The Royal Makeup, An Analysis
It’s official: Kate Middleton is now the Duchess of Cambridge, and her Sarah Burton-designed Alexander McQueen gown will be added to the annals of fashion history. But what of her makeup? The newly crowned royal raised eyebrows this month when it was announced that she would be doing her own face-painting for the big day, having successfully pulled off a similar feat for that Mario Testino-lensed engagement photo. The image that ran in tabloid glossies across the globe definitely benefited from some digital retouching; how the bride would fare in a live setting—in front of an international coterie of HD video cameras transmitting the ceremony worldwide—remained to be seen. So, how’d she do? “I think she did a good job,” makeup artist Barbara Lacy told me early this morning. No stranger to high-profile nuptials, she would know (it was Lacy’s expert brushstrokes and pigment placement that kept Chelsea Clinton looking pretty in peach tones at what was, by all accounts, the U.S. equivalent to a royal wedding last summer). “It’s all about achieving the right color, not necessarily the right product,” Lacy points out of wedding day makeup—”and trying to avoid those ‘frosty’ things.” Here, she breaks down Kate Middleton’s look and offers up some tips for brides-to-be who are planning to go sans glam squad on their big day.
What were your first thoughts when you heard Kate Middleton was doing her own wedding makeup?
If she had been doing her own makeup all long, I thought it would be fine because she’s been doing a good job. And if she’s doing her own it’s because she’s had a really bad experience. But otherwise, I thought it would just add more pressure to a day on which you already have a lot of pressure.
In your professional opinion, how did it turn out?
Well, she’s beautiful anyway, so it’s hard to do anything wrong with her face. My first impression really was the simplicity—the whole look was very understated. And I think with the dress being so understated, the makeup had to be, too. I was concerned that she would be wearing too much eyeliner because that’s what the British like—you’ve seen Camilla’s makeup! And it was a heavy liner—she lined it all the way around. So that could have been a little lighter, but it didn’t kill it for me. It looked like she had a little more blush on than usual, too.
The heavy liner was the first thing I noticed, for sure. If you do go that route, is there a right way to apply it?
Kohl can get runny, so I wouldn’t recommend underlining your lower lash line. On top is fine, as long as you powder to set it. I would line the inner rim of the lid, too. I love Lancôme’s Black Coffee pencil for something like this; it’s a really great black/brown color that seems to be universal. That is one pencil I always go back to.
Let’s talk about that blush application, because her cheeks were definitely noticeably rosy. Do you think it was too much?
She actually did a great job with the blush because there was no hard edge. I hate that blush with an eighties hard edge. She did a nice soft edge with it—that’s when I felt like she had been trained.
So eighties-era hard-edge blush is out. What would you say is “in” as far as rouge is concerned?
Each era the blush placement changes. The best advice I can give is to use the proper brushes. All of those brushes that come with the blush compacts? Toss them. Application these days seems to be more in the apple, in the center of the cheek, rather than going to the side. I really like powder blushes, like FreshFace Blush Powder in Nectar. Gels—stains, really—are the thing right now but they can be tricky because once you place it, it stays. Powders are more user-friendly. I like to start matte and then go on top of it with a little shine, which is why I also recommend using a highlighter—a warmer shade on top of the cheekbone to round out the shape. Benefit makes a really good one. Highlighting is really very, very important if you do your own makeup. It lifts and brightens your face and adds that extra something that you can’t pin down.
What about complexion? Hers looked great considering it was being scrutinized in high-definition. How do you properly prepare for a close-up like that?
Skin and sweat are a big deal with HD. It’s really about powder—not having too much on, which will make it cake-y. You actually need to apply your makeup and then remove it. Blot it so you’re removing the excess—with blotting papers, or spritz your face with Evian mineral water and pat it dry with tissues (keep those tissues with you so if you can grab a private moment you can blot again). Normally I like to begin with a primer and then use a higher-pigment foundation because you can use a lot less of it, but those aren’t typically available at retail. Make Up For Ever has an HD foundation that is great, though, and there’s Armani, which is really nice. It covers and it’s not heavy. Even though I tend to not go with liquids—I prefer creams—Laura Mercier makes a great liquid foundation.
Moving on to mascara: It’s gotta be waterproof, right?
Waterproof mascara is very important. You will shed a tear! To be honest, there’s not a waterproof mascara I love completely—that is my biggest quest. Dior is really great, but it can be heavy for some. But for your wedding, you want your lashes plump. There is a fine line between drag queen and pretty, but you need a heavier lash for the cameras. If you’re not going to do that [with mascara], use individual lashes—not the strips—on the outer corners to pull your lashes up.
Did you like Kate’s muted-lip, stronger-eye combination or do you think she should have done something daring, like a bold statement pout?
It really depends what you’re going for. Lipstick does make everything prettier. It’s the final thing and it plays a big role. But I still love the heavy eye/pale lip look. The Chanel Cashmere lipstick is a great pale shade even though red is very in right now. If you do go with color, use just a pencil and put gloss on top of it—it’s better for the kiss so he doesn’t wear the makeup, too.
Do you have any advice for brides—high-profile or otherwise—as to how they should approach wedding makeup?
Weddings are a giant magnifying glass that goes over your face. Every subtlety will be noticed. So the idea is to not allow the pressure to alter anything. It’s just a face—make that face beautiful. It’s one day that you’re not going to have again, so it’s OK to bump it up a little. I guess it just depends on whether you’re marrying a future King, or not. I don’t think [Kate] had much option except to be understated.