Saturday, October 17, 2015

FOTD: Autumn Leaves

October has always been my favorite month. As I'm sure I've mentioned before, my love of seasonal makeup has a lot to do with my upbringing. My parents and I lived in Boston until I was seven, when we moved to San Francisco. I spent the next ten years pining for "real seasons," especially fall, and I'll never forget the childlike joy of catching falling leaves during my first semester of college back in Massachusetts. I'm given to understand that appreciating the glory of fall is now a symptom of basic bitchery, I suppose because it's not a rarefied pleasure available to a select few. This article (since when does Buzzfeed quote Bourdieu?) notes the classism inherent in the "basic bitch" insult. I don't agree with all of the writer's points, but it's worth a read. In any case, I refuse to be ashamed of my autumnal raptures. Where I live now, there are about six weeks per year when it's actually pleasant to be outside, and October contains two or three of those weeks. I've spent this particular October sick, stressed, and overwhelmed (academic job market, what's up), but I haven't been able to ignore the spectacular beauty of the season. It's a privilege to be able to walk outside and see this:

And this:

And this (yes, this post is a flimsy excuse to spam you with foliage photos, as if you haven't been getting enough leaves from me on Instagram):

This is the first weekend in a while that hasn't been consumed with work, so I did glorious nothing until about 3:30 pm, when I decided to experiment with the custom palette that I put together at San Francisco's theBalm store in August and still haven't reviewed:

For my shamelessly obvious autumn-leaves look, I used the copper and the green. I'd like to claim credit for this color combination, but I based it loosely on the NARS Blade Runner duo, reviewed by Kate at More Like Space here. I swear I've bought half my eyeshadows in semi-conscious attempts to dupe NARS duos. This particular dupe attempt is very different from the originalBlade Runner's green is darker than theBalm's, and its copper is much pinker—but Blade Runner is long discontinued, so this is the best I'm going to do for now.

I called one of the shades "copper" just now, but it's actually closer to straight-up pumpkin orange. I've had a few pangs of regret about choosing this shadow. The saleslady at theBalm told me it would look great with my eyes, but my eyes are set in a face, and that face doesn't usually do well with orange. The color is a bit brighter IRL than it looks here:

Then there's that unusual shade of gray-tinged moss green:

Not every shadow in my palette has a perfect formula (the duochrome purple at bottom left is the worst offender), but I find that theBalm does softly frosted finishes to perfection, and the copper and green couldn't be smoother or more buttery. I used the copper on the inner third of my upper lid and the green on the outer two-thirds, blending them together carefully before applying the sparkly dark brown to my upper and lower lashlines. I kept the rest of my look simple, but equally basic-bitch autumnal, with Illamasqua Zygomatic blush and Revlon Lacquer Balm in Coy.

I'd worn the copper before and found it too bright and obtrusive, but I really liked how it looked today. I think it was just a matter of blending it out properly (which reminds me, I should probably get an eyeshadow brush that costs more than $5...).

I'm also in the market for a brown eyeliner, something I've never owned: I've always made do with brown eyeshadow applied with an angled brush. Eyeshadow on the lashline fades more quickly than I'd like, though, even over primer.

I was very pleased to note that the green eyeshadow was a near-perfect match for my nail polish, Butter London Wallis. I used to refer to Wallis as "the official nail polish of Slytherin House," but a recent conversation with a grad-school friend (also sorted by Pottermore into Slytherin, don't you know) has me thinking that NARS Night Porter might be worthier of that distinction. Wallis is a formidable contender, though.

I spent the rest of my afternoon preparing to teach Nabokov's prefaces to Lolita and Pale Fire on Monday (I am so excited about teaching my favorite novelist, you have no idea), and then I sat around some more and listened to k-pop and wrote in my notebook and made a lentil recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and drank bourbon with ginger ale. I'm not sure there's a better way to spend a Saturday in October.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Stress-Fueled Impulse Purchase #3: Topshop Matte Lipstick in Boardroom

First, thanks to everyone who left advice on my last post! I didn't have time to respond to all the comments, but rest assured that your input is deeply appreciated. <3

2015 will certainly go down in makeup history as the year of the brown lipstick. Dark gothy brown, '90s-style midtone warm brown, muddy red, and the strangest brown of all: a cool-toned gray-brown, often with a hint of purple. I don't know why undead lips have become so wildly popular this year, but they've been everywhere in the last few months. MAC Stone is the best-known example, but there are many others, mostly from Insta-friendly trendy brands. ColourPop alone has three gray-toned browns in its equally trendy liquid-matte formula: Trap, Kapow, and Beeper. But my distaste for liquid mattes is no secret, and the zombie lipstick that caught my eye last month was a conventional bullet: Topshop Boardroom, which I mentioned in my recent wishlist post.

