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Dallas Burlesque Guru Shoshana on Getting Pin-Up Ready, Starting with Makeup

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On any given weekend, Dallas is teeming with burlesque. It seems counter-intuitive; while the stereotypes may be overblown, the city is regarded as socially conservative, with an predilection for ostentatious displays of real or imagined wealth and "high-brow" entertainment.

Burlesque culture is a different animal, but not entirely. It is glamorous and over-the-top, with attention to sparkling detail, if a campier version. Consider it a sister to Dallas' thriving drag scene. Both turn conceptions of traditional femininity on their head, celebrating their beauty and eschewing their limitations.

So it should come as no real surprise that the city boasts a collaborative one-stop boutique for all things pin-up and burlesque, from fashion, jewelry and cosmetics to make-up by award-winning artist Ladonna Stein and a photography studio -- Through the Looking Glass -- where owner and mastermind Shoshana does fashion shoots.

Open since 2008, Shoshana's studio moved to its current location on Main Street last year, where she then founded the boutique section, Dallas PinUp, in October. Since then it has become home to 13 independent, female-owned small businesses, a concept that she likens to an "antique mall without the antiques."

In addition to her busy schedule as entrepreneur and artist, Shoshana also maintains a wealth of knowledge about the history and traditions of the style. So why does burlesque work for a city like Dallas?

"Blame it on Mad Men, blame it on the war, or blame it on the fact that it is impossible to top the overt sexuality of Madonna," Shoshana says. "Or maybe women just started to embrace our feminine curves instead of trying to diet them away and needed a break from G-strings and low rise jeans."

She tells us that the style originated in Paris in the 1890s, but most of us are more familiar with its influence on American fashion throughout the 1940s. "The iconic drawings were everywhere," she says. "Lucky Strike cigarette packs that were distributed to the troops, companies used the legendary pin-up artist Gillette Elvgren to advertise their products and the soldiers even painted the gals on their war planes."

In 1949, a photo shoot called "Golden Dreams" featuring an unknown model became emblematic of the period. Shosana tells us that the rights to the photos were purchased for a mere $50 by an upstart magazine -- Playboy -- and the model, who would later be known as Marilyn Monroe, forever changed the face of American fashion, ushering in the American Sexual Revolution.

Shoshana graciously directed us to more historical information and offered to guide us through a few of the basics. Today, she and make-up artist Ladonna Stein teach us how to create a pin-up style through make-up:

How to get the "fresh face" pin-up look of the 1940s/50s:

Eyes: Why are we starting with the eyes? According to award winning make-up artist Ladonna Stein of Dallas PinUp, "You start with the eyes so any product that falls from the eye makeup, or mistakes can be removed easily without screwing up your foundation or powder."

Brows: Make sure your eyebrows are well groomed before you begin your makeup application. They make a huge difference! You may choose to fill them in a little using an eye shadow that is one shade lighter than your brows and an angled brush. Liner: The cat eye is a must! The original cat eyes were achieved using powder or crème eyeliners that come in a pot and applying with an angled brush. If you want to be brave and do as the professional pin-up make-up artist do, go with MAC Blacktrack.

If you want a simpler method, go with an eyeliner pen, such as Revlon Colorstay in Black. Starting at the inner corner of the eyelid, use the tip of the pen (or brush) to create a small line that widens as it goes to the outer edge. To widen the line, apply more pressure and slowly lay the pen more horizontal to the eye so you are using the broader side of the pen by the end. You will become better with practice!

Ladonna's tip for checking your symmetry: Once both eyes are done tilt your head back (chin towards the mirror) and squint a bit while looking at your reflection. IT will become apparent whether or not you mastered symmetry!

Lashes: For everyday wear, your favorite black mascara will do (I like Maybelline Great Lash). Apply two or three coats to the upper lashes, and one to the bottom and you're set.

For photoshoots, or evenings out, try faux lashes. They are available at most beauty supplies or wig shops around town and come in many shapes and sizes. Don't be afraid to go thick.

Three great tips for false lashes: Using very sharp scissors- trim your lashes to fit, they will never come out of the box in the perfect size for you! Hold them up to your eye, measure the lash against your normal lashline, mark with your finger and snip off the excess. Don't wear them wider than your real lashes!

Using a good lash glue (we like DUO), put a small dollop on the lash tray and then apply in a thin along the artificial lash seam using a toothpick. Set them down (wet side up) on the tray and allow the glue to become tacky before trying to apply. Applying lashes with too much glue, or glue that's too wet will result in a gloppy mess. Cover your faux lashline (and any glue leaks) with black eyeliner. You may also apply a coat or two of mascara to help blend your false & real lashes.

Foundation/Powder: We have come a long way from the original American foundation -- Max Factor's Pan-Cake which was released in the 30s for commercial use, and one of their most successful product launches of all time. However, flawless skin is still the key to a great pinup look!

Most gals can get away with a simple full coverage powder (also called powder foundation). Go with a shade that matches your skin tone exactly and apply as usual, making sure to blend well- especially at the jawline.

If you need extra powder during the day to combat shininess, go with a more lightweight powder for touch-ups.

Blush: Rosy cheeks were a sign of good health and considered very attractive throughout the 1950s. If you want to be authentic, go with a cream rouge, applying in a circular motion to the apples of the cheeks only, and then blending outward and upward along the cheekbone. Our favorite cream rouge is made by Besume. Besume is the retro make-up line behind the looks on Mad Men and The Artist. You can purchase online, or stop by Dallas PinUp -- the exclusive Dallas retailer of Besume Cosmetics.

If you go with more modern powdered foundation, the same rules apply. Simply apply to the apples of the cheeks, wipe off your brush, then blend upward and outward along cheek bone.

Red Lips! The red lip is the signature of the pin-up look and there's no need to be afraid! Everyone, really everyone, can wear red lipstick. Instead of fixating on the "right" and "wrong" shade for you, try several different shades on until you find the one that you like the most and fits the way you want to look. We like Besume because they specialize in reds, so they have many shades to choose from, and the sharp point makes application easier.

Tips for red lips: Line the lips first. Lip liner not only helps with bleeding, but also helps to unify the look. A red lip liner with a lot of brown undertones helps to "tone down" the look. Use a lip brush to apply lipstick for smooth and even application. You can blot lightly to "tone it down", but never rub your lips together after applying!

Blend your liner & lipstick where they meet using a lip brush to avoid looking outlined. Use matching shades of blush and lipstick. Wanna go really old school? Use grandma's trick of using a little lipstick as cream rouge -- and blend, blend, blend!

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