Suddenly I had cheekbones: The F-words are back: femininity, foundation, femme fatale. Genevieve Fox tried the new look in Shepherd's Bush . . .

Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Saturday shopping for limescale remover and tights takes on an entirely different complexion when you are caked in kohl and deep red lipstick. It is the season's new look, an unholy marriage of the moody Seventies and the glamorous Eighties. It's a calculated, deadly, in-your- face image that repackages women as both sexy and in control. The wispy natural look has been pushed out of the window and now the pundits want us groomed not grungey - what they call sleek chic.

You'll find it on the cover of Harper's Bazaar, where Nadja Auermann, offered up last year as a long- haired brunette, now has gashes of blusher across her cheeks, blackened Star Trek pointy eyes and lips that look sculpted from red vinyl. Even superwaif Kate Moss has become a babe with attitude.

'The Bitch is Back', trumpets this month's Vogue, urging us to 'think Bianca Jagger, looking moody in a tuxedo. Think flashy clothes and slicked-back hair. Think of Helmut Newton's predatory-looking women in razor-sharp menswear and stilettos . . .'. And the F-words are back: femininity, femme fatale, fatal attraction, foundation . . . .

A make-up artist studiously pasted my face with the latter on Saturday morning. I had decided to give the New Glamour look a test-run: could it feel at home on the pedestrian crossing as well as the catwalk?

By the time she had finished, a pale but contoured surface replaced a weather-worn skin, every spot and blemish wished away. My eyes shimmered with silvers and browns, my eyebrows were heavily pencilled and, best of all, I suddenly had cheekbones.

So I hit Shepherd's Bush, my three-dimensional liquid lips leading. Hitherto a face in the crowd, I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb. Dressed in the nearest my wardrobe could get to a high-definition dinner suit, I wore a loose-fitting, wide-legged pinstripe trouser suit and clumpy boots. The test was whether the make-up alone would signal Danger: Predatory Female.

Since I set out feeling more like Bet Lynch than Bianca, I wasn't hopeful. But the first thing you notice about this brash, non-apologetic look is how confrontational it makes you feel. You catch men looking at you and instead of just looking back or away, your new steely eyes freeze the man's gaze. Suddenly, his stare is no longer irksome. You expect it, invite it even, and you deal with it accordingly.

Women, on the other hand, give you those unmistakable sidelong glances that spell how-dare-you- look-like that. By the end of the day, you don't care.

Next stop was Knightsbridge, where I felt The Look would feel more at home. After the unexpected satisfaction of turning a few heads in the lunch queue at Harvey Nichols' fifth-floor cafe, I looked for the girlfriend I had arranged to meet. I was 45 minutes late, but then again, Naomi Campbell is always late. At first she didn't recognise me. Then I heard a squeal of recognition. 'You look amazing]' she exclaimed. 'You look so glamorous,' she said, her voice trailing off. 'I feel ashamed to look the way I look.'

But eating and drinking threatened to undo my tough veneer. The lipstick came unstuck on my wine glass, on my white table napkin and on my hair, which had been catching on my lips all morning. By the time it came to coffee, the fear that my powdered hue might have turned to a sweaty sheen and that my wonderlips might have vanished altogether - and my magical powers with them - was so overwhelming that I had to excuse myself.

The Ladies Powder Room, for once, had my name on it. My face was covered in the stuff and I was anxious to add to it. Apart from the fact that the rim of my sunglasses had sunk into my foundation, leaving lines, my face was intact. My lips, though still vampish, were no longer dripping, so I retouched them.

When I finally looked up from the mirror I noticed that most of the other women, all pictures of restraint and respectability, were looking at me. Not staring, just looking, clocking me. I suppose they thought I looked vulgaire.

A spell of post-lunch shopping followed and I headed straight for a cashmere shop, not somewhere I would usually dare to set foot in. But the make-up - the red lips much more than the ashen skin and painted eyes - made me feel wealthy and powerful. The assistant did not blink when I asked to try on a pounds 300 cashmere cardigan.

Instead, she looked on approvingly, then mumbled something about shape. She returned clutching a pair of pads which she inserted into each shoulder. Since the New Glamour dictates Eighties power dressing minus the shoulder pads, I tutted and said no thank you.

Then everything started to go downhill just as I was getting used to this new self-image. I was wearing sunglasses again, confident by this time that my lips would take care of everything. Two thirtysomething men walked towards me. One nudged the other. It does work, even with shades on, I thought to myself.

'If she took her glasses off,' said one to the other just as we passed each other, 'you'd die of fright.'

When I asked a teenage girl on the bus home what she thought of my lips, the best she could muster was 'nice'. And the whole look? 'It's all right,' she said. 'But I only like eyeliner and a bit of lipstick.'

By late afternoon, deluded into believing that I had metamorphosised into a Helmut Newton siren, I pushed these negative responses aside in anticipation of my boyfriend's response.

'Aaagh] Don't kiss me with all that make-up on,' he shrieked when I got home. 'Kiss me tomorrow]' So much for film noir's femmes fatales turning men to putty.

Still, I had one more trick up my sleeve: a seasonal metallic trapeze dress to be worn to a wedding party held in a golf club in Barnet. Apart from smearing lipstick on the bride's veil as I negotiated a kiss, I didn't get so much as a raised eyebrow. But my boyfriend had changed his tune.

'You look pretty,' he said.

'Oh] Thank you]' I was delighted. 'I thought I looked horrific.'

'Well, it's a mixture, really,' he added as an afterthought. 'You look pretty and grotesque.'

(Photographs omitted)