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the history of beauty & how beauty inspires fashion trends


A funny thing happens you know, when one succumbs to leading a minimalist lifestyle: the cream floats to the top. Just last year I had an innumerable amount of distractions vying for my attention, acting as an ally to my impulsive emotions like jealousy and fear, but certainly playing enemy to my true desires for simplification and being my true self. Once I finally removed myself from a fester pool of completely unnecessary habits, actions, materials, information, and annoyances, my flaws and imperfections had their 15 minutes. The abstract concept of beauty instantly became my focus and there was nowhere for my insecurities to hide. One doesn't need a magnifying mirror to be reintroduced with the blemishes and features that completely disillusion us into thinking we are less of a person with them around. For many women of color that could be their nose, their melanin genes, and even the fact that they are "of color" to begin with. How ironic that these days even light skin women hate their noses and skin color, enough to keep the tanning and plastics business alive and kicking. And while television introduced me to the notion of going under the knife, I absolutely have never found myself even remotely interested in changing what my parents concocted, even if my Jamaican nose and chubby baby cheeks are going nowhere fast. Instead I find myself utterly yearning for a new found intimacy with my skin, nutrition, hair, and overall inner beauty.
When left with just my thoughts, I find that the most simple option is to use beauty as an accessory, not a means to envy and masochism. Now that I've cast aside such petty sins, I bask in the beauty of other women. I mean really, there is room for us all, and thinking I am the most beautiful women in the world is a waste of breath. I now have a sixth sense for just stupidly stunning women, even the most nontraditional faces are the subject of my adoration. And I wondered, in a very Carrie Bradshaw way, how did this obsession with beauty all come about anyway?


"More than the movies and of the fashion industry, rock has been a dynamic force in visual style," stated Richard Martin, former curator of the Met's Costume Institute (the very same hall of fame that I ranted about in this post). But doesn't beauty then in turn inspire or play dynamic role in fashion? So where does it all begin? What were the very first inspirations in beauty that are now setting major designer trends? In the game of chicken and the egg, it would be interesting to know which came first, fashion or beauty. Some would argue the latter, because if rock inspired beauty, and beauty triggers fashion, is it that we we are all stuck in the London 60's era?


BEAUTY REVOLUTION

Over the course of centuries beauty has served as our societal mirror. Through such ages as racism, war, rationing, gender roles and women's rights, beauty is the medium that portrayed our looks of destruction, refinement, anti-beauty, heroin chic, multicultural, and androgyny to name a few. All of which you will find in current fashion trends. It is safe to say that individual beauty didn't exist in the first half of the century. Trends were mimicked by either emulating corseted aristocratic women piling on false hair with painted faces to look natural in the 1910's or copying the short dresses, short hair, smoky eyes, and thin bodied exotic beauties of the post-war 1920's when cinema style spread like wildfire. That new industry called Hollywood continued to supply in the beauty demands. After the rise of the Great Depression, beauty was the source of fantasy. Jean Harlow, the first woman ever to dye her hair blond back in the 30's, claimed a look that is forever associated with Hollywood Glamour (Old Hollywood Glamour to the youngsters). Afterwards, during WWII, women put their foot down in the home front. What is now known as the bombshell pin-up look was purely to gain the adoration of men. Superstars like Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth wowed us with their uber-feminine long, full, curly hair, doe eyes and sultry lips. They sported risque short shorts and body-con fashions unabashedly.

To much contesting of Coco Chanel, it was Dior with his New Look of refinement and restriction via French Couture, that left women with slicked back hair and over painted faces featuring dramatic arched brows after WWII. All the while, Chanel gave women their freedom and opted for more natural beauty and individualism. This freedom of beauty triggered what can now be call the independent woman movement. Diane von Furstenberg and Donna Karan dominated with their power dressing from the 70's to the 90's; it was the ideal look for everyday working girls. Slight variances occurs while mothers were still emulating the June Cleaver meets Bridget Bardot housewife and daughters matriculated Hepburn meets Madonna.

The pinnacles of these two generations escalated their differences when Jackie O became first lady with her sophisticate modern style while the Stones and Beatles were swinging away London punk rock icons like Twiggy. The 1970's welcomed the most questionable and unidentifiable trends to date. On one end you had gypsy wanna-be's with romanticism in their minds and super straight or super feathered hair while others still reminisced the disco, glam-rock, avante-garde trends of the past. From the 80's to the 90's, with an excess of wealth and ego came a fitness craze and power dressing like no one's business. Beauty fell natural again establishing careers for those like Bobbi Brown and her famed indispensable natural face palettes. And lest we forget the poster child of the "waif" look, Kate Moos, who was mostly photographed with no make-up throughout the last two decades, leading the youth in their anti-establishment craze of grunge and rebellion. 

After decades of societal and cultural landmarks, has beauty reached new horizons with a blend of nostalgic looks and nods to the future? Who knows. But needless to say, it's quite clear that beauty has always been the greatest influence on fashion and likewise fashion for beauty. In my quest to establish a new relationship with my face, skin, hair, and nails, it will undoubtedly be molded by current events and a heaping dose of designer fashion sprinkled with some French-woman-does-this fairy dust. Its as if no matter how hard the individual aims to be individual, she will always be someone else, if even a little bit.


What do you think? Are you getting your beauty cues from fashion, or some godly innate source? Do tell!

5 comments

  1. You really know your subject. Good post.

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  2. Wow, textbook-level research. Bravo.

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  3. Great post...
    My favorite fashion trend is the 60's!
    Audrey Hepburn.. and Grace Kelly

    Muack..
    Great Blog...

    Muack

    http://desayunoconholly.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very nice and complete post! I think what's interesting is to see how beauty standards changed over the years - and made fashion change as well. I guess they fuel each other in a way. A certain beauty standard calls for a certain fashion, and as fashion evolves it makes beauty evolve, which makes fashion evolve again etc.

    What I'm wondering is, first, how can a woman like her own body, no matter how far from the moment's beauty standard? And second, how cultural is this beauty standard? Is it really universal? I remember when I went to Japan, their big thing was to put on whitening creams and avoid sun like the plague in summer, as tan wasn't considered beautiful - and that has been the case in Japan for centuries - whereas here in France, and I guess in the US as well, most women are looking to tan their skin in summer, some even go to UV salons...

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