Friday, December 01, 2017

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette Swatches & Review

Here’s the bottom line: I can’t use the old cliche “if you only buy one palette/makeup item this season let it be this one”. Not in good faith. And it’s not because Pat McGrath’s Mothership I Subliminal isn’t the most exciting release of the year, in my opinion. It is. It’s also gorgeous beyond anything my pictures show. And incredibly versatile, offering in only ten shades various options for understated neutral elegance, award show glamour, creative editorial looks, fun and fashionable, edgy and dark... you name it and it’s right there waiting for your brushes and fingers. The quality is superb in every way, from what beauty bloggers call “buttery” and Pat McGrath refers to as “emollient”, to pigment saturation. The Subliminal palette is easy to apply and blend if you know what you’re doing; and have I mentioned it’s gorgeous? The packaging, too, I mean. Heavy, luxurious, with a beautiful beveled mirror that you will actually use.

It costs $125.

And that’s why I can’t say that Subliminal is a must-have and feel right about it. But the palette does bring me joy when I use it (I don't mean to sound like Marie Kondo who doesn't have monopoly o feeling joy), as well as inspiration. I’ve done a one color look, a two, three, and four shade looks, and there’s still room for exploration there. It reminds me again and again why I fell in love with makeup all those years ago. If you’ve read my big palette post from earlier this week you know that’s a lot.

So what do we have inside Pat McGrath’s packaging? What is it about the ten eye shadows that creates the magic? I think it’s the combination of taupes, the bluest blue, the duochrome colors, and that stunning special effect topper that isn’t exactly white and isn’t exactly opalescent (and is nearly impossible to capture on camera) that deliver beautiful looks.

Here are the colors and my notes about using them.

Top Row (top of wrist downward)
Skinshow Nude- Shimmery/pearly pale golden beige. It's a long description for a deceivingly basic color. It can be the main lid color or an inner corner highlighter. Also works for me under the lower lash line since I've learned on Pat McGrath's site that you can use it wet or dry.
Depth- A cool dusty earthy brown matte. Blends seamlessly on the outer v and can become the star of a soft daytime smoky eye.
Ultimate Taupe- The name says it all. A pale greigy matte taupe.
Pale Gold 002- A true yellow gold metallic color. It's another wet/dry formula, but I have yet to feel a need to dampen my brush for it. It brings a lot of life the inner corner of the eye on a gray day.
VR Violet-  Apparently the VR stands for virtual reality. I'm a sucker for duochrome and this violet with a reddish shift is a stunner. This one has to be applied with your finger (or a dampened synthetic brush as a second-best option).

Bottom Row (from he wrist down the arm)
Xtreme Black- The obvious use for this darkest mattest sootiest of blacks is an eyeliner, either with a dampened small brush or dry. However you can create a magnificent evening look by covering the lid in this black and topping it with Astral White or various sheer glitters (those Stila liquid ones).
Lilac Dusk- I didn't think I'd love this shimmer grayed lilac as much as I do. Pat McGrath describes it as an "intense multi-dimensional crystalline lavender" and that's probably the secret of this unique lid color that can be easily worn during the day. This is the most powdery (=messy) eye shadow in the palette, but I don't mind it.
Substance- It's sort of the shimmer version of Depth from the top row. The texture is so creamy it almost feels wet (see: emollient).
Blitz Blue – You know that this is was the initial reason I chose this palette out of the three Mothership sets. It's the satin blue to end all blues. The opaque pigment goes on the lid so perfectly I'm kind of speechless.
Astral White – If I remember correctly, this is the color that was part of a couple of Pat McGrath's original kits, those that came in bags full of sequins. I was certain they were neither environmentally sound nor cat or vacuum cleaner friendly (Lizzy and Georgie who hang out with me during makeup time would have covered my entire dressing room and themselves with sequins). I still lusted after Astral White and now I have this opalescent white topper with an icy blue shift that you pat on with your finger over just about anything (other than the cats) and see what happens. The most dramatic effect is over black, obviously, but you can create the softest tonal look with Astral White, and it can go anywhere, any time. Does not work with a brush. At all.

About the swatches: they were done over a random eye primer (Lorac, in this case, because it was right there in front of me) using an ancient workhorse flat brush, Paula Dorf Eye Glimmer circa 2001, which is a synthetic brush wider than MAC 242. Except of course where it was specified to use my finger. All of them are one swipe of color, unblended and not cleaned up.

Some nitpicking:
1. I already mentioned that there's some powder falldown varying between the colors. It's not ABH Subculture level (a palette I actually like. One shade at a time), but I would not do my under-eye base first.
2. The outer cardboard packaging is artistic and pretty, but the gold print on its back came all blurry on mine to the point it was impossible to read the ingredients.
3. Speaking of which, I've tossed the cardboard box but I'm pretty sure that it said "Made in the USA", while the small sticker on the bottom of the palette itself declares "Made in Italy". Which one is it?
4. The palette comes with a separate card stating the names of the eye shadows. I wish they were engraved or at least printed on the palette itself. How long do you think I can keep it safe from George and Lizzy, not to mention Lilian who's also developed a fondness for makeup?

Bottom Line: See Above. Still, you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette ($125, probably made in Italy. Or maybe in the US. Ask Pat) is available from Sephora, where I bought it back in October and on


  1. I actually... did not like this much. I didn’t dislike it, but for someone who wouldn’t wear that blue, the rest of the palette just looked - ordinary - on me. And I’m not a big fan of using my fingers, so maybe that’s why the palette didn’t really wow me. And for $125, I think it should.

  2. I hope you'll share some looks with us! I've been hemming and hawing about this one for the longest time. Collectively, it seemed to be the least loved of the Mothership palettes but I was immediately drawn to it-- these kinds of pale golds, smoky taupes, lilacs, and blues really flatter my coloring. For the $$, I was worried I wouldn't get enough use out of the sparkly duochromes to justify it though. Anyway, I hope you do some looks with it-- maybe it will help me get off the proverbial fence and finally buy it :)

  3. I did pick it up and it was as lovely as you say :) Really enjoyed your notes on how to use it and I stand by my statement that you should share some looks! Are you planning to pick up her mini palettes? After this, I'll have trouble not getting them all. What are your thoughts on Natasha Denona? I want to try her palettes but unlike Pat McGrath I can't quite bite the bullet (the closest I've gotten is the Star Palette).


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