In 1965 Truman Capote wrote La Côte Basque, a snippet from a novel that was then in-progress. It was published in Esquire magazine on the same year, and history notes that the piece triggered, or otherwise may have been the culmination, of the author’s downward spiral into depression. The piece was a blunt and catty insight into the lives of high society women who considered Capote as “one of them.” A friend. (“Lovely face. Divine photographed from the bazooms up. But the legs are strictly redwood forest. Absolute tree trunks,” he wrote.)
How harsh it must have been back then, to read about yourself this way. Before there were paparazzi, Instagram and internet trolls, there was only gossip, a practice as frowned upon as, often, the alleged covert shenanigans of its subjects. But as you know, stories — exposés — like La Côte Basque are not uncommon this day and age. It’s said to have inspired the Melanie Benjamin novel, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, and perhaps, indirectly, also spawned pop culture variants that are just as scandalous when they were first aired as La Côte probably was in its context.
Sex and the City was an exposé of sorts, but was cushioned from any possible backlash by its biographical, self-deprecating nature. It helped that Carrie Bradshaw saw herself as a fly on the wall, someone who navigated Manhattan’s elite circles without drinking the Kool Aid, although she did wear their shoes. Gossip Girl has several parallels to Capote’s story — a child of divorce and outsider making it work in the Upper East Side, struggling to get published, while being a favored companion of it-girls. He may as well be Dan Humphrey, whose novel Inside IS his La Côte Basque, his moral dilemma and cause for unraveling.
In what ever context, women will always be interesting subjects of unveiling. Why do we go to the restroom in mobs? Where do the bruises on our legs come from? Why is the Monalisa smiling? A Truman Capote living in 2017 would be beyond perplexed, but he would still have plenty to write about. His words “pink as a marzipan pig” will always be an offensive way of describing a woman or anyone, but these days, that pig would probably gather an unapologetically pink army and expose him, in turn, while the world “Likes” it.
Francois Nars champions rebellion through his makeup collections and collaborations. He invented the cult favorite “Orgasm,” a gleaming, pigmented shade of coral that would’ve made Capote blush. His latest limited-edition Sheer Pop Multiple product is called “Côte Basque,” and it is exactly the shade of red that a high-society lady from the ’60s would wear to make everyone else feel uncomfortable. I’d like to think of it as an homage — and a big fat middle finger — to the repression of that time. The stick shade is rather intimidating, but it goes on sheer and powdery, and blends almost as well as Capote did with his marzipan pink it-girls.
In La Côte, he writes in the voice of a Mrs. Matthau: “…Broke as I was, I went out and hired myself a personal maid. My fortunes rose, my outlook changed completly, I felt loved and pampered. So if I were you, Maureen, I’d go into hock and hire some very expensive creature to run my bath and turn down the bed….” Luckily for us, makeup will do that job just as well — and for less money. Luckily for us, as the experts observed, no woman is too broke to buy new lipstick.
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In the Philippines, NARS Côte Basque Sheer Pop Multiple is available at Rustan’s The Beauty Source.