Gwyneth in ‘Great Expectations’


There was a lot going on in the Nineties: Grunge, Winona Ryder, Beverly Hills, 90210, the Supers (Naomi, Cindy, Linda, Christy, Claudia, Kate)… But let’s think about the late ’90s, and let’s think about Gwyneth Paltrow—specifically, Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998’s Great Expectations, a film not so much ‘great’ in its retelling of the Charles Dickens classic as in its celebration of, well, Gwyneth Paltrow.

In the film, Paltrow plays the swanlike Estella, the unattainable object of affection for fisherman/artist Finn (Ethan Hawke at his scruffy best). Estella is a man-eating machine in mules (yes, mules, it was 1998) and Gwyneth truly sells it, gliding through the film all shiny golden hair, killer collarbones, and close-to-perfect bone structure. When she reappears in Finn’s life (after a ten year absence) in New York’s Central Park—clad in a kelly-green blouse and skirt by Donna Karan, the designer behind Paltrow’s parade of sleek, pitch-perfect ensembles—you immediately understand why poor Finn will never get over her: she is American beauty personified, and she doesn’t even seem to be trying.

Estella’s relatively natural look (from her tawny teen years to the more polished, grown-up NYC phase) owes a lot to Gwynnie’s kinda-unbelievable DNA: that thin but not un-athletic body; the clear skin, bright eyes, and perfect teeth. But, what’s that we see? Some soft, powdery shading on the lids, well-groomed brows, and—when she’s crushing men’s spirits at clubs, galas, and restaurants—lips painted a matte deep-burgundy shade…not unlike the “stamped on” dark pouts that makeup artists sent down the fall 2012 runways, from Rochas to Bottega to Versace.

It's the rare beauty moment that stands the test of time (we don’t see “The Rachel” making a comeback), but Gwyneth in Great Expectations is more relevant than ever.

Estella’s Essentials

Anastasia Brow Wiz: Full-on, full brows all the time? Yawn. We’re all about Estella’s ultra-thin arches. This retractable pencil has a pinprick point on one end and a brow brush on the other—perfect for drawing those fine lines.

Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer in Porcelain: Minimalist chic also applies to makeup—we're sure Estella would skip foundation and smooth on a lightweight base like this instead, without even looking in the mirror.

MAC Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in Mahogany: Give lip liner a chance. Paired with lipstick of the same color, it actually makes everyone's mouth look more dramatic and sexy.This chocolate-cherry shade is exactly what we’re talking about.

MAC Lipstick in Dubonnet: The ultimate late-’90s lip?Adark berry or brick shade, free from shimmer or shine.

Lancôme Définicils: Eyes can be seductive without piles and piles of mascara. Estella’s looked virtually makeup-free, save for the lightest coat of dark-brown mascara.

Sunday Riley Prismasilk Eye Color in Camille: A veil of cloudy color in the crease makes baby blues pop. This new offering from Riley is the perfect neutral.

Mason Pearson Boar Bristle Brush: Only the best for Estella. She probably would have stolen her Mason Pearson from Ms. Dinsmoor.

Redken Sheer Straight 06 Lightweight Straightening Gel for Fine Hair: Gel was the argan oil of ’90s hair care.This formula preps fine hair for a straight blow-dry without adding extra weight.


Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Claire

    i so agree, she was perfect in great expectations! I wish she would do her makeup in real life like how it looks in the film

  • zoobia

    Great Expectations! I remember the french kiss at the water fountain. Steamy. 90s Gwyneth was super cool.

  • Georgia

    I Love this new addition to the site and cannot wait to see more from 'The Screen Shot'.
    Georgia xo

  • Maquilagemmasstige

    skinny and athletic?! I hate her.

  • Charlotte

    "the screenshot" is such a great new feature! I love all these new additions to the site.

  • Janine

    You are officially in my mind. I found this photo 2 days ago (this photo and the one where she is having her cigarette lit; good view of her eyeshadow). I'm always referring to this makeup and hair. I am obsessed with this scene in Great Expectations. Her brows, her lips, her eyes, her skin. I've searched the Web for the products used for years.

    I even bought Laura Mercier's Pink Grape because Gwyneth wore it in A Perfect Murder. I am obsessed with the '90s esthetic. I wish it would come back. I still follow that minimal look: Carolyn Bessette and Gwyneth. I even miss the days of MilkFed and X-Girl clothes.

    I'm still obsessing about the lipstick Scarlett Johansson applied in Lost in Translation. I just know it's a Linda Cantello. And don't get me started on Sofia Coppola.

    Thank you so much! I ♥ ITG.

