Update, 6/3/2020: There is an excellent website that rounds up key resources - it's far superior to what I tried to do a few days ago so please check it out!
As for me, I'm still processing the enormous amount of ever-changing information, but wanted to take at least a few steps in the right direction. Helping dismantle racism is a marathon, not a sprint, and I intend on working on it basically forever. So while it's not much, I've taken in a lot of information and a few actions to start with. In the last 72 hours I have devoured countless online articles and IG posts, followed at least 30 IG and Twitter accounts run by black women, ordered 2 of the 4 books noted in the first list below (purchased from black-owned bookstores), and donated to the Black Visions Collective. All of these are not enough and should have been done far sooner, and I'm certainly not broadcasting these things to be self-congratulatory or to receive a pat on the back. I'm merely trying to demonstrate that I'm starting to put thought into tangible action and that you can too. Try not to be overwhelmed with all the information being distributed or the steps you can take. It's a lifelong process and you don't have to do it all at once...but doing something tiny is better than nothing.
I'm also working on a plan or a statement of some kind about how the Museum can better represent and support black people. I had long been intending to unveil a plan on diversity and inclusiveness for the Museum as part of MM Musings and actually had it scheduled for July, but I think given the current situation I am going to address the issue sooner with a focus on racism. It won't be complete since I still don't have the resources I wanted to incorporate, but it will be some thoughts. Stay tuned.
Original post, 5/30/2020
You know I try to keep the Museum a happy place, somewhere people can look at pretty makeup and learn about cosmetics history. I like to think of it as providing a much-needed escape from scary times. But right now, as I was with the Freddie Gray protests here in Baltimore, I am too distracted to write about makeup. I subscribe to the #museumsarenotneutral stance so with that, I wanted to share some resources that might be helpful to non-black people who are trying to be allies. I feel very useless as well as overwhelmed by the volume of information being circulated across various social media platforms and I suspect you do too, so by getting some key sources in one place I'm hoping you can feel like you're taking some small amount of action. This just the tip of the iceberg and by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, but it's a starting point.
3. Continue educating yourself...and not by badgering black people. They do not exist to teach you; it's up to you to do the work. There are so many resources out there. In the interest of being totally transparent I haven't read these books yet, but these are the ones that I keep seeing on every list of recommended reading. Lots more books here and here.
4. Support black artists, writers and other creatives and businesses. Follow, share, retweet etc. to help get their voices heard. This is something I admittedly don't do much of because I was always afraid of it coming off as disingenuous - just a move to make the Museum look like it actually cares about diversity while not actually doing anything of value. I've also always been hesitant to attempt to write about black beauty history or brands because I was afraid of white-splaining, or that it's not my story to tell. And honestly, I still feel like it would be wrong of me to, for example, detail the history of shade ranges since I've never experienced not being able to find a foundation match. I feel as though it's better left to a black person who has had to deal with it first-hand, especially since, again, we need to help make sure their voices are heard. I'm still trying to figure it all out, but I think following and sharing the work of black people is a start.
This situation is so odd because I don't want to be silent but at the same time I don't want to just be paying lip service either, and I know this post is going to come off as performative, absolution-seeking, virtual-signaling and/or white-knighting. I also know that it won't solve or undo hundreds of years of racism. But I thought it certainly couldn't hurt, and compiling these resources will also clarify what to do. Finally, please know I'm also constantly thinking about how the Museum can be a more inclusive and diverse space, acknowledging that there's still a ton of work to be done on my part, and focusing on keeping the conversation going and not just when police brutality and other violence towards black people are dominating the headlines.
If there are any other key resources you think need to be here, please let me know.
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."1 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 fashionpublicationnowadays 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.
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.
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.
As compact sales grew exponentially in the '30s and '40s, zodiac-themed cases offered an alternative to monogramming in terms of customization.
(image from newspapers.com)
The short-lived Ziegfeld Girls brand launched lucite zodiac compacts in 1946, which you can read more about here.
Why this Scorpio compact included a brochure for Capricorn I don't know, but it's interesting to see.
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.
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."
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.
Zodiac-themed compacts from the '50s though the early '70s tended to include all the sun signs.
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.
These pre-date Fresh's zodiac soaps by nearly 50 years!
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 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.
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.
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!
- I was so very honored to be interviewed by a makeup artist in Spain for her podcast! I'm too lazy to post the original English version of the email interview, but she included it in Spanish at her website. (Side note: I'm ashamed that Spanish was my minor in college but now I don't remember anything except random words.)
