Style police: Up or down? The bottom line on eyeliner

Still painting black lines on your upper lids? You're on your own, says Alicia Drake

Remember the early Eighties when you lined your lower lid with kohl and by midday it would coagulate in a nasty glob in the corner of your eye? Well, get ready: the hard-faced, hung-over eye is back.

Part-ethnic, part-raging rock chick, the Patti Smith school of eyeliner is what we should all be aspiring to this season. It started on the catwalk in Milan at Gucci, where supreme makeup artist Linda Cantello sent out moody, darkened under-eyes. At the Miu Miu show, Pat McGrath did blocks of all-round heavy shadow; in Paris the trend showed up at Martine Sitbon and Ann Demeulemeester in smudged and charred-looking lower rims.

"Putting eyeliner underneath the eye, rather than just on top, tends to open the eyes up," explains Cantello, who recommends using a dark eyeshadow for a similar but softer look. "It's also a good way of giving a hard, urban edge and an injection of sex appeal to the femininity of this season's clothes."

But for the die-hard upper eyeliner wearer, the coming trend for lower lines has provoked unease: will it make eyes look smaller, baggier? And must we really ditch our sexy upper line? "It's a bit of a morning challenge to try and put it on for a start," says liquid eye-liner fan, Alice Armstrong. "I have to clean half of it off using at least one cotton bud. There's also the worry that if you don't get it right you can end up looking like the Human League."

But Cantello maintains the new Gucci eye makeup spells "sex on legs" and she's right - under-the-eye positioning does have deeply bedroom and delightfully slutty connotations. Not everyone can carry it off, but there are those who have practised the lower kohl eye all through the years of upper eye-liner only - and to great effect.

Lady Harlech, former muse to Galliano and current inspirational aide to Karl Lagerfield at Chanel, looks divine lined in kohl, while Anouska Hempel won't make eyes without it. Models Kate Moss and Emma Balfour manage to make blackened rims glamorous (never gothic) and for British Vogue fashion editor Tina Laakkonen, kohl all round is standard party wear. Her advice is: "If you do the eyes, then leave the rest of your face alone, don't do the lips and don't use foundation - the skin should stay raw." Before you try this one at home, bear in mind Laakkonen happens to be an ex-model with fine Finnish bone structure.

Anna Marie Solowij, editor of the mail order cosmetics company Beauty Quest Catalogue, has practical advice on how to achieve this season's smoky under eye. "Just sleep in your makeup. It's really the best way to get that minimal but sexy look."

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