Isabel Marant: Next-gen Jane?

Birkin with her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Drawn to the aesthetic of uncontrived-looking, lightly androgenous women in discreet  clothes—but with a definite sense of style— I am adding to my stable of girl crushes, Isabel Marant. 

Marant reminds me of Jane Birkin, her stylistic elder aunt. (Marant is 46; Birkin turned 67 last month.)

While I do not find much in her clothing line for me (tiny minis, rocker-chick trousers) and could not afford them even if they appealed, I like her attitude. 

Apparently I'm not alone; she is sometimes referred to as "the coolest girl in Paris", a heavy burden to bear.

Marant's mother ca. 1966
More than one profile asserts that in everyday life, she wears no makeup whatsoever.

Marant and Birkin inherited faces that require little help; Birkin's actor mother Judy Campbell was a noted beauty, and Marant's is former model and knitwear designer Crista Fiedler.

Like the idea that you must have tan legs to bare them in a skirt, the necessity of obvious makeup is a remnant of the last millenium. The multi-step application that department store consultants carefully drew on diagrams because you could never remember what to do: over.

Here's her everyday face:

Below, in discreet lip and eye makeup, and maybe a hint of blush:

For evening, an assertive lipstick on lightly-tan skin:

But, according this interview by Kate Finnigan in The Guardian, her usual routine is a bare face (and no off-season tan); this photo accompanied the interview:

Photo: Francois Coquerel, The Guardian

Marant's wardrobe follows the same minimalist route. Finnigan writes:
"Her personal staples are 'a pair of tight jeans, a pair of flat shoes and something that is a bit like a sweatshirt, a jumper or T-shirt. A good jacket, a good coat. 'I'm quite androgonystic. I'm very feminine but I always need to break it with something very masculine.' "

What Birkin and Marant also share is The Smile, a burst of unrestrained exuberance. 

Whether we lose or keep our bottles and tubes, an incandescent smile is the most powerful of all facial effects.  

Perhaps Marant is my excuse for adopting an ever-less-complicated routine, and rolling my eyes when a new (always expensive) cream promises to brighten and tighten. But I am not sure I'd go completely bare. Is that a privilege of relative youth?

I now find that conspicuous make-up, even when perfectly applied, can look devastatingly glamourous on young women, overdone on middle-aged ones, and downright creepy on seniors.


Bunny said…
Personally I find we lose our faces as we age. Things just sort of all get less prominent. My once dark perfect eyebrows are barely there, lips must have something, etc. A beautiful young face needs nothing but an aging woman looks so much better with her features re-defined. the tan, aggressive lipstick pic makes her look fabulous, IMO. After a certain age, it easy easy to get lost with our clothes, our faces, our work, etc. BTDT and refuse to let that happen. JMHO. I know numerous very attractive older women who have mastered a bit of makeup in their dotage when they wore none in younger days. Heck, I didn't wear lipstick till my forties! Our face is the most expressive part of our body and I say continue to make it be seen with a bit of color and delineation!
I like her attitude and her look - and agree with you about the creepy makeup.
Susan B said…
Isn't Marant's smile just infectious, though? I agree about the overdone makeup, though I find that just a wee bit, subtly applied just to accent features, keeps me from looking tired.

I love this tomboyish aesthetic, but find with my shape that it can be hard to pull off. I'm still on the hunt for my shorter, curvier style crush.
Madame Là-bas said…
It really is a great smile and healthy skin that make these two women so attractive. I walk in the morning and do leave my apartment without makeup. It is an individual choice!
frugalscholar said…
Your last comment is so true. The people who look good in lots of makeup don't really need it.

One of my students told me--oh, a long time ago--that I really should wear some lipstick. She knew I was totally clueless, so she helpfully added "Buy Revlon Colorstay in raisin. Here's a coupon!" She was right, too.

I think a bit of makeup makes older women look better because it makes them (us!) look they they/we are making some effort.

Even so, I forget to wear makeup a lot of the time..
Susan said…
I find myself agreeing with Bunny. I think the no makeup regime probably works better for women who have dark eyelashes, large eyes, and some eyebrows. I once took our dog to our longtime vet wearing no makeup (it was early in the morning and a near health emergency for our dog) and he asked me if I was ill! He was used to seeing me with makeup ( and I think I apply it discreetly).

