The French Kiss


“She’s a cool girl, no bullshit,” Tom Pecheux told me at the fall Isabel Marant show a few weeks ago. “I’m dabbing a beige Estée Lauder lipstick all around the lips and in the middle, a darker one—still dark nude, but in the center, to give voluptuousness. It’s the French kiss!”

“Wait, that’s a thing?” I asked.

“Well, you know…”

“Like you’ve been making out?”

Then, Marant breezed by and whisked him away. Wait! I wanted to scream, but of course, you’d never do that in front of Isabel Marant. But here’s what I surmised: a French Kiss is a mouth that looks like it’s been made out with. Think of it as the opposite of that infamous, enviable, perfectly painted-on, not-quite-orange-but-just-shy-of-red lip that J.Crew (and a handful of street-style stars) have made famous. The French Kiss is a mouth that is worn-in, or, more precisely, worn off. FROM FRENCH KISSING. Or heavy breathing into a microphone at Coachella. Or, you know, six hours of real life.

In the opposite of real life—backstage at Christian Dior, two hours before Marant’s show—Catherine McNeil was not making out with anyone, but she was enjoying a lollipop while rocking a decidedly French Kiss mouth. Pat McGrath was deep into a multi-part makeup process that utilized fuchsia lipstick, powder, and a helluva lot of tissues, blotting down and building up models’ mouths to achieve a haute-er version of the multidimensional, soft-focus pout that you’d normally be sporting after your lunch break, or that you’d see in your rear-view mirror on the way home from work. It looked that Sky Ferreira, my-lips-have-frostbite way.

So. Let’s say you want to do as the French—or particularly amorous among us—do and say "Pfft!" to ‘long-wear.’ What to do? Very little! Your choices are: a) Smear on some Ruby Woo in the morning and never look back (literally…go forth, let it deteriorate throughout the day, and feel confident knowing that reapplying your lipstick is so 1957); b) Paint some Benetint in the center of your mouth, extending outwards, for a Prada-esque, wine-stained look; or c) Go the reductionist route: Kate Young, who’s been styling Ferreira lately, was at the Gloffice earlier this week and mused, “Sky always gets it right with the lip.” To demonstrate the technique, she found a mirror, whipped out her trusty Dragon Girl pencil, smeared it on in one big circle with what appeared to be one eye closed, grabbed a tissue, and wiped her mouth clean. “There! That’s it. It just looks…” Wait—let me guess. Like a cool girl, no bullshit? “Totally.”

—Emily Weiss

[1-3] Catherine McNeil photographed by Emily Weiss backstage at Dior Fall 2013 in Paris on March 1, 2013; [4-6] Katya Riabynikina photographed by Emily Weiss backstage at Dior Fall 2013 in Paris on March 1, 2013, [7] Jessica Stam backstage at Prada Fall 2013, [8-9] Sky Ferreira, [10] Courtney Love

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  • Quinn Cooper

    Love this article! It seems Tim Pecheux just make that up on the spot! But I love it. It sounds super sexy and gives an air of mystery.

    Quinn Cooper Style

  • Somebody from Somewhere
  • Miriam Jacks


  • travellingfemme

    The whole darker in the middle of the mouth thing reminds me of the Korean/Asian models/stars and how they do their lips. Just check out Jung Saem Mool on youtube. She's done it on every model for years.

  • Nomadic D.

    Ha! The description of Kate Young's application process totally cracked me up! But if it works... Plus it sounds like it takes about 4 seconds to do your lips that way. I think all these girls look amazing, but I also do think it takes a pretty naturally full lip to be able to pull it off, no? Most of us can't actually spare that much lip...

  • Tina@OurWonderLust

    I've seen this look done for quite some time now, but I've never heard it called the french kiss! Genius. Makes the look even more alluring- a bit sexier than the "popsicle" look which I've also heard.

  • Holly

    One of the other commenter's is correct -- this isn't a French kiss, this is a Korean makeup technique that's been happening for awhile now. :)

  • mimsy

    Love this with MAC's Mistress lipstick...It wears down to an even better color and doesn't get all flaked out. Key issue with worn off lipstuff: making sure that people get that you're a free spirit as opposed to just some chick with dried out lips who's too lazy to do anything about it.

  • Dinner

    Sorry, but this is a Korean thing that's been happening for a while now. Not a "French kiss". Also the technique used by Korean MUAs involve using a stain on the inner part of the lip and then using a flesh coloured lipstick on the outer part of the lip, blotting, and then using a light gloss. It's the lollipop-stained lip look.

  • Neelam

    AHH I swear this is what I do every single day. Put on lipstick, let it sit for about 5 min while I do the rest of my face, then I start rubbing it like crazy, then put on some burt's bees and I get this result. love this!!

  • amelia

    Catherine McNeil is gorgeous wow

  • Sabrina

    Have just decided this is my new favourite way to wear lippy. Testing it out tonight! Love from Australia.

  • Alyssa Gapske

    I love that look. Speaking of the J.Crew coral, CoverGirl's outlast lipstain pen in Flirty Nude is that perfect red/coral "like your lips but better".

  • kate

    a red popsicle will also do the trick!

  • Lucy Apted

    Perfect, but a lollypop could surely do the same thing?!

  • Isabel

    I've been doing this 'look' for a while now not knowing it was a thing! I use lip stain (benetint, actually) in the middle of my mouth and sort of feather it out... I don't like the 'done' look that comes with a perfect line of colour around the edges of your lips, especially not for day. Good to know that I know what I'm doing ;)

  • kiss technique

    Thanks for sharing this kiss technique tips