I was a bit startled at the recent cover of Town and Country featuring Diane von Furstenberg. This is the lady who gained her prominence as a designed back in the 1970’s with the jersey wrapped dress. If you have ever seen pictures of her at that stage, she had very strong features, dark brown hair and dark make-up. What caught me by surprise in this cover picture was how she has softened her look. She still has the appearance of being a strong woman but gone are the dark, dark hair, dramatic black eyeliner, and shadow, and ruby-red lips. At age 62, she has lightened her hair to a medium brown, her eyes are more subdued but still dramatic with brown liner and shadow while her lips are barely discernable. I find her more attractive now than back when she was at her height of popularity with the ubiquitous jersey wrap. So, what’s the difference?
As we age, our skin thins and begins showing some lines. Our hair starts to grey, adding a natural softness to compliment the changes in our skin. However, since we live in a world influenced by the allure to look youthful, we color our hair and take advantage of cosmetics. We often lose sight of reality and see ourselves as we once were. How many times have you seen a lady of 50+ who had maintained her very dark hair color while her skin has relaxed and become lighter? Add some bright red lipstick and very dark eye makeup and the effect is harsh and uncomplimentary. Or, in the case of a blonde who continues to wear the strong dark eye makeup and bright lips, you see the eyes and lips before you see the face.
Diane von Furstenberg has adjusted her makeup and hair adeptly to reflect the natural changes in her skin. Her hair, although still dark, is a lighter brown and much softer against more mature skin. Her choice of eye makeup is also softer, and is harmonious with her softer hair color. The most dramatic change is that her lips are barely visible. As the years advance, many people get noticeable signs of sagging around the jaw line. If you add a bright lipstick, it draws attention to that area. Von Furstenberg has wisely emphasized her eyes, albeit softer, where there is not as much evidence of the ageing process. Her very pale lips give her a softer appearance, showing her lips but not drawing specific attention to the lips. When you look at her picture, you first notice her eyes.
Is it time to reevaluate your makeup? Having gone through this process within the last six months and, although it took a paradigm shift, I am pleased with (what I hope) is the subtle improvement.
At the historic inauguration on Tuesday, all eyes were on Mrs. Obama’s choice of dresses for the occasion. As everyone is weighing in on her choices, I have to join the crowd. I was especially disappointed in her inaugural ensemble . Although I thought the style was good for her, the mustard yellow color was very unflattering. The ornate brocade, in my estimation, did not support Mrs. Obama’s strong, athletic, natural beauty. Likewise, with the evening dress she chose for the balls. The one shoulder design of the dress was good but I would have preferred seeing it in a rich satin with accents of crystals. This would have given her an understated elegance. The gown, covered with frills, would have worked better for a very feminine, romantic wearer.
The media has been quick to compare this youthful first lady with Jacqueline Kennedy, who was only 31 years old when her husband became president. This seems to me an unfair comparison, as Jackie is still known throughout the world as a fashion icon. It would be nearly impossible to match her style and, it certainly didn’t hurt that she and her mother-in-law habitually shopped in Paris and spent some $30,000 a year. That is not pocket change when you calculate the value in 1950’s dollars!
Jackie had an incredible sense of which styles looked best on her. She did not give her designer a free reign on what they made for her. In fact, she became the target of criticism for not choosing American designers so she selected Oleg Cassini. He was a surprising choice as there were other more highly acclaimed designers. As it was later discovered, Jackie had cleverly selected a designer whose ego was not so large that he refused to take direction from her. She simply got advance information of French designers new lines and had Cassini replicate them! I just picked up a book (on the close-out table) picturing some of her wardrobe from the presidential years. The structured, simple elegance of her clothes from suits to evening gowns, all perfectly complimented her skeletal bone structure and quiet elegance.
I applaud Mrs. Obama for deliberately selected young, emerging designers with a wide variety of backgrounds. Many are immigrants. Not only is she giving them a little push to get national recognition, she is deliberately spotlighting the possibility of achieving the American Dream.
My hope is that she will become more involved in choosing what really fits her “signature style” and not defer to the designer’s concept of what will get his/her name in the limelight. I think Princess Diana fell into that trap and never recognized her best style, thus was often a fashion victim at the hands of designers. It will be fun fashion watching Michelle Obama grow in her style sense. She comes across as a “take charge” kind of lady so I fully expect that she will take charge of her fashion as well and we will see her emerge as a new fashion icon – not with the precision of Jackie nor in the frequent mistakes of Princess Di but with a fresh, believable style of the “girl next door” turned First Lady.