After a spring season in which high-fashion cosmetics companies were selling technicolored powders and paints for eyes, lips, cheeks and nails, the makeup spectrum for fall is less gimmicky and far less vivid. In fact, it's utterly understandable.
When it comes to a face, spring was Madonna; fall is Kathleen Turner. Provocative, but not blatantly sexy.
The clothes have set the mood. This fall is filled with dark neutrals: black and charcoal, rich warm brown, navy and deepest violet. There's a distinctly feminine shape with narrower shoulders, a slim waist, rounded hips. And last year's flashy accessories have given way to a new sparse look: the definitive belt, an impressive watch, a bold bracelet.
Such a pared-down silhouette calls for refined makeup--a face artfully painted but far from natural. With simpler styles and fewer pieces of jewelry, a woman's individual eccentricities become her beauty spots. Small eyes become beaux yeux with jewel-tone blue or green mascara; full lips are succulent in vibrant red, and a strong nose becomes classic when offset by subtly rouged cheeks.
Overall, the face is lighter. Ivory and alabaster foundations give the complexion a pale glow. Cosmetics companies say the key is to go at least one shade lighter than natural skin tones. Pale cream and powder rouges add a hint of blush.
If there is a pristine quality to the skin, the look stops there. Lips are red: browned red, blue red, orange red, but definitely red . In contrast to innocent skin, this mouth has been around. We saw it in the '40s on Joan Crawford. In the '50s on Marilyn Monroe. In the '60s on Sophia Loren. Feminism forbade it in the '70s and early '80s, in fear, perhaps, that it would confuse the Issues. But now the mouth is strong not just in what it says but also in how it looks. Lip liner provides accents, making it bigger than life.
"Wearing black and dark neutral clothing wipes out every trace of color in the face--red lipstick puts it back," explains Tony Michaels, vice president of marketing and advertising at Lancome. "Women shouldn't look like they're going to a funeral just because they're wearing dark clothes."
Tyen, creative director at Christian Dior, makes the same sort of statement, but he includes the eyes. The Paris-based makeup artist uses as many as six colors to create his version of the power eye.
"The young in Europe are wearing a great deal of color on the eyes," notes Susan Biehn, senior vice president of advertising and creative services at Dior in New York. "The 'natural' look there is to wear makeup, not to go without it."
But what could be new about eye shadow after last spring brought colors such as chartreuse, marigold and fuchsia to the lids? Consider red, copper and nothing.
It seems contradictory that the world's top makeup artists would ask women to stripe their eyelids with red--since scarlet rims can make a tired eye look even more fatigued. Yet it's happening. In some collections the look is an unadulterated red meant to be blended and faded to just a subtle hint of color. Elsewhere, red is toned down with blue, creating amethyst and purple shadows.
Metallic shadows--copper, gold and silver, once relegated to New Year's Eve--are now for daytime. Like the reds, these are meant to be blended until the effect is more like fairy dust than a gleaming suit of armor.
What may be the newest look in eye makeup may also be the most difficult for women to accept: the un-made-up eye. It is pale and, for some women, terrifyingly natural. Dior's Tyen describes it as underplayed, an eye that balances, but never detracts from, the bold red mouth. The lid is covered with foundation to even the skin tone, and then, if lashes are extremely thin and pale, there may be a very fine touch of eyeliner. Otherwise, upper lashes are coated lightly with mascara--brown, blue or green--and the eye makeup is complete.
Cosmetics firms, like most clothing firms, offer four major seasonal collections. That means that there are just two months left to explore the bold red mouth and the underplayed eye; for the holidays, the makeup forecast is the underplayed mouth and the bolder eye.