Thursday, October 20, 2016

Let's Talk About Hillary's Lipstick

...instead of, you know, her opponent's total disdain for the democratic process.

The third (and, blessedly, last) presidential debate of 2016 took place last night at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I'm not going to discuss the content of the debate because 1) it's pretty obvious which candidate I support and 2) this is a beauty blog, not a political blog. But the personal is political, as feminists of the '90s were fond of reminding us, and sometimes makeup is political too. Donald Trump's bizarre orange bronzer has been discussed ad nauseam, but Hillary Clinton's makeup made relatively little impression on the public until last night, when she took the stage wearing a space-age white pantsuit and a bold berry-red lipstick:

I was watching the New York Times livestream until it froze halfway through the debate. Get it together, guys.

This struck me as a marked departure from her makeup in the first two debates. But when I went back and looked at her previous lipstick choices, I realized I was wrong: she's never favored neutral lipstick. Here's how she looked in the first debate, at Hofstra University:


You'd think she would have chosen a nude or neutral lipstick, something that wouldn't threaten to compete with that brilliant red pantsuit, but she went with a more toned-down red lip. I'm honestly not a fan of this choice: the slightly brownish red on her mouth clashes with the bright neutral crimson of her pantsuit. Then again, it's telling that I remembered her lipstick as neutral: the pantsuit was SO bright that it drowned out the color on her face, meaning the lipstick was functionally neutral. Interesting.

In the second debate, at Washington University in St. Louis, Hillary wore an '80s-tastic navy pantsuit with white lapels over a white top. Her lipstick was less bold than it had been in the first debate, but it wasn't quite neutral, either. If you can ignore the silverback gorilla (Nigel Farage's approving words, not mine) looming over her shoulder, you'll notice that she went with a peach lipstick. Peach is one of my favorite makeup colors to pair with a navy top, so I approve. I think this was the most flattering of her three debate ensembles, color-wise.


In last night's debate, Hillary's makeup came to the fore because her pantsuit was pure white: any non-nude lipstick she'd paired with that color would have popped. (Yes, her pantsuit color choices were red, white, and blue. Subtle.) Here's another screenshot I took:


I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the rest of her makeup (or her mullety hairdo, for that matter). She's wearing the harsh black eyeliner that many women of her generation, my mother included, adopted at the age of 16 and never gave up. If you look closely, you can see that the eyeliner on her lower lashline doesn't connect—isn't even close to connecting—with the eyeliner on her upper lashline. I think a brown eyeliner and/or some brown shadow would have looked more flattering and less dated. The peachy blush isn't working for me either: it's not bad with her complexion, but it doesn't harmonize with the berry lipstick. And is that some Trumpesque bronzer I spy? Hillary, hire me as your makeup adviser and I'll hook you up with a pan of Urban Decay Rapture.


Kate at More Like Space has done a great color analysis of both presidential candidates and concluded that they belong to the cool, muted summer season. Clinton is a light summer and Trump, bronzer addiction aside, is a true summer: "everything that trump is doing to himself, from the orangey fake tan to the too-bold power suits is precisely the opposite of what would work. i'm sure he thinks that blues and greys are much too wimpy and beta-male for him, but, even if you factor in his aging, i fully believe he'd be more presidential in that palette than the one he's chosen." As a woman, Clinton has a bit more leeway with her color choices, and I don't think she and her stylists have done too badly in recent months. Her first debate pantsuit wasn't her best color, but it was such a powerful, fuck-you color that it really didn't matter.

Britain's new prime minister, Theresa May, has long been mocked for daring to put effort into her appearance: her shoes, necklines, and skirt hems have all come under scrutiny. Regardless of what I think of her politics (not much), I can't help but admire her refusal to tamp down her femininity. Until last night, I would have said that Hillary Clinton has taken a very different approach to the daunting business of being a female politician. But that striking berry lipstick strikes me as a sign that she's ready to bring some levity to the job. Any guesses on the color and brand? I'm thinking Bobbi Brown.

21 comments:

  1. Speaking as an older woman with cool undertones, I can say that there are probably very few 'nude' lip colors that don't make Hilary look sick, tired, or dead -- brights are definitely the way to go when you're older and cool-toned, even if they looked like 'too much' when you were younger. The 'nude' or 'neutral' lip colors that actually look flattering on me are medium-to-deep cool taupes and grays -- lip colors that aren't maybe widely accepted yet, would probably be sure to get her loads of criticism, even if I can wear them to the food co-op and get compliments.

