I've written many times about the appeal of fashion as a conduit for embodying fantasy. Want to commandeer the disheveled ingenue sexiness of Kate Moss in her 90s heyday? Throw on a suede miniskirt and sheer black tights, topped off with an oversized fur coat. Interested in capturing the edgy and unexpected sophistication of Carine Roitfeld? Drum up a side-slit pencil skirt, artfully wrinkled button down shirt, and strappy high heel sandals.
Personally, I have always admired the tried-and-true transportive capacity of a matte red lipstick to springboard me into a myriad of fashion fantasies: Alexa Chung Overgrown Schoolgirl, Androgynously Feminine Jenna Lyons, Michelle Williams At The 2012 Oscars, Rochas Spring 2013 Mod, Betty Draper Season 1, Any French Girl Ever....
The options are numerous, and powerful. Which is why I decided to apply a velvety coating of MAC's matte orangey-red Ruby Woo before heading out to a fashion week event at Hudson Yard a couple weeks ago. I was preeeetty excited about the instant effect: good old Ruby Woo took my white Opening Ceremony cutout shoulder top and mid-length Zara skirt from daytime office to evening festive with the seamless ease of a Spice Girls song or an alcoholic beverage.
The event was fun times all around-- it was a collection presentation for my friend Nicole Mellon's Spring/Summer 2015 line of her newly launched brand, Hanley Mellon. The scene was cool, the clothes were cooler, and I rested easy in the satisfying sureness that my lips were popping with saturated goodness.
But then I went to dinner.
I was meeting up with a large group of high school friends for a mini reunion, and as I joined them at the table and quickly gulped a few haphazard sips from my water glass, I was suddenly stricken with The Schmear Fear. (The Schmear Fear, noun, a feeling of quelling insecurity and concern about the impending high risk of lipstick disturbance--i.e. fading, feathering, transfer to teeth, transfer to inappropriate areas of face--that immediately dawns upon transitioning from the lofty domain of Fashion Fantasy to the cruel kingdom of Real Life).
In the world of Fashion Fantasy, your lipstick remains flawless, your 5-inch heels feel like bunny slippers, your linen blouse maintains its freshly laundered crispness, and your leather motorcycle jacket stays perfectly perched on your shoulders even while you proceed to hail a cab.
Magazine editorials and Lincoln Center runways and Chiara Ferragni's instagram are apt manifestations of this Fashion La La Land. They just make it look so damn easy sometimes. You can wear your crop top and eat your french fries, too!
But the intersection of Real Life and fashion is where things get a little messy--because clothes aren't meant to only be photographed or admired from a distance. They're meant to be worn. Lived in. No matter how beautiful or exciting fashion can be, it is still inextricably tied to the constants of functionality. Real Life is not immune to the whims of cause and effect. If you take a sip of water or engage in a make out session with a nearby human specimen, your lipstick is probably going to smudge.
So where does this leave us? Living in fear--or rather, living in Fear of The Schmear--is no way to live!
When in doubt, I turn to a very sage step-by-step instructional I once read about how to wear red lipstick:
How to Wear Red Lipstick: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step #1: Wear red lipstick.
Sometimes, pals, it's just that simple. As a perfectionist, I'm the first one to admit that letting go is annoyingly tricky when it comes to the appearance of your clothing. Especially when you've spent 15 minutes tucking in your shirt so it precisely resembles a photograph of Emmanuelle Alt you saw on the Sartorialist the other day but as soon as you leave the house a dear friend gives you a surprise bear hug from behind and POOF you're left looking less like a Parisian editor and more like a walk-of-shame-victim...
Nevertheless, I refuse to let reality get me down. After all, fashion is meant to be enjoyed. I will not let a case of The Schmear Fears diminish the infinite pleasures of ice water and old friends and white bread dipped in olive oil. So I ignored my initial concerns at dinner that night. By the time our main courses had arrived and we had begun reminiscing about our favorite weird teachers, I had successfully forgotten about the lipstick.
When I got home, I looked in my bathroom mirror and discovered that I resembled Heath Ledger in the second Batman movie. But dinner was really, really fun.
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