Fashion: Off the peg

Melanie Rickey discovers that New York women now prefer a matt finish
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Just before going to New York for fashion week, I got the jitters. New York women, particularly those in the business, are so groomed, so high maintenance, so perfect, that us British chicks tend to feel shabby by comparison.

With this in mind, I set myself a project: to become a New York Woman. I wouldn't hide in dark corners lest someone saw my nails did not boast perfect cuticles: I would go to a nail parlour and get them done. Neither would I hide my hair under a hat. No, instead I'd get a smart haircut and some low-lights.

The nails were easy. My manicurist buffed them to a shine in 20 minutes. Next, I went to John Frieda from where I hoped to emerge looking like an extra from Sex and the City, all volume and glossy shine.

I sat down with Marie, colorist to the likes of Carolyn Murphy, Esther `the lips' Canadas and Christina Kruse, who promptly told me that she loved my shaggy-at-the-ends hair and that my natural colour was just perfect. You're a brunette," she said. "Why change it?" Then I got chatting to a downtown New Yorker with messy blonde hair extensions, who was wearing platform shoes and a cute knee- length print dress. She told me the idea of women being glossy and high maintenance was dated. Women today, she said, are more natural and less contrived. My hair got a quick trim, and a few lowlights to warm up the natural reddish colours.

As I walked on to Park Avenue, it hit me: I'd got it all wrong from the start. Obvious high maintenance is conspicuous. It looks too obvious. Marie was just as high maintenance, but in a different way. Her hair extensions hadn't been brushed for days on purpose to get them to look mussed up. Her clothes were designer, but they didn't shout. Her make-up was natural, but it was there. Eyebrows and nails were perfect, but not embellished.

Next day at the Helmut Lang show, while studying the fashion pack, I noticed something significant. Everyone was "doing" understatement. One girl-about-town usually seen in Manolo's and chic skirts was wearing old jeans and worn JP Tods. Another was sporting designer combats, with flat sequin sandals and a baggy top. Both were trying hard not to look as if they had tried too hard. At that point, I gave up my quest. I'd rather be British woman any day - it's much easier

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