Cosmetics history

Beauty profile: Carmen Murphy and Carmen Cosmetics

Carmen Murphy in 1969"To borrow Dr. King's phrase all I had, too, was a dream.  I got into the business mainly because Black women, myself included, had been searching for cosmetics that would look good on them for years.  There just weren't any."
- Carmen Murphy

In an effort to dig into Black makeup history, I came across many pioneering entrepreneurs who filled the much-needed gap for Black cosmetics and hair care that haven't really gotten their due historically.  I'm not sure whether this is appropriate for a white person to do - I still feel as though it's not my story to tell - but as with my article on Tommy Lewis I figured bringing awareness to bits of forgotten history even through a white lens was better than not doing it at all.  If anyone would like to weigh in on how I can do a better job and not whitesplain/whitewash, I am all ears.

So with that caveat in place, let's take a look at Carmen Cosmetics and the savvy businesswoman behind it, Carmen C. Murphy.  Carmen Murphy (née Caver) was born on October 20, 1915 in a small town just outside of Little Rock, AR.  The second oldest of nine children in an impoverished family, she began modeling to support herself.  At the age of 19 she married a pediatrician, Scipio Murphy, and they moved to Detroit.  She studied Home Economics and Business Administration at Wayne University. While much larger than the small Southern town Murphy grew up in, Detroit still lacked high-end beauty services for Black women.  They were excluded from white salons and the few Black salons didn't have the expertise.  "No one knew high fashion.  The beauticians used far too much oil and it took two weeks before [the hair] became nice and soft again," Murphy noted.  In 1946 she purchased a dilapidated three-story Victorian mansion located at 111 Mack Avenue (or 188 Mack Avenue) and spent $50,000 of her own money turning it into a 24-room salon. In November of 1947,  Olivia Clarke, president of the Rose Meta Beauty Products Company and the successful Rose Meta House of Beauty in Harlem, along with Rose Meta founder Rose Morgan and business manager Odessa Trotter, visited Detroit to finalize plans for opening a salon "fashioned" after the original House of Beauty in New York.  On May 30, 1948, the space officially opened as House of Beauty, with Trotter serving as beauty consultant.  However, I'm still confused as to the relationship between Morgan and Murphy and the latter's role in conceiving the House of Beauty.  According to one article, "The business project is the brain-child of Mrs. Murphy, who has had the cooperation of Rose Morgan of the New York House of Beauty...". Could it be that Murphy had the idea of a full-service salon around the same time as Morgan,  discovered the Rose Meta salon and then worked with her to develop a salon in Detroit with the same name, yet the two would be totally independent of each other?  Or did Murphy purchase her building in 1946 with the intent of opening a Rose Meta-style salon from the start? In of the articles regarding the grand opening, it's referred to as the Rose Meta House of Beauty, as if Murphy's enterprise was just another location of the original salon in New York, but Murphy was actually the owner.

In any case, the House of Beauty was intended to provide "tip to toe" beauty services for Black women.  The salon did $76,000 worth of business in its first year, with a staff of 35 serving an average of 200 clients per day, roughly a quarter of whom were white.  House of Beauty's operation was particularly innovative for its use of an "assembly line" service where customers received everything from massages to makeup consultations in a streamlined, orderly yet relaxing fashion.  Quipped Murphy's husband, "Leave my wife alone, and the House of Beauty would be as large as the Ford plant at River Rouge."

House of Beauty feature article, Ebony, 1951

While the salon did well, Murphy was still frustrated by the continuing lack of cosmetics available for deeper skin tones. "Most of us simply would not use any makeup," she said.  Murphy approached every major beauty company, including Avon, Helena Rubinstein and Revlon, only to be rejected.  "They would tell you firmly that they weren't interested, and that if they sold products for N*groes, it might spoil their image in the white community."  But in 1950 the owner of eponymous line Rose Laird offered to help Murphy develop and launch her own line.  "She simply said, "I'll help you'", Murphy recalled.  Laird assigned her chief chemist, Irving Wexler, to create formulas that wouldn't turn ashy or red on Black skin tones and that would actually match the diversity of Black skin.  In 1951 Carmen Cosmetics was officially launched.  Around this time the "Rose Meta" portion of the Detroit House of Beauty name was removed, perhaps due to the new makeup line.  Rose Meta also sold their own line of makeup for Black women in their New York salons and it's uncertain whether they were sold in the Detroit House of Beauty, but it seems that Carmen Cosmetics would be the in-house makeup brand for the salon starting in 1951. Given the partnership with Rose Laird and the new formulas concocted by Wexler, we can assume they were products that were entirely distinct from the Rose Meta line. 

House of Beauty feature article, Ebony, 1951

Murphy began promoting her line outside of Detroit shortly after its launch.  By 1953 Carmen Cosmetics had a foothold in a handful of other states. Again, notice that by 1953 the salon is referred to as Carmen Murphy's House of Beauty rather than Rose Meta.  I'd really love to unravel the mystery of the relationship between the two!

Carmen Murphy - House of Beauty Cosmetics, 1953
House of Beauty Cosmetics booth in Ammon Center for the Pittsburgh Courier Home Service Fair, June 9-11, 1953.
Carmen Murphy - House of Beauty Cosmetics
House of Beauty Cosmetics booth in Ammon Center for the Pittsburgh Courier Home Service Fair, June 9-11, 1953.

(images from collection.cmoa.org)

In early 1957 a more extensive sales campaign for the line was launched through the Student Marketing Institute based in New York.  Roughly 250 salespeople were deployed in 40 major urban markets across 17 states, targeting department and drug stores, Black salons and individual customers.  The theme was "everyday beauty for every smart woman", with window displays depicting "the varied roles played by every busy woman daily."  The items' retail price began at $1.25, competitive for other major cosmetics brands at the time.  Six shades of face makeup were offered along with face powder, mascara, brow pencil, blush and 6 lipstick colors. 

House of Beauty ad, 1957(image from detroitpubliclibrary.org)

In 1963 the salon had outgrown its original space and was moved to the Great Lakes Insurance Building at 8401 Woodard Avenue.  The Small Business Administration denied Murphy a loan despite the success of the original salon, so she and her husband had to use their own savings and borrow on their insurance to open at the new location.  Nevertheless, in April of that year Carmen Cosmetics made its world debut.   This article is useful but cringe-worthy for the use of "oriental" to describe an Asian skin tone; however, at least it doesn't refer to Murphy as the "N*gro Helena Rubinstein", which is how she was referred to in several major articles.  Ugh.  What was part of the success of the Carmen Cosmetics line was that it may have been the first Black-owned line to cater to every skin tone.  The formulas for other Black-owned lines were primarily intended for for Black clientele (and justifiably so), but Murphy wanted to accommodate "every female on the face of the earth."  Sort of a precursor to the "multicultural" beauty campaigns and products of the '90s, yes?

Detroit Free Press, April 6, 1963

Carmen Cosmetics continued using this as a marketing strategy throughout the '60s, at least when dealing with potential sales outlets.

Carmen Cosmetics sales letter, 1967

Carmen Cosmetics sales letter, 1967(image from Wayne University library archives)

In 1966 Rose Laird passed away, and in 1968 Murphy purchased the company for about $175,000 and named Wexler president. Early in the year the salon moved again, this time to 6080 Woodward Avenue to accommodate even more services.  This brief profile from the February 1, 1969 issue from Vogue discusses the salon and highlights Murphy's role as the first Black woman to head a major cosmetics firm.  While other Black beauty pioneers such as Madame C.J. Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone were well-known for their hair care products and services, and there were some Black-founded lines that offered  products for deeper skintones (Rose Morgan's Rose Meta, La Jac, Valmor, and Overton's High Brown powder come to mind) Carmen Murphy was among the first to focus on providing a comprehensive range of cosmetics for Black women, and the first to land significant business partnerships to distribute it.  What's also remarkable is that Murphy's business did not rely as much on direct sales as other companies that courted Black customers did at the time (Fuller, J. R. Watkins, etc.)  The salespeople for Carmen Cosmetics were responsible for getting the line into stores or doing in-store demonstrations, with less emphasis on going door-t0-door to individual clients.  From my understanding, there were no Carmen Cosmetics "dealers" as with Avon and the like.

Carmen Murphy profile in Vogue, Feb 1., 1969(image from archive.vogue.com)

From late 1968 it's unclear what happened next to the business.  By then Murphy had landed a deal with Universal to supply her line to their film studios and was in negotiations with Bristol Myer (producer of Clairol) for international distribution, but it's not specified whether that arrangement went through, since according to an article from January of 1969 she was still considering it along with 2 others from major corporations. By 1971 Carmen Cosmetics was sold in Woolworth's, Kresge and Lamston stores, but an article in October of that year refers to a "big" deal that did not take place because she needed a loan to seal the final agreement, and the SBA again refused a loan.  Murphy laid out how systemic racism prevented Carmen Cosmetics from expanding further.  "Basically, the financial institutions do not want to see us succeed in big business.  They will loan you enough to get you started, usually just enough to get you in trouble.  Being refused by banks has been a blow to me.  I feel that, if you become large, and if you become a real threat on the market, they decide to box you in...white people are trying to prove that we do not have the ability.  Given the opportunity, we will fail.  This is a planned, white, negative approach to help.  We will fail, and this will come back at us for years to come...a white business woman definitely would not encounter this problem.  She would have a line of credit, something we never had."  Referring to the House of Beauty, she concluded:  "My dream has not been fulfilled here." Although this occurred nearly 50 years ago, it demonstrates exactly why we need programs like Juvia's Place and Glossier's grant programs today. The system is still incredibly unjust, bigoted and actively preventing Black entrepreneurs from fulfilling their vision.

In 1974 Murphy retired as the House of Beauty's owner, and there's basically no readily available information regarding what happened to the Carmen Cosmetics line or the salon after that. There was a brief mention in a November 1975 issue of Black Enterprise so we know it was still being sold then, but that was about it.  I contacted 4 organizations in Detroit and no one was able to locate business records for House of Beauty or correspondence for Carmen Murphy.  Nor could anyone find her obituary.  She was still alive in 1995, when she received an award for her founding of H.O.B. Records (House of Beauty Records), but had passed by 2010 which is when a video of her receiving the award was uploaded.  She had two sons, Scipio Jr. who tragically died quite young from polio in 1950, and Robert, an accomplished pianist and music teacher who is also deceased.  Her nephew (her sister's son), Van Cephus, was a jazz musician who sadly died by suicide in 2014.  From the comments on the aforementioned video it looks like there are a couple of surviving relatives, but obviously I don't feel comfortable reaching out to them for any information they might have. 

So as not to end on a complete down note, I want to highlight Murphy's other achievements.  Throughout her career she continued to give back to the Black community.  In 1958 she started H.O.B. Records initially to fund gospel recordings. She then set up a practice room in the salon's basement for up and coming musicians to use. H.O.B. Records quickly became the launchpad for dozens of talented musical groups.

HOB records
(image from fhcmag.blogspot.com)

With the cooperation of the Detroit Board of Education, Murphy also spoke at local schools about proper grooming.  "All the poverty programs usually come to us for beauty and good grooming touches before they finish.  I want young people to take pride in their appearance.  Many haven't had the opportunity to dress properly, to act properly or to wear the right things. I want to teach them to take an interest in themselves and the world around them," she said.  On the one hand, I suspect, sadly, that "properly" and "the right things" are code for white standards of beauty and decorum. On the other, it's wonderful that Murphy was providing underprivileged Black youth with some of the tools that would aid them in advancing their social and economic status.  Along those lines, in late 1969 she began supplying Carmen Cosmetics to American Airlines for use in their Grace and Glamour program, which helped "young girls build confidence through good grooming habits and proper makeup techniques."  The program provided mini flight kits containing Carmen Cosmetics to be used by the girls, which they were permitted to keep.  The Grace and Glamour program doesn't exactly sound like a bastion of feminism, but it's important to keep in mind that there were very few opportunities available for disadvantaged Black girls at the time.  And it seems that at least some of the girls enjoyed the products and the makeup process. 

Jet Magazine, January 8, 1970(image from Jet Magazine)

By 1971, Murphy had served as a volunteer driver for the Red Cross, was a lifetime member of the National Association for N*gro Women and NAACP, a member of the African Art Committee at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the women's auxiliary of the Detroit Symphony, the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, the YWCA and the Detroit Roundtable of Catholics, Jews and Protestants, Inc. 

As there are still many loose ends to tie up regarding Ms. Murphy - namely, any sort of correspondence, business records, or obituary - I'm contemplating the idea of hiring a private researcher to see if they can find any official business records and additional photos, but it's going to depend on their fees.  I saw tons of article "snippets" on Google books and a New York Times article that I was unable to access as well, so there's more information out there.  Also, there are plenty of online articles about Rose Morgan but obviously I'd like to do a really in-depth profile of her and also see if I can find anything about her business relationship with Carmen Murphy. 

Huge thanks to James from Cosmetics and Skin for his assistance with this article! He supplied the 1951 Ebony article and wrote an excellent profile of Rose Laird if you're interested in additional background to the Carmen Cosmetics line...just go through his whole site, it's chock full of thorough and well-researched information.  I also must thank the archivists at the Detroit Historical Society, the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Thoughts?  Feedback?  I'd really like to do more profiles of early Black beauty lines and makeup artists...let me know who you think needs more attention or if I should keep my white mouth shut.

 

Sources:  As with my previous post, I linked throughout to relevant sources and pulled the rest of the story together from various newspaper and magazine articles, so those additional sources are listed below.

Gale Research International, "Who's Who Among Black Americans," 2002, p. 222.

"Cosmetics Firm Uses New, Unique Sales Approach," the New York Age, January 12, 1957.

Valerie Jo Bradley, "Grace and Glamour comes to Langston University Co-Eds," Jet, January 8, 1970, p. 28-31.

"Why Herb Martin Keeps Chugging Along, Just Like...er...uh...Horatio Allen," Detroit Free Press, October 24, 1971.

Mary Ellen Kirby, "Beauty: Skin deep, then some to Carmen Murphy," Detroit News, October 21, 1968.  Article provided by the Charles H. Wright Museum archives.

John L. Dotson, Jr., "Black is beautiful: Carmen Murphy's beauty salons bring cosmetics to N*gro women," Newsweek article featured in the Kenosha News, January 8, 1969.


An exhibition of royal makeup (that you might be able to buy): Princess Hwahyeop

Here's more makeup awesomeness from Korea.  As usual I completely forget what I was looking for when I stumbled across a couple of articles describing the discovery of cosmetic containers in the tomb of an 18th-century princess, but it was so interesting I had to share right away.  Princess Hwahyeop (1733-1752) was the seventh daughter of King Yeongjo, 21st ruler of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910).  Her burial site was discovered 5 years ago and included a variety of cosmetics containers. The containers were already incredibly culturally and historically significant, but researchers noticed there was still some residue in the jars, a very rare find.  This provided clues about the type of makeup and skincare they contained, thereby shedding more light on 18th-century beauty culture.  How exciting!

We'll start at the beginning.*  In August 2015 a farmer living in Namyangju City, about 14 miles north of Seoul, came across a stone box buried in a onion field on her property. The farmer, Kim Jeong-hee, called the Korea Institute of Heritage, which unearthed the box in November that year but was unable to complete the excavation due to a lack of funding. Finally the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) provided support to finish the excavation in December 2016.  The box turned out to contain burial objects for the princess's husband, Shin Gwang-su. From there other items were discovered, including stone tablets identifying the tomb as that of Princess Hwahyeop and, of the course, the jackpot:  a box made of lime cement containing a bronze mirror still in its embroidered pouch, brow ink (!), combs and 12 small porcelain and wooden cosmetic containers. There was also a small black stick that may have been used to apply blush. I wish there was a photo because I can't see applying blush of any kind with a stick, so I'm wondering if it was actually for the brow ink.  The objects were stored in the National Palace Museum of Korea until they could be tested.

