Grading on a Curve: Gradient Nails and Wedding Nails

Believe me, it's just as weird for me to be advocating for neutral polishes and restrained glamor as it is for you to be reading these words from me. But I have layers! Like a parfait.

May 16, 2012 at 5:00pm | Leave a comment

There's this idea that floats around about how fat women have the best accessories. Jennifer Weiner's book "In Her Shoes" expresses this in the relationship between two sisters -- the fat one has MUCH better footwear than the thin one. (This book, like all her books, is not as fat pos as one would hope.)

So I don't know why nail polish is so hit or miss compared to accessories -- maybe it's because so many young fat women feel barred from femme, like pigs in dresses, as one of my blog readers once put it. Fat girls aren't really encouraged to be self indulgent with the grooming time, after all.

I was thinking about this over the past week while I got ready for a friend's wedding. The wedding was fantastic, and my nails were actually the least of my worries -- I had to order a dress and find flat shoes (long story involving a knee injury) and keep up with deadlines at work.

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First gradient, considered for wedding nails - copper and verdigris are two of my favorite colors.

It was in my head to do a gradient nail for the wedding. Gradients have been showing up all over the nail polish blogs -- everything from combined neutrals to clashing colors. There are several techniques to achieve the result, depending on the specific kind of gradient you're going for. Ombre nails can be achieved by layering sheer polish over itself; glitter gradients can be achieved by doing a kind of reverse ombre with glitter polish. And so on.

I've actually been a long-time fan of the ombre gradient -- I don't mean painting each nail a slightly different color so much as painting your nail so that it kind of resembles a dip dye. You paint your darkest color on at the tip and then build up layers of sheer -- one coat over your whole nail, another coat that starts a little higher and so on.

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I dug through my flickr account and found this photo from 2009.

At this point, though, I still didn't have a dress. I grabbed a greenish color and a coppery color and used this tutorial from the Nailasaurus. It was easy and fun and I was actually not at all happy with how it had turned out. I figured that was mostly my fault for picking colors that didn't actually make me happy.

Turns out, it was mostly my fault -- but because I'd skipped dinner and wasn't happy with anything. In the morning, I actually really liked how it had turned out, like copper and verdigris. Which was the reasoning behind the colors I chose in the first place.

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I liked it much better in the daylight, as sometimes happens when one tries new things.

As is generally the way of things, once I'd painted my nails, I ordered a dress that was a totally different color. I'm not one to be all matchy matchy in my day to day, but I figure for a wedding, I can be willing to rein the obnoxious style in a little bit.

The dress was teal; I painted my nails a bronzish gold. Bronze Ablaze seemed like a good idea -- metallic enough for me to be happy without being totally out there for a wedding. Wedding nails often trend toward sheers and pastels, but if you're going to an evening reception, I think you can get away with a lot more.

My nails dictated my color scheme -- teal with gold/bronze metal accents. I had a gold wrap and gold shoes and so on. And of course I have no pictures of my actual wedding manicure. I am kicking myself now.

The day after the wedding was devoted to recovery. Which means I did my nails again, and returned to the gradient idea. But this time, I said to myself, this time I would use glitter.

It might come as a surprise (she said in a certain sarcastic tone) to learn I own very few neutral polishes. Or, um, neutral anythings. But I do own one color, my love of which is utterly inexplicable. That color is Orly's Country Club Khaki. I wish I could link you to a place where you could buy this polish but it is no longer available. There are sometimes dupes -- but, really, finding your own beloved nude-for-you tone is a matter of trial and error. It's not even the color of my skin, but this is what I use for mannequin hands.

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I love you, Country Club Khaki, even though we come from different worlds.

To do a glitter gradient, instead of mixing colors on a plate the way I did for the previous effort, I painted my nails with a single coat of Country Club Khaki. Then I used a random chunky glitter in a peachy pink shade to give myself a pretty solid coat of glitter at the tips.

After that, I just kind of swiped at the rest of my nail with an increasingly dry brush to spread a lighter coat of glitter down my nail until I'd covered about two-thirds of the area. Two coats of top coat later, I was done.

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The traditional in-my-car shot - look at the sparkle in the sun.

I only used one coat of my base color because I knew, what with the glitter, that I was going to need to use two coats of my top coat. I try to keep my polish from building up super thick because it wears better and keeps a better bond with your nail (well, really, with your base coat).

Gradients look really good on nails of all lengths. And it's an easy, if somewhat messy depending on your technique, process. I'm glad I got back into it -- and I still think it would make for awesome wedding guest nails.

Having a little bit of glitter on my tips makes me smile pretty much every time I get a glimpse of my nails. And I think the neutralish colors make it look a lot more elegant than some of my other glitter indulgences. Glitter can be totally glam -- and glam can be really stylish, not just ostentatious.

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Okay, it's not a true neutral anymore - but I love how everyday glam it is.

Believe me, it's just as weird for me to be advocating for neutral polishes and restrained glamor as it is for you to be reading these words from me. But I have layers! Like a parfait.

But that weirdness made me realize something -- as much as I don't really feel the fat-woman-not-allowed-to-be-femme thing, I do feel like "elegance" is a concept far out of my reach. This is in part due to my personality, but in part because elegance is so often defined by a certain very slim and sleek body. This neutral gradient with glitter? Makes me feel at least a little elegant -- in a sparkly kind of way, of course. And that's a surprisingly awesome feeling to get from a couple of bottles of nail polish. Maybe I'll start investing in neutral polishes after all.

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I fell in love with this Godfather-style chair - and, yes, I was using a cane.