore chic is our lifeblood. However, that doesn’t mean you should be boring. Having a good amount of basics is perfect for mixing and matching without being overly conspicuous that you’re wearing the same thing all the time, so I like mixing in key items in my closet that get me giddy when I throw them on, like a fun printed crop top or checkered pants or an oversized Korean-style jacket.
I remember a time when I was shopping with my mother. She found this adorable white tee with really cheery, colorful print and as soon as she saw it, she lit up and knew she had to have it; whenever she’d wear it out on the weekend, she’d feel like more of a fun person. That is the kind of joy your closet should evoke from you, and if it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time for a refresh.
Treat buying clothes as a long-term investment.
This is something I discuss often with my mother, and while she scoffs at me with her Economics degree every time I say the word “investment”, I stand by it. Good clothes should be able last you years, and while it may be tempting to slip into the impulsive snares of fast fashion, it might be good to take a step back before handing over that credit card. Would you be able to wear that style for at least a couple of years? Is the material sturdy enough to withstand the wear and tear? Is it free from time-dependent references that are sure to become obscure after one use? Trends come and go, so you might as well put your money in things that you won’t cringe at when Facebook’s Timehop kicks in. I’m looking at you, unflattering denim bermuda shorts.
Comfort is key. People can see when you’re uncomfortable.
You know how you can just tell when someone stops feeling good in the heels they’re in? Yeah, that applies to the rest of your clothes, too. Daring to be out of the box with your fashion is all well and good, but if it stifles your comfort so much that you physically have to pretend you’re okay, then please just let it go–for your sake and the sake of prowling, judgmental eyes (sorry). Comfort helps boost your confidence, so don’t let it take the back seat!
If you can only have two pairs of heels, make sure you get them in black and nude.
I used to laugh at my mom for getting the exact same pair of kitten heels in black and nude, but looking back at it now, I actually see the appeal. Everyone needs a favorite pair of classic heels, and everyone needs them in exactly those colors–two birds with one stone! Having black heels is honestly common sense at this point, but don’t neglect the nude; because they blend into your skin, nude heels help give the illusion of elongated legs–perfect for us vertically challenged Asians–and are incredibly versatile shoes that work well for both casual and formal events.
If you don’t want to be judged, never wear open-toed shoes without having a pedicure first.
Just because feet aren’t the very first things you see shouldn’t mean that you can neglect them! I have been traumatized one time too many by the look of disgust on my sister’s face as I wore sandals out of the house with my overgrown nails, half-chipped polish, and unsightly cuticles. Never again. And NEVER to a formal event; you are not an uncouth monster. Remember: your nails are an extension of your outfit.
Being thrifty is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy bad clothes.
My mother is notorious for falling into the discount trap. I’ve watched her buy sandals on sale despite having a superfluous amount at home or try to convince herself to like sale item clothes just because the deal was too good to pass up. That isn’t to say that I think sales are bad–I love sales as much as the next person–but if the most attractive part of the garment is its price and not its quality, then maybe you don’t need it.
For god’s sake, learn your own silhouette.
I’ve lamented the fact that I can never have a fuller bosom or wider hips for ages, but one thing about growing up in a household with vastly different body shapes has taught me that there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to making clothes work for you. My sister is more apple shaped, my mother is more of an inverted triangle, and I am more boxy. Learning how to create the illusion of a more shapely physique, longer legs, and thinner waists all come differently to each of us, so there’s no point trying to replicate something that works for someone else when it doesn’t help you.
I won’t be getting in too deep with other body shapes, but if you’re rectangular like me (i.e your shoulders, bust, and hips aren’t far apart in measurements), you have to find ways to cheat that waist. You can try pants with a higher waistband to help bring the attention to the length of your legs, or those with wide legs to fill out your hips. Dresses that cinch around the waist and flare out are also great for creating shape, as well as strategic cut-outs and smart color blocking. Fake it ‘til you make it, baby!
One is never over-dressed or underdressed in a little black dress.
This is self-explanatory, but Coco Chanel was absolutely right when she said it. Every girl needs one in her closet and trust me, you will always find use for it.
If you can’t see all your clothes when you open your closet, you’re going to need to Marie Kondo that sh*t out.
After all, how often would you reach for something that you don’t remember is there? A useful tip my mom taught me was to remember the last time you wore that article of clothing. If it’s been more than three months and you haven’t thought of it one bit, then it’s safe to say that you won’t miss it when it’s gone. Learn to let go, girl.
Own a small purse.
If you’re like my mom and you like carrying your entire house in your purse, I urge you to attempt a smaller bag. More often than not, we tend to carry things that we don’t really need just in case an occasion would call for it, and when it comes to fishing things out of that monstrous bag, it takes more than a few moments of wildly flailing our hand around to finally find it. Smaller bags not only cut that process out, but are also easier on the back (which is necessary, if you have scoliosis like I do) and often come in wider arrays of designs.
