Cosmetics history

Book review: Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World

Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World

I don't know how this tome managed to slip under my beauty book radar.  I wasn't aware that this little gem existed until the author followed me on Twitter.  Much has been written about the modern beauty age (20th-21st centuries), but there are not many in-depth resources available on beauty practices prior to that.  Fortunately, Dr. Susan Stewart, an independent scholar and librarian at Scotland's Broxburn Academy, is here to help fill in the gaps.  Drawing on literary texts, visual arts and material objects as primary source material, Cosmetics and Perfumes in the Roman World presents a thorough history of makeup and fragrance usage during the Roman Empire (roughly 1-300 A.D.) 

The introduction also serves as Chapter 1, which is an overview of the author's sources, geographic areas and time period that are covered - basic but necessary.  Chapter 2 is probably my favorite, since it summarizes the ingredients used in cosmetics as well as the beauty ideals of the time.  Empresses and mythical goddesses set the beauty standards that most women aspired to.  Unsurprisingly, the key beauty goals for women were identical to today's - clear skin, large eyes and silky hair.  And lest you think our obsession with a youthful appearance is a fairly new scourge, this chapter highlights several recipes for wrinkle creams and hair dyes. Even some ingredients haven't changed much; mascara and brow filler were made from soot, which is almost identical to what we think of as the first modern mascara concoction.  Stewart also notes that most of the recipes and techniques date back even further, as the Romans borrowed them from the ancient Egyptians.

Chapter 3 tackles the health and hygiene aspects of Roman beauty products.  While I prefer reading about actual face paint, this chapter is important since it provides the foundation (see what I did there?) for understanding modern cosmetics.  Since its infancy the beauty industry has linked good health with attractiveness:  glowing skin, bright eyes, a pleasant scent and white, even teeth are all still considered markers of beauty.  If one was beautiful and smelled nice they must be healthy and vice versa.  "One's appearance in general is improved by good health and reflects good health; making health a constituent of beauty and beauty in turn a constituent of health" (p.51).  One of the most interesting pieces of proof of this belief among the Romans were the images of Venus commonly displayed at bath houses.

Whereas the previous chapters laid out the what and the how, the next two chapters examines the who and the why, i.e. the differences in use of beauty and hygiene products based on gender, race and class power structures, along with society's perception of women who used cosmetics.  Needless to say, by and large women were heavily critiqued for wearing makeup for the same reasons we see today.  "A woman displayed her inferiority by feeling compelled to improve upon her appearance, her weakness by being tempted by luxury (in the form of expensive beauty products), her obsession with sex by trying to make herself attractive to men other than her husband, her deviousness by disguising her true appearance with makeup and finally, her idleness by having too much time to spend on personal grooming" (p.65).  Once again women who wear makeup are vain and shallow, and women generally were expected to look perfect but not use any beauty aids.  Same old story, right?  Sadly, it wasn't really any better for men; Stewart notes that men who were overly prettified by society's standards were seen as effeminate and unfit to perform traditional men's work. Despite all of these negative perceptions, literally hundreds of makeup/perfume containers and application utensils have been recovered from Roman ruins over the years, which serves as hard evidence that most people engaged in beautification and grooming practices.  However, while these items were widely used, class played a significant role in the types of products and their application.  As was the case in the early 20th century, a more "natural" look achieved with higher quality ingredients was a mark of the middle and upper classes, while heavy makeup and scent made from cheap, readily available sources were associated with prostitutes (obviously, since the latter couldn't afford more expensive beauty products.)

The last chapter explores the notion of luxury as it relates to cosmetics and perfumes during the Roman empire.  As noted previously, given their widespread use among different economic classes, most beauty products weren't luxury items. Male philosophers (especially those damn Stoics) believed makeup and fragrance to be highly unnecessary and therefore luxury goods, but physical evidence suggests this wasn't a widely held view.  While empresses and other high-class women used only the "good stuff" made from extremely pricey ingredients, there were many options available at all price points.  And this range isn't reflected only in the ingredients but in the containers as well; everything from silver, bronze and clear, colorless glass (high-end) to blue-green glass (the most inexpensive type of container) was used to store beauty products. 

All in all, this is a well-researched and fascinating read, and most importantly, it's accessible for the masses.  Despite all of the classic literature and art history references, Stewart makes it easy for non-academics to understand.  The information is presented in a straightforward yet compelling manner, i.e. there was no boring, bland spouting of one fact after another but rather a narrative that flowed from describing the basics (makeup ingredients, utensils, etc.) to more complex ideas (the cultural and political climate that influenced why and how they were used.)  Also, even though I shouldn't be, I'm amazed (and a bit sad) by how little things have changed; beauty standards are still more or less the same as they were 2,000 years ago, despite current efforts to diversify them.  My only critique is that I would have liked to have seen more photos rather than illustrations.  The drawings were able to communicate the ideas and objects well enough, but they lacked the visual impact photos would bring.  I'm assuming museums wanted exorbitant fees to use their photos so the author had no choice but to use illustrations.  

Will you be picking this one up?  Oh, I almost forgot - Stewart has a new publication on cosmetics history coming out in December, which obviously is already at the top of my Christmas list.  ;)  Keep your eyes peeled!


Spotlight on vintage lipstick tissues

The life of a makeup museum curator is insanely glamorous.  For example, a lot of people go out on Friday nights, but not me - I have way more thrilling plans.  I usually browse for vintage makeup at Ebay and Etsy on my phone while in bed and am completely passed out by 8pm.  EXCITING.  It was during one of these Friday night escapades that I came across a fabulous box of vintage lipstick pads and naturally, that sent me down quite the rabbit hole.  Today I'm discussing a cosmetics accessory that has gone the way of the dodo:  lipstick tissues.  This is by no means a comprehensive history, but I've put together a few interesting findings.  I just wish I had access to more than my local library (which doesn't have much), a free trial subscription to newspapers.com and the general interwebz, as anyone could do that meager level of "research".  I would love to be able to dig deeper and have more specific information, but in lieu of that, I do hope you enjoy what I was able to throw together.

The earliest mention of lipstick tissues that I found was January 1932.  It makes sense, as several patents were filed for the same design that year. 

Lipstick tissue compact patent

Lipstick tissue patent
(images from google)

While they might have existed in the 1920s, I'm guessing lipstick tissues didn't become mainstream until the early 30s, as this December 1932 clipping refers to them as new, while another columnist in December 1932 says she just recently discovered them (and they are so mind-blowing they were clearly invented by a woman, since "no mere man could be so ingenious".)

December 1932 newspapers referring to lipstick tissues

In addition to the tear-off, matchbook-like packages, lipstick tissues also came rolled in a slim case.

October 1933 ad for Rolay lipstick tissues

This lovely Art Deco design by Richard Hudnut debuted in 1932 and was in production at least up until 1934.  I couldn't resist buying it.

Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

February 1934 ad for Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

By 1935, restaurants and hotels had gotten wind of lipstick tissues' practicality for their businesses, while beauty and etiquette columnists sang their praises.  Indeed, using linens or towels to remove one's lipstick was quickly becoming quite the social blunder by the late 30s.

Restaurants offering lipstick tissues, 1935 and 1939

May 1936 beauty column - lipstick tissues

Kleenex was invented in 1924, but it wasn't until 1937, when the company had the grand idea to insert tissues specifically for lipstick removal into a matchbook like package, that these little wonders really took off.  You might remember these from my post on the Smithsonian's collection of beauty and hygiene items.  The warrior/huntress design was used throughout 1937 and 1938.

Kleenex lipstick tissues, ca. 1937(image from americanhistory.si.edu)

Kleenex started upping the ante by 1938, selling special cases for their lipstick tissues and launching campaigns like these "true confessions", which appeared in Life magazine (and which I'm sure were neither true nor confessions.)  With these ads, Kleenex built upon the existing notion that using towels/linens to remove lipstick was the ultimate etiquette faux pas, and one that could only be avoided by using their lipstick tissues. 

Kleenex lipstick tissue ad, April 1938

These ads really gave the hard sell, making it seem as though one was clearly raised by wolves if they didn't use lipstick tissues.  Or any tissues, for that matter.  Heaven forbid - you'll be a social pariah!

Kleenex True Confessions, February 1938

Kleenex True Confessions, October 1939

Look, you can even use these tissues to cheat on your girlfriend!  (insert eyeroll here)

Kleenex True Confessions, September 1939
(images from books.google.com)  

Not only that, Kleenex saw the opportunity to collaborate with a range of companies as a way to advertise both the companies' own goods/services and the tissues themselves.  By the early '40s it was difficult to find a business that didn't offer these gratis with purchase, or at least, according to this 1945 article, "national manufacturers of goods women buy." And by 1946, it was predicted that women would be expecting free tissue packets to accompany most of their purchases.

Diamond Match Company lipstick tissues - Dec. 1945

Needless to say, most of them consisted of food (lots of baked goods, since apparently women were tethered to their ovens), and other domestic-related items and services, like hosiery, hangers and dry cleaning.

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Curtiss Candy company lipstick tissues(images from ebay and etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from ebay.com)

Naturally I had to buy a few of these examples for the Museum's collection.  Generally speaking, they're pretty inexpensive and plentiful.  The only one I shelled out more than $5 for was the Hudnut package since that one was a little more rare and in such excellent condition.  Interestingly, these have a very different texture than what we know today as tissues.  Using contemporary Kleenex to blot lipstick only results in getting little fuzzy bits stuck to your lips, but these vintage tissues have more of a blotting paper feel, perhaps just a touch thicker and ever so slightly less papery.  It could be due to old age - paper's texture definitely changes over time - but I think these were designed differently than regular tissues you'd use for a cold.

