Vintage

A not so magical holiday with Holiday Magic Cosmetics

While hunting for vintage Christmas makeup a few months ago I stumbled across a brand from the 1960s called Holiday Magic. This won't be a complete history either of the brand or the man who founded it, but it's one of the most compelling (for all the wrong reasons).  Buckle up because you're in for a truly wild ride!

In 1964, a California salesman by the name of William Penn Patrick (b. March 31, 1930; d. June 9, 1973) noticed a neighbor having a garage sale of organic fruit-based cosmetics called Zolene.  Sensing a new business opportunity, Patrick bought the entire stock for $16,250 (or about $137,000 today).  Re-branded as Holiday Magic, Patrick proceeded to start selling them as a multi-level marketing business (MLM).  Now, MLMs for cosmetics and other goods had been around for many years prior to Holiday Magic, such as Avon, Mary Kay, Watkins, Fuller Brush, etc. While their ethics are murky - on the one hand it gave people jobs and products that they otherwise wouldn't have access to, on the other they require fairly unsavory tactics - they are not technically against the law.  But Holiday Magic wasn't just your average MLM:  it was possibly the biggest pyramid scheme prior to Bernie Madoff. 

Holiday Magic ad in Vogue magazine, October 15, 1967

Within a year of its launch, Holiday Magic had made Patrick a millionaire, and by 1967, the company was allegedly earning $6 million per month.  The makeup products were quite average - nothing appears to be innovative about them.  There was the standard eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, brow pencil, lipstick and blush.  I would have had my own photos but I have no idea what happened to the objects I purchased from eBay, which sadly has become the norm these days.  (It looks like tracking information was prepared but the package never was actually mailed. I've contacted the seller numerous times and have yet to receive a reply, let alone a refund. I guess William Penn Patrick is still working through others to scam customers from beyond the grave.)

Holiday Magic cream blush and face powder

Holiday Magic eye products

Holiday-magic-lipstick

The only thing of interest makeup-wise was the connection to the House of Westmore.  The details aren't clear, but it seems Ern Westmore allowed his facial exercises to be used by Holiday Magic, which may have given an air of legitimacy to the brand. 

Westmore facial exercises record for Holiday Magic

Westmore facial exercises for Holiday Magic

Westmore facial exercises instructions(images from ebay and amazon)

While the makeup itself wasn't all that groundbreaking, the fruit-based skincare was fairly ahead of its time.  The two women who founded Zolene, Helene Fly and Zoe Swanagon (hence the company's moniker, a combo of their first names), were committed to using fresh ingredients without preservatives, and did a lot of research on skincare recipes that had been circulating quite literally for centuries.  They were even writing a cosmetics history book!

Zolene cosmetics, 1964

Zolene cosmetics

A lot of their products remind me of LUSH or 100% Pure's offerings.  And I really wish I could find them, I love the Mid-Century Modern star packaging.  Anyway, Zolene continued to supply Holiday Magic with its concoctions until 1967 when the founders became aware of Holiday Magic's business practices. But the company's lack of innovative makeup did not deter it from making a fortune for Patrick. In pyramid schemes, profit is not made by selling products but rather recruiting more salespeople - the products themselves have nothing to do with how the money is made, so it doesn't matter if they're any good.  According to The Snapping Point, a website about business scams, the four characteristics that separate pyramid schemes from MLMs are:

  • the only way for consultants to make a profit is to recruit other consultants. 
  • consultants are required to ‘inventory load’, or constantly inventory to profit.
  • consultants are operating in a ‘saturated market’, or a market where there are more sellers than buyers. 
  • consultants are required to sell products for a fixed price (‘price-fixing’). 

This book explains it in more detail.  Basically, the only way for sales reps to make money was not by selling products but through essentially "buying" more sales people, convincing them to make an "investment" in the company.  Unlike regular MLMs, where by the majority of product purchased by sales reps is actually sold to customers, in pyramid schemes most of the product does not reach them.  In Holiday Magic's case, in 1967 it was estimated that 55% of their product was not distributed to customers, with sales reps having entire garages full of makeup.  In 1973, an FTC attorney stated that he could find no evidence of products being sold directly to customers, only to "master" and "general" distributors, while the former president of Holiday Magic, Benjamin Gay, testified that less than 10% of products sold to distributors ever reached customers.  "There could be sawdust in those jars. The cosmetics were there as a front," he said. The way in which Holiday Magic's hierarchy was arranged, Holiday "girls" could invest $18.91, "organizers" $109.71 to $501, "master" distributors $4,500 (plus a $250 training fee that was never mentioned until the investor signed the contract), and "general" distributors $8,750, plus training fees. 

