Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Ageless Art Deco

The 1920s heralded a new age of glamour and saw the beginnings of our ever-growing obsession with youthfulness. The fashion for face lifts started at this time and, in 1927 (according to the Literary Digest), New York based dermatologist, Dr Charles F Pabst, advocated legislation to save American women from the effects of their “frantic and artificial efforts to make themselves beautiful”.

He argued that “The skin of a civilized man – and woman – is a delicate organ, as delicate as the heart, which works 24 hours a day, adjusting the temperature of the body, keeping infection from entering. It requires little external aid except daily washing in lukewarm water with a mild soap…”

He continued…“ The French Government recently adopted a law…in the French colonies, against mutilating the skin by the barbarous scarring of faces, stretching of lips and slashing the body. For such practices, in which the savages indulge in their mistaken pursuit of what they consider beauty, the French now impose jail sentences and fines…” Pabst felt that the US Government should follow this example and pass a similar law to affect women undergoing facial surgery, only making the punishment much harsher – to account for the fact that “the American woman has civilization and education on her side and yet she indulges in more savage methods of mutilating her skin.”

It would be really fascinating to hear the views of any of the pioneering ladies who underwent face lifting procedures during the 1920s or ‘30s, though I doubt that many, if indeed any, are still alive today. I suspect that nowadays, if you can afford plastic surgery, it might be considered much more daring and individual to refuse to succumb to the surgeon's knife.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty of surviving evidence of the labours of past female beautification in the form of unique and timeless treasures from the Art Deco era. At ShopCurious, we’ve some fabulously stylish 1930s hand held mirrors and dressing table sets, as well as a vintage Art Deco manicure set in its original ruched-silk lined, papier mache box.

From the 1920s onwards, the first beauty parlours also started to appear. Prior to the '20s, it wasn’t thought at all proper for ‘nice girls’ to use cosmetics. By the way, if you’re curious to know more about authentic 1920s and ‘30s style makeup, I’ll be revealing some unusual non-invasive beauty secrets of the time in my next blog.

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