I TOTALLY agree about creepy eye makeup on older women though. Here in Dallas there are some women who make their eyes look like a Halloween mask.
I know what you mean about too much make up on older women like myself! I need some foundation to even out my skin tone and would feel naked without some mascara. These women have fabulous smiles, they look so natural and comfortable in their own skin.
LPC said…
I think of makeup as level 4 dress-up, if level 10 is red carpet and level 1 is rolling out of bed;).

Love Marant, and her bridge line, Etoile, is pricy but not stratospheric. I have two of her jackets, and a pair of Dickers, and all 3 items always double my feeling of coolth.
LauraH said…
When younger I wore mascara and blush off and on but just lip colour now for many years. I concentrate my time and money on keeping my skin looking healthy. I think the level of make up we 'need' largely depends on how we're used to seeing ourselves - if you've always worn makeup you'll feel odd without it and vice versa.
Cornelia said…
I am 58 and still have very good skin and only a few wrinkles. I do, however wear a little make-up every day. My hair is graying and I am completely at ease with it. It gets a cut every four weeks to look stylish. I need a little color and mascara to brighten my face.
Linn from IA said…
Perhaps "no makeup" works better on brunettes? With my fair coloring & ever-disappearing eyebrows, I need a little something. So I'm with Bunny on this!
Anonymous said…
When I was young, my make-up consisted of a small jar of vaseline and a lip pencil. I would rub the vaseline on my eyelashes, and mix it on the back of my hand with the pencil to make lip gloss & blush. My eyebrows and lashes were naturally so much darker than my hair that anything more looked theatrical to me. Now, like Bunny, I feel my edges getting a bit fuzzy, and find that hints of carefully applied eyebrow pencil, highlighter, mascara, and lipstick, like good clothes, help to restore my self confidence. Whenever I visit my mother, I ask her if she would like me to do her makeup; she assents eagerly, and I'm always amazed by the way a few subtle touches can brighten her face and mood, bringing her beauty back into focus.

Isabel Marant is lovely, vibrant, with and without cosmetics. It's nice to see these photos of her, to picture the woman behind the label. Thanks.

Shelley said…
I saw this and thought of you:
Duchesse said…
Bunny: I know what you mean. One of my friedns who is a sr exec in a large corporation said recently, "The men in their 50s at my work look so dull compared to the women, because we have makeup and more hair."

That's Not My Age: I especially dislike lipliner applied beyond the natural lips.

une femme: Juliette Binoche?

Mme: Our age is when conscientious skin care really pays off, and when one is grateful for genetically good skin.

frugal: Oh, I really like Colorstay! The problem with most lipstick, when one is teaching, is that you talk it off in under 10 min. so might as well have never applied it. Colorstay and the one I use, Outlast, are terrific. Colorstay is, I think, a bit less drying.

And she gave you a coupon how apt!

Susan: I think we habituate people to it. one of my friends is a fitness instructor, a fair blonde. She wears absolutely no makeup except for lip gloss, b/c with all the classes, she can't be bothered applying, removing and reapplying several times a day. She looks gorgeous.

hostess: We all have an idea of what we absolutely need!

LPC: Yes, Etoile is great but hard to find. I like your continuum. I once had full evening makeup professionally applied and could not take my eyes of myself, but it also felt very unnatural.

LauraH: That's why I wrote the post- I find it always feels odd at first, and maybe after three weeks, you stop thinking it looks odd. One of my friends told me recently, "I noticed younger women wear less makeup than I do, and I stopped.., I look more up to date."

Cornelia: I like mascara too but find if wearing glasses it is not evident if I'm wearing it or not.

Linn: Maybe; see my comment to Susan. A lot of it is how we are habituated to seeing ourselves- yet I agree with the comment that Marant looks terrific with lipstick.

C.: The care of elders is such a direct way of making them feel better, and this was a generation very makeup-oriented. (The generation before that was more conflicted; my grandmother thought makeup was for prostitutes!)

My mother enjoyed being taken her to get her nails done at 95!

