Retro/Vintage

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.


MM Mailbag: Egyptian treasure

As you know, from time to time I receive email inquiries from people with cosmetics objects they've stumbled across and would like to know more about.  I'm always flattered that people think that I know what I'm talking about and can help them, especially since most of the time I have no idea about the item in question, but sometimes I get irritated when the inquirer's sole objective is to determine how much money they can make off an object they found.  At first it seemed this way when the original owner of this very rare compact approached me, asking for more information and how much it might be worth.  As we'll see, he turned out to actually have an interest in the compact's history and wasn't after profit. 

This was an epic find indeed, easily one of the rarest and most valuable in the Museum's collection.  I now present the Ramses powder compact, which debuted in 1923.  The design shows an Egyptian woman in profile, holding a perfume bottle in one hand and a flower in the other, which she brings to her nose to enjoy its scent.  The pyramids of Giza are just barely visible in the background, while lotus flowers on each side towards the lower third of the compact bloom into an arc of leaves. 

Ramses compact, c. 1923

I'm not sure if the woman is supposed to be anyone in particular - perhaps Cleopatra - but given that the design is most likely not historically accurate, I'm not going to dwell on it too much.

Ramses compact, c. 1923

While there are other ads for the powder that show the compact, which we'll see in a second, I wasn't able to locate any originals.  I did, however, find this ad in a French publication from February 1920.

Ramses powder ad, February 1920

Ramses powder ad, February 1920

I was hoping to find some good information about the compact for the person who contacted me, and of course, the ever-thorough Collecting Vintage Compacts blog had an excellent post on the history of the Ramses perfume company so I directed the inquirer over there.  I don't wish to regurgitate all of the author's hard work on Ramses' backstory - I highly encourage you to check out the post for yourself - but I will provide the abridged version.  The Ramses brand was founded in 1919 in Paris and selected Le Blume Import Company to distribute the line in the U.S. in 1921.  By 1923 ads for the powder boxes and compacts were appearing in Vogue magazine.   As Collecting Vintage Compacts points out, the ad copy is pure nonsense:  neither the perfumes nor the powders were produced in Egypt and their formulas certainly did not date back to 1683.  How the company even arrived at that arbitrary date is beyond me.  However, with the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb in November 1922, the Ramses moniker turned out to be quite fortuitous given the ensuing craze for anything Egyptian - clearly the ads wanted to milk the fad for all it was worth.  The world was now swept up in the latest wave of Egyptian Revival, a style that incorporated various elements of Egyptian art and culture and encompassed design, fashion and beauty (see this compact depicting Theda Bara as Cleopatra and this ad as examples). 

Ramses ad, Vogue, June 1923

Ramses powder box

Egypt's influence on Western beauty from the Renaissance to today is a subject I'm looking to cover more thoroughly this year, either in a blog series or an exhibition (or both!) so stay tuned.  As viewed through 21st century eyes, it was clearly unabashed cultural appropriation, a white person's fantasy of "exotic", far-off lands and artifacts.  However, Egyptian inspired-beauty is such a rich topic that I can't bear not to fully explore it...especially now that I have this gorgeous piece in my hot little hands.  Anyway, Collecting Vintage Compacts notes that the Ramses powder case was made by the Bristol, CT-based Zinn Corporation, a company that produced some of the earliest and most memorable compacts in the U.S.  I find it interesting that while the powder was scented with the "Secret du Sphinx" fragrance, the compact itself shows a woman rather than the mythical creature.  Collecting Vintage Compacts speculates, as I did, that the woman could be Cleopatra, but offered the additional option of Ramses' wife Nefertari.  I agree with his conclusion that it really doesn't matter who she is - just a vague Egyptian theme was more than enough to get the point across.

Ramses ad, Vogue, August 1923

Another version of the compact sported silver edging, a beautiful contrast to the warmth of the brass.

Silver edged Ramses compact
(images from Collecting Vintage Compacts and Ruby Lane)

I also spotted some ads in newspapers.  They're not as visually striking as the Vogue ads so I'm not including them here, but they did come in handy for indicating the original retail price of the compact, which was $1.00.  The latest ads I could find were from 1925 and both the perfumes and powder were heavily discounted, which indicates Ramses was a flash in the pan. 

But why?  You would think given the era's craze for Egyptian-inspired design, combined with the slight French flavor (another huge selling point - this was a time when companies actively tried to give their lines and products authentic French or at least French-sounding names) the Ramses company would be able to get more a little more mileage out of their products.  Collecting Vintage Compacts unraveled the mystery.  As it turns out, the perfumer behind the Ramses brand, one Léon de Bertalot, had begun quite a shady scheme to sell another one of his fragrances.  In 1914, 5 years before he launched Ramses,  de Bertalot named one of his fragrances Origan.  As we know, Coty's L'Origan (launched in 1909) was wildly popular, pulling in roughly $3 million in sales in 1921 alone.  De Bertalot decided to capitalize on the company's success and began using the Coty name to sell his own Origan, essentially passing it off as a real Coty product.  Coty, rightfully so, cracked down on this very quickly.  On May 15th, 1923 a French court found de Bertalot guilty of "unfair competition", and a few days later the U.S. Treasury mandated that any inauthentic products bearing the Coty name were unable to be imported unless they specifically spelled out that they were not affiliated with Coty in any way.  Since the Ramses brand had nothing to do with Coty I don't know if the Treasury's mandate applied to Ramses as well, but I'm sure the 6-month jail sentence and fine of 100,000 Francs handed to de Bertolot essentially meant the Ramses brand was out of business.  Hence the price markdown of their products by 1925 - I'm guessing stores in the U.S. were trying to offload any leftover stock that was originally imported two years prior.  The Le Blume Import Company, in turn, was no longer allowed to distribute any perfumes from any company whatsoever.  However, it did import dusting powder tins and glass jars using the Ramses name in the late 1920s.

1929 newspaper ad for Ramses dusting powder

Ramses1

Ramses2

Green Ramses powder box
(images from Vanity Treasures and Etsy)

Getting back to the original inquiry that was the impetus for this post, here's the story of how the compact got into my hands from the person who emailed me originally (we'll call him C.)  He had found it for $10 in a thrift store (!) but given the unique design, figured it was worth more.  After looking through all my collector's guides and not turning up anything, I directed C. to Collecting Vintage Compacts and asked him to please let me know when/if he decided to put it on the market.  Obviously I also indicated my great interest in obtaining the compact, but lamented that it was most likely out of my price range.  Well, don't you know C. actually wrote back telling me that he was going to put it up for sale on Ebay, but said that while he'd like to get a good price for it (that's only fair, who wouldn't?), he believed that the Museum was the rightful place for the compact, given its rarity and my passion for lovingly researching and preserving these sorts of items.  Thus he kindly offered to sell it to me directly and negotiate on price.  In the end I think we both got a great deal - he got way more than what he had originally purchased it for and roughly the amount he would have gotten for it if he had put it up for public sale, and I got an amazing find at a fair price for which I was able to avoid an ugly bidding war. 

Ramses compact, c. 1923

After reading the Ramses history at Collecting Vintage Compacts and browsing the Museum's site, C. seemed genuinely interested in the compact and in the Museum's mission, so I was very happy to see he wasn't just in it for profit and was willing to work with me to ensure the compact went to a great home instead of merely to the highest bidder.  :)  I really appreciated it, as so many people who ask about value just want to know how much they can get for an item and have absolutely no consideration for the object's history or the Museum, which, as a reminder, is funded entirely out of my own pocket.  Not that anyone is obligated to donate rare and valuable items, of course, but they could follow C.'s example and be open to selling their item to me at a price that works for both of us.  I know if I came across an object I have no interest in but that other collectors might - say, a rare Barbie Doll - I'd seek out someone who would truly treasure it and give them first dibs.

Ramses compact, c. 1923

What do you think?  And yay or nay on a series/exhibition on Egyptian-inspired beauty?


Avon's calling for a vintage Christmas

This was such a nice surprise from Avon.  I tend not to pay any attention to this brand as I'm more interested in their vintage products and ads, so imagine how delighted I was to see the company had reached into their archives and used some of the old ads I love so much for part of their extensive holiday collection.  Called "Once Upon a Holiday," the only information from their end that I could find was from the description of this brief video.  "Avon has always known the importance of holiday traditions. That's why we've created a limited-edition iconic collection, inspired by our rich heritage."  I would have liked to know more about why Avon decided to use their vintage ads and why they chose the ones they did, but I will say I think they selected some of the better ones.  

We'll start with my favorite, the 1945 angel ad illustrated by the Ukrainian-born Vladimir Bobri (1898-1986).  You might remember this one from the celestial-themed holiday 2014/winter 2015 exhibition.  I really hope to get around to writing a full post on Bobri and diving into all the ads he did for Avon, but briefly, he was sort of a jack of all trades - illustrator, author, costume designer, composer and classical guitar historian.  In addition to Avon, he did illustrations for The New Yorker, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.  This ad is seriously one of my all-time favorites, holiday or otherwise.  I always interpreted the beautiful angel as a harbinger of peace, keeping watch over a quaint small town on a snowy Christmas night (and making sure the townsfolk get their gifts!) As you can see, this illustration was used on one of the five lipsticks included in Avon's holiday 2018 lineup.

