Of Hallowe’en, Make-Overs, and Make-Unders

Hallowe’en. Let’s call it “Extreme Make-over Day” from now on, shall we? When people play around with their identity, mask their true selves and pretend to be someone, or something, they’re not. Like Katherine, pictured below. Her make-up is impressive, isn’t it? It’s the work of the very creative Emily Boudreau. Em is the girlfriend of my great-nephew Connor. She’s a talented artist… who occasionally uses friends and family as her canvas. Well, on Hallowe’en anyway.

High Heels in the Wilderness: Of Halloween, Make-Overs, and Make-Unders
Seeing Em’s shot above started me thinking of all the talk these days about women and the “face” they present to the public. Whether it’s women who are in the public eye, like politicians, broadcasters, and movie stars, who are criticized for what they wear. Remember Hilary Clinton’s infamous pant suits? Or what they look like, and whether they have had, or should not have had, plastic surgery. I’m thinking of Rene Zelweger, in particular, here. Or whether it’s just us regular people. Those of us who put an effort into our appearance each day, and are criticized because we, maybe, stress just a little too much about what we look like when we show our face in public. Or those of us who choose not to stress about our appearance, as long as we are clean and tidy and comfortable.
Okay. Okay. I can hear the guffaws from my family and close friends at my choice of pronouns in that last sentence. Sometimes I would love to be in the latter group. Able to haul on jeans and a tee-shirt, run a comb through my hair, and then run out the door. And not feel like crap all day because I know that I look like crap. Just running a comb through my hair in the morning is not an option I have ever considered. Not with my curly, tendency to frizz, mind-of-its-own mop. And while I  have never stayed away from work because I was having a bad hair day… I have been known to go to work… sick as a dog… because I was having a good hair day that I didn’t want to waste. I’m only half joking here; I also couldn’t find a supply teacher to fill in for me. Yep, I sometimes think that the Wonder Bra TV commercial from the 70’s was written for me… ♫ When I look good, I feel good…la la la ♫ And vice versa.
As I commented on Jennifer Connolly’s blog A Well Styled Life, in response to her post the other day about “Invisible Women“… I think I’m “hard-wired” to care a little too much about my appearance. I can’t imagine going to work, or out for lunch, or even for coffee with a friend without doing my hair and make-up and considering what outfit would best suit the occasion. When I was a kid and my mum was a single parent raising four of us and working full-time, she never, ever left for work without her hair done, make-up on, and her clothes neatly pressed. She might not have been able to afford the latest styles, but she sewed a new cotton sheath dress and pinned a little scarf to it in the summer, or wore a festive brooch on her coat in the winter. To this day the smell of Adorn hairspray reminds me of Mum standing in the bathroom in the morning, in her slip and nylons, getting ready for work. Like I said, I’m “hardwired” to do the same. Well…without the nylons.

In fact, when I was working, I used to joke to my husband that I was a make-over “before” and “after” shot every day. See.
And I don’t consider myself to be high maintenance. Not like women who have to step in front of a camera every day. Like Australian television personality Tracey Spicer. You’ve probably by this time heard of Tracey Spicer, who made headlines last year with her Ted Talk about eschewing her burdensome beauty regimen. I heard about her on CBC radio last fall. You can read about her big “reveal” and listen to her Ted Talk here.


