Fashion: A make-over? That's so over

It's a chic, subtle way to get a new look without spending too much at the beauty counter. Meet the make-under.

Everyone has witnessed the power of the make-over. If not in a magazine or newspaper, then most definitely on just-axed morning television show Style Challenge. This, and other daytime shows, have popularised the notion that most people need a team of experts to "make-over" their dull looks into those worthy of a second glance.

This idea may work well on TV, but for real life, forget it. In fact for 1999, as we say goodbye to Style Challenge, it is time to proclaim the make-over as, well, over. The "make-under" is here.

The first known use of the term "make-under" came from an off-beat make- up column in New York-based fashion magazine Jane, which launched in 1997. Each month a Jane journalist takes to the streets to find a woman who literally piles it on - like Dorian Green in Birds of a Feather, but worse. Their examples are hilarious and have become cult reading: imagine a bad perm with growing-out highlights combined with goth/cheerleader makeup. Lip-liner is brown, lipstick is frosted pink. Blusher looks like a bruise, eyebrows are drawn in, eyeshadow has been applied with a trowel. What's really scary is that this woman thinks she looks great.

The make-under process involves scraping the make-up off, and then reapplying it in a similar, but more chic, way. The hair is also cut to enhance the facial features. The results are always fabulous, but subtle, and suitable for real life.

Fast forward to October. The new Selfridges beauty room opens to the public, and one of its glossy parlours is inhabited by Ruby & Millie, the new range developed by Ruby Hammer, (top make-up artist) and Millie Kendall, (make-up addict).

Guess what Ruby & Millie were promoting? Yep, the concept for the make- under had arrived in the UK.

Ruby Hammer had been nurturing the make-under idea for two years. "We had the idea when we began to develop our range in 1996," she says. "We were at one of those seminars which predicts future trends, when the man giving a talk mentioned make-unders. Me and Millie just looked at each other and thought `spooky'."

When their Boots-backed range finally launched in June this year, with its perspex and silver user-friendly packaging (designed by jeweller Sheila Teague from duo Wright & Teague), affordable prices (nothing is more than pounds 15) and approachable colours, Ruby & Millie were firm believers in the make-under.

But before we begin our own make-unders, Ruby reminds us that "a make- under is not a no make-up look".

"It is about refining and improving, or toning down. It is about using less to achieve more. I'm not asking people to buy ten products when two will do. I am a consumer as well as a businesswoman."

All of the women who agreed to take part were looking to change their day-to-day look. And all with the exception of Laura Garrett who, at 16, doesn't even need make-up, wanted to become sleeker, chic-er version of their former selves. At our request, they all arrived wearing their usual everyday make-up

Ruby started by discussing the way make-up is applied. Laura Garrett had her complexion evened out with a few dabs of concealer, but no foundation was used. "She's got lovely skin. Why use it if it's not needed?" said Hammer. Her lips were enhanced with gloss, and her eyes were lightly lined. That was it.

Diana Pepper was keen to get some advice for her forthcoming wedding day in February. "At my age, it's time to re-evaluate my regime," she said. Diana's usual make-up is black mascara - "I never use eyeliner because my eyes are too deep-set" - brownish lipstick, Clarins liquid foundation and loose powder on the T-zone.

Ruby immediately advised her to use a green cream to tone down her flushed cheeks. "Just lightly dab it," she said, " if you can see it on the skin, you've used too much. Once that's done, you can do pretty much anything, and it's time you wore some eyeliner."

"She has incredible aquamarine eyes," continued Ruby as she set to work on Diana with navy eyeliner across the upper lids, and a lighter blue on the lower lid. A highlighter stick was also used to bring out the contour of the brow, and the eyebrows themselves were shaded. Mascara was applied last. Lips and cheeks were left subtle, leaving the eyes transformed, and the hair was softened into a neater shape.