Avon Christmas ad, 1945

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick

The lipstick itself is a festive red shade, reminiscent of the one the angel is delivering.

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick

I couldn't resist picking up the ornament with this illustration! 

Avon ornament

Next up is another by Bobri, this one from 1946.  The scene depicts a Victorian-era couple, with a dapper gentleman on ice skates giving a sleigh ride to his equally well-dressed female partner.   Above them a pine tree garland filled with ornaments and Avon gifts festoons a starry night sky.  You simply don't find this kind of charm in today's advertising.

Avon Christmas ad, 1946

Avon Christmas ad, 1946

Avon Christmas ad, 1946

The ad was used for the packaging of Avon's eyeshadow palette.

Avon holiday 2018 palette

Avon holiday 2018 palette

Here are 3 of the other lipsticks.  (In my excitement to order I neglected to add all 5 to my cart. #curatingfail)  I didn't see the original ads for sale anywhere so I will keep hunting, but I was able to find images of them.

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick

The packaging of the lipstick on the left features an ad from 1942, which ran in Vogue. A woman in a red cloak with a sprig of holly in her well-coiffed hair dashes around New York City to get her Christmas shopping done.  I can't make out the signature - it looks something like Stahlut or Stahlest - but I know it's definitely not another illustration by Bobri.

Avon Christmas ad, 1942

The woman in the green dress on the lipstick in the middle is from a rather patriotic 1943 ad, which makes sense as the U.S. was fully entrenched in the second World War by then.  As the Avon blog notes, this ad was actually part of a series intended to lift women's spirits during wartime.  "Amid the trials of the World War II era, Avon’s 'To the Heroines of America' campaign debuted as a morale-booster depicting present-day women reflecting on brave female icons of the past. Noting 'the brave color of her lips and cheeks,' the series encouraged women to stand strong like their predecessors."  This one is unsigned as far as I can tell, and although he did illustrate several other ads in this series, this doesn't really look like Bobri's work.  A mystery for the ages! 

Avon Christmas ad, 1943

The lipstick on the right is from a 1947 ad for Avon's Wishing fragrance, which depicts a woman wistfully gazing (and presumably wishing) upon a bright star.  A source for this image indicates it's from the June 1947 issue of Good Housekeeping so technically it's not a holiday ad, but it works pretty well in my opinion.  Once again I'm not sure who the illustrator is.

Avon Wishing ad, 1947
(images from the Hagley Digital Archives)

My only gripe with the Avon collection is that the images weren't printed on the palette or lipstick caps themselves, only on the outer packaging.  Still, the inner packaging was adorned with stylish prints:  tortoiseshell for the palette and leopard, houndstooth, chevron and plaid for the lipsticks.

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick

I wasn't able to track down the ad used in the packaging for the final lipstick, which I accidentally left out of my order and didn't realize until I went to take pictures for this post.  Whoops. However, the font is identical to one used in other Avon ads from the early '40s so my best guess is that it's from 1940-1942.

Avon holiday 2018 lipstick
(image from avon.com)

Avon ad, 1940

Avon ads, 1941 and 1942
(images from the Hagley Digital Archives)

There were a few other items in the "Once Upon A Holiday" collection; however, since they did not feature any additional vintage ads I skipped them. Overall I'm really pleased that Avon came up with a nostalgic, vintage-themed collection using their old ads and I hope they do this again next year with different ones, as there's no shortage of adorable Christmas ads in their archives.  It's a great way to highlight the company's history while delivering fully modern products that meet the needs of today's makeup wearers.  I wish more companies would do this!  Lancôme, Shiseido and Bourjois have been known to occasionally celebrate their heritage by modernizing some of their iconic packaging or incorporating significant design elements from their vintage products into new ones, and obviously fashion houses (Chanel, Dior, Armani, YSL, etc.) look to their fashion archives for inspiration, but I'd love to see more brands take a look back and pick out some vintage ads or other items to feature.  Estée Lauder, I'm looking at you.

What do you think?  Which vintage ad is your favorite?


A lipstick is forever: Tattoo

Around this time 2 years ago I got my first tattoos.  In honor of that momentous occasion, I thought I'd take a look at a vintage brand that featured some truly wild advertising.  I had come across Tattoo years ago, as well as its sister line Savage, and was immediately struck by the images used in their ads and on the products themselves.  I managed to snag two of the ads, as well as the lipstick case and rouge container.  Given their tropical feel I had originally intended on including them in the summer exhibition, but upon closer inspection I decided against it.  Let's see why, shall we?

Sadly I was unable to make out the name of the illustrator who created the imagery on this one.  It's something with an R, but beyond that I'm completely lost.

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1934

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1934

This one is by John LaGatta (1894-1977), and as you can tell by the publication name and spelling of "colour", appeared in a British magazine.

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1938

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1938

Tattoo lipstick

Tattoo lipstick

Tattoo rouge compact

Tattoo rouge compact

As with Po-go Rouge, the compact is teeny compared to today's blushes. 

Tattoo rouge

The puff is imprinted with the same design.

Tattoo rouge puff

There was another compact with "U.S.A." inscribed beneath the Tattoo name.  (Of course, I totally forgot I had this one and ended up with two...I could be wrong, but I don't think the "U.S.A." imprint presents any real significance; I believe it's just a slight change in production.)

Tattoo rouge compact

There was also a difference in the bottoms of the compacts.  The one with U.S.A. on the front doesn't have any inscription on the back.  Again, I don't think there's any real significance to this, just a negligible difference in the manufacturing.

Tattoo rouge compacts

What IS an interesting difference, however, is an alternate design on the lipstick and rouge.  It appears these were sold around the same time as the more commonly seen design.  It may have been a mini version, but I'm not sure.

Tattoo lipstick
(image from pinterest)

Tattoo rouge compact(image from pinterest)

This is the only ad I found in which the alternate design appeared.  It's from 1947, so maybe it only showed up towards the end of Tattoo's reign (the latest newspaper ad for Tattoo was from September 1949).

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1947(image from pinterest)

However, the shade I own is Coral Sea, which was trademarked in 1946.  So maybe this wasn't new packaging after all.

Tattoo lipstick in Coral Sea

Tattoo Coral Sea patent
(image from tsdrapi.uspto.gov)

I also own a Savage powder box, which you might remember from this post and then its later appearance in the 2015 summer exhibition.  I deeply regret including it now.

Vintage Savage blush

Vintage Savage blush

I don't have the complete story of Tattoo/Savage, but thanks to Collecting Vintage Compacts and what I was able to cobble together from old newspaper ads, the lines were introduced in the early 1930s by James Leslie Younghusband, a Canadian military/stunt pilot turned Chicago-based businessman.  Younghusband was the brains behind another "indelible" lipstick line called Kissproof, which he invented in 1923.  Despite its poisonous ingredients, the lipstick was sold until the early 1940s.  I'm not sure why Younghusband felt compelled to develop not one but two "permanent" lipstick brands while Kissproof was still being sold, since I've compared the copy from the Tattoo and Savage ads to the Kissproof ones and all touted them as long-wearing lipsticks that were also comfortable to wear - formula-wise, there doesn't seem to be much difference.  The author of Collecting Vintage Compacts has promised a second installment about Younghusband and the launch of Tattoo and Savage so I'll update this post with additional information, but in the meantime I wanted to share some thoughts and other questions I have about these lines. 

First, I'm not going to dance around the obvious here: there's no way any company could get away with this sort of fetishizing of "exotic" people and cultures today.  The ads and product design certainly are eye-catching - who wouldn't want to wear colors inspired by a tropical paradise? -  but when you look closely and read the ad copy, you realize how racist they are.  Tattoo and Savage represent the pinnacle of white men's fantasies about "native" women's sexuality, which in their minds is completely untamed and animal-like.  By wearing lipstick shades appropriated from these "uncivilized" cultures, white ladies can show off their racy side while still adhering to traditional American/European standards of female decorum.  Take, for example, the copy in this ad.  "From South Sea maidens, whom you know as the most glamorous women on earth, comes the secret of making and keeping lips excitingly lovely and everlastingly youthful.  In that land where romance is really real, you'll naturally find no coated, pasty lips.  Instead, you'll find them gorgeously tattooed!  Not with a needle, but with a sweet, exotic red stain made from the berries of the passion-fruit...Tattoo is the civilized version of this marvelous idea."  Yes, it's so very uncivilized to wear a lip stain made of crushed berries - only cavewomen do that!1

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1935

Savage is even more blatantly racist, highlighting the fact that their colors were inspired by "primitive, savage love".

