Make-Up in the 70′s

Make Up in the 1970′s

One of my illicit pleasures in the ’70s, while still only a schoolgirl, was stealing a peek in my Mum’s Cosmopolitan magazine. It was strictly forbidden of course, being ‘unsuitable’ for me, and kept hidden in Mum’s bedroom . Inside were pages of gloss and glamour, hints at risqué activities I could only guess about, the odd nude body, and arty shots of models with beautifully made-up faces. I remember seeing a feature on Zandra Rhodes, complete with green hair and amazing make up drawn onto her face -totally unique and now quite iconic.

Glittery glam rock make-up of the early ’70s made maximum impact – not least becausemost of its main proponents were men. So David Bowie shocked our parents with ZiggyStardust, complete with full theatrical make up; Marc Bolan’s short-lived career also challenged popular stereotypes, with his long, glittery, curly hair and kohl-rimmed eyes; Alice Cooper took eyeliner to another extreme, along with dramatic face paint. Suddenly sexual ambiguity was big news and transvestism was SO not afraid to be centre-stage! But the glam look, while great for clubbing, was impractical for everyday wear. Around 1973, a new fresh-faced look became fashionable, as fitness and health crazes boomed. Suddenly, the’ no-make up look’ was in, and even though it may have required just as many products to achieve, the key was to try and look bare-faced and ‘natural’. I can remember the fuss created by something called ‘blusher’ and a ‘blusher brush’, which, when used together, had the magical effect of making you look like you’d just spent two weeks in Tenerife! Before this, it had just been Mum’s old-fashioned ‘rouge’. And when Charlie’s Angels hit the screens, every girl in our school was wearing Miners’ honey flavoured lip gloss (if I ever smell that again, I’ll be right back in the third form!).

More extremes were to come with punk and its shocking, aggressive, stark make up. Safety pins found a new use, swastikas were painted onto shaved heads, all notions of taste and decency were assaulted and challenged. My punk friends got into trouble at school for home piercings and outlandish black and red make-up; this was exactly what they were hoping for! As the ’70s came to a close though, I most remember dressing up to go clubbing. With new romantic music coming to the fore, along with the upcoming trend for pop videos, there was a definite sense of ‘posing’ when getting made up to go out on the town. Different from the outrageousness of glam rock, but definitely flaunting a ‘look’, hours were spent applying foundation, powder, mascara, liners and gloss. Looking back now, it seems unfair that the 1970s have been dubbed by some critics: ‘the decade that style forgot’. Certainly impossible to categorise it neatly and amix of extremes, make-up in the ’70s was not to be ignored. But more than any timebefore, it set new boundaries as to what was acceptable both for men and for women.

© Anne Lawrence 2008