I don’t disagree with Tracey’s overall premise that women are pressured by society to present an unrealistic image of themselves. I do, however, disagree with some of her conclusions. That the time we spend on “grooming” each day cuts into our job “productivity” and ultimately our “earning power.” She quotes lots of statistics, one of which is that women spend an average of twenty-seven minutes a day on grooming. And she suggests that we could be spending that time more productively. Like maybe working? Don’t North American workers already spend too much time at work and not enough time on themselves compared with workers in many European countries? Does everything have to be linked to ones’ “productivity?” Maybe “grooming” is important in other ways.
I don’t know about you, but I consider my twenty-seven minutes a day “me” time. When I had a stressful job, with responsibilities for my students, my department members, multiple committees at both the school and the board level, extra-curricular activities etc etc… that half hour doing my hair and make-up in the morning was quiet time when I could get my head straight and think about my upcoming day and week. Hubby would bring me a cup of tea, and as I waited for my flattening iron to heat, I’d review my class preps, a meeting agenda… whatever. And when I emerged from the bathroom, I was groomed, caffeinated, organized, and ready for my day.
Since I retired, I spend a lot less time daily on hair and make-up. Now that I’m not going to work, most days I sport a  kind of “make-under” look. I never wear make-up when Hubby and I walk, or cycle, or hike, or ski. I never wear make-up camping. D’uh. That would be silly, as far as I’m concerned. If I’m doing errands, shopping for groceries, running to the drug store, the library, and the post office, I usually apply tinted moisturiser, some mascara, and a little under-eye concealer. But for shopping downtown, going out to lunch or dinner, to my book club, or to a party I add eye shadow and liner, blush, lipstick… the usual. I always do my hair. Always. And I don’t feel that I’m covering up the real me, wearing armour, or hiding behind a mask. I really don’t. It’s just that I have three faces that I present to the world:  my make-up-less, wilderness, fishing, biking, skiing face… my daily running around town in my jeans and sneakers face… and my going out, high heels, dress-up face. I wouldn’t wear my Gortex jacket and my hiking boots to a party, or my high heels on the ski trail. It’s the same idea. But with make-up.
This is a shot of Hubby and me. We’re displaying our cycling/ ice cream eating faces on Île d’Orléans last summer.
I don’t argue with Tracey Spicer’s decision to ditch her arduous hair and make-up routine. I also don’t disagree with her admonishments to society for making women feel that they are judged on their appearance, instead of their actions and intellect. We should be judged for what we achieve and not what we look like. I don’t disagree with Spicer’s idea that unnecessary personal grooming can interfere with more important activities. I mean, she says that she spends forty-five minutes a day on her hair alone; now that is a little extreme. But I also happen to think some situations call for us to take a little more care with our appearance. Maybe not forty-five minutes. But twenty-seven sounds reasonable. I don’t think that makes us slaves to social pressure. Or less productive. Just appropriately turned out.
Like scary clown make-up on Hallowe’en. That’s totally appropriate. Good job on the make-up Em.

So where do you stand on the whole make-up, make-over, make-under thing?


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48 thoughts on “Of Hallowe’en, Make-Overs, and Make-Unders”

  1. Another thoughtful post Sue . Interestingly , your example of the Australian lady seems prettier in the second pic – less polished but softer ,more individual & younger . With make up she seems to be wearing a mask & just looks like many other TV people As most things in life , it seems to be about balance . I too have three levels of makeup , I wouldn't dream of wearing makeup for dog walking but it is a major part of ' going out ' & there is a ' looking tidy ' level in between . On the other hand ' beauty treatments ' leave me cold . I don't do spas , professional treatments/ manicures etc . Friends tell me it is wonderfully relaxing but I'd much rather read a good book & , to be honest , I find relaxing very easy !
    It would be interesting to see your wild curly hair in its natural state sometime , just for comparison you understand 🙂
    Wendy in York

    1. Thanks, Wendy. When we were in Australia in 2008 we found the TV news readers even more made-up than the ones on American TV….very lip glossy and hair sprayed. I have a facial about twice a year, and go for a pedicure twice in the summer. I don't go for the pampering…which to be honest kind of gives me the "willys"…all the soft music and hushed voices. And I have a hard time with someone giving me a pedicure…I end up talking to the girl about how her back must ache at the end of the day etc etc. Must be the guilt, eh?
      Oh yeah… I'll get right on that photo shoot of me in my "camping hair"…haha All frizz on one side and flat on the other from sleeping on one side. Hubby says that, when we're camping, he can't wait to see each morning what kind of shape (square, triangular etc) my hair will be when I roll out of my sleeping bag.

  2. I think you look good without make-up as you have a lovely complexion.
    With make-up you look great. When we are looking our best, girls and guys alike, we feel better
    and are more confident. My make-up routine is just like yours.

    1. Thanks, Edda. Hair is more important to me than make-up. But you're right… a little tinted moisturiser and some mascara go a long way to making me feel more confident.

  3. I enjoy putting on makeup. Granted, I don't wear that much, and not all the time. But putting on makeup for me is when I know I'm getting ready to do something other than just sit at home all day. 🙂

  4. Interesting post, Sue. I think you look nice with makeup and just as fine without. I did makeup in my 'teens but pretty much gave up on it once I was in university–too busy and, hey, I was young. Now nearing 60, I still don't do much: tinted moisturizer and some lipstick and blush, but never eye makeup because I find it irritating. I don't color my hair, either, just blow dry for less than 5 minutes. I suppose that there is a dissonance between my efforts to look pulled-together each day in terms of my clothing and accessories, and my relatively unadorned face and plain hair, but I like to be reminded when I look in the mirror each day that it's ok to be getting older and there's not a lot of life left to waste.

