Makeup, Magic, & Daring: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

‘Do you think I am a fool, Masha? All this time, and you speak to me as though I were a flighty pinprick of a girl. I am a magician! Did you never think, even once, that I loved lipstick and rouge for more than their color alone? […] Cosmetics are an extension of the will. Why do you think all men paint themselves when they go to fight? When I paint my eyes to match my soup, it is not because I have nothing better to do than worry over trifles. It says, I belong here, and you will not deny me.’


Above: Sacai Fall 2016

“But I will say to you: Blue is for cruel bargains; green is for daring what you oughtn’t; violet is for brute force.”


Above: Vika Gazinskaya Fall 2016


Above: Vivienne Westwood Red Label Spring 2016

“I will say to you: Coral coaxes, pink insists; red compels. I will say to you: You are dear to me as attar of roses. Please do not get eaten.”


Above: Tibi Spring 2016


Above: Stella McCartney Fall 2016


Above: Alberta Feretti Limited Edition Spring 2016 Couture



All from Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente


Letter from the Editor: March 2014

Welcome to March, Closet Feminists!

Right now, my hair is the shortest it has been in about eight years. I hadn’t had a haircut in over a year before last Thursday when I got my hair did. It all reminded me of the 1994 Little Women movie with Winona Ryder when Jo March (Ryder) goes and chops off all her hair and her youngest sister Amy (Kirsten Dunst) dismays at the big reveal saying, “Oh Jo, your one beauty…”


Now, Jo cuts her hair for noble reasons and the whole experience really isn’t all that comparable but I just really needed a haircut (there were split ends all over the place and it was just getting out of control). I know my hair isn’t everything, but I always get a little mournful about haircuts (see me sulking with the end results below). I very well might write about it for Katie Dixon’s (our graphic designer) forthcoming print publication Ladies of a Certain Age, as the theme for this issue is ‘Hair’.


I guess most of my anxiety stems from the fact it’s looking a little too career-woman-y. As mentioned last month, I got a new job, and the new change in my life seemed to warrant a new hairdo. Plus, the seasons will be turning soon–come March 20th, it will officially be spring, and it will be nicer to have lighter hair. I love winter–it’s cold and mean like me, but I must confess I’m pretty excited to break out the old trench coat once more. Be sure to check out our Editor’s Spring Wish Lists here and our Spring 2014 trend forecast here for a further inspiration. As for me, I’m going to go stick something sparkly in my hair and see if that doesn’t boost my spirits.

In style and in solidarity,

Emily Y.


Colour by Numbers: Skin Tone, Diversity, & Major Makeup Brands, Part 2

By: Courtney S.

This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Did you miss Part 1? Check it out here.

Selecting a foundation isn’t just about finding a shade that matches your skin’s surface colour, it is also about finding a shade that complements your skin’s undertones, which are cool, warm or neutral; when your makeup doesn’t complement your undertones, your skin just looks dull or sickly (for a more information on finding your undertones, check out this or this). So when makeup brands only offer 2 or 3 deeper shades in their product lines, they are not only excluding customers that don’t fit the available shades, but also customers that have differing skin undertones. In contrast, customers in the light and medium ranges have many more options to find the perfect foundation — one that doesn’t leave a visible line along their jaws, make them look slightly queasy or force them to forgo the whole makeup exercise entirely.

There is also an economic dimension to this bias, as lighter foundations can be found in a variety of shades and undertones across a number of price scales, but medium and darker colours that offer similar variety can get pricey (the L’Oreal True Match Liquid and Revlon Photoready); makeup counter brands offer more colour and tone options but you often end up with a lot less product for a lot more money.

Scan 3Above: Olivia Wilde for Revlon in a current ad.

So we’ve established that darker skin tones are underrepresented in terms of foundation choice, with the majority of products catering to customers with light to medium skin tones. But how do the brands’ self-images and branding measure up in terms of diversity? More than half of Covergirl’s current spokesmodels are women of colour (including Janelle Monaé, Sofia Vergara, Pat McGrath and Queen Latifah). L’Oreal’s current slogan is “diversity and universality” and features Lea Michele, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Lopez and Freida Pinto among its spokespeople. Revlon’s representatives include Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Shanina Shaik and Bonang Matheba. In addition to Jessica White, Maybelline features Shu Pei in its advertising campaigns – the only Asian spokesperson for the brands examined. In contrast, Rimmel’s current spokesmodels are Kate Moss and Georgia May Jagger (although Solange Knowles previously repped in 2010 and Ayumi Hamasaki models in Rimmel’s Japanese market).