- Happy (?) 420: despite my skepticism regarding CBD beauty products, it's interesting to see how this sector has exploded in the past couple of years along with weed-themed cosmetics. Some of the latter don't even contain any cannabis and I find myself amused by the names and packaging. But the reason I don't buy them for the Museum is because so many of the companies selling them seem to be completely unaware of the marijuana industry's racism problem. If you're going to sell CBD products be socially aware about them, like Undefined Beauty Co.
- Admittedly I haven't listened to it yet, but Fiona Apple's latest album is getting rave reviews so I'm looking forward to it. I remember her very first album from my college days and I'm so glad she's still here and making great music.
- "You ain't got no job, you ain't got shit to do!" In other '90s nostalgia, Friday turned 25. DAAAAAMMMMNNN!
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.
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.
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.
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)
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".
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.
Introduction Welcome the Makeup Museum's spring 2020 exhibition! "Soaring Beauty: The Butterfly in Modern Cosmetics" explores the many ways butterfly imagery is used across all aspects of beauty culture. For 100 years the butterfly has been an endless source of inspiration for makeup artists and collections, ad campaigns and packaging. As the butterfly is perhaps the ultimate symbol of transformation, there is no motif more appropriate to embody the metamorphosis that makeup can provide. Like flowers, various butterfly species are a favorite reference for makeup colors, textures and finishes. More broadly, butterflies represent springtime, rebirth, hope, and freedom. With "Soaring Beauty", the Makeup Museum seeks to embrace this optimistic spirit and provide a peaceful oasis in the midst of a very uncertain and trying time.
The exhibition focuses on 5 main elements of butterfly makeup, which I will examine briefly before getting to the main show. Hover over the image for information, and additional details (when available) are listed in some of the captions.
I. Color The vibrancy of butterflies' coloring and their wings' gossamer texture figure prominently in the beauty sphere. Makeup shades and artist creations include every tone from earthy moth browns and greens to bold blue and orange hues to slightly softer pastels.
Vogue Portugal September 2016. Makeup: Michael Anthony; Photography: Jamie Nelson; Model: Zuzana Gregorova; Styling: Melaney Oldenhof; Hair: Linh Nguyen
However, some color stories reflect different seasons via butterflies' natural habitats. Chanel's summer 2013 collection featured rich greens and blues reminiscent of the tropical morpho butterfly, while Anastasia Beverly Hills and Colourpop's fall releases opted for warmer tones inspired by monarch butterflies and their migration in the cooler months.
For Australian brand Lournay, the "butterfly touch" was an integral part of their marketing for two decades.
As for finishes, butterfly-themed makeup excels at imparting an iridescent, pearlescent or metallic sheen that reflects light similarly to that of a butterfly's wing. New technologyis being developed to artificially yet seamlessly recreate the iridescent butterfly wing effect in cosmetics, among other areas.
"Inspired by the beauty of a butterfly's wing, these moisturizing lipsticks shimmer with a flash of turquoise iridescence that lights up the complexion and makes teeth appear whiter. In soft and whimsical shades of pink that flutter and float over lips, this collection of lipsticks brings a butterfly radiance to your entire look."
III. Movement Butterfly beauty products embraced the notion of flight and the insects' graceful motion, at times linking them to dance or music to more fully capture the joyous, free-spirited movement of a butterfly soaring through the air. K-beauty brand Holika Holika simply titles their butterfly embossed blushes "Fly", while jeweler Monica Rich Kosann named the compact she created for Estée Lauder "Butterfly Dance". Pat McGrath's "techno butterflies" look at Dior's spring 2013 combines pastel "wings" with rhinestone details to impart a rave-like vibe.
IV. Design Butterflies proved to be a popular design element in general. As far back as the 1900s, jewelers created exquisitely detailed butterfly compacts made with fine glass and sterling silver, and many compact manufacturers incorporated the motif in their offerings. The butterfly's more whimisical side is expressed in Max Factor's acrylic "Butterfly Kiss" set and more recently, in a Jill Stuart Beauty lip gloss filled with iridescent butterfly-shaped glitter.
V. Mood and Metamorphosis Whether it's subdued or taking a more literal approach, butterfly inspired makeup is a universally recognized symbol for spring and transformation. Many companies release items embossed with butterflies or incorporate them in the advertising for their spring campaigns to express the larger ideas of hope, joy, freedom and rejuvenation.
