Cleopatra flicked her dramatic eyeliner and Marilyn Monroe stained her lips with daring shades of red, etching in time beauty trends that have trickled a power effect. Far from the cookie cutter definition of beauty, the power look has evolved from an over-the-top phenomenon to finished faces that have been synonymous with strength, raw sex appeal and undeniable beauty. From Jacqueline Kennedy’s highbrow sophistication and Rekha’s Greta Garbo-esque persona to Kate Middleton’s flawless yet understated aura, inspirations get picked up along the way and become power trends. Tracking the evolution of power, picking up pieces from the past, letting go of clichés and predicting the future, the changing face of power has been hardcore.
Even before the dawn of fashion weeks, when individual couture shows were all that the runway offered, celebrity make-up artist Ambika Pillai opines, “Rohit Bal’s powerful take on Kama Sutra depicted huge ornamental hairdos and make-up that was larger than life. Not just that but Manish Arora’s bald look that had the models wearing skull caps with sequins made a strong statement even off the ramp. Persis Khambatta who could carry off a bald head, and Indira Varma’s almost barefaced yet boldly sensual look from the 1996 release Kama Sutra inspired trends and oozed a wow factor.
Over the years, power has seen an evolution that has wiped out the conventional concept of beauty, states Sonik Sarwate, senior artist, M.A.C Cosmetics India, who begs to differ when it comes to the all-too-common feeling of ‘maximum make-up maximum impact’. “Modern power make-up is all about focusing on one feature. It is about creating an impact with minimal use of products. Taking conventional make-up and giving it a modern twist makes power look effortless. Power is evolving, whether it is the Brigitte Bardot-inspired cat eye that is reinvented today in more graphic shapes, or lined eyes in new textures and directions.” Similarly, fashion designer Anand Bhushan tweaked regular eye make-up in his autumn/winter ’13 collection with heavily kohled eyes and long lower eyelashes. In his spring/summer ’13 power dressing collection he played around with metallic eyeshadow. “The use of metals came from Superman being a man of steel, that symbolises power in all its glory,” says Bhushan.
Just as inspirations are born out of what is real, it is not unusual to find power personalities generating trends. “Not just fashion or films, but politics has generated an array of power looks. Most of the world’s powerful women enhanced their natural beauty with minimal make-up,” says Namrata Soni, official beauty expert for L’Oréal Paris. “Indira Gandhi’s lock of grey was a signature statement that depicted intellect and wisdom. Her short bob inspired women to ditch their waves and opt for crew cuts.”
Unconventional methods projecting intellect may well be on the way. Designer Narresh Kukreja predicts, “The future may depict women with receding hairlines, with an emphasis on the temple that shows intellect and genius, accentuating that the mind has great power.” His autumn/winter ’12 collection, Equus, had slick eyes and omitted eyebrows, with just a strong swoosh of eyeliner as the most striking feature.
Varied interpretations of power have echoed in beauty palettes, looks have been tweaked to create make-up that is both on the edge and a reflection of an iconic past. Elizabeth Taylor’s fierce smoky eyes have found their way back as a power trend with striking variations. Soni drives this home when she says, “Smouldering eyes no longer come in shades of charcoal and grey, but a smoky blue or purple eyeshadow is all set to give power a new definition.” Pillai is also of a similar opinion that the clichéd red and black have been replaced as the make-up repertoire has opened up to vibrant shades and colours. Jump-right-at-you hot pinks, canary yellows and juicy oranges illustrate an impactful take on power dressing for the visage.
Adaptions and modifications may be the anthem of the day but, for some, iconic power looks will never leave the beautyscape. “Marilyn Monroe’s look is an absolute classic, that will never go out of fashion. Her quintessential red lips are my personal favourite – they add elegance and power to any look,” says Sarwate.
The power look to Kukreja is more of a western phenomenon, “Women in the west have pale faces and feel the need to exaggerate their features to construct a striking look.” But for Bhushan, “Power is an international outcome, be it Givenchy’s grunge look or Sabyasachi’s use of the colour black. The techniques may be different but the flavour stays. It is only when women are in control of their sexuality that power is exhaled.”
Maharani Gayatri Devi put it best when she said that beauty and style come to her naturally, you’re just born with it. Classic looks withstanding the test of time, newer ones making it to the power palette, and embracing your own ‘wow’ factor – it’s all about putting your best face forward.
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