WWII didn’t dampen women’s desire to continue their glamorous makeup rituals, nor the demand for their favorite rouges and powders.
Using makeup to create the illusion of stockings was popular during the war; nylon was in short supply and parachutes took precedence.
Sometimes trends can be born out of necessity, and the scarcity of nylons (the manufacture of stockings was actually banned in 1941) in the Second World War would be the catalyst for the growing popularity of leg painting. Thrifty women used tea bags and even gravy granules (complete with eyeliner drawn to give the illusion of seams) to stain their skin and create a stockinged look for their pins, which by all accounts could have unreliable results, especially if it happened to rain. Leg-painting bars were even set up, like the Bare Legs Beauty Bar in Croydon, England, in 1941. But it wasn’t all DIY Bisto: Never one to miss an opportunity, Revlon introduced a new product during the war called Leg Silk, probably similar to a modern-day fake tan.
An early article in US Vogue in 1929, Making Up to Tan,‚ shows the change in people’s attitudes, and advises how it is crucial to adapt your regular makeup once you’ve achieved that still slightly newfangled novelty, a tan: once the tan is achieved one has acquired a whole new set of makeup responsibilities . . . to meet these requirements, a vast school of sunburn cosmetics has arisen.‚ In a contrast to today’s spray-tan loving society, the author of the article makes it clear that actually faking a tan was considered to be a bit vulgar Vogue has always felt that sunburn makeup, as such, when there is no basis of natural tan, is artificial and not in good taste, except for such occasions as costume parties . . .‚ Instead, the focus is what makeup to wear when you do have a natural tan: most important, a good powder in a shade to match your new skin tone (the article suggests that these were readily available) and an orangey-toned rouge and lipstick. The one concession to tanning unnaturally seems to be on the legs, because men have always been women’s severest critic in the matter of the appearance of legs, and they have not been slow in voicing their opinion that the average bare leg is not a thing of beauty until it has been improved by artifice.‚21
Suntanning first came into fashion in Europe during the 1920s. By the 1930s, makeup products were being specially designed and marketed to compliment suntanned complexions.
The 1940s and 1950s were the golden age of the novelty powder compact. (Clockwise) Wadsworth’s 8 Ball, Volupte’s Gay Nineties Mitt,‚ Kigu’s Flying Saucer, Telephone Rotary after Salvador Dali for Schiaparelli, and BOAC Mascot Suitcase powder compact.
These days, with our knowledge of the skin damage caused by the sun, tanning unnaturally is the new norm. It’s a market that is constantly improving and growing: In 2010 global self-tan sales were reported to be worth $530 million, and that number will only have grown as a multitude of new products catering to all different desires are released.22
The Origins of the First Brands
The majority of the twentieth-century’s global cosmetic brands (with the exception of those pioneering individuals mentioned in the previous chapter) can be traced back to one of five main starting points: the theater, couture fashion houses, perfume ateliers, soap manufacturers, and most recently, individual makeup artists looking to share their expertise with women.