01 August 2007

Makeup *does* matter

As an educated and empathetic member of our politically correct society, I'm supposed to think women of all sizes are equally beautiful, women who wear certain items of clothing regardless of their size deserve "you go, girl!" approval and all attempts at au naturel from the neck-up are to be lauded for their refreshing this-is-me realness.

I'm not going near that first one (not today, anyway) and you know well my "earn it first" view on the second, which leaves me to opine on the seemingly ubiquitous-in-DC contagion I like to refer to as the "I think I don't need makeup" face.

Look at Chloë Sevigny above in her fancy green Balenciaga party dress at this year's Costume Institute Gala. Whether you favor or frown upon her frock is immaterial to the argument at hand, what matters is that we all agree this is indeed not a casual event, not a casual style selection and her casual barely-there makeup palette not only looks curiously out of place but in fact distracts from the glamour going on down below.

What a difference some sheer gloss, a thicker coat of mascara, a subtle swipe of under-eye concealer and a touch of peachy cheek stain would've made.

Now let's take a look at the other end of the spectrum.

Though I make a point not to pick on pregnant women, since Christina hasn't officially acknowledged her growing bump, I feel in the clear to use her - here, in all her painted-lady glory - as an example of how too much makeup, especially in a casual tank-top setting, has the same disconcerting, distracting effect as a naked face in tandem with a ball gown.

As much as Chloë and Christina's makeup mismatches bring a frustrated, "Why? Why would you do that?" furrow to my recently threaded brow, what I saw yesterday evening on my way home from work far surpassed either one in the WTF category.

It's a rare occasion when a woman in the NW corridor catches and holds my attention, but last night around 6:15, I found myself going out of my way to remain a few strides behind a beautifully sculpted female, the likes of which I had not seen in-person in many, many months. Tall and athletic with thick, chestnut Pantene-commercial hair, a perfect pop of ass and killer legs, this woman, from behind, was not just head-turning but rather the exact image conjured in my head each time I'm tempted to reach for the Edy's Slow-Churned instead of my running shoes.

Beyond her physique, however, there was even more over which to fawn, namely the just right drape of her light grey heather skirt suit over her hips and shoulders - two geographical locations women in this city hardly ever get right - and her simple, elegant black three-inch round-toed stiletto pumps. Clearly, I thought to myself, this was a woman who takes pride in earning her shape and goes to great pains to wear clothes to flatter the fruits of her WSC labors.

After walking five blocks out of my way and realizing, no thanks to the haunting lyrics and melody of "Wicked Game" that what I was doing might be considered, oh, I don't know, stalking, I decided I would at the next intersection shoot her a quick, I-like-what-you're-sellin' smile, turn left and head home.

But no sooner had Chris Isaak faded into Feist that I reached that next intersection, found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with my girl-crush and immediately felt my heart drop clear to the curb.

It's not that she was a butta face - quite the opposite - but despite her cute nose, sterling eyes and sun-kissed color, this otherwise polished, put-together, professional woman wasn't wearing a single stitch of makeup. And believe me when I say this spare approach was not in her best interest. An oily T-zone, deep, dark circles beneath her eyes, a patch of reddish acne on her chin and and another on her left jawline -- this woman looked like any and all of us do in the morning, but the difference was, she actually stepped out of her home without any attempt to cover up or blend away her very common, very easily minimized skin imperfections.

You'll never hear me chide a woman for the au naturel look on the weekends or after work (or on my friend E, who can truly pull off the just-woke-up look), but Monday through Friday, yeah, I think it's part and parcel of looking professional to even out your skintone and try to look as fresh and presentable as possible. Like I believe an ill-fitting or office-inappropriate ensemble detracts from your delivery in the board room, I also assert that an "I think I don't need makeup" face can be just as egregious - and just as avoidable - an offense.

So just as I advise you to engage in an honest self-evaluation of your body before you slip on that cute halter top ("Do I have the back for this?"), pair of short shorts ("Do I have the legs for this?") or strapless dress ("Do I have the shoulders and rack for this?"), I also encourage you to do the same with the reflection staring back at you in the mirror ("Do I have the kind of skin that doesn't need any help?").


Anonymous said...

You've hit a new superficial low with this one, Ms. Johanna. Honestly, I don't know how you keep trumping yourself but you do.

