Elizabeth Arden: The World’s Most Successful Trilogy

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Throughout the 1930s cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden repeatedly echoed the ingredients that represented the three main phases of beauty, which, in her opinion, every modern woman should possess and follow in order to achieve the ‘Arden Look.’

The ‘Arden look’ was a term coined by Arden herself where she referred to the women throughout the world who possessed the credentials which were reflective of the brand. Arden’s global accessibility as a company, which was – and still is – stocked in every large city across the world, meant that more and more women endorsed and adopted the Arden Look. Yet, what were the credentials that defined the ‘Arden Look?’

Whilst hunting through American Vogue’s online archive for copies of the magazine, which marketed the cosmetic brand, I came across the above advertisement, which outlined what Arden perceived as the three main phases of beauty. These phases, considered by Arden ‘world’s most successful trilogy,’ were the combination  of a lovely face, a slender figure, and a clever wardrobe.

Where society’s concept of beauty had changed during the twentieth century, from that of a woman’s moral qualities to her external appearance, Elizabeth Arden recognised that there was a growing market place for skin care and decorative cosmetics. Therefore, where a woman’s appearance through her hair, eyes, skin, lips, hands and weight became ‘critical points’ for judgement, Arden was able to offer beauty solutions through her products, and then her services.

As Arden’s influence grew within the cosmetic world, so did her brand. Beginning with skin care and decorative cosmetics, Arden opened up her own health spa, Maine Chance, in 1934. Lindy Woodhead described Maine Chance as ‘America’s first luxury health and beauty farm,’ where some of America’s wealthiest ladies would visit for health and beauty treatments, as well as outdoor sports and workouts. Clients would spend $500 a week and Arden would keep the resort open from May to September each year.  An example of the machines used is demonstrated in the accompanying photograph, which featured the ‘metal hip roller.’ It was believed that such a machine would reduce the dimensions of a woman’s hips and buttocks!

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However it was during the 1940s that Arden’s brand truly became a ‘one-stop destination’ for the three phases of beauty, with the launch of her Fashion Floor in 1944.  During her lifetime, Arden collaborated with four couture designers: Charles James, Antonio Castillo, Count Sarmi and Oscar de la Renta to provide her customers with the ‘clever wardrobe,’ that would keep her customers looking ‘irresistibly soigné.’

In this respect Arden’s ‘most successful trilogy’ not only formed the basis of the modern woman, but also demonstrated the vision that Elizabeth Arden had for her business. Moreover, as Arden defined the three phases of beauty, her empire soon expanded and encompassed these three industries, which ultimately aligned the Arden brand with the function of an American department store through her ability to offer her ladies a ‘one-stop shopping’ experience when they entered her salons.

 

Sources:

U.S Vogue online archive

Gourley, C. Rosie and Mrs. America: Perceptions of Women in the 1930s and 1940s (Minneapolis, 2008).

Woodhead, L. War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden, Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry (United Kingdom, 2003).

Keeping Up with the Courtauldians: Fashioning the Seas

Emma on board S/Y Nefertiti

Emma on board S/Y Nefertiti

S/Y Nefertiti

S/Y Nefertiti

It’s hard to believe that just two months ago the Documenting Fashion MA group were frantically printing, stapling, proof reading, doubting, loving and hating our respective dissertations. For this MA student in particular, the swift transition from university life to the world of yachting came as a bit of a shock. Immediately after handing in my dissertation in June, I left London for Palma de Mallorca, where the beautiful S/Y Nefertiti awaited my return.  Despite having worked as a stewardess on this ninety-foot sailing yacht for four years prior to my time at the Courtauld, swapping Chanel for chandleries, handbags for halyards and the V&A for VHFs was no easy task. When in the yachting industry, one is miles away from the fast-paced, ever-changing cultural landscape of a city like London. With limited Internet, no access to current exhibitions, and no street style (or indeed, streets), documenting fashion at sea was sure to be a challenge. There is only so much one could say about deck shoes and epaulets!

Audrey - style inspiration whatever the landscape!

Audrey – style inspiration whatever the landscape!

Had this been the 1920s and ‘30s, the emerging resort wear would have inspired multiple commentaries on the latest nautical fashions. I might have written about the palatial superyachts of the well-dressed millionaires in Saint-Tropez and Monte Carlo, along with the contents of their wives’ Louis Vuitton steamer trunks. Or perhaps the arrival of Schiaparelli’s culottes, Vionnet’s silk beach pyjamas and Chanel’s Cruise collection; all innovative designs that signified the social change through which a new independent woman could emerge, tanned and tantalisingly free.  I found myself considering the link between the fashion world and the yachting world of the twenties, and how it translates to today. Whilst my initial musings settled on its evident demise, it slowly became apparent that this was not necessarily the case.

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It dawned on me that the owner of Nautor’s Swan, the company that built S/Y Nefertiti, is Leonardo Ferragamo, the director of the esteemed fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo. Similarly, S/Y Creole, the largest wooden sailing yacht in the world, belongs to the Gucci family.  Sailing past her in Ibiza a couple of weeks ago, all the guests and crew on Nefertiti swooned over the army of model-like deckhands in yellow and brown striped Breton tops. In truth, yachting and fashion share a long and interesting history full of luxury, beauty and intrigue, and the two worlds continue to run parallel. Fashion designers continue to buy superyachts; beautiful women continue to grace the decks of beautiful yachts, wearing silk chiffon; Louis Vuitton luggage continues to evolve, and the yachting lifestyle continues to offer its fortunate participants the one luxury that remains priceless: freedom.  Being at sea is the perfect antidote to the often-suffocating city life. Resort wear designers, then and now, represent this freedom through clothes that are easy to pack, easy to clean and easy to wear.  Despite having moved on to greener – or indeed bluer – pastures, I hope to continue documenting fashion, and particularly the relationship between fashion and freedom. Writing this, I finally understand that ‘Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only’ as Gabrielle Chanel very well knew. ‘Fashion is in the sky, in the street…’ and, it would seem, fashion also exists at sea.