In what is undoubtedly a very unique turn of events, I have been dealing with my own wedding crap as well as helping my mother plan hers, an activity which basically amounts to me zoning out when she starts talking about crap like venues and caterers and helping her pick a dress.
I’m always amused when people come to me for fashion advice, especially if it involves hair or makeup, simply because I am bad at it. I have one default style (brightly-colored synthetic hair, nerd T-shirts, and combat boots) and one alternate costume (which I like to call “cleavage classy”), and that’s it.
The whole concept of layering T-shirts and tanktops is too complicated for me. I tried imitating a cute, trendy outfit I saw on Tumblr once and when I proudly strode into the room after two hours of meticulous preparation, everyone just stared at me in horror and asked “what the fuck are you wearing?” I don’t use expensive makeup or hair products. If I can wrangle my hair into a ponytail without serious injury, I consider it a good day. I didn’t cut or style my hair for three years because I didn’t know that was a thing you were supposed to do. And yet, more often than not, friends and family will end up asking me what color palette they should be using for their eyeshadow or if they should go with an A-line or fishtail skirt without catching onto the fact that I’m surreptitiously Googling the answers on my phone while I talk to them.
Then again, I did pick up a few nifty tricks and tips during my brief time as a model — yeah, not Instagram, I mean the kind with a portfolio and professional photographers and one runway show for some indie designers — but probably not ones you’d expect to hear.
Too often I see girls freaking out over whether or not they should buy a pair of jeans that they really like because they’re not sure if they’ll look good with their “body type.” I’ve also seen plenty of ad campaigns for gyms and diets promising that in just a few short weeks, you’ll have this “bikini body” thing. That’s great, I guess, if you want to do it the hard way, but here’s a tried and true method to getting a beach-ready bikini body:
- Buy a bikini you like
- Put it on your body
- Go to the beach
Look, I know there’s a lot of pressure to dress in ways that won’t offend the delicate sensibilities of dudebros who think that every woman out there needs to be a perfect clone of Megan Fox, but what is the worst thing that’s going to happen if you instead pick out something you actually think is cute versus what some mass-marketed size chart intended to make you feel insecure about yourself tells you to wear? Somebody might make a snide comment? My chubby ass has gone to the beach in a bikini a couple of times. Not one person stared or whispered or snickered, because frankly, the only people who would put forth the extra effort to do so are those whose lives are so empty that their day is incomplete unless they make somebody feel bad. Add a few extra “sad and pitiable” points to adults who stoop to such high-school tactics.
I was scared, too, the first time I “rocked” the bikini. It was one of the standard “fat girl” suits, with the skirted, granny-waisted bottom to hide my supposed imperfections, because that’s what the catalog told me I should be wearing. Mistakenly, I believed that it would solve all of my confidence problems and that somehow nobody would catch on to the fact that I was overweight. It was my very own perception filter! According to the model in the photos, I’d instantly look like I weighed 50 pounds less!
Yeah. That bikini looked worse on me than the super-sexy Victoria’s Secret one I ended up buying the following year — you know, the one that showed off my stomach and hips and thighs. The stares I got were of the “daaaaaaaamn” variety rather than the “lulz.” How is this possible, you may ask? Simple: I felt confident. I walked across the sand like the queen of the goddamned beach, head held high, not ruining my fun day of surf and sun by fretting over whether my stretch marks were covered.
The number one rule of fashion, at least in my book, is that if you like it, if you feel comfortable in it, BUY IT. Don’t put it back with a heavy sigh because it’s the “wrong cut” for you. Do you think it looks good? Snatch it up immediately. If you love it, you’re going to shine in it from the inside out.
From a technical standpoint, I have no idea what the Hell I’m doing with a makeup brush. There’s apparently all different ones for all different things, and foundation is different from pressed powder and then there’s concealer and I guess that’s something else and if having a vagina is supposed to be a free pass to being a prodigy with cosmetics, then mine is broken and needs to be exchanged at the Vagina Store. My mother is equally clueless and thus was never able to hand down any lessons to me, beyond “This is lipstick. It goes on your lips.”
I tend to wear fairly untraditional makeup. I apply black eyeliner liberally in a cat’s-eye shape, sometimes add eyeshadow if I’m going all-out, and my typical lipstick choice is vintage pinup red (black, if I’m going to a club). A lot of people give me grief about it. “Why are you wearing so much eye makeup?” “You can’t wear that much eyeshadow during the day!”
My choice to wear lots of eyeliner impacts exactly zero people other than myself (although with the amount of black eyeliner I have purchased since high school I’m pretty sure I’ve kept several factories in business on my own). Other people’s choice to wear no eyeliner impacts exactly zero people other than themselves. I think we all forget sometimes that makeup is an option, not a requirement. I used to be guilty of the same thought process, refusing to leave my house without it, even if it was to just run to the grocery store and pick up a gallon of milk. Being forced to live below the poverty line is what changed my ways. Even the cheap makeup that I use — more on that in a minute — was an extravagance I just couldn’t afford to replace on my budget. It wasn’t feasible to buy a new tube of lipstick every month.