    1. Thanks, Dianne. I'm kind of attached to my crows feet. I think they make me look grown up and like I have a brain. I haven't made the leap to stop colouring my hair yet. My sister did a few weeks ago. She went from dark brown to all grey in three months. Now it's very short and spiky, and totally grey with while bits… and she looks fabulous. So chic.

  5. I was so glad to see you wrote this post, Mrs. Burpee! (I have to still call you that – I don't know how well I could adjust to calling you Sue). Just the other day I woke up in the morning and was horrified with what I saw in the mirror! My bangs were sticking straight up into the air, my eyes were puffy, and it looked like I hadn't slept in days. I thought to myself, "What on Earth happened to me last night???" But, of course, after wetting and flattening my bangs, and doing my usual make-up routine (similar to yours – minimal, and performed in less than 15 minutes usually) I looked like a brand new person. I made a point of texting my friend that morning, who I always talk to about our love for make-up and how it makes us feel better about ourselves and has nothing to do with being a "tool of society" pressured on females etc etc etc, and said "My favourite part of the day is waking up and looking like sh** and then putting on make-up and looking decent" (my exact text message). She responded with, "Definitely!" My point being that I had many of the same thoughts as you just last week. I agree that I do not see make up as I way to hide my identity and cover up my real face – of course in the summer weather when someone asks me to hop in the lake or pool, I will be the first one to do so and I do not worry a thing about my "made up" face or hair. I also do not see it as a waste or productive time either, as I assume if I was a person who did not wear any make-up I would merely sleep 15 minutes more than I do now. I agree with you in the "3 styles" type of idea because I do think make-up can sometimes become an addiction (and an expensive one at that) that I am seeing recently with many of my old high school/college aged friends to the point where it may actually be hindering their productivity due to the amount of time and money they put into their face. That type of make-up regiment sometimes scares me because it does seem like their everyday being is now a Halloween costume … Thanks for the post! Love reading your blog and really felt the need to reply to this one!!


    1. Ah Sarah…er… I mean Ms. Taylor. You are so cute. Love that waking up looking like sh** thing and then transforming myself with some tinted moisturiser, a little concealer and mascara. I can't imagine going into a professional situation without make-up, neat hair, and appropriately dressed…. whatever that may be. One day I must do a survey of former students and ask how they felt about teachers who showed up in class looking like they just crawled out of bed. No names of course. Now that would be an interesting conversation!
      Thanks for reading my blog and keep the comments coming, kiddo.

  6. I put on make-up every day..whether I'm at work or not..even if I'm watching grand-kids..I want to look good for them..I guess it's "to each her own"..I don't care what any one else does, but I feel great when made-up and don't think anymore about it all day.. as for clothes..it is fun for me to put together outfits..I do it the night before, checking the weather so I will be dressed according to the heat or cold..then when I get up I don't need to think..I can jump in the clothes..I do this whether it is a work day or grocery shopping day:) I love your posts because it is very similar to what I do..Coco

    1. I do the night before thing too. When I was still working, on Sunday, I would press a selection of blouses or pants or whatever needed ironing for the upcoming week. Then each night I used to fall asleep thinking of what I would wear the next day. Some would call that obsessive. I call it organized. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

  7. You look marvellous in both pictures! Just sayin'. I've never done the make-up and hair thing. Probably should, but never really been interested. I have short, rather straight hair. And no eyelashes to speak of. My makeup regimen consists of the aforementioned comb and go. But I make sure to add a smile. Mom always said the best face-lift was a big smile. Fast. And easy. 🙂

  8. Hi Sue, I'm not one for a lot of make up, at most I'll put on tinted moisturiser and blusher, bit of lipstick. I have no idea what to do with my eyes and am considering making an appointment with your make up gal in Nordstroms. I'm more interested in skin care – although I will probably pay dearly for my forays into the Halloween supplies!

    1. I've always been a make-up person, learned it first from my mum and my two older sisters. It's hard to make that foray into the unknown. I'd trust Katie to be very helpful. You just have to let her know your specific requirements. She's really approachable. And she'll tell you herself that your emphasis on skin care is spot on.

  9. Another great and thoughtful post echoing my thoughts and actions. My additional comments would be that even if walking, gardening, anything outdoors I wear sunscreen. I have fought my curly hair for many years and finally a few years ago I just let it go one summer and everyone commented that it looked good so that's how it has stayed. Still needs work though to keep it looking good but oh so much easier, sometimes a quick 'fluff' in the morning and I am ready to go!!!