    • Bonnie

      Yes! This post just made me smile so hard. I love everything about GP in that movie and could watch it on a loop forever. That certain, perfect green is something I always look for (though maybe not for a whole ensemble) and I also love the dress, and her whole look, when she gets up from the restaurant table to dance and then flee with Finn. Especially nice to see makeup from the 90s that holds up this well; very often I cringe at how orangey-brown everyone's lip and eye colors were done.

      And Janine, I love A Perfect Murder, too. Her chocolate brown shearling coat, and long (also chocolate suede?) slim skirt over boots. The dress at the museum party (actually, I think brown again). Two little details I loved: I believe it was Kiehl's Coriander in the bath. It's one of my favorites and I can smell it now. And weirdly, I loved her bleachy, damaged hair-- short ponytails and visibly trashed ends at times in that movie. Seemed slightly off for that character, but I had my own bleach-savaged hair round that time, and there's something sexy about it, in a ruined way.

      Well. I think I've said enough.

  • AlexC730

    ... "almost perfect bone structure," really??? what possibly is there to criticize?

  • Diana Dai

    One of my guilty pleasures. Film-lovers single it out as Alfonso Cuaron's one directorial misstep, but it has enough of him (his romanticism and beautiful visual eye) in it to make it a fascinating and original adaptation. Ethan Hawke never looked better, and Paltrow is very well-cast as the champagne-cool, opaque Estella.

    • Heather

      agree 100%. this and point break. best guilty pleasure movies.

  • Messamet serdane

    she is so inspiring with her look. I think that all the woman should get her make up art ( even it's not done by herself ).

  • Yeonsoo Park

    "Gel was the argan oil of '90s hair care." hahaha true!

  • Jane and the noisy terrier

    I loved that she was dressed in green in every scene until the last one. Another eye-candy feast? The Thomas Crowne Affair with Renee Russo.

    • Sarita

      Oh my! I loved everything that Renee Russo wore in the Thomas Crown Affair!

    • Biamrose

      Yes...such a good fashion movie!

    • Heather

      Not only was she dressed in green....almost everyone was, and every scene had something green in it. Once you see it, it's like the whole movie is just green, green, green.

      Best soundtrack ever.

  • Reg

    I looooved the late 90's. 1998 is when I moved to NYC. I loved the way women looked then, dressed in clean minimal lines and a clean but polished beauty look. That Carolyn Bessette Kennedy look. It was beautiful and classic.


    Gwyn looks so pretty. Love how she's jutting out her chin.

  • Becca @ The Beauty Sample

    I've never actually seen this movie, but the screen shots are lovely! And love your product picks :)

  • Lou

    I loved the film and she was great in it. Love this post.


  • FF

    gwyneth looks like perfection in this movie - seriously, perfect 90s donna karan designs. besides the fashion/beauty/distinct look, the soundtrack is SICK. pulp's "like a friend" always brings me right to that drawing scene (WAY better than titanic's).

  • MyLuciteDreams

    Love this feature. I simply adore Gweneth in this movie, so classic. I did love the movie. It was incredible sexy and the soundtrack is fantastic.

  • Sara Lynn Hess

    Such a beautiful film. Also, I love the mules from the scene where Estella pops in on Finn for a drawing session. I've basically sworn to myself that if I ever find mules that look that cool, their mine without a moment's hesitation.

  • JohnCantor

    Was a certain kind of gorgeous then, is a certain kind of gorgeous now. Absolutely love that girl. <3

  • Amy

    I loved this movie, and more so because of GP's outfits and performance. Even when I watch the movie now, I am blown away by how timeless she looks. She could probably wear many of those outfits today and get away with it!

  • fashiongal

    I agree with what Claire says. I really love the makeup she has in the film.

  • kate curry

    Love Gwyneth. It reminds me of her quote: Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick. ~Gwyneth Paltrow

  • Star Allen

    Love this! I was absolutely obsessed with the green backless evening gown Gwyneth wore in the film as a teenager -- I was determined to find a knock-off for prom. Alas, that didn't come to fruition.What did happen is that during filming (Ms. Dinsmoor's mansion was filmed in my home town at the Ringling Museum, just up the street from my house) I caught a glimpse of Gwyneth in the back of a car on her way to the airport. She had her head inclined and was gazing wistfully out the window as it began to rain. I seriously idolized her at the time and remember being utterly beside myself. Meanwhile, my poor dad was trying to figure out why on earth I was having such a fit whilst he was driving. Ah the nineties... thanks for taking me back down memory lane!

  • Aliasvivan

    Dubonnet is the best red lipstick ever - and actually isn't brick reddish enough to qualify as late 90s. we were rocking a vampira dried blood element back in those days, trust me.

  • Alex

    What are the eye shadow alternatives for hazel eyes, brown eyes, etc.?


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