At first I was miserable. I was sure that cashiers would mistake me for a man. I would apologize to friends when I showed up to an outing with no makeup for my “pig-face,” which was apparently only visible to me. Then I realized that I was the only one who cared. I got to sleep twenty minutes later every morning. I could drink my morning cup of tea whenever I damn well pleased without having to worry about reapplying my lipstick. I no longer felt like I had to somehow look better than everyone around me or else… well, I don’t even know what I thought would happen, maybe that Publisher’s Clearing House would show up at my door with a mariachi band and glitter and just yell “YOU’RE PRETTY” through a megaphone at me for an hour?
Also, no one ever mistook me for a dude, but I did get handed a few children’s menus by mistake.
For those of you who do enjoy wearing makeup, there’s a few items I keep in my bathroom cabinet that I absolutely can’t live without — and surprise, they’re all cheap. These are all personal recommendations only; I am getting no money from these companies to talk about how awesome their products are, but if they’d like to give me some anyway, let’s talk.
- Mascara: CoverGirl Lash Blast. As far as cheap mascara goes, this stuff is the bomb. It’s not clumpy, it’s got a good brush, and it gives me dolly eyes with minimal effort. It makes my eyes pop enough that I don’t even need to put on eyeliner with it!
- Lipstick: CoverGirl Outlast. They’ve got it in just about every available shade, and it really does last all day, as long as you’re not a compulsive lip-chewer. They’ve also recently started selling the sealant coat thingie separately, which is awesome, because I always run out of that before the actual lip color.
- Eyeliner: Revlon ColorStay or CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus. I hate liquid eyeliner, and the regular pencils that you have to sharpen inevitably end up with one sharp piece of wood that you never notice until you’re dragging it across your waterline and screaming. These are the self-sharpening crayon kind, and though liquid is supposedly better for doing cat’s eye makeup, I manage pretty well with them. ColorStay is supposed to last all day, and it does, much to my chagrin — getting it off at the end of the evening is an adventure without makeup remover. The Perfect Point Plus isn’t really meant to be long-lasting, but it does pretty well before I have to touch up smudges and actually comes with a blending/smudge stick at the end so that if you want to do smoky eyes, you can.
- Face Crap: I’m using this Revlon PhotoReady foundation stuff for special events, but honestly, I’m usually too lazy to put it on. It’s supposed to reflect the light from camera flashes in such a way that it gives you an airbrushed look, and it works pretty well in that respect. I still prefer pressed powder because it’s easier to apply, and really, the only thing I want to do with it is even out my complexion a bit (damned rosy cheeks) and not look shiny in low-resolution cell phone pictures. For that, I usually stick to the tried-and-true CoverGirl Fresh Look line. Victoria’s Secret used to make this amazing foundation/concealer/powder blend that you applied with a little triangle sponge, but a quick browse of their website shows that they’re no longer making it. Also, the Sephora brand powder, if you have a little extra money to spend? INCREDIBLE.
- Eyeshadow: MAC and Urban Decay are my favorites just because of how “bam!” their colors are, but it’s eyeshadow. If I see a color I like, I buy it.
If you need waterproof makeup for any reason, I have tested the entire Makeup Forever line from Sephora doing underwater ballet and mermaid performance. It does not run. It just doesn’t. It’s a little more expensive, but if you’re a performer who’d need that much staying power, it’s well worth it.
When you’re ready to scrape all of it off of your face at the end of the day, Target sells this eye makeup remover from the Botanics line that is… the most amazing thing ever. Apply just a little bit to a round cotton makeup pad and swipe. It will cut through even the Gothiest of eye makeup with no smudging, and if it gets into your eye, it doesn’t burn (please don’t pour it directly into your eyes, that is bad in other ways). It also moisturizes the skin. Best six bucks I ever spent.
The important thing to remember is to have fun with makeup. It’s like art for your face. If you’re looking to experiment with a specific color and don’t want to commit to paying full price, there’s always the cheap NYC brand that’s available at most major stores for like 99 cents. It’s decent enough to give you an idea of whether or not you love it.
I don’t know. Wear a hat or throw some barrettes in it or something. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the ponytail thing.
Protip: Never, ever try to cut your own bangs, unless you are absolutely confident in your abilities as a hairdresser. It doesn’t end well otherwise.
The General Theme
Confidence in yourself will make you way sexier and attractive than any man-made concoction ever could. It’s easier said than done, I know, but with a little bit of practice, you’ll learn to tune out those voices that say “But–! But–!” I work hard to make progress with my own self-confidence every day. I’ve even adopted my very own sassy mantra for when I’m feeling particularly down about my appearance; I look at myself in the mirror and say “bitch, I am FLAWLESS,” complete with hair flip, and repeat until I feel like sashaying.
We’re all our own worst critics, and the hardest thing to do is find the beauty in ourselves, but I bet if we can overcome that hurdle, seeing the beauty in everyone else will become like second nature and maybe we’ll be able to overcome the stupid idea that we’re all supposed to look a certain way.