Less-than-natural beautifiers are acceptable again


September 10, 1992|By Tracy Achor Hayes | Tracy Achor Hayes,Dallas Morning News

Back in the '50s and '60s, fashion was all about artifice. Fake fingernails, lashes and even foam-pad falsies were some girls' best friends.

Now a new emphasis on retro-glamour has brought back many of the beauty tricks of the past. But even though some of the items are the same, the attitude is light-years away from '50s-think. This time, it's not "I need," it's "Why not?"

The last thing we're suggesting is that these beauty impostors be taken seriously. But as an amusing way to change your image for just a night, or to try something different without the commitment and expense of more permanent methods, faking it is fashion's version of let's pretend.

Hair you can fall for

Nobody knew more about artifice than the late fashion maven Diana Vreeland, who once declared, "My Dynel period one of the happiest periods of my life, because I was MAD about all the things you could do with Dynel hair."

If you don't believe Ms. Vreeland, just ask any model: There's no easier way to change your image or play out your fantasy of life as a brunette, redhead or sunny blonde than with a wig. It's hair you change as easily as a hat.

Sandy Gerber stocks close to 500 different hairpieces in her Dallas beauty store, from simple falls and braids to wigs only Dolly could love. Most styles are available in anywhere from 45 to 60 different colors.

Though the selection includes some human-hair wigs, Ms. Gerber -- and most of her customers -- actually prefer synthetics. "The quality can be very high; they're constantly improving the fibers. And because the curl is pre-set, all you have to do is LTC shake [the piece] out and put it on. With human hair, you have to mess with it and style it just like you do your own hair."

Prices for top-quality synthetic hairpieces from companies such as Rene of Paris and Adolfo average around $100 for a fall to $130 and up for a complete wig. Falls and braids are the most discreet. But if you're feeling a bit more dramatic, go ahead and try a wig.

Just brush and glow

Self-tanners are the surest way to fake a full-body tan. But for the face, bronzing powders are faster, easier to control and just as convincing.

"The goal is to get a natural-looking, outdoorsy glow, not big, brown smudges or war-paint streaks," says makeup artist Gary Stevens. For the most subtle effect, he recommends using bronzing powder in place of your everyday blush, dusting a hint of color on the "high points" that naturally receive more sun: cheekbones, nose, chin, eyelids and forehead.

To create more even color, or to enhance a tan that's begun to fade, bronzing powder can be used as an all-over face powder. A light touch is essential. "And be sure to pay attention to the eyelids, the neck, and even the shoulders and chest if you're wearing something low," he says. "You don't want to see a line."

Before using any bronzing powder, Mr. Stevens recommends priming the face to create a smooth, streak-resistant base. Since moisture can grab and hold color, allow moisturizer or base to dry thoroughly and follow with a dusting of translucent powder. Sweep a large-diameter, fluffy brush across the bronzing powder, then shake or lightly blow on the bristles to remove any excess before applying.

Manicure in a minute

Artificial fingernails originated in Hollywood -- no surprise there. But the earliest versions, molded from crude plastics in the 1930s, are only distantly related to today's finer, much more believable fakes.

Among the three basic types of artificial nails, the easiest to use and least expensive are press-ons. These pieces of plastic attach to the natural nail with adhesive tape. They are not as long-lasting as glue-on tips or salon-style sculptured nails, which are meant to be worn several days. But they are reusable.

Press-ons such as Lee Fancy Fingers, La Joie Press & Go and Kristy Wells Stick-On Krazy Nails are widely available at drug and grocery stores. A typical package includes 20 nails in a variety of sizes, adhesive and instructions. Price? Under $5.

For occasions other than Halloween, shorter, "active" and "sport" nails are preferable to outdated Morticia claws. Petite sizes also are available for smaller hands. And, for times when you're really in a rush, look for pre-painted nails. Garish reds and flame pinks are the rule. But Lee offers a pale shell pink and LaJoie a darker, brown-toned rose that whisper rather than shout.

Falsified eyelashes

False eyelashes had their heyday in the '60s. But over the last few years they've made a sweeping comeback -- so much so that at least one leading lash manufacturer, Ardell International, has had to double production to meet demand. Sums up makeup artist Gary Stevens: "False eyelashes are it."

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