Princess Hwahyeop makeup containers

In 2017 the substances found inside the containers were finally went to the lab. The results aligned with our knowledge of women's beauty regimens during the Joseon era. Confucianism was the primary philosophy and promoted natural beauty as ideal beauty, so most women generally adhered to a minimal look with an emphasis on fair, light skin. This meant more effort was put into skincare and less on makeup.  While it wasn't found in the containers, women typically applied miansu, a facial water or essence in today's terminology.  This was followed by myeonyak, a sort of moisturizer/skin protector/primer hybrid made from beeswax and other ingredients such as camellia oil and kelp. After that, face powder and blush would be applied. Traces of beeswax and red pigment made from safflower and cinnabar were found in the containers, so it appears that the princess used moisturizer and blush.  She also used white face powder, as evidenced by lead and talc residue. Lead-based face paint and powder were traditionally used by aristocratic women, while those in lower social strata used a rice-based powder called baekbun.  So it seems that royalty tended to mix non-harmful ingredients with poisonous ones to make for a more effective and long-lasting product, but perhaps they were also trying to find a way to offset the negative effects. One container was found to have crushed ants suspended in acetate.  Kim Hyo-yun, researcher at the National Palace Museum, speculates that “because of their formic acid, ants might have been put in acetate to be used as a skin treatment to treat skin troubles caused by those toxic cosmetics."

Princess Hwahyeop makeup container with ants

Last October the National Palace Museum held a special exhibition displaying the princess's cosmetics, along with a seminar that brought together cosmetic ingredient experts from China, Japan and France.

Princess Hwahyeop and Her Makeup exhibition poster, National Palace Museum, 2019

How beautiful are the containers?  The blue pigment was made with cobalt, which was imported to China from Persia during the Joseon dynasty's rule.  Due to its high cost - it was even more expensive than gold - it was reserved exclusively for use by the royal court.  The motifs included pine trees, dragons, and a variety of flowers such as chrysanthemums, lotuses, azaleas, plum blossoms and peonies.  Also, only one of the jars were made by Bunwon, the official kiln of the Joseon rulers. The others were Jingdezhen ware from China and Arita ware, a type of porcelain from Japan.

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

Princess Hwahyeop cosmetic container, ca. 1750

I would have given my eye teeth to attend. You can see the conference program here, and there's also this documentary/reenactment that shows researchers discussing their findings when recreating the formulas as well as actors imagining the beauty routines of the royal family and how they contrasted with those in China and Japan. (I think...the description is in English but the video itself is in Korean so I'm not 100% sure.)

But the story doesn't end there.  Last week the National Palace Museum announced that they would be collaborating with Korea National University of Cultural Heritage and local cosmetics manufacturer Cosmax to launch a hand cream, foundation and lip color based on the artifacts found in Princess Hwahyeop's tomb.  The products will be formulated with modern ingredients but will also contain some of the ones found in the containers (safflower, beeswax). And obviously they will omit the poisonous materials, along with the crushed ants. 

Princess Hwahyeop makeup line prototype

The packaging appears to be gorgeous reinterpretations of the original containers.  The prototypes shown here are ceramic, but as porcelain doesn't preserve makeup very well the final packaging will be plastic.  The collection will initially be sold online at the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation website, so presumably the proceeds will support the organization.  Once the COVID situation improves the collection will be sold at duty-free stores and museum gift shops. The line will also be affordable (think drugstore pricing vs. department store) but there are plans to expand into higher end products as well.

Princess Hwahyeop makeup line prototype

Princess Hwayeop "character goods", i.e. dolls, are also in development.

Princess Hwahyeop beauty line dolls

For the most part, I think this is a great idea.  It brings about fresh awareness of makeup history and helps preserve cultural heritage, and the objects themselves are beautiful.  I do think it's a little weird to market a makeup line based on such a tragic figure.  Princess Hwahyeop may have been royalty, but her life didn't sound fun despite her luxurious beauty products.  She was married at the age of 11 and died at 19 from measles. I mean, I know things were different back then but being a child bride and then dying when not even out of one's teens seems quite sad.  I also think it's a little tacky that they trademarked the Princess's full name - the brand is literally called Princess Hwahyeop - but then again, I'm not sure what else you'd call a line whose entire basis is a particular princess. In any case, her burial site was an amazing find for cosmetics history.

What do you think?  Would you buy the Princess Hwahyeop collection if it was readily available?  The line will be released in November and I'm trying to figure out a way to get my hands on it. I have personal shoppers and online buddies who can get me things in 5 countries but not Korea!

 

*In addition to the links provided throughout this post, I cobbled it together from a bunch of different articles online.  Additional sources for info and images:


Party patellas: the knee makeup fad of the '20s and '60s

Not sure how I missed Mimi Choi's fantastic makeup optical illusions on Instagram, but I'm grateful to Jen of Coffee Sundays for introducing me a few months ago. One look in particular caught my eye:  Choi's hilarious "twin", Knee-Knee. 

Mimi Choi - Knee-Knee
(image from @mimles)

And with that, I decided I had to find out the history of knee makeup in modern times.1 As usual this post will be heavily reliant on newspaper archives, sigh...I wish I could find more sources, especially since, as we'll see, newspapers are not always truthful.  Anyway, knee makeup been around much longer than you would think.  Flappers used rouge (blush) to decorate their knees, an are that was more exposed than ever despite the fact that hemlines were just below the knee (the '20s version of a miniskirt).  They'd either roll their stockings down or (gasp!) forgo stockings altogether - made it much easier to do the Charleston.  Adding some blush further drew attention to the knees, emphasizing the rebellious nature of the new fashion.  Side note:  I'm dying to figure out the shift from the word "rouge" to "blush".  I'm old and even when I was a kid I remember cheek color always being referred to as blush.  I wonder how and why mainstream makeup vocabulary changed.  But that's a project for another day.

Flapper applying knee rouge, 1921

Knee rouging became full-on knee painting by the mid-1920s, although it had been reported in Paris in 1920. Unlike knee rouge, it doesn't seem as though makeup was actually used - at least one article discusses regular oil paints and another mentions watercolor - but the average woman as well as traditional artists engaged in the practice.  The designs ranged from incredibly detailed portraits and landscapes to simple flowers and butterflies. 

Knee painting in the 1920s
(image from livingly.com)

One could argue that knee painting was a good way to pique the interest of boys.  Teenage girls would paint the initials of their boyfriends or desired boyfriends, while one woman, who wasn't keen on the idea of carrying a portrait of her fiance in a locket, had his likeness painted on her knee instead. 

Knee painting, 1921

But like regular knee rouging, it was also a demonstration of creativity, provocation and rebellion, which led to either encouraging men to further sexualize women's bodies or a total backlash against the practice.  "And, my, here comes a beauty; I watch as it walks by - a painting like that always seems to catch my eye.  As one sees a comely miss with both knee-caps ablaze, studying art becomes a treat to all of us these days," a 1925 poem reads.  One housewife by the name of Clarice Wilson, well aware of her husband's hatred for the new dogs she recently acquired, painted them on her knees for a passive-aggressive dig.  Her husband, Arthur X. Wilson, retaliated by painting the likenesses of two of the most attractive women in town on his own knees. While adult women may have been mildly shamed for knee art, teenagers were soundly punished. Seventeen-year-old Mary Bell was spanked by both of her parents for painting Clarence Darrow and a portrait of a monkey on her kneecaps and a high school basketball team (from Baltimore!) was nearly expelled for showing school spirit via knee painting.  (Click to enlarge.)

Knee painting feature, August 1925

Between the 1920s and 1960s there was scant mention of knee makeup.  Besides a couple of 1939 articles and a nostalgic look back in 1957, knee makeup simply wasn't on the radar.

Painted knees, July 1939

Yes, I shamelessly stole the title of my post from this article.

Painted knees - Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Nov. 6, 1957

But the craze for knee painting returned with a vengeance in the '60s, albeit with a slightly different flavor.  Makeup artists were now finally starting to be considered "real" artists on par with traditional painters, which is reflected in their leading the way for knee makeup and the use of cosmetics rather than oil paint or watercolor applied by a regular artist. Possibly the first documented instance of knee makeup from an actual makeup artist came from William Loew, makeup director for Charles of the Ritz.  In late February 1965 he painted a pair of eyes on a model's knees for a party. Touted as the "latest in pop-op beauty" and inspired by the emerging pop and optical illusion art of the time, Loew declared the pop-op movement in fashion and beauty as a step forward for women's freedom from relying solely on her looks for success. I can't help but wonder if Loew had somehow stumbled across the knee art displayed during the 1920s.  In any case, I'd kill to see his work in color!

William Loew knee painting, March 1965

By the summer of 1965 the fad had trickled down to the masses.  A suburban Pittsburgh housewife and representative for Vivianne Woodard cosmetics, Mary Metzler, took responsibility for creating the look in May 1965, admitting that she devised the idea mostly to sell more cosmetics.  Over the next year the trend grew, despite Loew himself claiming it was over by late 1966.  Prior to his statement, by the summer of 1966 the big makeup brands were releasing leg and knee makeup kits, with the notable exception of Elizabeth Arden, whose "face designer" Pablo "refused to have anything to do with [knee makeup]".3 Estée Lauder introduced a fairly regular line with makeup, contouring powder and highlighter, but also offered an art kit complete with stick-on jeweled beauty spots (mouches). 

Bam! Gams, Mademoiselle magazine, July 1966

Estée Lauder leg and knee makeup, Mademoiselle, July 1966(images from archive.org)

Fabergé had their makeup director, Evan Richardson, create their "Kneesies" kit, which contained red, blue and yellow paints.

Faberge Kneesies, July 1966_

Revlon Ultima II's cleverly named Stemwear collection included both a "leg complexion" kit for those who desired basic coverage (hiding bruises and other imperfections) as well as a Leg Art kit with four colors that could be mixed: Chalk White, Chrome Yellow, Chinese Red, and Marine Blue, that came packaged in an artist's palette. 

Ad for Revlon Ultima II Stemwear, Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1966

The company also enlisted fashion illustrator Joe Eula to create custom designs, which were featured in the May 20, 1966 issue of Life magazine along with the July 1966 issue of Harper's Bazaar.

Life magazine, May 1966

Life magazine, May 1966

Life magazine, May 1966(image from books.google.com)

Revlon Stemwear, Harper's Bazaar, July 1966

Revlon Stemwear and knee makeup, Harper's Bazaar, July 1966

While Revlon's kit was reported to be the first leg makeup kit on the market, in July 1967 one reader of the Mercury newspaper remarked that Mary Quant, widely considered the inventor of the miniskirt, had come up with the concept of body paint first, and an indelible one at that (along with "freckle paint," which reminds me that my article on faux freckles is in dire need of updating).  While I couldn't find any proof whatsoever, I have a very strong feeling that Mary Quant probably offered a fun leg makeup kit.

Anyway, as it had the previous year, knee makeup soon made its way from fashion magazines to your garden-variety middle-class teens. 

Knee painting, Fort Worth Star Telegram, August 19, 1966

Glad to see these girls were not thrown out of school or spanked by their parents.

Photos-1967

Knee makeup art morphed into painting the entire leg by the summer of 1967, with Coty and Givenchy both releasing leg paint kits in shades meant to mimic colorful stockings. 

Coty body paint ad, 1967
(image from amazon)

Givenchy leg paint, Harpers Bazaar January 1967

Givenchy leg paint, Harpers Bazaar January 1967

And everyone remembers the body painting popularized by hippies and mainstream shows like Laugh-In.  In 1968 Tussy released a Hieroglyphics paint kit meant to be used all over the body. However, this is getting a bit off track and an entire book could be written about body paint, so I'm not going to go further with the concept now.  Suffice it to say that knee makeup hit its peak in 1966 and had mostly fallen out of favor in the '70s through, well, now, partially due to the fact that pants were becoming more acceptable for women's wear.  Maxi skirts and bell-bottoms took over around 1970 and lasted through the decade, while trousers became equally popular to skirts and dresses in the '80s and '90s.  If body makeup were to be used artistically, all-over body paint took the place of knee makeup over time.  And that's the reason Mimi Choi's art got my attention - it's rare nowadays to see only one specific part of the body adorned with makeup.

While most of the knee makeup was predicated on the ideas of creativity and self-expression, the notion of attracting boys or painting a boyfriend's name or initials was frequently noted.  Girls painted "available" and "need a date?" onto their kneecaps, while Metzler, self-proclaimed inventor of the trend, "It gives [girls] something to do at the beach, but most important it's the kind of gimmick that helps them attract boys.  That, after all, is the primary purpose of most cosmetics."  Yikes.

Knee painting, Orlando Sentinel, July 17, 1966

Then as in the 1920s, one of the reasons for knee makeup was presumably to attract guys or express one's affection for their beau, although I don't believe it was the main reason. I tend to think it was more about having fun and allow oneself to be a bit more daring than with face makeup, since the knees, despite being on display, are not as immediately noticeable as the face.  As Harper's Bazaar noted, "Never before in the history of makeup has the personal creative impulse been given such wild, free and wonderful reign."

So why did knee makeup trend in the 1920s and 1960s?  Some factors for these two very different decades overlap.  First, knee makeup in both eras was primarily fashion-driven.2  Leg makeup were ostensibly the result of new, seemingly shocking clothing styles for women, an example of the direct influence of fashion on makeup.  Freed from the burden of stockings, either by rolling them down or skipping them entirely, 1920s women realized there was room to decorate this newly acquired space.  And the latest miniskirt styles in the mid-1960s placed a bigger spotlight than ever on legs, with Harper's Bazaar declaring 1966 to be "the year of the leg".  

Knee makeup ad, LA Times, July 6, 1966

I acknowledge makeup doesn't exist in a vacuum and that there is a definitive link between cosmetics and clothing, but generally I don't think fashion affects makeup trends as much as we think. Having said that, knee makeup seems to be a clear case of fashion dictating makeup. 

The other factor at play for the knee makeup fad peaking in the 1920s and 1960s besides leg exposure in and of itself was a celebration of freedom from both an expectation of modesty and clothing that restricted movement.  Not coincidentally, (White) women's rights gained significant ground in both eras, and perhaps knee painting was a byproduct of women's social advancement.  As fashion historian and writer Marlen Komar points out, "Whether it was the '20s or '60s, women turned to knee painting to not only flex their creativity and have a bit of fun, but also to assert their autonomy, own their sexuality, and label themselves as a new generation of modern women. Makeup bags are often more political than we give them credit for."  I'm inclined to agree for the most part.  Miniskirts may not have been as liberating as history makes them out to be as they were originally intended only for the younger crowd and women today continue to get blamed for sexual assault for wearing too short a skirt, but by and large shorter silhouettes were revolutionary.  Knee makeup, along with shorter hems, could be viewed as another way women were enjoying their newfound freedom.

Of course, precisely because of the rebellious and assertive nature of knee art, there were detractors in both decades as well.  The loudest were those who harped on the ugliness of the knee.  While fashion designers hiked up hems in the name of emancipation during the '60s, others simultaneously (and hypocritically) discussed the need to make knees less offensive via makeup rather than demanding skirts and dresses get back to a lower length.  Or, you know, making pants acceptable or just letting women show their legs without feeling pressured to prettify them with makeup.  Knees were apparently hideous, which is exactly why any woman donning a miniskirt was automatically declared brave.  (Sort of like how we talk about celebrities going bare-faced in public now.)  As Gil, makeup director for Max Factor noted in 1966, "Exposing the knee is the most daring thing a woman can do.  After all, let's be clear about it.  The knob is terribly ugly."  Says one columnist:  "One cannot help wondering why this usually rather ugly thing must at all costs be displayed.  But it is never worthwhile to try to figure out fashion."  Another article's headline sums it up thusly:  "Glorifying the Ugly: Knees Take on Decorative Look".   And going back to 1925, critics claimed that not even painting could help offset the visual offensiveness of the knee.  In their view, knee art was a dubious endeavor or an entirely lost cause.  "Must be quite a task to make the old joints look attractive...I don't believe that painting the knees will help them any.  It would take more than paint to make the average knee worth looking at." 

