Emily Dickinson’s Hope Personified, Complete With DIY Feather Lashes

Emily Dickinson loved a good extended metaphor, so I'm interpreting one of her metaphors pretty literally. On my face.
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Emily Dickinson loved a good extended metaphor, so I'm interpreting one of her metaphors pretty literally. On my face.

Originally, my senior quote read: You don’t have to watch Dynasty/To have an attitude. 

In a fit of panic, I decided that a Prince quote might make me seem so-not-serious when people read the yearbook 15, 20, 30 years later. (Hint: no one cares, ever.) At the last minute, I ran to the yearbook advisor to have it changed to a line from Emily Dickinson. 

Then, in what I can only describe as fate howling in laughter at me, the advisor spelled her name “Dickerson.” Emily Dickerson. Not only have I robbed myself of having a kicky Prince quote that TOTALLY SUITS ME (I was the class clown, for goshsakes), I will be forever remembered as the English major who cannot spell Dickinson.

But like I said, no one cares. And if we really get down to it, Emily is a great gal. How many of us have lifted her signature punctuation style in our own angst-y teen poems? She’s known for being eccentric, secluded and private, but looking back at her style, she was also powerful and innovative. 

Ms. Dickinson most definitely did her own thing, and I like to think that if she were tooting around today, she’d be a proudly single, feminist, sometimes moody, thirty-flirty-and-thriving, modern woman. Perhaps she’d write for an XO site?

Emily Dickinson also loved a good extended metaphor, and in today’s tutorial, we are interpreting one of her metaphors pretty literally. Ah, a twist! When our lovely xoVain reader Brooklynbee mentioned her favorite poem in the comments of my last article, I thought that it would be perfect for a mid-winter pick-me-up.

Hope is the thing with feathers


That perches in the soul,


And sings the tune without the words, 


And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 


And sore must be the storm 


That could abash the little bird


That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea; 


Yet, never, in extremity,


It asked a crumb of me.

Feathers a-perch!

Feathers a-perch!

While we’ve been freezing our bottoms off all winter, that little bird, Hope, has kept the promise of spring warm in our hearts. 

Obviously, I am not a poet, and I’m no professional makeup artist, either. But that doesn’t stop me from playing with either medium. We’ve all seen feather eyelashes, and both Hannah and Mari have shown us higher blush placement and blush as eye shadow. Today, however, we combine that fresh-yet-modern blush with a stoic Dickinson hairdo and DIY feather eyelashes to create a poem personified. That’s not something you do every day, right?

I began by evening out my skin, which usually has some redness, with Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15 in Ivory; it has a bit of a dewy finish and will roll with our fresh-faced theme. 

Since we will be playing with blush placement, we want to make sure it looks deliberate and not like an extension of my rosacea. I applied Revlon Luxurious Color Matte Eye Shadow in Peach Sorbet to my lid and just into the crease, and then I smudged a bit of Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush in Plum Pink to the outer corner of my lid. This product has an almost Playdoh-like texture, and though the color didn’t work on my cheeks, I have found that it makes for an interesting primer of sorts under pink eye shadow.

Welcome to a close-up of my skin texture. We’ll take good care of you here.

Welcome to a close-up of my skin texture. We’ll take good care of you here.

The blush makes this entire look. I wanted to create a fresh look as an homage to spring and rebirth, but I wanted to avoid something too cutesy or baby-doll. A higher-placed blush looks more modern and editorial to me. 

I applied Bobbi Brown Blush in Poppy to my temples and at the peak of my cheekbones. When you suck in your cheeks like you would for, say, bronzer placement, fluff your brush at the widest point. I also applied the blush to the outer corners of my eyelids, and then I blended until the edges were soft and cuddly.

Up close this might seem like a lot.

Up close this might seem like a lot.

I finished my eyes by lining my lower waterline with Rimmel ScandalEyes Waterproof Kohl in Nude. I used Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Dark Brown to thicken up my top lash line. This does not have to be anything super precise--just a line to anchor your lashes in a later step. 

