Trends

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

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

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

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

Flapper applying knee rouge, 1921

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

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

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

Knee painting, 1921

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

Knee painting feature, August 1925

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

Painted knees, July 1939

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

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

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

William Loew knee painting, March 1965

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

Bam! Gams, Mademoiselle magazine, July 1966

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

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

Faberge Kneesies, July 1966_

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

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

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

Life magazine, May 1966

Life magazine, May 1966

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

Revlon Stemwear, Harper's Bazaar, July 1966

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

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

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

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

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

Photos-1967

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

Coty body paint ad, 1967
(image from amazon)

Givenchy leg paint, Harpers Bazaar January 1967

Givenchy leg paint, Harpers Bazaar January 1967

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

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

Knee painting, Orlando Sentinel, July 17, 1966

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

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

Knee makeup ad, LA Times, July 6, 1966

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

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

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

Knee paint, 1925(image from livingly.com)

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

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

The_Evening_News_Mon__Aug_17__1925_

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

Miami News, July 10, 1966

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

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

Summer camp in Ithaca, New York, 1966

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

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

Knee painting party, July 11, 1966

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

Knee makeup, Tampa Times, June 13, 1966

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

Leg Paint, Vogue, July 1966

Leg Paint, Vogue, July 1966

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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!


Fall/holiday 2018 color trend

We're used to seeing red lips for the fall and holiday seasons - everything from deep crimson to bright, borderline-orange is fair game - but this year it seems the fiery hue has gained significant traction as an eye shadow trend.  Some makeup aficionados consider red eye shadow to be difficult to pull off, especially for pale pasty folks such as myself, as it can go from "cutting-edge runway" to "severe eye infection" very quickly.  However, if anyone can get me to try this seemingly difficult shade, it's Mother (a.k.a. the legendary Pat McGrath.)  I tested out the aptly named Blitz Flame shade from her Mothership V palette and found it was shockingly wearable.  While I suspect it's the prettiest and best quality out of the palettes below, there is no shortage of reds to try this year as seemingly every fall and holiday palette contains a red shade.  Honorable mentions include Charlotte Tilbury Palette of Pops, Viseart Libertine palette and Morphe Your True Selfie palette - I simply couldn't fit them all in one image!

Fall 2018 red

  1. Bobbi Brown Infra-Red palette
  2. Pat McGrath Labs Mothership V Bronze Seduction palette
  3. NARS Provacateur palette
  4. Violet Voss Berry Burst mini palette
  5. Karity Picante palette
  6. Maybelline Soda Pop palette
  7. Huda Beauty Obsessions palette in Ruby
  8. Zoeva Spice of Life palette
  9. Natasha Denona Cranberry palette
  10. Ace Beaute Blossom Passion palette

I can't say I was seeing any red eye shadow on the fall 2018 runways, so I'm not sure what the reason is for the trend. Perhaps it's the influence of the larger cherry/burgundy beauty craze (see Urban Decay's Naked Cherry collection, Maybelline's Burgundy Bar, and my post on burgundy makeup from last fall), or maybe given the success of other reddish-toned colors released previously - again, with Urban Decay leading the way with their Naked Heat palette this summer - it's an expansion on colors that were once viewed as odd choices for eye shadows.  It's similar to how nearly every brand now has non-traditional lip colors.  (Speaking of which, who else wants to see a Black Satin lipstick from Chanel?  I'm wearing the nail polish right now...)

Have you tried or will you be trying red shadow?  It's still not my favorite shade for eyes, but I must say that Pat McGrath, once again, has made a look that I previously thought was off-limits for me totally doable.


Spring 2018 color trend

Move over, Milennial Pink!  This season is all about Gen Z  yellow, which I'm having a bit of trouble describing.  It's not mustard but not pastel or neon either; the most appropriate term I can come up with is canary, and a bright one at that.  I must say, yellow is my favorite color so I've been waiting for its moment in the sun.  I just love the idea of having a little dose of sunshine on my face/hands!  It can be a tricky shade to pull off, especially for fair skin ("jaundiced" isn't a highly coveted look to my knowledge), but anyone can wear it in small, not-as-noticeable doses.  If you don't want to go the full-on eye shadow route, more manageable ways are nail polish, eyeliner and mascara. 

