The truly bizarre history of false eyelashes

Nov. 20, 2017

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These days, there’s nothing more real than the mainstream obsession with false eyelashes.

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This now-ubiquitous beauty product has a long and rather tortured history. At its core, the obsession stems from the idea that lashes get shorter with age.

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In ancient Rome, author Pliny the Elder helped make long lashes even more enviable when he posited they were linked to being chaste.

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Jumping ahead to the 19th century, there were accounts of women having lashes implanted into their eyelids via needles, most notably in Paris.

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The first patented artificial lashes were developed In 1911, when a Canadian woman named Anna Taylor implanted a crescent of fabric with tiny hairs.

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In 1916, Hollywood director. D. W. Griffith was filming ‘Intolerance’ with actress Seena Owen. After looking at her attire, he thought "Something is not right.

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Griffith wanted Owen’s eyelashes to be “supernatural,” so he ordered the film’s wigmaker to glue human hair lashes onto Owen’s own eyelids using spirit gum.

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Owen would show up on set with her eyes swollen shut.

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The 1930s

Vogue gave falsies its coveted stamp of approval with ads featuring more artful false lashes, some laden with gold and platinum beads.

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The 1940s & 1950s

Hollywood starlets helped popularize the false eyelash, with women like Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth wearing them in photo shoots.

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The 1960s & 1970s

During the ‘60s and ‘70s, superstars Twiggy and Cher pioneered the iconic look of large lashes that accentuated their already prominent eyes.

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The 1990s

The accessory got even more prominent in the ‘90s, with women like Anna Nicole Smith, Pamela Anderson and Cindy Crawford embracing a dramatic aesthetic.

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The 2000s

False eyelashes got a very fancy — and very expensive — makeover. Jennifer Lopez even wore false eyelashes made of red fox fur to the 2001 Oscars.

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Madonna started wearing a $10,000 pair of mink and diamond lashes to promote her Re-Invention tour in 2004.

False lashes are currently embraced by nearly every celebrity on a red carpet, and drag queens, too, with the goal of looking as glamorous as possible.

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With a history so dark and dangerous, and an application so strenuous, it’s astounding that false eyelashes are so popular. But here we are.

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