Savage lipstick ad, 1934

And their reds are "paganly appealing hues that stir the senses...rapturous, primitive reds, each as certainly seductive as a jungle rhythm."  Bonus points for this ad linking "wickedness" to indigenous cultures.

Savage ad, 1935

The Tattoo ads (including the two I own) feature a variety of tan-skinned women catering to pale white women, imagery that dates back at least to the Renaissance and is still used today in an effort to make a scene appear "historically accurate."  You'll  notice that these particular women are depicted in stereotypical garb that existed solely in white people's imaginations, i.e. hula skirts and flower necklaces.  And just to further the idea of their supposedly insatiable lust, they are also shown topless. Women of color are reduced to othered, highly sexualized props whose only purpose is to serve white women.  (Somewhat unrelated, but if you want to take a gander at the lipstick display shown in this ad, you can see it here.  I remember one popped up on ebay a couple years ago with an starting bid of a mere $199.99.)

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1935

Tattoo "Hawaiian" ad, 1935

Tattoo "Hawaiian" ad, 1935

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1937

Tattoo ad, 1936-37

This is another one by LaGatta. 

Tattoo ad, 1937(image from pinterest)

More proof:  the ideal "Tattoo girl" was white and blond.

Tattoo ad, 1936

Savage also threw in a nod to colonization with the use of "conquer". 

Savage ad

Savage "Jungle" ad, 1935

All of this begs the question of what Younghusband was trying to accomplish with these lines.*  Indelible lipstick was all the rage in the '20s and '30s; no doubt Younghusband's company faced stiff competition from the likes of Tangee and others.  Perhaps he felt that this manner of cultural appropriation, i.e. creating what was probably the decade's most risqué and raciest makeup line by portraying the indigenous people of the South Pacific as feral and completely unfettered by "civilized" society's code of conduct, and then offering white women a socially acceptable way to channel that imagined freedom via lipstick, was the best way to stand out in a crowded market.  The ads repeat words like "thrilling", "maddening", and suggests that the color will last through late-night activity.  Sounds very exciting, yes?

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1936-37

Savage Dry Rouge ad, 1935

Savage ad, 1935

Savage lipstick ad, 1934
(all ad images from lantern.mediahist.org unless otherwise noted)

The other possible reason Younghusband looked towards the South Pacific was the rise of tourism to Hawaii and other islands during the 1930s.  As the blog author of Witness to Fashion astutely points out in a post on Tattoo, the increased tourism heralded a cultural love affair with anything tropical.  "Tourism to Hawaii, via luxurious cruise ships, increased in the 1930s. The “white ships” of the Matson Line sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii and the South Seas. Quite a few movies with a tropical setting were made in the thirties, including Mutiny on the Bounty (1935),  The Hurricane (1937) and Her Jungle Love (1938) — both starring queen-of-the-sarong Dorothy Lamour, Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938), and Honolulu (1939). Bing Crosby and his movie Waikiki Wedding (1937) popularized the song 'Sweet Leilani,' written in 1934."  Sounds plausible.

Getting back to my other questions, I'm unclear on the difference between the Tattoo and Savage lines, or why Younghusband would launch both nearly simultaneously.  As I noted previously, there doesn't seem to be an appreciable difference between the two, and they were released at approximately the same time - around 1933 for Tattoo and 1934 for Savage.  Tattoo lasted till about 1949, while the last newspaper ad I found for Savage dates to October 1941.  At first I thought perhaps Savage was a drugstore line, whereas Tattoo was sold only in department stores, since their respective prices were 20 cents and one dollar.  This 1939 Gimbel's ad for Savage, however, kills that theory. 

Savage lipstick newspaper ad, 1939

Finally, and you may be wondering this as well, why on earth did I knowingly purchase such racist items for the Museum and then choose to blog about them?  Unfortunately I can't really answer that myself.  It's not like I wasn't familiar with these lines or thought they were okay and then realized they weren't, which has happened before.  I also like to consider myself at least somewhat conscious about racial and cultural appropriation issues within the beauty industry.  I guess I thought that, distasteful though they are, they're important from a historical perspective.  I wanted to have tangible reminders of what was acceptable back then.  Items like this also help me remember to be a little more mindful when purchasing contemporary pieces.  So while I've made the decision not to feature such items in exhibitions, since it dawned on me that I prefer exhibitions to have more of a celebratory spirit and racist beauty products aren't things I necessarily want to champion, I think a cosmetics museum should have these types of items and open a dialogue about the ugly side of the beauty industry and its history.  My main goal for the Museum is for it to serve as a happy, magical place full of wonderful and beautiful things, but sometimes it's necessary to take a good hard look at some of the problematic issues within the world of cosmetics.

Well, that's enough of my blather, except to say that I'm sorry I don't have more concrete information on these lines - hopefully Collecting Vintage Compacts will shed further light on them.   Thoughts?

1 While I was poking about at newspapers.com I came across an article from 1934 that serves as historical evidence of how indigenous people were viewed by Americans/Europeans in the '30s.  This one tells the tale of one young woman "explorer" (read: colonizer) who attempted to "civilize" the "ferocious Amazonians" in South America by bringing them cosmetics.  I literally can't even with this.

Stevens_Point_Journal_Thu__Jun_7__1934_

2I do really wonder what the hell was wrong with Younghusband.  In the news articles I found, his first wife passed away in 1927, and he went on to remarry 4 different women in the span of 13 years, all of whom accused him of adultery.  The rough timeline is that he divorced the 2nd wife in 1931, married his third in April 1933 and divorced her in 1935.  I'm not sure about the 4th wife, but in November of 1937 he married his fifth.  A 1950 article regarding the divorce of his 5th wife states that he went so far as to "spend thousands of dollars on detectives, photographers, wire tappers and gigolos in attempt to frame [his wife] in an embarrassing position in a Florida hotel so he could gather divorce evidence."  What a psycho.  The same article also claims that during the wedding, Younghusband hit a police reporter in the head after inviting him to cover the wedding.  So yeah, something wasn't right with this guy, and it's not just the rampant racism in his company's lipstick lines.

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On the wings to beauty: Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics

Jacqueline Cochran, ca. 1938

"It never dawned on me not to do something because I was a woman...I thought nothing of approaching men like Vincent Bendix, the airplane manufacturer for whom the transcontinental air race was named, to explain my position: 'I can fly as well as any man entered in that race.'  I didn't see it as being boastful so much as speaking the truth.  I learned through hard work and hard living that if I didn't speak the truth about myself, no one else would fill in the missing pieces." - Jacqueline Cochran

As with Tommy Lewis and Richard Hudnut, I found a very interesting piece of makeup history completely by chance.  I was thinking how cool it would be to see some mid-century modern designers' work on makeup packaging, i.e. Alexander Girard, Charley Harper and Paul Rand.  On a whim I typed in "Paul Rand makeup" into Google (I think I was under the impression that I could somehow will makeup packaging with his work into being if I just believed hard enough) and lo and behold, a bunch of ads he had designed for a brand called Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics popped up.  I had never heard of it so I searched for just Cochran's name...and was mighty confused by the results. 

Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran (1906?-1980) was a pioneer of aviation in the 20th century, a.k.a. an aviatrix (don't you just love that word?! So bad-ass!)  A contemporary of Amelia Earhart, Cochran set world records for flying from the '30s through the '60s, including:

  • The first woman to enter the famous Bendrix race in 1935, and the first to win in 1938
  • The first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic in 1941
  • The first woman civilian to earn the Distinguished Service Medal for serving as the director of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) and training women pilots in WWII
  • The first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953
  • The first living woman to be inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1971
  • Held more speed, distance and altitude records than any pilot in history at the time of her death.

Further along in my search I discovered that this amazing woman was, in fact, the same Jacqueline Cochran as the one behind the cosmetics line.  While I don't wish to diminish her accomplishments as a pilot, obviously I'm more interested in telling the story of her makeup company.  As we'll see, Cochran may never have gotten into flying if it wasn't for her interest in cosmetics. 

It seems like I'm sharing too much of Cochran's early life, but I promise it's relevant!  Jackie Cochran (original name Bessie Lee Pittman1) was born an orphan around 1906 in Florida.  The exact year is unknown because she didn't have a birth certificate.  Adopted by an impoverished foster family, Cochran worked throughout basically her entire childhood.  When I say "impoverished" I don't mean the family couldn't afford multiple cars; I mean they literally didn't know when or if their next meal would come, and the children's clothing consisted of flour sacks stitched together.  In 1914 the family relocated to Columbus, Georgia to work at a cotton mill, children included.  At the age of 14 she experienced her first foray into the beauty industry by taking on the role of "beauty operator" at a local salon, learning how to operate the perming machines and dyeing clients' hair.  A traveling salesman for a perm machine knocked on the door one day and offered her a job as an operator in Montgomery, Alabama, and off she went.  (I can't even imagine going to a strange town with not a penny in my pocket and knowing nearly zero people, especially at 15.)  One of her regular customers suggested she go to nursing school despite the fact that Cochran only had a third-grade education.  After deciding nursing wasn't the career for her, Cochran moved to New York and landed a job at Antoine's, a high-end salon located within Saks department store.  I'm astonished at how hard Cochran had to work just to survive, and though sheer grit and fierce will to succeed, she was able to make a slightly better life for herself as a teenager than as a child.  (You really need to read her autobiography, which is where I'm getting most of this information2 - the courage and determination she had were mind-blowing, yet she presents it in a very matter-of-fact manner, not in any sort of bragging or "woe is me" way.  When a group of school girls asked why she was so ambitious, she straightforwardly replied, "poverty and hunger").

