Thursday, November 30, 2006

How the Suntan Became Fashionable ...

It’s only in recent times that a permanent suntan has become the symbol of radiant health, jet-set wealth, and fresh-faced beauty. For centuries the suntan was decidedly downmarket - the mark of a manual labourer, toiling in the fields for a pittance.

In Elizabethan England, courtesans would go to ridiculous lengths to preserve their ashen pallor – painting their faces with heavy white make-up made from a deadly cocktail of carbonate hydroxide and lead oxide.

In fact, well into the 20th century, the most uncool thing you could possibly do was expose your flesh to the sun. Until a certain French fashion icon went for the burn.

Coco Chanel starts the style

While cruising aboard an aristocrat’s yacht in 1920, Coco Chanel developed a suntan. The floodgates opened.

By the 1940s, women's magazines encouraged sun tanning and pin-up girls like Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth were pictured in bathing suits, showing off their tanned bodies.

In the 1970s, things had become extreme. Thanks to cheap package holidays to Mediterranean destinations, an entire generation had baked their bodies in the sun. Unfortunately, they were also oblivious to skin cancer which could come back to haunt them 10-30 years later. (article found here)