In this article Emmie Cosgrove will be exploring the history of the top four makeup looks and why these classic looks never go out of style. With illustrations by Joe Bailey.
Throughout the 2000s there have been changes to how people view, think about and use makeup. With shows such as Ru-Paul’s Drag race becoming far more mainstream, makeup has now become a crucial part of self-expression and identity.
Makeup brushes have become paint brushes; eyeshadow pallets are paints and your face is a blank canvas, ready for decoration. There are numerous Instagram accounts dedicated to showcasing how creative you can be with makeup. Many people are now experimenting with bold, drag-inspired makeup looks and using makeup as an avant-garde art form. You can completely transform yourself.
Blu Hydrangea, a drag queen from the UK and contestant on UK’s new season of Drag Race, is a perfect example of how transformative makeup can be. Her makeup skills are outstanding and prove that makeup is an art form.
Though we’re living in an era where makeup is now becoming known as a type of art, it is still the social norm to use makeup as an everyday tool to cover up imperfections and enhance our appearances. So, despite the rise of avant-garde and surrealist makeup looks that many Instagrammers create, there are some more simple makeup looks that, amongst all the bold colours and exaggerated lip lines, will always remain iconic within the world of makeup.
The cat-eye, also known as winged eyeliner, can be one of the most frustrating makeup looks to try and create. Are my wings even? Why is one eye perfect and the other eye panda-esque? Attempting to apply the cat-eye usually results in running out of makeup wipes because it’s so hard to get right. Despite all the struggles that come with the cat-eye look, we continue to practice it until we get those wings even. But why? The answer is that the cat-eye is one of the most alluring makeup looks. The cat-eye can bring a lot of attention to your eyes and highlight their colour and shape. It makes our eyes look bigger, adds drama and can be a little bit flirty. The cat-eye is a perfect makeup look for a date as it demands eye-contact. It was Cleopatra who was the original trend setter for this iconic makeup look.
The Ancient-Egyptians were the overall masterminds behind makeup. They invented kohl eyeliner which was believed to help protect eyes from the sun and dirt. Cleopatra painted her eyes with kohl eyeliner using precise lines and adding a strong flick. This flick helped protect her from the ‘evil eye’, which was a strong superstition in Ancient Egypt. More recently, in the West, it was during the 40s that the cat-eye gained popularity. The famous movie star Elizabeth Taylor sported the cat-eye look in the movie Cleopatra.
The West was also undergoing ‘Egyptian-mania’ and became heavily influenced by Ancient-Egyptian culture, including their makeup looks. During this time the cat-eye look became a staple makeup look, especially with pinup culture during the 40s. As the 50s rolled around, liquid eyeliner had been invented, which made it easier to get a far more precise and thick-winged eye look. From the 50s onwards as makeup trends changed, the cat-eye managed to adapt to whatever those changes were. In the 40s the cat-eye would be worn with another classic makeup trend, red lipstick, and in the 60s you’d wear your cat-eyes with a bold lower lash line.
Whenever the cat-eye faded into the background of makeup trends, someone would always bring it back. In the 2000s, music icon Amy Winehouse added a more masculine edge to the cat-eye. Instead of elegant feminine wings, hers were bold and over-drawn showing that the cat-eye could be worn in a multitude of ways and didn’t have to always be even or perfect. With the number of influential women ranging from Cleopatra to Amy Winehouse who have championed this look, it is no wonder it has always stood the test of time.
Red lipstick is considered one of the most empowering makeup looks of all time. Red is loud, bold, and impossible to ignore. According to colour psychology and research done about the colour red, apply this bold statement colour to your lips and people are going to be drawn to your lips. However, it’s not just your lips they’re going to be drawn to, but also what you say. Paint your lips red and people will hear you.
It is the perfect makeup look to create a statement, no matter how casual or fancy your outfit is. It works with everything. However, though red lipstick has been worn and adored by women throughout history, in 1650 the British Parliament attempted to ban red lipstick as it was making men feverish.
