Makeup: as old as mankind itself. It’s been worn by women and men alike, not just for vanity, but for ceremonial and religious purposes too. It still is in certain cultures.
There is something about the painting of one’s face that imbues power. I’ve felt it myself. When I’m sick for a couple of days and realize it’s time to return to the land of the living, what do I do? I put makeup on. And I actually feel a little better. It’s my game face!
Over the centuries, Western culture decided makeup was a girl-thing, at least as an everyday practice. (Sounds like a little research is in order here—and a future Fix on the history of makeup!) For now let’s take a stroll through the land of twentieth century magazine ads. Watch how not only makeup styles have evolved and reemerged, but how the ads themselves change in look and message. Ads always have a story to tell!
1900-‘TEENS: DELICATE & DEMURE
I have to say, the fact that the Jonteel ad has to state it “will not grow hair on the face” is pretty frightening! Apparently there was a problem with that back then? Yikes!
1920s: AMPING UP THE DECADENCE
It’s the Roaring Twenties! I love the look of these ads, and if the L.T. Piver face powder can transport me to that lush garden retreat, sign me up! I actually sold one of their Azurea powders when I was in the antiques biz.
1930s: THE GREAT DEPRESSION, BUT YOU’D STILL BETTER LOOK GOOD!
Ads from the 1930’s were text-heavy, featuring stories to sell their wares. Clearly the only reason for makeup is to bag a man!
1940s: SUPPORT THE CAUSE, BE BEAUTIFUL!
It’s the Fourties and America is at war—the Tangee ad even mimics the flag! I love Rita Hayworth, so I had to include this ad, cross-promoting her movie, “Gilda.”
1950s: VICTORIOUS & LIVING IT UP
The prosperous 1950’s ads are opulent and celebratory—life is good!
1960s: BOLD & SWINGING
The 1960’s were a hotbed of change, and fashion followed that change. The eyes had it: bright, outrageous colors and false eyelashes were hot. Lips went light, even to white. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton were iconic models of the era, so I had to include them!
1970s: OPTIONS & CHANGE ON THE HORIZON
Cover Girl (and Cybill Shepherd) ushered in the “clean” look of the Seventies as a foil to the crazy color eye—which was still in.
As I was putting this together I realized I wasn’t coming across ads with black models. This was expected in the first half of the century, say through the ‘60s, but I was surprised that even when I specifically searched for black models in makeup ads they were a bit sparse. Earlier ads tended to target that demographic, and I wanted to find ads that were for every-woman. I found a few from the 1980s-90s, then it picks up in the twenty-first century—but that’s outside the timeframe for this piece! Interesting and disappointing. I found this ad featuring icon Beverly Johnson, known for being the first black model to make the cover of Vogue in 1974. Beautiful!
1980s: NEW WAVE FABULOUS
I know the Time cover isn’t an ad, but Brooke Sheilds was a walking ad —her look was huge in the ‘80s! Who knew eyebrows could be so controversial? I remember a friend’s mom saying she wanted to hold her down and tweeze them. Revlon’s “unforgettable women” campaign from the mid-80s was indeed memorable. Each ad featured three or four supermodels in similar attire and makeup. And this section wouldn’t be complete without a nod to the tri-color eye c.1985…complete with Walkman! Are you feeling the MTV vibe?
1990s: THE DISTILLATION OF THE DECADES?
The Nineties—less crazy color, but still bold. If you think about it, this bold but more neutral color range represents elements of the previous nine decades: the strong lip that prevailed most of the century is there, and the eyes went both ways, strong color or more subtle. Cindy Crawford is stunning in Raisin Rage, but that look would have worked with your grunge flannel too!
When it comes to makeup I believe we should go with what makes us feel good, even if that’s no makeup at all. Who we are on the inside is what truly matters.
My makeup memories include too much eyeliner in middle school, applied like a security blanket, and totally rocking the purple/blue/gray eye in high school—what are your makeup tales? Preferences? Share in the comments, and check Facebook in the coming week for more fabulous vintage looks!