Holiday Magic ad in Vogue, September 1967
(image from archive.vogue.com)

In addition, Patrick was known for other aggressive, highly immoral practices that went beyond pyramid selling. While Holiday Magic did not officially go bankrupt until 1974, as early as 1967 the company was charged by the California State Attorney General's office for "false and misleading advertising" in which the ads claimed distributors could make roughly $2200 a month (or $18,600 nowadays) working full-time. In retaliation, he took out full page newspaper ads attacking the state attorney general. Basically, any time the company faced a legitimate lawsuit, Patrick would double down and countersue, claiming that his constitutional rights were being violated.  But the coup de grace was Leadership Dynamics, a "training institute" for Holiday Magic representatives established by Patrick and then-company president Gay in 1967.  Sales agents were not required but "encouraged" to take a training course for a mere $1,000, while those higher up on the pyramid were required to take courses there.  However, Leadership Dynamics was not so much training as it was torture; according to a 1972 exposé entitled The Pit, among the many cult-like techniques used to humiliate and brainwash sales reps were severe beatings, being locked naked in cages or tied to a cross, forced to sleep in coffins and, of course, racial slurs hurled at the Black attendees. I'm not sure how much of the book is true, but several newspaper articles as well as an article in Newsweek detail the abuse and numerous lawsuits brought about by attendees who supposedly sustained serious injuries. 

William Penn Patrick
The exceedingly punchable face of William Penn Patrick.

Patrick also dabbled in politics, running against Ronald Reagan in California's 1966 gubernatorial race as an "ultra-conservative Republican" with the slogan "Stop the Commies at Cal".  Gee, color me shocked that a money-hungry narcissist was the complete opposite of liberal.  His political views are not surprising; many rich white mediocre men truly believe the conservative myth that success is due to hard work (bootstraps!) and brilliance, rather than their own privilege, dumb luck or directly screwing over other people.  Indeed, as one former Holiday Magic employee reminisced in 2016, "The whole organization (or lack of) was absolutely bizzare [sic], run by a bunch of frat boys with not a business degree among them. But they had a Phd in pyramid schemes."  A couple of other tidbits:

  • In 1967, as president of the "Victory in Vietnam Committee" he attempted to run a recall campaign against an Idaho Democratic Senator, because you know when Democrats win an election it's because they stole the race (insert eyeroll here).  When the AFL-CIO organized a boycott of Holiday Magic, Patrick promptly sued them.
  • His wife, Marie, was going to be a doctor but abandoned her plans shortly after marrying him to work as a teacher, largely to support them both after Patrick's string of failed businesses. Once Holiday Magic achieved success, she began attending meetings with Patrick because "otherwise, I'd never see him". 
  • On September 24, 1972, one of Patrick's vintage planes, an F86 Sabre piloted by the general manager of Spectrum Air (another company owned by Patrick) crashed into an ice cream parlor shortly after takeoff.  The pilot escaped with a few broken bones and scratches, while 22 on the ground died, including 10 children. Patrick wasn't directly responsible, but the fact that he allowed it to be flown speaks volumes about his complete disregard for others.
  • On June 9, 1973, Patrick died in a crash while performing stunts on another one of his vintage jets, a WWII plane called a P51 Mustang that, again, any regular citizen should not have had a license to own, let alone fly. He also managed to kill a colleague who was in the plane with him, a 30 year-old director of Holiday Magic in Finland named Christian George Hagert.  SMDH.

A few months after his death and a spate of lawsuits in multiple states, as well as a $5 million suit from Avon, Holiday Magic's new president, along with Patrick's widow, announced that the line would be sold "along conventional marketing lines" and get rid of the pyramid aspect of their sales.  They also promised a "fair" method of reimbursing roughly 3,000 of the Holiday Magic distributors in California who had been swindled.  The SEC's ruling earlier that year claimed that 80,000 individuals had been bilked out of $250 million, so it's not clear what happened to the other 77,000 people who were ripped off. In May 1974 there was a class action settlement of over 31,000 members that established a trust fund of approximately $2.6 million, but that's pennies compared to the actual amount investors lost. Even in 1980 people were still writing to their local paper about the various lawsuits that had been filed and whether they'd get their money back.

But the big issue I wanted to highlight in this sordid tale is the fact that Holiday Magic seemed to have actively sought out Black communities in the U.S. to recruit distributors.  While some other MLMs such as Avon, Fuller and Watkins targeted Black sales reps and customers, in their cases it seemed to be more a matter of expanding their market reach and at least supplying steady jobs rather than overtly preying on marginalized people. (Stay tuned for more about Black people's roles in various MLM cosmetic companies.)

Holiday Magic ad, Ebony Magazine, January 1968(image from books.google.com)

I really wish I could find some numbers to further support my theory, but it appears the scheme disproportionately affected Black and other POC investors.  "The real tragedy is that Holiday Magic appeals to minority people who want to get rich," remarked SEC staff lawyer Louis F. Burke. Patrick bragged in 1968 that 2 of his top 6 distributors in the U.S. were Black, but even if that were true, it's not necessarily a good thing. As a former distributor noted, Holiday Magic's setup was "like being thrown into a dark pit. The only way you can get out is to drag another person into the pit and step on his shoulders." For the most part, Black customers would only be further disenfranchised if they bought into Holiday Magic.  As if that's not bad enough, the company didn't even attempt to formulate any products for deep skin tones. As one wise Black would-be Holiday Magic salesman pointed out in 1975, the line was intended for white people: "Holiday Magic packaged cosmetics for fair-skinned people. Now why in the world would I want to sell light lipstick to Black women?" At least Avon tried to come up with products that would be suitable for Black customers.

