Inventing Beauty: A History of the Innovations that Have Made Us Beautiful

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Broadway Books, 2004 - Health & Fitness - 307 pages

There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.
—Helena Rubinstein

In this fascinating, meticulously researched romp through the annals of the beauty industry,New York Timespatents columnist Teresa Riordan throws back the curtain on a century of shrewd, canny women who have knowingly deployed artifice in a ceaseless battle to captivate the inherently roving eye of the male.

When it comes to the opposite sex, males from many species are easily deceived. Male fireflies will flirt with flashlights. So is it any surprise that the male of the human species has been fooled by lips painted cherry red and breasts built up into silicone summits? Riordan explores that strange intersection of science, fashion, and business where beauty is engineered and finds that, for generations, social trends and technological innovations have fueled a nonstop assembly line of potions and contraptions that women have enthusiastically put to use in the quest for feminine flawlessness.

We learn why the first lipsticks were orange. Why respectable women used the first vibrators not just for naughtiness but also to eradicate their wrinkles. Why the bustle started small but ultimately grew so impressive that a proper lady could balance an entire tea service on her rump. And why, but for mascara, Greta Garbo might have been just another chunky Swede with bad teeth.

Beauty inventions, Teresa Riordan has found, can put the resourceful and the imaginative on an even playing field with the congenitally beautiful. Countless women have pushed, pulled, tweezed, squeezed, and spackled themselves into synthetic loveliness.Inventing Beautyis a delightful history of that noble effort, from head to tail.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - empress8411 - LibraryThing

An interesting history of how the beauty industry grow, who the giants were and why we buy what we do. Filled with illustrations, photos and clever easy-to-read prose, I recommend this for history buffs and gender study students. Read full review

Inventing beauty: a history of the innovations that have made us beautiful

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

From mascara to electric wrinkle rollers to horsehair bustles and cage crinolines, journalist Riordan (patent columnist for the New York Times ) surveys the multitude of inventions aimed at making ... Read full review


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Cadolle Herminie 69

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About the author (2004)

Teresa Riordan has written a column on invention for the New York Times business section for ten years. She is married to the architect Richard Chenoweth and has three children. They live in Silver Spring, Maryland. Riordan’s web log can be found at

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