Lipstick tissues

Anyway, Museum staff encouraged me to buy the cookie one.  ;)

Lipstick tissues

I took this picture so you could get a sense of the size.  It seems the official Kleenex ones were a little bigger than their predecessors.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Wouldn't it be cool to go to a restaurant and see one of these at the table?  It would definitely make the experience seem more luxurious.  I certainly wouldn't feel pressure to use them for fear of committing a social sin, I just think it would be fun.

Lipstick tissues
(image from etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from mshhistoc.org)

I figured having a restaurant/hotel tissue packet would be a worthy addition to the Museum's collection, since it's another good representation of the types of businesses that offered them.  I'd love to see a hotel offer these as free souvenirs.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Here's an example that doesn't fit neatly into the baked goods/cleaning/hotel categories.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

This one is also interesting.  Encouraging women to be fiscally responsible is obviously more progressive than advertising dry cleaning and corn nut muffins, but it's important to remember that at the time these were being offered by Bank of America (ca. 1963), a woman could have checking and savings accounts yet still was unable to take out a loan or credit card in her own name.  One step forward, 5 steps back.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Of course, cosmetics companies also made their own lipstick tissues.

Tangee lipstick tissues(image from etsy.com)

I was very close to buying these given how cute the graphics are, but didn't want to spend $20.  (I think they're now reduced to $12.99, if you'd like to treat yourself.)

Dubarry lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Plus, I already have these DuBarry tissues in the collection.

Dubarry lipstick tissues

Funny side note:  I actually found a newspaper ad for these very same tissues!  It was dated July 27, 1948, which means the approximate dates I included in my DuBarry post were accurate.

DuBarry lipstick tissues ad, 1948

By the late '40s, lipstick tissues had transcended handbags and became popular favors for various social occasions, appearing at country club dinner tables to weddings and everything in between.  I'm guessing this is due to the fact that custom colors and monogramming were now available to individual customers rather than being limited to businesses.

Lipstick tissue ads - 1946, 1950

Lipstick tissue gift suggestion, 1946

Lipstick tissue favors, 1950 and 1944

"Bride-elect"?  Seriously?

Lipstick tissue wedding favors, April 1951

While the matchbook-sized lipstick tissues are certainly quaint, if you wanted something even fancier to remove your lipstick, lipstick pads were the way to go.  These are much larger and thicker than Kleenex and came imprinted with lovely designs and sturdy outer box.  This was the item that made me investigate lipstick tissues.  I mean, look at those letters!  I was powerless against their charm.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I couldn't find anything on House of Dickinson, but boy did they make some luxe lipstick pads.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

This design is so wonderful, I'd almost feel bad using these.  If I were alive back then I'd probably go digging through my purse to find the standard Kleenex ones.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I also couldn't really date these too well.  There's a nearly identical box by House of Dickinson on Ebay and the description for that dates them to the '60s, which makes sense given the illustration of the woman's face and the rounded lipstick bullet - both look early '60s to my eye.  

House of Dickinson lipstick pads
 
However, the use of "Milady" and the beveled shape of the lipstick bullet, both of which were more common in the '30s and '40s, make me think the ones I have are earlier.  

By the mid-late '60s, it seems lipstick tissues had gone out of favor.  The latest reference I found in newspapers dates to November 1963, and incidentally, in cartoon form.

Nov

I'm not sure what caused lipstick tissues to fall by the wayside.  It could be that there were more lightweight lipstick formulas on the market at that point, which may not have stained linens and towels as easily as their "indelible" predecessors - these lipsticks managed to easily transfer from the lips but still remained difficult to remove from cloth.  Along those lines, the downfall of lipstick tissues could also be attributed to the rise of sheer, shiny lip glosses that didn't leave much pigment behind. 

While these make the most sense, some deeper, more political and economic reasons may be considered as well.  Perhaps lipstick tissues came to be viewed as too stuffy and hoity-toity for most and started to lose their appeal.  My mother pointed out that lipstick tissues seemed to be a rich people's (or at least, an upper-middle class) thing - the type of woman who needed to carry these in her handbag on the reg was clearly attending a lot of fancy soirees, posh restaurants and country club dinners.  This priceless clipping from 1940 also hints at the idea of lipstick tissues as a sort of wealth indicator, what with the mention of antique table tops and maids.

March 20, 1940 - etiquette

Lipstick tissues were possibly directed mostly at older, well-to-do "ladies who lunch", and a younger generation couldn't afford to or simply wasn't interested in engaging in such formal social practices as removing one's lipstick on special tissues.  Plus, I'm guessing the companies that used lipstick tissues to advertise labored under the impression that most women were able to stay home and not work.  With a husband to provide financially, women could devote their full attention to the household so advertising bread recipes and dry cleaning made sense.  This train of thought leads me, naturally, to feminism: as with the waning popularity of ornate lipstick holders, perhaps the liberated woman perceived lipstick tissues as too fussy - a working woman needed to pare down her beauty routine and maybe didn't even wear lipstick at all.  Lipstick tissues are objectively superfluous no matter what brainwashing Kleenex was attempting to achieve through their marketing, so streamlining one's makeup regimen meant skipping items like lipstick tissues.  Similarly, after reading Betty Friedan's 1963 landmark feminist screed The Feminine Mystique, perhaps many women stopped buying lipstick tissues when they realized they had bigger fish to fry than worrying about ruining their linens.  Then again, one could be concerned about women's role in society AND be mindful of lipstick stains; the two aren't mutually exclusive.  And the beauty industry continued to flourish throughout feminism's second wave and is still thriving today, lipstick tissues or not, so I guess feminism was not a key reason behind the end of the tissues' reign.  I really don't have a good answer as to why lipstick tissues disappeared while equally needless beauty items stuck around or continue to be invented (looking at you, brush cleansers).  And I'm not sure how extra lipstick tissues really are, as many makeup artists still recommend blotting one's lipstick to remove any excess to help it last longer and prevent feathering or transferring to your teeth.

In any case, I kind of wish lipstick tissue booklets were still produced, especially if they came in pretty designs.  Sure, makeup remover wipes get the job done, but they're so...inelegant compared to what we've seen.  One hack is to use regular facial blotting sheets, since texture-wise they're better for blotting than tissues and some even have nice packaging, so they're sort of comparable to old-school lipstick tissues.  Still, there's something very appealing about using a highly specific, if unnecessary cosmetics accessory.  I'm not saying we should bring back advertising tie-ins to domestic chores or the social stigma attached to not "properly" removing one's lipstick on tissues, but I do like the idea of sheets made just for blotting lipstick, solely for the enjoyment of it.  I view it like I do scented setting sprays - while I don't think they do much for my makeup's longevity, there's something very pleasing about something, like, say, MAC Fruity Juicy spray, which is coconut scented and comes in a bottle decorated with a cheerful tropical fruit arrangement.  As I always say, it's the little things.  They might be frivolous and short-lived, but any makeup-related item that gives me even a little bit of joy is worth it.  I could see a company like Lipstick Queen or Bite Beauty partnering with an artist to create interesting lipstick tissue packets.  Indeed, this post has left me wondering why no companies are seizing on this opportunity for profit.

Should lipstick tissues be revived or should they stay in the past?  Why do you think they're not made anymore?  Would you use them?  I mean just for fun, of course - completely ignore the outdated notion that one is a boorish degenerate with no manners if they choose to wipe their lips on a towel, as those Kleenex ads would have you believe.  ;)

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Fake baking on a Friday: fun faux tanning ads

I was originally going to write a meatier post about the history of tanning that included sunless tanning, but there's actually been plenty of research already.  Rather than essentially re-writing what's already out there I decided to go the more visual route and show ads for products promising to give you that sun-kissed glow for both face and body.  I will include some history and links throughout, but mostly this is a way for me to share my never-ending obsession with vintage beauty ads.  :) 

Prior to the early 1920s, having tawny, sun-drenched skin simply wasn't desirable - at least for women.  Fair complexions were associated with the leisure class, while tan skin indicated a lower social status (i.e. people who had to work outdoors).  While the beauty industry was in its infancy, there were still plenty of products, such as this Tan No More powder, that promoted the pale skin ideal. 

Ad for Tan No More, 1924(image from library.duke.edu)

Just five short years later, however, the tan tide had turned.  Coco Chanel is credited by many historians as the one responsible for making the bronzed look stylish following a cruise she took in 1923, essentially reversing the significance of pale vs. tan complexions (i.e., tans were now associated with having the time and money for a luxury vacation in a sunny paradise, as well as good health.)  By 1929 products were on the market to achieve the glowing effect on the skin without the need to travel to some far-flung destination, such as this Marie Earle "Sunburn" line of makeup.  (Cosmetics and Skin has an excellent history of this company.  While not much is known about the founders, the Marie Earle line had some fairly innovative, if ineffective products, like breast-firming cream and eye masks.)

Marie Earle ad, 1929
(image from library.duke.edu)

Interestingly, in 1928 Marie Earle was bought by Coty, so it's probably not a coincidence that Coty released their Coty Tan bronzing powder and body makeup a year later.

CotyTan ad, 1929

CotyTan ad, 1929(images from cosmeticsandskin.com and library.duke.edu) 

The 1940s saw an increase in the number of bronzers and tanning body makeup, the latter influenced partially by the shortage of nylon stockings during World War II - women resorted to painting their legs with makeup or staining them with a tea-based concoction to create the illusion of stockings.  Always looking to sell more products, companies soon began offering tinted body makeup to mimic a natural tan.

