This weekend, my 15 year-old daughter and I passed another feminine milestone–the acquisition and application of cosmetics. Yep, my baby is now wearing make-up. Although, to be fair, it’s not by her choice. She and her closest friends have avoided this fate for as long as possible. In fact, the ONLY reason she agreed to the lessons this past Sunday evening was because the drill team she joined this year was having a photo shoot on Monday and make-up was a requirement.
As the mother of a teenage daughter, I am secretly counting my lucky stars that my daughter has no interest in the world of beauty products. Our girls grow up far too quickly today in my opinion, so I was happy to support her decision to skip the whole make-up mess. My only concern was teaching her how to do it properly so that when she did dive into those waters, she didn’t come out looking like one of those blue eye shadow disasters. Thankfully, she was content to let me pick out neutral shades to accentual her natural beauty instead of turning her into a painted lady.
“Painted Lady” – Remember the negative connotation such a name would imply back in the Victorian era? Any woman who would paint her face was considered of low moral character. Only actresses and prostitutes would use such ungodly enhancements to lure men down a sinful path.
In the American West, the working girls at the saloons had this dubious distinction, dipping into the rouge pot to add a “youthful glow” to their cheeks or applied to lips to stain them an enticing red. Kohl would be used to darken the lashes or could be drawn on with a tiny brush like eyeliner. Powders and creams were used to help achieve a pale complexion.
However, it wasn’t only the “bad girls” who painted themselves. Wealthy women who had time and money on their hands often dabbled in the cosmetic arts as well, only they kept their tricks severely secret for if anyone found out they were using “paint” they would be ostracized. So they found ways to enhance their beauty in subtle ways, avoiding the painted lady look. They applied lemon juice to their skin to help fade freckles and promote the pale complexion that was so in fashion. In the evening, if they dared, they might even use a touch of rice powder. Beet juice could be used to add a touch of color to their cheek and lips, though many just tortured themselves with painful pinches to bring the blood to the surface. Instead of painting on kohl around their eyes, these women would add a touch of wax to their lashes the dust them with soot. Can you imagine having soot in your eyes all evening long? Yuck!
It wasn’t until the turn of the century with forces like the Gibson Girl, World War I, and the motion picture industry that the pendulum started to swing back the other way, opening the door for cosmetics. The Gibson Girl became the famous pin-up model that men idealized and women strove to imitate. World War I saw so many men overseas that the women at home entered the workplace, earning independence and their own discretionary income. New improvements in Hollywood by Max Factor created natural-looking cosmetics that could be worn in off the movie set and still look beautiful, not like theater grease paint. Soon the female populace at large demanded access to these items as well, and the American cosmetic market was born.
So what do you think?
- Are you glad we have cosmetics? Or do you wish the hassle was unnecessary?
- If you lived back in the 1800’s, would you have been tempted to sneak a little beauty aid here or there?