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The Actual Story Behind The Cat-Eye Flick, The World’s Oldest Make-Up Trick

The cat-eye flick is undoubtedly probably the most highly effective make-up statements of all time. The sultry, feline-inspired magnificence go-to has been made a method signature by many, from the queens of historic Egypt to its modern-day incarnations on the SS21 exhibits of Dior, Valentino, and Chloé.

From cultural traditions to well-known interpretations worn by display legends Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor, Vogue charts the fascinating historical past of the long-lasting winged-eyeliner look.

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The origins of the cat-eye flick

The cat-eye is among the oldest make-up tips on this planet, relationship again to historic Egypt (from 3100 BC to 332 BC). The look was mentioned to have been made fashionable by the likes of Nefertiti and later, Cleopatra, who used minerals comparable to copper ore and malachite to create both thick traces etched from the attention upwards to the hairline, or little flicks that stretched out parallel to the forehead. The type was additionally fashionable amongst males, as exemplified by Pharaoh Seti I.

Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, a portrait of a bust by Thutmis 1360 BC.

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Based on magnificence historian and Make-up Museum co-founder Doreen Bloch, kohl and minerals have been worn across the eyes for well being causes. “Kohl had immunological and antibacterial properties that supported eye well being and minimised glare from the solar,” she tells Vogue. “So, historic Egyptians, particularly the ruling class, would use this beauty for well being advantages, and lined their eyes accordingly.” Samples of make-up from historic Egypt on show on the Louvre have been discovered to comprise nitric oxide, which is alleged to assist revitalise the immune system.

In addition to for well being causes, girls wore a cat-eye as a method of averting evil spirits. “Ladies used kohl liner for hundreds of years as safety in opposition to the evil eye,” says Make-up Museum co-founder and celeb make-up artist Rachel Goodwin. “However, like most issues, the observe developed right into a method of signifying social standing, ultimately changing into the last word signal of magnificence for each ladies and men of all ranks.”

Although the concept of the cat eye is believed to have its roots in historic Egypt, there have been additionally each delicate and excessive types seen in women and men in historic Asia and the Center East, relationship again to 3000 BC. Within the latter, for instance, crushed-up kohl (constituted of lead sulfide and different minerals combined with water) was used across the eyes as a way of safety from the tough desert local weather.

A re-emergence within the ’20s

Within the west, the story of the cat-eye as we all know it started within the ’20s, with inimitable French entertainer Josephine Baker carrying the type throughout her intoxicating dance performances. Elsewhere, actresses Louise Brooks and Greta Nissen wore it for his or her red-carpet appearances, teamed with high-volume lashes and thin brows.

Josephine Baker, circe 1928.

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“The discoveries of things from historic Egypt [in the ’10s and ’20s], such because the bust of Queen Nefertiti, put kinds and appears from a bygone period into the general public consciousness,” explains Bloch. “Films comparable to 1917’s Cleopatra, starring Theda Bara, confirmed the cat-eye worn by a modern-day famous person. As cosmetics turned extra acceptable to be used by mainstream girls, eyeliner turned extra prevalent.”

The look led to a way of theatre, thriller, and exoticism, which tied in with the rebellious flapper trend of the time, as girls have been shedding their restrictive clothes and chopping their hair brief. Throughout this era, soot and Vaseline have been combined collectively to create the eyeliner.

Recreated by mid-century icons

The cat-eye was the type du jour through the ’50s and ’60s, with girls making it a part of their on a regular basis type. Much less dramatic than that of the ’20s, pin-up icons comparable to Hedy Lamarr would put on delicate, skinny flicks of winged liner each on-screen and off.

Marilyn Monroe photographed at dwelling in Hollywood, California, Might 1953.

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The ’50s noticed the mass manufacturing and commercialisation of make-up, and the invention of liquid eyeliner. “That innovation, plus film make-up artists Max Issue, Ben Nye and the Westmores utilizing the type on Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, and Audrey Hepburn, helped outline a complete new period in magnificence,” says Goodwin.

Sophia Loren photographed on a terrace on the Canal Grande, Venice, 1955.

