Makeup of the past offers clues for the future
by Joe Blasco
Having been involved in the creation, manufacture and distribution of a full line of cosmetics for the last two decades, I've seen many makeup trends come and go. It's been a challenge to keep up with the times because makeup is constantly changing. That's why the coming of the year 2000 is so exciting and formidable. We're not only approaching a new century; we're entering an unknown world that will be fraught with changes beyond our comprehension of today. Nevertheless, manufacturers have had to design new lines of cosmetic shades, colors and products that will reflect the social climate and lifestyles found in the new millennium.
Many of the cosmetic applications of the '60s consisted of layovers from the '50s - blue and green eye shadows, a lot of artificial lashes and heavy black eyeliner.
If we wish to peer into the future, we must study the past. After all, makeup is constantly changing because it is a definite reflection of the times - the social, political and economic climate in which we live. The past is the best yardstick to measure the future, even in the world of makeup. For example, when women took steps toward what would ultimately become the feminist movement of the late '60s by going to work during World War II, they felt emancipated, bold and somewhat extravagant, and so they wore very red lip colors. It was a society that was pulling together to fight a world war. The country was united. When the war ended, people slipped into tranquil, idyllic lives in suburban homes, behind white picket fences. Society became more homogenized and makeup reflected the desire for perfection and oneness.
The '50s was adecade of innocence and sophistication. It was Loretta Youngtwirling through a TV doorway in a weekly array of dazzling evening gowns. It was the all-American dream families of TV's Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver. It was the Father Knows Best era. It was the last decade in which society still attempted to emulate the perfection they had witnessed in the movies and on the television screen.
There's a line in the movie "Sunset Blvd" that Gloria Swanson utters-. "We had faces." She was referring to the early days of films. And it was true. During the '30s, '40s and even into the '50s the people who represented style, fashion and makeup were actors. And they did have faces-incredibly chiseled, classic, perfect faces. The photographers of those days knew how to photograph them, knew how to work with light and shade, how to bring out the best in those faces. There was an inherent amount of diffusion in the photography that permitted makeup artists and photographers to use more makeup to hide flaws and to make the best of those faces. There's no longer a need for that kind of perfection.
Perhaps it was the Vietnam War and the rebellion that accompanied it, but by the late '60s, the trend in movies was toward rougher-edged faces. A gritty reality began surfacing in movies and the smooth perfection of the previous eras was cast aside. There were hippies who either wore no makeup at all or wore a white lip color. The '60s also marked the beginning of the use of liquid (rather than pancake) makeup. Other than those trends, the cosmetic applications of the time consisted of layovers from the '50s - blue and green eye shadows, a lot of artificial lashes and heavy black eyeliner.
In the early '70s, after the Vietnam War ended, makeup applications retained the use of eyeliner, but it was a softer, less drawn-on liner and lashes looked more natural. In the mid-'70s all of the light, pastel lip colors were abandoned. Toward the end of the '70s artificial lashes were also relegated to the past as a desire to return to the tranquility of the '50s began to surface among the bell-bottom set.
During the '80s, makeup became more natural and earthier, thanks to the earth-tones we still use today. Then, in the mid-'80s, in a trend that also continues, music videos began replacing film as the major influence on makeup for more rebellious young people.
As the '80s began, it was the neo-punk/Gothic movement, with its black lip color and very pale faces that defined style.
With the advent of MTV everyone in the age group from 16 to 26 began copying the avant-garde makeup they saw in the Robert Palmer videos, with the red-lipped, retro-'40s look. This is not unusual. There have always been makeup and fashion trends in the various age groups that make our culture. In the '70s, the disco set created the fashion tone of the moment. As the '80s began, it was the neo-punk/Gothic movement, with its black lip color and very pale faces that defined style. There has always been an anti-establishment sector of society comprised of people who refuse to fall into the norm and go to the extreme with eccentric, trendy makeup applications. They paint themselves up with purple lips and pale faces, black eyelids, in an attempt to stand out and visually state: 'I don't like what's going on and I don't really care what you think about the way I look." It's a cosmetics rebellion that seems to be a trend among women and men within the ages of 16 to 26, and I have no reason to believe it will not continue.
Now, as the '90s recede and we approach the new millennium, music and television have become far more influential on style and fashion than film. Daytime TV soap operas and many of Aaron Spelling's series, like Beverly Hills 90210, have become today's new glamour code, offering a revitalized portrait of makeup perfection which was once in the domain of motion pictures. Today, makeup is a smorgasbord of various applications ranging from trendy to punk, Gothic to natural yet glamorous beauty makeup.
Today, the natural colors of the '60s and '70s are no longer used. The natural colors now are earthy pastel tones and deep dark metallics in exotic tones worn by more rebellious women. They are confidently wearing very bold, very dark colors in grayed tones that do not reflect a lot of light. This should continue into the new millennium. A trend has also begun toward a reduction in the use of shading; and I believe there will be a complete eradication of shading after the year 2000.
In the new millennium, makeup will be more conservative, more natural, not as colorful, with a tendency toward more drab, darker earth-tone colors and bolder wardrobe colors. Even metallic tones are going to be deep and dark colors that will absorb, rather than reflect light. The trend has already begun as these looks have been seen at fashion shows in Italy and in France as little as a year ago. It's beginning to really take hold, although this look has not yet reached the Scandinavian countries. Because of the nature of the weather most of the year, Scandinavians have a tendency to gravitate toward brighter, bolder colors in makeup and conservative wardrobe colors. Women in Mediterranean countries are just the opposite. They use more low-key, understated makeup and vibrant wardrobe colors.
