It is remarkable how much the standard of beauty can change in a short period of time and how the evolution of those trends progresses. In a decade or less, something that is considered ugly can become beautiful and something that is coveted can become an embarrassment. This applies to not only features, but the balance of fat in different parts of the body, and even the makeup that is worn. What drives this can be a mystery – but it is definitely driven in large part by the media and celebrity influencers.
Makeup Trends Come And Go
If you look back over the course of human history, adornment and makeup has been a big part of it. The earliest makeup was made out of natural materials that were easily accessible and could help to accentuate features. When we look back at those earliest images they look exaggerated and extreme – certainly outside of the boundaries of what we would consider beautiful today. It was also extremely dangerous, as noted by BHCosmetics.com:
Women of the ancient world, uneducated about safe beauty practices, often went to extreme lengths for the sake of beauty. Using berries to darken the lips was a safe enough practice. However, some homemade cosmetics involved the use of mercury, lead, arsenic, and leeches to achieve the pale beauty deemed appropriate during those times. It’s safe to say we have long since recognized the need for safe products for our beauty needs and general health.
- History of Cosmetics – The history of cosmetics spans at least 7,000 years and is present in almost every society on earth.
- History of Makeup – Over the centuries, women used burnt matches to darken their eyes, berries to stain their lips and young
Obviously these early trends are no longer in the mix, but plenty of others are. Just take a look at magazine covers that span the decades from the 1950s with heavy rouge, red lipstick, and heavily painted eyebrows to the 1980s with heavy blue eyeshadow, streaks of red blush, and eyeliner. Neither of these are particularly en vogue today. What is, according to the beauty industry leader BAZAAR, is much more subtle: “When you think spring makeup, you probably think of glowing and dewy skin, bronzed cheeks, and shades of pretty pastels. The spring 2019 runways had all those things—but it also had pops of electric pink of the lips and lashes, flecks of golden glitter, and metallic foiled lips.
Facial Features Mark Beauty Trends
Makeup is one thing. Actual facial features are entirely another. And while we think of universal markers of beauty – such as large eyes, a small nose, high cheekbones and full lips – this hasn’t always been the case. Those TSLMS members who are in the business of altering and enhancing facial features understand this well, as they actually see the trends come, go and morph over time.
The Washington Post published a really good piece on this in 2017, in which they point out that while there are some truly beautiful-across-the-ages faces, much of what we consider beautiful ebbs and flows, and even classic beauty is not really so:
History shows that standards of beauty are constantly changing. Most everyone agrees that certain women — Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman — are truly beautiful. But what actually constitutes beauty in any given era is very complex. “Faces go in and out of fashion,” says Diana Vreeland, special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Yet it is the link between fashion and politics that seems to determine beauty standards.
As Bruce F. Norton, political science professor at American University, says: “What is considered a beautiful face is often influenced by what is going on in society.”
The post-war optimism of the 1950s, for example, produced Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds. “Sweet enough to be edible,” quips Kobal. And then in the 1960s there was more concern with social protest and idealism than with feminine decorations. This, says Norton, created an atmosphere that could easily foster the androgynous face of Twiggy.
Today a segment of youth disenchanted with society is distinguished by the whitened faces, pastel hair and blackened eyes reminiscent of the German cabarets of the 1930s.
But the punk look is clearly a minority standard. For most people, a key feature of beauty today is the good-health look.
“What all beautiful women today have in common is an obvious look of health,” says Andrea Robinson, beauty editor of Vogue. “Even a model’s skin tone implies she leads a healthy life. This is the look today’s women try to achieve.”
As Scavullo explains of the models he photographs: “Their facial contours are perfect, they have big, intelligent eyes, and a mane of hair. They are healthy. Full of energy.”
The “healthy-is-beautiful” trend started some two decades ago, when the pale lips and heavily made-up eyes — the rebellious, Left Bank of Paris look of the 1960s — gave way to a natural, healthy image enhanced by good food, workout gyms.
Thus, it should be no surprise to any of us when we see men and women, with features that were not thought of as beautiful, showing up on the covers of magazines and in movies.
Body Trends Through the Ages
Much like facial and makeup trends, body trends can vary dramatically. The amount of fat in and around, or size of body features, like breasts and buttocks, that are considered ideal are very rarely static. Even CNN takes note of this. The news outlet published an interesting piece that details how the ideal woman has changed throughout recorded human history. It is well worth a read and a view, as it reflects not only on these changes over time but also on what those changes mean.
The moral of this is that image and the ideal is constantly changing. So, as practitioners of the aesthetic, we should be on our toes and constantly evolving our practice and skills as well. TSLMS annual meeting and conference, SCALE Music City is designed to help with that. We will see you in Nashville, where together we can explore today’s trends and look for hints at what the future will bring.