Knee paint, 1925(image from livingly.com)

Naturally, random men had to make their opposition heard too.  One Charles Denton wrote in a 1966 opinion column for the San Francisco Examiner, "Having discerned that the knee has all the esthetic charm of a pickled pig's foot, did the style setters lower the skirt back over it? (With a thigh?) They did not!  Instead they started concocting cosmetics to glamorize it.  Which is about as logical as shaving your beard and then putting on a phony beard...I hardly need to tell you guys where this trend is leading.  Because aside from adding to the upkeep on your favorite dame, not to mention your wife,  this places yet another strain on the male psyche...the next time you're pacing the floor waiting for her to get ready to go out and you holler, 'What's taking you so long?' she'll chirp back, 'Just a few more minutes, I'm doing my knees.'"  Oh, poor delicate Charles with your already fragile "male psyche"!  He was not concerned about the expectation that women must attempt to make their legs look more attractive given the new short styles in addition to their normal beauty regimen, but that the extra time required for them to complete their makeup routine may inconvenience him. STFU, Charles. No one asked you.

The other thing the trend had in common in 1920s and 1960s was that it's unclear how many women actually adopted it.  As the very wise author of Cosmetics and Skin told me, "One swallow does not make a spring."  Despite the wealth of magazine articles in the '60s and the newspaper articles in both decades, I have a feeling it was akin to Instagram (or Tiktok, shudder) "trends" where one makeup artist or influencer does something crazy and it goes viral.  All the news outlets latch onto it and declare it a trend, when it fact only a handful of people tried it or even just the one person who started it.  I suspect the same thing happened with knee makeup.  It may have been fun at the occasional teenage party, but by and large I doubt many women were actually wearing it, at least not regularly.  "This so-called painted knee fad seems to be one of those things everybody knows all about but nobody's ever seen," was a common quip in 1925.  Dovetailing on the idea of backlash, one columnist by the name of Cynthia Grey stated that it was actually men who were trying to popularize knee makeup by putting it on every front page in order to make women look stupid. "It's funny how seriously men take freak styles and how ready they are to believe that women are morons...apparently for women to paint their knee is as important as a revolution in China or a monkey trial.  The implication is, of course, what fools we women are!"  Additionally, the spat between the Wilsons in the article shown earlier apparently never happened, because no one by the name of Arthur X. Wilson near Carlisle, PA existed. 

The_Evening_News_Mon__Aug_17__1925_

It was a work of total fiction that also demonstrates the hostility towards the trend and men's need to keep women in their place.  The feature included two somewhat true accounts4 of girls being punished for knee makeup (although now I have my doubts about the basketball team from Baltimore) but also felt it necessary to come up with a third example that was a complete fantasy, just to "prove" how idiotic women were for adopting the trend.  As for the how widespread it was in the '60s, I asked my mom, who was 21 at the peak of knee makeup in 1966 and she had absolutely no recollection of seeing it in the news, let alone in real life.  I understand that's purely anecdotal, but it goes to show that even young, stylish and progressive women - the key demographic - weren't necessarily adopting knee makeup.  I'm also thinking some of the newspaper coverage of the trend in the '60s may have been the suggestion of editors who needed a fun story for a slow summer news day rather than teens picking it up of their own accord. (Click to enlarge.)

Miami News, July 10, 1966

Finally, the fact that I've never seen any of these kits for sale or even an actual photo, only illustrations, suggests that knee makeup was not widely used.

Anyway, while knee makeup may have had a moment in the '20s and '60s, there were differences between two decades.  In the 1920s, knee rouge and painting was associated primarily with flappers and other rebellious young women. In the 1960s, knee makeup did express freedom and was intended for youngsters, but it was less about mimicking or assimilating a particular group. While some fashion observers claimed that knee makeup was mostly the domain of mods, its appeal seemed to be more widespread, reaching those who simply saw it as a fun activity rather than allegiance to a certain style or outlook.  Swim parties, summer camps, 4th of July were all occasions where friends could paint each other's knees - again, at least according to the local newspapers.

Summer camp in Ithaca, New York, 1966

Plus, while most are accustomed to applying makeup on their face, painting one's knees is trickier as you have to paint upside down.  Many articles noted that it was best to use the buddy system to ensure the design came out right. In this way knee makeup helped build camaraderie in a slightly different way than regular makeup play dates.  In the 1920s it seemed that a lot of knee painting was done by traditional artists. Some salons were flooded for knee painting requests and felt as though the only option was to hire an outside artist on to meet the demand, so girls like Mary Bell and salon employee Mrs. Richards may have been exceptions.  The shift during the '60s from hiring a painter to either a makeup artist, DIY or having a friend do the painting switched up the dynamic, as evidenced in these photos.

Knee painting, 1926
(image from marymiley.wordpress.com)

Knee painting party, July 11, 1966

Another difference was that there more emphasis on fashion in addition to art.  Besides Revlon's use of a fashion illustrator to sell their kit and the trend being spotted primarily on local fashion runways and department stores, some proponents recommending matching or coordinating one's knee makeup with clothing.  Helena Rubinstein recommended making your own stencils to coordinate with any outfit. (Click to enlarge.)

Knee makeup, Tampa Times, June 13, 1966

A third difference is that there was more acceptance for the fad in the 1960s.  The average person in the 1920s generally disapproved of knee rouge or paint; not even fashion editors and other trend-setters could sway the public's opinion. But 40 years later, as long as you were young, you could get away with miniskirts and knee makeup. I guess one could argue that's progress as compared to the 1920s stance that no woman no matter her age should have painted knees, but is it really? 

Leg Paint, Vogue, July 1966

Leg Paint, Vogue, July 1966

As the Vogue article above notes, "[Women] need [leg makeup] to make their legs look as smooth as a pair of flying silk ribbons; as unmarred by time as those of a 10-year old girl."  Another fashion editor writing for the Salt Lake Tribune in May of 1966 states that knee makeup is "FUN - if one happens to be a teen or sub-teen. BAD - if one is a minute past teen. So knack your knees only according to how many years old they are. Age is one secret they can't keep."  The obsession with youth might also be a function of pandering to young people in general as the baby boomer generation became front and center. 

Finally, while I have my doubts that many women actually wore knee makeup art in the 1960s, the trend - or at least the idea of it - seemed slightly more widespread than in the '20s thanks to the marketing efforts of cosmetic companies and the makeup professionals employed by them, along with distribution of these ideas to a bigger audience via the ubiquity of fashion magazines.  In the 1920s there was no such thing as an artistic director for a makeup brand, and companies hadn't yet grown into multi-million dollar businesses pumping out hundreds of products.  Roughly forty years had passed since makeup became regularly worn; by that point there were many more products on the market than in the '20s, so companies had to go beyond the face and invent new types of makeup.  It was only a matter of time before they shifted attention away from the face to the body in the hopes of generating more revenue, and short skirts gave them the perfect opportunity.  Revlon, Fabergé, et al were not going to miss their chance to capitalize on and create a false need for leg makeup kits (see also: earlobe makeup).  As one journalist noted in May 1966, "Cosmetics firms are about to spring a whole raft of brand new knee makeup products and ideas.  The paints and brushes, powders and creams are ready and fetchingly packaged.  The ad men are set to spread the word." As for the media, yes, Harper's and Vogue existed in the 1920s, but I'm guessing their circulation was much smaller than in the '60s, not to mention the slightly newer publications that been established by that point (Mademoiselle, Glamour, Seventeen, Co-Ed, etc.)  People are more susceptible to buy certain products or try new trends the more coverage they receive, especially with a makeup artist leading the way and the availability of pre-made kits.  Lastly, makeup technology was allegedly improved in terms of longevity.  Nearly all of the advertising for leg makeup emphasizes its long-wearing nature, a sharp contrast to the messiness of the 1940s5 and prior years.

My thoughts:  this was a pretty wild trend that I would love to see again.  Given the sad state of my own baggy, misshapen knees I go back and forth as to whether I'd emphasize them with makeup designs, but it would be great to see on other people. It's also one of the few trends that could work on every skin tone.  Of course, so-called "flesh tone" makeup for covering varicose veins or bruises probably was not available for Black or brown skin in the '60s and certainly not prior, but the bright primary colors contained in some of the kits would suit everyone.  And while short skirts on women may not be as scandalous as they were decades ago, knee makeup remains an unexpected mode of cosmetic styling and body art.

What do you think?  Would you ever wear knee makeup and if so, what design would you choose?  You know I'd paint portraits of Museum staff members!  Or maybe a mermaid on one and a shell on the other.

 

1Obviously there are entire books that could be written about body paint in various cultures throughout history, so I'm focusing specifically on knee painting during the 20th century in the U.S.

2While knee painting was mostly an offshoot of fashion, there was some influence from art movements in both eras.  One 1925 article notes that knee painting was taking on "Cubist lines", and another in 1966 describes one young lady who painted on a Mondrian-inspired design.  Knee makeup and body painting in the '60s more generally may have also been influenced by Yves Klein's Anthropométries of 1961.

3Richard Corson, Fashions in Makeup from Ancient to Modern Times, p. 569.

4Some articles indicated that Mary Bell painted Clarence Darrow on one knee and William Jennings Bryan on the other, but the article with an actual picture shows Clarence Darrow and a monkey...so who knows what's really going on there?  The photo might not have been Ms. Bell at all. In any case, multiple accounts reveal that she did paint her knees and was spanked, so at least that those parts of the story seem to be true.

5The '40s saw a spike in leg makeup due to the war.  Shortages in materials meant nylon stockings weren't readily available so women painted them on, seams and all.  There were entire leg makeup kits and salons had the service readily available.  And while the focus wasn't the knees but the entire leg, tips for contouring those pesky knee bulges still made it into various beauty advice columns. However, there was really no fun or creativity with the leg makeup of the '40s. By most accounts it was purely to mimic the average nylon stocking - no crazy colors or designs.


Story time: Memories of Kevyn

I am so pleased to be posting a wonderful, albeit bittersweet story about the legendary Kevyn Aucoin today, as it commemorates the 21st anniversary of the date he filed for the trademark of his beauty line.  A few months ago I received a very kind email from a makeup artist who actually had the opportunity to work with Kevyn and had an integral role in the launch of his brand.  Amelia Durazzo-Cintron, an Emmy-nominated artist who currently works for PBS, generously agreed to allow me to share the impact Kevyn made on her career as well as her experience with helping to get his makeup line off the ground shortly before his untimely death.  She also permitted me to use some her photos with the man himself and an incredibly special and Museum-worthy brush set that he bestowed upon her.  Here is Amelia's story in her own words.

Amelia Durazzo-Cintron at work, Februrary 2020
Amelia Durazzo-Cintron at work, Februrary 2020

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

"I was obsessed with makeup for as long as I can remember.  My mother was born in Italy.  She went to school for fashion design.  I was always in awe of the way she put herself together.  I don’t even think she owns a pair of jeans.  She’s always impeccably dressed.  Her hair and makeup is always on point.  When I was a little girl, I used to watch her put on this cream eye shadow that came in a tube like lipstick.  Once, when she was almost down to the end, she gave it to me to use for when I played dress up...and the rest is history.  I used to study her Italian Vogue. I think that is where I first may have seen Kevyn’s work.  He had a 'style' or look that was hard to imitate but immediately recognizable.   A lot of the makeup back then was pretty garish, blush that looked like stripes, colors that didn’t seem to go well together, nothing was blended. Then there was Kevyn.  Everyone he touched looked absolutely radiant. Although he was amazing at editorial looks his ability to bring out the natural beauty in women was unsurpassed.  It was around that time that he collaborated on a collection for Ultima 2 called the Nakeds.  He literally changed the industry with that launch.  I think I bought every palette.  Then came the Making Faces book.  There is no better makeup book than that! He appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show to promote the book.  They showed these amazing transformations he had done on several women.

Kevyn Aucoin Making Faces - back cover

"I became obsessed.  I had to meet this guy.  At that time, I had just started my career in the medical field.  I wasn’t particularly happy but it was decent pay and good hours.  Kevyn Aucoin changed my entire career path.  I was always interested in makeup but I didn’t quite know how I would parlay that into a career. I decided to quit my job to work at Nordstrom as a part time beauty associate. I figured it was a good of a place as any to start a career in makeup artistry.  My ex husband was not amused.  But I knew I had to go with my gut.  A few months later, Kevyn launched his second book Face Forward.  The timeline is a little fuzzy but I believe it was also at this time that he started a soft launch of Kevyn Aucoin Beauty at none other than the beauty mecca at the time, Henri Bendel’s.  The counter was placed front and center in the atrium, which was their prime real estate. His product line initially consisted of his mascara, lash curler and brush set.

"They also launched a new website. It had this amazing beauty chat room where fans, aspiring makeup artists, etc. could 'meet up' and discuss product faves, dupes, and anything Kevyn related.   Every once in a while, Kevyn himself would pop in to interact with his fans.  We would go nuts!  We were actually chatting with Kevyn himself!  I also met up with other fans from the beauty community (some of which I am still friends with). One day, Kevyn posted about a meet and greet at Bendel’s to coincide with the launch of his product line. [My friend] and I called one another and immediately made arrangements to meet up.  As I recall there may have been a day’s notice.  I  remember having to change my schedule at work so that I could attend.  There was no way I missing it!  If the event was due to start at, let’s say 5PM, we arrived at 3. They hadn’t even started setting up yet.  We were number one and two in line.  You’ve probably heard of Troy Surratt of Surratt beauty.  Well, Troy was Kevyn’s assistant at the time.  He smiled at us as we watched him merchandise the products very carefully placed in a case at the front of the line. Everyone would have to pass through and have a look on their way to meet Kevyn.  We fell into conversation (seeing as we were two hours early and staring at him) and he couldn’t have been kinder.  

Kevyn Aucoin and Troy Surratt
Kevyn Aucoin and Troy Surratt

(image from racked.com)

"Meanwhile as we were waiting for Kevyn to arrive, some celebs were being escorted into a separate entrance for what I assume to be a launch party. Mary Tyler Moore walked right past me and said hello. Her smile lit up the entire room.  Then Gwyneth Paltrow...she literally had just won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. She brushed past me on her way into a roped off area, she came in looking pissed off and like she had smelled something bad. Her demeanor completely changed when she caught a glimpse of Kevyn and I saw them hug.  I guess he had that effect on everyone.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevyn Aucoin
Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevyn Aucoin

(image from allure.com)

"When Kevyn arrived he came right to the front of the line and said hello. He thanked us for coming and told us he had heard we waited for him for two hours.  He seemed shocked by this.  I would have waited two days! I’m telling you that the guy had an indescribable energy.  I’ve met many celebs throughout my career but no one impressed me as much as Kevyn.  He was warm and genuine and was so incredibly humble.  I had brought a copy of his book for him to sign. While I had his attention, I told him it was my dream to work for him someday.  I gave him a brief synopsis of my career path and how he had inspired me to become a makeup artist.  Tears welled up in his eyes.  He was truly touched.  He told me that his plan was for him to launch at other department stores.  I believe he may have mentioned Bergdorf Goodman or Barney's as possible contenders.  He would need motivated, knowledgeable and talented artists to work for his line.  At  that time, I was working for Prescriptives, a line owned by Estée Lauder. He said he loved Prescriptives artists because they were well trained in color theory.  At the time, they were one of the most popular makeup brands.  They were [one of] the first cosmetics line to offer custom blending for foundation and always offered exact foundation shade matching.  I was elated hearing that Kevyn gave the brand his seal of approval! He then grabbed a piece of paper and handed me his personal email and told me to keep in touch.  I nearly passed out.  I was so ecstatic!!  We began an email friendship that lasted until the week before he died.  I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip me by.  I offered to help out in any way I could. At that time, Kevyn’s company consisted of just a handful of employees.  Kevyn had sunk much of his life savings into the launch of his brand. A lot was riding on the success of the line.  They couldn’t afford to hire additional staff so everyone he had on board at the time was a either a close friend or family member.  Eric Sakas was the CEO and also Kevyn’s ex-boyfriend and best friend of many years.  It was also at this time that the beauty board on his website took off.  Just as YouTube is to the beauty influencer, the beauty board was for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty.  It was an important marketing tool which they used to update fans about product launches and share tips and tricks from Kevyn himself, and other fun stuff like personal photos (as he was also an amazing photographer) and his must haves for his kit, etc.  The beauty board took on a life of its own.  