Jacqueline Cochran(image from floridamemory.com)

It was at a party in 1932 where she met her future husband, millionaire lawyer and businessman Floyd Odlum.  Cochran was completely unaware of his background (and wealth) at the time, but was immediately attracted to him.  The party's host introduced them, and during their chat, Cochran mentioned her desire to get out of the salon.  "I've been thinking about leaving Antoine's to go on the road selling cosmetics for a manufacturer...the shop can be so confining and the customers so frustrating and what I really love to do is travel.  I want to be out in the air."  To which Odlum replied, "If you're going to cover the kind of territory you need to cover in order to make money in this kind of economic climate, you'll need wings.  Get your pilot's license" (p. 57). And with that, Cochran took flying lessons and earned her pilot's license in a mere 3 weeks - setting records right from the start of her aviation career.  In 1935 she officially established her eponymous line, which was meant for a more active woman who wanted to have adventures but also look polished while doing so.  (Not that women need to look polished, or even require makeup to look polished, of course.)  The brand's use of "wings to beauty" and claim that a full beauty routine takes just a few minutes a day suggest that it was a brand intended for the busy go-getter, perhaps even an early version of athleisure beauty.  Indeed, both the ads and Cochran's own words in a 1938 interview demonstrate a no-nonsense, time-saving approach to beauty - ever practical, she skipped blush while flying.  Says the article, "Mandarin fingernails and artificial eyelashes are ceiling zero to [Cochran]. 'You get pale at high altitudes,' she explains. So rouge just stands out in one big spot.' Likes an eye cream to 'keep my eyelids from drying'.  There's a foundation cream with an oil base. 'Your skin gets dry in high altitudes.' Then lipstick and powder.  That's all.  In summer, she likes a grease make-up - foundation cream that makes you look all bright and shiny and is worn without any powder. 'Just a touch of paste rouge and your lipstick. It's young-looking and very attractive with sports clothes.'"  I think Cochran definitely would be a fan of athleisure makeup today, as she seemed to prefer a minimal, fresh-faced look.

Jacqueline Cochran makeup ad, 1939
(image from hprints.com)

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1939

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1939

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1940

Some more of her musings on makeup:  "I'm feminine but I can't say that I was ever a feminist...I refused to get out of the plane [after a crash in Bucharest] until I had removed my flying suit and used my cosmetics kit.  That was feminine and it was natural for me.  It gave me the pick-me-up I needed and I wasn't ashamed to do it.  I didn't want to be a man.  I just wanted to fly" (p. 20).  Though she says otherwise, Cochran's actions most definitely paint a feminist picture.  I'm seeing her reapplication of makeup following a crash as more of a coping technique and less "I need to look pretty".  As we'll see, however, later advertising for the brand took a decidedly ageist turn.3

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1940

The brand was also a reflection of Cochran's unstoppable determination and desire to innovate.  "I wanted no part of other people's products because I was crazy enough then to think I could do better...when I first set about to develop a greaseless night cream, I was told that a greaseless lubricant was clearly impossible.  I knew they were wrong and I never recognized the word impossible.  My most successful cream, Flowing Velvet, is the result of my stubbornness" (p. 119).  Flowing Velvet was possibly the first moisturizer on the market intended to replenish the skin in high altitudes and extreme travel distances - i.e. long flights.  It was introduced around 1942 and the line expanded in the '50s to include face powder and lipstick.  Sadly, the advertising greatly contradicts Cochran's own words, as it seems to be geared towards ancient ladies over the age of 20 (!) trying to regain their youthful glow.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1955

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1960

I couldn't locate a jar of the famous cream, but I did scrounge up a powder refill from the early '60s. 

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder, ca. 1961

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder ad, 1960

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet lipstick ad, 1959

One of the most unique products Cochran came up with was the "perk-up stick", which contained 5 beauty products in a tiny cylinder for on-the-go usage. "I was proud of what we used to the Jacqueline Cochran 'Perk-Up' cylinder.  I would take one on all my trips, on all my races.  It was a three-and-a-half inch stick that came apart into five separate compartments for weekends or trips.  It would fit anywhere and it had everything" (p. 119).

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1947
(image from Blue Velvet Vintage)

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1947

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1948

I was fortunate enough to snag one of these for the Museum. 

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

I've taken most of it apart so you can see what it looks like.  I couldn't get some of the compartments open and didn't want to break it, but all of the ones I did open still had product left.

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

At one point it had a sifter for the powder so that it didn't spill out when you opened the compartment. 

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

The Perk-Up Stick also came with a little spatula so you could refill it as needed and hygienically apply everything.  While the concept seems genius (seriously, why aren't companies now coming up with things like this?!) one must remember that products in the first half of the 20th century were generally smaller and more streamlined - no big huge honkin' palettes back then.  And refillable packaging was way more common.  In thinking about the lovely compacts I've collected over the years, I'm remembering that people didn't throw them out, they just popped in a refill.  Still, the Perk-Up stick is unlike anything I've seen, contemporary or vintage.  As the author of Blue Velvet Vintage notes, the closest thing we have today to the Perk-Up Stick are stackable jars.

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

I also purchased one more piece from the early '60s.  However, the photo below is not mine, for you see, I bought not one but TWO of these compacts, yet ended up with none.  I bought one in late February, only for USPS to claim it had been delivered when it had not...and then a few weeks later when it still didn't resurface, I found another floating around on Ebay and bought it to replace the lost one. Despite being from a totally different seller in a completely different part of the country, somehow USPS lost the replacement as well.  How they managed to do that I have no idea - perhaps this compact is cursed.  There are others available for sale but they're not in as good condition as the ones I purchased, and at this point I'm not willing to invest any more money into it.  Nevertheless it would have been a nice piece to have in the collection.

Jacqueline Cochran L'Opera compacts(image from pinterest)

Jacqueline Cochran L'Opera compacts ad, 1961

As for the Paul Rand ads, despite reading almost as much as I could find on Cochran, I'm still not clear on how the partnership with Rand started.  I do know that I'm in love with the ads. 

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand, 1945

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand, 1946

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

As this exhibition catalogue shows, I'm missing a few more of his ads, alas.

Jacqueline Cochran ads designed by Paul Rand(image from amulhall015.portfolio.com)

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1944(image from pinterest)

Obviously I'd give my eye teeth for this crazy powder!

Jacqueline Cochran face powder box designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran face powder box designed by Paul Rand(images from paul-rand.com)

One observation I had in looking at these was that as heavily as the Chromoblend powder was marketed throughout the '40s - given the abundance of ads I'm imagining this was one of the pillars of the line in addition to Flowing Velvet - I couldn't find any jars to actually buy.  I'm wondering if custom blend face powder king Charles of the Ritz was too stiff a competition.  Did Cochran launch her own custom face powder as a way of thumbing her nose at his company and trying to prove that, once and for all, her product was superior?  While it's unclear which Charles she was referring to, Cochran recalls her meeting with him less than fondly. "What an irritating snob of a man Mr. Charles was.  I made the interview worse by insisting outright that I was an expert at everything.  He didn't believe me.  I didn't look old enough to be expert at anything, he said.  We were two big egos out to prove who is bigger, better.  In fact, I told Charles of the Ritz that not only was I good, I was probably better than he was.  That amused him for a minute, but he was not so amused when I wanted fifty percent commission on every customer I had in his salon...it makes me smile to think that the cosmetics company I would found several years later, Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics, still competes with Charles of the Ritz" (p. 55).

The overall concept of going to a counter and having custom face powder blended is remarkably similar.

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1945

The use of the spatula in this ad and the idea of making custom powder "while you wait and watch" is also nearly identical to Charles of the Ritz's ads.

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1944

So what happened to Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics after its heyday in the '40s and '50s?  Cochran sold the company in 1963 to American Cyanamid Co.  It was then formally acquired by Shulton, a subsidiary of American Cyanamid, in 1965.  Unfortunately the ageism continued to run rampant in ads throughout the '60s.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1966

At least they were still touting a speedy beauty routine for women who don't have much time to devote to skincare.  Then again, sitting around and drinking tea doesn't exactly scream "busy".  Like, they couldn't have shown a woman on her way to work or engaged in a sport of some kind?