Ad for Paul Duval Safari Tan, 1941(image from pinterest.com) 

Ad for Paul Duval Safari Tan, 1946(image from ebay.com)

Um...would you like a side of racism with your liquid body bronzer?

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1941(image from library.duke.edu)

Ad for Elizabeth Arden Velva Leg Film, 1946
(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1948(image from ebay.com)

By the late '40s cosmetics companies made sure women could also artificially tan their faces, as a slew of bronzing powders entered the market.  I couldn't resist purchasing a few of these ads.

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Lady Esther Malibu Tan face powder, 1947

Ad for Pond's Bronze Angel Face powder, 1948

Ad for Pond's Bronze Angel Face powder, 1951
(image from pinterest.com)
 

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan, 1949

Here's a detailed shot so you can see the ad copy...and gratuitous cleavage.  LOL.

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan, 1949

Ad for Woodbury Tropic Tan ad, 1951
(image from pinterest.com)

And more casual racism from Germaine Monteil. 

Ad for Germaine Monteil, 1947

Ad for Germaine Monteil, 1950(image from ebay.com)

Once again, I fell victim to the idea that a beauty product has only been around for a few decades.  But it looks like spray tans have been around since at least the mid-50s!

Guerlain Misty Tan ad
(image from fashion.telegraph.co.uk)

Spray tan ad, 1955(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

In the late 1950s Man Tan sunless tanning lotion - or what we call self-tanner more commonly these days - debuted, featuring a new way of getting tan without the sun.  Instead of traditional tinted makeup that merely covered the skin, Man Tan used an ingredient known as dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which works on the amino acids on the skin's surface to gradually darken its color.  It sounds like a harmful, scary process that relies on synthetic chemicals, but DHA is actually derived from sugar cane and is still used in most self-tanners today.* 

Man Tan ad, ca. late 1950s

Miss Man Tan ad, ca. late 1950s
(images from twitter and pinterest)

In 1960 Coppertone introduced QT, short for Quick Tan, and many others followed.  The poor models in these ads already look orange - I shudder to think of how carrot-like you'd be in person.

Ad for Coppertone QT, 1961(image from ebay.com)

Ad for Coppertone QT, 1966(image from pinterest.com)

You MUST watch these commercials, they're a hoot!

 

In addition to bronzers, around this time companies were also launching color campaigns specifically for tanned skin.  These shades aren't so different from the ones we see in today's summer makeup collections - warm, beige and bronze tones abound.  Both Max Factor's Breezy Peach and 3 Little Bares (get it?!) were seemingly created to complement a tawny complexion, while Clairol's powder duos and Corn Silk's Tan Fans line offered bronzer and blush together to artificially prolong and enhance a natural tan.

Ad for Max Factor Breezy Peach, 1962(image from pinterest.com) 

Ad for Max Factor 3 Little Bares, 1965
(image from pinterest.com) 

Clairol Soft-Blush Duo ad, 1967

Ad for Corn Silk Tan Fans, 1969(image from pinterest.com)

Meanwhile, Dorothy Gray had tan-flattering lip colors covered.  This was not new territory for them, as this 1936 ad referenced a new "smart lipstick to accent sun-tan".  In any case, the 1965 ad is also notable for the yellow lipstick all the way on right, which was meant to brighten another lip color when layered underneath...over 50 years before Estée Edit's Lip Flip and YSL's Undercoat.

Dorothy Gray ad, 1965(image from mid-centurylove.tumblr.com)

The tanning craze wasn't going anywhere soon, as various self-tanning and bronzer formulas for body and face continued to be produced from the '70s onward.  As skin cancer rates rose, there was also an uptick in the number of ads that emphasized protection from the sun over the convenience angle (i.e., the ability to get a tan in just a few hours and no matter the climate) - self-tanners started to be marketed more heavily as a healthy alternative to a real tan.

When it launched around 2004, I thought Stila's Sun Gel was such an innovative product.  Little did I know Almay had done it roughly 30 years prior.

Almay sun gel 1970(image from flickr.com) 

Bain de Soleil ad, 1983

Tried though I did, I was unable to find a vintage ad for Guerlain's legendary Terracotta bronzer, which debuted in 1984.  So I had to settle for these Revlon ads from the same year.

Revlon-pure-radiance-80s

Ad for Revlon Pure Radiance, 1984(images from pinterest and adsausage.com)

Bain de Soleil ad, 1990
(image from Found in Mom's Basement)

Chanel Soleil ad, 1990
(image from pinterest.com)

Estée Lauder self-tanner ad, 1991

Estée Lauder self-tanner ad, 1991(image from fuckyeahnostalgicbeauty)

I searched all the '90s magazines in the Museum's archives, but realized almost all of them were March, September or October issues, so I couldn't unearth any fake tan ads for most of the decade.  I did have better luck with finding ads online and in the Museum's archives for the 2000's, however.  It makes sense as I had started collecting by then, not to mention that the early-mid aughts were the Gisele Bundchen/Paris Hilton era so fake tanning was at its peak.  I just remembered that I neglected to check my old Sephora catalogs...I'll have to see if I can locate any photos of Scott Barnes' Body Bling, another hugely popular product in the 2000's.

Lancome Star Bronzer ad, 2003

Neutrogena ad, 2003(images from reed.edu)

Here are the ones from the Museum's collection.  Thanks to the husband for scanning them!

Armani Bronze Mania ad, 2005

MAC Sundressing postcard, 2006

Love this Armani ad, which coincidentally came out the same year Mystic Tan spray booths were launched.

Armani Bronze Mania ad, 2007

YSL summer beauty postcard, 2008

Benefit summer 2010 catalog

As the decade came to a close, there was some discussion as to whether tanned skin, real or fake, was passé.  But the continuing growth of the self-tanning market (as well as the influence of the bronzed Jersey Shore cast) showed that the infatuation with tanning wasn't slowing down.  The Paris Hilton era segued seamlessly into the Kardashian age, which also contributed to the popularity of the bronzed look.  Companies are still trying to keep up with the demand for bronzers and self-tanners.  For the past 5 years or so, Estée Lauder, Lancome, Clarins, Guerlain and Givenchy have released new bronzing compacts at the start of the summer, and just this past year Hourglass and Becca released a range of new bronzing powders.  Meanwhile, established products like Benefit's Hoola bronzer and St. Tropez's self-tanning line are being tweaked and expanded.

In terms of advertising bronzers and self-tanners, I think cosmetics companies do a damn good job.  The products themselves certainly look tempting, but one also can't deny the sex appeal of the glowy, bronzey look of the models (not to mention that a tan makes everyone look like they lost 10 lbs).  Who doesn't want to resemble a sunkissed goddess lounging about in a tropical paradise?  It's largely this reason, I think, that the tan aesthetic persists.  As usual, Autumn Whitefield-Madrano offers an insightful exploration of why tawny skin continues to be in vogue so rather than me rambling further I highly encourage you to read it in full.  As for me, well, I've largely given up on self-tanning.  It was messy, came out uneven no matter how much I exfoliated and how carefully I applied it, and still didn't look quite like the real deal.  I do, however, still use bronzer once in a while (mostly as blush, but occasionally in the summer I'll dust it all over my face) and have been tinkering with temporary wash-off body bronzers.  I don't consider bronzer a staple by any means - most days I fully embrace my pasty self - but the fact that I own 6 of them is proof of the long-standing allure of the tan and how effectively the products required to achieve it are marketed.

What do you think?  Which of these ads are your favorite?  And are you down with the tanned look or no? 

 

*Recent research has shown DHA to be safe for topical use; however, inhaling it, say, from a spray tan booth, is less safe.

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Hey dollface: celebrating LM Ladurée's 5th anniversary

It was love at first sight with this precious doll-shaped powder box that Les Merveilleuses Ladurée released in honor of their 5th anniversary.  I mean, even the outer packaging is gorgeous.  As a collector, I was also overjoyed to receive a free tote bag from the seller, which I used as a background for these photos - isn't it pretty?  There is also a beautiful rose shaped blush with the same outer packaging that I have on its way to me, but the star of the show is clearly the powder.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

Both whimsical and sophisticated, this delicate doll figurine is outfitted in a sumptuous blue velvet dress with a purple satin ribbon.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

It looks like it might be heavy in the photos, but it's actually very lightweight and seems quite fragile - I was so afraid it would shatter if I dropped it.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

I wonder how many people bought this to actually use it and not collect.  While the velvet dress is lovely, you'd have to be really careful to make sure the powder doesn't get all over it. 

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

When I first laid eyes on this my makeup historian sense was immediately tingling; somehow I just knew this design wasn't new.  Upon searching for vintage doll powder boxes I came across many different kinds, most made of porcelain or ceramic, but the ones made of papier mache stood out to me.  That particular material jogged something in my brain and I suddenly remembered where I had seen them before. 

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Yup, at the 2014 Makeup in New York exhibition!  How could I forget?  I guess I wasn't paying attention to the labels on these even though I took photos of them, LOL.

Terre de Retz powder box label

Terre de Retz powder box label

Terre de Retz was a line of doll-shaped powder boxes introduced by famed French department store Galeries Lafayette sometime around 1920.  This blog post had the full scoop on them and led me to buy this book.  Yes, I bought an entire book on perfumes just to get the tiny morsel of additional information it had on these powder boxes, and also because I had totally forgotten they were in this book as well.  Anyway, they were designed by Georges Duchesne (most of them are signed G. Duchesne) and came in a wide variety of styles ranging from Marie Antoinette-era fashions to 1920s flappers.  I suspect Terre de Retz was the inspiration for Ladurée's anniversary item, as both are constructed from a paper-based material and the general design for some of the Terre de Retz figurines is the same (i.e. the way in which the powder box is hidden and fits into the top part of the doll).

