Fashion Masochist: Extreme Beauty

From all-out gothic to undeniably retro, top designers, makeup artists, and celebrities are endorsing looks for fall that are theatrical, to say the least. Ruling out purple raccoon eyes and extended electric-blue nails from the outset, I concentrate on the three most promising trends.

[sidebar]LIP SERVICE The almost-black pout favored by Yves Saint Laurent and Derek Lam this season looked fab on the runway, but the upkeep turns out to be exhausting. I’m constantly whipping out my compact to clean up the shape and wipe off dark smudges from my teeth. Eating? Not so much. My one goth-lipped encounter with food is less appetizing than a post-snack Hannibal Lecter. Worse, while fashion-savvy friends say they like my dark pucker, on a visit to the supermarket I swear I notice old folks stocking up on garlic. Attempting to temper the otherworldly vibe, I find myself being proactively genial, flashing toothy grins that are, more than likely, maroon-flecked.

NEW WAVE With crimped hair making a comeback on the crowns of Tyra and Lindsay, I’m optimistic as I forge ahead to give the textured look a whirl. There wasn’t a crimping iron to be found in our house when I was growing up—my mother’s bid to save us from the quickly fading fad—so buying my first provides the faintest thrill. After a half-hour of pressing the gadget over my long, thick hair, however, I find my enthusiasm wanes as I peer into the mirror: I would fit in better at the Westminster Kennel Club than at New York Fashion Week. When pulled into a simple updo, however, it comes off as sophisticated, and I get compliments when I texturize a section of my mane the following week.

LASH FORWARD The season’s most talked-about extreme beauty trend—long, brown false eyelashes with diamond-shaped gold embellishments, by Viktor & Rolf—requires professional application. I walk into my appointment at Shu Uemura in a sleepy-Friday-morning haze and walk out ready to throw on a glitzy gown and hit the red carpet. Lacking a movie premiere, I settle for a backless black dress and an evening at Toro. My batty look elicits plenty of commentary, which is overwhelmingly positive, especially from the drag queen–loving contingent. Emboldened by my bejeweled look, I’m embracing the attention as the lights and copious servings of cava coalesce into a blur. The next morning, I wake up feeling less than fabulous.

THE VERDICT While such pizzazz requires extra maintenance and a high dose of confidence (thank you, bubbly!), this season’s over-the-top options are just plain fun to experiment with. But there’s one rule in outrageous beauty that we all must follow: one trend at a time.