that intro paragraph is my way of saying "i'm sorry that i'm only reviewing this item now that it seems to be sold out everywhere".
i haven't followed kat von d's makeup releases, although she increasingly seems to be a major player in setting the course for the makeup world. as one would expect of a line modeled in the image of a tattoo-artist-cum-pop-culture-icon, the products have a darker edge, and, to the credit of the development team, they seem to have their finger on the pulse of what [mostly younger] makeup lovers who want to push the envelope a little are looking for. and this spring, what they were looking for was apparently "pastel goth".
although i sounds like an oxymoron, pastel goth is a thing, nicely summarised here by buzzfeed. basically, it's a trend heavily influenced by japanese subculture that combines goth elements with the cuteness of kawaii. its intrinsic adorableness makes it difficult to pull off as an all-over look if you're old enough to drink legally, but incorporating its influence into your makeup is somewhat easier. "somewhat", i say, because kat von d's pastel goth eyeshadow palette isn't exactly office wear. there are a couple of conservative staples [one of which i feel was a mistake], but it's mostly colourful and fun.
although there was apparently some debate online about whether or not the palette met the proper definition of "pastel goth", the shades included to definitely remind me of the chalky/ waxy pencils i remember from art class. they're mostly light, but fairly saturated, giving them a sunny brightness. the shades are also powdery, which is something i've grown to expect from matte eyeshadows, especially in these sorts of colours. there's a tendency to confused "light" with "muted", when the two are very different and often mutually exclusive things.
although i rarely talk about packaging, i'll mention it here, because it's something that one can't help but notice. the drippy, cartoon-monster font and black background give the set its goth credentials [alongside the shade names] and definitely have that creepy-cute vibe. however, the p.e. foam that's used for the insert stinks. it has a rubbery, pvc-like smell that i find repulsive. the longer my palette lives in my dresser, the more this goes away, but i found it quite off-putting at first sniff.
the colours are a cheery lot, with a couple of softer options in the offing. in order, from left to right in the palette, they are:
star :: a bright, sunny yellow. this one takes a little work to build up to full opacity [pastels look like shit if they're applied sheerly], but once it gets there, it stays in place. it's a very fun colour to work with and it blends phenomenally, which makes it a great option for producing gradients with the other colours.
clementine :: a softer peach shade that nonetheless packs a pigment punch, this is probably my favourite colour in the palette. that's just a personal colour preference, but the quality of this one is also very high. i found it easier to get true-to-pan colour with this one than with "star" and it lasted just as well.
meow :: a colour that hovers between pink and purple, i find it's a little like a matte version of mac's "stars and rockets" shadow. the quality was good, but not great. again, it's difficult to get it up to the opacity i'd like, more so than any of the other shades in the palette. the tendency to look washed out made this one more appropriate as an accent shade than anything else. while it's a unique colour, i think that it would have been a better idea to include a brighter, warmer pink in the mix, since "pink" and "cute" are almost synonymous.
dope :: a watery, muted purple, something i'd describe as a "monet purple", this is one of the less "happy" shades in the palette, but i really liked the fact that it was included. while logic might have dictated that a sugar plum shade of purple would make more sense, this one gives a nice option for the outer corners and crease. it's muted in comparison to its pastel neighbours, but it's still a lot more colourful than shades you'd normally see used for those purposes [greys, browns, blacks]. it's a nice complement with good colour payoff and lasting power that's just a little less than some of the other shades. [in general, matte purples suffer from this problem. it's one of aphrodite's mysteries.]
|l to r :: star, clementine, meow, dope|
doom :: a powerhouse cyan blue, the most intense colour in the palette. there are shades like this one out there [mac "electric eel" is a bit warmer], but this is a great example. stands up tall on its own, but also blends very nicely. great lasting power... an all-around winner.
gloom :: this is another muted shade, a misty, cool grey-green. these sorts of shades tend to be finicky in terms of colour payoff, so this one was a delightful surprise. the colour payoff here is fantastic, true-to-pan with very little effort, long-lasting, easy to blend... you get the idea. muted, cooler matte greens are uncommon and, as i said, often miss the mark. this one is a real achievement.
dagger :: a medium neutral [maybe slightly cool-toned] grey. at first, i thought that i was judging this one harshly because i swatched it right after the killer doom and gloom pairing, but no. this was the one complete miss for me, both in terms of quality and the shade itself. "dope" serves perfectly well as a slightly deeper anchor colour, but honestly, that's not a role that needs to be filled. unlike the other two grey-toned shades, "dope" and "gloom", this one looks dingy and conveys that quality to the other shades when paired with them. there are a number of pastel "staples" that aren't covered in the palette [baby or robin's egg blue, grass green, and the aforementioned medium pink] and, frankly any of them would have been a better choice. and just to add insult to chromatic injury, the shade performs really poorly. i have used this palette quite a bit since i got it, but i've never managed to incorporate this shadow in a way that i liked. it's stiff and applies patchy, plus it blends away to almost nothing if you're not careful. it's the one true dud in the palette, and that's made worse by the fact that it forced out other shades that might have been more appropriate.
skull :: matte white, an absolute essential. this shade was a bit of a pain in the arse to work with, as it needed to be layered to get anything like a pure white, and was prone to sheering out when blended. it also has a tendency to fade more than any of the other shades [except "dagger"], even over a sticky primer. it's sheerness does mean that it's a nice, soft brow highlight that doesn't look too powdery, which might not be the case if it were more pigmented. where "skull" excels, however, is as a shade to blend and morph the other shadows, and in that role, it is amazing. applied softly over another colour, it gives a subtle highlight and 3d effect. used to soften the transition between two colours, it gives a wonderful gradient. earns its keep for this function alone. and since it's by far the easiest shade to duplicate in the palette, i can't feel too hard done by that there's not a really solid white included. after playing around with all the colours, i'm happier with this.