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1967(images from ebay)

But making women terrified of aging must have been effective, since the Flowing Velvet line was popular enough to continue expanding to include eye makeup and lip gloss.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet eye color, ca. 1967
(image from pinterest)

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet Model Mouth, ca. 1967
(image from pinterest)

Unfortunately I'm not really sure of the brand's trajectory after the '60s.   The timeline below suggests that Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics is long gone, but also was part of a recent re-branding effort.  So maybe there are plans to revive the line?

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics timeline(image from behance.net)

In any case, while the later advertising left something to be desired, you had to give Cochran credit for setting world flying records while simultaneously managing a multi-million dollar cosmetics company that at one point had over 700 employees.  She also made good on the originally intended purpose of her pilot's license:  after the war ended, Cochran flew an average of 90,000 miles a year to sell her line in various locales.  For Cochran, the beauty industry allowed her to both get out of poverty and provide women with a sense of well-being (ageist advertising aside).  "In a beauty shop the customers always came in looking for a lift.  And unless I really screwed up, they left with that lift.  I could give them that.  I could give them hope along with a new hairdo.  My skills as a beautician had bought me a one-way ticket out of poverty, and I'd never forgotten it.  I was always proud of my profession" (pp. 46 and 57).

Jacqueline Cochran testing out color combinations

Had you ever heard of Jacqueline Cochran?  What do you think of her and her line?  It was pretty eye-opening for me - I think I should Google the other mid-century artists I mentioned and see what rabbit holes I can fall into. :)

 

1 Interestingly, Cochran's autobiography completely leaves out how her got her surname.  Apparently she married Robert Cochran in 1920 at the age of 14, had a son a year later (who died at the age of 4 in 1925), and divorced Cochran in 1927.  She selected the name Jacqueline on a whim while working at Antoine's.  In the book there is no mention of her first husband; instead, she claims she chose the name from a phone book.  "I went to the first phone book I could find, ran my finger down a list of names, and decided on Cochran.  It had the right ring to it.  It sounded like me. My foster family's name wasn't really mine anyway...I wanted to break from them in name.  I had my own life, a new one.  What better way to begin than with my own name.  Cochran.  Why the hell not?" (p. 49)

2 In addition to the staggering amount of information online, there are also several official biographies of Cochran.  I chose the autobiography because I wanted to hear her story in her own words and get a sense of her personality.

3 It seems highly unlikely that Cochran was directing the ad copy for her line, so I can't fault her too much for that, as distasteful as it is.  However, a bit of gossip that appeared in a 1951 newspaper article makes me think that Cochran wasn't the feminist hero we'd like her to be.  I've included a few excerpts in which Cochran basically says "no fatties allowed" in the Air Force's women's pilot program.  Yikes. 

Jacqueline Cochran 1951 news article

Jacqueline Cochran 1951 news article

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The Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Co: a forgotten piece of history

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.42.28 PMAs usual, I forget exactly what I was searching for at newspapers.com when, about a month ago, I stumbled across a very interesting article from 1938.  I know the search term must have included Richard Hudnut's name, but beyond that I can't remember.  In any case I was delighted to uncover a profile of a rather remarkable man.  Thomas R. "Tommy" Lewis apparently designed many of the compact cases for perfumer Richard Hudnut from possibly the mid-1920s through at least the '30s.  Both Collecting Vintage Compacts and Cosmetics and Skin have excellent histories of the brand, so you can check them out there.  I, however, will be focusing on Lewis and some of the compacts he may have created. The reason why I felt such a compelling need to share his story is a matter of race: Lewis was one of very few American black jewelers in his day, and one who overcame both racism and poverty to establish his own very successful jewelry firm.  In honor of Black History Month I thought it would be appropriate to share as much information as I was able to find on Lewis, and hopefully I can do it without whitesplaining or tokenizing.  I offer my sincere apologies in advance if I offend!  (Constructive criticism is welcome; mean comments are not).

According to another article written in 1935 that I found online, Lewis was born into an impoverished family in Providence, Rhode Island.  Undaunted by his circumstances and without the support of his parents or siblings, he attended RISD with the hopes of becoming a jeweler, earning a scholarship in the process.  After graduating he worked for a leading jewelry manufacturer in Providence for several years, then struck out on his own.  

I was unable to find the date he started his company or much other information besides what was in these two articles.  The 1935 online article says that he started his business 27 years prior, so I'm assuming he established it in 1908; however, the 1938 article says that he had been in business for 26 years, so maybe it was 1912.  And there's no information on his relationship with Hudnut other than what was in that article, so when he started making compacts for them is unclear.  The only (rather patronizing) mention is as follows:1  "Visit the cosmetics department in any first class store, ask the clerk to show you a Richard Hudnut powder compact and then surprise him by telling him that he is looking at the work of a [black] man.  Everyone of those compacts was designed and produced here in a plant at 19 Calendar Street, the home of the Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Firm.  The same is true of their perfume bottles, for Mr. Lewis works on glass as well as platinum, gold, silver or any other metal from which jewelry or ornaments can be made.  The Richard Hudnut people are among his biggest customers, but not his most consistent.  That honor is reserved for other jewelry manufacturers who regularly send in their commissions for original designs in bracelets, watch chains and other novelty jewelry."  So it seems that while Hudnut was not the biggest source of business for Lewis's company, we know that he was designing all of their compacts by 1938, and presumably earlier.  When I purchased these compacts for the Museum I made sure to select ones that I could get specific dates for, i.e. compacts that were plausibly produced by Lewis given the approximate timeline, and also ones that seemed to be the most jewelry-inspired. 

Richard Hudnut compacts

First up is the original "twin" compact, which was introduced in late 1922.  I didn't realize this until after I bought it, but this double case was designed by a man named Ralph Wilson in 1921 and patented in early 1922.  Wilson was the New York representative for Theodore W. Foster and Bro. Company, a prominent compact and jewelry manufacturer.  Foster, like Lewis, was also based in Providence, so maybe there might be some connection between this company and Lewis's - perhaps this is the company Lewis worked for after graduating from RISD?  In any case, we have proof that the twin compact was created by a company other than Lewis's, so this is not his work.  I still like to think, though, that Lewis may have apprenticed with Foster, grew familiar with Hudnut's aesthetic and went on to earn the company's favor over Foster.

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact ad, 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

How cool is this?  You flip over the blush and there's powder on the other side.  Genius.

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Hudnut's Deauville fragrance was introduced in 1924. Again, no telling whether this was done by Lewis, but probably not given that it's basically the same interior mechanism as the earlier twin compact.

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact ad, 1926

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Le Début, a fragrance available in 5 different variants that were color-coordinated to their bottles and powder compacts, well, debuted in 1927.  I was fortunate enough to track down an original ad for these beauties.  They're actually pretty common - I was able to find all the colors shown in the ad - but in the end I thought the black one was the most elegant.  (Okay, I really love the silver one too!)

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

In the 1938 photo below it states that Lewis designed the "famous Richard Hudnut compact", but I really have no idea which one they're referring to.  It could be Le Début, or it could be the "triple vanity" compacts designed in the mid '30s.

Tommy Lewis - 1938 profile

This enameled, oh-so-Deco case came out in 1936, according to the newspaper ads I found, and the last mention of it was in 1938.  Again, it's funny how certain objects call to you.  This one was also available in a variety of colors, but I just knew the red belonged in the Museum. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The triple vanities had three compartments for powder, blush and lipstick.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The ad also mentions jewelry several times, so I'm hopeful it was made by Lewis's hand.

Richard Hudnut compact ad, October 1936

Lastly, I picked up this stunner, which dates to about 1939.  Evidently between this one, the Three Flowers compact and the silver Evans compacts I have a thing for sunburst patterns, probably because they remind me of glorious sunny days. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

How exquisite is this jewel detail?  And in such impeccable shape for a nearly 80 year-old compact - it's mind-boggling that none of the stones are missing.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact ad, December 1939

To give you a sense of how dainty and small these triple vanities are, here they are with one of NARS' highlighting trios.

Richard Hudnut triple vanity compacts

Getting back to Lewis, I can't say for sure whether his company was responsible for any of these compacts; I can only hope at least some of these jewelry-inspired designs were his.  The fact that the 1935 article doesn't specifically mention Richard Hudnut makes me think that perhaps Lewis wasn't designing compacts for Hudnut until somewhere between 1936-1938.  But it's also entirely possible he had been producing compacts for them for years.  In any case, I want to highlight just how difficult it was for a black man in the 1900s to not only get out of poverty, but graduate from one of the top design schools in the country AND start his own business that eventually employed up to 60 workers in the busy seasons.  As the 1935 profile states: "But jeweler, designer, silversmith?  What chance would he have?  Where could he work?  Who ever heard of a [black] man, a designer, a master craftsman in the jewelry trade of all trades!  One can imagine what would have been Lewis's fate if his ambitions had been left in the hands of some of the so-called vocational guidance counselors who are at the present time shaping the lifework of many [black] students in the public schools of our large cities.  According to the formula which they use, there are no [black] jewelers now in existence, hence no future; it would be impossible for a [black] silversmith to get a job since he cannot belong to the union, and the white jewelers would not employ him anyhow."  Through incredibly hard work and innate talent, Lewis persevered, not only becoming a success himself but also helping others do the same.  Most of his employees were black, and Lewis provided them with better wages than other jewelry firms in Providence as well as training. 