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While I applaud these brands for representing different types of beauty in their advertising and selection of spokesmodels, I can’t help but wonder if – given my findings at the drugstore – the spokeswomen of colour would be able pick out their perfect shade of foundation from their respective companies’ products if they found themselves wandering the aisles of Shopper’s Drug Mart. Promoting beauty in all its forms has to go beyond marketing and extend to the product itself; if companies are able to make yet another foundation that promises to mattify or turn the clocks back 20 years using crazy space chemistry, then surely they can do something as simple as adding more shade options to break up the monotony of ivories and beiges.

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Above: Cover Girl representing diversity for their Catching Fire line.



Scan 4 copy

Janelle Monaé POC



Sofía Vergara POC

Ellen DeGeneres

Pat McGrath POC

Queen Latifah POC


Scan copy 2

Charlotte Free

Christy Turlington

Erin Wasson

Freja Beha Erichsen

Frida Gustavsson

Julia Stegner

Charlotte Kemp Muhl

Shu Pei POC

Emily Didonato

Jessica White POC

RIMMEL REPS (0%) – exclusive contract with Kate Moss

L’OREAL REPS (30% POC) – slogan: “diversity and universality”

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Julianne Moore

Lea Michele POC

Laetitia Casto

Milla Jovovich

Dianne Keaton

Beyonce POC

Doutzen Kroes

Eva Longoria POC

Jennifer Lopez POC

Andie McDowel

Juliana Margulies

Aimee Mullins

Barbara Palvin

Freida Pinto POC

Claudia Schiffer

Bianca Balti


Scan 2

Jessica Alba POC

Halle Berry POC

Jessica Biel

Barbara Garcia

Marina Jamieson

Natalia Kozior

Elle MacPherson

Olivia Wilde

Bonang Matheba POC

Tiffany Pisani

Shanina Shai POC



Colour by Numbers: Skin Tone, Diversity, & Major Makeup Brands, Part 1

By: Courtney S.

I have been wearing makeup since I can remember (I think my first ‘cosmetic’ was a tube of Bonne Belle blue glitter gel that was oh-so-chic in the 4th grade), and in my recent postgraduate boredom, I have been branching out with new colours, products and looks. Thanks to some unfortunate genetics, my makeup routine always features extensive measures to correct redness, pimples, under eye circles and even blue veins (yikes!) before I can even get to the fun stuff like bright lips, winged eyeliner, rosy cheeks, etc.

Although I love makeup, I have to admit that foundation is one of my least favourite things to shop for; despite the endless magazine and blog articles extolling advice on how to find the right shade for you, I often end up with the wrong shade (I blame drug stores’ fluorescent lighting – how are you supposed to colour match under that?!). For gals like me that weren’t gifted with a flawless complexion, foundation is one of the rudimentary steps in the makeup routine – they don’t call it “foundation” for nothing – so finding the right shade is very important to boosting your confidence and making you feel great in your own skin.

Scan 4

Above: A Maybelline ad currently in circulation–this one is from the Elle Canada Dec. 2013 issue.

I recently found myself playing Goldilocks at the drugstore, finding the available foundation shades too warm (yellow-toned), too cool (pink-toned), too light, too dark…but while I was getting frustrated by the numerous options I had to sift through to find just the right colour for my very fair skin, I noticed that there wasn’t that much choice for customers of colour*.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 11.35.08 AM

Above: Courtney playing Goldilocks aka conducting her research. Image from her Instagram, follow her at @arealpip

Looking over the rest of the major brands, I noticed a trend towards tons of shades for lighter skin tones but very few options for buyers with darker (or to use the makeup companies’ phrasing, “deep”) skin tones. The Closet Feminist readers know how biased the fashion industry is towards to the tall, white and thin aesthetic and this bias on the runways extends to the makeup counter (in this case, the makeup aisle) with the majority of face cosmetics (foundations, concealers, powders and BB creams) catering to customers with light to medium skin tones.

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Above: A Rimmel ad featuring Kate Moss currently in circulation.

