Friday, January 4, 2008

Do you have the patience to be well-groomed?

I think a fashion mag is like an apple, because the first bite is the tastiest. When I read the latest glossy the pictures look better than they ever will again. ‘Pah!’ scoffs my boyfriend when I tell him, ‘that’s because it’ll all be out of date in a month, and you’ll want a new tiny, useless bag.’ He gestures at the clutch I’ve just dished a full pay cheque for. It’s lying on the couch, tipped to an awkward angle and clashing terribly with the upholstery.

‘You’re wrong!’ I declare, and I don’t mean about the clutch (it’s possible that I will want a new one in a month or so) but the magazines. It’s simpler than he says: they look their best at the start of the month because I’m seeing them for the first time. Every outfit is novel; every themed page (hats! girly! burlesque! techno!) is a sensory overload; every pose and pout in the spreads is unexpected (the way expressions should be when they jump out at you in real life). Even the details sing out, harmonising with each other to form a sweet melody that is… well, the season. Each mink capelet is a twist; every crystal-beaded lapel is a beautiful stranger; every shock of lip colour is actually a shock (especially this autumn. Violet lips at the shows! And orange!). I may even have seen them already on the web, but not arranged quite like this. It’s a visual feast.

When I was about seven my dad took me to my first Freddy Kruger flick (remember the guy with the striped jumper and knife hands? Actually, he’s back in vogue. I recently complimented a cute male friend on his red-and-brown striped jumper: Freddy Kruger chic!). I have never been so terrified in my life; I actually collapsed into the aisle at one point when those blade fingers burst through the wall and speared someone. When I saw it again and again (on video) it was still scary but… never quite as deliciously so. Fashion is the same: it loses a little of its punch if you know what’s coming.

The magic is in the little things… that flash of colour; that unexpected touch; that little bit of perfection, like a gorgeously manicured hand. You might not notice it at all until you’re about to part ways and someone offers you their hand to shake, complete with chic black nails. It’s a footnote that says: ‘you know I’m hot!’

That’s what this season’s girlie makeup trend is all about: details. Prepare to rediscover your perfectionist streak. You’ll need it to achieve the Dita Von Teese look. It’s not like a false eyelash can just be slapped on: you cut it into sections, you apply glue carefully to each one, you hold your breath and fiddle until it’s perfectly aligned with your natural lashes, you press until the glue is dry, you draw a neat black line to conceal the base. Is it gorgeous? If not, start again. If so, repeat for the other sections.

Presto! You’re ready to move on to the right eye. After that: concealer, foundation, highlighter, lipstick, body-moisturiser, etc, etc, moving all the way down to your feet, which must be clean, buffed and lacquered. And don’t forget your hair! Have you heated up the curling iron? No? Oops, you’ve just lost ten minutes…

It’s not an everyday look - by the end of the season you might throw up your hands, shriek ‘I’m over it! Kate is my muse again!’ and burst out the door with a scrubbed face and bed hair, a la Miss Moss. But if, like me, you’ve seen the runway examples, you’ll be trying it at least a couple of times a week. Gucci sent models out with barrel curls, crimson lips and matte skin; the forties had returned in all their prim glory. Clothes were well tailored (forget last season’s voluminous shapes - girly dressing is all about clean, sharp lines): fitted blouses, wool tights and tiny, belted waists. Chunky shoes and adventurous details (such as alternating tweed and leather, embroidered shoulders and even the odd plunging neckline) brought the designs into the twenty-first century; a modern take on ‘ladies who lunch’. It’s neo-girly; everyone from Von Teese to Christina Aguilera has embraced the look.

I’ve mentioned that it’s time-consuming, but done right, it’s oh-so-worth it! When I leave the house dolled-up (false lashes, red nails, blow-dried hair) it’s a whole different universe. Men stare, women gawk, shop assistants drop everything to help you, skittish types scurry aside to give you more room on the footpath. It’s a look that says, ‘I’m somebody. I’ve succeeded. Acknowledge me!’ I walked into my first college maths class done up like this: full makeup, set hair, olive pants and singlet. By the end of the class I had a date. A few weeks later the guy showed me a poem he’d scribbled about me that day (instead of absorbing the lecturer’s rant about probabilistic axioms). It was called ‘The Girl in Green’ and it went something like this: ‘she walks in and yet she is separate/ a soldier for class in a class for maths. Every head turns to stare/ each regards her as an outsider’.

Well, I caught his eye, but this reveals a side effect of perfectionist dressing: people may stiffen up a little around you. It isn’t a relaxed look, so prepare to be tiptoed around (it might not be relaxing for you either- resist the urge to fiddle with that belt, tug at that scarf or adjust those loosening curls). This was how my poet-boyfriend felt; I’m glad he asked me out anyway. After dating for a while we started studying together. I’d show up without makeup- just moisturiser, lip-gloss and washed hair. ‘You look great’ he’d tell me. ‘I mean, I like the makeup too, but when you’re done up I feel like I can’t touch you. Like I have to be careful and stay a bit further away. It’s artificial. This way you seem more like… a person.’

Ok, well, that sounded bad, but I wasn’t put off. A look can say a lot, and I got some pretty encouraging looks from him when I was made up. You know when a shock wave of desire comes over and hits you? I love that from my guy! Guys say they like women natural because that’s when they can get physical, but I’m convinced they love a work of art just as much. Make yourself a girly work of art! That’s what the season is about.

Anything else to watch out for? I don't think the look can be done by halves. When I put on just a false lash, or try just a red lip, and leave the rest of my face relatively bare, it looks wrong. I don’t look like I have ‘a touch of forties sensibility’, I look like I was going for a forties look but I only got halfway there. Like I didn’t finish getting ready. It’s not just me; I’ve seen this on other women. A lady with the chunkiest fake nails I’d ever seen (hot pink ones - thick as teaspoons - with the cuticles filed red-raw; ouch!) recently handed me a steak sandwich in a cafĂ©. The rest of her was unkempt; she’d obviously leapt out of bed, pulled her hair into one of those rushed scrunchie-knots, and bolted to work bare-faced.

Her hands hovered above the bread like helicopters. ‘There you go love, you want me to cut it in half?’

‘No, no!’ I said intensely, and she gave me a look. I gazed around and didn’t explain - maybe I could pass myself off as one of those people who is passionate about everything (you know the people - every topic makes their blood boil, from globalisation to censorship to family loyalty to religious freedom, and even small fry like sport results, the amusement factor of The Simpsons, eighties fashion and - yes - the prospect of having one’s sandwich bisected). It must have worked, because she ignored me and proceeded to bag my lunch.

I went into a semi-hypnotic state, watching those hands dart around. An extravagant detail can look pretty silly by itself; the whole package has to be right. . I hope your fashion muscles are well toned, because getting ready this season might just be a marathon. But it will be worth it!


Her Big Mouth said...

ur right! color yells beautiful always! digging it!

Girly Home Webzine said...

I loved this post! My favorite part was your description of your poor little clutch, lying rejected askew on the couch. (LOL! You have such a way with words.)

EEK!! @ some of those celebrity photos. It's so easy to get "comfortable" and not put as much effort into our daily appearance, isnt it? This post is an important one, because it is a reminder that sometimes it's worth taking just a few extra minutes in the morning to look your best. The physical AND psychological benefits of that truly are priceless!

Miss Anthrope said...

Hmm.. I guess I'm not like the rest because I think the dressed down look looks better on both you and on Jessica Simpson... but yeah, Christina looks attrocious undone!