Writing earlier about beauty in the mid 1500s, I remembered a shoot for US Vogue in June 2000, featuring Carmen Kass, shot by Michael Thompson, styled by Tonne Goodman with hair by Serge Normant and make-up by me. It was titled Divine Inspiration and compared designers’ inspiration with their interpretion. Helmut Lang was inspired by Zurbaran’s 1640 portrait of Sainte Elisabeth de Portugal, “Borrowing a detail that doesn’t exist today,” for his Fall 2000 collection. I like that notion and feel encouraged anew to scan old paintings for similar inspiration – there’s always a rosy cheek, shadowy hue or white highlight you can lift!
I was very inspired by BBC2’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall on Wednesday night – a future classic, firing on all cylinders yet a slow burn drama, allowing time to relish the details and digest the complexities. Refreshing in our age of quick fixes and fast edits. It’s a treat to watch stage actor Mark Rylance (as Thomas Cromwell) on TV and I found the acting superb, particularly Claire Foy as a deliciously annoying Anne Boleyn. Hilary Mantel wrote a piece in today’s Sunday Times News Review, saying that our fascination with the Tudors endures because they are just like us (only bloodier!)
In fact, women ‘bled’ themselves to look paler, as this was a prerequisite for courtly beauty, signifying nobility, wealth and delicacy (not having to work outside in the sun). Make-up wasn’t fashionable during the reigns of early Tudors; it was Queen Elizabeth 1 who set the precedent, wearing lead white to cover up her smallpox scars and signs of ageing, along with vermilion to redden cheeks and lips. Make-up became heavy and was sadly often poisonous, but women have always been prepared to suffer for beauty!
What gave the actresses in Wolf Hall authenticity was their apparent lack of make-up, thanks to the work of award-winning make-up artist Morag Ross. Of course, we know that ‘no make-up’ often entails quite a few products, and can often be the hardest look to achieve. We all want pure, flawless, healthy looking skin, and the balance between a light touch yet still covering blemishes, is something most women want, and that hasn’t changed throughout history.
Today we have so many products to choose from (fortunately non-poisonous in the main) and it’s fun to experiment, but also confusing. Make it easy for yourself by having a basic set of products and techniques to create your ‘best version of yourself’ face – your ‘no make-up’ make-up. You may use primer, foundation, concealer and powder or a tinted moisturiser/BB cream – depending on your skin type and the season. Include a blush and you’ve immediately portrayed health – I find cream blush to be the most natural looking, applied low on cheeks (like the flush in old oil painted portraits). Also add light – we’re always thinking about shading and not enough about brightening. You’ll be surprised at how refreshing a buff of pearlised powder on bones can be. Brows really do frame your face and a little definition with pencil or powder increases contrast, aiding a youthful appearance. Dot a brownish black eye pencil along the lash line to make them appear fuller and darker, curl lashes and tickle them with a light coat of mascara. Nourish lips with balm and boost shape with a natural lip colour pencil. If you don’t normally pay this much attention to your make-up, it sounds like a lot of products and effort, but you’re worth spending time on. The routine will become quicker and once you’ve got your base right, you can add whatever ornamentation you fancy on top, whether that’s a singular or signature statement – a crafted lip, slick eyeliner, smoky eye shadow or cheek contour – or a balanced make-up that includes all features. Or you could skip everything and just don a crown…