Kevyn Aucoin message boards, early 2002
(image from archive.org)

"His office manager Sarah was having a tough time dealing with the product launch, behind the scenes stuff, etc. and  having to moderate the beauty boards wasn't high on her list of priorities. We had gotten to know one another as Kevyn had her send me some mascaras to try.  I also let her know of my interest in working for the company and sent her my resume for when they were ready to begin the hiring process.   I wanted to be one of the first people to work as a makeup artist for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty!  She was so kind.  She promised to keep me in the loop...and she did, sending me freebies or as we say in the industry 'gratis' to try and sometimes giving me a sneak peek of things they were working on.  She wasn’t a makeup artist so she appreciated the feedback.  Back to the boards...they went from having a few hundred members to tens of thousands.  Every once in a while, you would get your typical internet trolls  trying to start shit and taunting some of the 'regulars'...trying to get them to engage. This one particular day one of them posted the most awful statement about Kevyn being a junkie and that we were 'worshipping a f*ggot drug addict'.  I was horrified!  I immediately called Sarah in a panic.  She took the post down and thanked me profusely for helping them avert a potentially disastrous situation.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, (it was only years later that I found out the truth) Kevyn had people in the industry trying to ruin his reputation.  You may have watched his documentary.  If you did then you’d know that he was dealing with an addiction issue related to the pain meds he took for his condition called acromegaly.  As much as I love this industry, people can be very jealous and vicious.  I suspect that there were rumblings at the time about Kevyn and his issues. Someone decided to go public, most likely to try to deter any potential investors.  This only added to his stress and to that of his friends and family members.  

Kevyn Aucoin and Janet Jackson
Kevyn Aucoin and Janet Jackson

(image from itunes.apple.com)

"That’s when Sarah asked me if I would be interested in becoming an administrator for the website.  They would give me the ability to initiate posts to get engagement and to delete and or block any offensive posts or individuals.  She explained that they couldn’t afford to pay me, but that could pay me in gratis.  I jumped at the chance!!!!! A few days later, I received a package in the mail, a huge box filled with mascara’s, lip glosses and lipsticks that had just launched, both of his books...and the holy grail.. my prized possession...A full set of Kevyn’s brushes complete with a custom mahogany box with an insert that fit all of the brushes inside.  They only made a limited number. If memory serves me correctly, the set sold for $1000!  

Kevyn Aucoin brush set

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

"I cried…Kevyn was so appreciative for the help I was providing to him and Sarah.  He emailed me and said that he would continue to supply me with anything I needed.  All I had to do was ask.  I remember thinking how lucky I was.  Friends of mine in the industry were floored.  They were so excited for me.  A makeup artist friend of mine said 'you realize that your life is going to change'…and it did.  But not the way I had hoped.  Not long after I began my work with Kevyn (possibly less than two months later), I received a message from Sarah on my answering machine.  Her tone seemed somber...not like her usual bubbly self.  I immediately thought that perhaps they had another troll situation. I called her back as soon as I got the message. It was far worse than I'd imagined.  Kevyn had passed away that morning. She didn’t want me to hear it on the news or read about it online as she was sure the news would eventually and inevitably end up on the message boards.  I couldn’t even breathe from sobbing.  I felt like my dreams were completely shattered.  I was so despondent that I didn’t go to work for several days…and as predicted the beauty board was buzzing with incorrect information and downright cruel rumors from people who had no idea what they were talking about.  Kevyn’s sister had to shut it down by telling people to please respect the privacy of the Aucoin family.  I was deleting posts left and right.  It got so out of hand that a particular troll threatened several of the members at which time I had to step in and block him.  He proceeded to send me emails threatening to 'cut my throat'.   It all seemed like a bad dream.  

Keith Aucoin speaking at his brother Kevyn's memorial service, May 15, 2002
Keith Aucoin speaking at his brother Kevyn's memorial service, May 15, 2002

(image from theadvertiser.com)

"Then came the aftermath.. I don’t know a lot of what was going on but I do know that the investors they did have on board to help to expand the product line, head for the hills after Kevyn’s death.  His entire estate was tied up in the line.  Eric Sakas who I mentioned earlier was Kevyn’s former partner and closest friend.  He made it his mission to ensure that Kevyn’s line would launch and align with Kevyn’s original vision.  They were slated to launch Kevyn’s signature product which remains a cult classic to this day.  The Sensual Skin Enhancer.  It was already being sold at Bendels and now, they needed to put it up on the website. Eric and Sarah being the business minds of the company, neither of them knew how to properly describe the extensive shade range so that online customers would be able to determine which shade would match their skin tone.  I was asked to help out.  I sat there with Eric swatching prototypes (with Kevyn’s own handwriting on the boxes) coming up with proper descriptions of the shades ie warm, med, neutral, cool, etc.  It took several hours,  They were dealing with so much.  I could see the stress and the sadness in their eyes.  I just wanted to do whatever I could to help.  After having been involved for two years after Kevyn’s death, the line was ultimately sold.  Sarah had left the previous year.  The message board was shut down due to lack of engagement (it was Kevyn’s presence there that encouraged people to hop on and interact).  Things were moving fast in e-commerce and they had to update the site to give it a more streamlined look…they no longer had the need for a website administrator.  Shortly after Kevyn’s death, his family decided to have a private memorial service.  I was so touched when I had received in the mail a photograph of Kevyn that was handed out to the family and closest friends who attended the memorial service.  His mother and father both took the time to write me a note thanking me for the work I did for his website,  I was moved to tears. 

Kevyn Aucoin

"I didn’t give up pursuing my dream to become a makeup artist.  I was hired as a trainer for the NYC  Sephora market for Christian Dior. Kevyn was my motivation every step of the way.  But the retail world was rapidly changing.  The 2008 crash hit hard and my position with Dior, my dream job, was one of the first eliminated.  I was back to square one, working freelance gigs on and off for several years, uninspired and unmotivated.  Then a dear friend of mine called me one day asking if I would be interested in freelancing for a local TV station.  He was the executive producer for a PBS News show. We had met at Nordstrom several years earlier when I was managing the Stila counter and he was going to school and working in loss prevention.  I was intrigued but nervous, as I knew nothing about TV makeup.  I had done makeup at Bryant Park, stage makeup for performances, magazine shoots, but never TV.  I was scared shitless that first day I stepped into the studio. To add to my anxiety, the anchor of the news program I’d be working for was a well respected journalist with a career that spanned 40 years.  She had been a network TV anchor, she was a guest (as herself) on the Murphy Brown show with Candace Bergen, she had been on the cover of People magazine..she was kind of a big deal.  I did her makeup for the first time..my hands were shaking.  All along I thought of Kevyn.  As silly as it sounds I felt his presence that day.  It calmed my nerves and I just did what I would normally do with anyone else.  She loved it.  I was so elated, relieved, and grateful for the opportunity.  What started out as me covering for the studio’s full time artist, ended up with me landing a staff gig. Five years later...I'm still loving my job.  This current situation has been especially hard on me.  [But Kevyn] inspires me to continue honing my skills as an artist.  I'm so proud to say that I was nominated for an Emmy in the NY market last year,  I didn't win but seriously...I could not have imagined it as a possibility! I owe everything to Kevyn."

Kevyn Aucoin and Amelia Durazzo-Cintron
Kevyn and Amelia

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

Thank you, Amelia, for taking the time to tell this amazing history!  I am so honored that you chose the Makeup Museum to share it publicly.  I also must thank Amelia for her generous (unrelated) donation to the Museum, which I'll be covering later - so many people want to help build the Museum's collection so I'm planning a rather large post on recent donations.  Stay tuned...and in the meantime, if you want more on Kevyn, there are two documentaries available and a new book from Alcone showcasing his illustrations and face charts.


Signs: a brief history of zodiac-inspired beauty

Almost as much as flowers, fruit, and butterflies, the signs of the zodiac are leading choices for modern cosmetics collections and beauty inspiration.  As a new sign season (Taurus) descends today, I thought it would be an appropriate time to provide a visual history of zodiac beauty and trace the ebb and flow of its popularity in the U.S.  As we'll see, the two main components of this particular category (zodiac-themed packaging and beauty tips/makeup looks based on one's sign) and the reasons behind their prevalence at certain times really haven't changed much in the past 100 years. 

The story arguably begins in the late 1600s in Europe, when British satire poet Samuel Butler suggested that women used beauty patches to indicate their sun sign.  As Aileen Ribeiro explains in Facing Beauty, "According to astrology, certain areas of the face were governed by the signs of the zodiac - Capricorn the chin, Aquarius the left eye, and so on - so that patches placed on the face could echo this respectable link, this time equating such sites with emotions related to love and sexual invitation; this game, perhaps not taken seriously by women at least, was played well into the eighteenth century."While I'd love to delve deeper to see if there were any other horoscope beauty mentions prior to then and between the 1700s to the 1900s, I've accepted that I need to fast forward to the modern beauty era.  The zodiac-based beauty advice that appears in nearly every online fashion publication nowadays has its roots in the 1920s, when an "authority on beauty"/astrology student declared that "the planets will guide one in using cosmetics" at the American Cosmetician's Society convention.

News article on zodiac beauty -Aug_17__1928_
(image from newspapers.com)

Zodiac beauty remained relatively obscure in the '30s and '40s.  Poudre d'Orsay's use of the zodiac for its face powder containers remains a mystery.  As far as I know it did not appear anywhere else in their line of powders and perfumes. Perhaps it's a reference to a detail on a historic building, much like the graphics on Cedib's Arc de Triomph powder, but that's just speculation.

Poudre d'Orsay, 1930s

The May 1, 1941 issue of Vogue featured a shop that sold an "all-purpose" cream with ingredients based not on one's skin needs but their zodiac sign.  This is possibly the first zodiac-specialized beauty product in the modern era.

Vogue, May 1941
(image from archive.vogue.com)

As compact sales grew exponentially in the '30s and '40s, zodiac-themed cases offered an alternative to monogramming in terms of customization.

Canadian-compacts-Dec_19__1936_
(image from newspapers.com)

The short-lived Ziegfeld Girls brand launched lucite zodiac compacts in 1946, which you can read more about here.

Ziegfeld Girls Scorpio zodiac compact, 1946

Why this Scorpio compact included a brochure for Capricorn I don't know, but it's interesting to see.

Ziegfeld Girls Capricorn zodiac brochure

Just two years later Elgin American got in on the zodiac compact game by introducing their "Zany Zodiac" line.  The illustrations and rhymes were devised by Stan MacNiel, a Scotsman and former British army captain.  He was quite the character and I encourage you to check out my post on him and the Elgin line.

Elgin American Virgo zodiac compact, ca. 1948

Advertising for both the Ziegfeld Girls and Elgin American compacts emphasize the individualization aspect of the zodiac.  Despite the millions of people that share the same sign, zodiac compacts were "all about you" and "individually styled."

Elgin American zodiac ad, March 1948

Ziegfeld-girls-ad-Mar_25__1946_
(images from newspapers.com)

As monogrammed compacts gradually became less popular by the mid-20th century, so too did those bearing individual signs.  A shift towards including all twelve symbols became more common.

Volupte Golden Gesture, ca. 1947-1950

Zodiac-themed compacts from the '50s though the early '70s tended to include all the sun signs.

Vintage zodiac compacts
Clockwise from top left: unmarked Scorpio compact (1950s), Max Factor (1971), Zenette (ca. 1950s), Wadsworth (ca. early 1950s), Kigu (ca. 1950s-70s), Stratton (1969), Le Rage (1950s)

The late 1960s, with its tumultuous social revolution and economic and political uncertainty, is when the astrology craze firmly took hold in American culture.  This in turn led to not only zodiac-themed collections but a slew of beauty horoscopes.

House of Danilov zodiac soap, Vogue November 1967
These pre-date Fresh's zodiac soaps by nearly 50 years!

House of Danilov zodiac soaps ad, Feb_7__1968(image from newspapers.com)

Tussy My Sign fragrance, ca. 1969
(image from ebay)

Sears Upbeat zodiac lipsticks ad, Aug_20__1969_

Flori Roberts debuted what might have been the first zodiac-inspired line for black women in 1973.

Flori Roberts zodiac line, 1973(images from newspapers.com)

Actress Arlene Dahl, who had been penning beauty horoscopes since 1963, published her "Beauty Scope" books in 1969.  I need to get my hands on a couple copies but in the meantime check out this blogger's review.

Arlene Dahl Beauty Scope book, 1969
(image from amazon)

Not to be outdone, modeling agency founder John Robert Powers and beauty columnist Jennifer Anderson followed suit.

Beauty horoscope by Jennifer-Anderson, Dec_31__1972_(image from newspapers.com)

Some beauty companies took a different, less labor-intensive route than producing and marketing zodiac-themed collections:  they began recommending products from their existing lineup for each sign.

Yardley Slicker Scope ad, 1969(image from capricornonevintage on flickr)

Estée Lauder beauty horoscope recommendations, January 1969

Estée Lauder beauty horoscope recommendations, January 1969(images from newspapers.com)

As the astrology fad waned in the mid-late '70s, due in part to scientist killjoys, so too did zodiac beauty.  Save for this 1978 Maybelline ad, I was hard pressed to find any other zodiac-themed makeup until the mid '80s.

Maybelline-zodiac

Zodiac beauty got a little boost during the greed-is-good era, when makeup artist Linda Mason published a book entitled Sun Sign Makeovers in 1985.  Like Dahl's series, the book offered specific beauty tips and makeup looks for each sign.  Just a couple years afterwards,  Mason released her own line of astrology-inspired makeup called Elements, some of which can still be purchased today (with different packaging).  There was a "moodkit" for each sign and specialized kits for eyes, cheeks and lips. By the way, in looking these up and learning more about Mason I discovered that her work is exactly one of the main things the Museum is intended for: the intersection of art and makeup.  If travel is ever remotely safe again I'm definitely going to check out her store/art gallery in Soho, it sounds dreamy!  It's literally called The Art of Beauty.

Linda Mason Sun Signs Makeover book
(image from lindamasonprofessional.com)

Linda Mason Elements(image from picuki.com)

Maybelline also tried to re-ignite the zodiac beauty flame in 1988 with individual eyeshadows. First lady Nancy Reagan regularly consulted an astrologer during her husband's tenure, a fact made public that same year, so perhaps this news snippet isn't too far off base.  (The shades are listed above in a separate clip for reference.)

Maybelline zodiac eyeshadows 1988
(image from newspapers.com)

The '90s and early 2000s experienced a resurgence of zodiac-themed beauty.  Nostalgia for '60s counterculture (in which the fascination with astrology played a big role) as well as the renewed interest in customized beauty products were the major drivers of the trend.  While Estée Lauder's compacts - another you can still buy today! - were geared more towards adults, many zodiac-themed products seemed to be intended for teens.

Estée Lauder zodiac compact ad, 1996
(image from ebay)

Vogue November 1997(image from archive.vogue.com)

Coco Loco zodiac lipsticks and nail polishes, 1997

Estée Lauder zodiac compacts
Left: Erté compact (2004); top: zodiac compact (2000); right: zodiac compact (1996)

Zodiac nail polishes by Tuff Scentence, Mademoiselle magazine July 1998

Has anyone ever heard of Scotty Ferrell?  I could not find a single other reference to him anywhere.

SScotty Ferrell zodiac lipsticks, Aug_30__2000_(image from newspapers.com)

Skinmarket Astrogloss, ca. 2001
(image from sickmalls.wordpress.com)

Demonstrating that beauty trends are cyclical, the zodiac fad waned again in the late aughts and early 2010s.  But around rumblings began in 2015 with Fresh's zodiac soaps and crescendoed to a roar by 2018.  Both Fresh and Bite borrowed a page from Flori Roberts and collaborated with noted astrologers for their collections - Susan Miller in the case of Fresh and Tara Greene for Bite.

Zodiac beauty items
Wet n Wild (summer 2018), Fresh Sugar lip balm (fall 2018), Colourpop x Kathleen Lights zodiac eyeshadow palette (summer 2018) and single eyeshadows (summer 2019), Missha cushion compact (ca. 2018), Bite Beauty Scorpio lipstick (fall 2018), The Creme Shop sheet mask (fall 2018)

But wait, there's more!  These are the ones not in the Museum's collection but still worth a mention.  The Milk Makeup zodiac stamps are a thoroughly modern twist on the beauty patches idea from several centuries ago, no?  When applied on the face I'd imagine they'd look like beauty marks, albeit ones with a highly specific design.