Shelley: Thank you! Various readers have kept me in the loop about that exhibition, and one sent a long e-mail after she saw it. It is sponsored by Qtar. Some stunning pearls on display (including those of Mary, Queen of Scots) and of course some obvious PR for the pearls of that region.

Susan B said…
Duchesse, love her but she's not often photographed off the red carpet, and not often shown in US mags. I did swoon over her wardrobe in Chocolat, though (and her love interest).
Duchesse said…
une femme: I searched Google Images for "Juliette Binoche 2013" and found some shots, but noticed that she is not especially busty. Lea Seydoux is, but she is only 28. The search continues!
Nancy K said…
With my white hair and my eyebrows fading I, like Bunny, feel as if I disappear without some makeup. I like makeup, it's fun but it's toned down most of the time. I also have rosacea so the no makeup routing just doesn't work. I really prefer to hide my red nose! I do love her style though, better than some of her clothes which are more decorated than what she wears.
Jean S said…
Oh, the fading of the eyebrows. So sad.

I now use eyebrow stuff, but my eyelids react to mascara and liner, so I tend to go without. Fortunately, I wear glasses, and they add a little color (blue top rim to the frame).
Anonymous said…
For Une Femme:

I think of Judy Dench in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, so marvelous with her short silver hair and drifty, pale, comfortable 5'1" she carries herself like a much taller woman. And she's more attractive now, I think, than when she was younger.

Role models are scarce, though. As a gamine-with-thickened-waist, I feel your pain!

Gretchen said…
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Gretchen said…
I do like Marant's look, as well as her clothes, although I am a bit more Margaret Howell than rocker-chic. I cannot keep makeup on my face without continually re-applying and I just don't have time nor patience for that, and so I wear sunscreen, mascara, and lip balm. Lipstick when I strike the mood, much like Lisa's 1-10 scale. I do think people get habituated to wearing/not wearing makeup, or seeing themselves as certain roles. My mom associates makeup with going out of the house, and won't wear makeup at home nor go out without it. For me, it's do I feel in the mood, and my daughters, it's what kind of attitude do I have today, and their makeup aligns with that. Fascinating comments by everyone here, as always!
Anonymous said…
I am now retired. If I'm at home all day, or only going grocery shopping, I wear no makeup except a light lip color. If I'm going to my Pilates class, but nowhere else, I put on tinted moisturiser, Touche L'Eclat around my eyes, and blush. And the lip color. That makes me look less ghastly (I am 57, fair, sparse-eyelashed, decent skin but my eyes are baggy and my nose tends to redness. Delightful.). If I'm going out where I want to look good, &/or will see people I know, I add eyeliner and mascara. Then I look pretty good, IMO.

Something I've noticed lately, though; even when I think I'm looking really good, with makeup and a cute outfit, nobody really notices me at all. What they say about women being invisible after a certain age, I think that's true. Sigh. On the other hand, tonight my husband told me how good he thinks I've been looking lately. So there's that!

---Jill Ann
Tiffany said…
I'm always late to the comment party (blame my time zone). I'm the same age as Marant, and when I go without makeup I look dead. I don't tan and am naturally very pale. I don't wear foundation, just under-eye concealer, mascara, a tiny bit of blush and lippy. Then I feel human; still invisible, but not alarmed when I catch myself in a shopping centre mirror by mistake :)
Sandra Sallin said…
inappaim owreconselfI too did not wear makeup in my 40's I'm in my 70's with grey hair. If I don't wear makeup I look tired. I need eyebrows, eyeliner, mascara etc. I look much better with makeup. I do try and have it look as natural and light as possible. But still I need that definition that make up can give. I do not like heavy foundation. I like it to look as light an natural as possible.
Sandra Sallin said…
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Sandra Sallin said…
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Sandra Sallin said…
Please forgive the empty posts. I was trying to put in the capcha numbers and didn't realize they were being recorded in empty posts. Please delete with my apologies.
Susan said…
I want to make another comment because discussion on this topic always fascinates me. Duchesse says she is drawn to the look of lightly androgenous women. I think this is key. There are some women who can pull off this look and some of us who cannot. It works best for women who have a certain body type and perhaps even a particular face shape or type of features. It also helps if one has some distinctive facial features or coloring. And then, there is personal preference.