Spring 2018 color trend: yellow

  1.  Model at Anteprima's spring 2018 show
  2.  Chanel nail polish in Giallo Napoli
  3. Lunasol Macaron Eyes in EX 07
  4. OPI nail polish in Sun, Sea and Sand in My Pants
  5. Dior Diorshow On Stage Liners
  6. Maybelline Lemonade Craze eye shadow palette
  7. Lancome Ombre Hypnose Mini Chubby Stick
  8. Model at Pam Hogg's spring 2018 show

What do you think?  Will you be sporting this bright cheery shade?  I know I will, especially since I have so many polishes from the craze of spring 2011.


Fall 2017 color trend

I've been having much trouble with clearly identifying color trends the past few years.  Previously there was always one shade that I kept seeing over and over again each season, but now the focus seems to be more stylistic rather than color-related, i.e., different styles of a makeup item such as eyeliner.  Having said that, I did notice there was a good amount of plum floating about in the beauty world.  As with previous color trends, this year's version presents a new twist on an old favorite.  It's not the usual vibrant purple plum, but rather a slightly warm, smoky, dusky hue - sort of a mix between mauve and burgundy with a tiny hint of taupe.  It's a bit more subdued than a true plum, which in my opinion elevates it to an incredibly chic and sophisticated update on the beloved fall hue.  It's also notable in its use on eyes and/or cheeks when a vampy plum lip usually reigns supreme this time of year.

Fall 2017 color trend

  1.  Maybelline Burgundy Bar palette
  2. RMK FFFuture Cheeks in Rose Stone
  3. Dior fall 2017 ad
  4. NARS blush in Blissful
  5. Mary Kay Eye Color Palette in Rosé Nudes
  6. Pola Muselle Rare Touch Eye Mousse
  7. La Perla fall 2017 runway makeup
  8. Rituel de Fille Ash and Ember Eye Soot in Exuviae
  9. Colured Raine Berry Cute palette
  10. Clinique Sweet As Honey palette

I have to admit I was little intimidated by this shade at first.  I'm no stranger to plum, but I tend to wear it mostly on lips and nails.  If I do go the eyeshadow route I stick to cooler hues since anything too warm/red will make me look bruised, and plain mauve and taupe by themselves generally wash me out.  I was surprised to see that the slight earthy undertones make it very wearable.

What do you think?  Will you be trying this out this shade for fall?  Oh, almost forgot to mention - if you need a highlighter to go with your sultry plum eyeshadow and blush, check out Becca Smoky Quartz, as it complements it perfectly.  :)

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Meltdown: Ice cream inspired beauty

The last unofficial day of summer (a.k.a. Labor Day in the U.S.) is always hard for someone like me who dreads the dark, cold days of winter ahead.  To help alleviate some of that end-of-summer sadness I thought I'd round up some delicious ice cream-inspired beauty products. 

I'm not sure whether it was the influence of the new Museum of Ice Cream or this photography exhibition devoted to the sweet treat, but ice cream seemed to be having a moment this summer.  This in turn trickled over into the beauty world:  not only were there a plethora of ice cream themed beauty products and ads, some intrepid artists decked out their faces in sweet, melty ice cream makeup. Obviously this isn't "natural" makeup, but you have to admit these looks are pretty creative.

Ice cream inspired beauty

  1. Cake Beauty popsicle sponges
  2. Channing Carlisle (@makeupbychanningjudith)
  3. @dupeblack
  4. Pai Pai ad
  5. Etude House Dear Darling Water gel tints (I ordered these literally a month ago from yesstyle.com specifically for this post and they still haven't arrived!  Grrr!)
  6. @beetotheo

There were a few other fairly new ice cream inspired things that were just too cute not to buy for the Museum. 

Trifle Cosmetics Praline Palette

Winky Lux lip gloss and Bath and Body Works hand cream

And so the newer items wouldn't get lonely, I scooped up (sorry, couldn't resist) the Stila ice cream collection from their 20th anniversary, along with some vintage Avon lip glosses.

I didn't think much of these at the time they were released, but in hindsight I've realized they're worth having in the Museum.

Stila ice cream trios

Stila ice cream blushes

Stila sweet shoppe lip glaze trio

These Avon lip glosses date back to the early 70s, I believe.

Avon ice cream lip glosses

Avon ice cream lip glosses

I better get going and put this stuff away before Museum staff discovers it...if you've been following me on Instagram you know they got into my LUSH shower jellies thinking they were jams.  They'd definitely mistake these for the real deal!