I examined select foundations from five major cosmetic brands found in Canadian drugstores (Covergirl, L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline, and Rimmel) to see how they stack up in terms of representing customers of colour. I should note that my categorization was not 100% scientific. I simply went to the drugstore and did swatches of every colour to see how wide a range of shades each product offered**

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 10.20.44 AM

Above: Table and research prepared by Courtney S.

As you can see from the table, foundations suited for lighter complexions were overwhelmingly represented across all of the products examined, followed by medium shades. With the exception of L’Oreal True Match Liquid, Maybelline Fit Me Foundation, Revlon Nearly Naked and Revlon Photoready, deep skin tones represented less than 25% of each product line examined***.


Part 2 of this article focusing on makeup brands and the diversity of their representatives  will be up tomorrow, December 19th at 12 noon PST


* I wasn’t willing to break the sanctity of the “Do Not Open” rules at Shoppers Drug Mart, so I was only able to include products that had Testers for every shade. Thankfully these were lines that offered many shade options so I didn’t purposefully leave out brands with wider shade ranges. 

** In addition to these swatches I noted the names of different shades, from the helpful (“medium beige,” “ivory”) to the vague (“light medium”), to the bizarrely food-related (“toast,” “coconut,” and  “caramel” – interestingly all for deep skin tones…). Wouldn’t it just be easier and less offensive (I’m looking at you, “nude”) to just use numbered identification systems for foundation colours?

*** Keep in mind that these findings reflect the shades available for the Canadian market. In many cases, the ranges of colours available for purchase in the United States were much wider but were not included as I wasn’t able to compare them in person. Of particular note is Covergirl’s Queen Collection, which is geared specifically towards dark skin tones – the All Day Flawless Foundation features 14 shades ranging from “Sand” to “True Ebony.”

Women & Short hair: A Brief Discussion

By: Silvia C.

The choice of a haircut is a strictly personal decision that every woman has to commit every once in a while. Hair for a woman can be many things: an expression of style, a way of seduction, a quality of pride and more. It’s not always easy to decide what new haircut to try; choosing a drastic change of style often has a 50/50 chance of coming out perfect or awful. It’s scary to sit down and let a strange hairdresser take care of what is one of the most visible expressions of our style.

Above: Supermodel Karlie Kloss made waves when she chopped off her long locks

Hairstyles in history have represented everything from power (old courtroom wigs for example), to protest (hippies and punks). Haircuts are something very intimate that goes beyond just the aesthetic: a haircut, especially if it turns out the way you want it to, can the first sign of the wish for a change. A haircut can show breaking with the past, like closing one door and opening another.

Short haircuts are definitely back in style, having enjoyed being in vogue in the eighties as well. With so many stylish options for short hair, it is no wonder that more women opt for a crop that lets your face stand out in all of its glory.

While there are many advantages of a short haircut (like how easy it is to manage) there are of course there are some negative sides to it. I’m not just talking about having days when you might miss your curls touching your shoulders, I’m talking about people’s prejudices.

Above: Halle Berry’s pixie cut is arguably one of the most iconic in Hollywood!

One such stereotype connected to women with short hair is that they must be attracted to other women. Another one is that women who have short hair are assumed to be more tomboyish. All of these stereotypes reflect societal beliefs about what is considered ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine,’ not to mention a dated conviction of sexuality that conflates one’s hairdo with one’s desire.

It may seem hard to believe, but I used to know a girl that couldn’t cut her hair short because her father didn’t want her to! He hurtfully suggested that she would have looked “too much like a lesbian,” and that “no one would marry her like that.” This example illustrates that some people still seem to forget that women don’t choose their haircut based on how much men will fancy them. Women can choose their hairstyles for themselves, and enjoy the change they might feel with shorter hair. Sure, there might be men who wouldn’t date a girl based on how short her hair is, but who really wants to date someone who thinks it like that? Ultimately, haircuts shouldn’t make us feel uncomfortable-especially when they feel so right for our personalities.

Silvia C. is an artist and occasional writer with an huge interest in women’s issues, culture and food. You can find her on tumblr here.



For more hair-related posts, be sure to check out these two great articles:

Red Hair is Not an Invitation for Harassment & Other Truths by Courtney S.

The Politics of Pink Hair


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