Holiday Magic handbooks
(images from ebay) 

In the UK, it's estimated that the West Indian community lost £33 million in the early 1970s, and 26 people committed suicide after losing everything.  These figures are somewhat corroborated by a British publication called Grassroots, which in 1974 reported that Holiday Magic targeted "almost exclusively West Indian and Asian communities" in the Midlands region.  It's incredibly heartbreaking considering that people were taking out second mortgages on their homes to sink £1,000 into becoming a Holiday Magic distributor, only to end up paying at least double that in the long run and ending up far worse off financially than they were before. Note: I know nothing about this Grassroots publication and have no idea how reliable it is, but I don't think their claims are completely baseless. 

It was obvious early on that Patrick was going beyond an MLM and into pyramid scheme territory along with the other illegal sales tactics, yet Holiday Magic was being advertised nationally in well-known publications as late as 1969, and still being sold in pyramid form through 1973. (A new Holiday Magic line with a less deceptive sales model was sold through the mid-'80s.) Perhaps it was a combination of systemic racism and his unbridled wealth that Patrick's sham wasn't stopped before it did so much damage.  Maybe if he targeted only wealthy white people he would have been shut down sooner? Then again, Madoff did just that for about the same amount of time.

Anyway, despite what the show's creators say, I think the short-lived TV series On Becoming a God in Central Florida was based mostly on Holiday Magic - even more so than Amway.  Everything, from the cult-like behavior and "motivational" mantras spewed by Patrick to the garages full of product and targeting of BIPOC communities has an uncanny resemblance to Holiday Magic.

On Becoming a God in Central Florida
(image from meoww.com)

Thoughts?  Had you ever heard of this brand? I promise I have a much more positive story on the way. ;)

 

 

Sources:  In addition to the links throughout this post, here are some newspaper articles used.

"Holiday Magic Inc. Offers Tasty Cosmetic Products," Asbury Park Press, September 17, 1967.

"The Real William Penn Patrick," Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, CA), December 28, 1968.

"Cosmetics Firm Files Suit Against Competitors," Harford Courant, May 18, 1972.

"'Torture Training' Basis for Suit by Students," Associated Press, August 16, 1972.

"22 Die as Ex-Fighter Jet Hits Ice Cream Parlor," Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1972.

"Patrick Hit With $5.2 Million Suit," Daily Independent Journal, October 19, 1972.

"Holiday Magic Hit With Two Big Suits," Daily Independent Journal, February 22, 1973.

"4.2 Million Suit Names Patrick," San Francisco Examiner, March 19, 1973.

"The Magic Pyramid," Daniel Grotta, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 8, 1973.

"William Penn Patrick, Cosmetics Millionaire, Dies in Plane Crash," The Fresno Bee, June 10, 1973.

"Quiet Helpmate at Patrick Empire Helm," Daily Independent Journal, August 1, 1973.

"20.3 Million Suit Against Patrick Firm," Daily Independent Journal, September 29, 1973.


A season for giving (and receiving): donations galore!

I am forever grateful for those who approach me with makeup they no longer want or that they feel belongs in the Museum.  While 2020 was another hellish year for me personally and the Museum, as well as basically the whole world, I believe a record number of donations were received.  Here's a brief overview of what was graciously bestowed upon the Museum this year. 

First up is a mint condition Max Factor gift set.  A very nice woman in Canada donated it, noting that it was a birthday present from her father to her mother one year.  According to newspaper ads it dates to about 1948. I love the suggested use for the box lids as "party trays"!

Vintage Max Factor gift set

December 1948 ad for Max Factor gift sets

December 1948 ad for Max Factor gift sets

Next up is a slew of awesome ads and postcards from the '80s and '90s, donated by an Instagram buddy from Argentina.  Such a sweet note too!

MM donation note

Revlon Rich and Famous and LA postcard, 1986-1987

Revlon Wall Street and Tea Silks postcards

Revlon Counterpoint postcard

Lancome postcards, 1986-1987

Lancome postcards, 1987-1988

Lancome L'Art Nature postcard, 1992

Helena Rubinstein postcards, 1988

This next one is super interesting.  Normally the Museum does not include hair products, but the donor is a fellow collector and very knowledgeable about Russian culture, having lived in Moscow for several years.  This vintage hair dye was made in East Germany and exported to the USSR.

Florena hair dye

Next up are some lovely Elizabeth Arden objects. These were donated by a woman in California whose mother worked at the Elizabeth Arden counter at a department store.  Here we have the Napoleonic compact which was introduced around 1953, Faint Blush, the famous Ardena patter, and some Color Veil (powder blush) refills.