  10. I love this post. I have worn make-up every day since the age of 16, if I could sneak out the door on my way to school without my dad seeing the eyeshadow and blush. LOL To this day, at age 61, I still put make-up on every day, because I don't care for the appearance of my skin without it. It has nothing to do with how society sees me, and everything to do with how I see myself. My make-up these days takes all of 5-10 minutes, and I rarely do my hair because I am usually home. If I am leaving the house I flat iron my hair, or pull it back in a neat ponytail and don a hat. I have never seen the public, the media, magazines, or TV as trying to convince me that I need to look a certain way as a woman. I simply enjoy seeing my reflection in the mirror looking a 'certain way'. People make too much out of this entire subject and say that their young girls feel pressured to look the way that TV and magazines say they should look. I've always thought that if we as women raise young, healthy, strong minded and intelligent daughters that they will not be swayed to look the way beauty ads say they should look…. as mothers it is our responsibility to speak to our daughters throughout their lives and make them understand that they are beautiful with or without make-up.

    1. Good points, Pepper. I think that strong role models are important for girls as well…. their mums and other women they meet. Like teachers:)

  11. Groomed and caffeinated the essential way to begin the day imo. Love the transformative power of a little makeup. I remember doing mental makeovers of teachers during my school days and always appreciated those who made an effort. Superficial or maybe a consequence of being a visual learner! Enjoyed this post interesting as always Iris

  12. For me it's habit and self respect. My Mom sounds very similar to yours and I'm hard wired to put effort into my appearance! 45 minutes on hair alone seems crazy! The only time I don't do my hair and make up is if I'm rushing to the emergency room ! Call me nuts but I would wear make up if I was camping. Of course my idea of camping is a 45 foot motorhome. Great post!

    1. Love your idea of camping. Whatever happened to the motor home plan for you and your husband? I loved reading that series of posts when you went on your "experimental" motor home trip.

  13. I agree entirely. We should not be judged on our appearance alone, but we are. Some women take the preparation to meet the world to the extreme but I, like you, nearly always present a made up face to the world – even when walking or going to Pilates! I just feel better with it. I don't have to do much to my hair except run fingers through it; I stopped colouring my hair this year and have had lots of compliments on my silvery grey locks which surprised me. I have gone shopping and out and about sans make up, but I feel better (and look better ) with it on. . I also actually take great pleasure in doing my make up and organising my outfits and trying to look my best – it's one of the fun parts of being a woman!
    I've just started to blog , (today) in fact, if you would like to check it out: http://vronni60s.blogspot.co.uk/

    1. Me too. I do venture out without make-up, sometimes I stop to pick up a few groceries on my way home from my power walking if I go to a nearby trail. But I always wish I could leave my sunglasses on. Only where I live that would make me even more conspicuous. I will definitely check out your blog:)

  14. I totally agree with your post. I think that makeup is a personal choice for any woman, but I have always chosen make up. I love to "play" with my face. I like to be presentable even when going out to get groceries. I'm not doing it for anyone's approval, I'm just doing it for me, because it makes me feel good when I look like my hair hasn't been dragged through a combine. (I have what I term "unfortunate" hair). Quite frankly, I think it would be nice to see people presentable and perhaps overdone, rather than the opposite which is the standard pajama bottoms, hair falling out of a hair elastic, revealing tank top, and shoes you just slip your feet into. Didn't a Seinfeld episode once feature sweat pants and that the message is you've given up if you are wearing them. I feel that way about pajama pants. Anyway, I feel like it is one of the pleasures of being a woman, being able to change our looks a little with makeup and hairstyles. -Jenn

    1. I too dislike the contradiction of a too baggy & shapeless pajama bottom and a too tight and too revealing tank top. Okay at home on the sofa….not out in public, as far as I'm concerned.

  15. 10 minutes MAX to do my makeup. 5 is more like it. Hair? Thats more work, but in a pinch, 15 minutes. And when I dash out looking like crap (and I do)… I ALWAYS regret it! Those 5 or 10 minutes make a huge difference in confidence, and confidence is huge.

    1. It's always the dashing that does me in. In too much of a hurry and just need that one thing at the store. And I usually run into someone I know. Don't the British call that Sod's Law???