I even drew my husband into this topic this morning. He used to say that he preferred me without makeup, but now, he admits a little makeup goes a long way toward making me look a bit more attractive than I do without it.

I also think there are regional preferences. In the south (and I really consider Texas to the be southwest, but still in the south on this topic) most women do wear makeup as a finishing touch. While many are guilty of overdoing it, there is a subset who do manage to get it just right.

I did some looking online at various photos of Marant and found quite a number (in ads etc) where makeup had been applied very very skillfully to give her the no makeup look. And this included lower inside the lash line eyeliner.

I decided just this morning that I need to further alter my makeup routine as my hair is SO light now (turning white) that my face is truly getting lost in spite of the makeup routine I currently employ.
Duchesse said…
Susan: I wrote that she wears some makeup for appearances and occasions, so yes, you can find such photos. However she says that for work and in her everyday life, she chooses to have a totally bare face, and she is well-known for that.

The norm where Marant lives is to wear less make-up for day than in some regions of the US; that is often how the visitor is identified without saying a word.

Marant's features look less 'defined' without makeup, just like most women's. It's an entirely different approach to presenting ones' self, as singular as Diana Vreeland's Kabuki cheeks or Carine Roitfeld's heavy smoky eyes.

It takes unfussy clothes, well-groomed hair and more importantly, a certain attitude to leave the tubes and jars behind. I see women here who do it, and they're attractive but not great beauties.

Susan B said…
C., while I adore Judi Dench, her style in Marigold Hotel is a bit too "relaxed, retired" for me. It's a nice take on Bohemian Of A Certain Age, though. (LOVED that movie!!)
Anonymous said…
Dear Femme,

And of course she is much older than you. Frankly, I can't pull off that rumpled-linen look myself. But in the theater after the movie, I was struck by the number of younger women commenting on Dench's beauty. This discussion really is all about inhabiting one's own skin with grace and authenticity, isn't it? That's something you seem to do very well.

Duchesse said…
C. and Pseu: Please stop by next Thursday, when Dame Judi will be in the Passage along with someone you might not expect...
materfamilias said…
I love the smile of both women as well, although their body types are so different from my own that I can only emulate them so far. . . Completely agree about the makeup, especially with aging. My mom, though, gave up on all of it, and I did want to urge her to use lipstick occasionally -- it can add so much life to a face, transformative sometimes. For me,on an elderly woman's face (and how far is one from that, at 60?!), it often signals a commitment to engagement with the world.
materfamilias said…
So funny -- I meant to say I loved "the style" of both women. My fingers obviously knew what element of that style most impressed itself on my less (un?) conscious brain. . .
Anonymous said…
I am turning 59 this year. My hair is long and various shades of blonde with white and grey mixed in. Being Irish I have pale skin and with the light hair I look like a ghost without a bit of blush. I still do my eyes before going out in public as my lashes are limited and I don't want to scare anyone especially me when I catch my reflection in a window. I do not feel old nor do I dress older (mature). I love the way Ines de la Fressange puts outfits together. Dressy
casual. Youthful without being ridiculous.
Duchesse said…
Anon@8:36: It is with increasing asperity that I read comments about how "scary' or "tired" or whatever women believe they look without makeup. So this is not directed at you, you just happen to be the latest entry. Do you think Marant (age 47, so somewhat removed from the natural dewiness of youth) does not know about that deeply-held belief?

I imagine this is how women accustomed to corsets felt when they surveyed the first flappers. I am not saying you should change, just that your attitude is the result of entrenched certainties. I truly doubt you would scare anyone.

Nor am I saying women will follow her! But to me, the mix of her cool clothes with her bare face is far more modern than makeup.