Terre de Retz ad, 1927
(image from cleopatrasboudoir.blogspot.com)

Masterpieces of Perfume book

The ones that appear to be the most common are these masked figurines and ones dressed in a mid-19th century style (at least, they resemble that period to my eye).

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Some other ones I liked:

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

My favorites though were the ones that most resembled the Ladurée figurine.  While these ladies flaunt a more French Revolution-era style in terms of hair and makeup, they have voluminous blue skirts, fans and necklaces.

Terre de Retz powder box

This one also has a bow.  I really wanted to buy it but it's missing the bottom part of the box, plus, as I sadly discovered, Terre de Retz figurines are not cheap.  This one is going for $695 on ebay and the lowest price I've seen for one so far is $299.  Maybe someday I will have one for my very own but not right now!

Terre de Retz powder box
(images from rubylane, ebay and pinterest)

While I have no proof that Ladurée drew on Terre de Retz for their 5th anniversary powder box, it would be quite a nice nod to their French heritage.  In terms of a more modern, artsy take on figural powder boxes, I'd dearly love for a company to collaborate with this contemporary artist - while she doesn't make powder boxes to my knowledge (only figurines), I think she'd come up with some amazingly imaginative designs given her style.

Thoughts? 

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It's 5 o'clock somewhere: boozy makeup packaging

I remember thinking how cute and novel these wine bottle-shaped lipsticks were when they were making a sensation back in the fall.  (I do have one on the way but the package somehow keeps getting delayed so here's a stock photo for now.)  I'm not a wine person - gives me a horrible headache - but I do appreciate adorable makeup packaging so this gets a thumbs-up from me.  I mean on the one hand I'm not fond of wine once again being associated with a clichéd feminine stereotype (all ladies love wine, shopping, chocolate and shoes, amirite?), but on the other hand, this lipstick is just too cute.

Chateau Labiotte wine lipstick
(image from beautyboxkorea.com)

Turns out, this isn't the first time lipstick has been designed to resemble booze.  I was positively tickled when, during one of my customary Friday night vintage makeup searches on Etsy (I lead a very exciting life, I know), I came across this miniature lipstick cleverly packaged as a whiskey bottle.

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

It really is mini!

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

I'd never heard of Carstairs before, but apparently from roughly the '40s through the '60s they did a good amount of advertising for their White Seal whiskey, which is still sold today.  In addition to the lipsticks, they offered mini screwdrivers and toothpicks, along with seal clock figurines and the usual print advertising.  According to one (no longer active) ebay listing, the lipstick bottles started being produced around 1944 and other listings say they're from the '50s, so I guess they were used as promotional items for a few decades.  Here's a photo of one in Madeleine Marsh's excellent book, which also dates it to the '50s. 

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick in Compacts and Cosmetics by Madeleine Marsh

I'm guessing that for the most part, the lipsticks were provided to bars and liquor stores and given away as a small gift-with-purchase, as there are quite a few full boxes of them floating around. I would have bought this one in a heartbeat because how cute would it have been to display it alongside a whole Chateau Labiotte set?

Vintage Carstairs whiskey lipstick set

Chateau Labiotte set(images from etsy.com and labiotte.us)

But the individual lipsticks are obviously a lot cheaper and I have many things I want to purchase for the summer exhibition, so I had to pass for now. ;)  As for the lipstick itself, a company called Christy Cosmetics, Inc. was responsible for producing it.  I couldn't find much information about it online, other than it was a New York-based company and was also the manufacturer of a line called Diana Deering (who was an entirely fictional character, or, as the patent puts it, "fanciful".)

Christy Cosmetics ad, 1944(image from what-i-found.blogspot.com)

Diana Deering ad, 1944

Diana Deering/Christy Cosmetics patent(image from tsdrapi.uspto.gov)

I'm sure there's information about Christy out there somewhere, but as usual I lack the time and other resources to do proper research, i.e., looking beyond Google.  If anyone knows anything about their relationship with Carstairs and how they were chosen to produce their promo items I'd love to hear it.

Uh-oh, we have a situation here.  Once again a certain little Sailor is up to no good.  "It's just my size!" 

Bottoms up!

I better go get this wrapped up and into storage before he smears it all over his face in attempt to "drink" the non-existent whiskey.  In any case, Happy St. Patrick's Day and I hope these lipsticks have inspired you to let your hair down and enjoy some adult beverages tonight!


Museum spotlight: Tokyo's Museum of Beni

Once again I'm in over my head on a vast topic, but I wanted to share another cosmetics museum that is on my must-see list when I go to Japan.  The Museum of Beni in Tokyo was founded in 2006 to celebrate and share the history of the hallowed Japanese red lip color known as beni.  The Museum was established by Isehan Honten, a company that has been manufacturing beni since 1825 (!) and is the only surviving beni company from the Edo period (the use of beni actually dates back several centuries prior to the Edo period).  The Museum contains precious artifacts related to beni, such as the lacquered bowls that are layered with the pigment (known as "ochoko"), brushes, and equipment used to make beni, not to mention a significant amount of memorabilia (books, prints, etc).

Beni bowls, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni brushes, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni was also portable, stored in carrying cases called itabeni starting around the middle of the Edo period (ca. 1700s).  They were made from a variety of materials, including tortoiseshell, antlers, ivory, metal, wood and even paper.  The really cool thing about them was when you finished up the beni in the case, you could go and have it re-brushed with fresh pigment.  Perhaps this is where the notion of refillable powder compacts and lipstick tubes came from.

Ita-beni, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Itabeni, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni brushes and compacts

Beni boxes, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Print, ca. late 1800s, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This page from a book published in 1813 called Makeup in the Culture of Kyoto shows how to apply beni.

Book page, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This sign was displayed on the storefront and indicates that it's an official supplier of beni to the Imperial Household Department...

Sign, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

...and this was a license granted only to merchants who supplied products to the Imperial Household Department to gain entry into the Imperial Household.

License, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This drawing from 1885 shows one of Isehan's original storefronts and the beni-ba (the space where the beni is made).

Drawing, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Not only does the Museum of Beni display all these great pieces, it also has a salon where you can try out and purchase beni. 

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni salon(images from Google Cultural Institute)

Beni gets its name from the pigment of the benibana (safflower).  While the petals of this bloom are 99% yellow/orange, the other 1% are red and are harvested to make this traditional lip color.  One Komachi beni (Komachi refers to the traditional beni that comes layered in a bowl) requires roughly 2,000 flowers and yields about 50 uses. 

Safflower
(image from feedipedia.org)

Isehan has some amazing pictures of the beni-making process, along with a video.  I'll try my best to summarize it here.  The flowers are hand-picked (usually in early-mid July), fermented, dried into cakes and then soaked overnight in water. 

Beni production process

Beni production process

An alkaline solution is added and the mixture is pressed to extract the liquid. 

Beni production process

Then, an acid solution is very carefully added to separate and crystallize the red pigment.  If the acid solution is just a little off, the red will become blue or green, which is unusable.  The pigment is then strained through a finely woven cloth.  The end result is a mud-like consistency.

Beni production process

Beni production process

The bowls are painted and set to dry.  You'll notice it turns a beautiful iridescent green when fully dry. 

Beni production process

Beni drying(images from Google Cultural Institute)

As you can see, making traditional beni is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process - although some beni is manufactured by modern machinery - but the old-fashioned methods of producing it are only way to obtain that remarkable iridescence, and only highly skilled craftsmen can coax it out of the petals.  The iridescent quality, along with the fact that the opacity can be built up by layering, or conversely, toned down by adding more water, sets traditional beni apart from other cosmetic pigments.  The video below shows how to apply it.  Texture-wise you can see it's incredibly different from Western lipsticks, which use a lot of waxes and oils to make them emollient.  Beni appears to have a thinner, non-greasy consistency like watercolor.  And the iridescence is truly stunning - it reminds me of a beetle's wing.

As Glamourdaze notes in a post on beni, an interesting piece of history regarding the iridescence was that Japanese women in the 18th and 19th centuries were fond of pairing the very subtle iridescence of the red beni on the top lip with a bold green iridescent pigment from the stem of a bamboo plant called sasa on the bottom lip.  Hence the "sasabeni" trend was born.

Sasabeni, ca. 1880s(image from flickr.com)

print depicting sasabeni

print depicting sasabeni(images from printsofjapan.com)

The Museum of Beni, however, claims the green came from applying a ton of layers of beni so that the green iridescence overpowered the red, and the sasa name simply refers to the green color, i.e., it wasn't actually made from bamboo.  They also assert that the look was in style only for a short period of time, between 1804 and 1829 (oddly specific dates, no?  I wonder what their source is.)

Print depicting Sasabeni, ca. late 1800s, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

I'm all in favor of bringing back this look!  Honestly I might actually try to recreate it sometime by wearing Lipstick Queen Eden (which would be perfect as it's a dead ringer for what I've seen of beni and also has a very subtle "magical apple green holographic shimmer") on the top lip and MAC's Deep With Envy lipstick on the bottom, with a tiny dusting of the Emerald shade from Kat Von D's Alchemist palette layered on top.  Not the same, of course, but perhaps it could be viewed as a modern twist.

