If you’ve seen the 1975 documentary “Grey Gardens,” you know it’s a masterpiece.
This is because of the charm of Little Edie Beale, a woman who never lost her zeal for life despite encountering some unfortunate circumstances. Little Edie’s youth was quite glamorous — a cousin of Jacqueline Onassis, she grew up in the height of luxury. But over the years, she slipped through the cracks of high society, going from a beautiful young socialite to the frustrated, aging caretaker of her mother in a crumbling Hamptons manse named Grey Gardens. As time passed, the estate eventually got so gross that it became a national scandal. Raccoons prowled around the property, and piles of garbage and cat food cans were everywhere. When the film was shot, Grey Gardens didn’t even have running water.
Despite the squalor of her home, Little Edie’s antics in the film captured the nation’s attention and cemented her as a style icon. Viewers loved how she cheekily mugged for the camera, danced around in bathing suits, and her self-described “staunch” personality. Her sartorial legacy has been celebrated by high-fashion stalwarts like Vogue Italia and John Galliano, whose entire spring 2008 ready-to-wear collection paid homage to her. Her influence continues to thrive in popular culture — on the current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, contestant Jinkx Monsoon won a challenge for dressing up as Edie. So in celebration of a singular woman with a sense of style just as strong as her personality, here’s how to create your own Little Edie-inspired look. (You should maybe leave out the cat food can accessories, though.)
1. After putting your hair up and applying your regular foundation, get started with plenty of bronzer.
Since Little Edie loved to swan around outdoors in “swimming costumes” whenever humanly possible, she maintained a deep brown tan. Fake your own by blending bronzing powder under your cheekbones, extending it to your hairline in an upward motion. I used Benefit Hoola Bronzing Powder.
3. Overly fill in your eyebrows.
Little Edie was diagnosed with alopecia totalis in her 30s, meaning she lost most of her hair. This included her eyebrows, which she filled in to the point of looking like a lost Marx sibling. Use a deeply colored eyebrow powder or gel and an angled brush to get your brows looking similarly dramatic and overdone. I did mine with e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Kit in Medium.
4. Brush an eyeshadow that matches your skin all over your lid, then line your upper eyes.
Edie compensated for her missing lashes by going overboard with powdery eyeliner. To give your liner a base, sweep a shadow that matches your lid all over it. Then, take a moistened liner brush dipped in dark grey (natch) eyeshadow and wiggle it into the middle of your upper lash line. You’ll be working outward toward the corner. The shadows I used were from the Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Quad in Mocha Motion, and my angled eye brush came from this Essence of Beauty kit.
5. Extend your liner slightly past the natural end of your eyelid.
Continue to connect the liner from the middle of your eye to past the lash line — the heavier and smudgier your liner, the better. Little Edie wasn’t exactly one for subtlety, so you shouldn’t be either while recreating her look.
6. Now go crazy with some red lipstick.
Remember, you’re channeling such an exaggerated personality — someone who constantly made grandiose observations like, “Grey Gardens is oozing with romance, ghosts, and other things.” You’ll want to reflect that melodrama in your make up. Use a lip brush to paint just a smidge past your lip line to create an outsized mouth. I used an Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics Lip Tar in Stalker and a brush from the same company.
7. Now, add her trademark style fixtures.
Because of her alopecia, she wore a statement scarf over her hair (or lack thereof) every day. Put your hair in a cap or turban (or a bun, if you don’t have either of these things) and drape a scarf over your head, crossing it at your shoulder.
8. Fasten with a vintage brooch or pin.
This will ensure that your head cover doesn’t slip and reveal that, unlike Edie, you have hair. In the world of Grey Gardens, not being bald is a total fashion faux pas.
9. Put on a one piece bathing suit to embody Edie’s pride in her physicality.
In her adorable words, “My body is a very precious place. It’s concentrated ground.” So you too should concentrate on showing some skin.
10. But don’t worry–if you’re feeling self-conscious, just cover up with an old fur.
Or faux fur, if that’s more your style. Remember–your muse lives in a trashed Hamptons estate, so the rattier your coat, the better your overall look will turn out. When else is that going to be true in the fashion world?
11. Now relish in your bizarre fabulosity.
The following Little Edie quote should be your mantra if anyone looks at you askance: “My costumes? That’s a protest against having worked as a model for the Establishment, believe it or not. A lot of models feel that way. Sometimes their lives are protests against having worked as models. Besides, I didn’t have time taking care of mother to get out and buy any clothes. So I used what was left of mine and mother’s in the attic.”
13. Seriously, just go wild. The bigger your gestures, the better your Beale.
Congratulations, you’re ready to mince around like the bizarre queen of Grey Gardens herself, making grand proclamations and talking wistfully about your modeling days of yore. Make sure to keep this essential Little Edie quote in mind as you prance around in your furs: “I’m not ashamed of anything…my body is is a very precious place.” Now listen to mother dear and go feed the damn cats, dahling.
All images by Macey J. Foronda for BuzzFeed unless otherwise stated.
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