A Sparkling Vintage Life

Matching nail polish to lipstick color is a trend that has gone in and out of fashion.

Continuing our cosmetics trifecta that began with lipstick and mascara, let’s look today at nail polish.

According to this fun and informative article, nail polish originated in China around 3000 B.C. and was also used by the ancient Egyptians. These early polishes were made up of natural ingredients including beeswax and vegetable dyes. The modern nail polish we know and love has its origin shortly before the First World War–surprisingly, in the development of durable, shiny paint for the newfangled automobiles. At first nail polish was colorless and would have given the nails a shiny, buffed appearance in keeping with the cosmetics-free look considered most appropriate for women outside of the stage or bordello.

In 1932 Revlon introduced the first colored nail enamel, in a slightly racier cream color. By 1934 red was available, but was associated with “fast” women the way eye makeup had been just a few years earlier. Technicolor movies gave a major boost to red nail polish in the public eye, since the vivid color was now visible on the silver screen on stars like Rita Hayworth.

In the 1940s, Rita Hayworth gave a big boost to the popularity of red nail polish.

Colored nail polishes are enormously fun, and useful as well. Colored polish matched closely to your shoe color can help disguise a scuff or scratch in the material. You can even use colored polish to color-code things like keys.

But clear polish can be more useful than colored. Did you know that painting a little clear nail polish directly on pantyhose will help stop a run in its tracks? Or that clear nail polish painted on a metal ring or earring can prevent tarnish? Or that painting it on the end of a piece of thread will make threading it through a needle a less ornery task?

I’ll admit, I like the way nail polish looks, but I seldom wear it myself, except on my toes in summer. Why? Because I work with my hands a lot and hate dealing with chips. Clear or pale polish helps mitigate that somewhat. Maybe this summer I’ll make a greater effort to keep my nails polished and pretty. Do you wear polish? If so, what’s your favorite color?