 


MM Spring 2017 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2017 exhibition

Welcome to the Makeup Museum's spring 2017 exhibition!  As you may know, for the past few months I've been hopelessly under the spell of anything holographic/iridescent/prismatic, and I think this morphed into an obsession with all the colors of the rainbow.  (Or it could be Desus and Mero's nightly rainbow feature seeping into my subconscious.) Duochrome makeup is obviously different than rainbow makeup - I see the former as having color-shifting principles, while the latter is vibrant yet static - but I'd argue that they're all on the same...spectrum. (Sorry, couldn't resist).  What I mean is that merely colorful makeup is different than holographic, but they share similar qualities.  Generally speaking, I was inspired by the broader notion of color play and the endless possibilities a variety of colors can provide.  I've always loved vividly colorful makeup because as we'll see, over the years it's become synonymous with fun and self-expression, which is basically my makeup credo.  From 6-hued rainbow highlighters and a set of primary colors to create unique shades to more subtle gradient palettes and sheer lipsticks, makeup that encompasses the whole spectrum allows for a great amount of experimentation.  Even color correctors offer the opportunity to play.  I wanted this exhibition to express the joy and creativity that a wide range of colors can bring, especially when viewed as a collective whole such as a rainbow.

Makeup Museum spring 2017 exhibition

While I could have probably could have done an entire rainbow-themed exhibition, there were some new, non-rainbowy releases that were simply too good not to include, plus I thought they added a nice balance to all the color.   Also, did you notice the labels?  I got the idea to make them a gradient rather than all one shade, but my husband, super smarty pants that he is, chose the exact colors and how to arrange them.  I think this is the first exhibition where I had to determine where everything was going prior to printing the labels.  Usually I just print them out and figure out placement of the objects later since I can always move the labels around, but this time I had decide on placement first since moving things would mess up the gradation effect.

Makeup Museum spring 2017 exhibition

Makeup Museum spring 2017 exhibition

Let's take a closer peek, shall we?

Top shelves, left to right.

I spotted this 1970 Yardley set on ebay and knew it would be perfect.

Yardley Mixis Finger Mix

The box isn't in the best shape but aren't the graphics so cool?!

Yardley Mixis Finger Mix Eye Shadows

I love that the insert encourages you to have fun and experiment.  It's a stark contrast to actual ad for the product, which, underneath its seemingly feminist veneer, is horrifically ageist.

Yardley Mixis Finger Mix Eye Shadows

I tried cleaning up the tubes but I scrubbed too hard on the yellow one, which resulted in a few cracks.  I forget these things are over 40 years old and that plastic doesn't necessarily remain durable for that amount of time.

Yardley Mixis Finger Mix Eye Shadows

The similarity between the eye makeup for Dior's spring 2017 collection campaign and an ad from 1973 is striking.

Dior spring 2017 makeup

Makeup Museum exhibition labels

Dior spring 2017 makeup

Dior vintage ad and 2017 palette

1973 Dior ad

1973 Dior ad

Dior spring 2017 makeup

My heart skipped a beat when I saw that Addiction would be featuring the work of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint on their compacts this spring.  Af Klint's work really spoke to me and I'm so happy Addiction helped spread the word about her.

Addiction makeup spring 2017

Addiction makeup spring 2017

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Second row, left to right.

These lipsticks are so delectable!

Kailijumei flower lipsticks

I know it's just a fake flower with highlighter dusted on top, but it still makes me swoon.

Lancome spring 2017 rose highlighter

Lancome spring 2017 rose highlighter

Still haven't figured out a name for this little lady.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

Makeup Museum exhibition label

If you remember that popular video that was making the rounds a little while ago, it showed a Charles of the Ritz powder bar.

Charles of the Ritz custom face powder

Charles of the Ritz custom face powder

1963 Charles of the Ritz ad

If I ever display this again I'll update the label.  Turns out Charles of the Ritz tried to bring back the service in August of 1988, but I don't think it stuck around long.  Perhaps they couldn't compete with the likes of Prescriptives, who was by that point leading the way in custom blending?  (Sidenote:  I'm tickled at how the article is written by Linda Wells, who was just 2 years shy of launching what would become the world's best-known beauty magazine, and how it also cites Bobbi Brown and refers to her as simply a "makeup artist."  Little did they know that Bobbi's own line would be taking the makeup world by storm in another 3 years.)

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Third row, left to right.