The theme of metamorphosis is reinforced through the fusing of faces and butterflies. By adhering butterflies to the cheeks, lips and even eyes, the effect is a physical transformation intended to turn the mundane into the magical and capture the essence of the butterfly as it emerges from its cocoon.
"The Garden of Eden theme continued with the make-up – glitter eyes beneath net masks to look like delicate mythical creatures, and butterflies on the models’ lips as though the insects had just landed there for a moment." - Jessica Bumpus for British Vogue
An outstanding example of this concept is the spring 2020 runway show by Manish Arora. Makeup artist Kabuki was responsible for the dazzling, otherworldly looks. Some of the models were drag queens, emphasizing the transformational nature of both makeup and butterflies.
As noted in part 1 of the introduction, butterfly-inspired makeup usually features an array of colors found on various butterfly species. However, when combined with butterfly application directly to facial features, barely-visible makeup speaks to butterflies' undomesticated environment and conveys the human bond with nature.
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer
Dazed magazine, June 2012. Makeup: Peter Phillips; Hair: Syd Hayes; Photographer: Ben Toms; Model: Elza Luijendijk; Stylist: Robbie Spencer
Exhibition All of the above elements are well represented throughout the objects in the exhibition. So let's get to it!
Top row, left to right.
Let me just say that the story of Lucretia Vanderbilt makes Tiger King look tame by comparison. I tried to summarize it the best I could, but for the full story head over to Collecting Vintage Compacts.
Possibly my favorite pieces in the exhibition and one of my all-time favorites: Chantecaille Les Papillons eyeshadows and Garden in Kyoto palette.
I had to do several labels to cover the Mamechiyo and Chinese New Year collections for this shelf. I was also going to include the Lisa Kohno collaboration, but given the lack of space and the fact that there's another Shu collection in the exhibition I left it out.
I'm hoping to dig up more information on the artist behind the design on this Stratton palette, which may be tricky as his archives are located in the UK.
Second row, left to right.
I couldn't find much information on the inspiration behind Marcel Wanders' compact for Cosme Decorte. I'd love to know how he came up with the design. All I know is that the model in this video is wearing a dress made with the same pattern.
Slightly better shot of the powder so you can see the lovely little butterfly details.
I wish I could have found a little more info on the Hampden brand and DuBarry's Vanessa face powder. I remember adoring the 3D butterfly in my brief history of DuBarry but could not find any reference specifically to Vanessa.
Third row, left to right.
You might remember I featured the La Jaynees powder box in the spring 2016 exhibition. I managed to scrounge up a rouge box. No rouge, but the box is lovely on its own. Once again Collecting Vintage Compacts did an amazing brand history.
Recent acquisition, which you can read more about here.
I wish I could have cleaned up this Avon palette a little better, but I was afraid of damaging it. However, one in better condition and with the original box popped up on ebay, so get ready for new photos!
I wonder if Sears has archives that I could look at to find out anything about their cosmetic line.
Bottom row, left to right.
I have the lipstick somewhere but am unable to locate it at the moment. What I really regret is not buying the accompanying Météorites powder or pressed powder compact, but they were so pricey and at the time I just couldn't afford them.
I was unable to find any information at all on this powder box, but yet again Collecting Vintage Compacts had everything on the Jaciel brand.
Some more items that were included in the spring 2016 exhibition.
For the life of me I couldn't get decent pictures of them on the shelves so here are the images from my original post on them.
There was one more item I wanted to include, but couldn't fit it so I'm using a photo from when I wrote about it.
Exhibition Notes I had been wanting to cover the butterfly theme for about 8 years now. An article on butterfly compacts called "High Fliers" in the February 2017 issue of the BCCS newsletter also inspired me. I wish I could have written a deep think piece on the idea of makeup as metamorphosis or was able to do more research besides what's online, but given the current situation I kept it simple and decided to save my energy for different topics that I can tackle when the libraries reopen, which will hopefully happen in the summer. (I discovered some local university libraries may have the resources I'm looking for, but I cannot access them remotely as I'm not a student or faculty member.) But access to certain archives might have allowed some examples of runway/editorial butterfly makeup that's older than 2012 and more images featuring models of color. And I know it seems like I included every instance of butterflies in makeup that is at my disposal, but I promise it was thoughtfully edited (curated, if you will.) There were actually even more looks that I wanted to include but got frustrated at the lack of basic information about them like the makeup artist or year. As for the objects themselves, I don't think any of them are vegan or cruelty-free, even though some of the companies that made them are now cruelty-free/vegan, such as Chantecaille.