Thomas R "Tommy" Lewis
Employees at Tommy Lewis's company

I just wish I could have found more information and photos to make for a somewhat complete biography.  Searching online for Lewis's company yielded nothing, as did basic searches for Lewis himself.  I ended up contacting the Rhode Island Historical Society and they kindly provided census records indicating his year of birth (1880), but said they didn't have any business records related to Lewis's company, which I think is bizarre.  If it was as prolific as the articles claim it was, and if it really did provide hundreds of thousands of pieces of costume jewelry to the likes of Saks and Woolworth's and compacts for Hudnut, I find it very strange that there are absolutely zero traces of his company left save for these two profiles.  Especially since the 1938 article even gives the address of his workshop - with that specific type of information there should be historic maps or architectural records listing it.  He also apparently had over 200 patents to his name, none of which I was able to find.  I guess the saddest part is that there are tons of other stories like Lewis's, and we simply don't hear about them.  So many histories for non-white people are erased or buried, and I really wanted to bring Lewis's story to the surface because it was truly outstanding (and not only because it's Black History Month...I just so happened to find the newspaper article around a month ago and thought the timing worked out nicely). I really hope this post didn't come across as patronizing or me highlighting a "token" black person.2  I find Lewis's story impressive not because I can't believe a black man could ever be creative and intelligent enough to start a jewelry firm, but because of all he had to overcome to achieve his goals.  "Perhaps it is the memory of a [black] boy with a dream to become a jeweler, a silversmith, a designer, a [black] boy who kept his dream despite the doubts of his family from within and racial prejudice from without.  For Thomas Lewis is an artist and so he believes in young men and young women with dreams."

Thoughts? 

 

1 I spent several hours googling whether it was acceptable to type the word "c*lored" if I was quoting from an old newspaper article.  In the end I realized I personally didn't feel comfortable using it even if it was a quote, so I replaced it with "black".

2 I rarely, if ever, highlight makeup histories featuring people of color, i.e. Madam C.J. Walker, Annie Turnbo Malone, etc. because I'm not sure whether it's okay for a white person to do that - while I think their stories absolutely need to be heard and recorded, once again I fear that it would come off as whitesplaining or tokenizing if I attempted to write about them.  In the case of Tommy Lewis, there was such scant information available I'd figure I'd make an exception in order to at least introduce him and his work.

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I'm a fan of LM Ladurée's holiday collection!

Based on an informal poll I conducted on Instagram, the overwhelming majority of people who answered (92%) indicated that although the holidays are over, it's still acceptable for me to continue blogging about holiday collections throughout the winter.  Consider this one on LM Ladurée's beautiful holiday 2017 the first in a series of holiday catch-up posts. :)

The collection seems to be loosely based on the idea of a masquerade ball, a theme popular among many beauty collections that stretches back decades.  As the Bal Masqué in cosmetics could be another entire post, I'm choosing to focus on the most prominent motif of the Ladurée collection:  the fan.  It appears at the bottom of this printed bag used to contain body wash, lotion and hand cream, with a young lady coquettishly peeking out from the edges.

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

Along with the black cap and shoe, the fan differentiated the leg-shaped lip glosses from last year's version.  I still say they're one of the weirdest makeup items I've come across.

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

The fan also appeared on the side of this face powder box.

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

The box's top is adorned with a masked woman who shyly looks down and also at us, depending on the angle.  This packaging technique was a definitely a trend in 2017, with both MAC's Rossi de Palma and Smashbox's holiday collection featuring a sort of shape-shifting design.

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

But the standout use of the motif came in the form of a fan-shaped compact, which contains blush and highlighter embossed with a delicate lace pattern.  The compact's silky pouch features several elaborate fan designs, along with pairs of eyes shown both closed and peering out from the black background, lending an air of mystery.  The rich red tassel hanging from the fan's base adds vibrant color and a touch of movement.

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

LM Ladurée holiday 2017

As with the lyre motif from their fall 2017 collection, I suspect LM Ladurée was inspired by the fashion of Les Merveilleuses as well as vintage compacts.  Let's take a peek at the stylish ladies of the Empire era in France (roughly 1795-1815).  The history of the fan as accessory in Europe is far beyond the scope of this little blog, especially since there is such a tremendous wealth of resources on the subject, but I'd like to share a few examples of fans during the time of Les Merveilleuses. As you can see from these fashion plates, the fan was de rigueur.  Here are just a few of the literally dozens of plates I found from this time period depicting women holding fans of all shapes and colors. 

French fashion plates, ca. 1798

French fashion plates, ca. 1797-1800
(images from pinterest)

I'm no fashion historian, but it seems that fans were made to accommodate a variety of events and different hours of the day, given the ornate one shown with a wedding dress (left) and one meant to be carried with a more informal day dress (right).

Empire style dresses
(images from metmuseum.org)

Some examples of fans carried during the late 1700s-early 1800s were included in the wonderful exhibition "Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion."  The fact that the image of a woman holding a fan was chosen for the front cover of the exhibition catalogue demonstrates that the accessory was indeed a must-have, at least for certain occasions.  While the fan was certainly popular before this time and continued to be ubiquitous until the early 1900s, the accessory seems to have reached the height of fandom (sorry, couldn't help it) in the Empire era. 

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion

Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion(images from napoleon-fashion.com)

I'm pretty sure these sorts of images were what inspired LM Ladurée to go with the fan motif.  But I wonder, as with previous releases, whether they were also looking at vintage compacts.  Fan-shaped compacts aren't new; in fact, as we'll see, they're over 70 years old.  Over the years the fan shape has been utilized for makeup mirrors and to hold perfume...as well as some rather unfortunate-looking (read: ugly) makeup compacts from Maybelline in the late '80s.  I've included the ads for these abominations solely for your amusement. Even though they're in black and white, I can see in my head crystal clear how cheap and tacky these compacts would look in person.

Maybelline ad, November 1988

Maybelline ad, November 1989

However, long before Maybelline butchered the fan-shaped compact, Wadsworth released some lovely ones in the 1940s.  Henriette, the New York division of the Kentucky-based Wadsworth, started producing these around 1941 and Wadsworth started selling them under their own name in 1946 (yet advertised them as new.)  The last mention I saw of the fan-shaped compact in ads was in 1949, so I guess they had fallen out out of favor by the early '50s. 

Naturally I had to pick up one for the Museum's collection, along with several ads. 

Wadsworth ad, 1946

Wadsworth ad, 1947

These must have been quite popular, or at least Wadsworth hoped they would be based on the amount of advertising and the mind-boggling number of styles.  In my searches I came across at least 20 different designs.  While I would have liked to have gotten my hands on one of the compacts shown in the ads, this one was just as gorgeous and in great condition so I snapped it up.

Wadsworth fan compact

Wadsworth ad, 1947

It's hard to make out from the illustration, but I think it may have appeared in this 1946 ad.

Wadsworth ad, May 1946

Here are a few more that I enjoyed. 

Wadsworth fan-shaped compact(image from etsy)

These two are from Henriette. 

Henriette fan-shaped compact(image from pinterest)

While not quite in the same elegant spirit as some of the others, I like this one because it's a reminder that Wadsworth/Henriette was a leader in manufacturing novelty compacts, such as the table and dice compacts.  And although I couldn't find one for the fan-shaped compact, I also think the company must have had a patent for it since I didn't come across any other brands with this exact shape.*

Henriette fan-shaped compact(image from pinterest)

But why a fan-shaped compact?  It's not clear why Wadsworth decided to make these, but the clipping below suggests a "Chinese influence".  I'm not sure which is more cringe-inducing: the sexist title or the cultural appropriation outlined in the article itself. 

Wadsworth compacts article, July 1946

Then again, Wadsworth may have been ripping off Spanish flamenco dancers based on this 1948 ad, so it's hard to say which culture they were appropriating.

Wadsworth fan compact ad, December 1948

Still, it's difficult to say definitively whether Wadsworth was truly choosing to dream up some idealized notion of Chinese culture via a fan-shaped compact or whether it was just another odd design to add to their arsenal.  By and large the designs and ads seem to rely on the common perception that fans were simply a sophisticated fashion accessory, and they seemed to be more inspired by European fans of the 18th and 19th centuries than anything else.

Getting back to the LM Ladurée collection, I believe it was the result of, once again, a combination of two key influences:  Empire style in France and vintage compacts.  I really like the way they've intertwined the two this time, and even without considering the references I've discussed here, the collection is beautiful on its own.

What do you think?  Do you have a preference for either LM Ladurée or the Wadsworth compacts?