Anyway, as for the Museum of Beni, some may say that it's a weak cover for a source of additional revenue for the company, but I disagree.  While beni was still being used in the early 20th century, the traditional Komachi beni was largely dying out.  Bo-beni (crayons) and compacts became much more popular than Komachi, and by World War II Komachi was almost completely gone as Western style lipsticks became the norm. 

Bo-beni

Compact beni(images from Google Cultural Institute)

Isehan Honten wants to profit, as any business does, but I do believe their museum comes from a genuine desire to preserve the heritage of beni and introduce this historic cosmetic item to people the world over.  If I hadn't been searching for cosmetic museums I might not never have heard of beni otherwise, and I research makeup as a hobby!  Beni is still so unknown in the West that many people, myself included, were confused by NARS's attempt to bring the concept to us in 2010.  While this set is inspired by traditional Komachi beni application (i.e. using a brush to apply pigment layered in a bowl), obviously the ingredients and effect are totally different.

NARS Bento Box, holiday 2010(image from chicprofile.com)

Another point to consider: authentic, high-quality beni is expensive.  In 2008 the UK's Telegraph reported that Isehan's product cost "70,000 to 300,000 yen (£335 - £1,440) for a pot holding less than a third of an ounce, or 30 to 50 applications, so an evening's use can cost up to £50."  In U.S. dollars that would come to $618 to $2,650, and I'm using the 2008 figures - it must be even more by now.  Historic French beauty company Buly 1803 also sells beni for a mere 420 euros ($446).  That's a bargain compared to Isehan.  ;)  Seriously though, I can't imagine a museum that showcases a product with such a hefty price tag would be much of a money-maker.  It might get people in the door and tempt them to buy it, but I highly doubt many visitors are actually going to drop nearly $700 on a lip product, especially when they can get a cheap knockoff intended for tourists (they're usually made mostly with food coloring and contain only a tiny bit of actual safflower).

Beni-knockoff(image from ebay.ca)

So I really don't think the Museum of Beni is a money grab.  As a matter of fact, I think Isehan Honten's museum is among the very few concerted efforts in the entire world to protect beni's heritage.   I don't think even the Pola Museum is doing as much to prevent beni from going extinct, and while some museums certainly own beni-related artifacts, no collections that I know of are as extensive as Isehan's.  It's not in their best interest from a profit standpoint to store and display all these items (why not just have a shop?) so I think they're truly dedicated to keeping the history alive.  A spokesperson for the company explains, “When we say protecting the traditional culture, it does not really mean we create a museum and just show off our products there...to help this kind of culture grow roots and stay alive, we think it’s important that it be accepted by the customers and actually gets used.”  So the salon is a way to enhance the history of beni - I see it as a tool used by the museum rather than the other way around, i.e. museum as mere retail accessory.  Sure, seeing historic cosmetic objects in cases is great, but actually being able to touch them and apply the product definitely hammers home the cultural importance of these items for the average visitor.

I hope you enjoyed this little overview of both the Museum of Beni and the product itself.  I am by no means an expert but I think what I have here is somewhat accurate.  Anyone want to weigh in?  Would you want to visit this museum?  You can see real-life pics here, if you're so inclined.  I know I must definitely make a trip!  And yes, I'd blow some of my savings to acquire beni of my very own...it's a totally unique product you can't get anywhere else, and incredibly full of culture and history to boot.


The rainbow connection: Shiseido 7 color powders centennial revival edition

While color correcting seems like a new trend, my experience as a self-taught makeup historian tells me that it probably existed decades ago.  However, I had no idea that color correcting was in effect as early as 1917, when Japanese company Shiseido introduced their "rainbow" face powders.  In honor of the 100-year anniversary of this cutting-edge beauty development, Shiseido released the 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition (that's a mouthful!), which is essentially a re-creation of the original powders using contemporary color correcting technology and ingredients.  The powders come in a gorgeous keepsake box adorned with concentric metallic rainbow lines. I am very fortunate to have such a kind and generous husband who procured this set for me for Christmas. :)

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Does anyone know what this means? 

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

I always get positively giddy over a numbered edition.  In the eyes of a collector, numbering makes the item seem really special...even if there are 9,000 of them produced!

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial Revival Edition

The box design is nearly identical to the original.  Shiseido was ahead of its time back then not just for product innovation but also for packaging.  Chapter 3 of an excellent dissertation entitled "Imperial Designs:" Fashion, Cosmetics, and Cultural Identity in Japan, 1931-1943" by Rebecca Nickerson sheds light on the design process.  In 1915 Shiseido's founder, Fukuhara Arinobu, unofficially passed ownership of the company to his son, Fukuhara Shinzo, who had been traveling domestically and abroad to study art and photography for a number of years prior.  The younger Fukuhara used his passion for art and aesthetics to form an official cosmetics division for the company and in 1916, he appointed a design team consisting mostly of artist friends he had met during his travels to create sophisticated, appealing packaging for all of Shiseido's products.  The creation of such a group, focused on cohesive design and marketing, was cutting-edge for the time.  Their artistic skill proved quite effective: "The design team came up with unique packaging for the face powder.  Each of the seven colors was in its own original eight-sided, white satin box, and the lids were embossed with two concentric gold lines and Shiseido's camellia logo.  Above the logo were the words 'poudre de riz', the French term for face powder, and below it in Roman letters, 'Shiseido, Tokyo'.  The package design was simple yet sophisticated and conveyed a sense of the foreign, which was exactly what Fukuhara wanted consumers to associate with the Shiseido brand. This was Shiseido's second attempt to introduce Western face powders to Japanese consumers.  While most women could not afford or had little interest in Western face powders in 1906, by 1917 consumption was on the rise and greater numbers of women were eager to embrace this new trend in beauty culture.  The flood of modern Western culture, Hollywood films, and a general enthusiasm for 'Americanism' also increased demand for modern fashion and cosmetics.  Shiseido was one of a number of companies to introduce similar face powders around this time, and the 'Rainbow Face Powder' succeeded in making Shiseido a visible player in the cosmetics market." (p. 103).

Shiseido 7 color face powder centennial edition

I was so hesitant to try to peel off one of the seals to open the box, but I managed to do so without ripping it.

Shiseido 7 color face powder centennial edition

For comparison's sake, here are photos of the original powders and you can see more pictures of them from the Shiseido Museum here.  I think the only differences are that the new revival ones are covered in a fabric material whereas the old boxes seem to be made from cardboard (I don't think it was satin), and the camellia logo is at the top of the powder covering in the revival versions - the originals don't seem to have the logo on the inside.  I'm guessing the old ones didn't have the color-coded seals on the boxes either.

Shiseido vintage rainbow powders(image from davelackie.com)

Anyway, why were these so groundbreaking?  Well, besides the design, colored face powder didn't really exist back then.  I've mentioned this excellent paper from art historian (ahem) Gennifer Weisenfeld before, but here's another excerpt explaining why these were a breakthrough: "Tinted face powders were exceedingly rare in prewar Japan and Shiseido pioneered them early on with a series of colors under the brand name Poudre de Riz. The female entertainers (geisha) who worked in nearby Shinbashi and who were loyal Shiseido customers particularly liked the green and purple powder colors because they were thought to flatter the complexion under electric lighting."  Not only did these powders have color correcting ability in less than ideal lighting conditions, Shiseido maintains they were a way for women to "match their face powder shade to their attire."  This was in keeping with the shift towards more Western styles and a desire for more natural looking makeup.  "Gradually, as Japanese cosmetic practices changed over time and moved toward a greater naturalism, the traditional thick white cosmetic foundation (o-shiroi) ceased to be used for daily wear." Finally, the rainbow powders, quite simply, were among the first steps in customized makeup that encompassed a much wider range of colors than were available previously.  This in turn allowed Shiseido to reach a significantly greater portion of the cosmetics market, since the colors could be mixed to suit one's skin tone. Says Jessica Guerra, author of "Consumerism, Commodification and Beauty: Shiseido and the Rise of Japanese Beauty Culture" (another fantastic scholarly piece!), "Through different combinations of the seven provided colors, consumers could create their own shades and color palettes. Understandably, this would mean increased international appeal and marketability as racially diverse consumers could purchase Seven Colors Face Powder and create their own personalized shades based on preference." (p. 29).  Indeed, even today Shiseido touts the customization ability of the revival powders, noting that they also give one "the freedom to experiment and create the most beautiful finish for your skin."

Shiseido hadn't completely abandoned the idea of reviving their rainbow powders until now.  I couldn't read this whole article because it's behind a paywall (thanks, jerks), but apparently in late 2001 the company released a rainbow powder available only to their Camellia Club members:  "Shiseido has resurrected a face powder-Rainbow Face Powder-that debuted in 1917 but in a way geared to the woman of the 21st century. The debut product featured seven colors-white, yellow, flesh, rose, peony, green, and purple-instead of the typical white to offer women the shade that best enhanced their facial features and to create an appearance more suited to the increasingly popular Western-style fashions. Renamed La Poudre Ruisselant, the face powder is sold in specially designed container with lids shaped like a camellia blossom-the symbol of Shiseido."  I tried my darndest to find a photo of this "specially designed container" but only turned up a picture of the refill.

Shiseido Poudre Ruisselante refill
(image from honoaka-japan.jimdo.com)

While I couldn't find a photo, I do think it's interesting to note that Shiseido tried revamping their rainbow powders previously.  Maybe in 2001 the makeup world at large wasn't yet receptive to color correcting and that's why Shiseido offered the Ruisselante powder to only a handful of consumers.  But as color correcting has been all the rage for the past couple of years, now is a great time to re-introduce these to the public, not to mention the fact that it syncs perfectly with the 100th anniversary of the products' debut.  I love how they updated the packaging too - very similar to the original but just enough details to make it modern and special enough to commemorate the anniversary.  I'm still drooling over the shiny rainbow on the box, and the numbering...well, that's like collector's catnip. 