Zodiac beauty products

  1.   Julep zodiac nail polish, fall 2016
  2.   Milk Makeup Astrology tattoo stamps, fall 2018
  3.   Revolution Beauty My Sign eyeshadow palette, 2017
  4.   Demeter Fragrance Library Zodiac Collection, 2016-2017
  5.   BH Cosmetics Zodiac palette, fall 2017
  6.   NCLA zodiac nail polish, 2016

Besides beauty tips and products, the increased usage of social media meant that by 2018 Instagram makeup artists were sharing some very elaborate zodiac looks.

Zodiac makeup looks by Setareh Hosseini
(image from demilked.com)

Zodiac makeup by Kimberly Money
(image from mymodernmet.com)

Lest you think these not-so-wearable looks are solely the creation of 21st century influencers, here's a 1984 Australian beauty pageant where contestants were challenged to come up with the most over-the-top "fantasy" zodiac makeup.

Zodiac beauty pageant Aug_27__1984_(image from newspapers.com)

The packaging and design of all of these objects and looks are interesting in their own right, but why does zodiac makeup trend more at certain times?  And why is it experiencing what may be the peak of popularity during the past 2 years?  There are several reasons. First, zodiac-themed beauty tends to follow a wider cultural interest in astrology and New Age practices more generally (crystals, tarot cards, etc.).  Businesses are always eager to profit from the latest fad, and the beauty industry is no exception.  The "mystical and psychic services market" was worth $2.2 billion in 2019 according to this trend forecaster.  As Saffron of the Beauty Critic points out, astrology-themed makeup fits within the broader context of New Age/occult-inspired beauty and wellness products we're seeing now as a result.  And in the Age of Aquarius, companies introduced hundreds of zodiac-themed products. Linda Goodman's 1968 Sun Signs was the first book on astrology to become a New York Times bestseller; by 1971, astrology was a $200 million dollar a year business in the U.S.2 Even Dali got in on the action.

Stratton zodiac compact, 1969

The interest in astrology points to larger societal shifts and is driven primarily by younger generations just as it was some 50 years ago.3   Millennials and Generation Z are reporting higher rates of stress than older generations, and are increasingly turning to astrology and other New Age phenomena to cope.  As the Atlantic explained in 2018, "According to American Psychological Association survey data, since 2014, Millennials have been the most stressed generation, and also the generation most likely to say their stress has increased in the past year since 2010. Millennials and Gen Xers have been significantly more stressed than older generations since 2012. And Americans as a whole have seen increased stress because of the political tumult since the 2016 presidential election. The 2017 edition of the APA’s survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they were significantly stressed about their country’s future. Fifty-six percent of people said reading the news stresses them out, and Millennials and Gen Xers were significantly more likely than older people to say so. Lately that news often deals with political infighting, climate change, global crises, and the threat of nuclear war. If stress makes astrology look shinier, it’s not surprising that more seem to be drawn to it now."  Case in point: this "stress-busting" insert from a recent Sephora Play! box detailing what beauty products will help with relaxation based on one's sign.

Sephora Play! box zodiac insert

The decline of organized religion and the expansion of the Internet's capabilities are also factors in astrology's revival.3  In 1972 one journalist cited two key reasons for the surge in astrology's rise:  "fear in an uncertain time and the failure of orthodox religion to give meaning to problems."4  The same can be said for today's environment.  Jessica Roy, writing for the L.A. Times in 2019, details the shift away from traditional religion and the resulting turn towards astrology.  "Today, young people still seek the things that traditional organized religion may have provided for their parents or grandparents: religious beliefs, yes, but also a sense of community, guidance, purpose and meaning. But it can be hard for young people to find those things in their parents’ religions. So they’re looking elsewhere.  On top of that, a lot of younger people feel alienated by mainstream religion — by attitudes toward LGBTQ people and women, by years of headlines about scandals and coverups, or by the idea that anyone who isn’t part of that religion is inherently bad or wrong...Before the internet, people who held beliefs outside the mainstream — religious, political or otherwise — lacked a public way to connect with one another. With social media, divinatory practices like astrology, crystals and tarot have been able to take up space in a public conversation. It helps that they all look great on Instagram...Young people have grown up contending with a major recession, climate change and a more general awareness of seeing a political and economic system that many feel hasn’t benefited them, so it’s not surprising that they’re pushing back against those systems at the same time they’re exploring nontraditional religious beliefs and finding ways to integrate it all." 

Kigu zodiac compact

As for modern technology, the New Yorker further lays out how the Internet and social media allowed astrology to be more accessible and at a much faster pace than before.  "[Astrology] promises to get to answers more quickly. For centuries, drawing an astrological chart required some familiarity with astronomy and geometry. Today, a chart can be generated instantly, and for free, on the Internet. Astrology is ubiquitous on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and in downloadable workshops, classes, and Webinars. A new frontier has opened with mobile apps."  While the Internet has radically changed, well, everything, in 1970 some of the first computers were being used to generate horoscopes, with companies pouring millions into new technology just as they are now for the same reason - increased speed of delivery to meet demand.

The_Record_Sun__Aug_2__1970_(image from newspapers.com)

The second major factor in zodiac beauty's ubiquity is customization.  Consumers like to think they're getting a product made or intended just for them.  Customization in beauty is trending more heavily than ever before, from nearly every company offering engraving services to personal consultation apps.  And astrology is a fairly simple way to advertise a seemingly individualized product.  In an interview with WWD, Fresh's chief marketing officer highlighted the trend of "customization and personalization" in the industry.  She also noted that "the collaboration was particularly successful in China, which she attributed to Chinese Millennials and their obsession with the zodiac."  It's a great point about Chinese zodiac beauty products as there's been an equally explosive rise in lunar new year-themed beauty products in the past few years, many of them depicting the animal corresponding to the year.  (See also Shiseido's Chinese zodiac figurines.)5 I think the growing interest in C-beauty is also partially responsible.

Chinese New Year beauty 2020 (year of the rat)

The customized aspect of zodiac-themed beauty parallels the personalization options in astrology and other New Age trends. One doesn't have to become a certified astrologer to enjoy horoscopes; they can pick and choose whatever suits them. Roy again: "[Millennials] dabble, they find what they like, they take what works for them and leave the rest...spiritual practices appeal to the commitment-wary: You can get a little into crystals or astrology or tarot, or a lot into it. You can buy a few rose quartzes or light a few candles and if it’s meaningful for you, keep it; if not, it’s not like you went through a full religious conversion."

As noted earlier, another time that was popular for customization was the "golden age" of compacts in the '40 and '50s, where many were engraved as personalized gifts or event keepsakes.  Some were even designed with spaces specifically to add monograms.  Perhaps that explains why two major compact manufacturers decided to add to their repertoire with zodiac lines.

Ziegfeld Girls zodiac compacts, 1946

Finally, on a more basic level, the visual appeal of zodiac imagery is fairly irresistible.  There are as many different ways to depict zodiac signs as there are artists.  Whether it's the caricatures illustrated by Stan MacNiel for Elgin, the refined style of Poudre d'Orsay, or the minimalist approach taken by Demeter, even if customers aren't astrology fans the designs will draw them in.  In looking at the Museum's zodiac collection one would suspect I obsessively read horoscope predictions and plan my life around the alignments of stars and planets, but I'm actually not into astrology. I check out my horoscope from time to time just for fun, but the reality is that I collect zodiac makeup mostly because I enjoy looking at the artwork. The fact that it's prominent in makeup history and belongs in a museum is, admittedly, simply an added bonus. The otherworldly nature of the creatures and constellations combined with the twelve symbol structure satisfies both the imagination and the need for orderliness. Plus as a former art history major, it's fascinating to see different artists' takes on the zodiac.

What object here is your favorite?  Would you ever try a makeup look or product based on your sign?

 

1Aileen Ribeiro, Facing Beauty, Yale University Press, 2011, p. 132.

2Barbara Holsopple, "A Longing for Things to Be Put Right", Pittsburgh Press, April 4, 1971.

3It's out of print, but if you're interested I bet this book is great if you're looking specifically for a cultural history of astrology. Or at least, it was the only one I could find.

4Mary Turczyn, "What is the Occult?", Fond du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, March 22, 1972.  She adds, "In a poll taken in 1967, 57% said that religion was losing its influence on American life.  With religion no longer the bulwark of society, people seek answers in other areas and astrology has rallied as one of these."

5For the purposes of expediency and so as not to be all over the place I chose to focus on the modern, Western zodiac rather than exploring the Chinese zodiac in beauty products.  I do wonder how far back it goes...I'm envisioning powder containers hundreds of years old in the shape of dragons and other Chinese zodiac animals.  Must research!


Soaring beauty: The butterfly in modern cosmetics

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Introduction
Welcome the Makeup Museum's spring 2020 exhibition!  "Soaring Beauty: The Butterfly in Modern Cosmetics" explores the many ways butterfly imagery is used across all aspects of beauty culture.  For 100 years the butterfly has been an endless source of inspiration for makeup artists and collections, ad campaigns and packaging.  As the butterfly is perhaps the ultimate symbol of transformation, there is no motif more appropriate to embody the metamorphosis that makeup can provide. Like flowers, various butterfly species are a favorite reference for makeup colors, textures and finishes.  More broadly, butterflies represent springtime, rebirth, hope, and freedom.  With "Soaring Beauty", the Makeup Museum seeks to embrace this optimistic spirit and provide a peaceful oasis in the midst of a very uncertain and trying time.

The exhibition focuses on 5 main elements of butterfly makeup, which I will examine briefly before getting to the main show.  Hover over the image for information, and additional details (when available) are listed in some of the captions.

I. Color
The vibrancy of butterflies' coloring and their wings' gossamer texture figure prominently in the beauty sphere. Makeup shades and artist creations include every tone from earthy moth browns and greens to bold blue and orange hues to slightly softer pastels.

Vogue Portugal September 2016, makeup by Michael Anthony
Vogue Portugal September 2016. Makeup: Michael Anthony; Photography: Jamie Nelson; Model: Zuzana Gregorova; Styling: Melaney Oldenhof; Hair: Linh Nguyen

Blanck Digital magazine, December 2016
(image from blanckdigital.com)

Makeup by Sheri Vargas
Editorial: "Ephemeral", spring 2013. Model: Lola; Hair & Makeup: Sheri Vegas; Photographer: Clara Copley

(image from designscene.net)

Makeup by Sheri Terry for Glamour New Zealand
(image from sheriterry.com)

Elle Ukraine, August 2012, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds
Elle Ukraine, August 2012, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds

(image from pinterest)

Quality Magazine, makeup by Hannah Burkhardt
Quality Magazine Germany. Hair and Makeup: Hannah Burckhardt; Photographer: Marco Rothenburger; Models: Krista Tcherneva and Alena N.; Styling: Jennifer Hahn

(image from pinterest)

As butterflies are largely synonymous with spring, rebirth and rejuvenation, the vast majority of butterfly-themed collections are released then and feature bright, fresh colors.

Revlon Butterfly Pink ad, 1958
This ad is racist AF but I thought it was important to include.

Artdeco spring 2013
(image from magi-mania.de)

However, some color stories reflect different seasons via butterflies' natural habitats. Chanel's summer 2013 collection featured rich greens and blues reminiscent of the tropical morpho butterfly, while Anastasia Beverly Hills and Colourpop's fall releases opted for warmer tones inspired by monarch butterflies and their migration in the cooler months.

L'été Papillon de Chanel, summer 2013

L'été Papillon de Chanel, summer 2013 - makeup by Peter Philips
(images from popsugar.com)

ABH Norvina 3 palette

Colourpop fall 2019
(images from anastasiabeverlyhills.com and ulta.com)

II. Texture and Finish
The delicate, lightweight nature of butterflies and the softness of their wings is repeatedly referenced in early 20th century advertisements for face powder.

Icilma advertising postcard, 1920s
(image from maudelynn.tumblr.com)

Lancome powder ad, 1935

Poudre Simon, ca. 1930s-1940s
(image from lesanneesfolles.ocnk.net)

Poudre Simon ad, 1941
(image from hprints.com)

Yardley ad, 1948
(image from wikimedia.org)

For Australian brand Lournay, the "butterfly touch" was an integral part of their marketing for two decades.

1940s Lournay ad

Lournay ad, 1950

Lournay ad, 1952

Lournay ad, 1955

As for finishes, butterfly-themed makeup excels at imparting an iridescent, pearlescent or metallic sheen that reflects light similarly to that of a butterfly's wing.  New technology is being developed to artificially yet seamlessly recreate the iridescent butterfly wing effect in cosmetics, among other areas.

Model Joan Smalls at Jean Paul Gaultier spring 2014 couture show, makeup by Lloyd Simmonds(images from vogue and stylecaster)

Emily Rogers butterfly lipstick, ca. 1965
(image from pinterest)

Lipstick Queen Butterfly Ball lipstick
"Inspired by the beauty of a butterfly's wing, these moisturizing lipsticks shimmer with a flash of turquoise iridescence that lights up the complexion and makes teeth appear whiter. In soft and whimsical shades of pink that flutter and float over lips, this collection of lipsticks brings a butterfly radiance to your entire look."

(image from lookfantastic.com)

Harpers Bazaar Netherlands, October 2015. Makeup by
Harper's Bazaar Netherlands, October 2015. Makeup Artist: Gina Kane; Photographer: Felicity Ingram; Model: Amy Verlaan; Creative director: Piet Paris; Hair Stylist: Anna Cofone

(image from pinterest)

The fascination with butterflies' iridescent quality is also expressed in "morpho" compacts of the 1920s and '30s.  These were made with real morpho butterfly wings or foil and commonly depicted tropical locales.  Popularized by jeweler Thomas Mott at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, morpho designs were also used in jewelry and other accessories. 

Morpho compacts(images from etsy and pinterest)

III. Movement
Butterfly beauty products embraced the notion of flight and the insects' graceful motion, at times linking them to dance or music to more fully capture the joyous, free-spirited movement of a butterfly soaring through the air.  K-beauty brand Holika Holika simply titles their butterfly embossed blushes "Fly", while jeweler Monica Rich Kosann named the compact she created for Estée Lauder "Butterfly Dance".  Pat McGrath's "techno butterflies" look at Dior's spring 2013 combines pastel "wings" with rhinestone details to impart a rave-like vibe.

Holika Holika Fly blushes

Butterfly Dance compact by Monica Rich Kosann for Estée Lauder
(image from neimanmarcus.com)

Dior spring 2013, makeup by Pat McGrath
(images from beautyfw.com)

But the fluttering movement of a butterfly is best captured in makeup via the eyelashes. 

Paperself deer and butterfly lashes
(image from paperself.com)

Vogue Portugal September 2016
Vogue Portugal September 2016. Makeup: Michael Anthony; Photography: Jamie Nelson; Model: Zuzana Gregorova; Styling: Melaney Oldenhof; Hair: Linh Nguyen


L'Oreal Butterfly Effect mascara ad
(image from pinterest)

Manish Arora spring 2020, makeup by Kabuki
(image from buro247.sg)

IV. Design
Butterflies proved to be a popular design element in general. As far back as the 1900s, jewelers created exquisitely detailed butterfly compacts made with fine glass and sterling silver, and many compact manufacturers incorporated the motif in their offerings.  The butterfly's more whimisical side is expressed in Max Factor's acrylic "Butterfly Kiss" set and more recently, in a Jill Stuart Beauty lip gloss filled with iridescent butterfly-shaped glitter.

Max Factor holiday ad, 1974
(image from pinterest)

Butterfly makeup design

  1.  Austrian sterling silver and glass compact, ca. 1920s
  2.  Lady Wilby compact, ca.
  3.  Jill Stuart Butterfly lip gloss, spring 2019
  4.  Vantine powder box, ca. 1923
  5. House of Sillage lipstick case (in collaboration with the film The Aeronauts), fall 2019
  6. Nacon compact, ca. 1982
  7. Volupte compact, ca. 1946-1952

V. Mood and Metamorphosis
Whether it's subdued or taking a more literal approach, butterfly inspired makeup is a universally recognized symbol for spring and transformation.  Many companies release items embossed with butterflies or incorporate them in the advertising for their spring campaigns to express the larger ideas of hope, joy, freedom and rejuvenation.