A good cosmetic company will try to understand what's going on in each country and analyze the various cultures in order to cater to them in an effort to not alienate any one group. For example, consider the manner in which TV and film makeup is applied in North America compared to the way it is used in Mexico City. The differences are dynamic. What is considered to be natural makeup there would be considered exotic here. So it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what the colors will be in for the entire world, since the so-called 'this year's colors" differ from country to country.
After the year 2000, I envision a change from clear tones, which are clean colors, towards more muddies tones.
One thing is clear though: right now there's a universal tendency to divide everything in half. For instance, there are women who gravitate toward a natural look versus those who lean toward an exotic look. We are going in two directions at the same time. As a result, cosmetic companies have chosen to cater to one group or the other, not both.
My feeling has always been that if you only cater to one preference, then you are eliminating sales from other one. And, let's face it, the keyword is selling. This is why we should not neglect women who still enjoy a more natural, light, clean and airy look, even though the majority of our new millennium colors are going to be deep, dark, grayed tones.
Until now, makeup applications have been clean, balanced and neatly done. Eyeliner is normally a fine line slightly blended so that it appears to be an equally balanced line of smoky shadow around the eyes. However, what I see in the next millennium is less care given to whether or not the makeup looks neat or balanced. I also see makeup being put on with the pads of one's fingers rather than the specialized brushes and applicators women are using because life is moving faster than ever and time is going to be a major factor in how makeup is applied in the next millennium. I think this will happen around the world. People are moving faster, yet they have increasingly less free time.
I also see the use of artificial eyelashes returning, but strangely, I don't see them being applied to the upper lid. I only see lower lashes being extended. I have a feeling that the fashion world is going to begin to see a lot of lower lash and lower mascara application and lower drop shadow application, which is a more piercing look, a more rebellious I'm-seeing- right-through-you or a don't-screw-with-me kind of appearance. I'm not saying women won't be using mascara on their upper lashes, but I do see greater concentration on the lower line, which is interesting because this application technique can take a woman in any direction she chooses. It can make her look more acceptable in a conservative way or it can be done more extravagantly to create a more exotic appearance. Accompanying this trend, eye shadows are going to be darker and harsher in appearance. Again, this is for women drawn to a more exotic looking makeup.
What we've seen in the past is exotic makeup applications that have been bold, strong, and highly contrasted. They've been perfectly balanced and have followed specific lines. Now, I believe women are going to be smudging makeup onto their faces and working more quickly. I don't think that natural looks will feature obvious demarcation lines. However, within the group of women who prefer the look of black lips and very pale faces-I call it the vampire strata of trendy-there will be a lot of demarcation lines. The same will be true of older women who prefer a trendier look. Makeup application will be blended out with the fingers, rather than brushes, for a more balanced look. The same will be true of eyeliner, which is going to be a little thicker. I also believe there will be a tendency to move away from a very matte, powdered look toward increased coverage, and perfection, but not a heavy look.
Today, there's greater latitude in television and film lighting and photographic processes. Modem film stocks improved acceptance of light reflection now allows film to show makeup as it is, whereas in the past, light reflection caused distortion. As a result of these improved processes, the camera is now more readily able to accept colors and makeup types that have a certain amount of iridescence.
I think that as we move into the next century we as a society are feeling very cautious and that cosmetics will reflect this desire to be careful, to be neutral, as we feel our way into a new world. After the year 2000, I envision a change from clear tones, which are clean colors, toward more muddied tones. For instance, the brown colors that are on the market today are clear browns. I believe the future of those colors will be for them to be mixed with gray, to create a more drab tone. It will pull out the earthiness of the color, making a more ashy-brown shade.
Since time is going to remain a precious commodity, I definitely see a trend toward simplification of every area of our lives, including makeup application techniques. As a result, I think women are not going to want to spend a great deal of time with the intricacies of fine detail. What we are already seeing in the '90s is that women want to get their makeup done faster. They are embracing a look that is more-I can't say natural-but more "thrown on," instead of the intricately planned professional application techniques we've seen in the past. So, in the future I'm seeing "sloppier' looking makeup, whereby women are going to simply run their fingers over a dry, light-colored cheek color and then just rub it across the top of their cheekbones. They'll slightly rub it in, but they are not going to blend it out like they have in the past.
The easier makeup is to apply, and the faster you are able to get results from the makeup, the better that makeup is going to be considered.
New millennium makeup will allow women to achieve results very rapidly in a world that is already gaining speed as it races toward the year 2000.
Joe Blasco, founder of Joe Blasco Cosmetics, began his study of makeup at the age of seven. He is an innovator of the 'bladder technique' utilized in films to depict transformations showing bubbling and bulging skin effects. Over the years, he has worked for numerous Hollywood studios, increasing his knowledge of makeup in the film and television industries. His celebrity clients have included Rona Barrett, Dorothy Lamore, Ann Miller, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Wayne Newton, Rick Springfield, Gloria Vanderbilt, Linda Carter, Shirley McClain, Barbara Steele, Peggy Lee, Bette Midler, Olivia Newton-John, Lauren Bacall, Carol Burnett, and the late Orson Welles.