What do you think of this set?  Do you color correct at all?  I do but with liquid or cream concealer rather than powder. :)

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Vintage makeup highlights from DuBarry

This post is a result of my very kind mother-in-law gifting me some vintage DuBarry items, which she found while cleaning out her deceased mother's belongings.  She knew I would appreciate them and give them a good home, and I'm really pleased to have vintage makeup that came from a family member.  I'm okay with buying vintage items without knowing anything about who they belonged to, but obviously I feel more of a connection to the object when they come from someone I actually know.   Anyway, these items inspired me to learn a little more about the DuBarry line and, of course, purchase some other items so they didn't feel so alone. ;)

I'm not going to rehash the entire history of the line, as both Cosmetics and Skin and Collecting Vintage Compacts have excellent, thorough histories of both DuBarry and Richard Hudnut, the founder of the line (along with many other brands.)  The story in a nutshell:  DuBarry originally started as a fragrance developed by Hudnut in 1902.  In 1929 a makeup and skincare line was spun off the fragrance as an additional revenue source.  The line wasn't doing so well by the late 1930s; however, ever the businessman, Hudnut expanded his lucrative "Success School" (a charm school to prepare young debutantes for their coming out events) to include a new DuBarry "Success Course" that borrowed many of the same principles but without the debutante focus.  Part fat camp, part beauty and fashion tips, the Success Course earned the company over $4 million in a little over 3 years.  Not only was it a major money-maker, the course also helped the DuBarry makeup line gain significant brand recognition.  Since the 1960s the company passed through many owners but is still being sold today.

Without further ado, let's take a peek at some notable DuBarry items from their golden age (roughly 1940s-60s).  I found this beautiful fan-shaped color guide over at the Baltimore Shoeseum, an online museum that  specializes in swing era artifacts.  Let's hear it for another Baltimore-based online museum!  I'm sort of tempted to call and ask if they'd be willing to deaccession it to me, as I think the Makeup Museum would be a better fit.  ;)  I think this is from the early '30s.

DuBarry color guide(image from baltimoreshoeseum.com) 

There's also this gorgeously designed face powder.  Love the butterfly and reversed colors set on a diagonal.

DuBarry powder box
(image from etsy.com) 

But what DuBarry was particularly known for was the use of an image of Madame du Barry, a.k.a. the last mistress of Louis XV who, along with rival Marie Antoinette, lost her head in 1793. Collecting Vintage Compacts' entry notes that Hudnut named the line after Madame du Barry, but I'm curious to know what the source is on that and why Hudnut chose her.  In any case, there is no fabled tale of how Hudnut arrived at using Madame du Barry as inspiration the way there was with Harriet Hubbard Ayer's Madame Recamier skincare.  And it shows:  the company came up with vague likenesses of Madame du Barry for the product packaging rather than borrowing a real portrait.

The powder box below looks quite early and also resembles this etching.

Early DuBarry powder box(image from etsy.com)

This box also appears to be very early and is somewhat similar to this portrait.  These two boxes are the only ones I've seen with these particular designs, so I wonder if they were samples or prototypes not actually put into mass production.

Early DuBarry powder box(image from etsy.com)

The only exception to DuBarry's lack of faithful reproductions of the Comtesse was a sketch of a sculpture by Augustin Pajou. 

Madame du Barry by Augustin Pajou, 1773
(image from louvre.fr)

Roughly from the start of the line in 1929, DuBarry utilized a drawing of the sculpture for ads and powder boxes and continued to use it up until the early to mid '40s.

1930 DuBarry ad
(image from cosmeticsandskin.com)

1941 DuBarry ad(image from library.duke.edu) 

Naturally I had to get one to add to the Museum's collection.

Dubarry powder box

Okay, maybe I got 2!  But the design was a little different and I figured variety couldn't hurt.

DuBarry large powder box

I also liked the pattern on the sides.

DuBarry large powder box

Just to give you a sense of the size, that 2nd box is body powder and way bigger than the face powder pox.

Dubarry powder boxes

But starting around 1935 (at least according to the ad below), DuBarry displayed a different, completely imaginary representation of Madame du Barry, and it appears that in 1942 they began adding her to their packaging and phasing out the other, accurate Madame du Barry depiction.  I've looked everywhere online and there is no portrait of Madame du Barry that even remotely resembles this one. 

1935 DuBarry ad(image from library.duke.edu) 

It appears to be an amalgam of the Pajou sculpture (the asymmetrical, drapey neckline), this 1770 portrait by François-Hubert Drouais (hair is up with one lone curl around the neck), and this 1771 portrait, also by Drouais (hairstyle is similar, although DuBarry seems to have swapped out the blue ribbon for a blue jewel on the packaging).  You can see, however, that the woman on the box is not a direct copy of any portrait, as was the case with the Pajou sculpture.

1942 DuBarry ad(image from periodpaper.com)

1946 DuBarry ad

I bought this one too, along with the ad above. :)

DuBarry powder box

Then in 1949 DuBarry changed the likeness on the packaging yet again.  This time Madame du Barry appears with the ridiculously high powdered wig hairstyle that we associate with the French Revolution era.  Again, as far as I could tell, there is no portrait of Madame  du Barry that resembles this - here's the closest one I found - but even the face on this DuBarry packaging looks nothing like her!

1950 DuBarry ad(image from etsy.com) 

This image was used through the mid 1950s.

1954 DuBarry ad(image from flickr.com)

To round out the Madame du Barry representations I had to get this one too.  This is probably the most common DuBarry box I came across.

Dubarry powder box

The next item I thought would be a nice addition to the Museum's DuBarry holdings were these lipstick blotting sheets.  Clearly men are the only ones who are affected by lipstick transfer and it's their comfort we have to worry about most, not the simple fact that women would just like a lipstick that stays put so we're not constantly touching up. *eyeroll*  Still, I thought it was amusing that they put a cartoon man on the case and I don't have any vintage lipstick blotters in the Museum's collection.  (And like the DuBarry powder boxes it was super cheap, which is always a plus.)

DuBarry lipstick blotting sheets

DuBarry lipstick blotting sheets

DuBarry lipstick blotting sheets

Based on the graphics I really thought this was from the early '60s, but I was way off.  Turns out DuBarry's "Treasure Stick" lipstick was introduced in 1947 and was sold at least through 1951, according to the ads below, so these blotting sheets are from around then as well.

1947 DuBarry ad
(image from pinterest.com)

1951 DuBarry ad(image from etsy.com)

Finally, here are the items that once belonged to the husband's grandmother which my mother-in-law kindly passed along to me.  Thanks, M.!

Dubarry lipstick refills

Dubarry lipstick

Naturally I was eager to find out approximately when they were from.  Just at first glance they appeared to be early '60s to me, but I couldn't say so with any certainty, so off I went to search for clues.  Based on the ads below it didn't look like the lipsticks I have are from the '40s.

1941 Dubarry ad(image from library.duke.edu)

1945 DuBarry ad(image from library.duke.edu) 

It wasn't from the mid-'50s either.

1956 DuBarry ad(image from pinterest.com)

Low and behold, in 1958 we see a new lipstick tube and bullet that are very similar to those bestowed upon the Museum.  With the debut of the "Royal" lipstick (you've seen this ad before), there also came a new case.  However, it's gold-toned and not silver like the ones I have.  Hmmm...

1958 DuBarry ad

1958 DuBarry ad

1959 DuBarry ad(image from mudwerks.tumblr.com)

It's hard to tell, but judging from this 1961 ad below, it looks like DuBarry made the switch to the silver casing by then.

1961 DuBarry ad(image from pinterest.com)

1962 DuBarry ad(image from adweek.com) 

So while I'm still not 100% sure, I can say with confidence that the lipsticks I was given date from the late '50s or early '60s, especially given that the prices are the same on the refill boxes and in the ads. 

Just for fun, how cute is this "Morning Noon and Night" set?  Now that would be quite a find!

1964 DuBarry ad(image from pinterest.com)

DuBarry went on to launch a pretty interesting campaign for their Glissando range starting in 1964 - at least, from an advertising point of view.  Since there were so many ads I simply couldn't narrow it down, but they were a good representation of mid to late '60s style.  As noted earlier, the brand changed hands several times over the years but is still around today.  I kind of wish they would look to their golden age and re-introduce packaging with an updated (and accurate) depiction of Madame du Barry.  As Collecting Vintage Compacts points out, the Comtesse's consumer appeal cannot be denied:  "[The DuBarry] fragrance could not have failed to be recognized by the buying public as representing the essence of feminine beauty, intrigue and even a hint of scandal."  Indeed, I can see many people buying makeup with the King's favorite adorning the packaging.  :)

So those are some highlights from DuBarry when they were in their prime.   Which ones did you like best?

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Everybody's eating makeup: A brief history of food-scented cosmetics

A few years back I explored makeup that visually resembled sweets.  But what about makeup that actually smells like desserts and other foods?  Sure, bath and body products and skincare items with foodie aromas have been popular for years, but I found it interesting that color products, i.e. items worn on the face that usually aren't scented at all or with the typical floral/herbal scents, are being made to smell like chocolate and other edible delights.  So let's take a look at when this phenomenon started and where it's headed.

