Avon for Christmas

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I loved getting Avon products as Christmas presents. This ad from 1971 shows a dazzling array of Avon items, any of which I would have loved to get for Christmas. I think I actually had the Snoopy in the bathtub. This ad, like many in the early Seventies, reflects the growing diversity of models appearing in ads.


Lip Smackers

Bonne Bell sure had a goldmine on their hands in the Seventies with Lip Smackers. Every girl I knew in junior high had at least one. My friends and I had several. These were the days before everyone and their mother were marketing lip balms, so the only choices were Lip Smackers and ChapStik. So naturally Lip Smackers were a huge hit with young girls. In those days Lip Smackers used to come in giant sizes as well as the regular size of lip balm tubes. There’s even an episode of Rhoda where Rhoda and her family are trapped somewhere, I think it was a cabin, without food. Rhoda pulls out her giant Strawberry Lip Smacker and tells everyone not to worry.

For a while in the Nineties, Lip Smackers had lost the “je ne sais quois” that had made them so much fun. Most of the branded food or soda flavors, like Dr. Pepper and Good ‘n Plenty, disappeared. The flavors that remained were the usual fruit flavors, which were kind of boring. But today it looks as though Bonne Bell is trying to restore Lip Smackers to their former glory in a market glutted with lip balms. I noticed some of the soda flavors like Dr. Pepper and 7 Up are back, although I still miss Bubblegum and Birthday Cake. The larger size has even returned, at least with the Dr. Pepper flavor, although it doesn’t look as big as I remember it, which means either it’s smaller than it used to be, or I’m bigger than I used to be.

The Avon Lady

Back in the Seventies, the Avon Lady was as much a neighborhood institution as the fire department or the Fourth of July picnic. In my neighborhood, it was Mrs. Peerless. I can still picture her today. I can recall the excitement I felt when she came to the door because she had two things I really wanted: the white paper bag containing my mother’s order from her previous visit, and the new Avon catalogue. Whenever my mom placed an order, she’d let my sister and I look at the catalogue and pick something out. Avon made fun, unique items that they don’t make today, like their famous figural perfume bottles, and plastic figural brooches that contained solid perfume. I would always get a solid perfume brooch in my stocking at Christmas, and often I’d find under the tree a wrapped box containing a jar of creme perfume shaped like a snowman, or a bottle of liquid perfume in the shape of a girl, her top half serving as the cap, while her skirt contained the perfume.

Sweet Honesty ad, 1975. Is that Pam Dawber of "Mork and Mindy" fame?

My two favorite Avon fragrances were Sweet Honesty and Pink and Pretty. Pink and Pretty has long since been discontinued, though Avon still makes Sweet Honesty. But the figural perfume bottles that made getting something from the Avon Lady so special are gone. I guess tweens and teens are more sophisticated these days, or more interested in celebrity-endorsed products like Hannah Montanah perfume. Today the figural perfume bottles are highly collectible, even if they’re empty. I recently purchased on eBay a bottle of Zany (1979), which I loved in junior high but which was discontinued after only two years or so. The bottle is shaped like a Christmas tree, so in a way I can still feel like I’m getting something special from Avon for Christmas.

Fashion Fair Cosmetics

Fashion Fair is a line of makeup that specifically caters to the needs of African American women. In the Seventies, most makeup companies didn’t offer foundation shades for deeper complexions. Fashion Fair rectified that. An article from the Monday, June 29, 1970 edition of Time Magazine reflected on the new cosmetic lines created to address the problems women of color faced when purchasing cosmetics. An ad from 1976 shows Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, then “just a soul singer from Detroit,” extolling the virtues of Fashion Fair makeup. Both Fashion Fair and Aretha Franklin would become icons within their respective industries.

Fashion Fair cosmetics was started in 1973 by Eunice Walker Johnson. Eunice was the wife of publisher John H. Johnson. Together Eunice and her husband founded Ebony magazine in 1945 to cater to the interests of African Americans. A sister publication, Jet, was started in 1951. In 1956, Eunice started the Ebony Fashion Fair, a fashion show featuring haute couture fashions from around the world. It started as a fundraiser for a hospital and quickly became an annual traveling show to benefit many charities. The show used only African American models, and also featured upcoming African American desigers such as James Daugherty and Stephany Burrows. The Ebony Fashion Fair ran from 1956 until 2008. There were plans for a 2009 show, but the show was abruptly cancelled, a casualty of the poor economy. Eunice Walker Johnson died in 2010 at the age of 93.

Catalogue for the 2009 Fashion Fair that never happened

Maybelline Kissing Potion

Maybelline Kissing Potions were the first roll-on lip glosses. They came in an assortment of flavors, and early advertisements suggested reserving a different flavor for each boyfriend. Since I was a pre-teen in those days, I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I loved Kissing Potions nonetheless. I would buy them at my local five and ten store, which was the source of much of my Seventies’ beauty products. Come to think of it, it was the source of pretty much everything that I bought in the Seventies.

It’s interesting to note how the ads for Kissing Potion have shifted gears within a couple of years to target a different demographic. The ad above (c. 1975) plays to the sweet and innocent high school girl, complete with football-team-captain boyfriend. By 1977, disco had exploded onto the social scene. The ad below evokes the slick, sophisticated Disco Diva, her lips parted suggestively as she applies her Kissing Potion over her seductive red lipstick. I’m sure that didn’t stop many teens and pre-teens from buying Kissing Potion, but it’s comforting to know that Kissing Potions could take you from High School to Studio 54 without missing a beat.