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Past Obsessions

Is it the allure of times gone by, the classic beauty, the iconic images or simply lack of imagination that keeps us looking back to the past for inspiration? From Marilyn to Madonna, both of whom epitomize their eras of the fifties and eighties, we cant seem to get enough of the timeless make-up styles.

Make-up has always been used as a way to convey an image, an idea, a persona, a way of life, in ancient times make-up was worn as a sign of wealth, luxury and status. Substances such as carbon, mercury and lead were used as far back as Roman and Egyptian times, although these substances were poisonous to the human body, which gives us a different take on the French saying, ‘Il faut souffrir pour etre belle’, ‘One must suffer to be beautiful’! More decadent substances were also used in the beauty regime of our predecessors, charred rose petals for a kohl effect and what was known as  ‘liquid gold’, olive oil to moisturise and protect the skin.

In the 20’s & 30’s, beauty products in general were seen as a necessity for the modern woman. With the release of the first nail polish, the compact and tanning products in the 20’s, beauty became something of a must have. When make-up started to take on a major role in a lady’s life, trends and patterns were set. From the 20’s onwards specific era looks were born. What makes a look synonymous with the 20’s?  The rose-bud lips and the circular shapes of the shadow and brows, the smokey eye was born and ultimately it was the beginning of classic beauty.

The 30’s took on a new style, the creation of another timeless look to be re-created for years to come. The introduction of a heavier brow, a full lip and luxe lashes helped set the trend. The sensuality and mystic of the 20’s was still evident in ladies choice of deep lip colour and smokey eyes. Every season we see elements of the 20’s and 30’s, Spring/Summer 2012 is no exception. With fashion houses such as Gucci, Rodarte and Pucci all showing smokey eyes during fashion week it is set to be a popular choice yet again. New elements and subtle changes keep the look fresh, an extended shape, a metallic sheen, a blend of colour is all it takes to bring it alive for the season ahead.

The 40’s and 50’s may be the most memorable, the most iconic of all time periods, beauty wise that is! Time and time again we see the statement red lip and the infamous black flick of the liner.  The forties were a time of hardship, rationing and hard work, because of this women had to simplify their make-up routine, however the red lip remained as a symbol of femininity and for the armed forces an important morale booster in their care packages from the U.S. Today lipstick colours may have varied to purples, oranges and even blues and greens but this cult product still remains a staple in every woman’s handbag. Once packaged in a screw top pot, lipstick was a bit awkward to carry around and apply on the go, Guerlain came to the rescue in 1870 with the introduction of the bullet or tube container aptly named ‘Ne m’oubliez pas’ meaning, ‘don’t forget me’.

Veronica Lake, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe to name just a few of the heroines of the 40’s and 50’s all helped to make the style a favourite with beauty lovers worldwide. Dior is a fashion house that favours the elegant, sophisticated, classical style of the 50’s. Their Spring/Summer 2011 look proved a hit with many high street make-up brands also. The contrast of bright, pop coloured eye-shadow shades of pinks, blues and greens against the matte orange and red lips created a vibrant, fun and interesting take on the look we all know and love. This year Dior have once again been inspired by the 50’s glamour, concentrating on fresh skin and of course the red lip, a more subtle adaptation but inspired none the less.

The 60’s brought with it a radical new outlook on make-up and beauty.  White liner, a dark socket line and pastels of pinks and peaches framed with false lashes were widely used to create the dolly bird look. This look was fun, artistic and remains iconic today most famously through images of Twiggy, a model of the era. Another public figure at the time was Brigette Bardot, a woman who oozed sex appeal through her trademark kohl rimmed eyes. Both woman, symbols of the era in such contrasting ways.

Some say the 70’s is the decade style forgot, although I am partial to a pair of high-waisted trousers and who doesn’t love a Farrah Fawcett hairdo? However, it can be said for make-up, beauty companies took a hit during this decade as ladies favoured a more laid-back, fuss free regime. For most, skin was kept natural and hair was left loose, for public figures, especially those in the music industry things were quite different. Subtly was left behind and disco was born!

The disco and glam rock era had begun, through the heavy use of glitter and bold colour choices. This carried on well into the 80’s where legends such as David Bowie and Blondie were made famous, their images still influencing the rising stars of today, most notably Lady GaGa. These bold and daring looks can be found in every magazine, on every catwalk and with every make-up brand today. The fun, punchy, attitude of this decade makes it appealing to everyone and it is very attainable. A simple two toned eye, a flash of colour or a hint of glitter and you’ve got your own 80’s homage.

The freedom of colour, the angular style and the brash interpretations make this, the 80’s, my favourite era.

So whether its 1920 or 2012, I feel as a make-up artist we will always look to the past for guidance and inspiration. The question is will 2012 be the year of a new, original trend? Its possible…

Michelle Wall 2012

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