Within the pale

SOMETIMES childhood experience can have a lasting impact. Growing up in the 1980s, I had a lot of experience of pastels. There were pastel ra-ra skirts, pastel tights, pastel jeans, and pastel Confirmation outfits. In fact, my Confirmation was spent in a lemon trouser-suit. I had strawberry blonde hair and pale freckly skin, and I thought lemon was a good look. I had a lot to learn.

But this summer, pastels are a major story, for all the right reasons. Most of the big fashion designers went for a super-pretty sunny pastel look — Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, Louis Vuitton and Mulberry.

And in beauty it’s the same. A matte, chalky pastel hue is pushing through as a big trend. If you’re after a statement, then you can max it out with Dusty Springfield-style chalky pink lips — if you’re feeling more demure, you can dust on a little lilac eyeshadow.

Pastel shades can be really hard to wear on the lips, especially for grown women. It’s just such a dramatically girly look that it can easily start to look silly.

You can go for a retro style and big it up with very smokey eyes and a pale lip (a classic look but go for sheer tones), or else team it with a very California girls style by opting for a more pinky rose-gold look with a pale lip, bronzer and rosy eyeshadow. But one thing is for sure, a chalky nude lip can look odd with a nude face — it makes everything look too washed out, so beware.

MAC has some rocking pastel lipsticks right now in pale pink tones (stay away from lavender or lilac on the lips) that seem to capture the mood. You have to make sure the formulation isn’t too matte, or it can look horribly pasty, especially as it dries into the cracks of the lips.

If you’re not feeling the lipstick look, then pastel glosses can be a lot easier to wear, with good offerings this season in pastel shades you’d never have dreamed up. Try Estée Lauder’s Citron Kiss Pure Colour Gloss or Lancôme’s Colour Fever Gloss in Green Petal — they look strange in the tube but are surprisingly pretty on.

The chalky pastel eye can be quite a tough look to carry off, unless you’re after something specifically directional. But chalky pastels work quite well when you’re wearing them with black liquid eyeliner for a retro kick, though they can be a bit Stepford Wives. To give more of a contemporary softness to the look, go for sheer tones, or shadows with a slight shimmer.

Bobbi Brown takes the idea of pastels and give them a more wearable edge with their new Rose Gold collection. Bourjois also nails the trend on the head this summer with its Sweet Paris collection.

Nails are where pastels work the best. In fact, a pastel nail can make you almost feel like you’re on holiday. They have that fresh, easy feel and they look particular gorgeous on a bronze toe peeping out of a sandal. I can’t get enough of Ciaté’s new bubblegum shades for spring. They’re a pastel lover’s dream. Try Cream Soda, Iced Frappe and Sugar Plum. All you need now is the tan.


Fearless is a slick new documentary airing next Monday on RTÉ 1 which follows Cork native and editor-in-chief of US Glamour, Samantha Barry, in the run up to the 29th Glamour Women of the Year Awards. Ruth O’Connor speaks to Barry about her editorship of one of Condé Nast's most important media outlets.The fearless Samantha Barry: From Ballincollig in Cork to editor of Glamour

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