What Is Our Blue Eyeshadow?

10 Sep

When watching an old movie, how long does it take you to pinpoint the decade?  How long before you can identify the year?  Maybe I possess a (previously unidentified) talent, but I can guess the time period in about 2-3 minutes.  The women are the very first barometer.  Even in a women’s prison film, the style of dress, eyebrow and shoe should speak volumes.  If there are no women handy, men will do.  Hair, hats, cut of the pants, will all point to a decade if not a year.  For the more advanced player, do try a period film.  Cleopatra is a good example of such an exercise.  I’m no anthropologist, but I’m going to venture that there was no blue eyeshadow before the common era.

Parlor games aside, I am struck by the notion that I can not identify any style of dress or hair after the 1980s.  Of course I can still pinpoint a film’s time period.  Sort of.  By the cars and size of the mobile phones.  But the fashion and style?  Not really.  I would be willing to concede that one never notices what will eventually become iconic, while actually living in the period.  But, and this is a big but; I am referencing over 20 years of indistinguishable style and fashion!  If you don’t believe me, try it yourself.  Your assignment is to describe to me a working woman in 1998.  What is she wearing?

Now, I don’t necessarily think a loss of iconic time specific style will be the death of our society.  I just wonder how it happened.  Is it the result of cheaper mass marketed clothing?  Perhaps this is what comes from sanitizing the design process for competitive cable television?  Is it the result of brand worship?  Did America even know which shoes to fetishisize before the 1990s? Perhaps it is more positive: could it be that the fashion playing field has become so democratic that there is not one style we can pinpoint as that of a recent decade.  Or, is fashion now like public behavior; anything goes?  Does a generation of women who think nothing of styling their hair in public (often in the vicinity of my dinner) feel a specific style would stifle her spontaneous, chip clip creativity?  Is style just too committal?

Life will go on, no doubt.  But it makes me a little sad, that in my doterage, when I turn on my subcutaneous video imagery receptor and watch a film from my “youth” I won’t be able to imagine myself in the time period.


Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Style


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3 responses to “What Is Our Blue Eyeshadow?

  1. Jen

    September 13, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Well, that explains your ability to instantly correct me when I stupidly said that “Istar” was made in the 70s 🙂

    I saw myself recently in a photo from the 1990s. I was wearing a “granny skir” (long, tiered). It made me look really fat. Within the last decade, I do remember getting rid of lots of pants that were loose fitting, but pegged (?) or narrow at the ankles, and some with pleats around the waist. I It’s true– I really don’t remember much about 90’s style…

    • brendatobias

      September 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

      An hysterical and brave confession! Remind me to tell you sometime of how I came to finally purchase a full-length mirror. It involves inadvertently leaving the house as a patriotic clown.

  2. The Editor

    September 12, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    The eye shadow -and a lot else in the costumes design from that film- were a bit dramatic, but ladies (Egyptian ladies) were advent makeup wearers and are well known for using -what is considered today- highly unconventional resources for production. Most famous for using galena as a Kohl to create the almond eye, they also used henna leaves -combined with various minerals- to create different shades of eye shadow and nail polish. Egyptians were excessively royal, and used their elaborate beauty regimens and physical decoration to distinguish themselves in society, as just that (royal).

    The nineties had various trends and style niches, but is most highlighted for lost of black, minimalism and grunge, and was simplistically contemporary. The early 2000’s (up until 08 when we delved into our nostalgia) were noted for scantily mini shorts, cropped tops, applique denim, military chic and orientalism.

    Not to confuse trends with style, the trends you mentioned died with those decades and those that were life’style’ have evolved with the times, par usual. If there were no niche styles today, designers would not have marketing teams or any consumers to appeal to -which are both intact.

    Also I also love looking at films from different periods and picking out the styles and trends of that time. While the ‘early’ nineties (still somewhat eighties) and rest of the decade can be challenging to decipher, it’s fun for that reason. The transition period into the twenty first century is best! And I’m hoping in this second decade we become more modern, and stay that way.

    I really love this post!!!


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