Makeup Museum donation - Elizabeth Arden

Near as I can figure, the Faint Blush was a sort of foundation primer, but it seems like it could also be worn alone.  I love the plastic pink rose packaging, as it's very much of its era (ca. 1963-1973).

Newspaper ad for Elizabeth Arden Faint Pink, February 1964

I think the patter and the Faint Blush are my favorites from this bunch.

Makeup Museum - Elizabeth Arden donation

Then, another very kind Instagram friend and fellow collector sent a huge lot of vintage powder boxes and compacts.  The Museum did not have any of these...some I hadn't even heard of and some I had only admired them from afar.  I just about died when I opened the package!  Clockwise from top left: a 1930s eyeshadow by a company called Quinlan, a 1920s Harriet Hubbard Ayer Luxuria face powder, a powder dispenser by Cameo (probably from around the '30s), a '20s Marcelle compact tin, an extremely rare Red Feather Rouge tin (ca. 1919), an unmarked lipstick and floral powder tin, a Princess Pat compact from about 1925, a Yardley English Lavender tin (ca. 1930s) and a Fleur de Glorie face powder compact (ca. 1923-1926).  In the middle is an amazing pink plastic 1940s Mountain Heather face powder case, a line manufactured by Daggett and Ramsdell.

Makeup Museum donation

I love each and every piece, but my favorites are the eyeshadow compact, and an adorable Mondaine book compact (with the original box!) that was also included. Bookworm that I am, I want a whole "library" of these designs.

Vintage Mondaine book compact

Not all of the donations were vintage.  I was so happy to have received these two nail polishes from another IG friend. They were the result of a 2016 collaboration between Cirque Colors and the Met in honor of the latter's Manus x Machina exhibition.

Cirque Colors Raven and Moon Dust

I'm sure you remember the kindness of makeup artist Amelia Durazzo-Cintron, who shared her memories of working for Kevyn Aucoin back in July.  For some reason she felt the need to thank ME instead, and did so by donating a really cool Black Swan makeup kit.  How nice is her note?!

Black Swan makeup kit

Black Swan makeup kit

Another Instagram friend and lipstick fanatic has been making lipstick swatch books.  These are kind of a new trend and in my opinion, far easier than taking photos of your lipsticks.  Once again a sweet note was enclosed.

Lipstick swatch book by Satin Matte Sheer

This lipstick swatch book is particularly lovely for its sprinkling of cosmetics trivia and important dates.  (It also reminds me that I never started working on my daily makeup history calendar, sigh.) If you want one of your own you can purchase it here.

Lipstick swatch book by Satin Matte Sheer

And that wraps up MM donations in 2020! I'm so incredibly grateful for these kind souls generously helping to build the collection.  And while physical objects are amazing, it's the notes and messages that come with them that mean the most.  :)  Also, if you have a makeup object you think is historically significant, an object from the Curator's wishlist, or anything else you'd like to give, please check out the Museum's support page.  I'm always looking for old fashion/women's magazines too, along with ads and brochures and such...I can never have too much paper memorabilia!

Which one of these is your favorite?  What's the best gift you've ever received?


Halloween 2020 roundup

It's hard to believe I haven't done a Halloween roundup since 2016, but here we are.  Hopefully this post will compensate for the makeup I missed the past couple of years, as cosmetic companies continue churning out spooky and fun collections.  I would have purchased some for the Museum, but by the time I made up my mind about which ones to add they had sold out and weren't restocked in time to arrive by Halloween.  It says something about the demand when these collections are released in late September and sell out immediately...I think consumers and businesses are feeding off each other, both creating the increased frenzy for Halloween-themed makeup collections.

I'm not the biggest fan of either The Nightmare Before Christmas or Hocus Pocus - I've never even seen the latter - but I will hopefully add them to the Museum's collection as I thought they were cute and culturally significant enough to warrant purchasing.

Revolution Beauty Nightmare Before Christmas collection(image from revolutionbeauty.com)

Coloupop Hocus Pocus collection(image from colourpop.com)

I should probably re-watch Beetlejuice.  As a kid it scared me half to death but obviously as an adult I should be able to handle it, plus it's got a good cast.  This Melt collection would go nicely with Hot Topic's Handbook for the Recently Deceased palette I bought in 2018.

Melt Cosmetics Beetlejuice palette

Melt Cosmetics Beetlejuice collection(images from popsugar.com)

Here's some other miscellaneous Halloween fun released this year.

2020 Halloween makeup

  1. Shroud Cosmetics It's Freakin' Bats palette
  2. Hot Topic Chucky palette
  3. Profusion Here Lies Jester palette
  4. Alien Cosmetics Spooky Glam palette
  5. Kihitsu pumpkin face brush
  6. Milani Halloween edition Ludicrous Lip Gloss in Let's Bone (yes, that's really the name.) 
  7. Peachy Queen Sweet Dreams palette

And now for a couple vintage pieces.  I'm pleased to have added this Glebeas (pronounced glee-bay) to the Museum's spiderweb collection. Even though I hate spiders there are some great objects with spiderweb designs.  You can read the whole history of Glebeas and see some of their other spiderweb packaging over at Collecting Vintage Compacts

Glebeas sample tin, ca. 1925

About three years ago I found a brass version of Volupte's awesome cobweb compact for a very good price in excellent condition and an original ad.  The compact dates to about 1946-1952 and there were many variations, including sterling silver and 14kt gold, along with butterflies and ladybugs that had the misfortune of getting caught in the spider's lair. 

