I have always felt conflicted about September and the promise offered by the prospect of going “back to school”. Then, and now, the idea brings dread and delight. I was not my best self at school – who was? But we all knew what back to school meant, before we bought our first magazine promising total transformation in time for January. It was a rebirth. An Etch A Sketch shakedown. A self-renewing belief that a haircut and a new rucksack could get you noticed by all the right people, or at least make all the right people forget that six months ago you forgot your packed lunch and cried by the triceratops skull at the National History Museum. Obviously, this never worked. Every year, I surfed the pin-thin line between optimism and idiocy. September meant I got to be Madonna. (Although, if everyone already thinks you’re a bit weird, they’ll think you’re even weirder if you glue a plastic crucifix to your Kickers.)
Now, I still have a puppyish enthusiasm for a makeover and the chance of a do-over. In the way that January resolutions feel refreshing after a month of excess (“I’m going to stop pouring Baileys on my cereal!”), September draws a line under summer and, even if you don’t manage to become a symphony of efficiency and matching plaid, you can at least become a person who stops leaving her phone in beer gardens. Still, for me, my favourite thing about September is that I am not going back to school. I’m not desperate for a group of judgemental teenagers to like me, I don’t feel the need to change the core of who I am in order to succeed and I don’t ever have to ask for permission to go to the toilet. But I can keep the best bits – the back-to-school shop. I have a lot more pocket money and I can celebrate the season by filling my new pencil case* (*make-up bag) with lovely new stationery** (**make-up). Here are the autumn launches that are making me giddier than a girl with a brand new Parker pen and Tippex mouse.
Yes, I know you all know about this by now. This is a cult product, but only in the sense that Scientology is allegedly a cult (or a totally normal organisation that’s great for meeting new people, if you’re reading this and a Scientologist lawyer) – it’s dead popular; there are thousands and thousands of them. It comes in 16 different shades, it’s thicker and creamier than a bar of Milka and it’s powerful enough to hide actual human emotions. If you got over Touché and wondered whether you could ever love again, this is a coup de foudre. And the sponge-tip applicator is the business.
Nothing makes a beauty buff feel reborn like the unruffled surface of an untouched powder eyeshadow. This magic magnetic palette comes empty, so you can switch up the shades and make sure that every single one is a favourite. Imagine if we’d been able to do that with our 10 colour pens. The Base pack is universally flattering, with creamy apricots, rose, soft brown and glistening gold, but if you’re after the sort of sparkly turquoise that will dazzle your friends, make your enemies jealous and make your Geography teacher mutter about the Confiscation Drawer, try the Glisten Here set.
If I’d had this in my schoolbag 20 years ago, my new-term transformation might have actually happened. It’s magical. Everyone thinks there’s something different about me, but no one can put their finger on it. It’s a sweep of pale gold Illuminisor powder on my temples and cheekbones, with a dab on my philtrum, just above my Cupid’s bow. It will make you feel polished, perfect and poised, even when yesterday’s knickers roll out of the bottom of your jeans. On the bus. It makes me feel so much more Blair Waldorf and so much less “Bleurgggghhh! Where am I?”
If you’re terribly adult and would sooner invest your pension in Woolworths vouchers than put anything shimmery on your face or body, then, firstly, congratulations on having a pension! You laugh in the face of Back To School posters and you’d shove a Sharpie up the nose of anyone who made fun of your trainers. If you’re not and you’re basic enough to occasionally still make your own tattoos with pastel Gel Pens, if you’ve ever considered dotting an “i” with anything other than a dot, if you’re always slightly disappointed when it gets to Halloween and no one has invited you to a school disco, then these are for you. I like to stick a few drops of the Glow one in my foundation for a gleamy Jill Masterson look, and then stick Strobe on my cheekbones – it’s a bit Barbarella and a bit Uma Thurman in Gattaca. I adore the consistency of these drops, they’re a lot lighter than similar products, incredibly easy to blend, and quite astonishingly shimmery, if you like that sort of thing.
If the combination of a trip to Duty Free and a French pharmacy holiday haul mean that you can’t justify buying any more make-up for the next thousand years, you simply must have a new pencil case/make-up bag. The grown-up glittery Oh Squirrel ones are my absolute favourites. You could pick a personalised one, as a tribute to a time when everything you owned had a name tape attached. But this is my favourite – the slogan makes me smile and it even has a mild swear word on it, which my inner child enjoys very much. Mr Oxton would not approve.