On Effortlessness

effortless style

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!

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7 Responses to “On Effortlessness”

  1. Anamarie

    I use the same products as you on my no-makeup makeup days (except concealer, I don’t get concealer). On full makeup days, I might go with lipstick/gloss, liquid liner and eyeshadow as well. There is no way I could ever come off as effortless. I am definitely “high maintenance” in a way I’m happy with and which works for me. While I hold myself to this standard, I don’t expect anyone else to. I don’t have kids or pets, and I have a husband who shares the household chores with me 50/50 so that gives me time to give myself manicures several times a week, etc. Having said that, I do appreciate it when others take special care in getting dressed. Caring about your appearance might be perceived as shallow or vain, but it can also convey respect for yourself and those around you.

    • nesspas

      Are we the same person? Because this is pretty much exactly what I was going to say. (Except I do concealer. Because under-eye circles.)

  2. loubeelou

    Huh. I only use 2-3 products on my face (moisturizer, mineral powder, mascara) most days and I don’t know that my look would ever be described as “effortless” even though it essentially is. If anything, I like to refer to my style as “depression chic”.

    Perhaps it’s more about having that confident, “I’m comfortable in my skin” appeal, however that manifests. I have a colleague who wears pretty high-drama eye makeup, loads of jewelry, and big hair nearly every day. While logic tells me this has got to take some time to put together, she does pull it off in an “effortless” way… because it’s just so HER. And she always seems confident and comfortable.

  3. Lisa Wong

    I guess I’ve been drinking the Kool Aid for a long time, but to me fashion/beauty “effortlessness” has never equaled literally making no effort. I equate effortlessness and trying too hard with states of mind instead.

    Effortlessness means I’ve put in the initial time/energy investment (which can be considerable) to figure out the clothes and makeup that work for me and my lifestyle. Then I can calmly, confidently, and quickly get ready for the day and feel self-assured and well-groomed no matter the situation.

    By contrast, I equate “trying too hard” with an underlying sense of anxiety. Being flustered and panicked and spending too much time dwelling and fretting in getting ready for the day or an event. Doubting one’s choices, feeling uncomfortable in one’s skin, tugging at clothes or feeling like your makeup is wearing you instead of the other way around. Feeling as though you need to prove something to others, and letting that drive the way you present yourself.

  4. Catherine Harper

    I feel like someone’s perceived “effortlessness” might really come down to self-confidence that is just evident to others. French women aren’t any different than American women. If anything, they have more relaxed ideals about beauty, so maybe they appear more beautiful or appealing because they aren’t working so hard to be something they aren’t.

  5. Trystan L. Bass

    I don’t bother to look effortless — I use moisturizer, eyeliner, & lipstick, the later of which show up very well. Takes me barely 5 minutes, so ironically, it’s pretty effortless to look like I made an effort đŸ™‚

  6. julie_green

    I think a lot of what appears to be effortless as far as makeup goes, is good genes…I did have lovely skin when I was younger, but you could barely see my eyebrows, and my lashes were/are invisible…without eye makeup I looked like a peeled grape! The girl in the photo above has the benefit of dark brows, dark lashes and beautiful skin…she probably can roll out of bed and go for coffee “effortlessly” (additional benefits, she is probably slim and has small boobs…add t-shirt and jeans…she’s beautiful)