Elegant hair: the long and short of its.

Down through the ages long hair has been immortalized in literature and poetry: Lorelei combing her tresses on the rocky shore as she lured sailors to their doom and Rapunzel's flowing locks long enough to reach the ground from her attic window. There's also that line from one of Ruper Brooke's (1887-1915) famous odes: "live hair that is shining and free."

It's all back today. The trend toward longer hair adapts effectively to the current mood of fashion and proves infinitely more versatile than short-cropped bobs. The vast majority of mannequins presenting the spring and summer couture collections have let their hair grow anywhere from shoulder length, swinging down in heavy curves, to Botticelli frizzles cascading down the back. Jerry Hall, one of the top American mannequins who models in Paris every season, wears her loose mane of blond hair so long that it's practically impossible to see any part of what she is wearing from the waist up.

Back in the 1960s, at the pinnacle of mini fame, the lion's manes balanced short skirts and low-heeled shoes to best advantage. With shorter hemlines back in the limelight once again, more women are conscious of their "crowning glory" and aim to have more of it.

Granted, more hair takes more time for the owner-managers -- more coping with pins, rollers, and curlers, or endless hours under the dryer. But it all seems worth it after the recent era of tousled, unkempt, drip-dry locks that often stood straight up like Woodstock's feather in the comic strip "Peanuts."

Long tresses can be manipulated to look short for specific occasions, piled high in curls or folded flat and netted at the sides and back. On the "off" days when there's no time for a shampoo, hairdressers are presenting all sorts of snoods and and decorative chenille nets, plus all the new frankly fake wigs. Ungaro shows his spring and summer couture collection with shiny nylon wigs styled with an enormous round doughnut chignon anchored at the nape of the neck.

Glamour is the byword after dark, with high-swept chignons, French twists, and braided coronets decorated with combs, flowers, ribbons, pearls, and jeweled pins. These are especially effective with all the Indian-inspired couture fashions.

Makeup also endorses exotic trends. New lines of cosmetics have been baptized with such unusually colorful names as "Lights of the Nile" at Harriet Hubbard Ayer, "Sahara" at Helena Rubinstein, and "Couleurs de la Passion" at Yves Saint Laurent. The idea is literally to make upm rather than "down" with dramatic looks that no longer pretend to be natural.

If, as recently reported, it takes an hour and a half to make up such a reigning beauty as 15-year-old Brooke Shields, how much time and skill is it going to take the rest of us to put on a new face? The solution is experimentation and practice to find both the most pleasing look and the most efficient makeup routine.

These homemade works of art, with one's face serving as the basic canvas, currently begin with a pale matte foundation. High cheekbones are accentuated with brilliant rouge and all the pearly blushes. Eyebrows are heavier with far less plucking, and lids, over false lashes, are played up with smoky gray and brownish shadows.

A bit of experimentation can often achieve an amazing difference: a new eyeshadow instead of the old blue shade one has been wearing for years just because one happens to have blue eyes; a brighter lipstick and a fling with false eyelashes for some special occasion.

Various experiments with new hairstyles and cosmetics can pay big dividends for a relatively low expenditure. There may be an occasional error, but it's a lot less expensive than any fashion investment that turns out to be a mistake in the long run. And speaking of "long" again, it doesn't cost a penny to grow your hair!

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