Volupte spiderweb compact

Volupte Web of Gold ad

Interestingly, the spiderweb design was created by Josephine Forrestal, a Vogue writer turned military wife.  According to the patent the compact was originally intended for Paul Flato, for whom she created other compacts, so how it ended up with Volupte I'm not sure.

Josephine Forrestal spiderweb compact patent 121,953
(image from books.google.com)

So while it's small now, I hope the Museum's spiderweb collection continues to grow.  By the way, do you remember the Elegance eyeshadow on the right?

Makeup Museum spiderweb compacts

Some other spooky vintage finds include a celluloid coffin-shaped compact:

Vintage coffin shaped compact
(image from rubylane.com)

Wound filler used in mortuary makeup:

Vintage wound filler - mortician makeup
(image from ebay.com)

And a makeup room in Illinois said to be haunted by the deceased director of the Peoria Players Theater:

Peoria Players Theater - haunted makeup room

I hope you have a fun Halloween!  Are you dressing up?  I am not but the plushies and I will be eating copious amounts of candy, of course.


Interview with a curator: Andra Behrendt of Perfume Passage

I had the great fortune of getting in touch with Andra Behrendt, curator of the Perfume Passage museum.  She's a member of the International Perfume Bottle Association and sends out a quarterly eNews for their Compacts & Vanity Items Specialty group. The eNews focuses on compacts and related vanity items that are a part of the IPBA. She also runs Lady A Antiques, a shop she established in 1993.  Andra kindly agreed to an interview, which I am extremely grateful for since not only has it been ages since I've interviewed anyone but more importantly, she has over 35 years worth of beauty history knowledge and experience to share. Enjoy!

Makeup Museum: How long have you been in the antique business?

Andra: I have been an antique dealer since 1993 as Lady A Antiques. As a dealer I specialize in celluloid covered boxes and albums from the 1900s, jewelry from Victorian through Deco, German bathing beauties from the 1920s and ladies accessory items such as compacts, purses, perfumes, hatpins, powders and puffs. I've had a website since 1997 and display at antique shows throughout the Midwest. I admit I don't update the website as often as I used to as I try to save the more unusual items for the shows. I have been a collector since I was a teenager, my aunt collected jewelry and she introduced me to antiques and collecting.

MM: How and why did you end up focusing on perfume and vanity items?

A: I gravitated toward enamel items and starting finding compacts and purses for my inventory. Then as my inventory of these items grew, I started meeting more collectors of these items at the antique shows. Now I specialize in the ladies vanity items!

MM: How did you get involved with the IPBA?

A: In the mid 1990s, before the internet, if you were interested in a special category of collecting, you joined a collectors club! I think at one time I belonged to a collector club for hatpins, combs, jewelry, purses, plastics, compacts and of course perfumes. That's how people met other collectors and shared their knowledge. I love to learn about the items that interest me and collectors are very generous in sharing their knowledge. The International Perfume Bottle Association has always been one of the more professional collectors club with a board of directors, annual convention, newsletters, etc. They believe in educating collectors about the history of the items we love so much. And many perfume collectors also collect related vintage vanity items such as compacts, purses, powders and lipsticks. The IPBA has always included compacts and related vanity items in addition to perfumes.

MM: Tell me about your experience as curator at Perfume Passage. What exactly do you do in your curatorial role?

A: I met the founders of Perfume Passage at one of the IPBA conventions about 10 years ago. When the museum started gathering information about compacts and vanity items to eventually display at the museum, I began evaluating the items they accumulated, providing information on their history, etc. When the museum was ready to begin installing displays, I started assisting with the showcases in the galleries and drugstore displays, focusing on the compacts, vintage makeup items and vanity items. I've been documenting the museum's collections as we are developing an online database for public use. I also assist with writing articles for the museum's website and eNews. As we just opened in May 2019, there are a lot of projects in the works!

MM: What are some of your favorite compacts/lipsticks/other makeup items and why?

A: I've always loved enameled items and the Art Deco time period. So my favorite compacts are the detailed enameled compacts from the 1920s and 1930s. I also like the whimsical figural compacts as they tell such an interesting story.

MM: What is your favorite era for makeup and why?

A: I'm drawn to the 1920s as it was an era of growth and change for women. There was a reason for compacts and makeup for women during this time and it was evident in the products that were produced. Looking back at some of the makeup items, it's almost humorous to think that "ladies really used" some of these products!

MM: Why do you think makeup history is important and worthy of preservation and museum display?