Decor Notes The husband did an amazing job of "butterflying" the Museum's logo for the exhibition poster and labels. I was going to buy a paper butterfly garland or use the mini paper butterflies I had gotten for Instagram props in the exhibition, but in the end decided it was too gimmicky (and the garland reminded me too much of a baby shower for some reason.) I figured given the current space the focus should be more on the ads and objects. But if the Makeup Museum occupied a physical space, here is some art I would include as decor. It would be like stepping into a very artsy butterfly garden!
And that wraps it up! Remember you can participate in the exhibition - find out how here. In the meantime, one easy way to weigh in is to tell me what your favorite objects, looks or ads were (either in the intro or main exhibition or both) and why. :)
I know it seems rather tone-deaf or even callous to launch an exhibition in the midst of a pandemic, especially an exhibition that projects optimism and celebrates a new spring season. But I honestly feel like it's carrying out the Makeup Museum's mission to do so. Both art and makeup have a positive effect on mental health, and I believe that the Museum's content can contribute to our collective well-being. I'm not going to pretend that the Museum can prevent people from getting sick or that it can save jobs. Nor would I be so pompous to believe that it can effect any sort of real change in the beauty industry or society in general; it simply doesn't have the power or influence (yet...world domination is on my bucket list.) But I do think it can help in some small way and provide a bit of comfort. At the very least, an exhibition won't cause any harm. I think you can be incredibly concerned about the current situation but also able to take a quick break from reality and soak in something positive and/or pretty to look at. And that's where the Museum comes in. I'm hoping the exhibition will be nice to browse, but I also wanted to give the option of participation as an added distraction, since we seem to need those now more than ever. For a while I've been enamored of the idea of the participatory museum, and while the efforts for audience engagement weren't quite successful for the Stila girls exhibition, perhaps the topic of the spring 2020 exhibition will yield a more lively conversation. The exhibition is scheduled to go up this week, but in the meantime you can ruminate on the following ways to get involved if you so choose.
An oldie but goodie method of audience engagement: After the exhibition goes up, tell me what your favorite objects/looks were. (I've been doing this for years and I'm always interested to see what the favorites are.)
Submit your favorite butterfly-inspired makeup looks. They can be your own creations or made by others, just make sure you provide the proper credit. I know there are tons of editorial and runway looks inspired by butterflies, but at the moment I'm only able to access what's freely available online, so I'm interested for others to uncover butterfly looks lurking below the surface.
Submit your favorite butterfly makeup ads or objects that weren't covered in the exhibition. Again, I just need photo credits.
Share your thoughts on makeup as metamorphosis. Do you think makeup is transformational on a level other than physical appearance? Why or why not? Do you have any moments where you felt transformed by makeup?
Share any and all thoughts on butterflies as they relate to makeup.
The Museum will welcome entries from April 10 until May 15. You can email me, leave a comment here, or message me on Twitter or Instagram. I will set up a second blog post as a sort of crowd-sourced exhibition, and add all your contributions there as they come in. I'll be tweeting them and putting them in my stories on Instagram along the way as well. Of course, if you don't want to do any of the above and just sit back and view the exhibition, that's fine too. :)
Thank you and I hope your enjoy! Butterflies are a longstanding symbol of the soul, so consider the Museum's exhibition a little butterfly sanctuary for both makeup and spirit.
Not sure why, but the month of March really knows how to serve up the misery. Last year my father had a severe stroke from which he is not recovered and left him incredibly vulnerable to this year's global health crisis. Let's hope the coming months are better.
- Maybe don't shop at Sephora until they rehire or at least apologize for laying off their employees after assuring them they would keep their jobs and benefits. I always held out hope that Sephora would one day sponsor the Museum somehow, but if a company that recently had record-breaking profits fires employees who need income at an especially critical time, obviously they're not exactly charitable enough to support a museum.
How are you all holding up? Are you wearing more or less makeup or the same? I discovered that I hate working from home, but at least I still have a job...and I'm actually enjoying being bare-faced most of the time.
