The Vintage Trader Who Gardens In Ruby Woo

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“My name is Paula Sutton (@hillhousevintage), and I live in a rural part of the east of England called Norfolk. During the heyday of supermodels in the ‘90s I was head of press for Elite Premier, a model agency, and then I became the bookings editor for Elle UK, producing all the fashion, beauty, and cover shoots. I remember buying the first ever UK issue of Elle when I was about 16, with Yasmin Le Bon on the cover. I was entranced by the fashion and beauty pages even back then. My family and I have lived in Norfolk for the past 10 years now, and I work as a content creator and vintage trader selling, restoring and upcycling vintage furniture. It's a joyful career after spending my time in London servicing the creative endeavors of others.

My images and writing are centered around country interiors, period architecture, and country lifestyle with a touch of whimsy and fantasy. I've always been influenced by the fashion photography of the ‘50s and early ‘60s—Cecil Beaton, Irving Penn and Norman Parkinson are some of my favorite photographers. As a result, I’d describe my style as classic, carefree elegance with a hint of vintage. A lot of my outfits fit that same era, although I try not to recreate looks too strictly, and my makeup tends to be a red lip and winged eyeliner with a retro inspiration. I actually started wearing red lipstick and heavy winged eyeliner when I was about 14. After seeing Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, I tried to become my version of a 'Beatnik.' I was certainly influenced by old Hollywood from an early age.

I've worn MAC Ruby Woo lipstick, which is incredibly pigmented and matte, for years. It pops out and has that very retro feel I love. I'm a novice gardener, and even when I’m wearing the muddiest dungarees, if I wear red lipstick people will remember me as being well put together. For my winged eyeliner, I alternate between MAC Brushstroke Eyeliner in Brish Black, which is an easy to apply pen, and liquid liners, which have more depth and drama but are trickier to apply. I'm always trying out new mascaras, and am not a label snob about it—I’ll grab anything from YSL to Maybelline. They always have to be black and preferably lengthening. I'm not one for contouring, although my teenage daughters are experts in it and tell me I ought to try, but blusher is a must. The two shades I use are both by MAC—Raizin and Burnt Pepper.

I'm not much of an experimenter when it comes to makeup—my formula suits me, and I tend to stick with it. Actually, even though I have worked with some of the most famous hair and makeup artists over the course of my career (Mary Greenwell, Lisa Eldridge, James Brown and Sam McKnight come to mind), it never occurred to me to ask for their advice. I didn't even have a professional makeup artist for my wedding, which these days is unheard of! But skincare is another thing altogether. I love discovering new products and brands, and especially as I grow older, I'm taking everything a lot more seriously. It feels as though I’m really just starting to learn about my skin. For example, I've recently discovered the benefit of using oils on my face, which I always assumed would make my skin greasy. When I was younger it was a real no-no, so what a revelation to discover that my skin blossoms under a good nightly slick of oil!

Right now, I mainly use the Votary Super Seed Cleansing Oil, and I'm just starting to enjoy an Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser, which is proving effective. Next I use Votary’s Super Seed Facial Oil, and usually follow that up with a L'Oréal Paris Revitalift cream. They make different day and night versions. A few times a week, I'll also use a vitamin C brightening serum by Balance. I'm dying to try acids next. I know they will improve the texture of my skin, especially as I'm entering my fifties. I like to look glowy and fresh.

I've come to the conclusion that when you find something that suits you, you should stick to it. When I do my nails, it's always a strong red. And though I've had all sorts of hairstyles over the years, now I wear my hair in a ponytail almost exclusively. A ponytail suits me! I'm only just starting to get gray and white hairs at my temples, and I love the idea of nurturing a white streak on either side. I think it could look quite chic.

I turned 50 last year and I've never felt more comfortable or happier with how I look. To any youngsters out there worrying about the aging process, don't worry. The older you get, the less you care. I spent so many years harboring a deep-seated dislike of my teeth that I completely stopped showing them in photos. Or I’d hide from photos altogether, from behind the camera. By the time I decided to become my own model, I'd just reached an age where I felt comfortable with myself. I literally didn't care about my teeth anymore, so I showed them. I can't help but smile properly—from the heart. Photos of me from ages 45 to 50 have been the nicest ones of me since I was a carefree child. Self-acceptance is the cheapest (and best!) beauty secret I’ve found.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author

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