I'm not sure why Guerlain used a rainbow for this spring's campaign and not for their summer 2015 Rainbow Pearls, but they look good together.

Guerlain Meteorites

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Paul & Joe:

Paul & Joe spring 2017 makeup

Paul & Joe spring 2017 makeup

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Centennial set (well, part of it):

Shiseido rainbow powders

Shiseido rainbow powders

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Burberry Silk and Bloom palette:

Burberry spring 2017 blush

Burberry spring 2017 blush

Burberry spring 2017 blush

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Bottom row, left to right.

Rainbow highlighters...I just received word that the original was re-stocked so I will have to purchase it.  :)

Rainbow highlighters

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Loubichrome nail polishes:

Loubichrome nail polish trio

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Interestingly, when I working on the label I came across a Vogue interview with Julie Verhoeven that was published after I had posted about these makeup sets.  She clarified that Jacobs had specifically requested to revisit the imagery on the 2002 Louis Vuitton collection, so it wasn't a random decision to go with that style.  As for the frog motif, which I am completely smitten with, it was most likely a nod to Jacobs' fondness for the animal (another recent interview with Verhoeven tipped me off.)

Marc Jacobs spring 2017 makeup set

Makeup Museum exhibition label

Ah!  I was so excited when this set popped up on ebay I could hardly contain myself.  This is probably the best representation of late '60s/early '70s beauty.  It doesn't have the insert but overall it's in great condition.  I don't know whether this particular set is specifically the pastel version mentioned in the ad (which is a printout of an original from 1973 - forgot to put that on the label, oops) or the regular non-pastel crayons, but I was overjoyed to finally get one into the Museum's collection.

Mary Quant crayon set

Mary Quant crayon set

Mary Quant crayon set

Mary Quant crayon set

Makeup Museum exhibition label

In doing a little background research for this exhibition I came across some interesting things.  I couldn't possibly pull together a comprehensive history of colorful/rainbow-inspired makeup, but here's a quick look back on some of the highlights.  While color correcting powders existed early on in the modern beauty industry, it seems as though the more colorful side of makeup wasn't popularized until the early '60s.  Ads for collections featuring a robust range of vibrant shades included words like "fun", "play" and "experiment", thereby associating color variety with happiness and creativity.

1960 Cutex ad(image from flickr.com)

This was the earliest ad I could find that mentions a "rainbow" of shades.

1961 Max Factor ad(image from hair-and-makeup-artist.com)

This 1967 ad not only depicts a spectrum of color, it encourages the wearer to create different looks by adding varying amounts of water to the pigments.  I'm assuming you could adjust the opacity this way.

1967 Max Factor ad
(image from pinterest.com)

While I love the Yardley Mixis set and the classic Mary Quant crayons, I think this brand is my favorite representation of late '60s beauty, at least in terms of advertising (you can see more here).  It's so crazy and psychedelic...looking at this makes me want to dance around in a field with flowers in my hair, LOL.  Sadly I was unable to track down any original makeup or ads from this line, which I believe was exclusive to Woolworth's in the UK.

1968 Baby Doll Cosmetics ad
(image from sweetjanespopboutique.com)

The demand for color didn't end with the '60s, as evidenced by these early '70s Yardley and Dior ads.

Yardley rainbow eyes ad, ca. 1970

1972 Dior ad

1973 Dior ad
(images from ebay.com)

Once again, a variety of colors is linked to self-expression and fun.

1975 Maybelline ad(image from flickr.com)

Dior kept the color game strong in the '80s.  (There was a 1981 Elizabeth Arden collection entitled Rainbows, but it didn't really offer much of a shade range).

1986 Dior ad(image from sighswhispers.blogspot.com) 

More recently, rainbow-inspired beauty has had its moments.  The models at Peter Som's spring 2013 runway show sported pastel rainbow eye shadow, while later that year, Sephora's holiday collection brush set featured iridescent rainbow handles.  For summer 2015 MAC released a collection with basically the same finish on the packaging, and come November, Smashbox's collaboration with artist Yago Hortal offered an eye-popping array of shades.  I'd argue that 2016 was the tipping point for the rainbow beauty craze, with fashion designers leading the way.  These runway looks helped set the stage for the likes of ColourPop's rainbow collection and Urban Decay's Full Spectrum palette, both released last year, along with MAC's Liptensity collection, which brought a whole new dimension to color perception.  While it wasn't a rainbow-themed collection per se, Liptensity's "tetrachromatic" formulation ushered in a new way of thinking about and playing with makeup pigments in much the same way rainbow makeup did.