The earliest evidence of flavored/scented makeup that I could find is from the late '1930s.  I'm not sure whether these lipsticks were eventually released for sale or even what brand they were, but here are some happy ladies testing them in the May 1939 issue of Popular Science.

Flavored lipstick 1939(image from blog.modernmechanix.com)

Roughly a decade later Harriet Hubbard Ayer released a clove-flavored lipstick. 

Harriet Hubbard Ayer ad,

It was followed by this mint-rose scented lipstick in 1951.

Harriet Hubbard Ayer ad, 1951
(images from ebay.com)

Slightly less sophisticated but extraordinarily popular among the teenage crowd, fruit-scented lip products really took off in the early '60s.  Cutex claims to be the first company to offer fruit-flavored lipsticks in this 1964 ad.  (You might remember this from my fruity ad round-up.)

1964 Cutex ad(image from buzzfeed.com)

Soon after, in 1971, Yardley jumped on the fruit-scented lipstick bandwagon. I also remembered this one from the fruit ad post.

Yardley ad, 1971

And in 1972, the company expanded the Lip Licks line to include dessert-inspired flavors (you might remember this ad from the Sweet Tooth exhibition.)

Yardley ad, 1972(image from flickr.com)

The foody-scented lip balm craze reached new heights in 1973, when a company named Bonne Bell introduced their Lip Smackers flavored balm.  Starting with just 3 flavors, (strawberry, green apple and lemon), the company debuted their Dr. Pepper-scented balm in 1975, and soon Lip Smackers became a staple for tweens and teens everywhere.  By 2012 the company offered 400 flavors worldwide.  (Bonne Bell was purchased by Markwins in 2015, a company that still produces Lip Smackers today sans the Bonne Bell name).

Bonne Bell ad, 1979(image from oldadvertising.blogspot.com)

Avon wanted in on the action, as evidenced by these dessert-flavored balms that were released throughout the '70s and '80s.  (I'm not sure exactly who these were being marketed to - I imagine it was mostly kids, but maybe some teenagers and adults bought them too.)

Vintage Avon Hershey's Kiss balm

Vintage Avon cookie gloss

Vintage Avon lip pomade
(images from etsy.com)

Thanks in large part to the enormously popular Lip Smackers line, other companies proceeded to try to get a piece of the teenage demographic by cranking out flavored lip products through the '80s. 

Maybelline ad, 1980
(image from liketotally80s.com)

By the early aughts, products like Philosophy's Lip Shines and On 10's vintage-inspired lip balm tins came in more upscale, less teenybopper-esque packaging and at a higher price point to appeal to a more grown-up crowd, but retained a few of the same scents as the inexpensive likes of Bonne Bell.  In 2004 Tinte Cosmetics revived popular flavored balms that were known as "Lip Lickers" and produced by a Minnesota-based company from 1977 through 2002.  In an effort to appeal to older women's nostalgic side, Tinte retained both the original sliding tin packaging and graphics.  The food-scented balm market started to achieve full saturation around this time, especially when a company named Lotta Luv began partnering with big food and beverage companies like Hershey's, Pepsi, and Dairy Queen, along with a variety of other well-known snack, candy, cereal, and chewing gum brands.  Novelty companies offering their own crazy food flavored balms soon sprung up afterwards.  By 2012 one could find balms flavored in foods ranging from Cheetos and beer to pickles and corn dogs

My hypothesis is that since foodie lip balms had officially jumped the shark with all these wacky flavors, coupled with the fact that makeup companies were only including lip balms among their scented cosmetic offerings, makeup brands had to get more creative when it came to adding fragrance to their products.  No longer were clear lip balms enough - it was time to branch out into face and eye products, along with lip products that actually contained color.  Chocolate and other desserts were still the reining favorites.  But items like Stila Lip Glazes and Becca Beach Tints, both of which offered a variety of fruity scents, as well as Benefit's peach-scented Georgia blush, also proved popular.  Some items unintentionally offered a subtle food aroma as a natural byproduct of the ingredients used, such as Bourjois's and Too-Faced's cocoa-powder based bronzers and 100% Pure's fruit-pigmented makeup line. 

Food-scented makeup, '90s and early aughts

  1. Bourjois Bronzing Powder, 2006
  2. Benefit Georgia blush, 2004*
  3. MAC Lip Glass Tastis, 2004*
  4. 100% Pure Fruit-Pigmented Mascara, ca. 2007
  5. Urban Decay XXX Slick in Cocoa, 2004*
  6. Becca Beach Tint, ca. 2006
  7. Benefit SugarBomb blush, 2009
  8. Stila Lip Glaze, ca. 1999
  9. Jane Iredale Chocoholicks lip palette, ca. 2009
  10. Too-Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer, 2009

By 2012, foodie-smelling products were becoming less novel and more expected, but this familiarity among consumers didn't seem to diminish their popularity; even chocolate-scented makeup bags made an appearance.  Additionally, as Asian brands became more visible and available to the Western world, sales of their chocolate-scented products took off as well.

Foody-scented makeup highlights, 2012-2014

  1. DuWop Haute Chocolate Lip Venom, 2014
  2. Too-Faced Chocolate Bar palette, spring 2014
  3. Love Switch Pink Brown mascara, 2012
  4. Holika Holika Dessert Time Lip Balms, 2012
  5. Etude House Chocolate Eyes, spring 2013 (it should look familiar, as it was a key exhibition piece)
  6. Makeup Revolution Death by Chocolate palette, 2014
  7. Skin Food Choco Eyebrow Powder Cake, 2013
  8. Rimmel Chocolate Sweet Eyes, 2014

Face products weren't the only ones getting the food scent treatment, however.  While scented nail polishes were previously the sole domain of children, nail companies soon seized on the demand among adults for these products.  From Color Club's Pumpkin Spice Latte scented polish to Butter London's berry-scented polish remover, fingernails were now able to join in on the foodie fun.  Whether it was partially Dior's rose-scented polishes from their spring 2012 collection or the influence of Rosalyn Rosenfeld's (played by Jennifer Lawrence) vivid description of a nail polish top coat's odor in the 2013 film American Hustle, scented nail products rose to prominence in the past 5 years.  And the most popular ones smell not "like flowers, but with garbage"; rather, foodie polishes prove to be the best sellers.

Scented nail products

  1. Butter London polish remover trio, 2012 (I REALLY miss those Butter London polish removers - they were the best!!  They smelled great and worked even better.  They had another limited edition set that contained a pina colada-scented remover called Beach Bum, which I loved.)
  2. Ad for Mattese Happy Hour cocktail-scented polishes - if you can't make it out, the scents were Apple Martini, Shirley Temple, Hypnotic, Tequila Sunrise, Cosmopolitan, and Purple Passion.
  3. Ciaté Mint Choc Pot, 2015 (I think the Choc Pots are the reincarnation of Ciaté's previous foray into scented polish removers, which sucked - I wonder if the Choc Pots are any better).
  4. L.A. Colors Melon nail polish remover pads, ca. 2011
  5. Model's Own Sweet Shop Fizzy Cola Bottles, 2014 (the Sweet Shop collection is a follow up to Model's Own popular Fruit Pastel collection released the previous year)
  6. Sally Girl Vanilla scented polish, holiday 2014
  7. Revlon Parfumerie scented polish, 2013
  8. Color Club Pumpkin Spice Latte polish, ca. 2011 (this company has also released holiday-themed scented polishes)

Companies continue the foodie fad today.  Too-Faced is leading the way with a whopping 5 new food-scented products in their spring/summer 2016 lineup.  Japanese brands Lunasol and RMK both offered sweet-scented items in 2015, while Etude House built on their previous dessert-y releases with their Give Me Chocolate spring 2015 collection, a gingerbread cookie scented bronzer in their holiday 2015 collection, and strawberry-scented cream blushes and nail polishes for their spring 2016 collection.  Finally, this spring Physician's Formula gets tropical with a coconut-scented bronzer.

Foody makeup 2015-2016

  1. Etude House Give Me Chocolate collection, spring 2015
  2. Lunasol Selection de Chocolat eyes, fall 2015
  3. Too-Faced Peach palette, spring/summer 2016
  4. Too-Faced Chocolate Bon Bons palette, winter/spring 2016
  5. Etude House Berry Delicious Cream Blush, spring 2016
  6. RMK Vintage Sweets collection lip glosses (flavors included Maple Syrup and Butterscotch), spring 2015
  7. Too-Faced Peanut Butter and Jelly palette, spring 2016
  8. Physician's Formula Butter Bronzer, spring 2016
  9. Too-Faced Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar palette, spring 2015
  10. Lunasol Melty Chocolat lip glosses, fall 2015
  11. Too-Faced Melted Chocolate liquid lipsticks, spring 2016
  12. Etude House Gingerbread Cookie Contour Maker, holiday 2015

So, my questions are why companies are continuing to produce food-scented makeup, why we're buying it, and the significance of these items.  There's the obvious need among makeup brands to offer novel products, plus the desire to capitalize on the success of foodie bath and body lines.  Food-scented makeup is a natural expansion of the dessert-scented beauty product craze.  There's also the tactic of engaging the sense of smell as well as sight (shiny makeup in pretty colors) and touch (texture is key when creating an attractive makeup product - people love dipping their fingers in testers).  Appealing to 3 senses instead of two might make consumers more likely to buy the product.  Why simply wear a buttery-soft, chocolate-colored eye shadow when your lids could also smell like it? 

