Since early times, humans have used cosmetics and makeup in different ways. From early modern humans and their body paints to pigments used by people from different cultures, especially Asian and middle eastern cultures. These pigments found their way into daily lives, from young people satisfying their curiosity to women using cosmetics for patterns and symbolisms.
At the Makeup Museum in New York City, you will find these fragments of history on display, perfect for anyone who wants to delve into the past or learn about how different cultures, centuries, and fashion trends have affected makeup. A 5000-year-old kohl jar from ancient Egypt is one of the museum’s oldest exhibits, and the newest ones can be as recent as a few months ago. They also display artefacts and accessories from Marilyn Monroe’s time.
Just like any other pieces of history, some of these live on. Brands like Pond’s, Nivea, and Revlon continue to make some of their signature products as they’ve expanded to fit into the modern fashion and makeup standards and recent trends. Among old cans of lipsticks, puff powder and rusting jars of eyeliner from the 1970s, you’re sure to find something you wish you could take home, or maybe a recommendation you’ll end up using for a few decades.
When not on display, these products are stored in special temperature and humidity conditions and must be handled with care. It is fascinating that they’re still preserved so well. I think having these products on display is a different perspective to history than the one we typically get in textbooks. It is interesting seeing what life was like for people back in the day and the impact these little products made on them. It is just as interesting to see how styles changed to adapt to the wars and revolutions that were going on, as well as the more extravagant eras. This can also help us compare our own lifestyles to the ones from decades ago, reflecting on how much has changed.
Fashion is also something that has a huge part to play in these circumstances. Just how makeup trends and cosmetics find their way into people’s lives in different ways, fashion has changed so much. It’s interesting seeing the different styles people have adapted over the years, imagining what life was like for women in corsets and at least four layers of clothing. If you’re ever curious about these topics, social media has a growing community of fashion influencers dedicated to showing pieces of vintage fashion and cosmetics that I’ve found quite interesting.
For now, preserving these fragments not only highlights their beauty and the fact that they’re frozen in time, but also their importance to us and the future.