Parliament were convinced that women only wore red lipstick to seduce men into matrimony using unnatural forces. Seducing men through cosmetic means was seen as a type of witchcraft. It gave women far too much power, but the bill to ban lipstick did not pass. Even though red lipstick was legal to wear, throughout the 1700s and 1800s the public fell out of love with it. The Victorian era was all about pale pink lips and rosy cheeks. Women almost looked like porcelain dolls, but that was the trend. It did manage to make a reappearance in 1912 when the suffragettes marched through the streets of New York wearing bright red lipstick. As time went on and motion pictures became the new big thing, film stars like Clara Bow bought red lipstick out of the shadows and into the spotlight, with her cupid bow lips. Then in 1933, Vogue declared lipstick ‘the most important cosmetic for women’. World War One was also a massive turning point for red lipstick and the meaning behind it. Red is also a symbol of victory and women wore red lipstick to show respect for their country during the war.
Despite the changes that red lipstick has undergone in terms of its meaning and peoples’ attitudes towards it, today red lipstick is one of the chicest makeup looks. With multiple shades of reds available and the ability to easily carry a lipstick with you, you can never go wrong with some red lipstick. This is a makeup look that will never lose its power and will always be the go-to statement lip look.
The smokey eye look is another that originated in Ancient Egypt. Cleopatra may have used her kohl eyeliner to create a cat-eye look, but many Egyptians would wear a heavy amount of kohl eyeliner smudged around their eyes for extra protection from the sun and dirt. The precision or beauty of their eye makeup wasn’t the main focus when applying kohl eyeliner.
Using kohl eyeliner to protect one’s eyes from the sun and dirt became a popular safety precaution throughout the East. People across the Middle East, Asia and various parts of Africa would also smudge kohl eyeliner around their eyes for protection. In the Western world, it took a while for the smokey eye trend to come to the forefront. Pale skin with rosy lips and cheeks was the main makeup trend for many years. However, just like with red lipstick, it was thanks to motion pictures that smokey eyes became a more recognised makeup trend.
Before motion pictures existed, stage actors would create a smokey eye look using greasepaint. This would emphasise their features and help the performers appear more visible to the audience at the back of the theatre. This then transferred over to motion pictures. During the silent film era, many women began to recreate the makeup looks they saw on the silver screen, and the smokey eye was one of those looks.
The French actress Brigitte Bardot wore smokey eyes with a pale lip and a light pink blush. Many women wanted to look like the stars they saw on screen and therefore would also wear the smokey eye look with pale lips and a light pink blush.
When colour eyeshadow was invented it gave women the chance to experiment and mix colours to create a unique and individual smokey eye makeup look.
When the 90s grunge scene became big, many people ditched the colourful eye palettes and went back to wearing dark smudged eye makeup. This was usually worn with a dark lipstick for added edge. Due to how many shades the smokey eye look can be created with, it is the perfect eye look to get creative with. In its classic noir form, a black smokey eye can make any look feel far more rock ‘n’ roll.
The Natural Makeup Look
A small bit of mascara, some concealer here and there, add some blusher and a nude shade lipstick – you’ve got the perfect natural makeup look. A lot of people believe that makeup’s true purpose is to cover their flaws. However, makeup is meant to enhance your features rather than hide them. There are many makeup artists out there who promote the natural makeup look to try and get people to understand that enhancement is what makeup is truly about, not hiding.
At times, it can seem a little pointless to apply makeup if you’re not going to look like you’re wearing any but that’s not the point of the natural makeup look. This look suits everyone and can give you a subtle glow that makes you feel fresh and good within yourself.
During the 70s many women stopped wearing makeup altogether. This was the time of the hippie movement and second wave feminism. Embracing your natural self was a big thing in the 70s. Women had also grown tired of constantly having to conform to the beauty standards that men had set for them. Makeup had been viewed as a product to make women more beautiful, and the more beautiful she was, the more men would want her.
Makeup brands created products that were far more natural with toned down shades. Mineral foundations were created that weren’t there to make you more beautiful, but to just cover up a few blemishes here and there. It was also during the 70s that foundations in darker shades were produced. Women of colour finally had foundations they could wear.
Applying a small amount of natural makeup products has been an ongoing trend since the 70s. It is one of the most-worn makeup looks today. There are numerous beauty articles on how to achieve the perfect natural makeup look. At times, you just want to feel a bit more made up without having to go all out. The natural makeup look promotes natural beauty and is there to give us the right amount of glow. For an everyday, casual yet classy look, the natural makeup look is the ultimate go-to.
You can read more of Emmie’s work over on Twitter at @styles_emmie