Lubin "Butterfly Bouquet" face powder, ca. 1920s
(image from worthpoint.com)

Guerlain ad, 1965
(image from hprints)

Clinique Fresh Bloom ad, spring 2007 - collection of the Makeup Museum

Shown here are Pop Beauty, Mark and Paul & Joe blushes/bronzers/highlighters from spring 2012 and a spring 2016 Clinique GWP bag with a Vera Neumann butterfly print.

Spring butterfly makeup, collection of the Makeup Museum

The theme of metamorphosis is reinforced through the fusing of faces and butterflies. By adhering butterflies to the cheeks, lips and even eyes, the effect is a physical transformation intended to turn the mundane into the magical and capture the essence of the butterfly as it emerges from its cocoon.

Lady Gaga on V Magazine, 2011
(image from fashionista.com)

Schon Magazine, Issue 19
Schon Magazine, Issue 19 (fall 2012), makeup by Elias Hove

(image from trendhunter.com)

Giambattista Valli, fall 2012
"The Garden of Eden theme continued with the make-up – glitter eyes beneath net masks to look like delicate mythical creatures, and butterflies on the models’ lips as though the insects had just landed there for a moment." - Jessica Bumpus for British Vogue

(image from vogue.com)

An outstanding example of this concept is the spring 2020 runway show by Manish Arora.  Makeup artist Kabuki was responsible for the dazzling, otherworldly looks.  Some of the models were drag queens, emphasizing the transformational nature of both makeup and butterflies.

Manish Arora spring 2020

Manish Arora spring 2020

Manish Arora spring 2020(images from buro247.sg)

As noted in part 1 of the introduction, butterfly-inspired makeup usually features an array of colors found on various butterfly species. However, when combined with butterfly application directly to facial features, barely-visible makeup speaks to butterflies' undomesticated environment and conveys the human bond with nature. 

Dazed magazine, June 2012
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer 
Dazed and Confused magazine, June 2012
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer 

(images from fashiongonerogue.com)

 

Exhibition
All of the above elements are well represented throughout the objects in the exhibition.  So let's get to it!

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition

Top row, left to right.

Let me just say that the story of Lucretia Vanderbilt makes Tiger King look tame by comparison.  I tried to summarize it the best I could, but for the full story head over to Collecting Vintage Compacts.

Lucretia vanderbilt

Lucretia Vanderbilt compact

Lucretia Vanderbilt powder box

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Possibly my favorite pieces in the exhibition and one of my all-time favorites: Chantecaille Les Papillons eyeshadows and Garden in Kyoto palette.

Chantecaille Les Papillons and Garden in Kyoto palette

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I had to do several labels to cover the Mamechiyo and Chinese New Year collections for this shelf.  I was also going to include the Lisa Kohno collaboration, but given the lack of space and the fact that there's another Shu collection in the exhibition I left it out.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year 2016 and Mamechiyo collection

Butterfly kite by Zhang Xiaodong

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Shu uemura mamechiyo beauty

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Shu Uemura boutique ceiling by Mamechiyo

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I'm hoping to dig up more information on the artist behind the design on this Stratton palette, which may be tricky as his archives are located in the UK.

Stratton butterfly compact by Holmes Gray

Dior makeup ad, spring 1985, makeup by Tyen

Dior makeup ad, spring 1985

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Second row, left to right.

I couldn't find much information on the inspiration behind Marcel Wanders' compact for Cosme Decorte.  I'd love to know how he came up with the design.  All I know is that the model in this video is wearing a dress made with the same pattern.

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Slightly better shot of the powder so you can see the lovely little butterfly details.

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders Romantic Butterfly compact
(promo images from cosmedecorte.com)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Anna Sui butterfly makeup

Anna Sui butterfly blush

Anna Sui (runway images from vogue.com)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

MAC Madame B pamphlet, spring 2005

MAC Madame B pamphlet, spring 2005

Gucci Sunstone Illuminator

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I wish I could have found a little more info on the Hampden brand and DuBarry's Vanessa face powder.  I remember adoring the 3D butterfly in my brief history of DuBarry but could not find any reference specifically to Vanessa.

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Hampden and Dubarry Vanessa face powder

Hampden face powder, ca. 1931-1945

Dubarry Vanessa face powder

Dubarry Vanessa face powder box detail

Third row, left to right.

Lancome Butterflies Fever, 2011

Alexis Mabille

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

You might remember I featured the La Jaynees powder box in the spring 2016 exhibition.  I managed to scrounge up a rouge box. No rouge, but the box is lovely on its own.  Once again Collecting Vintage Compacts did an amazing brand history.

La Jaynees face powder and rouge box

La Jaynees face powder and rouge box

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Recent acquisition, which you can read more about here.

Sulwhasoo x Antoinette Poisson, spring 2020

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I wish I could have cleaned up this Avon palette a little better, but I was afraid of damaging it.  However, one in better condition and with the original box popped up on ebay, so get ready for new photos!

Vintage Avon butterfly palette

Vintage Avon butterfly palette

I wonder if Sears has archives that I could look at to find out anything about their cosmetic line.

Sears makeup ad, 1968

Bottom row, left to right.

I have the lipstick somewhere but am unable to locate it at the moment.  What I really regret is not buying the accompanying Météorites powder or pressed powder compact, but they were so pricey and at the time I just couldn't afford them.

Guerlain Midnight Butterfly eyeshadow, holiday 2008

Guerlain Midnight Butterfly promo and bottle

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

More Shu!

Shu Morphorium palettes, spring 2011

Shu Morphorium palettes, spring 2011

Shu Morphorium promo, spring 2011

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

I was unable to find any information at all on this powder box, but yet again Collecting Vintage Compacts had everything on the Jaciel brand.

Geo. F. Foster powder box

Vintage Jaciel compact

Jaciel ad, 1928
(Advertisement image from Collecting Vintage Compacts)

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Some more items that were included in the spring 2016 exhibition.

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

For the life of me I couldn't get decent pictures of them on the shelves so here are the images from my original post on them.

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palette

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016 palettes

Paul & Joe spring 2016

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

There was one more item I wanted to include, but couldn't fit it so I'm using a photo from when I wrote about it.

Urban Decay Alice Through the Looking Glass palette, spring 2016

Makeup Museum spring 2020 exhibition label

Exhibition Notes
I had been wanting to cover the butterfly theme for about 8 years now.  An article on butterfly compacts called "High Fliers" in the February 2017 issue of the BCCS newsletter also inspired me. I wish I could have written a deep think piece on the idea of makeup as metamorphosis or was able to do more research besides what's online, but given the current situation I kept it simple and decided to save my energy for different topics that I can tackle when the libraries reopen, which will hopefully happen in the summer. (I discovered some local university libraries may have the resources I'm looking for, but I cannot access them remotely as I'm not a student or faculty member.) But access to certain archives might have allowed some examples of runway/editorial butterfly makeup that's older than 2012 and more images featuring models of color.  And I know it seems like I included every instance of butterflies in makeup that is at my disposal, but I promise it was thoughtfully edited (curated, if you will.)  There were actually even more looks that I wanted to include but got frustrated at the lack of basic information about them like the makeup artist or year.  As for the objects themselves, I don't think any of them are vegan or cruelty-free, even though some of the companies that made them are now cruelty-free/vegan, such as Chantecaille.

Decor Notes
The husband did an amazing job of "butterflying" the Museum's logo for the exhibition poster and labels.  I was going to buy a paper butterfly garland or use the mini paper butterflies I had gotten for Instagram props in the exhibition, but in the end decided it was too gimmicky (and the garland reminded me too much of a baby shower for some reason.)  I figured given the current space the focus should be more on the ads and objects.  But if the Makeup Museum occupied a physical space, here is some art I would include as decor.  It would be like stepping into a very artsy butterfly garden!

Paper butterflies by Rebecca Coles
(image from rebeccajcoles.co.uk)

Eiji Watanabe(image from mymodernmet.com)

David Kracov, Gift of Life
(image from eden-gallery.com)

Merle Axelrad, Butterfly Effect, 2015
(image from axelradart.com)

Christopher Marley, Exquisite Creatures

Christoperh Marley, Exquisite Creatures
(images from @omsi)

And that wraps it up!  Remember you can participate in the exhibition - find out how here.  In the meantime, one easy way to weigh in is to tell me what your favorite objects, looks or ads were (either in the intro or main exhibition or both) and why. :)


Lipstick prophesy: Revlon Futurama

"I want a case that glows with fashion. That has such fashion magic it trans­mits right through the lipstick and onto the faces of women. Makes them feel the beauty touching their lips." - Charles Revson, January 13, 1954.

I know, more vintage Revlon lipsticks.  But I promise it's very interesting!  There didn't seem to be a comprehensive history of Revlon's Futurama line so I thought I'd take a stab at it.  Futurama was a collection of refillable lipstick cases designed by famed jewelers Van Cleef and Arpels for Revlon.  The line was introduced in 1955 with much fanfare, especially its debut on the popular game show the $64,000 Question.  But how did the collaboration between Revlon and Van Cleef happen?  Who was responsible for the design?  What is Futurama's significance in makeup history?  I can't say I have answers to all of these questions, but I'll do my best. 

Revlon Futurama ad, 1956

First, a quick background.  Refillable lipsticks had been on the market since the 1920s and became more widespread in the '40s as a way to save metal during wartime.  Every last scrap was needed; the country couldn't afford to have women wasting a used lipstick tube. 

Elizabeth Arden and Hudnut lipstick refill ads, 1942

The concept of makeup-as-jewelry has a longer history, with "etuis" produced in the 1700s.  At the turn of the 20th century artisans were creating pendants and bracelets that held powder and lip color, and by the 1920s high-end jewelers were producing vanity cases made out of precious materials.  In 1933 Van Cleef and Arpels invented and patented the minaudière, a new variation of the portable vanity case.1

Van Cleef and Arpels minuadiere ad, 1952(image from ebay)

The notion of makeup as an additional accessory was reinforced by the fact that many compacts were sold in jewelry stores in addition to the jewelry section at department stores, with custom engraving and monogramming available. 

Compact engraving-Oct_17__1947_

Jewelry designers Ciner and Paul Flato also had their own compact and lipstick combinations in the late '40s and early '50s.

Ciner compact and lipstick(image from thesprucecrafts.com)

Paul Flato lipstick and compact, ca. 1950

By and large, compacts and lipstick cases were already perceived as another item of jewelry thanks to companies like Van Cleef and Arpels leading the way. So what was new and special about Revlon's Futurama cases? 

Revlon Futurama ad, 1957

There were two key factors that Revlon advertised as the differentiators: design and price point.  The concept for the design is a fascinating story.  As he explains in the book Business Secrets That Changed Our Lives, Revson was inspired by a business trip to Paris. “The candlelit room, the elegant service, the fine furnishings bespoke good taste and an appreciation of beauty. Next to me sat a chic and lovely woman. What interested me most about my dinner partner was not her beauty but a small object she had taken out of her purse. My eyes returned to it again and again, until finally, with an amused smile, she handed it to me saying, ‘I would not have expected an American man to be so interested in a lipstick.’ The beauty of the   case, hand-engraved and diamond-bedecked, was one outstanding feature. What really caught my eye, though, was that the lipstick could be removed with a single click-in, click-out action in just one section. And because the lipstick was contained in its own cylinder, removal of it was not only easy, but smudge-proof. My dinner partner's remark kept goading me-‘I would not have expected an American man to be so interested in a lipstick.’ Of course not! All that an American man ever saw was one of those undistinguished brass bullets!”2 Revson took a similar case back to the U.S. and less than a month later, on January 13, 1954, summoned Earl F. Copp into his office. Copp was Chief Operation Officer for Risdon Manufacturing Company, which had been making Revlon’s cases since 1947. Revson explained what he had in mind: “I want a case, a refillable case. You have to make it different from this one. This is too much like the others, refillable perhaps, but not elegant enough. I want to see luxury, fashion, expensive jewelry. No more bullets. Can you see what I mean? I want a case that glows with fashion. That has such fashion magic it trans­mits right through the lipstick and onto the faces of women. Makes them feel the beauty touching their lips…I don't want just one case, but a whole line. So that women will want one for morning, one for evening, one for special occasions-all suitable for refills with whatever different colors they prefer.”  While refillable lipsticks existed previously, the way Futurama was advertised suggested a totally new frontier. According to design historian Matthew Bird3, Lurelle Guild (1898-1985), a prominent industrial designer at the time, was brought on board to oversee the aesthetics of the cases.  As another design scholar notes, Guild was the ideal choice to design a cutting-edge, futuristic lipstick case, as he had been responsible for other iconic '50s styles such as Electrolux's Model G vacuum, which sported "rocket-like fins".4  While the cases were being advertised in 1955, Guild filed a patent in early 1956.  Grace Gilbert van Voorhis, Raymond Wolff and Henrieta Manville are also named on the patents, with Manville’s name on the “utility” patent for the inner mechanism of the case.  Based on census records, Manville most likely worked with Earl Copp at Risdon Manufacturing, while Wolff may have worked in Guild’s office.  As for Van Cleef’s role, it appears they signed on in name only and let Revlon deal with the designs themselves; this seems especially likely given that none of the cases really resemble anything Van Cleef was making at the time.

Patent for Revlon Futurama liptsick

Patent for Revlon Futurama liptsick

The designs on their own were modern for the time, but another aspect that Revlon claimed as new was the actual refill mechanism.  While they weren't quite the hardship Revlon's Futurama ads made them out to be, earlier versions of refillable lipsticks could get a little messy and took a minute or two to change as compared to Revlon's alleged 3 seconds. 

Lipstick refill-instructions-Wed__Mar_31__1943_

Futurama's "click in, click out" was certainly less involved than wartime lipstick refill instructions!

Revlon Futurama lipstick ad, 1956
(image from cosmeticsandskin.com)

The second aspect that set Futurama apart from previous lipsticks was that customers were made to feel as though they were getting a luxury item by a brand name at an affordable price. "Like rubies and emeralds, a really luxurious lipstick case has seemed out of reach to most women...though Revlon's new cases look loftily priced, some are a low $1.75, including lipstick. Besides which, women find Futurama a money-saver since refills only cost 90c."

Revlon Futurama ad, 1956(image from Life Magazine)

The cases themselves were presented as affordable, but Revlon also promoted the idea of the refillable lipstick as a cost-saving measure - once the customer "invested" money in a case, refills would be less expensive in the long term than buying a whole new lipstick.

Revlon Futurama ad text, 1956

You would think a company as large as Revlon wouldn't take a chance with their reputation by participating in price fixing, but in 1958 their shady tactic of setting refill prices was admonished by the FTC, who cracked down on them for conspiracy.  The author of the fabulous Cosmetics and Skin website explains: [Futurama] went on sale in 1955 after Revlon acquired the Braselton lipstick patents for lipstick cartridges in 1954. Revlon then entered into an agreement with Helena Rubinstein and Merle Norman – along with a number of container manufacturers, including Scovill and Risdon – to fix the price of lipstick refills, including non-patented lipstick inserts, until they were charged by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with conspiracy." 

