Friends, I would love to write the definitive eyebrow blog post today. I fear this won't be it, but rather a somewhat scattered stream of consciousness on this highly alterable facial feature. It's such a rich topic. Almost everybody has eyebrows.
Those born with bushy brows wish they had less; those born with skimpy ones wish they had more. Of course, my primary focus today is the female brow -- it's just more fun. Men's brows will just have to wait (Sorry, Zac Efron).
Eyebrows are one of the most expressive parts of the human face. They shoot up to express surprise (unless you're pumped full of Botox, that is). They furrow to reflect concern or confusion. They can communicate terror, lust, rage -- the full range of human emotions, and some inhuman emotions as well.
But why does brow fashion change -- and it does change often -- again and again and again?
It's easy to explain changes in clothing trends, which reflect the fashion industry's need to get the public to buy more clothes. Of course there are other factors involved in changing fashion, like new technologies (stretch fabrics!), greater need for comfort and practicality (women in the workplace!), and a breakdown in central authority (Who cares what Paris thinks we should be wearing?!). But how do you explain shifting eyebrow trends? It's a puzzlement.
As with most things fashion-oriented, Hollywood both set the trends and reflected them. Think how closely some of the stars below were associated with their eyebrows.
Clara Bow's narrowly penciled brows were all the rage in the Twenties. They were long and low.
Pencil-thin brows continued to be popular into the Thirties, but drawn higher than in the Twenties (think Jean Harlow).
Marlene Dietrich boasted some of the highest eyebrows in Hollywood. Not for the shy.
Joan Crawford, who changed her look constantly throughout her long career, had dramatic eyes that demanded a strong brow. But there's strong and there's massive, and as Joan grew older, her brows got bigger, darker, and scarier!
The highly stylized Dietrich/Harlow look got softer as the Thirties wore on. When Ingrid Bergman came to America just before WWII, she was a fresh-faced, natural brow trendsetter.
Lana Turner was said to have had no real brows at all after an early MGM plucking, and had to draw them in with every film. As a teen starlet, Lana's brows look natural. As her image got more glamorous in the 1940's, so did her brows.
Judy Garland started out with natural-looking eyebrows, which grew more and more stylized and weird, much like Judy herself.
Something unusual started happening in the 1950s: women's brows got heavy. Liz Taylor and Audrey Hepburn could pull this look off -- barely -- but on most women these dark, dramatic brows looked bizarre.
Queen of the Bushy-brow is Brooke Shields. Her early Eighties look still startles, imo.
Setting aside Hollywood, let's not forget Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter arguably more famous today for her monobrow than for her artwork.
Friends, there's so much more to say about eyebrows, and I invite you to say it! What do you think about shifting trends in eyebrows -- where do they originate?
What about your brows? Are they plucked within an inch of their life, drawn high in the middle of your forehead, or bushy as a lumberjack's mustache?
How about the controversial "chola brow"? Too much, even for Sandra Bullock?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!