I hope to cover Sulwhasoo's beautiful ShineClassic compact that they released for the holiday season a few months ago, but in the meantime I'm focusing on this lovely cushion compact they came up with for spring. Sulwhasoo collaborated with Antoinette Poisson, a design studio specializing in domino wallpaper. I know some folks think it's just marketing hogwash, but Sulwhasoo seems genuinely invested in preserving historic art forms to ensure they aren't forgotten rather than making a quick buck off of a watered-down idea intended solely for mass commodification. The company has consistently highlighted traditional Korean artistic practices for over 15 years by releasing collections based on a particular technique or genre and collaborating with top artisans. Continuing in this vein, for spring 2020 Sulwhasoo is partnering with an outside company that is equally committed to revitalizing centuries-old art production: "Sulwhasoo chose Antoinette Poisson as its collaborative partner for the year of 2020 because of the art studio’s commitment to and philosophy toward carrying on and delivering cultural heritage to present generations, with which Sulwhasoo fully identifies."
The compact features intricate embroidery depicting a blossoming flower branch and a butterfly to represent "spring, hope and joy". Gold and silver threads are interwoven with the pink and red of the flowers and butterfly for an elegant, glamorous touch.
I'm no embroidery expert, but it looks well-made to my eye. I also love the embroidery because it's rare to see embroidered compacts that aren't generic, mass-produced designs. With the exception of Marcel Wanders's 2016 compact for Cosme Decorte, I can't think of any contemporary makeup brand that has done one of these. And while petit-point compacts were quite popular in the early 20th century, they've largely faded now.
I'll get to Antoinette Poisson's work in a sec, but can we take a minute to appreciate the Sulwhasoo box? The gold and silver foil details mimic the embroidered threads on the compact, while the dotted pattern pays homage to the overall aesthetic of 18th-century France.
There was another version available with slightly different colored flowers, which unfortunately was not available in the U.S. - for some reason we only received the Perfecting Cushion and not the Brightening version. I'm debating whether to use some of the Museum's limited budget on purchasing it via eBay. Given that it's the same design I'm hesitant, but it's so pretty and as a collector I feel the need to have both.
So who is Antoinette Poisson? The Paris design studio was founded in 2012 by three paper conservators: Julie Stordiau, Vincent Farelly, and Jean-Baptiste Martin. The brand takes its name from Madame de Pompadour, famed mistress of Louis XV who the team describes as an "art patron and wallpaper enthusiast." I'll let Vogue take it from here, as I'm both lazy and also prepping the spring exhibition - I'm loathe to regurgitate this information in lesser wording. "Antoinette Poisson’s niche is the making of domino papers (papier dominoté), using artisanal techniques that date to the Age of Enlightenment, when these patterned sheets with their distinctive patterns—small geometrics or sinuous floral garlands—were all the rage. These motifs are printed on a single piece of paper using woodblocks and then hand-colored using stencils. Their compact sheet size made dominoes ideal for use as trunk liners or endpapers, but their allure was too great to keep under covers, as it were, and they were adapted for use as (pre-roll) wallpapers. At the time, decorating with domino paper signaled not only the owner’s taste, but also their wealth. Their production stopped with the advent of the 19th-century Industrial Revolution...almost all of [Antoinette Poisson's] products—trays, boxes, fabrics, and wallpapers, et cetera—are fabricated in their Parisian atelier using time-intensive 18th-century techniques. Even the paper sheets they use are handcrafted in a mill that uses methods dating to that earlier, gilded age. The impetus to launch Antoinette Poisson came when the trio re-created a domino paper for a restoration project. The results were so marvelous, that the team decided they 'wanted to propose [this style] for current decoration.'"
House and Garden expands on the pain-staking technique of producing the patterns. "Although these papers are almost indistinguishable from the originals, computer technology ensures the engraving blocks, their designs first drawn by hand, are absolutely precise. Jean-Baptiste stresses that 'all the blocks are perfect, it is the printer who adds their own imperfections in the printing and hand-painting process'." I couldn't really visualize how it all worked, so here's a brief video showing the stenciling and painting.
By 2014 the studio had produced 14 patterns, 8 of which were either exact reproductions of original prints or looser, modernized "reinterpretations" of them. These, for example, are reproductions of papers made by mid-18th century printmakers.
This one is a reinterpretation of a pattern found in the "Chambre aux Amours” within the Museum of Wallpaper's collection (yes, that's a real museum.)
The rest of Antoinette Poisson's patterns are their own creations.