Revlon Futurama ad, 1956(image from saintsalvage.blogspot.com)

Even though it had been advertised previously, the breakout moment came when Revlon featured a commercial for Futurama on the game show The $64,000 Question, which they were sponsoring. (Revlon's sponsorship of the short-lived quiz show is a fascinating history in and of itself.)  It was during this commercial that viewers could witness in real time the ease and tidiness of Futurama lipsticks, making video even more critical than print ads.  As Bird notes, "YouTube allows us to watch a vintage television ad and learn that the design separated the lipstick from the case, and saved money by offering refills.  The line was marketed to women, but also to husbands and children as an affordable but seemingly luxurious gift. Without this TV advertisement, the design is easy to write off as mere decoration.  With this added information, the design transcends mere aesthetics to address user needs, perceived value, material use, marketing, and problem-solving.  Seeing the design in action gives it a life and sophistication not evident in the brutality of an elevation view patent drawing or two-dimensional photograph."6

Overall, Futurama was presented as the wave of, well, the future. The case designs, particularly the elongated styles that were tapered in the middle and wider at the ends, were intended to reflect the modern era rather than mimic shapes of the past. Revson discusses the design selection process.  "When the designs started to come in, it was an exciting and stimulating experience. Many shapes were proposed: prisms, octagons, ribbons and bows, pencils, thimbles and countless others. But the most inspired was the hourglass, a shape that four designers suggested independently. We experimented with many surface treatments, too: brocaded gold on silver, silver-plated with a gold spiral, wedding bands en­ circling the cylinder. With Bert Reibel, our packaging designer, I selected two basic shapes by the end of March, 1954. One group of cases, shaped like hourglasses, would retail at $2.50 or more; the other group, thimble-shaped, would be less  expensive. Of all the samples submitted, only one surface treatment resembled that of expensive jewelry. We had to make arrangements with Fifth Avenue jewelers and designers, visit art museums and study color photographs of good-looking jewelry from the archives. Almost every major jewelry shop in Manhattan was visited, to study expensive, hand-designed compacts and cases. But we were still little closer to our goal. During the next eight months, we made up many thousands of designs and some five hundred actual models, each with a different surface or slightly modified shape. Parts were interchange­ able, so we could produce still different combinations. We in­vented our own special language: 'belts,' 'skirts,' 'balances,' 'waistlines.' Which 'belt' looked best with which 'skirt'? Which 'waistline' went best with which 'collar'?  It got to be a joke that I was often awake all night worrying about a dimension of one-sixteenth of an inch. And it was true! The search for new surface treatments inevitably brought us face to face with the limitations of machinery. I had become in­trigued by one finish we found on expensive compacts-'Florentine' by name-which was a texture of minute, finely etched lines. In 1954 no case manufacturer had the facilities or know­ how to produce it in volume...[Copp] finally, after long weeks of experimentation, had de­vised belts and grinding wheels that would simulate the 'Floren­tine' finish. To produce other finishes, he had to dispatch engineers to Switzerland and Italy before he could locate and buy the only turning machines on earth that could do a mass production job."

You'll notice there are very few scratches on this black case, which was the result of Revson's insistence that all the finishes should last at least 2 years before showing significant wear.  "Two coats of high-bake vinyl lacquer" did the trick.  The longevity of the pavé settings on the tops of some of the cases was also difficult to ensure. 

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

After nearly a year of design work, Revlon began working on the marketing, with Vice President Kay Daly (who later came up with the questions for Revlon's iconic Fire and Ice quiz) leading the way.  "Early attempts missed the boat because they emphasized the fashion element, but did not adequately sell the 'refillable' idea. The most frustrating task [Daly] undertook was the selection of a name for the cases. Hundreds were suggested, considered and re­jected. l could not agree-no one could agree-on any of them. Finally, she hit on Futurama. To my mind, this suitably brought home the newness, the excitement, the fashionableness of the product...A market research or­ganization reported that Futurama 'is not a good name. It is too masculine. It sounds too much like General Motors.'...In the end, I had to make the decision. There was, of course, only one way to look at it: from the viewpoint of the American woman herself. I de­cided to rely on my original reaction that the name was good, and that it would appeal to the consumer I knew best."  The name was rumored to be taken from the Futurama exhibition at the 1939 New York World's Fair and speaks to the post-World War II futurist trend in American design and technology.  Additionally, Revlon declared both the economic practicality and new designs to be the most cutting-edge ideas in cosmetics, and any modern woman should want to join the party.  "Are you ready for Futurama?" asks this 1958 ad.

Revlon Futurama ad, 1958

If you weren't on board with Futurama, you were getting left behind; the ads not so subtly implied that women who didn't purchase Revlon's latest offering were unfashionable and stuck in the past. According to one commercial, "The days of old-fashioned, un-style-conscious mothers are about as out-moded as old-fashioned brass lipstick...modern mothers may be old-fashioned on the inside, but they want to be the picture of glamour and style on the outside."

By late 1957 Futurama had expanded to compacts, which were also refillable.  While not as notable as the lipsticks, the compacts solidified Futurama as the most recognized line for Revlon at the time.  Something that is of note, however, is the fact that Andy Warhol may have been involved in the design of at least one of the compacts. A while ago a private collector sent me some photos and surmised that Warhol might have been responsible for a Revlon Futurama compact featuring his drawing of an early 1900s style shoe. This is what she had to say:  "I emailed Van Cleef and Arpels about who exactly designed these lovely creations and I actually got a call from a representative wanting to find out information on a specific compact I have that she called 'the Warhol Boot'...It was supposedly one of 5 display/prototypes that went missing between 1959 and 1961. It was designed by Andy Warhol but rejected by Revson because it didn't fit the 'mood' of the collection."  If this is true, what an amazing find! Take a gander at the second compact from the left in the second row.

Revlon Futurama compacts, private collection

I reached out to another collector whose father worked for Revlon, but she was unable to find any definitive proof that Warhol designed the compact.  Still, it resembles his shoe illustrations.

Andy Warhol shoe illustrations, 1955
(image from artnet.com)

Getting back to the lipsticks, Revlon's competitors were just as cutthroat as they would be today in that several companies released jewelry-inspired cases of their own.  Take, for example, DuBarry's Showcase.  Model Suzy Parker was featured in DuBarry's ads - an unusual move given her appearance in Futurama ads.  What is not surprising that the company doing this is DuBarry, who you might remember would go on to shamelessly rip off Revlon's Fire & Ice lipstick with their Snowball of Fire shade in 1959.

DuBarry Showcase lipstick ad, 1957(image by feldenchrist on flickriver.com) 

Dubarry Showcase lipsticks ad, 1957

Dubarry Showcase lipsticks ad, 1957(images from pinterest)

Cutex was even more blatant in their plagiarism (but at least they used a different model, Sara Thom).  In 1958 the company introduced their "designer's cases" which were apparently similar to something one would find in a "Fifth Avenue jeweler's window".  The notion of previous lipstick case styles as being "passé" was also copied from Revlon.  I'm not sure these were refillable, but they were definitely lower priced than Revlon's refills.

Ad for Cutex Designer's Case lipsticks, 1958

Ad for Cutex Designer's Case lipsticks, 1958(images from ebay)

There was also this Avon clone making a series of "jewel-like" cases at a price "every woman can afford."

Cort representative booklet, 1959

Can you say "knock-off"?  Then as now, this sort of plagiarism was rampant in the industry (more on that in another post).  To my knowledge none of these brands had partnerships with actual jewelry companies the way Revlon did, but they were definitely capitalizing on the makeup-as-inexpensive-jewelry concept.  

As of December 1960 Futurama was still being heavily promoted by Revlon.  A vast array of designs had joined the original lineup, while the older styles received elaborate outer packaging to suit any occasion.

Revlon Futurama ad, 1960

Revlon gold Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama ad, 1960

Something that I have not been able to confirm is the numbering of the cases.  This one is listed in the ad as 9029, but engraved on the bottom is 587.  I believe the numbers on the bottoms of the Futurama cases correspond to the lipstick shades, not the case model, but I can't be certain.

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Futurama was phased out by the mid-1960s, but its influence is alive and well today.  Many makeup companies have collaborated with jewelry designers either for their permanent collection or limited edition collections.  The idea of owning luxurious yet modestly priced jewels via makeup persists.  As with the beauty lines of fashion houses or artist collaborations, if one cannot afford vintage jewelry or an original piece by a high-end designer/artist, makeup allows the customer to get a taste of the real deal. Here's a quick list of some of the more memorable makeup/jewelry collaborations.  I'm also keeping my eyes peeled for one of these Cutex lipstick bracelets, which were sold around 1955-1958.

Jewelry-makeup

  1. Lulu Frost for Bobbi Brown, holiday 2013
  2. Bauble Bar x Stila, holiday 2014
  3. Elsa Peretti for Halson, late 1970s
  4. Ayaka Nishi for Suqqu, holiday 2016
  5. Ambush for Shu Uemura, spring 2017
  6. Robert Lee Morris for Elizabeth Arden, 1992
  7. Jay Strongwater for Chantecaille, spring 2007
  8. Robert Lee Morris for MAC, fall (see also MAC's collaborations with Jade Jagger and Bao Bao Wan)
  9. Monica Rich Kosann for Estée Lauder, holiday 2016 (Kosann continues to design Estée's holiday compact line.)

Some high-end lines go the Cutex route by creating makeup that can actually be worn as jewelry.  Dior, YSL and Louboutin have all released lip products in pendant form.

Lip gloss pendants - Dior, YSL and Louboutin

Refillable lipsticks with outer cases meant not only to last but also displayed are thriving in 2020, given the increasing demand for sustainable packaging.  The most recently unveiled jewelry-inspired line, and probably the one most similar to Futurama besides Guerlain's Rouge G, comes from fashion designer Carolina Herrera.  “We wanted to give women an opportunity to wear their makeup like a piece of fabulous jewelry," Herrera stated.  The entire line is refillable and offers customization options in the form of detachable charms and a variety of case styles.

Carolina Herrera makeup line(image from vogue.com)

Would all of these examples have existed without Revlon Futurama?  Sure, but Revlon did a lot of the heavy lifting.  Despite the exaggerated tone of the ads, Futurama was groundbreaking in that it popularized the notion of attainable luxury within the cosmetics arena and simplified the lipstick refill process.  The cases also serve as a prime example of the futuristic flavor of 1950s American design. These factors make Futurama a significant cultural touchstone on par with Revlon's previous Fire & Ice campaign. At the very least, Futurama represents several key developments in cosmetics advertising and packaging that helped lay the groundwork for today's beauty trends and shape consumer tastes.

Which Futurama design is your favorite?  Would you like to see a history of refillable lipsticks or an exhibition expanding on the makeup-as-jewelry concept?  I have to say I'd be curious to see what Revlon would come up with if they did another collab with Van Cleef...it would be awesome if Futurama 2.0 incorporated Van Cleef's signature Alhambra motif.

 

1 Give yourself a crash course in learning the lingo for various makeup cases and the differences between them. Noelle Soren's website is a treasure trove of knowledge!

2Revson elaborates on existing cases. "For a long time it had been bothering me that American women-so alert in many ways-had been content with that old smooth brass cylinder . It had no distinctive shape, color, finish or design. It looked like a cartridge case. They would buy them and discard them when they were used up, and then buy another…A number of cosmetics manufacturers had for years tried to make cases more distinctive. We had played around with the idea at Revlon. But all that any of us ever came up· with was an­ other version of the cartridge case. For one thing, all case manufacturers, including Risdon, had the same kinds of machines, with the same old limitations." ("The Matter of Beauty:  The Development of the Futurama Lipstick Case" in Business Secrets that Changed Our Lives, edited by Milton Shepard (1964), p. 294.

3 Matthew Bird, "Using Digital Tools to Work Around the Canon" in Design History Beyond the Canon, edited by Jennifer Kaufman-Buhler, Victoria Rose Pass, and Christopher S. Wilson (2018), p.114-117.

4 Through this paper I discovered that there are two folders worth of Revlon correspondence and sketches for lipsticks in the official Lurelle Guild papers, which are housed at Syracuse University.  I have requested electronic copies of these but obviously since the library is closed due to the coronavirus I will have to wait to receive them and see if they shed any more light on the Futurama design process.  I'm also still trying to figure out whether Van Cleef designed this beautiful jeweled case, as Pinterest is literally the only place I've ever seen it.

5 There is an ad in the January 1956 issue of Reader's Digest that mentions Charles Revson "commissioning" Van Cleef and Arpels to design the Futurama line. Google, however, will not let me see the entire ad, and I've purchased 2 copies of that particular edition of Reader's Digest to no avail - there was no Revlon ad in either of them. Either Google has the date wrong or, as one eBay seller noted, the ads differed between Reader's Digest even if they were the same exact editions (i.e. same month and year.) If anyone knows how to access Reader's Digest in full online, please let me know!

6 Matthew Bird, "Using Digital Tools to Work Around the Canon" in Design History Beyond the Canon, edited by Jennifer Kaufman-Buhler, Victoria Rose Pass, and Christopher S. Wilson (2018), p.114.


MM Mailbag: Revlon Couturine lipstick

I love when I get an inquiry to which I can actually give a solid response.  A gentleman sent in this picture he had of an old lipstick and asked if I could identify it and provide any sense of its monetary value.

MM-inquiry-lipstick

I recognized it immediately as one of the Revlon Couturines doll lipsticks released between 1961 and 1963.  But which one?  The only one I recognize off the top of my head is Liz Taylor as Cleopatra, since it's pretty obvious. 

Revlon-Liz-Taylor-Cleopatra

Fortunately the Revlon Couturines appear in Lips of Luxury (which I highly recommend for any beauty aficionado - check out my review here and in-person pics here.)  According to the photos in the book it's not Marilyn Monroe.

Revlon-Marilyn-Monroe

Or Ava Gardner.

Revlon-Ava-Gardner

So it must be one of these ladies.

Revlon-couturines-lipsticks

Aha!  Looks like it's Jackie Kennedy (last one on the right.)

Revlon-couturine-lipsticks

What's fascinating to me about the submitter's photo is that his doll appears to be wearing a little fur stole around her neck, whereas in the photo from the book she doesn't have one.  As for the value, Revlon Couturines can fetch a pretty hefty price.  Even though the photo is blurry, the one submitted to me looks to be in excellent condition.  And given that she has a stole, which I'm assuming is original (the original Marilyn Monroe figurine has neckwear as well, which isn't shown in the picture in Lips of Luxury), that would probably increase the value.  I think a fair asking price would be $150-$250.  At the moment I don't even see any Jackie figurines for sale. 

What do you think of these?  This post reminds me that I really need to track down at least one for the Museum - I can't believe I don't own any.  Another one (or 8) to add to the old wishlist.

Update, 2/6/2020:  It only took 5.5 years, but I finally procured a few of these lovely ladies for the Museum! 

Revlon Couturine lipstick cases, 1962

I am sorry to say that I can confirm these are not cruelty-free.  As a matter of fact, Revlon made it a point to highlight the "genuine" mink, fox and chinchilla used.  How times have changed.  I'm also wondering whether all the ones listed for sale over the years as having brown mink are actually fox fur, as indicated in the ad below.  Then again, this was the only ad I saw that referenced fox fur, so maybe the brown ones are mink as well.

Ad for Revlon Couturine lipsticks, December 1962

The white mink one is not in the best shape - there's a little bit of wear on the paint on her lips and discoloration around her "waist" - but she does have the original box.  I'm suspecting the black mark is remnants of a belt, as shown here.  (Apologies for changing the background in these photos but I was shooting across several days and was too lazy to retrieve the paper I had used originally.)

Revlon Couturine doll lipstick with white mink, ca. 1962

The chinchilla-clad lady, however, is basically new in the box.  One hundred percent museum quality!

Revlon Couturine doll lipstick with chinchilla fur, ca. 1962

From what I was able to piece together from newspaper ads, the ones without animal fur were advertised as "mannequins" and originally released in 1961, while the chinchilla, fox and mink ones were referred to as "girls" and debuted during the holiday season of 1962.  Both series fell under the Couturine name. 

Ad for Revlon couturine lipstick, 1962

There were originally 12 designs, according to this ad.  Of course, you paid a little more for the Mannequins with hats and jewelry. 

Revlon couturine lipstick ad, 1961

Most of them were similar but had a few details switched up.  This is especially true for the Girls series. For example, the brown mink/fox one I procured has the same color velvet at the bottom and one pair of rhinestones, but the one in Lips of Luxury has pink velvet and 4 rhinestones.  The colors of the velvet and type of fur were also mixed and matched.

