BEAUTY DOWN THE AGES
Keats said ages ago ‘ A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness’; No wonder then through the eras and the ages beauty has been pursued relentlessly.
Helen of Troy and Cleopatra are perfect examples of beauty lore. Cleopatra went to great lengths to preserve and enhance her beauty. The most famous beauty tip of hers was bathing in a tub of donkey’s milk; even in this information age given a chance most women would resort to this beauty recipe!
In the excavations of ancient civilizations too women are shown wearing jewellery made of leaves and tree barks or adorning the hair with crude but ornamental head gear. Through the centuries the perception of beauty has been the same. Outward beauty has been pursued relentlessly and made a means of generating enormous income although beauty is known just to be skin deep.
Inner beauty which is the actual wealth of a woman is sidelined. If millions were invested into highlighting ways and means of increasing inner beauty and conditioning the whole persona we would be living in a Utopian world. Well it’s the commercialization of Beauty and we have to live with it so let us make the most of it.
In the Elizabethan era, Queen Elizabeth set the stage for pale complexion and red hair. All the society women aped her and used lead to make their faces pale and a lead based rouge to color their cheeks little knowing how harmful it would be to their skin.
The 18th century saw the advent of tall coiffures which used springs to make them stay in place and were in shapes of ships, gardens or even menageries. The women would reel from headaches and spend hours to get their hair done but didn’t let go of this atrocious fashion as they felt it enhanced their beauty.
The puritanical Victorian age paid less homage to make-up except maybe for a touch of powder while painted cheeks and lips were reserved for the prostitutes or actresses. But they went to great lengths to show off their narrow 18’ waists with tight corsets which seldom let them breathe easy. Narrow waists and flouncy skirts with a deep décolletage were synonymous with beauty and fashion.
The roaring twenties heralded the freedom of women with short bobbed hair. The movie stars now set the trend for the beauty. Heavy makeup made a comeback to fashion in this era. The women applied pale powder and red rouge circles to the cheeks, plucked their eyebrows and penciled them into thin arches, and lips were painted a luscious red, emphasizing the Cupid’s bow!
In the 1950’s, soon after the war the women were forced to stay at home but they hung on to the popular image of the chic homemaker doing her chores without a hair out of place! Doe eyes with lots of shadow and mascara was the style statement. The 60’s saw a complete sea change with the hippie culture and no makeup look. The 70’s was a decade of the punks with fluorescent colored spiked hair, shaved heads with tattoos and extravagant makeup. The 80’s too carried on this trend with Madonna leading the pack.
Kate Moss in the 90’s brought about the emaciated look of heroine chic….gaunt face and extremely thin body. Grunge became the style statement with long matted hair, unkempt look which fortunately didn’t last long. Our very own desi Kate Moss, Kareena Kapoor has given the size zero a cult following with girls going anorexic to get to that size. Lady Gaga finds followers in the youth brigade with her outlandish attire and hairdo replicating the 18th century.
Beauty sure does lie in the eyes of the beholder and down the ages the poise and panache with which beauty has been expressed is exemplary.