Shades of Blue: Fashion's Obsession with Blue Eyeshadow

Shades of Blue: Fashion's Obsession with Blue Eyeshadow

Shades of Blue: Fashion's Obsession with Blue Eyeshadow

From Marc Jacobs to Rihanna, and 90’s Kate Moss, we explore the glam-trash appeal of blue eyeshadow.

From Marc Jacobs to Rihanna, and 90’s Kate Moss, we explore the glam-trash appeal of blue eyeshadow.

Text: Paul Madley

Historically fashion and beauty have had a complicated relationship with blue eyeshadow. Some have considered it to be tacky, clownish, and coquettish. While others regard it as glamorous, rebellious, and provocative. Worn by popstars, actors, icons, drag queens, and even Barbie, blue eyeshadow can be a powerful beauty statement.

Once upon a time, blue was considered to be the ‘feminine color’, it was favored over pink. It wasn’t until the late 1940s and early '50s that pink became associated with girls and blue with boys. This was in large due to marketing strategies that saw retail companies assign gender-specific colors to products, in a bid to increase profits. It’s somewhat surprising then that the newly allocated masculine color should enter the beauty industry. Blue eyeshadow first became popular in the 1960s and one of the first pioneers to wear it was Barbie in 1959.

In her debut look, the original doll wore a pop of blue eyeshadow with her black-and-white-striped maillot. In the 1960s, Andy Warhol produced prints of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy, with exaggerated, acid blue lids. Makeup giants Max Factor and Maybelline sold palettes of blue eyeshadow, as did the British Designer Mary Quant. In the '70s blue shadow was favored by the Drag Queen Divine, and worn by Liza Minelli in her Oscar-winning performance of Sally Bowles in Cabaret. It was then popular with New Romantics in the early ’80s. In 1989 Disney’s villain Ursula, from The Little Mermaid, wore the controversial pigment and in fact, Ursula’s look was actually based on Divine.

In the '90s, supermodels Kate Moss and Christy Turlington adopted the trend. Singer and musician PJ Harvey was also a devotee. She performed on stage and in music videos with her eyelids painted blue. She would cover the entire lid in one shade and paint it all the way up to her brow bone. A beauty technique that is affectionately known as ‘garage doors’ in the (pre-Rupaul’s Drag Race) drag community.

In the 2000s the late R&B singer Aaliyah wore blue eyeshadow in her video for her hit single “Try Again”. More recently we’ve seen blue eyeshadow on the runways of Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, and Versace. Lizzo wore blue eyeshadow at the 2019 VMAs, and Jeffree Star created a whole collection dedicated to blue cosmetics (it made millions in revenue).

Take a look through the slideshow below to discover the most iconic moments of blue eyeshadow in fashion, film, and performances.

Kate Moss
Credits: Images courtesy of Pinterest

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