Revlon-couturine-variations
(images from Sun Shine)

But one question remains.  I'm wondering where Jean-Marie Martin Hattemberg, whose book Lips of Luxury I referenced earlier, retrieved his information.  Obviously I don't think he just made up the idea that each Couturine was intended to be a replica of an actress or other famous woman.  But I'm so curious to know how he came to that conclusion since I've never seen them advertised or referred to that way anywhere other than his book.  Perhaps he knew someone at Revlon who designed them?  Or maybe they were marketed differently outside of the U.S.?  In any case, there's no mention of the chinchilla Couturine and several other of the original 12 dolls in Lips of Luxury, so I'm not sure who they're supposed to be.  Hopefully one of these days I'll solve another makeup mystery. ;)

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The Makeup Museum presents: Stila at 25

Makeup Museum Stila Girl Exhibition

I'm so very excited to announce the Makeup Museum's special exhibition in honor of Stila's 25th anniversary!  I was too overwhelmed to do a full history of the brand, so I decided to just focus on the famous Stila girl illustrations.  If you've been following me for a while you know that the Stila girls were sort of the gateway drug for my interest in collecting makeup and seeing cosmetics packaging as art.  For such a milestone anniversary I knew I wanted to pay tribute to them, even though the year is almost over (thankfully - it's been miserable for a number of reasons), especially given that I've been itching to put together a special exhibition for them since at least 2016.  I also wanted to try something totally new for the Museum in terms of exhibitions.  Technically all of them are online, but instead of putting things on shelves and taking photos, I wanted it to have a more "real" online exhibition feel.  I've been doing a lot of thinking the past year or so about how to improve the exhibitions even though I'm so limited in what I can do, and I was really inspired by the Kanebo Compact Museum website, and once the husband showed me Squarespace I was sold.  Well that, and the fact that he kindly offered to design the entire exhibition site for me.  ;)  So I set up a domain there which, if this exhibition is well-received, will serve as the space for the Museum's special exhibitions going forward.  The seasonal ones will remain here if I decide to keep going with them.  Looking ahead, I think I'd rather focus on more specific topics than general seasonal trends.  Not that I can delve too deeply into particular themes given the never-ending lack of resources, but I still want to at least try to do slightly more in-depth exhibitions even though they won't be exactly how I want them.  I'm looking at them as a starting point for bigger things.

Enough of my blabbing about the basic stuff, I want to give some more details about the exhibition itself.  It came together nicely, or at least, it was the one I worked most on with the possible exception of Sweet Tooth (still want to revisit that one!)  I really wanted to get interviews with the key people behind the illustrations, so I put my crippling fear of rejection aside and boldly contacted Jeffrey Fulvimari (Stila's original illustrator), Caitlin Dinkins (illustrator during Stila's early aughts heyday) and Naoko Matsunaga (who took over for Dinkins in 2009).  While I was disappointed at not hearing back from two of the three, if only one responded, I was glad it was Jeffrey since I've been following him for a while on Instagram and I love his approach to art and his personality.  He is quite the character!  It ended up giving me so much confidence I reached out to the grand poobah herself and my curatorship namesake, Jeanine Lobell.  Yes, I actually DM'ed the founder of Stila on Instagram and asked if she'd be up for an interview.  And...and...are you sitting down??  You really need to.  Okay, now that you're sitting and won't have far to fall in case you faint, I can tell you that she agreed to do it!! 

Screenshot of DM

Not only that, she actually answered all of my interview questions!!  You have no idea how ecstatic I was to finally be heard by a major industry figure.  Took over a decade but I finally made contact with a big name!  So that was most exciting, easily one of the most exciting things to happen in the Museum's 11-year history.  And her answers were really good too, I've incorporated them throughout the exhibition so make sure to read through.

As for the items, I didn't take photos of everything in my collection because again, too overwhelming.  The Museum has over 130 Stila items, nearly all of which feature the girls.  I mean...

Makeup Museum - Stila storage

The photos I did take have purposely plain backgrounds because I wanted the emphasis to be on the illustrations.  I tried to have a good mix of memorabilia and the makeup itself.  I even had to iron a few items.

Makeup Museum - Stila memorabilia

I also included a couple photos of things that I don't actually own but are important in getting a full picture (haha) of the illustrations. I'm pleased with how the sections are arranged, and I must thank my husband for organizing them so perfectly in addition to designing the whole site.  I'm thinking of adding a section called Soundbites, a repository of quotes from the both the beauty community and general public telling me why they like the Stila girls or really anything related to the brand, so be sure to email me or comment here.  I really wish I could have an app that would "Stila girl-ize" the user, i.e. you upload a picture of yourself and it would automatically generate a Stila girl style illustration of you, just like this.  And of course, if the Museum occupied a physical space I'd definitely hire an artist to do live drawings at the exhibition opening - how fun would that be?

So that about wraps it up!  Please take a look and tell me what you think of the new exhibition format


Look here: vintage lipstick mirrors

As with lipstick holders and tissues, another piece of makeup ephemera has seem to gone nearly extinct:  the built-in lipstick mirror.  Sure, there are still some run-of-the-mill fabric and leather lipstick cases with mirrors inside, and some contemporary companies have recycled the basic designs, but no current lipstick mirrors are as novel as their vintage counterparts.  Today I'll take a look (haha) at the various vintage contraptions and mechanisms that allowed for a quick lipstick touch-up.  As usual this exploration is not intended to be a comprehensive history of lipstick mirrors, but a brief overview and theories as to why they have mostly disappeared from the beauty milieu as well as the reasons they were even produced in the first place.

The simplest design consisted of a mirrored tube, favored by the likes of Avon and Flame-Glo.

Vintage Avon mirrored lipstick tube
(image from etsy.com)

Flame Glo mirro-matic ad, July 1959

The second most basic and inexpensive option was the humble lipstick clip, which attached directly to the lipstick tube.  The adjustable design meant that it could fit virtually any tube and was easily removable. 

C-lip lipstick mirror ad, September 1946

C-Lip lipstick mirror clip on advertisement, July 1947

Vintage Lip Vue lipstick mirror clip on(image from ebay.com)

Coty24 ad, Feb. 13, 1957

I purchased a couple of these clips for the Museum's collection.  Here we have the "Looky" mirror, which was patented in 1957, and Compliments, which most likely dates to around the same time.

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

The only design flaw with these types of mirrored tubes and clip-on mirrors was that they would be easily smudged since the mirror was exposed.  Enter the folding lipstick mirror and clip!  Elizabeth Arden's Rolling Mirror lipstick debuted in 1959, and while I couldn't find an exact date for Stratton LipViews, they probably were released around the same time and continued to be sold until the early '90s.

Elizabeth Arden Rolling Mirror lipstick ad, Dec. 1960

US3159163-drawings-EA-1960

Elizabeth Arden Golden Rolling lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1960

Stratton lipview

Stratton lipview
(images from etsy.com)

Avon also made a far less elegant plastic version.

Avon clip on lip mirror

The mirror could also be protected from smudges and scratches via a sliding mechanism instead of a folding one, as shown in this fan-shaped Stratton lipstick holder.

Vintage fan-shaped Stratton lipstick mirror

Stratton fan-shaped lipstick mirror

These next few will put a spring in your step.  Spring-loaded, sliding cases in which the mirror popped up when the lipstick was opened were also quite popular.  Shown here is Volupté's Lip Look, which dates to 1949-1950.  Elgin, Elizabeth Arden and Kotler and Kolpit offered similar cases.

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Elizabeth Arden "Looking Glass" lipstick ad 1936

US2121221-drawings-1936

Elgin lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1953

Vintage Stratton lipstick mirror

Given how many came up in my search for lipstick mirrors at Ebay and Etsy, it appears that the most widely available model of the spring-loaded variety of lipstick mirrors was a silver carved case accented by gemstones.  They're unmarked, meaning no particular company patented the design and choice of metal.  I believe they were mostly sold in department and jewelry stores.

Vintage sliding case lipstick mirror

Vintage sliding case lipstick mirror
(images from etsy.com)

Despite the silver cases' ubiquity, I'd say the most recognized name-brand spring-loaded lipstick mirror was Max Factor's Hi-Society, which was heavily advertised from their debut in 1958 through approximately 1965.

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick ad, 1959

You might remember I featured these in the Museum's holiday 2016 exhibition.  I'm still hunting down all the designs, which actually isn't difficult given how many the company produced. 

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

US2830602-drawings-1958

Next up is a more complex version of the folding mirror.  Instead of a tube clip, this was an entire folding hand mirror with the lipstick hidden within the handle.  Here's an unmarked, super blingy version.  Stratton also made a bunch.

vintage folding lipstick mirror

folding lipstick mirror ad, May 1, 1953

Here are some rather dainty petit point and floral versions by Schildkraut.

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror
(images from ebay.com)

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror
(images from ebay.com)

Schildkraut's represent possibly the earliest form of lipstick mirrors, judging from the patent.

US1439749-drawings-page-1

The folding model's popularity continued well into the 1960s, as evidenced by Kigu's "Flipette".

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick
(images from etsy.com)

Kigu Flippette lipstick ad, 1964
(image from vintage-compacts.com)

Finally, there are the handle inserts.  This item from Revlon would appear to be a regular hand mirror, but the lipstick is cleverly hidden in the handle.  It was introduced in 1950 as the "biggest news in lipsticks since swivels were born".  How very exciting.

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Revlon lipstick mirror ad, March 1950

Of course, Max Factor upped the design ante with their "Doll Set" lipsticks, which were introduced in 1967.

Max Factor doll lipstick ad, 1967

Max Factor doll lipstick

Max Factor doll lipstick
(images from pinterest)

Now that we have a good sense of the types of mirrors that were available, let's spend a little time thinking about why they were made, or at least, why the advertising claimed they were the greatest things since sliced bread.  The first reason built-in lipstick mirrors were a necessity - again, according to the advertising at the time - was the ease provided by a fused lipstick and mirror.  Presumably women who wore lipstick also would have also carried around mirrored powder compacts, which could be used for lipstick touch-ups.  Fumbling around in your purse for a mirrored compact when you just needed to touch up your lips and not your face powder, apparently, was too difficult to handle on a regular basis.  As this 1935 newspaper blurb states, "Keeping lipstick and mirror together is the biggest trouble."  Oh, the horror!  (Bonus points for the blatant racism at the beginning of the piece.) 

Detroit Free Press, Aug 13, 1935

Such a "harrowing experience" to not be able to find a mirror!

Volupte Lip-look ad, Oct. 1, 1949

The second reason was that the lack of digging around for a mirror meant lipstick could be applied more discreetly, you know, for "when you want to sneak a look while the boyfriend's back is turned." (More bonus points for the weight/food shaming piece below the lipstick article.)  Much like lipstick tissues, lipstick mirrors were meant to be used to avoid an etiquette faux pas.

The Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 4, 1939

This 1940 column takes the idea of discretion a step further.  As we've seen time and time again, a woman's makeup habits are dictated by what men think.  "We suspect that the bold-face manner of applying lipstick is due for a set-back as a table pastime.  Recently we heard more than one rumor that men are expressing a dislike for the practice.  And it is a smeary, messy looking operation for a beloved with his own dreams about a natural beauty.  Better keep him, if not guessing, then not too much in-the-know about your coloring source."  Heaven forbid a man actually see a woman mend her lipstick!  Ladies, please keep your silly frivolous face painting to yourself so as not to ruin TEH MENZ' unrealistic expectations of so-called natural beauty.  I can't roll my eyes hard enough. 

NY Daily News, Feb. 23, 1940

Thirdly, one can't be seen with a beat-up compact.  Women should always present the prettiest possible cosmetic cases when in public.  Seriously though, at least this 1956 clip is straightforward in proclaiming that a lipstick mirror is merely aesthetically pleasing instead of a necessary accessory in the battles against flaunting your makeup application and a messy purse in which no separate mirror can be easily unearthed.  Just a little dose of "extra glamour".

The Journal News, Feb. 10, 1956

And of course, let's not forget that as part of their goal of making a healthy profit, beauty companies are forever trying to invent another superfluous gadget or product and declaring it the next must-have.  Perhaps lipstick mirrors were the mid-century version of vibrating mascaras.  In any case, despite the lack of popularity for the built-in lipstick mirror as well as the cynicism of modern-day makeup wearers like myself, several brands forged ahead with attempting to resurrect the lipstick mirror over the past 20 years or so.

In late 1999, with much fanfare, Givenchy introduced their Rouge Miroir lipstick designed by by sculptor Pablo Reinoso. Reinoso became Givenchy's Artistic Director for their fragrance and beauty line shortly after the lipsticks' release. 

The March 2000 issue of Vibe magazine proclaimed the sleek, futuristic design to be the height of convenience: "No more knives or rearview mirrors".  Wait, who uses a knife to apply lipstick?!

Givenchy Rouge Miroir
(image from amazon.com)

A year or two later, Estée Lauder launched their Pure Color lipstick line.  I believe these mirrored cases came out in the mid-2000s when Pure Color lipsticks were at their height.

Estée Lauder Pure Color lipstick
(image from amazon.com)

Some more recent examples I found include this mirrored tube from Kailijumei, a brand best known for their "flower jelly" lipsticks. 

Kailijumei
(image from kailijumei.com)

Guerlain's Rouge G series was introduced in the spring of 2018 and comes in a variety of collectible cases (and, duh, I'm working on acquiring them all).  The mechanism is similar to Stratton's in that they won't close unless there's a lipstick bullet inside.  While practical, it makes for quite the hassle to take photos of the cases only as they keep popping open.  I have to tape them closed, which is a less expensive option than buying lipstick bullets to go in each case.

Guerlain Rouge G

Guerlain Rouge G open

Finally, I spotted this folding lipstick mirror from J-beauty brand Creer Beaute, which was included in their 2018 Sailor Moon-themed collection.

Creer beauty sailor neptune

Creer Beauty Sailor Neptune folding lipstick mirror
(images from alphabeauty.net)

Still, these designs are not nearly as common as their predecessors from the early-mid 20th century.  Why did the popularity of the built-in lipstick mirror fade over time?  One theory is that lipstick packaging with built-in mirrors is more expensive than non-mirrored packaging, and therefore, not as appealing to consumers.  Guerlain's Rouge Gs, for example, cost $55 ($33 for the bullet and $22 for case) while their KissKiss lipsticks are priced at $37.  Going further back in time, Elgin's spring-loaded mirrored case by itself was $5.50, while the price of an average lipstick was $1.10.  Why pay for a mirrored lipstick case if you (most likely) already have another mirror available?  Yes, you might have to dig around in your purse a bit, but at least it won't be lighter for having spent money on a lipstick/mirror combo.  This theory could also explain why clip-on mirrors were seemingly everywhere, as they were the cheaper route to fusing lipstick and mirror. 

Another theory for the continuing disinterest in built-in lipstick mirrors could be that for the last 5-10 years there's been increasing demand for less, or at least recyclable, packaging.  While some higher-end brands are refillable, most lipsticks sold with a built-in mirror don't appear to have a refill option, and consumers may be less likely to buy a mirrored lipstick tube knowing yet another packaging component will eventually end up in the ocean.  Plus, while the new designs are relatively slim, they're still bulkier than lipsticks without built-in mirrors.  The majority of beauty consumers, myself included, don't want anything taking up more room in their purse or makeup bag. 

Finally, I believe beauty consumers are savvier than they were in the early days of the industry and are less susceptible to marketing and gadgets.  A built-in lipstick mirror may have been considered revolutionary in the '40s because swivel tube lipstick had been invented just a few decades prior, but by the '70s these mirrors may have seemed old hat.  So certainly by the 21st century we know these designs are not truly a breakthrough, nor are they anything that would be considered a necessity.  I featured no fewer than 6 Kailijumei lipsticks in the Museum's spring 2017 rainbow-themed exhibition, and just now noticed there were mirrors on the tubes.  The fact that the mirror didn't even register with me, a person who enjoys re-applying her makeup and has spent countless hours poring over product packaging, until now when I'm actually discussing lipstick mirrors shows just how unnecessary a built-in lipstick mirror is.  And again, the majority of beauty consumers is likely to be carrying a compact mirror anyway, rendering a lipstick with a built-in mirror redundant.  We also know that makeup companies update older designs and market them differently to see what sticks.  To cite Guerlain's Rouge G, the description at the website highlights how the user can select both the color and case to suit their individual taste.  "Every woman is unique...choose your lipstick from a wide range of shades to match your look: from the most nude to the most extravagant.  Choose your case from an array of styles – from the most timeless to the most trendy".  Rouge G has the same basic mechanism as the spring-loaded lipsticks of yore - it's especially similar to Max Factor's Hi-Society with the array of designs - but the marketing focuses on the customizable aspects (a concept that has spiked in popularity over the last two or so years...I've been meaning to write something about the craze for name engraving/customization) rather than the newness and convenience of a dedicated lipstick mirror.

What do you think of the built-in lipstick mirror?  Would you consider it a must-have?  While I certainly appreciate the aesthetics, it's nowhere near a necessity for me.