Cosmetics in the sixties, Boots and Woolworths.

My first experiment with makeup was when I was thirteen years old. I had been cruising the cosmetic counters at Woolworths and Boots for a while and decided that I needed mascara. With no money, I had been using black shoe polish. It smelled awful and was hard to remove but the effect was great. I finally purchased a cake mascara and that was it, I was hooked and any spare money I got went on makeup. I liked the mod look so I started to grow my hair, someone told me that washing hair in fairy liquid washing up liquid made it really shine and they were right.
Another home remedy for girls who backcombed their hair was to spray with a mixture of sugar and water which made a secure stiff if sticky beehive.
New cheaper cosmetics aimed at teens were appearing, so like many other schoolgirls I had to get a saturday job. My choices were Woolworths or Boots. My mum worked at Woolworths and they paid more, but I had just found out that Boots were going to be stocking the new Mary Quant cosmetics, so Boots it was.
At that time Woolworths sold the cheapest makeup, Outdoor Girl, Miners and Rimmel, Angel Face , Tangee and Ponds.

Pink! Pink! Pink!

Some of the colours were insipid and everything was too pink. The foundations in particular were an orangey pink which looked terrible on my yellowish sallow skin. Eyeshadows were nasty too, mainly blue or green. Miners did have a popular white pearly lipstick however, I still remember the smell. A brand named  Baby Doll came out, they had big spidery plastic false eyelashes the kind you see at halloween now .Their graphic ads were colourful and very attractive, I remember them well.

Courtesy of Sweet Jane Blogspot, http://sweetjanespopboutique.blogspot.ca/

Courtesy of Sweet Jane Blogspot, http://sweetjanespopboutique.blogspot.ca/

At Boots I worked on a small aisle at the front of the shop. There was just enough room for two assistants and we were incredibly busy every saturday. We sold Max Factor and Maybelline , also Eyelure false eyelashes. On another counter across the way , some snobby older ladies sold the more expensive lines of cosmetics, Helena Rubinstein, Coty and Yardley. At that time  Max Factor was the most popular, tubes of Pure Magic or Sheer Genius foundation were being sold every few minutes.
I had been looking at the Mary Quant ads for a while now, they were so new young and fresh with fantastic black and white photography.
 
I was there the day it all arrived and we unpacked it all. It did not disappoint, I especially liked the ‘Starkers’ foundation which had real skin tones. The biggest seller was a flesh coloured lipstick called ‘ Blot Out ‘ but it became a problem because it was so soft it would break as soon as it was used and so girls were always bringing it back for refund. I switched back to Max Factor’s ‘erace’, same effect and covered spots too. Now with all the tools at my disposal and a good discount too, I could experiment to my hearts content.
Cher had just arrived in Britain and I studied her makeup carefully. She like me had quite a big nose to deal with and playing up the eyes as well as growing lots of hair was definitely the way to go, and I lashed it on. Dark shadows, black creaselines, eyebrows plucked to a thin hairline. I wore
false Eyelure eyelashes, sometimes two sets, and painted on’ Twiggies’. I hollowed out my cheeks with brown powders and polished my cheek and brow bones with white pearly creams. Sometimes one of my teachers would come into the shop and I would hide in the stockroom, a saturday job was bad enough but all that makeup.  I had mostly very nice compliments from the customers and a few insults too , sold a lot of makeup and gave some instructions. My dad never liked the pale lipstick look, he said I should be wearing dark crimson lipstick. I loved painting my eyes and at school in spare moments I amused my friends by drawing made up eyes along with caricatures of all the models of the day and clothes we would love to wear. Ten years on I would be drawing them for Biba and wearing sepia,black and even crimson lipstick.

An article I designed for the Biba Newspaper.

During the summer holidays I would work at Boots full time. One day during a slow period we were cleaning up and decided to throw out an old tray of lipstick testers , I thought I might try some out . About halfway through the tray however my lips started to sting intensely, soon they were twice their usual size and I was sent home a victim of self imposed lip augmentation.
The perfumes in cosmetics were very strong back then and we often had blinding headaches at the end of the day.
We spent many hours watching the streams of Worcester characters pass through the shop, one day a conga line of people strolled through, they were from a local asylum and with some carers on a day out. They were decked out with tons of glittering jewelry, brooches , bracelets, and necklaces, even the men. They were in awe of everything and looked so happy.
I was coming to the end of my school years and I had decisions to make. I decided to get serious about art as a career and applied for a year long general art course in Worcester. Here I studied painting and art history and researched what college and course to take.

8 comments

  1. linda chaplin · · Reply

    Hi Kasia Loved reading your blog, I was not so adventurous as you in the makeup world.
    Linda

  2. Rose Mary Stewart · · Reply

    Loved reading this! I have been searching high and low for info on Miners makeup – so affordable and beloved in the 60s, packaged in their deep turquoise plastic containers. Pale pan stick, that soft, stodgy. greasy stuff, daubed over teenage spots. Eyeliner – spot of spit mixed with cake mascara and applied with a fine paintbrush. And white lipstick!!! Must’ve looked a fright.

    1. Yes the packaging was turquoise and grey with a gold ‘M’. I searched everywhere on the net for some reference and could not find a thing.

  3. Karen Elleray · · Reply

    I can remember buying a pearly green baby doll eyeshadow in a bottle from woolworths.i thought it was great even though it took ages to dry when applied.Also buying my first lipstick from Boots no.17 range called “pearly frost up” which was white.

  4. I still remember all the smells of those cosmetics vividly. I bet I could tell each brand blindfolded.
    Miners pearly white smelled like pear drops, the perfumes were very strong.

  5. Hayley Brown · · Reply

    Eyelure Feather Lash were the eyelashes I used to buy all the time lol!! I loved Miners make up sooo much. I used to buy a tiny little bottle of perfume from Woolworths too, it was green. I wish I could remember the name of it. It was as strong as Estee Lauder. Smelled nice when it calmed down…..I thought!

  6. Ella Mackay · · Reply

    I used to buy that perfume too. It was in a tiny bottle with an orange label. I loved it, but unfortunately no matter how hard I try I just can’t remember the name of it. Sooo annoying!

  7. Hi Kasia, This post is absolutely brilliant, thanks for writing it. I am researching vintage lipstick for an art installation, any more information you might have on lipstick colours, their names and makes gratefully received.

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