A brief history of Early 20th Century Makeup – 1900 to 1919 -
By the beginning of the 1900’s Edwardian Makeup Era, women sought after a ‘pale look’. Lemon juice either consumed or applied as a face tonic was a popular method of achieving this feminine complexion. Society hostesses sought to hold on to their ‘youth’ and to cater for this demand or perhaps to encourage it – exclusive beauty salons sprouted up in major cities.
Edwardian Women and Cosmetics.
To have a tan, was to suggest that a lady was of a lower class, who worked the land. So women of the ‘better class’ remained indoors or in the shade for most of their day.
Edwardian women loved facials and spent many hours massaging and applying creams to their face to keep their skin soft and supple. By the turn of the century cosmetics generally consisted of little pots of rouge for cheeks, eyes and lips along with blotting papers.
1914 Looks – Earl Christy
The more daring women would mix up dyes from cosmetic preparations created at their chosen pharmacy. Edwardian Makeup was very much a DIY affair, and the objective was to create an effect of youthful beauty without anyone knowing you were wearing makeup.
Download original makeup and beauty guides from the golden eras.
Gallery – The Makeup Looks of the Edwardians.[peg]
To be seen as actually ‘wearing’ makeup was only reserved to women of the stage, or – ahem – the street! Searching for cosmetics was quite a furtive affair, with concealed backdoor entrances provided for an elite clientele.
But all this was to change in a very short time.
Gordon Selfridge in Oxford Street, London, launched his ‘cosmetics counters’ in 1909, that women were able to openly experiment with cosmetics before having to buy them.
Gallery – Makeup Mirror – Photos of Edwardian Ladies.[peg]
While there were many notable perfumers such as Houbigant (1775) Rimmel (1834), Bourjois (1863), Shiseido ( 1872), Ponds (1872), Richard Hudnut (1888), they dealt mostly in skincare and of course female fragrances ; it was the early 20th century that saw some real innovators in makeup and beauty emerge such as Helena Rubinstein (1903), Papier Poudre ( 1903), Coty (1904), Princess Pat (1907), Harriet Hubbard (1907), Max Factor (1909), L’Oréal (1909), Elizabeth Arden (1910) just at the tail of the Edwardian era. The First World War and the advent of Hollywood movies saw names such as Lady Esther, Inc (1913), Cutex Nail Polish (1914), Maybelline (1915) , Dorothy Gray (1916), and Marie Earle (1918). All these notable names helped change the way women thought about themselves.
The Key Makeup Looks of the Edwardian.
The term makeup still only belonged to the domain of stage actresses. A woman could not be seen to be wearing anything other than her natural face! That being said, the main component in any Edwardian ladies bag was rouge, which came in pots of varying sizes.This rouge could be applied to cheeks, forehead and just a stain on the lips as opposed to ‘lip shaping’.
The foundation look was very much ‘non tan’ and a woman who had color was considered to be of a questionable class.
- Foundation – Moisturize, powder, rouge and then powder again.
- Powder – a popular choice for the woman on the go – was ‘papier poudre’ which resembled roll up cigarette paper.
- Eyes – post of grey,brown and lemon colored paste applied very slightly on the lids.
- Lips – a light stain to create a ‘bitten lip’ effect as apposed to ‘painted.
Early 20th Century Makeup Innovators.
The first real innovations in the development of modern beauty cosmetics for women emerged in the 1910’s, during and after the First World War. Max Factor, who had opened his salon in LA in 1909, was already making a name for himself with his work in the young Hollywood studio system. He helped create the screen siren looks of among others – Theda Bara, with her heavily kohled eyes in the first screen version of Cleopatra in 1917.
Gallery – Cosmetic Patents 1900 to 1919.[peg]
The impact these films had on women was considerable, and the early flappers of post war Europe began to use more eye makeup when out partying. The Ballet Russes phenomenon in London in 1911 also inspired both Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden to develop eye makeup. It was the decade which introduced the first ‘cake’ mascara from Maybelline. The brand name inspired by the sister of founder Tom Lyle Williams – Maybel, who he had frequently watched concoct her own eye and lash makeup from Vaseline and ash. The final perfected brand he launched in 1917 was a cake mascara or mascaro which was made from a type of soap – sodium stearate.
Gallery – Makeup Adverts from 1900 to 1919.[peg]
In 1914 – Max Factor introduced pancake makeup along with the first commercial eye shadows made from henna extracts. The Hollywood vamp look helped sell these new products and it is no coincidence that most early makeup advertising appeared in movie magazines like Photoplay.
The metal Lipstick tube was allegedly invented in 1915 by Maurice Levy ( we are searching for definitive patent proof on this still) , a clever push up stick of lip color inside a metal bullet-like cartridge tube. Cosmetics and Skin traced this claim to a 1957 article – but there are no patents or ads in existence to prove this assertion. Collecting Vintage Compacts suggests that the true inventor may have been a William kendell – who designed metal cases for the French cosmetics brand Mary Garden by Rigaud. I tend now to agree that the metal lipstick tube probably originated in France and that the Levy claim is shaky at best – he was not an inventor but an investor whose only apparent brand during the 1910s was Hygienol – a powder puff – launched in 1916 – with with not a metal case in sight!
On the other hand there are numerous Mary Garden ads showing various metal cases for rouge etc and this one from 1917 that certainly looks like a lipstick tube. The mystery remains !
Up to the First World War, lip colors came in little tubs or sticks wrapped in paper and were made from various shades of carmine, a red colorant taken from cochineal beetles. Soon all the cosmetic names like Max Factor, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and Coty began to produce their own ‘ lipsticks’ incorporating their own secret recipes and colors. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the real commercial success of these ‘handy’ cosmetics for began to take off across the world.
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Patent Images – via Google Patents
Plus – the excellent – Collecting Vintage Compacts
2 patents by J Komorous – 1231383 and 1158935