Diana was over the moon. "I absolutely love it. I would never have thought my eyes could look this good. Ruby was so quick, and a bit bossy, but that's good. All I need to buy now is some eyeliner, shadow, and highlighter, and I can probably do it myself for the wedding."

Helen Georghiou needed a make-up lesson and a few slight changes. "I've never even thought about how to apply make-up before," she said, "I just put it on." Ruby removed her everyday slick of Body Shop foundation, Oil of Ulay mascara, brown eye-shadow and orangey lipstick from Estee Lauder, and again went to work on the eyes. "She doesn't do anything with them," said Ruby, "I gave the eyes a flash of gold across the lids, some light shadow, and a wet eyeliner to brush across upper and lower lids. She's got a lovely warm skin tone because she's half Greek, and she hides it under foundation. Why? I warmed it up with a light blush, and offset it with a purpley-brown lipstick and gold lipgloss."

It wasn't a mind-boggling transformation, but Helen was nonetheless very pleased, and surprised. "I can't believe how little make-up it took. I feel like I'm hardly wearing any, yet I look totally different."

Janet Jones admitted that she slaps her make-up on at 5.30am every morning. "I have to be at work at 7am, and I try to retain my femininity. I last changed my make-up nine years ago. Since then, I've lost weight in my face, and developed rosier cheeks." Ruby applied green cream to even out the skin tone, but not too much - "her natural flush means we don't need blusher" - and softened the skin tone with a warm base, loose powder, and used the miracle highlighting stick on the upper cheeks and brow. Highlighting stick is the best new make-up product around, she says.

She finished off by working around the eyes, to bring out their green colour, and then lined them softly. "My main objective with Janet was to work with her skin tone, and bring out her eyes. Everything is subtle. That is what a make-under is about. Everyone here could go out on the street, and look good but not overdone."

The 50s

Janet Jones, 53, surveyor for Thames Water (before, above), after, wearing black shirt pounds 105, by Ghost, from Diverse, 294 Upper Street London N1 (0171-359 8877. Ghost enquiries 0181- 960 3121). Compact base 03, pounds 15; loose powder C7, pounds 12.50; brow-colour beige, pounds 8; purple eyeshadow 530 pearl, pounds 8; white brow-highlighter 100, pounds 8; brown/black mascara, pounds 10; nude 850matt lip colour, pounds 10; nude lipliner, pounds 8

The 30s

Diana Pepper, 36, bride-to-be (before, above), after, wearing black long- sleeved top, pounds 155, by Ghost, from Diverse, as before. Compact base 3, pounds 14.50; loose powder 2, pounds 12.50; Blonde brow-colour, pounds 8; white brow-highlighter 100, pounds 8; purple 500 matt eyeshadow as upper-lid liner, pounds 8; blue 630 matt eyeliner, pounds 7; brown/black mascara, pounds 10; Beige 80 pearl cheek colour, pounds 10; nude 850 matt lip colour, pounds 10

The 20s

Helen Georghiou, PA, 23 (before, above, after, wearing black polo-neck jumper, pounds 30, from Gap, branches nationwide, enquiries 0800 427 789. Base 05, pounds 14.50; beige 800 matt eyeshadow, pounds 8; yellow 230 pearl eyecolour, pounds 8; Brown 940m wet eyeliner across upper lashes, pounds 8; black/brown mascara, pounds 10; purple 530s lipstick, pounds 10; gold 20 lipgloss, pounds 8.50; beige 800 matt cheeks, pounds 10

The teens

Laura Garrett, model, 16 (before, above), after, wearing white shirt, pounds 28, Gap. Concealer duo 1&2, pounds 8; beige 80 matt eyeshadow, pounds 8; brown mascara, pounds 10; neutral 110 lipgloss, pounds 8.50 All make-up by Ruby & Millie at selected Boots. Photographer: Trish Morrissey/ Make-up: Ruby Hammer assisted by Christine Gaunt/ Nails: Sue Fitouri, The Untouchables/ Hair: Craig Mason, Toni & Guy/ Fashion Assistant: Amy Jones

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