Musings & Miscellany

Artifice or Effortless?

All or Nothing Style (and Beauty)

Happy day, reader dearest!

It’s an interesting question, and one that catches my clients off guard when I ask it. What do you think makes someone beautiful?

Please give that a moment’s thought before you continue reading…

For all the asking I’ve done, only one answer that had to do with looks! Everyone else spoke to kindness, confidence, being self-possessed, generosity, faith, a smile (Which is part of how you look, but not quite A look.). Everyone seems to agree that the inside is FAR more important than the outside when it comes to beauty. Which brings me to Audrey Hepburn…

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows. Audrey Hepburn

What is Beautiful?

Beauty: a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight

Further down: a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense–Oxford Dictionaries

It makes sense that the physical definition comes first. It’s what we see first. We’ve all heard the expression: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Which is and isn’t all that true, biologically speaking. A fascinating dive into the biology of beauty can be found in Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty, by Nancy Etcoff. It’s incredibly researched (and footnoted) and an entertaining read! I highly recommend it. (The link is here for your convenience. I receive nothing in compensation. Hey, Amazon, that might be nice!)

Beauty and Image

As I work with clients and we get into what they think looks beautiful, I see two distinct camps, and the continuum that connects them. The Artifice/Effortless continuum plays out in makeup, hair, clothes and accessories. You can look at any item in your wardrobe and evaluate where on the continuum you feel it lies. The first camp sees Beauty as Artifice: sculpted, exaggerated features, Instagram face, pinup looks, retro style, un-natural colors, face and body shape alteration. (I don’t get too many of these clients! They’re drawn to a different image professional.) The second camp thinks Beauty should look Effortless: natural, realistic colors, organic shapes and textures, a more “natural beauty.”

Most of us (and our wardrobes) fall somewhere in between. When you embrace Artifice as your ideal of beauty, you fall short the minute you get out of bed! Artifice is fabulous and eye-catching and requires a daily commitment of time and energy (Not to mention $$$) to maintain. But at least you know the work involved! It doesn’t pretend to be easy. If Artifice is your ideal, everyday dressing can feel futile. It’s easy to fall into the I’m-not-going-anywhere-why-bother trap.

Clearly Bobbi Brown falls into the Effortless camp!

Embracing Effortless is trickier. (Unless you go all the way down the who-needs-hygiene? slope. If you have, you’re probably not reading a style blog!) I’ve heard Effortless described as: Making an effort but looking like you didn’t. AKA: Oh, I just rolled out of bed looking lovely… I just threw these on and look fabulous… (There’s a lot of just-ing.) The tricky part? It also requires effort! Just (LOL!) not the same drastic measures as Ms. Artifice. If Effortless is your ideal, it can be easy to define effortless as Why-bother-getting-dressed?

How About You?

Both ends can make a dresser miserable! Toward which end of the continuum are you drawn? Artifice or Effortless? Have you found a good place in the middle? What is beauty to you? How are you judging others? By the inside or the outside? How are you judging yourself? Are you giving yourself the credit you deserve? So often we assess others with a far more kind and gentle measure! Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Look at yourself with the eyes you use for others… Now what do you see? Do tell, I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,

6 Comments

  • NATALIE

    I must say I believe beatiful is a gorgeous face and body! Must be decked out in hair, make-up, perfume and elegantlly dressed. But there are women that are beautiful in the Christian sense. They serve the Lord daily and bear the Christan fruits. I try to be both!

  • CiM

    Beautiful is people who care. People who notice when someone is hurting, or sad, or needing something – and reach out. People who also notice when someone is happy and having a good day – and smile with them!

    Beautiful is thinking about others, valuing them and showing them they matter. Family, friends, and also strangers you meet in the course of a day – everyone needs to know they’re worth caring for and acknowledging. Your warm smile can do a lot.

    And yes – beautiful is finding out what matters to *you* and giving that some space in your life.

    I shopped at thrift stores – only at thrift stores – for decades. It was fine for what it was. It was fun! I loved exploring all the different treasures. But I also ended up with a wardrobe that was…not quite. Not quite me, not quite right, not quite fitting, not quite the colors to suit me. I made do.

    In recent years, I survived life-threatening illness. And afterwards… I cleaned house. I donated much of my “make do.” I bought a different wardrobe. Actually thought about, planned, learned, considered, shopped around and bought things that really fit and really suited me.

    I am enjoying this. I enjoy putting on colors every day. I enjoy interesting and unique fabrics, textures, and jewelry. It’s fun to experiment with makeup. That’s something I haven’t done in a long time.

    I’ve also enjoyed coming to the point of saying – now I’m free to stop. I have enough. I’m glad to have beautiful things and they’re enough for me, for now. If I need something else, I will consider it. Right now, this is all I need.

    I feel freed up to enjoy not only myself, but others even more than before. I am good with me and good with them. I dress “up” every day because I want to and like it. Whatever others wear – dressed up or not – I like them, too. I enjoy knowing who they are right now, today, whatever that is. I feel okay in my own skin, thankful to be alive, and to have people in my life.

    I love my 50s. You’re right – I wouldn’t go back for anything.

    A late Happy Birthday to you, Liz. I think you bring a lot of beautiful to your world and the people in it, including your blog readers. Thank you.

    Cathy in Missouri

    • Liz K

      I LOVE your definition of beauty, Cathy! And your story. So many of us don’t find the time to explore and step into ourselves and our beauty until we get past that midlife hump. I, too, feel like I have enough, but also realize that I am changing, and like a creature shedding its skin, it’s time to let some of that enough go and explore a few new pieces. Happy in your skin and thankful to be alive is a fabulous definition of beauty, too! Thank you for the birthday wishes… I appreciate all the good ones I receive! XO

  • Carol Karl

    This is a great post. It’s really interesting to think about. My initial thoughts to your questions about what makes someone beautiful was, their smile.

    It’s funny I take a lot of effort to always look my best – a few weeks ago someone said to me, ‘and you just roll out of bed looking like that’. I was flattered but then I thought about it, and now in the context of your post, I’m not sure what she meant. Did she mean that I always look great, did she mean that I look like I’ve put in the effort and always look great?

    This whole dressing and making an effort thing to look like you haven’t is quite comprehensive and confusing!

    • Liz K

      Oh, Carol! I expect she meant you look lovely! And naturally so! (Your look is subtle and a bit relaxed.) Don’t overthink it, but you are right, Effortless style and beauty is anything but! LOL!

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