The elephant in the boardroom, so to speak, is that this shade of brown doesn't flatter many people. So why does it appeal so strongly to me, and why did it catch on in the first place? I swear the current craze for post-apocalyptic fiction has something to do with this desire for a vaguely unhealthy lip look. There's also the element of challenge: a mushroom-brown lipstick, like a vivid purple blush or a lime-green eyeshadow, is just daring you to make it work. These shades seem to hold particular attraction for makeup junkies who have already collected their most flattering colors—the berries, the peaches, the nudes—and have nowhere to go but zombietown.

So perhaps it's fitting that I ordered Boardroom late at night under the influence of a fairly high fever after finishing a postdoc application. (I've been getting sick repeatedly in the last few weeks, due to stress, sleep deprivation, and a campus swarming with undergrads who somehow got into a name-brand college without learning how to wash their hands.) It was my first time ordering from Topshop's American website, and I appreciated the free shipping, which I wasn't expecting for a $12 lipstick. Less pleasing was the condition in which the lipstick arrived:

The tube was bound to get scuffed eventually (there's a reason that most lipsticks aren't housed in white tubes, Topshop), but I would have liked to see it in pristine condition at least once. At least the tube wasn't broken and the lipstick itself wasn't damaged at all. I assume the scuffing happened before shipping, since the box was fine:

Boardroom is described as a matte lipstick, but all this means is that it's not super-glossy; I'd call it a semi-matte. It has a strong fruity-flowery scent, like a synthetic strawberry crossed with a YSL-esque boozy rose. I find the scent quite pleasant, though, and it doesn't linger after application.

Like Rio Rio, Boardroom has a soft, slippery, slightly translucent formula; I was surprised at how much lighter it looked on my lips than it did in the tube. Here's one pass on my arm:

 Left to right: NYX Enamored, Boardroom, Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, NARS Last Tango.

And two coats on my lips. As you can see, the gray and plum tones come forward much more strongly here. This particular lighting also makes my skin look quite gray; I swear I'm not actually a zombie though I mean if you ever feel inclined to send some brains my way just let me know and I'll give you my address

Boardroom and Rio Rio share a light, comfortable, non-drying formula, but also a tendency to sink into lip lines after a couple of hours. Boardroom also doesn't have much lasting power, and will come off on cups if you're drinking. But it's a lighter color, so I forgive it. Seriously, when did we all start expecting lipstick to wear like iron? Did that start with the liquid-matte trend, or did the liquid-matte trend originate in the desire for magical 24-hour wear? Is this yet another product of the modern apocalyptic imagination—a demand for disaster-proof lip color, just in case?

Now for the fun part: figuring out how to wear this tricky color. My first attempt was very simple: matte plum eyeshadow from theBalm smudged along my upper lashlines, plus a light dusting of NARS Mata Hari blush (all but invisible here, sorry):

After posting this photo on Instagram and sending it to my boyfriend and roommate, I was surprised at the number of people who told me it didn't look all that weird. I don't think I'd wear it to an interview (or in a boardroom, for that matter), but it seems to be just shy of a statement lipstick. It's a neutral teetering on the brink of the uncanny valley. I dig it.

Here it is with slightly heavier eye and cheek makeup: ColourPop Bill and the plum from NARS Habanera on my eyes and Sleek Flushed on my cheeks.

I succumbed to Urban Decay's Rapture blush, a plum with soft gold shimmer, during their Columbus Day sale yesterday, and I can't wait to see how it looks with Boardroom. I think Flushed is a bit too warm for this look, but oh well.

What think you of the zombie-lips trend?