The New Eyeliner Era

In Make up, Style icons on January 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm


One recent evening, after the usual desperation scroll through 5000 very expensive TV channels of crud, I decided to watch a really ancient episode of dear old Sex and the City.

The girls were sitting around a table, slightly overdressed, Charlotte and Samantha were having a fight, everything was as it should be – so why did it all look so odd?

It took me a moment or two to figure it out, but then it hit me. It was their make up. Their eye make up in particular looked so weird. It was like they weren’t wearing any. They looked oddly naked and vulnerable.

After a little more analysis, I finally worked out what was missing: eyeliner. They weren’t wearing eyeliner. And it looked crayzee!


We are living in the biggest eyeliner era since Dusty Springfield blinked her way into our hearts on 1960s telly.


I can’t leave the house without it now – I’m addicted to Bobbi Brown’s gel liner, with its special brush – but not so long ago it was a radical look. I’ve always kept a bottle of liquid liner in my make up kit – I held onto a Rimmel one for years, because it was quite hard to get it in the 90s – but I only used it for special occasions, when I wanted to be a bit camp.

Amy Winehouse was the one who brought it back, with her fabulously extreme make up look, which seemed so radical when she first registered on the collective consciousness back in 2006.


Her style launched a million back combs as well as the catseye flick, but in the years since her MTV debut that simple black line along the upper lid, has become so mainstream, it looks odd when it’s not there.

Now I find I’m scanning for eyeliner/no eyeliner in old films and TV shows and it’s fascinating. Mary Poppins has almost as much eyeliner as Adele wears – but at the time it looked normal. In the years between it looked a bit insane, now it looks normal again and Sex and the City’s unlined noughties eyes look unfinished.

It’s a perfect example of how aesthetic ‘norms’ change with fashion. And here are some pictures of Adele, who I reckon does eyeliner better than anyone.


adele 2


  1. I, too, have succumbed to the liquid liner craze – still mostly for special occasions, but as I am relocating to another country soon, those have recently been as thick and fast as my eye-liner.
    Now I am nostalgic for 90s nude.

  2. I love eyeliner; thick, thin, black, brown, top, bottom, anything!

    The 90s was when I bucked the trend and turned up to uni lectures in full smokey eye makeup and biker jacket while my class mates were in round neck jumpers, turned up shirt collars and Alice bands…

  3. Maggie, have been watching some old episodes too and had noticed how different their eye make up looked. I didn’t pick up on the eyeliner but thought what that the eye shadow was all very light and sparkly! Will
    Now be watching for missing eyeliner!!

  4. I quite like JSP sans eyeliner – very pretty.

  5. So true Maggie! But I hadn’t noticed till you pointed it out.
    Although I’ve always been a bit of an eye-liner girl (I’m a pale redhead and need that definition, otherwise I look like a blind rat), now that I think about it, I’ve gone from a bit of clinique pencil, to wet eyeshadow – to gel eyeliner painted on with a brush everyday! (Haven’t tried the Bobbi Brown one, am addicted to the Stila ‘Smudge Pot’ – which is a funny name, as it doesn’t budge all day/night!) I look lost (to myself) without it!
    I love Adele’s look. Wonder how the SATC girls would look if the series was made now? Very different, I’d imagine!

  6. I was just thinking earlier in the week that I hadn’t heard anything from Maggie for such a long time and now here you are in my inbox. Yay! Haven’t noticed the eyeliner thing so much in Sydney, will keep a lookout.

    • I was put off blogging because I found the pic uploading SO long winded and clunky. It’s improved a little and I’m determined to get on top of regular posts – although it may mean forking out funds for a newer computer. Have a look on TV for eyeliner. I’ve noticed all presenters now wear it. x

  7. I have worn eyeliner since I was about 18. I must admit I never gave up on wearing it, but REALLY toned it down when it was out. So what used to be some brown smudged into my outside corner eyelashes, has now grown back into something much more distinct.

  8. I adore eyeliner…grew up with a 60s fetish and it’s all back in vogue again, brilliant. Recently discovered Napoleon’s black “gel” liner which comes in a little pot and you apply it with a makeup brush—that stuff does NOT budge come hell or high water, but removes easily! Defies all makeup logic. So you can have your cat’s eyes AND rub your face. Also works a treat for painted on beauty spots, which IMHO are the key to making makeup look natural.

    • That Napolean product is very similar to the Bobbi Brown one I use, which has made such a difference to me. Going to blog again on this subject and one of my experts had mentioned it, so thanks for confirming that x

  9. Maggie I remember you mention a while back about putting a “limit” on the post notification that goes out to subscribers, so that they have to go to the site for the full article, and also, in case you want to make corrections/changes after hitting the publish tab. How did you do it?