 

*There was another fan-shaped compact made around the same time, but not nearly as common as Wadsworth.  Near as I can figure they were manufactured in Japan under the name Pink Lady.  I couldn't find much information on these, other than they were modeled after more traditional Japanese fans than European-style ones and had faux pearl clasps.  I also think they were sold empty and you could put a powder refill or any other items of your choosing, sort of like a pill box with a mirror that could also be used for face powder.

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And to all a good night: Vintage Christmas beauty ads

It's the most wonderful time of the year...to look at vintage Christmas makeup ads, that is!  You know I can't get enough of these, so here's a quick roundup (in no particular order) of some I added to the Museum's collection this year.  :)

I have many Dorothy Gray ads, but not any from the '20s.  Their early packaging was so sleek.

Dorothy Gray ad, 1928

Dorothy Gray ad, 1928 - detail

Apparently you can avoid an inferiority complex with a manicure set.  LOL.

Cutex ad, 1934

Cutex ad, 1934

Santa, you jerk!  Why did you give me an empty box?  Now I have to go to the store and have it filled?!  That's not a good present!

Charles of the Ritz ad, 1947

I understand custom powder was Charles of the Ritz's bread and butter and you had to actually go to a counter to get your own personal blend, but I'd still be pissed if someone gave me this.  Get me a nice compact!

Charles of the Ritz ad, 1947 - detail

Santa gave considerably better gifts in this ad.  I'm a bit confused about the presence of donkeys (shouldn't it be reindeer?), but I do love the overall cartoon-y look of this one.

Max Factor ad, 1949

Max Factor ad, 1949 - detail

René Bouché (1905-1963) was Elizabeth Arden's head advertising illustrator in addition to working for Vogue. If you see an illustrated ad for Elizabeth Arden from the 40s or 50s most likely it was done by Bouché's hand.  I believe this is the first ad by this artist to join the Museum's collection. :)

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1944

Elizabeth Arden ad, 1944 - detail

I can't recall how I stumbled across these Djer-Kiss ads, but I'm so pleased I found them!  Djer-Kiss "Kissing Fairies" compact has been on my wishlist for a long time, but the ads are just as gorgeous as the compacts.  I'm hell-bent on collecting all of them, as they're simply beautiful and feature a variety of illustrators.  Collecting Vintage Compacts has an amazingly thorough history of the company, which makes me want them all the more.  I believe the illustrator for this one was Willy Pogany, although I couldn't find a signature anywhere so I can't be sure.

Djer Kiss ad, 1919

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1919

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1919

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1919

This one is by C.F. Neagle, who does a breathtaking job of capturing iridescence  - from fairy wings to Christmas baubles, there's a multi-colored sheen that seems to pop off the page.

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1920

I love all the little sprites flitting about the gift box, particularly the ones hanging off the top and sitting on the edge.  Incredibly charming, no?

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1920

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1920

Djer Kiss Christmas ad, 1920

So that concludes 2017's vintage Christmas ad roundup!  Which one was your favorite?  I love all of these, of course, but I'm partial to the very silly Max Factor ad and the beautiful Djer-Kiss ads.


LM Ladurée's fall palette achieves perfect harmony

As with their spring 2017 collection, I suspect LM Ladurée was looking to the past when creating their fall collection this year.  (Same with summer 2017 which for some reason I completely forgot to write about!)  A lyre is kind of a strange motif and I thought it was the first time it had appeared on makeup, but as usual it has appeared on vintage pieces.  Before we get to those I want to take a moment to drool over the details of this truly resplendent highlighter.

Whoops, just realized the compact in this photo is upside down.  Sigh.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

The box is outfitted in a creamy powder blue color, reminiscent of Wedgwood ceramics, and features some lovely silver embossing.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

The compact packaging is a dazzling sparkly silver with the lyre motif in blue and more yummy silver embossing.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

Another scrumptious detail awaits on the interior of the palette - an elegant blue wallpaper-like print with musical instruments in white.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

And here's the highlighting powder itself.  I'm positively enamored with the swans, as they look even more elegant in the powder than in the outer packaging.

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

LM Ladurée fall 2017

I thought a lyre was kind of a weird choice for a highlighter, especially with the addition of the swan.  The swan design may have been borrowed from clip art (which I've suspected before with LM Ladurée), but as we'll see, perhaps the company really did get inspiration from the lyres prominent in French Empire-era art and decor, which, in turn, drew on the depiction of the lyre in Greek antiquity.  

Swan lyre clip art

It's entirely possible that LM Ladurée was referring to the revival of ancient Greek style in post-revolution France.  We know Les Merveilleuses imitated the flowing togas seen in ancient Greek sculpture, and both the lyre and the swan are historically associated with the Greek god Apollo as he was the god of music.  (In fact, many depictions of lyres in ancient Greek coins and and vases show the lyre arms as swans or other birds).  The lyre was particularly popular towards the end of Louis XVI's reign and remained so throughout the Restoration, so roughly from the 1790s-1830s.  I found one example that's similar to the swan/lyre motif from the LM Ladurée highlighter as well as some other interesting lyre depictions which may point to the inspiration for the design. 

This photo is blur-tacular but you can just about make out the swans on the lyre.

French Empire style chair(image from newel.com) 

Some Merveilleuses and their ilk were represented playing lyres and sporting the classical Greek revival or Empire style attires popular in their circle.

Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Portrait of Madame de Stael as Corinne, 1808(image from the-athenaeum.org) 

Robert LeFevre, Woman with a Lyre, 1808(image from mystudios.com)

Woman Playing a Lyre, Workshop of Robert LeFevre, 1810
(image from syuminiki.tumblr.com)

If you look closely at the lyre in this 1800 fashion plate, you'll notice a swan - not forming the sides of the lyre but hidden in a cutout at the bottom.

Fashion plate from Costume Parisien, 1800
(image from pinterest)

In addition to the examples above, LM Ladurée shared a very interesting photo on their Instagram yesterday.  Granted, it was in relation to their holiday collection, but it seems my hunch about them actually looking at French furniture and art might have been correct.  This was the photo they posted, a view of the Grand Salon in the apartments of Napoleon III in the Louvre. 

Grand Salon, Napoleon III apartments

Do I spy...lyre-back chairs?! Indeed!  I don't think they have swans for arms, but this may have been what LM Ladurée's designers and marketing people were looking at when coming up with this highlighter.  Here's another view.

Grand Salon, Napoleon III apartments(image from flickr)

Napoleon III's reign was considerably later than the time of Les Merveilleuses, so I'm guessing the lyre's popularity stuck around until the end of the 19th century.  So while these particular chairs may not be Empire-era, I still find it fascinating that LM Ladurée posted this - it seems more plausible that they were looking at opulent French decor rather than clip art when designing their fall highlighter.

Anyway, the brand's spring 2017 powder box looked so strikingly similar to some vintage Terre de Retz boxes that I just had to poke around to see whether they may have been drawing on any vintage references for the fall collection in addition to post-Revolution French decor and art.  Given what we've seen above, I actually don't think LM Ladurée was influenced by vintage items, but it was pretty neat to see that the motif had appeared previously.  The earliest makeup packaging to include a lyre symbol came from Harmony of Boston and Leichner.  The excellent Collecting Vintage Compacts blog has a very thorough post on the former so I'll direct you there for the full history, but here are some examples of powder boxes from that company. 

Harmony of Boston face powder, ca. 1906

Harmony of Boston face powder, ca. 1914(images from collectingvintagecompacts.blogspot.com)

Harmony of Boston powder

I was unable to pull together a full history of Leichner, but the short version is that it was founded in Berlin by Ludwig Leichner in 1873 and focused on stage makeup.  But by 1902 Leichner's face powder was being imported to the U.S. for sale to the average woman, i.e., non-actresses who didn't require grease paint, just a subtle dusting of powder.  I'm assuming the lyre was a nod to Leichner's profession as an opera singer.

Leichner face powder box, early 1900s
(image from ebay)

Leichner makeup ad, ca. 1923(image from pinterest)

Vintage Leichner ad(image from sheaff-ephemera.com) 

I believe this is a slightly later version of the face powder (ca. 1930-40s), but the packaging kept the lyre motif.

Leichner face powder, ca. 1930s(image from ebay)

Now for some compacts, which obviously date a little later than the powder boxes.  This Stratton features a beautiful muse playing the lyre with a lush trail of peacock feathers floating behind her.

Stratton compact, ca. mid 1960s-early 70s
(image from pinterest)

These other compacts all have ties to music, so it's not surprising they made use of a classic music motif.  The story behind  Volupté's "Pianette" compact by is a little murky and I doubt there's even any truth to it, but it makes for an intriguing marketing campaign.

Volupté Pianette compact, ca. 1948

Volupté Pianette compact, ca. 1948(image from rubylane)

Apparently it was introduced in late 1948 as "a replica of a tiny piano that served as a marriage proposal". 

Volupté compact ad, November 1948

Volupté Pianette compact box
(image from worthpoint.com)

Volupté Pianette compact ad, December 1949

The full story is that the Pianette was inspired by a "hand-carved compact that an admirer presented to a famous European concert pianist at the end of an especially triumphant tour.  On the back a marriage proposal was inscribed - which was accepted!"  I have no idea if that's true, but it's a pretty good story nonetheless.