Makeup at Alexis Mabille and Manish Arora, spring 2016
(images from makeupforlife.net and fashionising.com)

Fendi spring 2016(image from harpersbazaar.com)

Betsey Johnson spring 2016(images from wwd.com and seventeen.com)

It doesn't look like rainbow makeup is going anywhere soon, as evidenced by the stunning looks Pat McGrath created for Maison Margiela's fall 2017 show, along with products like MAC's Colour Rocker lipsticks and Kat Von D's Pastel Goth palette.  Even Sephora's typography got a rainbow makeover.  (While the gradient rainbow style was used more to convey holographic makeup/highlighters, it represents exactly what I meant earlier - rainbow makeup and holographic makeup may be distant cousins, but they definitely belong to the same family).

Maison Margiela fall 2017(images from instagram.com)

Sephora rainbow(image from sephora.com)

Then there are these magazine features from the March 2017 issues.  (Yes, I still tear out magazine pages.  Yes, I'm aware there's Pinterest and that we live in a digital world.)

Nylon magazine, March 2017

Nylon magazine, March 2017

Marie Claire magazine, March 2017

That was long!  Phew, I'm tired.  Actually I'm not, since looking at a bunch of different colors together energizes me.  As a matter of fact, I tend to get a little overstimulated, which is why I do most of my makeup shopping online - in-store browsing at all those colors displayed on the counters is very bad for my wallet. 

Update, 4/3/2020: I realized I never addressed rainbow makeup as it pertains to the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition to rainbow makeup's role as a way for people to explore more colorful cosmetic options, it also functions as an important extension of the rainbow symbolism created by and for the community over 40 years ago. One questionable trend, however, has been the rise of companies slapping rainbow packaging on some of their regular line items in order to "celebrate" (co-opt?) Pride month.  By and large, it’s a positive development as the products raise visibility for LGBTQIA+ rights and most of them donate the sale proceeds from these items to various charities. They also call attention to makeup’s significance for the LGBTQIA+ movement, both past and present. On the other hand, sometimes it feels like a shameless cash grab with the main focus being the product instead of meaningful action or change. If you’re on the market for new makeup and want to feel good knowing that your purchase helps a marginalized population, go for it – no one should be embarrassed to buy them. I personally cannot get enough of rainbow packaging and purchased several items just for the colorful designs on the boxes. But the motivations of some of these companies are questionable, i.e. are they really committed to the cause or just once a year when they put rainbows on their packaging and call it a day? One thing is for certain though: although the Museum is committed to LGBTQIA+ rights year round, I look forward to the rainbow looks Pride month brings (and obviously I think people should feel free to wear rainbow makeup year round as well.) Pride looks exemplify the raison d’etre of rainbow makeup by demonstrating the joy playing with color can bring and the freedom to wear it.

NYC Pride parade makeup, 2018

NYC Pride parade makeup, 2018

NYC Pride parade makeup, 2018
(images from allure.com)

I hope you enjoyed the exhibition and that you'll play with color this season, either by wearing shades so bright they hurt your eyes or simply giving color correctors a go (and everything in between).  Just have fun!


Spring 2017 color trend

Holographic.  Iridescent.  Duo-chrome.  Prismatic.  Whatever you want to call it, this spring's color trend isn't a color at all, but as with fall 2015 , a particular finish.  I have to admit I haven't seen it at the high-fashion level, i.e. none of the spring 2017 fashion shows or magazines featured it.  However, after sifting through a lot of runway coverage and the spring issues of all 8 of the magazines I subscribe to, I still wasn't seeing any one color in particular standing out.  Despite talk of peach being all the rage and millennial pink taking center stage, neither of those seemed to be clear winners.  Thus, I went with what I know best and restricted my color trend choice to products aimed at the masses rather than those found on the runways.  As I predicted in January, the holographic makeup trend is still on fire this spring.  When you take into account how many of these color-shifting goodies were released last year (most of which I purchased in my never-ending quest to pretend I'm a mermaid), the sheer number of products continuing to be offered this spring is astonishing.

