Old school cool
Karen at Of A Certain Age published a shot of her neighbour Betty, and I noticed her long squared nails, painted rich coral.
This is a look popular since at least the mid-70s, and though Betty is beautifully groomed, there are more current looks. I'm not suggesting she change her sassy retro manicure, only that styles do move along as the decades pass.
If you wear gel nails, or prefer a longer natural nail, here's the more current shape, the just-past fingertip length squared oval, in red, far left, and on natural nails with clear polish, near left.
The pale, subtle manicure on a beautifully shaped oval nail shown with a glass of champagne belongs to Helen Mirren, who wore this look to the Academy Awards.
Short nails, dark polish
A favourite of mine, because I can do things with my hands, yet still have the punch of polish.
I think darker polish looks most modern on short nails, and manicurists say it adheres better.
The "Red Buttons" sported by Diane Keaton show that the look works for mature women, too.
Here to stay (although not in France), French manicures are beloved by so many women that I anticipate some protests when I call them rather dated. The advantage is that the manicure goes with anything.
If French is a fact of life, wear it like Eva Longoria's, shown at far left, in soft pink and cream polishes that subtly merge.
Aggressive talons with harsh white tips that look like the old typewriter correction fluid White-Out, near left, are hard and passé.
The soft, classic manicure that features no polish, simply shaping, cuticle care and buffing is ideal for those who work with their hands, anyone who wants to avoid using solvents and other chemicals, and those who prefer a simple yet groomed look.
For directions, see The Natural Manicure on the Healthy & Green Living site. I've found keeping up the natural manicure actually takes more time than a salon-polish job.
Matte's where it's at
Clear matte polishes like Essie's Matte About You make nails look softly buffed but last longer than a buff, which is actually a very light wax. You can also wear it as a topcoat on sheer or deep shades to create the velvety matte effect.
Sally Hansen Instant Shine Natural Nail Finish is a similar product and comes in matte and light shine. Best of all, it wears off gradually so you don't have to use remover.
Matte colour: cutting edgy
I'm showing matte polish in navy to show nail shape and the deep, light-absorbing effect. The nails look like polished stones. (And once again, there's that current, not-too-long shape.) A white-haired woman with navy nails would certainly turn heads.
OPI, betting on a trend, is releasing six of its most popular shades in matte formulations this summer. You can experiment with matte by using the Essie Matte About You as a topcoat.
New half moon
At the other end of the upkeep continuum, we have the the half-moon manicure.
The 1920s nail trend invented by a manicurist at MGM Studios resurfaced in striking color variations (purple and cream, navy and white) at Christian Dior and Thakoon.
“It is ‘le must’ in terms of elegance,” said Elsa Deslande, the manicurist for the Dior fall couture show. But she advises you not to try it at home. “It is a very complex aesthetic technique that is practically impossible to create on one’s own,” she said, noting, too, that it requires a specific length, width and shape of the nail, which only a few people have (Dita Von Teese, among them).
So what’s one to do? Well, use fake ones. “We applied them on every model at the show,” Ms. Deslande said. (Source: New York Times online editon; Fashion & Style secion, Pulse by Karen Nelson, Sunday, July 26, 2009)
Here's the classic Von Teese red half-moon manicure. Not an everyday look for most of us, fun for a party or when you're in a burlesquey mood.
How much is too much?
I avoid effects like sparkles, tiger stripes and seasonal artwork, despite my local salon's manicurists, who seem to live to apply flowers or shooting stars.
Good taste does not necessarily come with the nail technician's certificate, so insist on what you want.