Fashion: All in a flutter over tiddlywinks: False lashes, which graced the loveliest Sixties faces, are back in vogue, says Caroline Sarll

Caroline Sarll
Wednesday 09 September 1992 23:02
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THEY used to give names to false eyelashes. The best sellers were called hotpoints or zebras. Women with glasses wore tiddlywinks. Lashes for the lower lids were dubbed undies. Now the names have gone, but false eyelashes are back on the fashion map - discovered afresh by women who are ready to start painting their faces again.

Eyelure, the British firm that has been making them since the Sixties, sells 300,000 pairs a year. At pounds 4.34 a pair, they're a pretty cheap ticket to the glamorous looks that seem to be all the rage, which is perhaps why Eyelure's sales have grown by 20 per cent this year.

Models and pop stars are setting the pace, just as in the Sixties. For Twiggy and the Shrimp, read Linda Evangelista and Yasmin Le Bon. For Dusty Springfield and Shirley Bassey, read Madonna and Kylie Minogue.

Eric and David Aylott, the founders of Eyelure, invented the ready-to-wear, stick-on lash that literally changed the face of female beauty in the Sixties. They have made some fairly grandiose claims about their creation's benefits, including the assertion that their eyelashes made women look younger. Always quick to spot a trend, they have also suggested, in the wake of fears about sun damage, that false eyelashes shield the sensitive under-eye area from the harmful ultraviolet rays that cause wrinkles.

The Aylotts spent years in the movie business as make-up artists, devising their own crude lashes, cut originally from the actresses' own hair. The hair was later brought in from convents in India and stuck on to the likes of Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Lamour, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

David Aylott, who died last year, was proud of the way his lashes transformed his charges. 'The lashes helped hide imperfections, too,' he once recalled. 'Sophia Loren's mouth is too big, so eyelashes helped to make it look smaller.'

In some cases this camouflage effect was crucial. 'Mae West had a face like a pie crust,' remembers Eric. 'She needed all the help that was on offer.'

So, too, years later, did Mandy Rice-Davies, who remembers a cover-up of a different kind: 'I used to hide behind mine. Especially in 1963, when I had that little spot of bother.'

The eyelash business has changed dramatically. Only one lash girl remains in the original factory in Cwmbran, in Gwent, cutting and curling the lashes by hand. Now the majority of them are imported in ready-cut strips from Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

The First Lady of the Lash is Dame Barbara Cartland, who seems to have perfected the art of wearing four pairs simultaneously. Suggest to her that overdone false lashes look less than attractive, and with one bat of the eye she eclipses you on the spot: 'I had 49 proposals before I got married, so they've obviously worked for me.'

If she ever stops wearing them, it will be for one reason alone. 'I had more than 700 bespoke pairs supplied by the Aylotts some time ago. When I get to the end of the box, I shall have to die.'

'Tiddlywinks 'n' Undies', a documentary on the history of false eyelashes, will be shown on BBC 1 on 14 September at 9.30am

(Photographs omitted)

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