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Haute Stuff: The art of less

I find it so ridiculous when I see tabloid photographs of celebrities who have dared to go out in public without makeup—a simple act—and are ridiculed for looking less than their red carpet and magazine personas. Nasty, pseudo-journalists seem to find some gross pleasure in calling shame on a woman who feels compelled to slip on a white shirt and run out the door sans makeup.

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By Leanna Pankratz (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: May 23, 2012

I find it so ridiculous when I see tabloid photographs of celebrities who have dared to go out in public without makeup—a simple act—and are ridiculed for looking less than their red carpet and magazine personas. Nasty, pseudo-journalists seem to find some gross pleasure in calling shame on a woman who feels compelled to slip on a white shirt and run out the door sans makeup. Actions like this make me question our society, and question whether or not we as North Americans are actually in touch with what makes a woman confident, and what in turn makes her more feminine, beautiful and desirable (if she so chooses).

Now, this is not going to be a rant against the objectification of women in the fashion industry, how digitally retouched models are not “real,” or even about the pressure put on women to look good all the time. Those topics have been beaten to death, and in a world where marketing relies on sex, smiles and beauty above all other things, they are widely acknowledged as extremely hard situations to turn around, regardless of the good-willed efforts of many.

What many people should know, however, is that sometimes, every woman, aesthetically conscious or not, should take perhaps even calculated time to strip herself down (metaphorically of course; literally, if, once again, she so chooses!). Sometimes, it is only after all the embellishments are removed that we truly can see what lies beneath—the high points, the deficits—all of which are important to acknowledge if we ever want to become truly self-defined individuals. As the old adage goes, sometimes less is truly more.

There are times when I have felt infinitely more confident wearing a simple, unadorned, unpainted look than when I am fully decked out, constantly evaluating whether or not I have achieved my ideal. Sometimes we need to step out of our comfort zones in order to establish a sense of who we are – and, for some, that means taking the time to experiment with less. Spend a day without foundation if you feel displeased with your skin; or leave the house without much skin showing if you find you gain more than due confidence from showing off your body; or cut off your hair, as I recently did, if you feel you hide behind it at times.

People Magazine, to my great joy, recently ran an issue titled “Most Beautiful.” Shot by Ben Watts, the issue featured a 10-page spread of female celebrities such as Zooey Deschanel, Lily Collins, Jessica Pare and Modern Family’s Julie Bowen, completely without makeup and without Photoshop. The issue also featured interviews with the stars that gave insight into their health and wellness rituals, many of which pertain to beauty. There was a certain aura of naturalness that pervaded the photos and was incredibly refreshing to see, in contrast to the magazine’s cover, which featured a lovely yet incredibly staged photograph of Beyoncé.

Sometimes, I reiterate, less is more. Beauty is subjective, and luminous if it stems from a deep well of self-knowledge and comfortableness.

It’s not about taking drastic measures. We don’t need to burn our bras, dispose of our Rimmel London kissproof lipstick in “Old Flame,” or throw away our perfumes and handbags. It’s about developing a confidence that extends beyond such wonderful add-ons. “Look for the woman in the dress. If there is no woman, there is no dress,” said Coco Chanel to Vogue in 1928. You will never wear clothes marvelously if you do not feel that you are the marvelous one, and not the scarf or blazer. Being a woman is a wonderful thing, at any age.

Audrey Hepburn, famous actress and famed beauty, was perhaps at her most lovely on her final mission to Somalia, at the age of 62 – hair pulled back, without a stitch of makeup and certainly without a thread of Givenchy. Yet she was confident, purposeful and seemed definite, like she knew where she belonged, and it was right there, right in that moment – and that image has touched her fans and admirers for years. We need to begin to see ourselves the way we were meant to be. Nothing matters except for acceptance of the self. The clothing will follow.

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