LOOKING GOOD, FEELING BEAUTIFUL, by Avon Products (Simon and Schuster, $14.95). "Her smooth fingers shall flit among the paints and powder, to tip and mingle them ... until the mask of vermeil tinct has been laid aptly. ... And heavens, how she will charm us and ensorcel our eyes!" While Max Beerbohm may have overstated the case for artifice in his 1894 "A Defense of Cosmetics," the editors of Looking Good, Feeling Beautiful would have agreed wholeheartedly with the young Oxonian's admiration for makeup. But cosmetics are not their only concern: this handsomely designed book, featuring full-page, color photographs of remarkably beautiful women of all ages, also covers hair care, exercise, the diet and fragance. Moreover, black women are prominently featured in the photographs: their beauty needs addressed throughout the text. This is a welcome change from the usual practice of shunting off minority women and their concerns into a chapter entitled "Problems." Perhaps the lavishness of Looking Good, Feeling Beautiful will fulfill Beerbohm's prediction: "Positively rouge will rob us for a time of all reason; we shall go mad over masks."
STYLING YOUR FACE, by Way Bandy (Random House, $14.95). America's leading "face designer," Way Bandy has created from the stardust of rose-tinted powder and parrot-green eyeshadow those full-lipped visages that pout so provocatively from the covers of Vogue and Cosmopolitan. In his off-beat but charming book, he explains his delightfully eccentric theories about makeup and beauty, for men as well as women. Be forewarned--this is no ordinary "pluck eyebrow with tweezer dipped in rubbing alcohol" how-to-be-gorgeous manual. As a first step, Bandy verbally paints a concept, afterwards providing more detailed instruction on how to effect his artistic vision. For a young emulator of David Bowie, he suggests: "eyes are rimmed black, with a kohl effect; his face has a pallor of life lived late at night in nasty clubs. . . . He is hot androgyny with a game for all. . . . There is a certain aura about forbidden fruit..." Perhaps not for mainstream America, Styling Your Face is so enchantingly fantastical it seems almost to belong more to literature than to makeup.
HOT TIPS, by Frances Patiky Stein (Putnam, $12.95). Considering the cost of silk lingerie, French perfume, tweed Balmacaans and all the other must-haves of modern existence, Frances Stein's Hot Tips becomes a bargain by comparison. A former fashion editor, she presents 1,000 tips on how to be exquisitely groomed in a minimum of time. Amusingly illustrated by Rockelle Udell with graceful black-and-white ink drawings, the book covers all the essentials of the external "you": wardrobe, makeup, shopping, travel, etc. Her suggestions are specific enough to be authentically useful; for example, ivory jewelry should be massaged with baby oil but tortoiseshell should be rubbed with olive oil. She reiterates the sage advice that while it is costly to buy quality, it is eventually extravagant to buy cheap. Stein's philosophy is a pragmatic one; stressing comfort before everything, she believes that once you learn to look your best consistently, you can forget your appearance entirely, and concentrate on the really important things in life.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO HAVE GREAT-LOOKING HAIR, by Louis Gignac with Jacqueline Warsaw (Viking, $15.95). If you can't do a thing with that "secondary sexual characteristic" that sprouts all over your head, then consider Everything You Need to Know to Have Great-Looking Hair. Written by the well- known New York coiffeur, Louis Gignac, the book fulfills the title's promise, and tosses in as well a few unnecessary but riveting details; for example, in Egypt under the pharaohs, gray hair was remedied by anointing it with an unguent consisting of paw of dog and hoof of donkey. That's enough to make your hair stand on end . . . so you can cancel your appointment for a permanent! Well-written and nicely illustrated, Everything gets to the root of hair care, and also provides several money-saving tips.
VOGUE STAY YOUNG, edited by Alexandra Penney (St. Martin's, $19.95). "Nor can you long be, what you now care, called fair,/ Do what you may do, what, do what you may. . . . " "Bah, humbug" cries the editor of Vogue Stay Young,Alexandra Penney, to those like poet Gerard Manley Hopkins who bemoan the inevitability of growing old and withered. Marshaling medical facts and beauty tips, she offers hope to anyone who has stood before the bathroom mirror, eyeing that first insidious crow's foot or single strand of pearl-gray hair. Beautifully illustrated, Stay Young features interviews with celebrated designers like Halston, Geoffrey Beene, Calvin Klein and others disussing "style" for the young, and the not-so-young. The book also thoroughly covers exercise, diet, make-up and plastic surgery, tossing in as well a deliciously frank chapter on sex. To paraphrase Mae West, age has nothing to do with it. As Penney points out, this Faustian thirsting after youth is no modern aberration; to maintain a dainty complexion, Countess Elisabeth Bathory of 16th-century Hungary habitually bathed in the blood of her servant girls.
CREATIVE DRESSING, by Kaori O'Connor (Routledge & Kegan Paul, $19.95). Kaori O'Connor takes a delightful, William Morris-like approach to clothing in Creative Dressing. Designing for both men and women, she describes in extensive, diagrammed detail how to make a variety of original, exotic garments like Balinese trousers, kimonos, and Ottoman kusak dressing gowns. She provides the history, usually fascinating, of each item as well. Esthetically pleasing, her book also features interviews with British couturiers, textile consultants and fabric designers who offer their fashion philosophies. Disregarding haute couture per se, O'Connor reaffirms the oft-neglected value of using one's hands to make something useful, beautiful and truly individual.
CHANEL AND HER WORLD, by Edmonde Charles- Roux (Vendome, $50). A peasant girl raised in a convent orphanage, Coco Chanel triumphed over poverty and social barriers to reign as the leading couturier of her time. This brilliant designer, who revolutionized 20th-century fashion by stripping women of their 19th-century corset, pallor and fripperies, receives posthumous tribute in this stunning work by Edmonde Charles-Roux. With 600 superb photographs, Chanel and Her World depicts Chanel in all her guises--from the shop girl kept by a wealthy cavalry officer to the rail-thin "Mademoiselle" staging her triumphant comeback at 71. Her life, her loves, her friends, her times are all beautifully evoked. Celebrating the genius of the woman, Charles-Roux examines as well her failings, including an unfortunate attachment to a Nazi agent in World War II. Called "a small black bull" by Colette because of her energy and defensiveness, Coco Chanel truly lived one of her favorite maxims: "If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent their growing."