  16. I really only put on face powder, a little neutral color eye shadow, and a lip gloss for my day to day look — if I'm going out to dinner or something, I will play up my eyes a bit more with different colors in the shadows and under the eyes as well, and mascara. But I don't wear lipstick. Just colored gloss. And no blush. Funny, I used to model and I always loved make-up. But, I'm the mom of ten now, soon to be eleven, and make up just isn't my thing anymore. I'm just a bit more natural now…I guess out of necessity because I have no time or not a real reason to ever really do up my face, except when I got "out" and that's just not happening these days!

    1. I can imagine that with a house full of kids, you have little time for make-up. I think that's why my mum got up so early every morning when we were children…to have an hour to herself.

  17. A really interesting post Sue. I can identify with all of it!! I definitely choose hair over make up! That is, if my hair looks good …to me! I can do without make up but never the other way around. I say good to me, as my husband definitely prefers my hair left to air dry …curly and wavy. Maybe because that's how it was when we met which was fine in my early 20 s but feels uncared for now …. except on the beach, by the pool or camping! I feel blessed that my red/auburn colour has remained except for a little grey at my temples…I'm 57. Make up wise it's tinted moisturiser, blusher, mascara, lipstick or balm and eyebrow pencil to softly fill in the gaps! To quote Bobbi Brown …it's me only better!
    I also find it interesting how some days we think we look great and others dreadful!! While to other people we probably look exactly the same!! 🙂
    By the way, I think you look great without make up! .. and that your make up enhances your looks and doesn't change you …the Bobbi Brown quote again!!

    1. I forgot to mention that I do the eye brow thing too. It's one of my "musts" along with the tinted mosituriser and mascara. I learned that from Bobbi Brown. I'm amazed at how much less other eye make-up I need when I have a little more brow colour…. and fill in the gaps, as you say.

  18. Me again! So busy concentrating on not loosing my comment before it published … a regular occurrence 🙂 that I forgot to add how much I love the photo of you and hubby showing your "ice cream eating faces" it's such a great photo of you both.

  19. Great Post! – I'm not an "everyday" make-up wearer currently but I totally agree that on the days I have decided to wear make-up it's not a waste. It boosts my confidence for the day which in some ways would make me more effective at work etc. There are many ways people can be more efficient or productive but I don't think eating into our "me time" is one of them (considering how little we get anyways) – Fab pictures and very insightful, thanks for sharing #Allaboutme

    1. I agree Charlotte. If I were to stop doing my make-up routine (ha…like that's going to happen) it wouldn't be so I could be more "productive."

  20. I honestly can not remember the last time that I went out in the public without makeup. My routine isn't time consuming (maybe 10-15 min) so I don't see it as unproductive time at all. In fact, I find it important for me to feel good go I feel great mentally to start the day.


    Hope to see your Thursday for TBT Fashion link up.

  21. Interesting post.

    I certainly believe to "each his or her own". Most of the time if I wear any makeup it is some lipstick before heading out the door. I have naturally blond hair but get it dyed red so I get my brows dyed at the same time and have lash extensions so that you can see my invisible blond lashes so I don't need to apply mascara which bothers my eyes anyhow. I generally spend 5 minutes a day on my hair and face (sometimes less). If I'm going out that'll go up to 15. More than that and it is for a party in which case…who knows how long I'll spend.

    I think the fact that I don't rely so heavily on makeup daily means that I freak out less if people I know see me without makeup. I think we become conditioned to recognizing ourselves in the mirror based on an internal image we have of ourselves. If that doesn't replicate the one in the mirror it is confusing (and maybe depressing).


    1. Interesting ideas, Suzanne. I agree that once we see ourselves with make-up on… that's how we see ourselves. And without it looks…well, odd. On the other hand if make-up is done properly we just look more rested and a bit more defined. Good idea about the eye-brows and mascara. That's what I need to consider:)

  22. HAHA! Love this post….. For me, the one day (every two years) that I don't make my bed or put on even the slightest of makeup is most definitely the day I'll have company galore. Drives me crazy! Janie

  23. Your makeup is awesome. I always put some on if I'm going to a social event – day or night. But to Whole Foods? Especially since I usually go after the gym these days? No. I do think making an effort is a good thing, but, I don't like that men and women have such different levels of effort they have to put in.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. I agree but most of the time I don't mind putting in the effort. And since I've made power walking such a big part of my week, I tend to me in the grocery store more and more in my Gortex jacket and my old UNB baseball cap. I don't mind so much that I don't have make-up on…. it's just the hair. Flat on one side and sticking up on the other. Hats are required:)

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