    I agree with you that black eyeliner is something that women in my age group should use with caution/consider modifying -- it tends to look harsh. I think that if she's determined to carry on with it, then NOT connecting the upper and lower liner (as she or her makeup artist did here) is actually the way to go -- connecting the two could like make her eyes look 'closed down' or smaller. It's hard to find a good cool-toned brown, though; I like a cool gray, like NARS Eye Paint in Transvaal, which also has serious staying power. Navy can be good, but it might or might not work well with her eye color -- I think a neutral would be more likely to help here eye color pop a little.

    I agree that Rapture would be an awesome blush choice for this look on her :-)

    It's really funny how I notice politicians' (male and female) makeup much more since I've gotten into makeup myself. Hillary tends to stay on the conservative side with her looks, IMO -- too conservative for my own tastes, but since she gets so much flak for liberal policy ideas, it makes sense to me for her too keep it toned down on the fashion and beauty front.

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    1. On second thought, you're right about the eyeliner: connecting the lines would have looked a bit strange. The real problem is the color. It may not even be a true black, but regardless, it's a harsh look for a woman of any age. Urban Decay Demolition is a nice cool-toned brown, by the way!

      Hillary came of age in an era when female professionals couldn't afford to seem "soft," and that definitely shows in her demeanor and makeup. (Of course, she also gets criticized for seeming too stern and not smiling enough, because women can't win.) So it's nice to see her, or her makeup artist, having some fun with color. I think she looked great overall last night.

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    2. I liked her look overall, too :-)

      I'll have to give Demolition a try!

      Even though I'm nine years younger than Hillary I remember quite vividly how tough female professionals not only had to seem but to actually be in that era. And were roundly criticized for it. (I was in the first class at the University of Virginia that was fully half female -- it was still a man's world.) I really appreciate when younger people have an appreciation of how it was! I keep trying to explain to younger people who (I think) are overly complacent about a woman's right to choose how young women used to die or get maimed not all that infrequently when abortion was illegal. I even try to explain how hard it used to be just to find stuff out... how a question you can google the answer to in less than a second used to involve going to the library, doing card catalog searches, filling out interlibrary loan requests and waiting weeks for books to show up that might or might not contain the answers you were seeking... how many people outside of academia could even afford to invest the time?

      Now that I think about it, there really hasn't been that level of change in makeup in the last forty or fifty year, in spite of the constant barrage of new products, lol.

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    3. Abortion has been so hotly debated my entire life that I can't imagine ever feeling complacent about it. I mean, Roe v. Wade was 43 years ago and we still have politicians doing their best to overturn it. I find it so chilling that Trump used to be pro-choice but has adopted the gory rhetoric of the religious right without blinking.

      I think the (over)abundance of information is both a blessing and a curse for scholarship. The greatest innovation in my field in the last decade or so has been EEBO (Early English Books Online), which has digitized almost every text printed before 1700. As lucky as I feel to be able to download an entire book from 1640, I also recognize that EEBO makes it easy to do sloppy, shallow primary research. The more information you have at your fingertips, the more information you're responsible for synthesizing. One thing is for sure: I can't imagine writing a doctoral dissertation without a word processor.

      I think you're right about makeup: the changes tend to be cyclical instead of linear. There's something comforting about that. The one big change I've noticed in the last decade or so is that a lot more women are wearing lipstick regularly!

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    4. One of the things that stuck out to me during the primary debates was how matte and perfect Marco Rubio's face was while his hairline gathered sweat. I kept saying, "My God, I need to know what they put on him to keep his face that matte!" And at first, my mother and my friends laughed. But by the end of the debate, they were saying the same thing: "Wow, yeah, that's AMAZING."

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    5. Also, NPR recently released a great article on the double bind women face re: the stereotype that they must be soft and compassionate, while leaders are expected to be assertive and tough. I think it was called "Too Sweet, Too Shrill."

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    6. Most people paid someone else to type their dissertation for them once they'd written it (can you imagine writing a doctoral dissertation in longhand?) Even if you wrote it by typing it (which took much more finger strength/endurance back then, believe me), you wouldn't want to submit it with white-out all over the place... hence paying a professional.

      You remind me that I used to be able to write something right the first time, because correcting typewritten errors was such a chore! Now? Who am I kidding, it's constant backspacing and splicing!

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  2. On my TV her lipstick showed up as a bright orange-red in all three debates and her blush as a very vibrant orangey-coral. It's interesting to see the differences! I've been admiring her bold lipstick choices since the first debate - it's definitely not what I would have expected, but I think overall it works for her. She certainly has better makeup than Trump (though he seemed paler than normal last night).

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    1. Oh, weird! Her blush definitely looked (too) warm to me, but her lipstick looked nowhere near orange. And it does seem like Trump is slowly realizing that the pumpkin spice trend doesn't work for him. I recently read that he insists on doing his own makeup, which is...unsurprising but still sobering.

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  3. I *love* that she wears bright lipstick! I feel like it visually backs up her general assertiveness.

