A few months back, I spoke to a St. Kate’s class about style and body image. I can’t quite remember how it came up, but at some point I found myself listing off the number of products I use on my face to create what magazines deem the “no makeup look.” I’ll recap for you: Even putting aside moisturizer, sunscreen, and under-eye cream, I use BB cream, concealer, eyebrow pencil, blush, eyeliner, and mascara. So between six and nine products. If I skip the eyeliner and mascara – which I often do out of sheer laziness – it takes me about 10 minutes to do all of this. Add them back in at we’re talking at least 15, possibly more since I still kinda suck at eyeliner and frequently have to perform some sort of Q-tip triage.
I feel like the emphasis on making your makeup and personal style look “effortless” has ebbed somewhat, but the undercurrent remains. People still worship at the altar of slightly mussed yet eternally chic French girls, and marvel at the slouchy cool of off-duty models. Google “how to effortless style” and you’ll get well over 6 million results, including magazine articles, books, blog posts, and forum entries. We want to look amazing, but somehow want to hide the fact that looking amazing frequently takes gobs of time, money, and effort. And some of us believe that appearing stylish, trend-savvy, and sleek without revealing any of our efforts is essential to appearing stylish, trend-savvy, and sleek at all. Because after all, if we work hard to look good, we must be vain and self-absorbed. But on the flip side, if we don’t work hard enough to look good, we’re deemed frumpy and out-of-touch. So, ya know, lose-lose situation here.
I know my opinion has virtually no impact on dressing practices as pervasive as these, but for the record I love people who try. I love seeing evidence of effort and interest and passion. In a world that becomes more casual by the minute – moving steadily toward a time in which wearing cargo shorts to a state dinner will be completely appropriate – it makes me so happy when I see people who have clearly put some time and energy into crafting their looks. Effortlessness is fantastic. If you couldn’t possibly care less about looking on-trend, more power to you. Wear what makes YOU feel awesome. But if looking “effortless” is the goal, yet assembling an effortless-looking outfit takes twice as long as actually dressing effortlessly … Well, I’m not gonna knock it because many of these carefully crafted “effortless” looks are unspeakably cool. I just feel like there must be a better descriptor for them, considering how effort-intensive they truly are.
There are some people out there who are innately, naturally, effortlessly stylish. Their style looks unstudied because it is unstudied, and everything they throw together looks magnificent. I understand that the real desire here is to be those people, to look magnificent in everything we throw together, to have style coursing through our veins so we don’t have to think hard about outfit assembly. But what comes naturally to some must be learned by others. And some of us will never learn enough to be effortlessly stylish. Luckily, we’ll always be in the majority, so we’ll have lots of effort-fully stylish pals around to keep us company.
Image via Beauty High
P.S. I have now typed the word effortlessness enough times that it looks like utter gibberish. Wheeeee!