As a 25 year old guy I don't meet the Lady Stache requirement of this thread but I really wanted to weigh in on some of this perception stuff and the fear of leaving behind the expensive makeup, clothing etc.
Skin tight jeans, 3 inch heels, make up, lingerie, and what have you do nothing for me. IMO, there is nothing more attractive than a woman who is comfortable. Truthfully, if you're happy and you're making it visibly noticeable you've immediately got my attention. A smile can stop me in my tracks. Be happy and be true to yourself and the rest just fades away.
What a great thread! I rarely look at anything related to beauty/makeup/etc online or in magazines, as I usually learn absolutely nothing and don't find my views reflected at all. This thread has been full of great info! And I want to add to the many kudos to bicycle's post about perception.
I am a lady (beginning) stach, but have mostly male friends, as I find most females I meet to be a bit too caught up on superficial things for me to have any common ground with them. (As a disclaimer, I do tend to live in states with a lot of superficial people - not naming names. This was not such an issue when I lived in Maine, where flannel and taxidermy skills were considered sexy- my kind of place!) And from hanging out extensively with males, I find that Arbor33's opinion is very common. Most of my male friends look at a girl who walks into the bar with tons of make-up, and who obviously spent hours on hair and clothes as high-maintenance, probably self-absorbed and just not very interesting, and as likely more trouble than they're worth. (Not to stereotype all dolled-up women, but it's true more often than not in my experience. Also, you can tell the dolled-up females who are really having a fun time and seem down-to-earth, vs. the ones who are real sourpusses and take themselves way too seriously - aka prima donnas.)
Growing up, I was certainly no beauty queen (though not ugly) and was very naive in hair/makeup/fashion matters. (Now that I'm older, I'm just not interested in the least.) At some stage in high school, I decided that rather than spend a couple hours a day trying to doll myself up and impress guys, to little result, I'd rather be using that time learning about/doing things that actually interest me and attract a man for more substantial reasons than just looks. Of course in college, I did the classic "angry young chick" thing and went overboard, getting hideous haircuts, wearing really sloppy clothes, bad dye jobs. Now, as I get older (now 26) I have reached the happy medium where I am just natural. I shower, put on mascara, and brush my hair. That's it. I have always liked just wearing plain clothes - it makes life simple and cheap - and I can wear a plain black shirt and denim shorts/ a black skirt/jeans every day of the week and never go out of style. Just as well, because I would rather rake the lawn than go to the mall. And that's something a lot of men would find sexy! A good way to get a natural blush on.
A couple of things I find funny:
1: I think heavy make-up mostly looks unnecessary and a bit ridiculous. I always wonder - "what are they trying so hard to cover up?" Or: "Wow, she must be rough in the morning!" I do have friends that actually look really hot with make-up on. But, when I see them without it, they just look weird - and even slightly unattractive though they're not actually unattractive at all. It's just that I'm not used to seeing them without it. And of course, most people who wear heavy makeup (especially celebrities) look horrible when you first see them without makeup - not because they're ugly, but because compared to seeing them all dolled-up and perfect-looking, seeing them looking real is a shock.
...Whereas, when I do scrub myself up nicely every once in a while and put on a nice dress and do the slightest thing to my hair, I get lots of compliments. So, if you wear make-up, it may look nice, but people get used to seeing you that way and you have to keep wearing it all the time. Whereas if you're natural, it's easy to impress when you put just a slight effort in.
2: Now that I'm almost ten years out of high school, I find myself getting a lot of compliments and attention from males that I would've never imagined in high school. To be fair, it's usually men in their thirties and up, as I think they've been around the block enough to know that there's a lot more than meets the eye, and looks are only an aspect of a person. While a dolled-up chick may be pleasing to the eye, at the end of the day, my male friends seem to prefer spending time with a female who is fun to hang out with, has a sense of humor, can converse on different topics, has hobbies and interests other than shopping, smiles genuinely, doesn't take herself too seriously, isn't a fussy buzzkill... If she's also beautiful, all the better. If she's not a beauty queen, it's amazing how much a good personality can make a person genuinely attractive. And yes, a genuine smile is the most beautiful thing!
It's funny, it takes a bit of self-confidence to buck the trend as a high-school gal and to not go along with the whole obsession with looks and beauty trends and fashion - but it does definitely pay off a few years down the line! I wish the female magazines would report on this!
Another thing - I'm sure everyone on this forum knows full well how ridiculous "trends" are. What cracks me up in particular is how the magazines will seriously report "this season, the natural, just-rolled-out-of-bed look is in! And here's the eight products you need to achieve it!" Then they'll go on to report how to wash your hair, dry it, and then style it so it looks like you just rolled out of bed. Uhh, there's a much easier way! Similarly, the products they have that you spray on your hair to make it look like you just got out of the ocean, or have dirty hair, or whatever. Too much!
I'm very lucky to have a partner who thinks I'm the sexiest gal in the room even when I'm wearing his flannel, muddy jeans from the garden, and gumboots. Now that is a catch! But from Arbor33's comment, and from talking to my male friends, I think that men, as a whole, are unfairly cast as shallow. Sure, there's plenty of shallow men out there, just like there's plenty of shallow women. But females are taught from such a young age that we have to constantly work on our looks or no man will want us, when really, a lot of men do look for a whole lot more in a woman. And the ones who don't probably aren't worth trying to catch.