Ask any man what he prefers and he'd tell you "natural." This is such bullshit. I'm done reading. Done.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with you, anon. Presentation is presentation, and your face is not exempt. Remember, she's talking about *professional* women, women who are expected to present a certain pulled together image. And when say men say they prefer a natural look, they simply mean less makeup, not none.

I think your conclusion is spot on.

Alisha said...

Word to anon2. If she went through the effort to look decent from the neck down, she needs to finish the look from the neck up.

One does not have to look *done up* in order to look finished.

Thanks for addressing this issue, Johanna. It irks me too.

dc girl said...

You are such a stalker! Creepy!

JK. I soooo agree with you on this one. The women who come into work with huge whiteheads and big black circles under the eyes...I'm thinking, why even bother putting a nice suit on when you don't even *try* with your face? It's distracting to say the least.

Kay said...

Amen, sister! The total package is very important. Seeing gorgeous women give up from the neck up is so disheartening.

I've reached the point where I have to stop myself from applying makeup before I exercise or go to my dance classes. I hate HATE leaving home without looking put together.

Anonymous said...

Actually Anon1, Cosmo recently did a survey in which they showed men three different types of make-up jobs on women--none, moderate, and full-on "glam." They also asked the men to describe the look that they like. The overwhelming majority said they like a "natural" look, but pointed to the woman wearing the moderate but flattering make-up job in the middle.
However, it seems from your tone that this isn't really about the make-up is it? Oh well, good riddance.

Maxie said...

Completely agree... there is a lady in my office tells everyone that she "doesn't need to wear any makeup because she goes to the tanning bed every day and her tan basically looks like she has her whole face on." I'm not sure how those two things are at all related...guess I shouldn’t expect much because she tends to wear those big Hawaiian-print pant suits (seriously, who invented those things?!?!)…but yeah, I’m with you on this one!

Jennifer Fitzpatrick said...

As a professional make-up artist, I am paid to be objective about this subject. If a woman were going to a black-tie affair I'm certain she wouldn't wear track shoes with a designer gown. By the same token, why wouldn't she wear the appropriate make up for the occasion.
Many women tell me the reason they don't wear make-up on a regular basis, is they don't have the time. My answer to this is: LEARN how to correctly apply make-up for any occasion and for your particular facial structure. Once this is achieved then the application time can be shortened to 10 minutes for a day face and 20 minutes for an evening look. As far as makeup, less is more for most women in DC but NONE is such a pity when there are so many options!
Peace, Luv, and Make-up,
Jennifer Fitzpatrick (PIAF Salon and Day Spa, Washington DC)

Lady Tiara said...

almost everyone looks better with a little makeup (there may be that .01% of woman who have such lovely skin that they need no enhancement, but they are few and far between). chloe sevigny makes me shudder most of the time anyway, but her look for this event was so inappropriate: it was formal and she knew she was going to be photographed. of course, i'm rather biased, as i never leave the house without at least concealer, mascara, and lip gloss.

Teek said...

Even ten minutes is a pretty full face. Concealer, Bare Minerals, blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow, blend, DiorShow, lipgloss and out the door in under five minutes here. Little longer if I'm up for full foundation, dark lips, or if I screw up. (See: dark lips.) But then, I am the kind of girl who wears eyeliner to the grocery store.

Anon3 hit the nail on the head - when men say they like "natural", they haven't the foggiest idea what that actually means. People are, scientifically speaking, extremely bad at giving reasons and descriptions of why they like or do the things they do.

I think there is an argument to be made that it is patriarchal that women are expected to be wearing many artificial products just to look "naturally beautiful" or "professional" in a way that men are not. Trust me, there are men in my office who could benefit from concealer, yet they're not expected to use it to maintain their professional image.

People judge women far more harshly for image-related mistakes, but Johanna does not write a "f-the patriarchy" blog, but more a practical how-to guide to living within the system.

Anonymous said...

wow, you guys need to get away from the make up counter and into life a bit more...makeup is basically chemical poison that women are sold for the benefit of some fat rich dude who gets the profits from the sales.

Sara said...

To anon1, there is a big difference between "natural" and "barefaced."

And I completely agree with Johanna's conclusion on this post as well -- even on the weekends, I wear concealer and blush.

(However, I digress: I don't wear makeup when camping, mountain biking or doing manual labor.)