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The Twentieth Century
One Hundred Years of Eyebrow Transformation
The story of the eyebrow's progress through the twentieth century parallels the story of women's independence. In the 1920s, when women started paying attention to their faces and their freedom, brows were tweezed, narrowed, and groomed with great elan and creativity. In the 1930s, in the midst of a worldwide depression, when fairy-tale images of the Ideal, the Perfect, the Elevated were sought after to alleviate the penury of no jobs and few prospects, eyebrows were tweezed nearly into nothingness and redrawn. In the 1940s, during World War II, when women not only kept the home fires burning, they stoked the defense machine, America's wholesome Rosie the Riveters were too busy to maintain narrow, labor-intensive eyebrows, so they let them grow out. And in the postwar years, when Christian Dior's soignee New Look put women back in girdles and corsets, the eyebrow experienced its most stylish and high-maintenance decade yet. Like the Roaring Twenties, the Swingin' Sixties was another profligately free decade when creativity spawned a painted eye and a brow decorated with lace, feathers, glitter, and even diamonds. In the 1970s, the Disco Decade of Dreadful Taste, women were at their tweezers again, manicuring their brows into cramped little tadpoles or flighty commas. The Go-Go Eighties were years of more is more, and the brow took its cue from big hair and big shoulders as career women attacked boardroom doors in their power suits. And in the 1990s, the eyebrow was once again a malleable fashion accessory, designed now by superstar makeup artists who determined The Look of fashion model, trophy wife,and screen star… and, eventually, the rest of us.
The Fabulous Fifties
If ever there was a decade dedicated tot he worship and beautification of the eyebrow, it was the Fifties. Never has the brow had as much attention in all of its flagrantly full, expressive glory.
The most important component of the Fabulous Fifties face was the Diva Arch an eyebrow so totally designed that it could carry the graphic eye that sat beneath it. The eyebrow was cultivated, pampered, and manicured into a soaring arch that peaked over the exact center of the iris. It was an amused arch, an ironic arch, but mostly, it was full, generous, and considered a statement of feminine perfection. But the whole face had to be perfect, too, especially the eye and the lip.
The shape of the 1950s eye came mainly out of Paris and from the ballet tradition that involved l'oil de biche, the doe eye, which was designed by a Parisian makeup artist named Etienne Aubrey and featured prominently in American fashion magazines and on Hollywood's movie goddesses. Patently artificial and unnatural, the eye was overdrawn with a precise, thick, black line above the lashes that extend upward and outward into a wing at the end of the eye. Either the brow mirrored the shape of the eye, or vice versa. As for the lip, it was anything but neutral. (Somehow, toward the end of the century, contemporary makeup artists declared that a woman should choose between a strong eye and an obvious mouth. In the 1950s she was allowed to have both.)
What Kind of Brows Do I Have?
Before doing your own brows, it is absolutely necessary to figure out how your brow should be shaped for your particular face, eyes, and bone structure. I am not a trend person. If brows are looking sparse, shiny, or anemic on the fashion runway simply because a designer has decreed that they will be so for the next fifteen minutes, I ignore it.
At one time makeup artist Kevyn Audoin advocated tinting brows lighter than your natural hair color. And a few years ago, New York designer Todd Oldham pasted graphic, thick, black fake eyebrows on his runway models, setting off chatter in fashion magazines that a trend toward heavier, darker brows was coming. But my skill has always been designing a brow specifically for the face of the client who is in my chair. It is something you can learn to do for yourself.
Before we start, let's try an exercise.
Sit in your chair near excellent natural light and hold a plain hand mirror in front of your face to get the big picture. I always recommend a hand mirror to begin because you can hold it as close to you as possible and you won't have the barrier of your bathroom sink between you and your mirror.
Be very objective here. Analyze your brows. Are they heavy? Are they light? Do they have a natural arch in them? Do they sit on your brow bone with no arch? Do they march across your nose? Are the hairs in your eyebrows thick and plentiful, or are they sparse and thin? Do these hairs slant? Do they curl? Are they short? Is one eyebrow thicker than the other? Do your eyes look too close together? Do your brows make your expression look angry?
How your brows are shaped can change your appearance. An example: One of my clients once told me, "My eyebrows betray my innermost emotions."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," she said, "everyone says I look so angry." She had a very small face and extremely heavy brows that sat much too close together. I took out the heaviness near her nose, found her arch, and removed the hairs that obscured it. The result: Her new eyebrows opened up her face. She looked more relaxed because her brows did not appear furrowed in anxiety or anger.
Another woman told me when I cleaned up the hairs under her brows, "You've given me an instant face lift." And still another said that she looked as if she'd lost weight when I took out most of her heavy brow.
So, it is possible to change your whole look with judicious tweezing. Who knows what might happen? Changing the shape of a brow has changed the course of a career. For example, take actress Teri Hatcher (who played Superman's girlfriend, Lois Lane, on television.) When she first started out, her eyebrows were heavy and rather thick. They gave her face a naïve, innocent look, and her Girl-Next-Door roles reflected that. Then a makeup artist shaped her brow, made it narrower, discovered her gorgeous, expressive arch, and gave Hatcher a more worldly, sexy look. She went from everybody's best friend to Bombshell with a flick of the tweezer.