Volupté Pianette compact ad, May 1949

Most fittingly, the lyre was used on musical compacts.  I love the idea of having a little song play while I touch up my powder. :)

vintage Clover musical compact
(image from antiquesatlas.com)

Vintage Melissa musical compact

Vintage Melissa musical compact
(images from thefashionstudio.com and thevintagecompactshop.com)

I couldn't find much on the ones above, but I'm guessing they're from about the same time as this Elgin musical compact.  Elgin introduced a collection of musical compacts in late 1952, and 2 years later the "Ring Bearer" compact joined the lineup.  There were a number of different designs, including a couple with musical instruments, but the Ring Bearer was the only one that had a lyre as far as I know.

Elgin "Ring Bearer" compact, ca. 1954
(images from rubylane)

Elgin "Ring Bearer" compact ad, December 1954

Boy, they really put on the marriage pressure, right?  I mean, you could use that extra compartment for any number of items besides an engagement ring...but I guess then they couldn't call it the "Ring Bearer".  The ad copy is notable for being a reminder of what it was like back then for women - apparently your happiest moment was supposed to be when your man proposed, rather than, say, getting your Ph.D.  Don't get me wrong, being engaged is a very happy time, but it's pretty insulting to say that it's THE happiest.  Women have life goals other than marriage that may make them just as happy.  Sheesh.

Getting back to the LM Ladurée highlighter, I think it was well-crafted with lots of meticulous details.  I can't be sure whether the brand was really inspired by French Empire style or if they simply grabbed some clip art, but I do think them posting a photo of chairs with a nearly identical lyre motif as the one used for the highlighter wasn't accidental - it is quite possible LM Ladurée is in fact drawing on historical resources.  In any case, it's simply a beautiful piece both inside and out.

What do you think?

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Fall 2017 exhibition followup

Hopefully you're not forest-ed out since I have many more woodsy things I'd like to share as a follow up to the fall exhibition. This was a very rich theme and I had so much fun exploring it.  Here are a few more things that were running through my head while planning the exhibition. 

I.  Inspiration

Between Jennifer Lawrence's amazing flower-filled updo at the Mother! premiere to my long-standing infatuation with The Blair Witch Project (I watch it every fall and it still scares the hell out of me!), there was plenty of pop culture inspiration.  But since I follow so many blogs, I also came across photos, paintings and other art that helped shape my vision for the exhibition.  In addition to the fabulous illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova and the beautiful forest paintings of Tyrus Wong, here are a few more I had rattling around in my brain.

I so wish I had any photography skills, because these images by Dave Pluimer and Kilian Schönberger blew me away.  I found both of these photographers via Abduzeedo, an excellent design and art blog.

Part of the Autumn Splendor series by Dave Pluimer

Kilian Schonberger

I loved this little leaf lady created by Nele Maas for the #FacetheFoliage project.

Nele Maas - Face the Foliage project

These posters by Andy Kehoe could not be more aptly titled: "Forest Sentinel".  I love the idea of the animals literally overseeing the forest and guarding it...and possibly protecting any humans that wander in. 

Andy Kehoe, Forest Sentinel

Finally, I can't believe these oil paintings by Janek Sedlar - I thought they were photos!  Hauntingly pretty.

Janek sedlar

II.  Other Items

There were tons of vintage and contemporary items I debated putting into the exhibition, but decided not to include due to their lack of seasonal appropriateness, or they weren't actually available for sale.  Still, I wanted to show some of the other things I was mulling over. 

Leaves 

You might remember the Museums' fall 2015 smackdown featuring some very pretty leafy makeup items.  Even though they're not that old, I had too hard of a time tracking down Catrice's Fallosophy collection and Laura Geller's Italian Garden set - some of the Catrice items were for sale on Ebay but the exact shades I wanted, plus it would have taken weeks to get here, and I searched for the Laura Geller set but had no luck finding it until well after I had finalized all the exhibition items.  There was also Essence's 2014 Hello Autumn collection, but I couldn't find any pieces from that either.  Fortunately there were plenty of vintage leaf-adorned items that I came across.  These are the ones that I was going to buy but they either were too pricey, not in the best shape or not available for sale so I ended up skipping them.

Rex leaf compacts
(images from ebay)

This one had such a unique design - too bad it sold long before I could pounce.

Pilcher leaf compact
(image from ebay)

This one from Volupté was a contender, but I decided it was looking too Canadian flag to me.  Not that there's anything wrong with their flag, but I wanted cascading leaves rather than a single one.

Volupté leaf compact(image from ebay)

Very nearly bought this since the ad is also available.  However, once I looked closer at the ad I realized it was a holiday one, so I figured it would be too Christmas-y for a fall exhibition.

Wadsworth compact with leaves

The ad shows many other pretty compacts in addition to the leaf one.  The "Whimsey" one would have been so cute for the fall exhibition - love that the little lady has a bird's nest for hair!  And obviously I'd give my eye teeth for the pineapple-adorned "Tropicana" compact.

1952 Wadsworth compact ad(image from ebay)

Deer

The other super popular woodland/forest motif for vintage items was deer.  So many fawns and bucks and does!  But I ended up skipping most of them as they were more gazelle-like, such as this compact by Evans.

Evans compact with gazelles
(image from ebay)

And these looked like reindeer, which, again, I felt was too holiday-ish.

Pilcher and Wadsworth deer compacts
(images from ebay)

Elgin offered a slew of deer compacts in addition to the ones featured in the exhibition.  But I was partial to the "Woodland Fawn" design since the others were really gazelles and simply not forest-y enough for what I had envisioned.  Still, they're pretty cute and also plentiful. 

Elgin gazelle compact ca. 1950(image from rubylane.com)

Elgin compact ad, November 1950

This design also came in white or red enamel.  It's very striking but looked more like the jungle than forest.

Elgin enamel compact with gazelles, ca. 1950
(image from ebay)

Dec. 15 1950-elgin-enamel-gazelle

This Elgin design was by far the most popular of all the deer...or at least, the company advertised it a ton starting around 1947.  The last mention I saw was in 1951.

Elgin gazelle compact

Elgin compact ad, 1947(image from periodpaper.com)

Elgin compact ad, November 1948

Elgin compact ads, December 1948

Elgin compact ad, December 1948

Elgin compact ad, February 1949

1951 Elgin compact ad(image from ebay)

What's interesting about all these is that even though they're post-war, they resemble Art Deco designs.  I wasn't alone in this observation either.  As Laura Mueller, author of The Collector's Encyclopedia of Compacts, Carryalls and Face Powder Boxes notes, "The 'Leaping Gazelles,' competing in the thirties with the Borzoi and Scotty dog animal motifs, for some reason became a very popular motif again after WWII.  The Post Deco flavor of these cases is obvious.  The sharp angles are softer and the fauna is more realistic.  However, art deco in feeling, these later cases must not be confused nor valued with true Art Deco.  A leaping gazelle does not always an Art Deco case make" (p. 149).

Anyway, these last two were so cute, but the Kigu one on the left was nowhere to be found for sale, while the Honeywell on the right was available but pretty scratched.  I've been wanting a Honeywell in the Museum's collection ever since I saw their adorable mermaid compact, but the scuff marks on this one almost make it look like the poor deer have been shot through the head with arrows.  Maybe that's just me though.  In any case, it didn't make the exhibition cut.

Kigu and Honeywell deer compacts(images from pinterest and ebay)

Other critters and general forest scenes

Now for some of the harder-t0-find forest residents and other woodland goodness.  In terms of contemporary items, the animals in the holiday 2013 Cosme Decorte set would have been a great addition to a woodland-themed exhibition if it wasn't for the red and white color scheme and unmistakable Christmas tree.  Another Cosme Decorte item, the Wandering Grace compact by Marcel Wanders, was another possibility I mulled over, but ultimately decided against including it since it just didn't look forest-like enough to me.

This fox compact by Estee Lauder was gorgeous, but also expensive

Estée Lauder fox compact

Bunnies were a bit easier to find, but so many of them screamed Easter to me, so I really had to dig for ones that were either more fall-like (such as the Folklore design) or basically season-less (the Shiseido figurine).  I think this vintage powder box would have been perfect though - definitely more forest rabbit than Easter bunny.

Vintage powder boxes(image from pinterest) 

These squirrel compacts definitely would have made it into the exhibition, if they didn't cost a whopping $876 and $1,436, respectively.

Vintage squirrel compacts
(images from ebay)

I also looked for trees and general forest scenes.  I didn't turn up much that reminded me of a forest in autumn - most of what I was seeing looked like tropical landscapes - but this vintage compact definitely would have made the cut if it hadn't already sold.  It's pretty unique.

Vintage Fisher compact(image from vanitytreasures.com) 

And that about sums it up!  I hope you're not sick of the forest now!  Any favorite pieces here?

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