And finally (again, not directed to you) if a woman looks so darned tired without makeup, maybe she is indeed exhausted and needs to get some rest and cope with the stress she is making with paint.
Duchesse said…
Anon and all: Oops, I meant to write "the stress she is •masking• with paint."
Gretchen said…
Hooray for saying the obvious, Duchesse!! I feel for these women who believe they *need* to wear makeup, rather than they *want* to do so. Or blow out their hair, or wear certain clothes, or hold their tongue in conversations. The reference to corsets is quite apropos.
Unknown said…
The androgynous look does not appeal to me at all. It's unflattering on my body silhouette and frankly, I just don't like it. Personal preference. I don't care for how I look without some cosmetics. I'm not doing it for anyone but me. Even if I'm not planning to leave the house, I feel better to have spent some time on my appearance, and that includes cosmetics. I'm not talking about stage makeup here, but with out eyebrow, eyeshadow and blush I feel washed out. I do look tired without makeup and it's because I have porcelain skin, very pale (natural ) hair color, colorless lips and thin pale eyebrows. I'm not tired, but with my genes, I'm colorless and that makes me look tired. No amount of sleep is going to change my genes.
Duchesse said…
Gretchen: Marant is doing something against the norm, and the amount of defending I am reading, here and in another blog on makeup, leads me to think of her approach as countercultural.

Jennifer Connolly: Wondering if you have you ever gone hiking or camping- or another such activity- and left off your makeup? There is a difference between looking tired and looking un-made-up.
Gretchen said…
I'm a blonde, blue eyed Norwegian. Alternate between ruddy and oatmeal colored. I have horrendous vision and wear glasses strong enough to cut the size of my eyes quite literally in half. My mother and daughters are also fair. We all choose to wear clothes and makeup to accentuate the type of person we want others to see us as, or as we feel ourselves to be. For me, some days, that means makeup. Some days, a wrap dress or a Grace Kelly outfit. But I also wear my hair in a wonky bun, a huge sweater or button down with jeans and a pair of Tods loafers or chelsea boots. I can get away with this because I have always done it and I don't give a damn what others think, anyway. I know when it's appropriate to "make an effort" and when it's not. It's a choice, and I simply feel bad that some women feel they HAVE to do anything. Anyone who chooses to take a different route, do so because it makes YOU feel good, not because you think others will judge you. That's just sad.
Duchesse said…
Gretchen: I believe some of the commenters do feel good (more upbeat, and more vital) with makeup on, to themselves. And I suspect many of us dial it up or down, like you. However ever since I have seen Marant over the past two years, perfectly at ease without any, I have more often gone without anything but sunscreen, and I like it. But as you say, it is my choice.

In the days when I was in a conservative corporate environment, I would not have omitted all makeup; I wanted to fit in, relatively, and that did not require much at all.
jacque v. said…
I find this discussion very interesting, and makes me think a lot about what we suppose are our natural, free personal choices (as wearing make up, dressing in a certain way). We all are indeed influenced by our cultures. That said, I still think that no make up at all is a choice like "no-bra-at-all". If you really don't care if you "look good", or better, or what people say, you do it.I couldn't possibly go around with no bra: I'm 60, busty and had 4 children. There are women my age with smaller breasts that can do no-bra and look good, others that look worse and don't care . I think is the same with make up. Strong features , gorgeous smile and chekbones, plus defined eyebrows are helpful. I know I look younger,prettier and healthier with make up. I'm more confident and that's what matters.As we turn invisible in our age, other people don't even notice it. But I do, and I will wear mascara and lipstic to my grave.
Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
At 59 I feel good and look pretty darn good, I'm told,(for my age), but I still feel better with help from makeup to define "fading" features and complexion: eyebrows, mascara/touch of liner, lipstick, a touch of Bobbi Brown foundation stick and/or concealer, blush. It all takes 5 to 10 minutes and I feel much better for it. It gives me a lift whether I'm leaving the house or not. Plenty of moisturizer is critical. I think it's important to regularly reevaluate and adjust products to keep it all natural and easy.
I agree with others that some women are lucky to "go without" because of naturally strong brows, dark eyes, etc.
My mom, at 95, still regularly applies lipstick and blush. She is a beauty.
Thanks for the discussion,
Mardel said…
I agree about the overdone makeup and my own routine gets simpler and simpler.

I think it is a personal choice. I would have said that young women wear less makeup but that was true where I lived previously and not where I live now. Despite that I am often almost bare of face but feel that my pale eyebrows and my lips need a bit of color or my features disappear beneath my still-dark hair.

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