|l to r :: doom, gloom, dagger, skull|
a word about the formula: matte shadows tend to be powdery and a little harder to blend than most. they're often either pressed too hard, which results in very weak colour payoff, or too loose, which means you get a talc explosion the second your brush touches the colours. only "dagger" suffers from the former problem, and while many of the shades kick up some excess powder, only "skull" does so to the extent where i feel like i'm losing a meaningful amount of the product. however, the powderiness does mean that the shadows don't bind or adhere as well as ones that have a bit of frost or sheen. my eyelids are oily, and i avoided wearing shadow at all for years because it would always crease so easily. nowadays, i use a primer, usually a smooth cream shadow like mac paint pots or lise watier velours. i found that all of the shades from the pastel goth palette applied very well over this sort of base, blended very nicely and lasted a good long time. in order to get the shades to really pop, i also used them over nyx milk shadow pencil, a white shade that's quite a bit stickier. strangely, i felt like they performed significantly worse over "milk". all the colours can be made to pop plenty just on their own, but the tackiness of the base made colour cling wherever it was placed. it was more difficult to get even application and blending was almost impossible. so my advice? use a primer, but make sure it's one that has at least a little slip. these don't need to be enhanced to show their "true colours".
i have a few looks to share with you that i quite liked, but first, here's a few examples of problems i ran into:
well, problem number one with that look is that i got myself all nice and purdy, and then succumbed to the desire to cuddle a cat right before taking pictures. but if you can tear your eyes away from my carpet of cat hair, you'll see that the yellow and green shades are pretty solid, but the centre of the lid looks anemic. that's "skull" a few hours after application. in that case, it's actually applied over nyx "milk". so yeah. not anything to rave about on its own. [blush is mac "azalea blossom" and the lipstick is mac "victorian" with "magenta" lip pencil. i'm really not a lip pencil fan, but this shade looks way better on me with a deeper colour underneath it.]
this is actually the very first look i did with the palette. the shades are probably pretty obvious, but "clementine" is used over most of the lid, "meow" and "dope" on the outer lid. i used "star" on the inside of the crease, then mostly removed it, because i realised i'd made a huge mistake [to quote gob bluth]. in the outer crease, i used "dagger". can you tell? no, you can't, because ten minutes after application, it was gone. [i believe the blush is nars "day dream". the lipstick is mac "ever hip" and i've also used gosh felt pen liner in brown and marc jacobs eyeliner in "mist me" on the eyes.]
these shades are all applied over nyx "milk". as you'll see with the "good looks" below, it adds nothing and makes the other shades look patchy. this also shows how weak "meow" comes out compared to its roommates. [the blue is a mix of "doom" and "skull". the lipstick is armani rouge ecstasy "maharajah". not certain about the blush...]
ok, so now, let's look at what's gone right with this palette, which is actually a lot.
remember when i praised the blendability of these shadows? that's "gloom" applied over the entire lid, with "star" patted in the centre and diffused outward from there. i got some definition from "dagger", but it was frustrating, so i just ended up using a denser brush with "gloom" to get definition in the crease. i used the highlight shade is inglot "351", because i thought pure white was a little too stark. i also though the look needed just a bit of metallic light, so i patted the silver shade from viseart "bijou royale" in the corner. i don't have before and after photos, but, like "the dude's" rug, it really pulls the look together. [i'm not certain about the blush, but the lipstick is an older, limited mac shade called "flustered". the permanent shade "tanarama" is similar.]
i straight up ripped this look off almost exactly from christine at temptalia, but it is such an amazing way to show off the colours. this is what they look like over a regular primer- not a white one- so you can see that they don't need that added help. [the eyeliner, once again, is marc jacobs "mist me". the lipstick is armani rouge ecstasy "pink bliss". i believe the blush is mac "dollymix".] and yes, i am wearing a "cabinet of doctor caligari" t-shirt. dom bought it for me because he just knows me that damn well.
this one is still colourful, but just a little bit softer than the one above. this is about as intense as i could get star to be, but it hung tight at exactly that level for hours. bravo, little star! this is also a good example of how "dope" works in the crease. see? no need for another, darker, shade. [the eyeliner is marc jacobs "blacquer" on the upper lash line and colour pop "exit" on the water line. and yes, i'd had too much coffee, or not enough, or something, because that application is just embarrassing. the blush is chanel "rose initiale" and the gloss is chanel "murmure".]
finally, this look gives and idea of what i was talking about earlier: i used "skull" to blend "doom" and "gloom" together [which actually sounds like a simple but accurate analysis of my creative process]. the result? a nice highlight in the centre, with bright shades on either side. it's never purely white, but it lightens just a bit as the two shades come together. [eyeliner is a combination of marc jacobs "blacquer" and nars eye paint in "black valley". blush is nars "deep throat" and the lipstick is nars "mayflower".]
so, now that you've made it all the way through to the end, you can either decide that the palette isn't for you anyway, or get pissed off at me because i waited so long to review it that now it's sold out everywhere. to that i say: it's worth checking your local sephora, because sometimes you'll find a stray that's been left over after the feeding frenzy, and kat von d's website still has the palette listed, it's just "out of stock". even for a limited item, this one disappeared in a hurry, so maybe the lady will have mercy and do a second run.