A: Compacts, purses, perfumes, powders and all vanity items were significant of their time periods and their manufacture was influenced by cultural and social trends. Just like most items that we collect today, there was a reason for their use and need. And these initial reasons don't always exist today, but are part of our history. With makeup, compacts and perfumes, people still use them and the reasons for using these products are mostly the same, but the products are different. But it's those early products that evolved into what is being used today and I don't think that should be forgotten. And it's a fascinating history if people take the time to learn about it. Perfume Passage and other related museums, such as yours, provide people with the opportunity to learn about this history as well as view wonderful items that didn't start out as collectible, but certainly are now!

MM: Any thoughts on current makeup/beauty culture? The Makeup Museum focuses on contemporary cosmetics, artist collaborations, etc. in addition to vintage objects, so I'd love to have your insight on what makeup and trends are out there now!

A: That's a very interesting question. I admit that I've really never worn makeup, I use just a little blush as my skin is so pale! I don't wear perfumes either. So it is kind of funny that I'm so in love with the history and products that are vanity related. And I honestly don't follow the contemporary cosmetic industry at all, just what I see on TV or read in magazines.

MM: Do you have any tips for compact collectors?

A: As with any item that we collect, buy what interests you. And while condition is usually the top priority for me, I also like the unusual. And before the internet, when many collectibles could only be found at shops, shows or auctions, collectors seem to buy for quantity. The internet has opened a whole new world for collectors, allowing us to see and purchase items that we would often never have a chance to find. So items that were considered "rare" or "one of a kind" can be found online. So I think collectors have more choices on what to collect or perhaps what to focus their collections on. While many compact collectors have a little bit of everything in their collections, you'd be surprised how many collectors focus on just Deco, or enamels, or figurals.

MM: Can you share some of your favorite compacts?

A: Sure! Here's a 1920s F&B sterling floral/scenic enamel tango compact.

1920s F&B enamel tango

A 1930s Evans mesh purse with an ornate beaded/pearl/enamel compact lid:

1930s Evans mesh purse w ornate compact top

A 1930s green floral enamel double compact with tango lipstick:

1930s double enamel tango compact

A 1958 Chicago White Sox compact. Back then, Tuesday's was ladies day at the ballpark and the owner of the team had a give-a-way of this compact! The other teams that I know of that had a similar promotion with compacts were the Los Angeles Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles and New York Giants.

1958 White Sox compact

Finally, a 1920s celluloid lady compact, the top "dress" slides and there's a mirror and powder puff inside.

1920s celluloid lady compact
(all images provided by Andra Behrendt)

Andra, thank you so much for taking the time to answer the Makeup Museum's questions and for your incredibly valuable insight!  I encourage everyone to check out the Perfume Passage website and sign up for their newsletter. If you're in the Chicago area and can visit in person, so much the better.  And if you're a collector, be sure to add Lady A Antiques to your shopping list!


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!


MM Mailbag: wartime bling, Revlon and a "splendid gain"

I'm still a bit wiped out from the spring exhibition and it's been ages since I've shared some inquiries that made their way in the ol' Makeup Museum Mailbag, so here's a quick review of some questions that have been sent my way. 

First up is this lovely compact with a six-pointed star in blue rhinestones - perhaps a Star of David? - and matching lipstick, submitted from a reader in Australia.  Her grandmother's brother had brought it back to her grandmother during the second World War.  Without any logo or brand markings I can't pinpoint the company that made it, and after looking online and through all my collector's guides I can say I've never seen a vintage compact with this design. Obviously it was made in France, but I'm not quite as familiar with objects across the pond, as it were.  It's a beautiful set and I wonder whether it has any wartime or Holocaust significance.

Vintage (ca. 1940s) rhinestone Star of David compact and lipstick

Vintage (ca. 1940s) rhinestone Star of David compact and lipstick

The second inquiry I have to share today was another head-scratcher.  Someone had messaged me on Facebook (which I set up earlier this year but rarely use) asking about this little lady.  It's a Revlon Couturine lipstick, but her identity remains a mystery. 

Revlon Couturine lipstick

As I've noted previously, allegedly the Couturines were supposed to be modeled after actresses and other purveyors of style.  But this one doesn't seem to match any of the ones that have been identified.  The only other actress whose name I've seen mentioned is Shirley MacLaine but it's not her either, according to this photo. 