If you look closely at this one, you can see that the dot and diamond pattern in the middle is the same as the one on the Sulwhasoo box.
Speaking of which, the studio is no stranger to collaborations. Besides their usual task of producing bespoke decor for stores and individual clients, Antoinette Poisson partnered with Diptyque to create a pattern for their 2017 Rosa Mundi candle collection.
How does Antoinette Poisson's work relate to Sulwhasoo and their goal of preserving Korean heritage? The pattern they designed is reminiscent of Hwajodo, or paintings of flowers and birds. As with my last foray into traditional Korean art with Sulwhasoo, I'm by no means an expert but I can provide some basic information about Hwajodo. Hwajodo is a genre within Korean folk painting ("Minhwa") and was produced either by painting on paper or embroidered onto screens. Minhwa was especially popular in the 19th century, which I guess is why all of the examples I'm finding online are from that time period*. Typically Hwajodo depict birds in pairs to represent domestic harmony and love between husband and wife, which is why they were often given as gifts to newlyweds.
According to the Folk Painting volume within the Handbook of Korean Art series, the various birds represented particular virtues. For example, peacocks symbolize longevity, while pheasants signal beauty. There were also rules governing the composition of Hwajodo; certain birds had to appear with certain plants, i.e. ducks and egrets were always shown with water plants.
However, given the lack of birds and the inclusion of butterflies, I believe the pattern created for Sulwhasoo would fall under a sub-category of Hwajodo known as Hwajeopdo, or paintings of flowers and butterflies. (The plum blossoms are appropriate, as they are a symbol of early spring in Korea.)
A company specializing in historic French wallpapering doesn't seem like it would be a match, but Sulswhasoo cites the studio's "understanding about and interest in Oriental art" as one of the reasons for the collab. The primary impetus for the partnership, however, was that Sulwhasoo found a kindred spirit in Antoinette Poisson in terms of wanting to protect and celebrate a particular type of art. The production of domino papers was a "largely forgotten process" much like the ipsa featured in Sulwhasoo's holiday 2018 collection. The founders of Antoinette Poisson felt it was up to them to rescue this beautiful 18th century craft and breathe new life into it. Without them and the dedicated artisans Sulwhasoo commissions, these art forms would be erased from history. As co-founder Vincent Farelly notes, "Even though we come from different cultures, we share the same mindset. We both love to find inspiration from our heritage."
While the partnership between Sulwhasoo and Antoinette Poisson makes sense, I still wonder how it came about. Antoinette Poisson isn't exactly unknown given their previous high-profile collaborations, but I'm curious to know at Sulwhasoo who came up with the idea to work with them. I also find it interesting that Les Merveilleuses Ladurée haven't seized the opportunity for an Antoinette Poisson makeup collection of their own given their 18th-century aesthetic and especially since the studio collaborated with the main Ladurée company. In any case, the Sulwhasoo collaboration yielded a well-designed result that combines traditional Korean and French decorative art and gives it a modern spin in the process, while also bringing these lesser-known and nearly forgotten artistic practices to a wider audience. The metallic details of the box and embroidery elevate the compact to a more luxurious objet d'art, while the pattern itself is beautiful and appropriate for spring.
What do you think? Have you ever heard of domino paper or Hwajodo before? I have to say I was dazzled by the versatility of Antoinette Poisson - I want one of their creations as wallpaper, boxes and pillows in addition to makeup!
*This website provides more background on minhwa, if you're curious: "Minhwa, an artistic style that reflects the lives and spirits of Korean people, became widely popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. It was in high demand from the new merchant class and civilians, as the centralised authoritarian rule of the Joseon Dynasty slowly collapsed starting in the late 17th century and through the 19th century. Up until the middle of the Joseon Dynasty, minhwa paintings were painted by court artists for use in palaces. However, with the societal changes in the late Joseon Dynasty, they started to be painted by anonymous artists of the middle and lower classes, who produced and disseminated minhwa. The common people’s wishes for a healthy and prosperous life and desire to beautify their own living environments gave birth to the development of minhwa that reflects Koreans’ daily life, customs, and aesthetics."
"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.
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.
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.
Jewelry designers Ciner and Paul Flato also had their own compact and lipstick combinations in the late '40s and early '50s.
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?
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.5
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.
Futurama's "click in, click out" was certainly less involved than wartime lipstick refill instructions!
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was also this Avon clone making a series of "jewel-like" cases at a price "every woman can afford."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.