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In Italy, among the largest film stars of the ’60s, comparable to Sophia Loren, captivated audiences with their very own model: swiped-on inky black, with heavy lashes and darkish brown or blue shadow worn to the crease. “There’s a classic ’50s commercial from magnificence model Borghese, which speaks to Italian girls about ‘a brand new eye look referred to as ‘cat's eye’,” explains Bloch.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra.

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In the meantime, British mannequin Twiggy gave the impression a space-age twist along with her graphic traces and feathered decrease lashes. There was additionally Elizabeth Taylor, whose flip as Cleopatra in Hollywood’s 1963 epic solely strengthened its overwhelming reputation. And, lastly, mannequin Pattie Boyd, who in 1965 wrote a magnificence column for US journal 16, on how one can excellent the delicate cat-eye flick.

Sweeping by means of music and youth tradition

The cat-eye took a flip within the ’70s and ’80s as youth tradition exploded, with punks, goths, grunge lovers, and steel followers taking the look and making it their very own. Blondie’s lead singer Debbie Harry wore a smudgy, messy cat-eye within the ’80s, and her followers adopted swimsuit, as did fellow rockstar Pat Benatar.

Debbie Harry and her band Blondie pose for a portrait to advertise their debut album Blondie in 1976.

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Model pioneers Grace Jones and David Bowie performed with feline shapes and combined new colors with bolder lashings of blush to amp it up much more. Bowie was recognized to make use of Indian kohl round his eyes, usually lining the lashes and sweeping up barely. “I at all times had a repulsive form of should be one thing greater than human,” he as soon as instructed Rolling Stone of his make-up utility.

Twiggy poses with David Bowie for the duvet of his Pin Ups album, 1973.

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Elsewhere, Siouxsie Sioux experimented with sharp traces and graphic shapes, as did Robert Smith of The Treatment. Egyptian actress Soad Hosny was additionally keen on a feline flick, as was China-born Singaporean star Gong Li, particularly within the early days of her profession within the ’80s and ’90s.

Grace Jones. 

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By the point the 2000s rolled round, the cat-eye was divided into two camps. Amy Winehouse took the basic look and blew up its proportions with a heavy-handed wing that prolonged previous the eyebrow. Different celebs, comparable to Lauren Conrad on US actuality TV present Laguna Seashore, went for a way more delicate model.

Amy Winehouse, February 2008.

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“The early 2000s turned a time on this planet the place there was instantly lots of nostalgia for the Golden Age of Hollywood,” says Goodwin. “Ladies comparable to Gwen Stefani and Dita Von Teese started paying homage to their magnificence icons. The cat-eye was moved ahead and reframed by means of a reverent and rebellious lens."

Iterations on the runway and social media

Right this moment, make-up artists comparable to Pat McGrath, Fatima Thomas, and Isamaya Ffrench are refining the form for a contemporary era. At Chloé spring/summer time 2021, McGrath lined the fashions’ eyes in a smoky, sultry, elongated cat eye, which prolonged from the underside waterline. In the meantime, at Chromat, Thomas did duochrome neon in cobalt blue and highlighter inexperienced.

For Dior, Peter Philips executed a thick but minimal look that wrapped across the total eye. At Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, Ffrench used exaggerated white-and-black pigment and drew ’80s-inspired winged traces in direction of the temples. Make-up artists are taking the standard cat-eye to new heights, making it each customisable and adaptable to the prevailing temper of whoever is carrying it.

Chloé SS21.

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On social media, magnificence Instagrammers comparable to Juliana Horner create artworks based mostly on the straightforward cat-eye, as does directional make-up artist Rowi Singh. A seek for ‘cat-eye’ on Instagram will get 2.6m outcomes, proof of its reputation, and also you’ll see the basic form lined in rhinestones, purple and orange flames, cloud motifs, chunks of glitter, and even flower petals.

“The most important evolution of the cat eye is that in contrast to previous eras the place it symbolised social standing or conformity, it now symbolises the full reverse,” says Goodwin. “The cat-eye of as we speak is far more versatile, and it strikes with ease between basic magnificence functions and subculture with completely no irony.”

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