POWDER AND FOUNDATION
Even the Victorians condoned the secret use of a little powder, so it’s no surprise that it was the first item to become an acceptable handbag staple in the twentieth century. As more women used it, they found that they needed to touch up‚ while on the go. Though women would carry around loose powder (often housed in a little box or concealed in a piece of jewelry), or try and fashion their own containers, it wasn’t ideal and spillages were an issue. As an answer to this problem, specially designed compact‚ compressed powders (along with the puffs used for application) were produced and really took off in the 1920s. Just think that women’s public bathrooms became known euphemistically as powder rooms‚ in the late twenties.
By 1930, there were a staggering number of face powder types on sale throughout the United States: around three thousand.16 One reason for powder’s increasing popularity is that advances in technology meant that cosmetics companies started producing more shades from rose to beige to tan. An appealing scent was also crucial to a powder, and many companies produced powders to match their already successful perfumes, such as Guerlain’s Shalimar Powder scented with Shalimar perfume.
Pan-Cake (and, later, Pan-Stick) allowed women to carry natural-looking foundation in their bags for touch-ups for the first time.
Pan-Cake was used in Hollywood before it was launched to the public where it won intense praise; it was the first consumer-facing foundation that didn’t crack, was easy to apply, and had a long-lasting result.
As with so many other developments in makeup, foundation’s origins were in the world of the theater. It was Max Factor who moved makeup on from the greasepaint sticks used for the stage by developing a creamy version that didn’t crack on film, released in 1914. He made further developments to his innovation by blending the colors so that they matched different skin tones (helpfully) and working hard to devise an entirely new product that would suit Technicolor. But it wasn’t until 1937, and the introduction of Max Factor’s Pan-Cake (a cream powder that was applied with a damp sponge), that foundation really hit the big time. Not only was it the most favored product of the highly successful movie industry, but it was rolled out to consumers too, with ads featuring stars, including Claudette Colbert, who promised that Pan-Cake would create a lovely new complexion . . . conceal tiny complexion faults‚ and stay on for hours.‚17 In 1948, Pan-Stik, a swivel-stick form of Pan-Cake, was launched: It was perfect for keeping in your bag for touch-ups, although foundation was still more of a dressing-table staple rather than a handbag necessity (a 1950 ad shows that it was available in five different skin shades and two exciting sun tan shades!‚).18 It wasn’t until the 1960s that lighter bases, such as Max Factor’s Ultra-Light, become available.19 These days, foundation is a makeup bag essential, coming in many different forms from powder to liquid, cream, compact, and spray on. The past twenty years in particular have seen a complete revolution in formulas (mainly thanks to silicone); foundations now feel weightless and look more natural on the skin than ever.