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Student Resources The Face of The Century
100 Years of Makeup and Style

by Kate de Castelbajac

reviewed by Lanajean Vecchione

November Review -
(reprinted from Vintage! of the federation of Vintage Fashion - Winter 1997)


Style is more than just clothing and accessories. Face of The Century by Kate de Castelbajac demonstrates that what women put on their faces throughout history has as much significance as their garments.

A natural companion to vintage fashion lovers, this book eloquently ties social culture into the evolution of the cosmetics industry. The development of science, historical events, and the changing roles of women have all had an impact.

Castelbajac starts at the turn of the century when few cosmetics were commercially produced, a time when corks were burned, the ashes used as eye shadow. The final chapter summarizes beauty antidotes of today, leading to the fad for skin dermabrasion, which leaves one bloody yet takes years, not to mention layers, off a face.

Face of the Century is an excellent resource, loaded with page after page of interesting facts. It also introduces beauty pioneers like Eugene Schuller, the French chemist who created synthetic hair color and Harriet Hubbard, the US woman who imported the manicuring trade from France 1870. There's plenty of historical background here, much of it centered on early female entrepreneurs.

More than just biography, the 192 page volume traces the rise of the beauty industry at each stage, describing all popular makeup trends and etiquette by decade. Rich in detail and historically relevant, it is particularly shocking to learn what went into cosmetics and on faces prior to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

Well researched, the biography contains worldwide sources, including rare French and Japanese magazines. The book is liberally illustrated with breathtaking full color photographs, and full page vintage advertisements. Also useful is an index of cosmetic company histories (Avon, Yardley, etc.) and biographies tracing the careers of cosmetic pioneers like Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden. Organized by decade, each chapter concludes with a description of dressing table products common to the era.

Published by Rizzoli Books, 1995
300 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
ISBN 0-8478-1895-0

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