Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

February 25, 2010

Elements of Style: We Had FACES Then!

Filed under: Advanced Fashion,Elements of Style,Fashion History,Makeup — Miss Plumcake @ 1:34 pm

Good morning mein schnauzers! (I don’t really speak German, although I HAVE seen Cabaret a bunch of times. Plus I stole the line from the occasionally NSFW Mr Peenee anyhow.)

Today’s blog post is going to be Law and Order style: Ripped from today’s headlines.

Except by “Today’s” I mean “Yesterday and quite late the night before” and “headlines” I mean “conversation I was having with an aerialist cum chef pal of mine who may or may not also breathe fire.”

The question?

Whether one might learn to be photogenic.

Listen, I’m not going to lie: I take a hell of a picture. In person I look like an extremely posh cartoon frog and I’m at peace with that, but on camera? I’m Myrna freakin’ Loy.

See, the things that make people beautiful to look at in real life don’t necessarily translate onto film, so there is absolutely no use hating bad photos of yourself. You DON’T really look like an off-Broadway musical revue staring Lady Bunny as The Elephant Man. It’s just a bad photo.

BUT you can hedge your bets by learning how to fake being photogenic.

How? Easy. Learn how to work your light.

You do this two ways: through makeup (easy) and through posing (easier).

Makeup first:
Most people who wear makeup focus on their eyes and lips and don’t pay much attention to their skin. This, particularly when it comes to photographs, is a mistake. Even if you want to go for “the natural look” for a photo, a little foundation or powder will even out the way light bounces off your face, making for a much smoother look.

plumcake necklace

For the look above -which was taken last night after an evening out celebrating the newest acquisition of the Château Gâteau Collection of Enormous Sparkly Things: a vintage Kenneth Jay Lane necklace the size of a sheep– I’m actually wearing relatively little on my lips and eyes.

The lips are just a generic tinted lipbalm and for the eyes I simply took my trusty MAC 217 brush and blended Paradise Pearl pure pigment from Coastal Scents over the lid, ran a bit of Milani’s Mediterranean Blue eye pencil along the waterline and along the outer corner of my eye and topped it with a lick of Rimmel Sexy Curves mascara.  I just cleaned up and shaped my brows using an old brown pencil whose make and model have been lost in the mists of memory.
yes to carrotsParadisePearlGoldMica_300rimmel-sexy-curves1

What I did spend a lot of time on was the highlighting and contouring of my face.  For those of us who are fat of face or otherwise not blessed with an aquiline nose, cheekbones so high and sharp people try to commit suicide off them and the generally accepted number of chins (i.e., one) highlighting and contouring the face can be a godsend.

The painfully lovely and exceedingly talented Chapman sisters can teach you this and pretty much everything else you’d ever wanted to know about l’art du maquillage (I say that in French because it sounds nice, the sisters themselves are from Norwich) through their wonderfully accessible tutorials.

Sam Chapman doing a model's makeup

Sam Chapman Contouring Tutorial

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Sam Chapman might actually be the most gorgeous woman to ever have lived and if Crystal Renn ever got a look at her she’d be cowering in her technically-plus-size Martin Margiela boots.  I highly commend these videos to anyone with even an sprinkling of interest in makeup. If you’re an old hand, they’ll be inspiring and if you’re new to the wonderful world of better living through eyeliner it’s a great place to start.

So we’ve got the makeup down, right? Now on to posing.

Any small success I had as a photographer’s/artist’s model (my plus-size fashion career was as short as my too-short-for-fashion neck) was because I knew how to literally put myself in the best light.

Part of that is just being aware of your face and how the light hits it. You know when it’s nice outside and you turn up your face to get just that perfect sweet spot of sun? That’s a really natural example of finding your key light.

The undisputed queen of key light was Marlene Dietrich.

Killer bone structure notwithstanding, Dietrich wasn’t a great beauty (and let’s not even talk about the tragedy that is Jean Harlow’s wighat)

but she knew how to play to her light when a camera –moving or still– was on her.

Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor worked lights well too, but they had the disadvantage of being actually breathtakingly beautiful, too, so it’s not as useful from an academic perspective.

A silly “key light” finding exercise, is to set up a spotlight in your house (yes, this can be a flashlight or a can light on a music stand on your commode) and practice just moving your face around in the light.

Odds are you’ll find some positions where the light just feels better, feels right.

That will get you in the habit of paying attention to the light, so the next time someone wants to snap your photo and you have a second to pose, just lengthen your neck, find your light and you’ll be surprised how much better your photos turn out.

Now someone go find me that charming Mister DeMille.


  1. And there is a scuffle where Plumcake and Lisa start wrestling over that beautiful necklace, where Lisa has a size advantage, but Plumcake is younger, and then Lisa realizes that Plumcake looks so beautiful in the bauble, it would be just wrong to mess with such perfection. How lovely.

    I love the makeup posts. Thanks.

    Comment by Lisa — February 25, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  2. great googly moogly, plummy. you’re not kidding – you do take a be-yooooootiful photo.

    Comment by angela — February 25, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

  3. Excellent advice! (And yes, you DO take a stunning photo, Plummy!)

    What advice would you have for the case of photo-induced Drunkface? La Petite Acadienne’s husband AND sister, while both extraordinarily attractive people, always wind up with drunkface in 9 out of 10 photos, particularly if flash is involved.

    BTW: how are you liking that mascara? I contemplated buying it the other day, but went in favour of something else, and am now wondering if I made a mistake. My lashes are pale and straight, and while I curl them, most mascaras are so heavy that they immediately weigh down all the curl, rendering my beloved Shu Uemura curler useless.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — February 25, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

  4. La Petite: I don’t often wear mascara because I usually have lash extensions, but I’m in a growing-out period. I like it well enough, and it’s good if you want to do a bunch of coats and get a doll-like (NOT Tammy Faye) look. Have you thought about getting your lashes tinted?

    Comment by Plumcake — February 25, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  5. you know, I have that same mascara and it so doesn’t do that for me. grrrr.

    how’s that Milani eye pencil on the staying where you put it and not making a career move into to the undereye bag emphasis department?

    Comment by Violet — February 25, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

  6. Violetta, I’d say it’s a little better than average for a relatively soft pencil. I love Milani because it’s made for darker skintones and thus more highly pigmented. It does travel a bit but in the spirit of full disclosure I’m an inveterate eyerubber so I think there’s a good deal of user error.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 25, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  7. Thanks Angela (and everybody). It’s my solace in life for going through my non-photographed days looking alluringly like Mister Toad in drag.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 25, 2010 @ 5:07 pm

  8. I have the opposite problem – I look fine, reasonably attractive ee-vuhn, in real life. But in pictures I look just awful. Like, jowly, baggy, saggy awful. My photogenic husband doesn’t believe that some people don’t photograph well. Jerk.

    Comment by LL — February 25, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  9. He’s clearly a bastard and you should leave him LL! I jest (maybe). But really, practice in a light. Even just a bare light bulb. If you can get your husband to take photos, even better.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 25, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

  10. You forgo the QUEEN of lighting Greta Garbo! She learned to use lighting to create shadows and mystery where the Studio Head had declared there was nothing but a “Fat Swede” !!!

    Before :

    After :

    Comment by Miss Spite — February 25, 2010 @ 6:35 pm

  11. As for advice about taking a better picture when you DON’T have the chance to do makeup, know that angles are more flattering than head-on shots and to raise your eyes more than you smile. Smiling is tricky. I’m all for it, but a big smile, especially in the fat of face can hide your eyes. Try smiling with your eyes and instead of saying “cheese” whisper the word “brush” to yourself. You’ll get a winsome smile. At least according to The Forsyte Saga (where I got that bit of advice.)

