I have a theory. You know how Cleopatra, Brigitte Bardot and Angelina Jolie are all considered not just icons of beauty but also (if I may be frank) sexiness? Well, I think it has to do with their eyeliner.
Specifically, their cat-eye look. It nevah, evah goes out of style—and it magically makes your eyes look bigger and your lashes thicker. The extended feline flick, of course, is what takes it from everyday, run-of-the-mill eyeliner to sexy seductive. RAWR!
Problem is, it’s one of the toughest beauty tricks to master. Right up there with curling your hair and applying fake tanner, I’d say. I’ve been giving this look a time out for the past few months, but with holiday party season about to start in T minus two days, I’m ready to bust out some of my pet tricks (collected from all the times I’ve interviewed makeup artists about this, and now implanted in my brain). So, because sharing is caring, here they are…
1. Before you start, know what the F/W ’11 version of cat-eye liner looks like.
This is from D&G’s show, and it’s very ’60s with a thick line that appears to be drawn horizontally (but as you can see with the pic at the top of this post, has an upward tick when the eyes are open):
At Stella McCartney the line was thinner and seemed to follow the natural curve of the eye, tapering to pointy ends:
The Lanvin version was very squared-off and meant to look like the girls had drawn it on themselves. So, you know, this could be a back-up plan…
And how could we forget the utterly gorgeous (and probably technically next to impossible to re-create) double lines at Giorgio Armani?
Overall, I think the message is to make your lines more straight across rather than trying to deliberately do a diagonal flick. Think OUTWARD not UPWARD. And, as you can see, these lines are quite deliberate and graphic (i.e., non-smudgy). That means the pressure is on to make your lining job purr-fect! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I’ll stop with the cat jokes now.)
2. Choose the right tool for the job.
The best prodz for said graphic looks are gel and liquid liners, because they dry quickly and won’t smudge. Gels come in little pots like this:
And you use an angled brush to apply ‘em, which is helpful for the precision finish we’re aiming for here.
I find liquid liners trickier, and it also depends on which one you’re using because the tips vary so much between brands. Lise Watier’s is pretty good:
Or you might try a liquid liner pen, which is basically like a felt-tip pen. (They’re also super-easy to use because you can just press the side of the tip to make a line and repeat all the way along the lash line). Stila recently sent me their new one in grey (it’s also waterproof!) and I’m in love:
You CAN use a pencil but they do tend to smear more and you’ll need to sharpen first unless you’re going for a smudgy look. Oh, and please buy a waterproof one: suggestions here.
3. Here’s how to avoid lopsided flicks.
This tip came my way via Lise Watier’s international makeup artist, David Vincent. Have you ever executed a seriously PERFECT flick—but then when you repeated it on the other eye, it came out totally uneven so your eyes didn’t match?
Well, here’s the fix. To avoid looking deranged, you want to do everything in reverse. Start the job by drawing two dots at the point where you want your flicks to END. That way, you know exactly where you have to finish the lines when you draw them…
4. Start drawing at the outer, not inner corners.
I know! Crazy, huh? This follows on from point #3: instead of drawing your line from the inside corner out, you want to start at the outer edges. At the dots!
Why? Because unless you’re pulling a Lanvin, the most wearable cat’s eye is as per the Stella McCartney show, where the line tapers off to a thin point at the outer edges. And you have a lot more control at the beginning of the line than at the end.
5. How to avoid the shakes.
Draw with conviction! That’s advice I picked up from the great Val Garland (makeup artist extraordinaire). She basically said to be fearless and just Draw.That.Line. In one swoop! Come on, you can dewit. You can always go over it later to clean it up.
However, it you still get shaky and nervous—resulting in shaky and uneven lines—feel free to rest your pinky finger on your cheek to help steady your hand. And if you truly can’t do it in one stroke, then your best bet is to do a bunch of short, quick ones and then connect them.
6. After you’ve made one pass, go over the lines again to perfect the shape.
Even if your line looks like crap the first time, all is not lost. Just draw over it again to make the shape more deliberate and fill in any gaps.
I like mixing my materials for this. For example, if I start with liquid liner I might go over it with some gel liner and an angled brush. Think of the first pass as just a guideline—the second time’s a charm.
7. Don’t forget to consider your eye shape.
If you have perfect, almond-shaped eyes then feel free to skip this step. If you don’t… well, know that small eyes will appear larger with a thicker line. (Think D&G instead of Armani.)
As for the wings, if your eyes are round then they are a VERY good idea. Extending out that flick will definitely make them look more almond-shaped.
PS: Skip the mascara on your bottom lashes for a true cat-eye look. Angelina tends to do this—see?
8. Clean up your work with a makeup wipe and/or concealer.
This is your money tip. It’s what you keep in your back pocket to use when all else fails. So your line is a bit messy, a bit too thick… not graphic enough. All you need to do is bust out a makeup wipe and take away what went wrong.
Then take some concealer, on a concealer brush, and paint away any remaining problem areas to make the lines and any pointy bits more precise. I do believe that is what’s happening here:
9. Even if it’s not so on trend, you can still do smudgy.
Smokifying is not wrong. It might not be on the runways so much, but it’s not wrong. If there’s no saving your graphic cat eye, pull a Marc Jacobs and diffuse it out with a brush:
10. Make sure the rest of your makeup is in balance.
I’m not going to say that you have to play down your lips, because some colour there can actually look awesome with a graphic eye… as long as the line is not too thick. Remember this look from Carolina Herrera?
You can even go brighter than this. BUT: if you are doing a big lip and big eyes then my recommendation is to go easy on the blush.
If your lips are more neutral, however, then definitely add a bit more colour on your cheeks to balance things out. I guess it’s all about the blush, isn’t it?
Which one of these looks is your fave?
Have you mastered cat-eye liner yet?
What are your go-to prodz and techniques?