There are a few works of pop culture that you better know if, to use the parlance of our times, ya wanna get with this.
We must agree that Paul Simon’s Graceland is a top-to-bottom masterpiece. You must have read the Lord of the Rings books, the Harry Potter series, and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, or what would we even talk about? Last, you must have seen and enjoyed The Big Lebowski. Thankfully, my husband ticked all those boxes.
In 1998 when The Big Lebowski was released, I was an undergrad double major art and literature student. That is to say, I dressed more like Walter Sobchak than The Dude. T-shirts, cargo pant/short/skirt things, and lots of combat boots are what Walter and I rocked to feel strong in a crazy world that scared our sensitive and tangent-prone souls. All my least-favorite parts of '90s fashion seem to be back, but thankfully Doc Martins are, too! A big display of them at my local mall led to my musing on this film and creating a makeup “look” entirely around it.
If you haven’t seen it (do so immediately), The Big Lebowski was directed by the Coen brothers and is basically a long, wandering story about mistaken identities, a possibly faked kidnapping, unlikely bros who love each other despite character flaws and possible mental issues, unintentionally hilarious nihilists, and bowling. It’s an amazing ride. It is also very loosely based on the 1946 Humphrey Bogart film The Big Sleep. Despite modest box office returns in 1998, the film has gone on to become a cult classic, spawning Lebowski Fests across the country.
Protagonist The Dude is basically the opposite of a beauty muse, except for the fact that, and I can’t be alone in this, I think Jeff Bridges is a hot old guy no matter what role he’s playing. (OK, maybe not True Grit. Or the first third of Crazy Heart. But still.)
My Lebowski look combines The Dude, the wandering Bunny Lebowski and haughty-yet-fertile Maude Lebowski. Julianne Moore as Maude is sophisticated and gorgeous and pretty much all I ever wanted to be in life as a feminist making art in college.
The bizarre beauty and joy of the movie, in my opinion, is best epitomized in the Busby Berkeley-and-bowling-themed “Gutterball” hallucination sequence. Maude’s amazing Cartoon Lady Viking/Wagnerian Valkyrie look is the hilarious, surreal well from which I drew my makeup inspiration.
My challenge was to create a more subdued version of her very bold, coppery eye look. Copper colors on eyes are super versatile; my baby blues pop next to copper, and so would green eyes, while brown eyes would glow beautifully with this look too.
I always do my eyebrows first. In the film, Maude has pretty thin eyebrows (it was the '90s) and I do, too (thanks, dysfunctional thyroid!) so I just traced my scanty eyebrow line with a flat brush tapped in the lighter shade of Anastasia’s Brow Power Duo in Medium Ash. Then, I patted on Almay Wake Up Under Eye Concealer in light/medium.
Next, I swiped on Lancome Hypnose Doll Lashes mascara. I never did figure out how much a “coat” of mascara is, as I go back and touch individual lashes over and over. Just put on a ton of the stuff until you feel like a glorious, be-bat-lashed drag queen.
Lancome’s formulas make me so happy; they thicken beautifully to build without clumps, and if you scrape the “juice” back into the tube and use the brush semi-dry the Doll Lashes cone-shaped brush does a beautiful job separating the lashes.
Then I applied Lancome Color Design Sensational Effects Eye Shadow in Vue from my lash line to the brow, concentrating on the lids. It’s a gorgeous pinky-coppery shimmer and, as Annie recently noted, the shimmer formulas help with big swaths of color like this because they don’t make hard lined edges of color.
After that came Lancome’s Model from the last line to the crease. The lighter-colored bottom layer of Vue really helps the upper layer of Model shine, a technique artist Maude would know as under-painting. So two color eye shadow ladies: you use Renaissance under painting techniques every time you use a multicolor palette! Maude applauds your artistry!
Last, I used my beloved angled liner brush from Sephora again to pick up a dark brown shadow and I lined my eyes above the upper lash line only with the shadow. This is so easy and it gives a soft, dreamy line... like a dream sequence!
Maude Lebowski, and Juilanne Moore IRL, proudly rocks natural porcelain skin, and I did too. I wore my Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB cream in Light/Medium and topped that with a light dusting of Bare Escentuals Mineral Veil. No blush. Pale Viking chicks, UNITE!
In the “Gutterballs” dream sequence Maude wears a coppery lip to match her eyes. I took that idea and updated it to a more current, and summer appropriate, nude lip.
MAC’s Subculture lip pencil basically never leaves my purse, so I used that first, and then I layered on Sephora Rouge Cream lipstick in Ingenuous. I’d never bought a Sephora brand lipstick and I was quite impressed; for such a creamy, moisturizing formula it gives great coverage and strong pigmentation.
Last, because the color rocks and because Maude’s work is so “strongly vaaaginal!” I finished with NARS lip gloss in the appropriately named Orgasm. I know that line is hyped, but it really is a gorgeous sheer pink with the perfect amount of gold, and pink+gold=copper, right?
Next came the hair. Ugh, the hair.
My original goal was to make soft, beach-y waves like the glorious mess The Dude sports throughout the film. However, it was clear that I am out of my element regarding all attempts to curl my hair. I watched a ton of how-to videos on YouTube (does every teenage girl in America have the same closet doors?) and really tried, but my floppy hair laughs in the face of curling irons and shows flat irons the same level of respect.
But is that very Dude of me to fight my hair so hard? Would The Dude bogart all the power in the house for beauty tools? No. The Dude is too busy soaking in the tub and sipping a white Russian to care about all that, man! I decided to stop being so un-Dude and just let my hair do what it wanted.
All I did was give it a one-sided warrior braid, in homage to Maude’s Valkyrie braids in the “Gutterballs” dream sequence and the fact that the Dude always bowls with one side of his shaggy locks clipped back.
Finally: the toes. The polished toes of Bunny Lebowski play a narrative role in the film, so to honor that I searched high and low for the perfect dark green shade that would match the one she is applying to her toes in an early scene in the film. The best I could do was Wet n Wild Fast Dry nail color in SaGreena the Teenage Witch. Leaving aside that unexpected pop culture tie in, I always wanted to try a shade like this on my toes as it also reminded me of Sally Bowles as played by the amazing Liza Minnelli in the “divinely decadent” Cabaret.
I also tried an accent toe (is that a thing?) in Sally Hansen’s Ivy League from the Xtreme Wear line. A thin coat of that light, shimmery green on top of the dark SaGreena gave my baby toenail a gangrenous look, which is very appropriate for Lebowski.
I love all elements of this look and plan to reproduce them again, though perhaps separately next time--like, whatever, man. The Q abides!
I’m still torn on the green nail lacquer--is it only for drug-addled nymphomaniacs or a decent everyday color? What other '90s movie deserves a character-by-character beauty breakdown treatment? Have you been to a Lebowski Fest? I am dying to go!