In Fashion, Liz's soapbox

I got a kick out of the Model-Morphosis image slider application on the NYT blog, showing the makeup befores & afters, but then wasted 10 minutes of my time reading some of the anonymous reader comments. (Tip for sanity: never do this.)

Now, I’ll readily admit that I’ve balked a bit at runway makeup styles myself. Sometimes I wonder why the designers decide that the models should be made up to look like they haven’t had any sleep or water to drink in a week. A few years ago I almost crawled out of my skin upon viewing MAC’s “backstage trend” images – I think it was this pair of lips that did it:


But! Let’s all take a deep breath and remember that runway shows are THEATRE. You’re not supposed to take them literally, unless you actually live in that universe (or are a hopeless fashion victim). That applies to the clothes, and the hair, the look and physical proportions of the models (unachievable for most of humankind!), and – of course – the makeup.

But still, people fixate on what is – and isn’t – traditionally “pretty.” I love reading all these comments by men saying “she looked hotter before!” and “well I don’t find her sexy” – um, dude? That’s SO NOT THE POINT. To me, that’s like looking at a Picasso or Dalí painting and saying “WTF? These women/landscapes/whatever aren’t attractive to me personally!” Right, because contemporary artists REALLY want to have their images on the cover of Maxim, if only they could paint a sexier picture…!

(And I realize how grandiose it is to compare a fashion show to Salvador Dalí, but just go with it. And if you need any evidence that fashion can be art, look up a few of Alexander McQueen’s runway shows on YouTube – just incredible. So sad that he is gone!)

If you’re watching a fashion show, or reading an editorial in a fashion magazine, and see something that gives you a WTF moment, I’m not saying you ought to try to like it or appreciate it or (god forbid) EMULATE it, if it’s not to your taste. (Believe me, when STIRRUP PANTS reappeared a year ago, I was just as traumatized as anyone else who survived 80’s fashion the first time around!) But consider the context. Runway models aren’t meant to resemble “normal” women, and runway fashion may not resemble anything you’d actually wear – hell, most of the MODELS don’t wear fashion like that offstage! (And actors don’t usually wear their costumes to the grocery store, either, but this doesn’t usually surprise people.)

Now, how does all this apply to makeup? I suspect I’ll need to do a Part Two, but the short of it is: you don’t have to take it literally. In fact, unless you travel in fashionista circles and/or enjoy looking a bit freaky, PLEASE don’t! Instead, look closer. Maybe amidst the parade of gaunt, oddly painted faces you’ll spot one small element you find appealing: a bright lip, a smoky eye, a sunkissed cheek, a different color or shape than you usually wear… and that could inspire you to try something new, just for the fun of it. THAT’S how you translate high fashion to everyday fashion. (And experimenting with makeup doesn’t require you to drop 10 grand on a couture gown!)

When it comes to makeup, or fashion, or any form of self-expression, be true to your taste and your aesthetic, but be open to intrigue. That’s what art is for.

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