Makeup with menswear is a little more important than other styles because with a neutral, muted palette of greys, blacks and browns, "you want to have a little life to your face, a little health and vigour," says Linda Wells, Allure magazine's editor-in-chief.
When suiting up in this fall trend, women have choices for their beauty look, she says. "Are you going to exaggerate the menswear look and play it up fully, or are you going to offset it with something feminine?" Wells says.
To soften menswear staples like grey flannel and houndstooth, which are so often fashioned into tailored items, add femininity by playing up the eyes or lips, experts advise, but not both at the same time so your features don't compete.
"You want to add feminine flair throughout the face if you can't have it on the body through the clothing," says Myiesha Sewell, a Sephora Pro makeup artist.
For a ladylike touch, Wells envisions soft hair with a little wave to it falling over the forehead along with a rich burgundy lipstick, or dark, smoky eyes featuring grey eye shadow, eyeliner and lots of mascara. "Who doesn't want to be a femme fatale?" she says of the "sexy androgyny" combination of feminine makeup and menswear.
If you want to keep the menswear feeling consistent from head to toe, Wells recommends a simpler style that doesn't draw attention to the face: Hair is slick to the head and parted on the side "so it looks boyish," and styled in a low ponytail or bun. Keep makeup natural looking, with clear or pale lip gloss, taupe eye shadow, mascara and a darkened brow to give strength and definition to the face.
However, Wells prefers the feminine face: "It's taking men's style and making it feminine. It's the masculine-feminine — that conflict is always interesting. That tension is what makes it exciting."
Sewell likes to add a shot of bold colour while keeping the rest of it neutral to help soften the straight lines and sometimes boxy shapes of the clothing. For the eyes, try a bold blue liner along with a neutral brown or peach eye shadow. After mastering blue, Sewell says move on to experimenting with emerald or eggplant liner. "One of the easiest looks and colours to wear with a neutral eye is navy blue or a cobalt eye liner," Sewell says. "It really pops the whites of your eyes."
On the runway, man-tailored suits often are paired with classic red lipstick, but Sewell likes purples and magentas and berry shades, largely because she thinks they're an easier colour range to pull off. "It's very feminine and it's going to make the lips look shapely and the eyes will gravitate toward them. It's a modern Technicolor, Marilyn Monroe."
With so much power to the menswear-inspired clothing, why not bring that strength up to the face as well? Says MAC senior artist John Stapleton, who helped bring to life the Victoria Beckham fall catwalk that turned tuxedos and trenchcoats into seductive silhouettes.
He favours a minimalist tomboy makeup look featuring strong eyebrows and cheekbones, which is what he did on the Beckham models.
"If you're going to go for it, you might as well go all the way," Stapleton says. Adding colour to the faces would have distracted from the fashion. (If you really want that girlie contrast, do it through accessories, he suggests.)
This more masculine face features eyebrows that are brushed up and over and set with gel; natural-looking, contoured cheeks with an ashy or taupe blush; and muted, nude lips in a shade close to your own lip colour or created through concealer and lip balm. Mascara darkens the root of the lash line but does not get applied to the ends to lengthen them.
"It's very chic looking," he says. "It's strong. It's commanding. Showing up to a meeting like that, it looks like someone who is going to take over the room and be in control and garner a lot of respect. You don't want to mess with her."