Spring 2017 trend: holographic

  1. Too-Faced  Love Light Prismatic Highlighter in Ray of Light
  2. Stila Magnificent Metals Glitter and Glow Liquid Eye Shadow in Sea Siren (I'm loving this!!)
  3. Laura Mercier Lightstruck Prismatic Glow Palette
  4. Kevyn Aucoin Cyber Sky
  5. Tarte Spellbound Glow Rainbow Highlighter
  6. Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Halo (loving these!)
  7. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Prismatic Amethyst (this one is awesome too)
  8. NARS Duo Eyeshadow in Thessalonique (um, yeah, I bought this as well and it's sooo pretty)
  9. Urban Decay Vice Special Effects Topcoat in 3rd Degree
  10. Bite Beauty Prismatic Pearl Gloss in Oyster
  11. Pat McGrath Labs Eye Gloss in Cyber (from the upcoming Dark Star 006 kit - can't wait!)

It got me thinking about why these shades are having a moment now.  After all, iridescent makeup isn't new, not to mention that we haven't even been seeing much prismatic magic in the way of fashion - usually fashion trends spill over into the beauty world - so I'm curious to know why it exploded in the past year or so.  Heck, holographic even spread to interior design and accessories.  Fortunately, Racked had a great article that explores the history of what the author calls "unicorn" makeup (although I'd argue that mermaid makeup is basically interchangeable when describing the trend) and why we can't get enough of it right now.  I'm incline to agree with her conclusions, which state that the current craze is partially a backlash against the no-makeup makeup look that was THE reigning trend a couple of years ago, and that it's also a response to the turbulent political climate.  Color-shifting, dreamy makeup that reminds us of mythical beings we loved as children (and in my case, still obsessed with) is very comforting when the world seems to have gone to hell in a handbasket.  The author of another excellent piece examining the iridescent frenzy within the sphere of interior design concurs:  while some of the reasons it took off in home goods and furniture are different than for makeup (new technology making prismatic finishes possible, etc.), she writes, "As economic optimism coincides with a tumultuous cultural and political landscape, its no wonder the art and design world is embracing the dreamlike and surreal.  At this point, we may as well coat the world in an iridescent glaze, if only to enjoy the illusion."  Just to put in my two cents, I'd add that the holographic trend's popularity is owed simply to its sheer prettiness and versatility - after playing with many of these items, I can say the effect of prismatic makeup can be subtly ethereal, or you can layer a bunch of product to go full-on rainbow.

What do you think?  Are you game for holographic makeup or is it not your thing?


What's in store for 2017

Part of my duties as a Makeup Museum curator is keeping track of the seemingly hundreds of trends that pop up throughout a given year.  I do sort of track them via Curator's Corner and prefer to do an end-of-year roundup, but I just didn't have it in me for 2016.  Instead, I'm going to play psychic and attempt to predict what's ahead for 2017, or at least what I want to see this year.  I'm hopeful that parody videos are the death knell for contouring, but unfortunately I think my other least favorite trends that were all the rage in 2016 - liquid lipstick and "athleisure" makeup - will be continued throughout 2017.  Because I'm immensely sick of those already, I'm only going to explore the continuing trends I'm actually looking forward to.  ;)

1.  We haven't seen the last of weird lip colors. 

A ton of odd lip colors arrived in 2016, most of which I purchased (and got brave enough to wear in public!)  I don't want to spend too much time reporting on the unconventional lip color trend since I've already covered it and plan to provide an update to my original post in the next few months, but I will say that strange colors are still going strong.  I just hope they're not only in liquid lipstick form, as we're seeing from Kat Von D and Urban Decay.

Urban Decay liquid lipstick
(image from @urbandecay)

2.  2016 = year of the cushion compact; 2017 = year of the primer.

It seemed like every makeup company released a cushion product of some kind last year.  This year primers are the must-get-to-market item.  Primers have been coming and going for years, but 2017 seems to be a whole new era of this humble necessity.  Urban Decay and NARS are both revamping their primer lineup, while Becca and Dior are both releasing new primers as part of their spring collections.  Smashbox is also coming out with new eye primers.

NARS primers
(image from chicprofile.com)

3. Glitter and rainbows will stick around.

Glitter seemingly covered everything in 2016, from jeans and sneakers to grout. (Um, I think I need to re-grout my bathroom, stat.)  But where it really shined was the beauty sphere, where we saw it on eyeshair, and, thanks to the genius of Pat McGrath's Lust 004 kits, the lips.  It even covered the whole face, which you could apply with glittery makeup brushes.  Guessing from Stila's spring 2017 liquid glitter shadows and Jerrod Blandino of Too-Faced dropping hints about a glitter liner, I don't think this trend is going anywhere soon.

