Showing posts with label Beauty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beauty. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

History Lesson on Nail Polish


Curiosity is a compelling thing. Einstein claimed he was not a genius, just exceptionally curious. I like to think I'm exceptionally curious. I wonder about the mundane, the elegant, the downright bizarre. How did the delightfully petite macarons come about? Where did the word 'serendipity' come from? However, I am certainly no genius.

Yet, here I am, another curiosity, another question: Who decided that it was aesthetically pleasing to paint a glossy coat of varnish on one's nails?

Thus, here we are: nail polish, a brief history. 

Babylonia, 3200 B.C.: a treasure trove for historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, and now beauty enthusiasts. Manicures made from kohl were first spotted in ancient royal tombs, worn by males in colors with accordance to social class. 

Around the same time, the Chinese also used nail color as a sense of self-expression and class definition. Their methods of coloring the nails were quite different than ours of today; they used egg whites, beeswax, Arabic gum and flower petals to soak their nails for hours to get the desired hue. 


The ancient Egyptians, too, were advocates of nail color, staining them with henna. Lore has it that Nefertiti and Cleopatra wore shades of red, which is only fitting. 

Jump forward to 1920, France. Michelle Menard adapted the enamel used to paint cars to a less high-tech and permanent version for nails, which was popular among flappers. Menard came to America, where she perfected her formula, which became part of a company later called Revlon. 


Thanks to Technicolor television and the immense popularity of glamorous actresses like Bette Davis (left), nail polish became an essential in the realm of high fashion. To no surprise, red was the most in vogue, as popularized by Rita Hayworth (right). 

In 1976, the French manicure debuted on the runways in Paris and was an immediate hit. The market begged for a more versatile style, and the natural look fit the bill. 

In the '70s, '80s and '90s, black nail polish was popular among the rock and punk band set, evoking their gritty style and music. 


Today, it seems anything goes. Ombre, color blocking, glitter, caviar. Nail art mimics the trends of the runway. There are dozens of blogs and websites dedicated to decking out nails. You've no doubt seen the "signature" nail art pose: a freshly painted manicure energetically gripping the new color's bottle. You can go high or low, O.P.I or Deborah Lippman, China Glaze or Dior. 

As a female, getting or giving oneself a manicure is a rite of passage. Painted nails can be seen on a three year old or an 80 year old, the effect is the same. Think about it: how many times have your nails been painted in your life?

Sources: Illustrated polish, Chinese, Egyptian, Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth, Dior

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Perfume Bottles

Can we talk about perfume bottles for a moment? 

While I'm fully aware that it's not polite to judge a book by its cover, it's impossible to say that packaging doesn't play a role in my perfume-buying practices. Yes, it's ultimately about the scent. But I can't have a hideous bottle marring my vintage mirror-and-gold vanity tray, especially since (as you may have noticed) aesthetics are a big thing for me. 


In such a competitive market, perfume packaging, along with that of other cosmetics, is of utmost importance. We've all been there: at the perfume counter, smelling samples, being helped by a pushy saleswoman (or man). After a half-dozen sniffs, they all start to smell the same. And then you sniff the coffee beans to clear your sniffer, and sniff some more, and it's all sort of just a miserable process. 


Not to suggest that we all throw our hands up and go with the prettiest bottle. Because we don't, or not entirely. For those of us whose olfactory senses are not well-attuned to the minute differences in similar perfumes, a lovely bottle sure is an easy way out. Shall we examine the good, the bad and the ugly?



Chanel No. 5 by ChanelIt was the fifth sample scent Mlle. Coco Chanel smelled on sampling for the house's first fragrance. In my opinion, it's more for the grandmotherly set, but you can't deny the classic icon that the bottle has become. And if perfume bottles could talk, not many of them could say they've been silk-screened by Andy Warhol.

Daisy by Marc Jacobs: I'm undeniably under the impression (or spell?) that Marc Jacobs can do little wrong. Starting with his namesake high-end line, to his more affordable, yet still pricey, Marc by Marc Jacobs line, to his fragrance-bottle designs. He's good. He's just too good. 


Girlfriend by Justin Bieber: I don't even like, follow, or obsess over Justin Bieber, but if I had to guess the future name of his fragrance, it would be Girlfriend. This bottle's get-up reminds me of a fashionable yet fragile bowling pin that's trying too hard.

Couture Couture by Juicy Couture: The name in itself is a mouthful. The pink-lined zipper, the crest-like topper, it's all an information overload. While an over-the-top pink princess is definitely the epitome of a "Juicy girl," this bottle might be a little too much, even for the juiciest.


Fantasy Twist by Britney Spears: To start, I will admit that my inner 90s girl loves Britney. I'm not going to lie or be ashamed about listening to the album "Oops I Did It Again" within the last month. I know that once you're a mainstream celebrity, or if you've appeared on the cover of People enough times, having a personal fragrance is essentially a rite of passage. This is bad though. Like a tacky-glamorous-Pokemon-ball bad.  A message to Brit: ditch your product designer!

Pink Friday by Nicki MinajIt was a good thought. It really was. And it's so Nicki, as in it's pink, looks like a robot and is startlingly attention-grabbing. I stared at it for a good couple minutes in the store, and came to the conclusion that if a small child all but glanced at it, there's a good chance they would run away crying.

Image sources: Chanel No. 5, Daisy by Marc Jacobs, Girlfriend by Justin Bieber, Couture Couture by Juicy Couture, Pink Friday by Nicki Minaj, Fantasy Twist by Britney Spears