More generally, I suppose the same basic reasoning behind the allure of dessert-smelling bath and body items applies to cosmetics.  I touched briefly on why women may want to smell like chocolate, cake or other food previously in this post and in the Sweet Tooth exhibition, and there have been plenty of news articles, but the most articulate and comprehensive exploration of the topic comes from Autumn of The Beheld.  Her points regarding dessert-inspired beauty products, such as the negative implications of marketing of sweet-smelling products to grown women and the remarkable appeal they continue to maintain, carry over to food-scented makeup.  She writes, "Foodie beauty products are designed to serve as a panacea for women today: Yes’m, in the world we’ve created you have fewer management opportunities, the state can hold court in your uterus, there’s no law granting paid maternal leave in the most powerful nation on the planet, and you’re eight times more likely to be killed by your spouse than you would be if you were a man, but don’t worry, ladies, there’s chocolate body wash!...[foodie products] do smell good, after all; that’s the whole point. And they trigger something that on its face seems harmless: Part of their appeal lies in how they transport us back to an age when all we needed to be soothed was a cupcake. At the same time, they don’t actually transport us to being that age; they transport us to a simulacrum of it."  Indeed, nostalgia can be a tricky thing to navigate in this context. As with kids-themed cosmetics from brands that primarily sell to adult women, the notion of foodie makeup could be seen as an infantilizing pacifier meant to placate and distract women from serious societal issues. 

Another aspect to consider is the advertising for these products.  Today's foodie makeup isn't advertised the same way as their predecessors, who suggest these products are a good way to snag a guy.  "Could you ask for a newer, cooler way to collect men?" asks the Cutex ad.  "Kiss him in his favorite flavor," says Yardley.  (Side note: the notion of making a guy think of his grandmother while kissing is really bizarre to me, and I'm not the only one.)  "Promise Roger your strawberry kisses," implores Maybelline.  Heck, the product is even named Kissing Potion!

While the insinuation of catching a man isn't present in the vast majority of contemporary makeup ads, the idea is still vaguely floating around when it comes to food-scented items.  A reviewer for Too-Faced Chocolate Soleil bronzer titles her review, "Even my boyfriend loves the smell."  And the model for Switch's Pink Brown mascara remarks, "You can feel the chocolate scent from my lushes! [sic]  And I love it when the scent flows as your face getting close to your boyfriend, like when kissing."  (The translation wasn't great but you get the gist.)  The notion of luring a guy with a scrumptious dessert scent certainly isn't unique to makeup, but it's slightly different.  Unlike bath and body products or perfumes, one has to be up close to get a whiff of a flavored balm or cocoa bronzer.

But this fact is also why one could argue that people who wear these items are only doing it for themselves, and that we may be reading too much into these: perhaps they really are just food-scented makeup and nothing more.  Like Autumn, ultimately I don't see anything wrong with enjoying makeup that smells like fruit or chocolate or any other food.  She notes, "[Sometimes] a candy cigar is just a candy cigar...I don’t want to imply that any of us should stop using lemon cookie body souffle or toss out our Lip Smackers—joy can be hard enough to come by plenty of days, and if it comes in a yummy-smelling jar, well, that’s reliable enough for me not to turn my nose up at, eh?"  Speaking from personal experience, I loved Benefit's Georgia - something about having my cheeks smell faintly like peach was incredibly fun - but I can tell you I didn't consider, not for a second, my then boyfriend's (now husband) reaction to how my face smelled.  At the moment I'm tempted by Too-Faced's Peanut Butter and Jelly palette because not only is the smiley pb & j face ridiculously cute, the palette is scented with peanuts.  That is a fragrance I haven't seen in eye shadow before; the sheer novelty of it brings a smile to my face.  I'm not even a palette person, but the idea of inhaling a light peanut aroma while applying eye shadow is the aspect that makes me want to buy it.  I imagine that for most women, it's not about getting close to a significant other, it's about the multi-sensory pleasure you experience when applying these products.  I'd say that given how subtle and ephemeral the scents in foodie makeup are, they're actually intended to be enjoyed at a personal, individual level rather than something to be shared.  As one reviewer for Revlon's Parfumerie nail polish notes, "It's funny because you forget about it, and then I guess I don't realize how many times a day I touch my face, because I keep getting a whiff of it, and each time I'm totally surprised!”  Overall, no matter what makeup companies have in mind when creating these products, I think it's okay to perceive them simply as brief, fleeting pick-me-ups rather than as ways to entrapping a man or treating grown woman like children.  Of course it's a subject worth questioning and we must continue to be mindful of how makeup is marketed, but no one should feel bad for liking chocolate-scented mascara or nail polish that smells like cookies.

What do you think?  Are you down with food-scented makeup?  This very unscientific 2008 poll says that people are fairly evenly divided on the subject, so I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

*Limited edition/discontinued


Book review: Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick

Here's a nice little addition to your makeup library.  Read My Lips:  A Cultural History of Lipstick (1998) explores the cultural significance of the world's most popular cosmetics product. 

Read My Lips:  A Cultural History of Lipstick

I was initially a bit concerned I wouldn't finish the book based on the rather clichéd, over-the-top introduction, which was written by a different author than the rest of the book. "Just try this test:  At the end of a meal in a restaurant, absentmindedly reach for your lipstick, uncap it with a quick nudge, twist the wand out of its cartridge, and stare at it briefly.  You'd think you pulled a gun.  All eyes are on you.  Sigh wistfully and look up.  How so much drama can be contained in such a small gesture, I don't know.  But there you have it."  This paragraph made me roll my eyes so hard they almost got stuck in my head. Reapplication isn't THAT attention-getting, or rather, it shouldn't be - no one is looking at you, and if they are, they're probably thinking you're rather gauche for making a touch-up so dramatic.  Just do a quick discreet swipe and be done with it.

Anyway, despite this blather I kept reading.  To my great relief I found the actual content of the chapters far less insipid than the introduction.  Chapter 1 gives a brief history of lipstick spanning from ancient Egypt to today.  Snapshots of lipstick trends in each decade in the 20th century are provided as well.  Hardly any of the content was new information for me, but a concise overview on hand is always useful.  One of the more notable facts for me, as I believe there's a significant connection between fashion and makeup, was the author's assertion that lipstick started being swayed by fashion trends in the '50s.  "Lipstick also began to take its cue from fashion...cosmetics companies looked to fashion designers to predict the shades of the moment.  This trend was strongly encouraged by Vogue, which would introduce a color for the season and then persuade cosmetics manufacturers to supply complementary shades."  In terms of helping shape a beauty museum, it's quite helpful to know when the important relationship between makeup and fashion started.

Chapter 2 is a primer on the nitty gritty of lipstick:  basic ingredients, production, shapes and textures.  One thing I wasn't aware of previously is that the various shapes of lipstick bullets actually have names. The kind that's angled on both side of the tip is known as a fishtail, while the pointed tip angled on one side is a teardrop.  A more rounded tip angled on one side is a wedge.  I knew about lip gloss applicator names (doefoot, etc.) but had no idea that lipstick bullets had them as well.  This chapter also includes a few pages on the harmful ingredients initially used in lipsticks, and how they weren't banned until the government thought it might affect men (no surprise there).  "It wasn't until 1924, when the New York Board of Health considered banning lipstick - not ironically because of the harm it might cause the women who wore it, but out of fear that it might poison the men who kissed the women who wore it - that the government finally stepped in."  Lovely.

Chapter 3 was probably my favorite, since it talks about the rise of lipstick advertising (including celebrity endorsements), brands launched by makeup artists and cosmetic companies' charitable efforts.  

Read my lips book - ads

Chapter 3 was also my favorite since it included a few pages on shade names, which is a topic I will hopefully cover in a few weeks. (I drafted the post over 2 years ago and just keep adding to it.)  Jean Ford, one of the founders of the ever-amusing brand Benefit, explains the inspiration behind two shades named Indecent Exposure and But, Officer:  "I had just gotten out of traffic school, so the line was all about things you could get arrested for...But, Officer is a real ingenue color, a fleshy tone, like you're really innocent." 

Chapter 4 discusses the meaning of lipstick for the average woman, providing anecdotes on its significance and in some cases, power.  "The simple gesture of applying color to the mouth represents myriad emotions.  It transforms a woman from her private to her public self, prepares her for the world with one quick smear of the waxy substance."  This was probably the weakest chapter, as I feel there have been much more in-depth pieces written on the subject of lipstick's meaning.  Additionally, there is a rather meager exploration of red lipstick, which I also think has been covered better elsewhere, such as in Jean-Marie Martin Hattenberg's Lips of Luxury (see my review.)

The book redeems itself in Chapter 5 with an informative review of lipstick's influences on art and pop culture.  Songs, scenes from TV and movies, sculptures and paintings inspired by lipstick are covered, which will be invaluable for my Makeup as Muse series.  There were actually a few art pieces that I hadn't heard of previously. 

My final thoughts:  This is an excellent overview of the general history of lipstick, but it wasn't meaty enough for me.  Each of the themes could have been a book on its own; instead, they just barely scratched the surface content-wise.   However, if you're looking for a quick read or a primer for someone who wants basic information on lipstick as a cultural icon, this is perfect.  Because it's not all that in-depth, I could see this being of interest even for someone who's not a beauty junkie.  So it's definitely good to have on your makeup book shelf.  I do wonder how it stacks up to Jessica Pallingston's Lipstick:  A Celebration of the World's Favorite Cosmetic, which looks like it was released a mere two months before Read My Lips.  Judging from its tale of contents the two tomes appear rather similar, so stay tuned for a review and comparison.  :)

Are you intrigued by this book?