Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Makeup Styles - and Fashion Itself

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The point of interest in this shot is the makeup – not only do both of these women have under-drawn lips (the outline of the lipstick is smaller than the natural outline of their mouths), after years of quite extraordinary over-drawn styles, but they have highly over-drawn eyebrows and eyeliner extending well away from their eyes as well.  Their upper lips still retain some cupid’s bow fulness, but in a much more natural shape, compressing the divet at the center rather than hyperextending it, and not drawing in the extreme horizontal plumpness of the 40s.

The almost lacquered heaviness of the brows is fairly rare today, but I recognize it in some of the women I know “of a certain age”, and also as a reaction against the plucking and even shaving of previous decades.  Through the twenties, thirties, and into the forties, eyebrows had been thinned to varying degrees, and the 1950s’ emphasis on the eyebrow was in a way revolutionary.  After a generation or so of thin-is-in, as it were, softer and fuller hair, and softer and fuller brows were the it look, and it’s understandable even if half a century and more along it looks just as strange in a different way.

Coincidentally, the natural life of an eyebrow may point us to a basis for the styles’ variance over time.  From the age of ten or twelve, most women have ever-thicker brows – not always wild, the way a man’s brows may be, but certainly not the perfect little apostrophe your average waxing technician would hope we all strive for.  Think about Brooke Shields’ brows in about 1982 – she was herself something of a revolution, and those dark, naturalistic, straight, emphatic brows were the frame of a face almost aggressively youthful, when she exploded into the pop-culture scene in her very early teens.  She was the subject of much tut-tutting, that models were younger and younger, that she was such a scandal, that she was so very young and her mother was using her as a tool – all sorts of projections, most of them long since forgotten.

As we grow older, the pigment in the hairs of the brow fade, and the brows themselves grow thinner.  As we can see from the image above, it is a bit of a trick to draw in thick eyebrows and make it look good – it takes a sparing hand and a HARD lining pencil, or you get a dollop of glop resembling a smeary caterpillar.  Fortuitously, it takes little “thickening” to effect the look of a youthful brow.

The extent to which we internalize the messages not only of fashion in garments, but of fashion in cosmetics, has always been apparent in my life.  My dear friend TEO once witnessed my mom scolding me that I looked trashy because I was not wearing ENOUGH makeup (specifically liptsick).  I was a teenager, and in the 1980s (and being possessed of lips with much more natural contrast to my skin tone than mom has), I concentrated on eye makeup, not lipstick.  (I was not a heavy gloss user; never even owned a Bonnie Bell Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker.)  To this day, that moment lives in infamous hilarity.So the 50s were the time of lipstick, big brows, and big, quasi-soft hair.  Compared to the 40s, it was positively pillowy.  And it was a response – in comparison to the 40s, the 30s, even the 20s.  It was a statement and an attempt at change, at modernity – just as were all the fashionable looks before.

And since.

The 60s started to diversify more, and by the time I came along we were a bit of a mess – me with my famously “New Wave” (a drab little Mackenzie Phillips shag) hair, then shaving one side of it just because.  Girls still sporting the Farrah one-long-curl-down-each-side or clue-catcher bangs, all too many forgetting the top and sides of their heads were visible to others.  Zizzy perms and spirals (perhaps the most painful thing ever expensively done to my head – but for that month or so it was new, it was pretty OSUM).  Manic Panic and asymmetricals.

Looking back, much of what seemed cool aged looking suprisingly matronly.  Looking back at today – who knows how we’ll read?  Mis-matchy, perhaps obsessed with ugly purses, and tiresomely addicted to gladiator sandals and stupidly, stupidly, stupidly high platform pumps.  Maxi dresses will be on the way out sometime, and I will be sad to say goodbye to their voluminous coverage … but maybe less sorry to see sublimation prints and chevrons go.  Anthropologie chic may garner less scorn than American Apparel skank – perhaps – but it’s all ephemeral and it’s all going to embarrass *someone*, some time.

That is what fashion is designed to do.

What embarrassments lie ahead?  Fun to watch.

What lie behind?  Difficult to admit.  But feel free, because the comments are all yours …

Edited to add this - a new brow product encouraging thicker, more youthful brows.  Saw this within days of originally writing this post, which was a little while ago.

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