    If you’re going to an even where you KNOW there will be cameras, give your face AND NECK/EARS a dusting of powder. A lot of times photos look off because light bounces off a made-up face differently than an untouched chest or neck.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 25, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  12. My only ‘rule’ for pictures being taken of me (and that is not to say that every photo of me is pretty either, but this does play to my insecurities) is that unless the photographer can come up with an apple crate, a stool or something for me to stand on, I refuse to allow myself to be taken in a group photo with people who are much taller than I am. I am 5’2″ and in order for the photog to get everyone in the photograph, he/she has to pull back so far that, whoops – It’s Toby The Munchkin again.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — February 25, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

  13. Plumcake, I am INFATUATED with your eyebrows. Have you done a tutorial on obtaining brows like that?

    Comment by rebecca — February 25, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

  14. Plumcake, this was a most informative and interesting post, plus that necklace is To.Die.For. You may even have convinced me to think about maybe possibly taking up wearing makeup, which currently only goes on for weddings, preferably my own.

    Comment by Jane — February 25, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  15. Rebecca, thanks! I am a big proponent of a well-groomed brow. Most women don’t pay nearly enough attention to their brows. I get a lot of compliments on my eyes, but really they’re nothing special. It’s the eyebrows that do it.

    I’ll do what I can to get an eyebrow tutorial up, but I am a bit of a fraud. I’m pretty fortunate in having a good natural arch, so a lot of it is just making sure to shape and color.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 26, 2010 @ 3:27 am

  16. Well, it also helps that you have beautiful big eyes and great lip structure. But even without those advantages, I can see what you did with staging the retro-glam-diva look that you capture so well.

    Myself, I’ve managed to tone down the wide open smile (I gots me some great teeth, but nobody needs to see those straight pearly whites back to the molars) and making sure to lengthen my neck – or at least avoid folding my chin into it, but I still clearly have much to learn.

    Comment by SusanC — February 26, 2010 @ 4:56 am

  17. Wonderful advice, and I found the link to the video on contouring most interesting.

    Now, if only most of the pictures taken of me weren’t at shows where I’m dancing so much I sweat all my makeup off, or moshing angrily. :)

    Comment by ananas — February 26, 2010 @ 9:19 am

  18. Another commenter in love with your eyebrows. I rue the day I plucked my Brooke Shield-esque brows like mom said I should. :sobs: I coulda been a (brow) contendah. Or at least gone to someone who could wax them into submission and the right arch.

    Comment by Mrsbug — February 26, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  19. La Petite: I don’t often wear mascara because I usually have lash extensions, but I’m in a growing-out period. I like it well enough, and it’s good if you want to do a bunch of coats and get a doll-like (NOT Tammy Faye) look. Have you thought about getting your lashes tinted?

    I get them tinted in the summer, usually. It makes for a nice, natural look. How are you finding the lash extensions? I’ve pondered them, but with the lash tinting, the hair dying, the Japanese thermal straightening…I’m starting to feel rather like a bit of false advertising. :)

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — February 26, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  20. La Petite: I LOVE my lash extensions. Always have. I’ve been getting them fairly regularly for a few years now and they’re great, but the proviso is I already have long, dark lashes so my real ones hold the fake ones better. My gal informs me that it’s much, much harder to do pale lashes, especially ones that don’t curl.

    Comment by Plumcake — February 26, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  21. You are stunning and yes, very Myrna Loy-esque!

    Comment by The gold digger — February 26, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

  22. Great photo, Plumcake. I really need to raid the closets at Chateau Gateau!

    Comment by dcsurfergirl — February 27, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  23. I’m not boasting or anything but I’m also photogenic. But it took me a while to realize that. It took me even longer to realize how true it is about foundation and skin make up. I have now learned to use concealer (for dark eye circles) and some powder or foundation to avoid that greasy look. It’s amazing what some make up can do for you. But with the posing, I have to work on that.

    Comment by All Women Stalker — February 28, 2010 @ 11:42 pm

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