CHALLENGES AND CHANGES
America and Europe
How men hate a woman in a position of real power
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT’S DYNAMIC ADMINISTRATION brought challenges and changes for the booming beauty business in America. After a quarter of a century of freedom in terms of manufacturing, labelling and advertising, the industry was hit by new rules and regulations.
Firstly, Washington decided to levy a luxury tax on all products. The only surprise is that it had taken government so long to spot such a lucrative source of income from an industry reported to be worth $2 billion a year and growing. By 1931, a study of college women showed 85% of them wore lipstick, and at Macy’s in New York, working women spent their lunch break in the vast beauty department, sniffing scented powder compacts and scrambling to buy lipsticks. The tax of 10% caused a furore amongst manufacturers who, in a rare moment of harmony, met to debate how to handle the levy. They were not alone in their annoyance. Women’s groups took up the cudgels and protested that lipstick was as important to them as toothpaste, but the government was not to be moved.
Most companies, including Arden and Rubinstein, saw no problem in passing the cost on to their customers, whilst Dorothy Gray, Arden’s bête noire from the previous decade, made a big issue about ‘absorbing the charges’, earning herself valuable press coverage. In the end, manufacturers decided that make-up lines – lipstick, rouge, powder and mascara – would carry the levy, whilst treatment creams would absorb it.