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    1. Me too! I think she does a good job of choosing colors that are bold but not gaudy, though I wish she'd wear a true red lipstick one of these days.

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  4. Love Love Love this post!!! I met Hillary in '92, but haven't seen her in person since. Back then, she had what I call a very "French" complexion - very golden, healthy - almost a fading tan skintone. She has good, thick skin (in more ways than one - lol!). I think she is looking great as far as her makeup colors but i would like to see her lipcolor extended further to the edge of her lipline so her lips don't look as harsh and thin. She doesn't really have such thin lips. Did you see her look at the Al Smith dinner last night? Just fantastic in that hot pink dress! I know that younger people like a less stiff hair look, but I think her hair is projecting an image of strength. As you know, it's all about the semiotics...

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    1. I loved her outfit at the Al Smith dinner (though I couldn't bring myself to watch any of the videos...). That rich fuchsia is actually my favorite color! As for the hair, my objection isn't to the stiffness so much as the length: I think it would look better if it were a bit shorter in back. Overall, though, I approve of her look (as if she needs my approval). I think Hillary has always been very attractive and I like that she doesn't try to downplay her attractiveness.

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  5. :-) I totally agree about the liner- it isn't in keeping with her color at all. Something like demolition or smoke would work much better. I also wish she'd try something like a sweetheart pink for her lips, which would look like a natural nude, but still look plenty bright on her.

    And thanks for the shout out!

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    1. You're welcome! I love your color analyses. I think most of us have noticed that Trump and Clinton have a habit of wearing unflattering colors, but few of us know how to articulate the exact problem.

      It occurs to me that she'd look really good in MAC Up the Amp or Urban Decay Rapture--one of those purply mauve lipsticks.

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    2. In a charming display of modesty, Kate MacDonald is not mentioning a fascinating historical figure to consider in this discussion, Flora MacDonald. In her touching tribute, “r.i.p. flora”, Kate MacDonald included a photo that is very representative of the image most people have when they think of Flora MacDonald. When you look at the photograph, the impression you get of her is healthy, clean skin and healthy hair in a simple style. Only after careful scrutiny does one realize that Flora MacDonald did use makeup, but she wears the makeup, it doesn’t wear her. Also, her hair has a bit of volume and control, but it’s very soft and has a nice shine. Her outfit itself is way more interesting than what a lot of politicians, male or female, wear, yet at the same time, it comes across as more classic than what a lot of people in the seventies and early eighties managed. I think the reason people don’t think to mention her in these kinds of discussions is that her style seemed so seamless and in keeping with her whole self, it doesn’t stick out the way poor style choices on politicians do.

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  6. I wasn't able to observe HRC's makeup at the debates because I watched most of them from between my fingers, periodically moaning with dismay. I look forward to getting this election over with and speculating about how she'll present herself at state dinners and the like--I know she's been through all that before, but not as POTUS, and she never seemed very at home in formal gowns...

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    1. I'm with you. When I say I "watched" the debates, I mean I listened while reading Twitter and the Guardian and NYT live updates, and glanced at the screen every ten minutes to make sure Trump wasn't literally tearing Clinton limb from limb.

      Many adjectives have been applied to Clinton over the years, but I doubt "glamorous" has ever been one of them, so I'm curious about that as well. She can't wear a pantsuit to absolutely every event...OR CAN SHE

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    2. I think my circle is full of heathens, because my best friend, my mother, my brother and I all said, "Oh, hey, she looks good tonight!" I might be biased because I admire how she's stayed true to her self style-wise despite endless claims that she isn't feminine or "soft" enough (barf), and because my mother does similar makeup from time-to-time on her low contrast coloring. But her skin always looks great, keeping the eyeliner disconnected at the edges prevents her eyes from looking beady, and the rich lipstick colors brighten up her face.

      Also, I'm a monster and I loved that blue suit.

      You know what frustrates me, though? Trump never seems to have his suits properly tailored. Maybe I'm just used to seeing men in politics with slimmer builds, like Obama, but it always seems like his suits are a little too blousy, a size too big for him. I don't get it. Also, they were SO CLOSE to getting his foundation color right for that second debate before it started oxidizing!

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    3. With regard to Trump's mysteriously baggy suits, I have only this to say: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/19/a-trumpian-candidate-on-trumps-corset

      Did you see the light blue suit HRC was wearing at that rally with Elizabeth Warren yesterday? I thought that color looked great on her. I like that her style is sometimes playful but never "soft" (as you say, barf). And I officially retract what I said about her eyeliner--it would have looked weird to connect the lines, I agree.

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  7. i wish I'd had this to read to distract me earlier - watching this whole saga from England waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and say we've been punkd! Now I read that The Donald does his own hair and makeup it makes perfect sense - no professional would claim that.

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