How To Wear Marsala, Pantone's 2015 Colour of the Year

Take it as a sign: '90s beauty is back.
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Michelle Villett
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Take it as a sign: '90s beauty is back.

It's officially official! The Colour of the Year for 2015, according to the experts at Pantone, is marsala. 

Like the wine. And apparently like chocolate, too (but I'm not seeing that). To me, it's as if someone stirred up a mixture of red, brown, purple and grey, and came up with this:

Pantone Marsala

Pantone's 2015 Colour of the Year, marsala.

Some people are not pleased. This writer described it as a "rather gross swatch that falls somewhere on the spectrum between blood and poop." (He's not wrong.) Even the fashion authorities at The Cut think it's "icky."

And that may be when it comes to décor and clothing. After 2014's orchid, 2013's emerald and 2012's tangerine, marsala feels more than a little blah.

But around here, we're concerned about beauty—and I say, this marsala development isn't such a bad thing. In fact, if you look back at recent red carpet photos, it was basically inevitable. Makeup has been getting browner and plummier for sure.

And if you think you've seen this all before, well, you're right. You have. Jennifer Aniston was rocking the marsala lips way back in the '90s.

Jennifer Aniston 90s lipstick

Jennifer Aniston's marsala lipstick in the 1990s.

And so was Drew Barrymore, though her lipstick has a more pronounced 'undead' quality, with its greyish tinge.

Drew Barrymore 90s lipstick

Drew Barrymore's '90s lipstick.

(My God, those eyebrows. Girl is LUCKY they grew back reasonably well.) 

Shannen Doherty (a.k.a. Brenda Walsh) was another big marsala-wearer. I'd say it was her signature shade:

Shannen Doherty 90s lipstick

Shannen Doherty's signature '90s lipstick.

Even Britney Spears once wore a marsala-ish colour, circa 1998. And hey—she doesn't look half bad in it.

Britney Spears 90s lipstick

Britney Spears in 1998.

But how the heck do you wear marsala in 2014? Without, y'know, looking like too literal of a '90s throwback? 

Let's take our cues from some of the best looks on the red carpet, featuring marsala lips, eyes and cheeks:

How To Wear Marsala Lips

Kylie Jenner, American Music Awards 2014

Kylie Jenner at the 2014 American Music Awards.

It has to be said. The poster child for marsala is none other than Kylie Jenner. Over the last year or so, she's had a penchant for this exact shade—and I think it actually looks fantastic on her. We can skip the over-drawing of our lips and just copy the shade, which here was MAC Lip Pencil in Burgundy. Looks great with the matching dress.

Kate Hudson, Wish I Was Here screening, 2014

Kate Hudson at a 2014 screening of 'Wish I Was Here'.

I knew I'd also seen this colour recently on Kate Hudson, because I had difficulty describing this shade—it's got that same reddish-brownish-purplish quality that is encapsulated by Pantone's marsala. As you can see, it gives quite a vampy quality against Kate's fair colouring. (Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to find out the exact shade, as Kate's makeup artist Leslie Lopez has been arrested—OMG!)

Kat Dennings, amfAR LA Inspiration Gala, 2014

Kat Dennings at the 2014 amfAR LA Inspiration Gala.

I feel like Kat Dennings is always wearing these marsala-esque lipstick shades. (And arguably, she was one of the first to even start this whole brownish lip trend, if you remember this look from summer 2013.) Here, she is wearing Tom Ford Lip Color in Casablanca.

Kerry Washington, Peeples premiere, 2013

Kerry Washington at the 2013 premiere of 'Peeples'.

On darker skin tones like Kerry Washington's, a marsala comes across less dramatic and vampy, and more like a pretty berry colour. I don't know this exact shade, but it could be Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick in Rich Raisin, which she wears often. The glossy finish makes the look a little more flirty.

Margot Robbie, Academy Awards 2014

Margot Robbie at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Last up, who could forget Margot Robbie's lip look from the Oscars? It's a little more on the purple side, and was achieved with Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in #1 Violet Edition, and Yves Saint Laurent Effet Faux Cils Long-Wear Cream Eyeliner in #5 Cherry Black on top (try #5 Black Burgundy instead). This eyeliner would also be great for getting a touch of the marsala look on the eyes.

Some other marsala lip shades to try include:

How To Wear Marsala Eyes

Kristen Stewart, Met Gala 2013

Kristen Stewart at the 2013 Met Gala.

When I think of these winey, burgundy tones on the eyes, I immediately think of Kristen Stewart. More than once, she's done this kind of dramatic colour, wrapping all the way from the inner corners to the outer edges of the eyes and up to the brows, plus below the lower lash line. Here, she's actually wearing a lip liner (Chanel Framboise) as the base for the eye makeup, with the burgundy shadows from Chanel Les Ombres Quadra Eyeshadow in Eclosion and Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush in Pink Explosion to smoke it out.

Rooney Mara, New York Film Festival, 2013

Rooney Mara at the 2013 New York Film Festival.

Here's a similarly dramatic marsala-ish shadow example on Rooney Mara. Her application is shaped a little differently—more almond than oblong—and there's a little golden sparkle for a brighter effect. Like Kristen, hair is back and the rest of the face is nice and clean, which I think are essentials for pulling off this bold evening look.

Emma Stone, Glamour Women of the Year Awards, 2011

Emma Stone at the 2011 Glamour Women of the Year Awards.

If you don't think you can wear marsala all over (and under) your eyelids, I hear you. This is a pretty idea on Emma Stone, who, for a while there, was frequently matching her eyeshadow to her hair colour. What keeps this pretty wearable is the shadow just applied at the outer edges of the eyes and taken up towards the brows, leaving the other two-thirds of the lids bare. This is also a great application tip for hooded eyes.

Jessica Biel, Hitchcock premiere, 2012

Jessica Biel at the 2012 premiere of 'Hitchcock'. 

Finally, the easiest way to do a marsala eye is Jessica Biel's hint of colour softly smudged around the lash line. She is wearing Chanel Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in Grenat, which was limited-edition, but try Yves Saint Laurent's Long-Lasting Waterproof Eye Pencil in Shimmering Burgundy instead.

Some other marsala eye shades to try include:

How To Wear Marsala Cheeks

Jamie Chung, Virgin America event, 2014

Jamie Chung at a 2014 Virgin America event.

I love a nice plummy marsala cheek for winter, as Jamie Chung is modelling here. Notice how her application is fairly sheer, and concentrated on the outer edges of the apples—I think this helps keep the look wearable and not too heavy.

Lupita Nyong'o, Producers Guild Awards 2014

Lupita Nyong'o at the 2014 Producers Guild Awards.

Of course, darker skin tones such as Lupita Nyong'o's can really handle stronger colours like marsala—so it's a total no-brainer for the cheeks. Not sure what she is wearing here, but a shade we've spotted on Lupita in the past is Lancôme Blush Subtil in Aplum.

Leighton Meester, The Judge premiere, 2014

Leighton Meester at the 2014 premiere of 'The Judge'.

If you have quite fair skin like Leighton Meester, then I would say to use marsala on the cheeks with caution. It's such a strong colour that too-heavy an application will make you look clownish. Here, she is wearing the barest flush of Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure, a modern, soft plum.

Some other marsala cheek shades to try include:

Marsala Nails

By far the simplest way to get in on any colour trend is to paint your nails with it. And you don't need me to tell you how to wear marsala nail polish—I'm pretty sure we've all been wearing it in one form or another, for years already! 

Here are a few marsala nail shades to try:

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Have Your Say

What do you make of this marsala colour? Which is your favourite way to wear it—lips, eyes, cheeks or nails?