    • I’m still struggling with the mechanics of blogging, which is why I haven’t been very regular posting. It seems to be a different set up every time I do it. It drives me mad. Can’t remember the first thing, but the second is easy, you just go back into your dashboard then choose the post and then click on ‘edit’. Hope that helps x

  10. I’m a full on eyeliner girl. Even in the 90’s I wore it, although I did wear it smudged and softened. Now it is black, flicked liquid liner every day, I love it!

  11. Maggie, any clever tips for applying eyeliner when you can hardly see your eye, let alone where the liner should go ?

    • Ha ha, so so true. I can do one eye perfectly, but the other one is always a struggle. I’m going to post another one on this topic soon, with tips from make up artist friends x

  12. Oh dear Maggie, how lovely to have a new post from you! Priscella Presley sure wasn’t shy of it was she? There is a wonderful eyeliner shot of Amber Valenta in harsh sunlight/desert – will try and find it; def a favourite make up shot that sticks in my mind. Was v sad not to be able to make it to Mosman for your book signing evening, hope the tour went well and sales are sky rocketing. Happy New Year. BX

  13. Well Hello! Welcome back. Eyeliner definitely, can’t leave home without mascara and a line of pencil on the upper. So, you recommend the bobbi brown gel liner? I’m in.

  14. Thank-you Maggie – I was reading “Everything Changes But You” (which you kindly signed at Readings Hawthorn in November) just this week on our Summer beach holiday, and Matt (I think) says to Hannah that she’s going to save the world from bad eyeliner. It started me wondering about my recent re-discovery of liquid eyeliner, and whether it was a good thing. I like it (my eyes seem to disappear without something on my pale Celtic skin), but was worried for a few days whether I was someone Hannah might want to save. So I’m very pleased I only had about 4 days to think about it!

    This time around though, it’s brown-black, not the Princess Dianna blue I wore in the late 80s…!

  15. You see – it’s all part of the big picture, that we’re all tuned into, even without realising we are. Also think it’s really important to keep changing the make up we wear. I dread being the equivalent of those old ladies you see in full 1950s slap. Lovely to think of you reading my book xxx

  16. So THAT’s why the SATC girls looked strange in that series – I’ve watched it over and over (same reason as you, 50 expensive channels with nothing on) and have always wondered – for a while I thought SJP must have shaved off her eyebrows, or dyed them blonde, because she looked so strange. I’ve always worn eyeliner on my upper lid. Back in the 80’s and 90’s it was Clinique liquid eyeliner which they don’t make anymore and now I love the Bobby Brown one. Just a thin strip for day and slightly heavier, with maybe a little cats eye flick for night. Of course, I have also been guilty of the Lady Di blue liner on my lower lid back in the day *shudder*. Welcome back to your blog!

    • Thanks, Anne… I love it when I put something out and it turns out so many other people have had the same experiences and made the same progression. Do you have the Bobbi Brown gel? It changed my eyeliner life! x

  17. Maggie you are on fire with blog posts, love opening up the personal in box atm.

    I watched Nigella after reading this and noticed the eyeliner, then The Hour, and notice it everywhere now! When in the UK in Jan 2011 I noticed that young girls appeared to have put foundation and mascara on with a trowel and not just the Chav girls. Mostly with an orange tinge to them but that might of just been them wearing summer tones in the middle of a very cold winter. I thought it might be something I’d see in Australia but haven’t noticed it yet.

  18. It’s a big trend here for girls to make up like Elvis period, Priscilla Presley. It all started with Amy Whitehouse and now is the norm. I rather love it, becuase that’s how ‘ladies’ looked when i was a kid, all false eye lashes and massive ‘done’ hairdos.

  19. and thanks for kind comment – I’m back in the blogging saddle and hope to be on it very regularly. I just need to upgrade my computer a bit, so it’s less clunky to do xxx

  20. Maggie it’s seriously like a belated Christmas present – I’m back from holidays and my inbox holds notifications that you are back posting again. Miss your column in the Sunday Age – nice to have you back. Please keep posting (regularly?) Cherie

    • Dear Cherie Dear
      Thank you for such a spectacularly nice message. I am aiming to be more regular. It’s my New Year resolution! However, I still have a column in the Sunday Age! It’s just not in Good Weekend any more, it’s in M. I’ve been doing it for two years, so sad to hear you haven’t known. It’s a bit different – I analyse a celeb photo and say why I think their outfit works – but I’ll do the more personal stuff (more like the old column) on here xxx

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