The Effort Behind Effortlessness

By Revekah Echols

Women, grab your blow-dryers

Hairstyles on the runways for the last few years have been an amorphous pool of sort of straight, sort of long hair with flyaways and ambiguous texture and color. Sometimes twisted into a chignon, sometimes embellished with a finger wave, but always conveying a tousled, low-maintenance quality. Makeup has followed suit — a swipe of highlighter here, a whisper of mascara there, sometimes a punchy lip gloss for variety. The look, sometimes called “undone” or “gamine” or even “romantic,” sent a very clear message: Less, as more, was the new status symbol.

But as the trend of the no makeup, no blow-out look filtered through America, women also began to adopt it as a philosophy. The supreme icon was Jane Birkin — rich, thin, with clean skin, unfussy hair and a killer wardrobe. It was a picture of a less constructed and restrictive world, where life came easy, and time and beauty were given in generous portions. Tremors bubbled to the surface in the hearts of women everywhere, perhaps a complaint about the complexity of modern life, perhaps the anxiety of aging or staying relevant, and before we knew it, blow-dryers and eyeliner disappeared from bathroom counters. Hair appointments were pushed back for weeks (but not massages), and manicures were still welcomed, but hold the polish. This shift seemed to be an exercise of restraint and paring down, but we wanted it to be about acceptance.

It didn’t take long to realize that effortless took a whole lot of effort because what people wanted was not just natural; it was supernatural. Women with curly hair armed themselves with a flat iron, not to straighten as much as in the pin-straight days of the early millennium, but only enough to create the perfect hybrid of bed head and squeaky clean. Women with naturally straight hair spent thousands of dollars on products to add texture, and hairstylists perfected the look of roots grown out and branded it “ombre.” People frantically bought into “no makeup” makeup, which didn’t add color, but promised to turn uneven skin texture, visible pores and even acne into absolute radiance. The road to pristine dishevelment, natural elegance and a carefree, perfect life had a price, and women not only failed to attain it — they only had only a smudge of mascara to show for it.

Then came Paris. At Givenchy’s fall 2015 show, legendary makeup artist, Pat McGrath, adorned models with face jewelry, giant septum rings and kiss curls around the hairline. Rick Owens had models’ faces painted completely with gilded gold to accompany his draped, biblical looks. Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent showed women with a borderline black eye that nodded rebelliously toward 1960s mod.

The Paris shows spoke to a strange, hypnotic beauty that somehow seemed more honest than the last several seasons of nothingness. It was a bingeing from all of the restraint that had been spooling, a firm acceptance of technology and complexity and a personification of the lion heart within the modern woman. While face jewelry may not be the “it” item this fall (although the under eye rhinestones at Rodarte were awfully cute), there is a very swift change in beauty coming. No need to run for cover, but do pull the blow-dryer out of storage.

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