Vintage

Signs: a brief history of zodiac-inspired beauty

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

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

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

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

Poudre d'Orsay, 1930s

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

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

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

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

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

Ziegfeld Girls Scorpio zodiac compact, 1946

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

Ziegfeld Girls Capricorn zodiac brochure

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

Elgin American Virgo zodiac compact, ca. 1948

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

Elgin American zodiac ad, March 1948

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

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

Volupte Golden Gesture, ca. 1947-1950

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sears Upbeat zodiac lipsticks ad, Aug_20__1969_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Estée Lauder beauty horoscope recommendations, January 1969

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

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

Maybelline-zodiac

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

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

Linda Mason Elements(image from picuki.com)

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

Maybelline zodiac eyeshadows 1988
(image from newspapers.com)

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

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

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

Coco Loco zodiac lipsticks and nail polishes, 1997

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

Zodiac nail polishes by Tuff Scentence, Mademoiselle magazine July 1998

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zodiac beauty products

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

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

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

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

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

Zodiac beauty pageant Aug_27__1984_(image from newspapers.com)

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

Stratton zodiac compact, 1969

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

Sephora Play! box zodiac insert

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

Kigu zodiac compact

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

The_Record_Sun__Aug_2__1970_(image from newspapers.com)

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

Chinese New Year beauty 2020 (year of the rat)

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

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

Ziegfeld Girls zodiac compacts, 1946

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Revlon Couturine lipstick

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

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

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

Emmeline Pankhurst profile -Apr_18__1926_

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

Sylvia Pankhurst profile, Aug_3__1938_

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

Selfridges ad, 1910(image from @selfridges)

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


Lipstick prophesy: Revlon Futurama

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

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

Revlon Futurama ad, 1956

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

Elizabeth Arden and Hudnut lipstick refill ads, 1942

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

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

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

Compact engraving-Oct_17__1947_

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

Ciner compact and lipstick(image from thesprucecrafts.com)

Paul Flato lipstick and compact, ca. 1950

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

Revlon Futurama ad, 1957

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

Patent for Revlon Futurama liptsick

Patent for Revlon Futurama liptsick

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

Lipstick refill-instructions-Wed__Mar_31__1943_

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

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

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

Revlon Futurama ad, 1956(image from Life Magazine)

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

Revlon Futurama ad text, 1956

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

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

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

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

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

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

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

Revlon Futurama ad, 1958

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

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

Revlon Futurama compacts, private collection

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

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

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

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

Dubarry Showcase lipsticks ad, 1957

Dubarry Showcase lipsticks ad, 1957(images from pinterest)

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

Ad for Cutex Designer's Case lipsticks, 1958

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

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

Cort representative booklet, 1959

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

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

Revlon Futurama ad, 1960

Revlon gold Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama ad, 1960

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

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

Revlon Futurama lipstick case

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

Jewelry-makeup

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

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

Lip gloss pendants - Dior, YSL and Louboutin

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

Carolina Herrera makeup line(image from vogue.com)

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


MM Mailbag: Revlon Couturine lipstick

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

MM-inquiry-lipstick

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

Revlon-Liz-Taylor-Cleopatra

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

Revlon-Marilyn-Monroe

Or Ava Gardner.

Revlon-Ava-Gardner

So it must be one of these ladies.

Revlon-couturines-lipsticks

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

Revlon-couturine-lipsticks

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

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

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

Revlon Couturine lipstick cases, 1962

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

Ad for Revlon Couturine lipsticks, December 1962

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

Revlon Couturine doll lipstick with white mink, ca. 1962

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

Revlon Couturine doll lipstick with chinchilla fur, ca. 1962

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

Ad for Revlon couturine lipstick, 1962

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

Revlon couturine lipstick ad, 1961

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

Revlon-couturine-variations
(images from Sun Shine)

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

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

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

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

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

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

LM Ladurée pressed powder, holiday 2019

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

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup set

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 blush

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 makeup pouch

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

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush jar

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

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

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

LM Ladurée holiday 2019 swan blush box

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

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

Chateau de Malmaison, carpet in Josephine's room

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

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

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

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

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

Stratton swan compact and lipstick set

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad for Coty Golden Swans set, November 1953

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

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

Ad for Loveland swan lipstick bouquet, November 1972_

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

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

Lamis King swan lipstick case, ca. 1980s

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

Vintage swan powder jar

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

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

Tetlow Swan Down powder box, ca. 1910-1920

Tetlow Swan Down ad, 1917

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

Vintage Tetlow Swan Down powder

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vintage swans down puff
(image from rubylane.com)

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

Swan themed makeup

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

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

Guerlain Blanc de Perle and Paul & Joe eyeshadow

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

 

 

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

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


Look here: vintage lipstick mirrors

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

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

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

Flame Glo mirro-matic ad, July 1959

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

C-lip lipstick mirror ad, September 1946

C-Lip lipstick mirror clip on advertisement, July 1947

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

Coty24 ad, Feb. 13, 1957

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

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

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

Elizabeth Arden Rolling Mirror lipstick ad, Dec. 1960

US3159163-drawings-EA-1960

Elizabeth Arden Golden Rolling lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1960

Stratton lipview

Stratton lipview
(images from etsy.com)

Avon also made a far less elegant plastic version.

Avon clip on lip mirror

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

Vintage fan-shaped Stratton lipstick mirror

Stratton fan-shaped lipstick mirror

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

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Elizabeth Arden "Looking Glass" lipstick ad 1936

US2121221-drawings-1936

Elgin lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1953

Vintage Stratton lipstick mirror

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

Vintage sliding case lipstick mirror

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

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

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick ad, 1959

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

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

US2830602-drawings-1958

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

vintage folding lipstick mirror

folding lipstick mirror ad, May 1, 1953

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

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror

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

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

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

US1439749-drawings-page-1

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

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick
(images from etsy.com)

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

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

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Revlon lipstick mirror ad, March 1950

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

Max Factor doll lipstick ad, 1967

Max Factor doll lipstick

Max Factor doll lipstick
(images from pinterest)

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

Detroit Free Press, Aug 13, 1935

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

Volupte Lip-look ad, Oct. 1, 1949

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

The Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 4, 1939

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

NY Daily News, Feb. 23, 1940

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

The Journal News, Feb. 10, 1956

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

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

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

Givenchy Rouge Miroir
(image from amazon.com)

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

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

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

Kailijumei
(image from kailijumei.com)

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

Guerlain Rouge G

Guerlain Rouge G open

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

Creer beauty sailor neptune

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

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

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

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

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


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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