Using NYX Eyebrow Cake Powder in Taupe, I lightly filled in my brows, which I may or may not have over-trimmed earlier in the day.

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To achieve a 19th-century introvert’s hairstyle, I simply parted my hair from side to side just behind my ears. I pulled the back into a low bun. After parting the front down the middle, I made Dutch braids along each side of my head and pinned them into the bun. I am currently growing out bangs, and they didn’t quite want to be tamed into braids, but I gave them a good, stern talking-to. 

With a swipe of original Chapstick from the classic black tube, you have the beginnings of a look.

You don’t have to be THIS intense about it.

You don’t have to be THIS intense about it.

To take the look from modern-recluse to literally-there’s-a-feather-perched-on-you, we turn to feather eyelashes. Now, you could easily buy pre-made feather eyelashes if you want to. You might also buy feathers and glue them to a set of falsies. I skipped all that, mostly because I didn’t want to spend extra money on multiple supplies. I found a way to make a lash out of the feather itself!

You’ll need:

• Two feathers of similar shape and size

• Scissors

•Eyelash glue (I used Duo Dark-Tone Eyelash Adhesive)

• Eyebrow comb (optional)

• Hairspray (optional)

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You can find feathers at your local craft supply store. From what I can tell by looking at the packaging, I can’t tell you much about them. I know that they have been cleaned and sterilized, but I’m willing to bet that they are not ethically sourced. 

You can find suppliers online, like crueltyfreefeathers.com, that collect feathers only after they have naturally fallen from the birds. These are cleaned and sterilized as well. In the US, it is illegal to use found feathers from endangered or migratory birds, but these might not be clean enough to use on your face anyway. This also goes for pet birds. You may be able to collect feathers, but I’m not sure how you would sterilize them. Steam, perhaps? (Also, if you have allergies, don’t do any of this.)

I chose two large guinea hen feathers because, aren’t polka dots fun? Once you’ve chosen your feathers, you’ll want to trim them to eyelash size and also remove the fluffy after-feathers.

Nail scissors are just the right size.

Nail scissors are just the right size.

Then, gently tear the barbs, or little individual feathers, on one side of the feather away from the rachis (that’s a fancy word for the "quill" in the middle of the feather). You’ll want to remove the opposite side from your second feather so you end up with a right and left lash.

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Pick feathers that are close in size. I only included these to illustrate the concept of making two opposite lashes.

Pick feathers that are close in size. I only included these to illustrate the concept of making two opposite lashes.

Begin to work the feather into a lash-like curve. You might also want to use a nail file to soften the tip of the rachis that will be closest to the inner corner of your eye.

This hand movement just emphasizes my tiny bear paw hands.

This hand movement just emphasizes my tiny bear paw hands.

You can use your fingernail to shape the band by running it along the rachis gently. Think of curling ribbon.

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The barbs can be easily reshaped by pressing them with your fingers. You might also use a brow comb to shape the ends of the feather to look more like hair. A spritz of hairspray will hold your chosen shape.

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For this look, I left the lashes natural, and the effect is slightly irregular. Apply at the lash line using an adhesive of your choice. I chose a dark adhesive since my feather is dark and my hand is shaky. If you’ve applied your eyeliner as directed above, your feather lash should sit pretty seamlessly on your lid.

We like a little imperfection

We like a little imperfection.

The resulting look is clean and fresh, and maybe a bit playful. Emily D. goes mod, perhaps? 

Without the lashes, you could easily get away with this for a daytime look. I think feather lashes push it into special-event territory.

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I added a touch of Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Sweetheart to my Chapstick to kick up the punch of pink in the overall look. 

It’s definitely out of my usual tomboy realm, but it’s easily achievable using very few products that are probably already sitting in your makeup case.

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Thoughts? Feelings? Concerns? Questions? Someone told me that this hair makes me look like either a sister-wife or Kelly McGillis in Witness. I can dig that.