Vera is my sometimes friend. Meaning, I only see her sometimes—when we’re on the same bus going to or from downtown Chicago. She’s a plump Russian lady who is somewhere between the ages of 60 and 75 (she won’t tell me), and she is elegance defined. All knowledge worth possessing comes from Vera.
Grey, slushy winter morning, 8 a.m.: Vera gets on the bus in a vintage-looking floor-length mink coat with a matching turban, in screaming red lipstick, her bangle bracelets rattling. Rainy summer afternoon: 4:45 p.m.: Vera sashays down the middle of the bus, resplendent in a hot pink slicker, hot pink lipstick, pale pink glasses, and one of those see-through old-lady rain bonnets that look like the wrappers for Saltines.
One morning, about a year ago, she sat next to me on a crowded morning bus, gently smacked my leg, and told me to “sit like a nice girl,” with my legs closed instead of sprawled open. I fell in love with her immediately. Now Vera sits next to me whenever she sees me, and sometimes she gives me beauty advice. (“I don’t like this metal ring in your lip. You take this ring out of face, you get married, watch.”) She also smells incredible: the faintest whiff of something expensive when you get close to her. On my last bus ride with Vera a few weeks ago, I smelled her elusive perfume when she reached over to rub my back in greeting.
“You smell really good. What perfume do you wear?”
Vera harrumphed. “I don’t wear perfume. In this heat? No.”
“Ok … is it your soap, then? What soap do you use?”
Vera closed her eyes and fanned herself. “Is powder,” she said. “With perfume inside. Keeps the skin cool, not all sweat and sticky in this heat, my God. Right after a bath, you dry off, put on”—she mimed fluffing a powder puff all over her body—“and AH!—so good!” she said.
Isn’t it expensive, though?
Vera gave me some serious side-eye. “You can make this,” she said.
Could she please tell me how to make it? Was it hard?
Vera nodded and patted my knee. “Is no problem. I tell you. Easy, okay?”
So, here is the recipe for Vera’s DIY Perfumed Body Powder. She explained it to me on the bus, I went home and made it, and damned if it isn’t the best thing I’ve tried in ages. Vera’s right—take a bath or shower, dry off thoroughly, and dust this stuff on, and ahhh: you’ll be cool, powdery and smell amazing all day long.
1 large glass jar with a tightly fitting lid
This could really be any kind of jar, at least the size of jar of pasta sauce. I used a large Mason jar, which holds 26 oz.
About 2 cups of pure, food-grade cornstarch
I got mine from the baking aisle of the grocery store for about $3. Pure cornstarch makes a great, economical body powder, and eliminates the chemicals found in many commercial powders!
1 cotton ball or 6 cotton swabs
Your favorite perfume or essential oil
I used Dita Von Teese Rouge
1: Bring the perfume and your cotton ball or swabs into the bathroom or kitchen and open a window. Standing over the sink, spray the hell out of your cotton ball or cotton swab tips, using about 35–45 sprays. That sounds like a lot, but I promise, this won’t even make a dent in your perfume supply.
2: Drop the soaked and highly fragrant cotton ball or swabs into the glass jar.
3: Dump your cornstarch on top of the cotton ball in the jar, but don’t fill the jar all the way up! Leave about a quarter of the jar empty, then screw on the lid.
4: Shake it up vigorously.
5: Put the jar of powder somewhere dark and cool, and shake it once or twice a day for 2–3 days.
6: That’s it! Now you have custom, inexpensive body powder in your favorite fragrance! Put it in an fun glass container for extra fanciness (mine is blue and has a glass swan on top), get a powder puff at the drugstore, dust it all over your body after a shower or bath.
Vera knows everything. I can’t wait to see her on the bus again—I’m gonna ask her where she buys her lipstick.