Revlon Couturine - Shirley MacLaine
(image from worthpoint.com)

Finally, I received an inquiry from someone asking for proof that suffragettes wore lipstick as a symbol of emancipation.  I swiftly directed this person Lucy Jane Santos's excellent article outlining how there really is no solid evidence that the ladies fighting for equality in the early 1900s regularly wore lipstick to rallies, or at least, to the big one in 1912. As she outlines in her article, it appears to be a persistent myth that most likely began circulating in the '90s both in Jessica Pallingston's book and Kate de Castelbajac's The Face of the Century: 100 Years of Makeup and Style (1995).  Just for kicks and giggles I took a peek at newspaper archives (I'm finding they're just as fun and informative as magazines) and dug up a couple of interviews with British suffrage leader Emmeline Pankhurst and a profile of her daughter Sylvia.  Their views on makeup are positively fascinating!  As it turns out, Emmeline had no moral issue with cosmetics, she just didn't find a made-up face aesthetically pleasing:  "Don’t think I am actually censoring the young girls nowadays…the very brief skirts and the overdone makeup are by no means an indication of loose morals.  They are, in often rather a pitiful way, an indication of groping toward greater freedom and they are still more a groping towards beauty…the impulse to make one's self look as well as possible is a perfectly sound impulse. It has its root in self-respect.  It is quite wrong to think that the use of short skirts and rouge are based on any violent desire to attract the opposite sex. The use of these aids [is] based on the legitimate desire to look one’s best. A woman dresses more for other women than for men.  But the too-red lips and the extremely short skirt – I must confess that I dislike them.  I dislike them because so few girls look well thus arrayed, and because older women, when thus arrayed, usually look rather ridiculous.  But let me point out one fine fact behind all this makeup.  It is not added with any idea of deception.  The woman today who powders and paints does it frankly, often in public without one iota of hypocrisy. And this, I think, is a splendid gain.” (emphasis mine)

Emmeline Pankhurst profile -Apr_18__1926_

Her daughter, Sylvia, on the other hand, did not approve of makeup at all.  "I still don't approve of lipstick and makeup.  It's horribly ugly, destroys the value of the face.  I've never used it, never shall."  Her obituary also states that she thought makeup and lipstick were "tomfooleries". 

Sylvia Pankhurst profile, Aug_3__1938_

I did also see this 1910 ad from Selfridge's.  This is what I believe to be the only reference to suffragettes wearing lipstick. I'm wondering if this is part of how the myth was generated, since even with this ad there doesn't seem to be any concrete proof that suffragettes wore lipstick.  Selfridge's advertised and sold it; whether it was widely worn by suffragettes is still up for debate in my very humble opinion.

Selfridges ad, 1910(image from @selfridges)

If you have any additional information about the things I've shared today, please let me know! Which one do you find most interesting?


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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Swan dive: Les Merveilleuses Ladurée holiday 2019 and more swan-themed makeup

Les Merveilleuses Ladurée holiday 2019, vintage swan down puff, Tetlow swan down powder

I'm thinking there has to be a vintage makeup fan among Les Merveilleuses Ladurée's design and marketing team, since their holiday 2019 collection carries on the tradition of yet another popular motif for beauty packaging:  the swan.  This graceful bird also ties into the company's commitment to infusing their line with the style introduced by the Merveilleuses.  Let's look at the collection and all its downy soft details. 

Can I just say how much I love the color scheme?  The blue is so perfect - not too bright, not too aqua, not too dark - and plays amazingly well against the pink and white of the makeup shades and swan imagery.  First we have the brightening powder.  The outer case depicts a swan holding a rose in its beak, while the powder itself is embossed with a white swan swimming in a pastel-colored lake.

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

Next is this beautiful set containing a double swan-embossed blush and lipstick, housed in a blue embroidered pouch with a tiny silver swan for the zipper pull.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup set

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 blush

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup pouch

Lastly is the star of the collection, a white swan-shaped jar filled with blush "roses".   LM Ladurée is famous for their blush resembling rose petals, but these are next level.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

I couldn't bear to open the blush itself, but it looks like this.

Les Merveilleuses Ladurée swan rose blush
(image from bonboncosmetics.com)

Even the box is gorgeously printed with pristine white swan feathers.

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush box

So how do swans relate to the Merveilleuses?  Prior to becoming Empress in 1804, Josephine was one of the most revered Merveilleuses, possibly even more so than Madame Recamier.  While the more over-the-top Merveilleuse trends generally died down after Napoleon rose to power, Josephine was still considered a top arbiter of style.  During her time as Empress she also adopted the swan as her signature motif.  According to the Met:  "At the approach of danger, with feathers puffed up and anxiously hissing, these birds protect their young within the wall of their white wings. Napoleon's consort, Josephine, and her children were frequently compared to a swan and its cygnets.  The swan was chosen as her symbol by Claude, wife of Francis I, the French Renaissance king whom Napoleon greatly admired."  Thus the reason for the abundance of swan decor at her and Napoleon's residence, the Château de Malmaison.   

Chateau de Malmaison - bed of Empress Josephine
(image from wikimedia.org)

Chateau de Malmaison, carpet in Josephine's room

Chateau de Malmaison, fresco in Josephine's room
(images from ssa.paris.online.fr)

Chateau de Malmaison - swan chair made for Josephine's bedroom
(image from the National Gallery of Victoria)

Washstand, ca. 1800-1814
(image from metmuseum.org)

The Empress even had black swans imported from Australia and kept them as pets, along with emus and kangaroos. Sadly the swans outlived her.  :(  Anyway, while the swan motif correlated more to the aesthetic of a post-Directoire era Josephine, its incorporation into LM Ladurée's holiday collection is a subtle nod to one of the original Merveilleuses. 

