Sephora’s VIB sale ended yesterday. 20% off everything in-store and online, not to mention additional deals and holiday gift sets: it’s an exercise in unbridled avarice, a celebration of consumerism, and a good opportunity to stock-up on products that aren’t otherwise discounted. I admit that I topped up my supply of skincare items and grabbed a Christmas gift for one of my siblings; I also took the opportunity to purchase a few things that I wouldn’t justify at their regular price (more on those in a later post). Mostly, though, I sat staring at my phone, hoping the e-mail notification would come in that Pat McGrath’s MOTHERSHIP palette in Bronze Seduction would come back in stock before the sale ended.
Look, I’m not proud of myself, okay? Pat McGrath’s palettes come with hefty price tags. The MOTHERSHIP palettes beat out Natasha Denona for total cost, and they don’t come with nearly as many shades. Most of the price comes from the packaging, which doesn’t so much border on excessive as tap dance flagrantly on a whole new level of Extra, the likes of which the world of cosmetics has never seen (which is saying a lot for an industry that gives us make-up brushes shaped like unicorn horns and boxes of eyeshadows shaped like pop-up books). Even with a 20% discount, one of the MOTHERSHIP palettes still comes in at $134 before taxes. That is unreal for a palette of 10 shadows. Like, what, do these things do your taxes? Do they get you discounts on groceries? Can they be worn in place of rent money?
And yet, despite all of this, I still want one of these palettes like I have never wanted anything ever before.
So rather than stare at my inbox for another day, waiting for an e-mail that’s not going to come – and, more importantly, an e-mail I don’t really want to arrive – I decided to unpack this want. Hopefully, I’ll be able to talk some sense into myself, not because this palette isn’t good for anyone, but because it’s really, truly, not what I need for me.
What Are They?
The Pat McGrath MOTHERSHIPs are eyeshadow palettes. Each come with ten pressed eyeshadows in a variety of colours and finishes. There are currently 5 MOTHERSHIP palettes including Subliminal (blue and jewel tones), Sublime (green and earth tones), Subversive (pink, purple, and metallics), Decadence (metallics), and Bronze Seducation (gorgeousness and gorgeosity made flesh. Er, made powder).
Reviews for the palettes tend to focus on the over-the-top nature of the packaging. MOTHERSHIP palettes arrive in a bag with flecks of confetti and glitter. They open like pocketbooks. They include a beveled mirror hand-crafted by Belgian monks. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. The mirror is beveled, though, apparently designed to be top quality for those using the palette on the go. It’s easier to think of these as an investment in a vanity and make-up all-in-one.
Do They Work?
The shadows themselves receive high-praise. Pat McGrath is an artist; she knows quality, and it’s not surprising that the shadows apply as boldly, brightly, and smoothly as they do. They work well with brush application or with fingers. They array of colours in each palette screams that each MOTHERSHIP can generate a myriad of looks without supplementing with additional palettes. They’re designed to stand-alone and stand-out from everything else you have in your collection.
Here’s the thought that I keep coming back to, though: my Colourpop eyeshadows work. My MAC shadows work. My Sally Beauty eyeshadows work. And I’m not here to split hairs about how I define work. I mean I have shadows that I paid $2 for that work better than some of the shadows I paid $17 for. Pat McGrath’s eyeshadows do come with assurance that an industry expert curated them and helped in their design. They swatch beautifully with or without a base. There are shades on these palettes that I have not seen anywhere before. But does that justify spending nearly $200 on ten eyeshadows?
Do I Need It?
Part of me wants to break this down and say, “It’s really like buying ten eyeshadows at $20 each,” but I can’t be that generous. Each of the MOTHERSHIP palettes have shadows that I will never wear, meaning the cost climbs for those few that I want. The Bronze Seduction palette has the greatest utility for me, but of the ten shadows, only five of the shades will truly be new to my collection. And VR Fire Opal, that brilliant colour-shifting frost in the top-right corner, is where most of my attention is going.
Dupes are available for some of these shadows. I have yet to see something similar to Fire Opal (le sigh…), but that doesn’t mean all is lost. There are still plenty of indie brands for me to shop before I lose all hope, and I’ll likely be able to single out the shadows that I truly need rather than pay a massive price tag for ones that I simply want.
It’s hard to interrogate that overwhelming urge to shop, in part because I know I don’t actually need the thing I want so badly, but more importantly because of the shame that comes with it. Being a conscious consumer means recognizing how easy it is to get zoned in, to go mindless, to spend money where money doesn’t need to be spent. And, sure, it’s fun to drop money on something big, shiny, and expensive sometimes. I have plenty of white elephants in my make-up collection that I would defend as good investments, products that came with a hefty price tag that have gotten a lot of use and a lot of love over the years. But I don’t really need a MOTHERSHIP palette. I don’t even really want most of the shadows. Weirdly enough, I think I just want something big and gaudy and expensive. Oh, I also want that opaline eyeshadow. I can’t forget that.