Of course, that’s not to say that you should ditch the big bag entirely. It’s good to have different sizes for different occasions, but for days where you’re just off to the supermarket or going to have coffee with friends, do you really need all that stuff weighing your shoulder down?
Always have stain remover on hand!
My sister found this magical thing in Japan once that highly resembles correction fluid, and it has changed my life. While it isn’t something I’m proud of, I’m not exactly the neatest eater; having this (or the more accessible Tide marker) tucked inside my purse was a godsend for the days I slurp up ramen and accidentally drip some of the soup on my shirt. Not a good look, darling.
Never underestimate the power of accessories.
Need to zhuzh up a simple outfit? Accessories.My Lola Tindeng had been known to sport gorgeous, glittering accessories at all times, from formal events to simple potluck dinners in her condo to her hospital bed–with good reason! Accessories are a sure-fire way to elevate even the most basic t-shirt and jeans combo, so it’s always nice to accent your looks with a little somethin’ somethin’–even a simple gold necklace and studded earrings can have a big impact on your overall look. Just be sure to match it to what you’re wearing! While I personally prefer gold for everything, if you needed to choose between gold and silver, it’s good to remember that warmer tones look best with gold, while cooler tones complement silver.
Rings are also something my sister and I fawn over. If you aren’t like her and don’t have a husband to give you a giant diamond ring (ugh), a large statement ring or a series of dainty stackable rings are also great ways to add personality.
Also, please, please own a belt, damn it! I remember stubbornly refusing to accept that I needed a belt other than my old, worn clasp belt from high school and sorely regretting it when my jeans started slipping and I had no other choice but to look horrendous. A good rule of thumb is to have at least these two: a classic leather belt, and a skinny belt you can use for daintier looks or for cinching dresses.
Save your best designer sunglasses for the city.
My family loves sunglasses, and while it would look great flaunting your favorite designer pair at any given moment, it’s good to have more than one. Aside from adding variety into your wardrobe, this also makes sure you don’t wreck the expensive one prematurely. We like owning what we call the “disposable pair” for lesser occasions, a.k.a the pair you like but wouldn’t cry over if it fell into the ocean or was accidentally rolled over at the beach.
Get to know a good tailor.
Being a dressmaker, Lola Tindeng greatly emphasized the need for clothes to fit well. If buying off the rack doesn’t hug your body the way you want it to but you can’t get over the style, don’t think that all is lost. Tailors exist for a reason, and when you find one you like, do not let him/her out of your sight.
When in doubt, shirt-dress it out.
This one’s my mom’s favorite because it’s easy to put together, comfortable to wear, and can be dressed up or down with accessories!
Do not, I repeat, do NOT be stingy with your intimates.
Your underwear is the most essential part of your closet, as it dictates both comfort and hygiene. They also help shape the way your clothes cling to you, so why settle for frumpy, misshapen granny panties when you can get quality, form-hugging pairs that’ll last you years? If you’re above the age of twelve, ditch the cheap 5-packs (or, at least, save them for shark week) and move on to greener pastures. Trust me, you’ll feel much more confident in more ~mature~ styles and you won’t have them wearing down on you after a year or so.
Stop settling for ill-fitting bras.
Not only will it make you infinitely more comfortable, but it’ll look much more polished too. If there’s a gap between the pad and your breast, if your boobs are spilling over to and fro, or if your band isn’t sitting horizontally on your torso, then it’s the wrong size.
If you have itty bitties like us, this rule definitely still applies. There’s nothing that makes me feel more awkward about myself than the infamous bra-to-shirt Grand Canyon, and while I wish I had a fuller chest, there are a lot of ways to look stunning regardless. Jazz has a wonderfully helpful article on styling and how to embrace your smaller cup size, so read it here if you’re interested!
Learn to treasure your sewing kit.
Did you ever go to your lola’s house and reach for that signature tin of cookies and opened it to find a sewing kit? Did you also scoff and wonder why you needed so many dang colors of thread and wished it were cookies instead? Yeah, girl, me too. I don’t know if it’s early adulthood talking and I may just be getting older, but my perception of the sewing kit has changed so drastically that I’ve come to wish for my own little tin can of sewing materials. For small fixes and easy length adjustments that don’t really need the trip to a tailor, these will do you a lot of good.
Having a portable one in your purse will also save your skin. I remember the time I had to attend an event and ripped my dress quite unattractively up the back (I had added a little weight on the derriere from a family trip and tried to deny it), and never was I ever as grateful for a complimentary hotel sewing kit as I was that day. Be grateful for your Home Economics class, children. Be grateful.
Hopefully, these small nuggets of wisdom I picked up from my family help you in some way. If there’s anything your ancestors have imparted on you that has made an impact on how you dress, let’s chat in comments! We’d love to read them.
And do watch out for Jazz’s article on the insightful tips on grooming and personal care coming out next week!
Until next time!
A 25-year-old writer with an obsession for beauty and an ineffable love for all things sharp—from cacti to hedgehogs to intense winged liner.