In addition to serving as one of the Empress's emblems, swans have a long history in the world of cosmetics, most likely since they are one of the symbols associated with Aphrodite/Venus, goddess of love and beauty.1  Vintage compacts with images of swans abound.2

Stratton swan compact and lipstick set

Stratton marcasite and enamel swan compact, ca. 1940s
(image from pinterest) 

This one has a really interesting history behind it, the Etsy seller dug up some great information on it.

Krank swan compact, ca. early 1930s
(image from etsy)

Kigu swan compact, ca. 1960s
(image from etsy)

Vintage Evans swan compact, ca. 1940s
(image from ebay)

Coty's "Golden Swan" sets were perennial holiday favorites from about 1950-1955.  I stumbled across some newspaper ads for them, and lo and behold this great blog on Coty's history had an actual photo.

Ad for Coty Golden Swans set, November 1953

Ad for Coty Golden Swans set, ca. 1950s
(images from newspapers.com and cotyperfumes.blogspot.com)

I couldn't find a real-life photo of this swan lipstick bouquet but it's fantastic.  I'm guessing they're copying and expanding on the concept of Max Factor's popular flower pot lipstick set, which debuted in 1969.

Ad for Loveland swan lipstick bouquet, November 1972_

I couldn't resist picking up a few vintage swan items for the Museum, including these adorable lipstick hankerchiefs  (ca. 1940s-50s) and a lipstick case (ca. 1980s).

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

I think this vintage powder jar may have been LM Ladurée's inspiration.  They came in a variety of colors, and the little niche created by the swans' wings was intended to store a lipstick.

Vintage swan powder jar

All of these are lovely, but Tetlow's Swan Down face powder and accompanying ads are my favorite vintage swan-themed pieces...and they don't even depict swans on the outer packaging!  Tetlow's Swan Down powder was introduced in 1875 and sold through the early 1930s. Collecting Vintage Compacts has a very thorough history of Henry Tetlow if you'd like to read more. 

I was so pleased to get this one in good condition for the Museum along with an original ad.

Tetlow Swan Down powder box, ca. 1910-1920

Tetlow Swan Down ad, 1917

While the one I have is in good shape, I'd love to own one of these boxes that still has the swan insert!

Vintage Tetlow Swan Down powder

Vintage Tetlow Swan Down powder
(image from cosmeticsandskin.com)

As was the case for many goods in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Tetlow's used small trading cards to advertise Swan Down. The portraits depict various stage actresses and other fashionable ladies of the time.  The fan shape is a nice touch.

Tetlow Swan Down powder trading cards, ca. 1880s-1900s

Tetlow Swan Down powder trading cards, ca. 1880s-1900s(images from worthpoint.com)

Another item I've become rather enamored of are vintage swan's down puffs.  Before the dawn of synthetic brushes and puffs, in the Western world swan's down was one of the most common materials to apply powder in addition to silk and lambswool. The swan's down really is incredibly soft! (I forgot to take a picture of the vintage puff I bought...stay tuned for an update.)

I would love to try it out and compare it to my softest squirrel hair brushes but it's so fragile I'm afraid it would get ruined.  And as I learned, vintage swan's down puffs are not cheap, especially the ones with sterling silver handles (drool).

Vintage swans down puff
(image from rubylane.com)

Fast-forward to the 21st century, when some more swan-themed items joined their vintage counterparts.  Here's what I'm sure is an incomplete group.  Also, I guess I should give an honorary mention to Etude House's 2015 Dreaming Swan collection, which oddly enough did not feature any swans on the packaging.

Swan themed makeup

  1. Who can forget the frenzy over the makeup for the 2010 film Black Swan? This kit contained each element of the look. 
  2. Monica Rich Kosann designed the Swan Dreams powder compact for Estée Lauder's holiday 2018 collection. 
  3.  Too-Faced's holiday 2018 Dream Queen set also featured swans.
  4. One can never have enough novelty lip glosses.
  5.  Sugar Cosmetics chose a swan for their clarifying sheet mask packaging.

Finally, here are the other contemporary swan treasures in the Museum's collection:  a Paul and Joe eyeshadow from their fall 2010 collection and Guerlain's spring 2018 Blanc de Perle compact, which was a collaboration with Ros Lee.

Guerlain Blanc de Perle and Paul & Joe eyeshadow

So that about wraps it up!  What do you think of the swan motif both for Empire-era decor and makeup?  Which piece here is your favorite?

 

 

1Swans are also associated with Apollo and music so that explains their inclusion in LM Ladurée's holiday 2017 collection, which shows them with a lyre.

2Tons of other vintage non-makeup beauty items use swans in their advertising and packaging, including Dior Miss Dior perfume, Cashmere Bouquet soap, Swan soap, and J. Lesquendieu face cream.  Obviously I want to keep the focus on makeup but they were worth a mention.


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.