Like all extremes, lightness demands darkness to be fully appreciated. So it is with makeup. This season, fresh faces and earthy palettes dominate, providing a brighter, cleaner alternative to the heavier looks normally seen in fall. But the urge for colour and drama hasn't been completely extinguished. Some of the fall/winter 2010 runways, including Chanel's, Proenza Schouler's, Lanvin's and Dior's, offered inspiration by parading models sporting lids and lips in black, deep plum and indigo. Cosmetics companies have responded with decidedly dark one-off products and capsule makeup collections, including one inspired by Disney villains. Maybe it's the Twilight effect or maybe it's an understanding that a soft, "nude" complexion isn't for everyone, but there's an impulse - call it a dark urge - to transform all those gilded goddesses into creatures of the night. At least for an evening or two.
"There is a massive cultural reference to vampires at the moment: Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood," says Liz Pugh, global makeup artist for Rimmel London. "The runways were full of references to vampires and Goths." Yes, they were, but don't expect Transylvanian chic to suck the life out of the natural look this winter. Many of the dark visages on the catwalks were inspired by the peccadilloes of designers. At Dior, for instance, those inky lips and femme-fatale eyes reflected design chief John Galliano's love of 1940s film noir, a genre he mines often, says Angie Semple, education and artistry manager for Christian Dior in Canada. Off the runways, design houses have shown more restraint, introducing dramatic shades in limited releases. Thierry Mugler, always inspired by fantasy, offers a judiciously edited fall cosmetics collection that features lustrous blood-red lip colour and a lipstick - Rouge Unique - that looks black but goes on a cool, glittery indigo. Lancôme has likewise introduced a nail polish called Bloody Black Cherry; its holiday collection, designed by L'Wren Scott, includes a metallic black polish and an equally intense eyeshadow palette.
Among the lighter-hearted examples of dark fall makeup is M.A.C's Venomous Villains line, a collaboration with Disney inspired by four infamous baddies from animated favourites: Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations, Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent, Snow White's Evil Queen and The Princess and The Frog's Dr. Facilier. There's an eyeshadow called She Who Dares, lipsticks called Heartless and Sinister and a blush called Darkly My Dear.
As the M.A.C. line suggests, a dark, pseudo-Goth look can veer dangerously close to cartoonish. But it is wearable if certain rules are followed, says M.A.C senior makeup artist Caitlin Callahan. "If you choose to wear a strong lip, make your lips the focus of your makeup," she says, explaining that the rest of the face should be neutral, sporting just mascara and a little blush. Lip stains last the longest, but traditional lipstick will do provided you "cut up your food and don't lick your lips. And no kissing," Callahan adds.
If the focus is on the eyes, use just one eyeshadow colour, says Dior's Semple. Apply it darkest at the lash line and blend it out towards the crease - no further. For evening, layer different shades of the same colour for a polished look.
Greg Wencel, celebrity makeup artist and Cover Girl spokesperson, suggests a dark lip and smoky eye combination for full-on glamour. But unlike the overly made-up faces of the eighties and nineties, the combo should be monochromatic to look contemporary, he says, recommending shades of plum and burgundy instead of basic black.
Another important rule for this dramatic look? Think like Dracula, Wencel adds, noting that pigment-heavy lids and near-black lips should, like the Count, only go out at night.
Special to The Globe and Mail