Ultra Violet

The season's prettiest palette comes in delicate regal hues.


Underneath the feathered caps at Marc Jacobs’s fall show, models’ cheekbones glowed with lavender blush. Girls at Bottega Veneta showed off shimmering lilac lids—a fitting complement to the house’s slim sheaths. Even the normally prim Rachel Roy had her ladies’ pouts painted a nearly black plum. Sure, showing purples for fall is nothing revolutionary, but recent years have obscured the beauty staple with a fleet of neutrals. This season, however, makeup is getting the royal treatment with ethereal, sheer violet shades that lend an airy touch to fall’s traditionally decadent, jewel-tone hues.

“The last time we saw so much purple was in the Eighties; the colors were very ‘wow’ and worn in a cat’s eye,” says makeup artist Laura Mercier. “Now we’re seeing more wearable tones [that provide] a light wash of color all over the lid.” Mercier attributes the change in part to advances in technology, pointing out that formulators simply didn’t have such transparent, pearlescent finishes 20 years ago. She adds that the new muted shadows are far more sophisticated and flattering than brighter purples, which can detract attention from eyes.

Mercier will debut two sheer eggplant eye shadows for fall: African Violet is flecked with bronze, and Kir Royal is a dusty take on cassis. MAC is also leading the trend with Starflash Eyeshadow in Top Hat, a deep grape that can be dusted on for a watercolor effect, and Lotusland, a dainty pinkish-purple. Elizabeth Arden Color Intrigue Eyeshadow Duo in Black Currant pairs a cheerful lilac with a filmy plum.

“For so long it’s been brown and beige, but that nude moment doesn’t fit anymore,” says Val Garland, artistic adviser of Yves Saint Laurent Makeup. To capture the current mood, she created Ombres 5 Lumières in Lilac Sky, a dreamy five-shade palette designed to create the season’s posh smoky eye. “We’re seeing purple all the way across the board,” she adds. “It’s not just staying with shadow.”

Far from it. The hue is making its way onto lips, which would typically place the look squarely in goth territory. The new shades, however, have been revamped to look less, well, vamp. Chanel Limited Edition Glossimer Delight lip gloss offers a touch of gauzy, icy mauve, and Jane Iredale Just Kissed! Madrid is a chic, transparent amethyst lipstick. Even Urban Decay Lipstick in Vinyl, which appears intimidatingly dark in the tube, wears as a flattering blackberry.

Nails, a recent canvas for crazy colors like orange and yellow, are also taking on a more grown-up tone. OPI’s Parlez-vous OPI?, for one, resembles a patch of lavender swept with dirt. “It looks like I blew smoke into it,” says executive vice president and artistic director Suzi Weiss-Fischmann of the gray-tinged hue. But the nail maven insists that the shade is an everyday staple—and not just for the ultrayoung or the ultramoody. “It’s so elegant, and it works with every skin tone,” she says. Trite though it may sound, she concludes with certainty that, at least for the moment, “purple is the new black.”

Photo: Thomas Klementsson