The use of makeup by American women grew exponentially during the first half of the twentieth century. In the beginning of the century, makeup was primarily an urban phenomenon, gradually spreading to other areas through increased marketing and a wider range of available products. By the 1940s, makeup application was a generally accepted part of a woman's daily routine. For many women, however, daily makeup consisted primarily of lipstick, rouge and powder, as the more exotic mascara and eyeshadow were worn primarily by the most daring and fashion forward women. During World War II, wearing makeup was considered almost a patriotic duty for women of the Allied nations. Despite the limitation of some ingredients due to wartime shortages, many types of makeup were widely available.
In the late 1940s, makeup colors and packaging were tuned to seasonal changes in fashion. Women began to purchase specific lipsticks or nail polish for each season, as they did clothing. Packaging was often extravagant and fanciful, as demonstrated by this late 1940s Lucien Lelong lipstick tube.
Advertisements in the New York Times from 1948 and 1949 called this the "Full Dress" lipstick. The name probably refers both to the elaborate dressiness of the packaging and to the full dress uniform of the military. In addition to the version pictured here, several other Full Dress lipsticks were produced. This version features black felt studded with simulated turquoise and pearl, while other versions featured red felt with simulated turquoise and gold studs, or black velvet and simulated pearls. This luxe packaging housed the entire family of Lucien Lelong lipsticks, including Okatea, "a vivid red tinged with a tiny bit of yellow."1
Lucien Lelong cosmetics and perfumes are renowned for their witty and elaborate packaging. Though Lelong himself had a hand in the package design, products created specifically for the North American market were probably designed by a team based in the United States. In 2006, we received a large donation of Lucien Lelong makeup and perfume ephemera created by a former US based employee of Lucien Lelong, including Full Dress and this fanciful fur covered lipstick. It also included the Golden Grotto, pictured below.
A festive confetti filled plastic case, the Golden Grotto houses 2 lipsticks and 2 perfume baguettes. The perfume and lipsticks are meant to be paired, as one of each is labeled Sirocco. The remaining lipstick and perfume are labeled Indiscret. Both names refer to popular Lelong fragrances; Sirocco was released in 1934 and Indiscret in 1935 or 1936. The box itself functions as the lipstick cap, indicating that the Golden Grotto was meant to be used only at home. The perfume baguettes have their own caps and could be tucked into a pocket or handbag for discreet application. Though the perfumes have evaporated somewhat, the lipsticks were never used.
1 Okatea lipstick advertisement. New York Times 5 April 1949: 4.