Stila Magnificent Metals spring 2017
(image from musingsofamuse.com)

Rainbows also colored our world in 2016, (so many rainbow highlighters!) along with their iridescent and holographic cousins.  So far the trend seems to be continuing with Shiseido's new rainbow face powders (which are actually 100 years old - more about that in an upcoming post), NYX's duo-chrome highlighters and yet another rainbow highlighter.

Shiseido 7 Color Powders Revival Centennial Edition
(image from shiseido.com)

4. Along those lines, mermaids are the new unicorns.

While mermaid blankets, news of the Splash remake and several companies' mermaid-inspired eye shadows all somewhat bolstered support for these magical creatures in 2016, the year primarily belonged to unicorns.  Not one but two companies introduced lip colors named Unicorn Tears, while unicorn brushes and the not-so-appealingly-named Unicorn Snot glitter gel also helped carry the trend (along with the holographic/iridescent/glitter trend), not to mention unicorn horns and eyeliner.  There was even a unicorn cafe (it's not clear whether they served unicorn hot chocolate.) But I'm predicting - okay, I just REALLY want it to happen - that mermaid beauty will take center stage in 2017.  If these brushes are any indication, mermaids will finally have their day in the beauty sun.  Ironically, the company responsible for these is named Unicorn Lashes - obviously the same one that released the aforementioned unicorn brushes.

Mermaid brushes
(image from popsugar.com)

There's also the rainbow highlighter I mentioned above, which for once is named Mermaid and not Unicorn something-or-other.  :)

Lottie London Mermaid highlighter(image from @mylottielondon)

What do you think of these?  Any other predictions?

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Mutual attraction: magnets and beauty

Here's a brief report on an item that's been attracting (sorry, couldn't resist) the attention of cosmetic companies:  the humble magnet. Magnets are already used in fairly basic ways for cosmetics - many brands offer customizable palettes and you can easily DIY your own storage board.  And who could forget the great magnetic nail polish craze of 2011-2012, a fad Lancôme pioneered a few years prior? But in the past year or so beauty is going next level with the use of magnets in makeup and skincare. 

In 2015 SK-II introduced their Magnetic Eye Wand, which, when used in conjunction with their Stempower Eye Cream, "induces a micro-electromagnetic field that further enhances the absorption of ingredients into the skin."  It's a similar concept to Clarisonic's Opal eye brush, except it uses magnetic force instead of a special brush to increase absorption.  I have no idea whether it's actually more effective than just using one's finger to apply, but it's certainly novel.  SK-II might really be onto something, as a slew of facial masks continued the harnessing of magnetic technology this year.  These masks all work the same in that they contain iron particles that can only be removed with a magnet.  They look like a lot of fun, and there is at least some scientific validity to their efficacy: "The process of applying the magnet over the mask creates a low-grade electromagnetic current, which may help rejuvenate the skin while the mask is removed," notes Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.

Magnets also made their way to makeup in 2016.  Pur Minerals introduced their Fully Charged mascara, which contains an "evolutionary positively charged matrix that attracts to each individual lash to strengthen, thicken, lengthen and separate for unparalleled performance."  A few months later, a company called One Two Cosmetics devised the first magnetic false lashes - no fussing with glue! And more recently, MAC dreamed up a magnetized loose eye shadow that not only retains its shape in its container, thereby making it impossible to spill, but also cling to your lids like a cream shadow.  Finally, Armani has their newly released Lip Magnet liquid lipsticks, which, while they don't actually contain magnetized particles, the fact that Armani chose to include "magnet" in the product name is telling.

Magnetic beauty

  1. One Two magnetic false lashes
  2. Milky Dress Black Luster Mask
  3. Seacret M4 Magnetic Mud Mask
  4. Armani Lip Magnet liquid lipstick
  5. Dr. Brandt Magnetight Age Defier Mask
  6. MAC Spellbinder Eyeshadow
  7. Pur Cosmetics Fully Charged Mascara
  8. Lancer Younger Revealing Mask

What do you think?  Have you tried any of these?  I own one of MAC's Spellbinder shadows but have yet to try it on my lids (I did dip my finger into the pot and to my amazement it really did stay the same shape!)