White skin, clear and white as milk, was the ideal of beauty at many an era. It was considered the highest level of esthetic appearance. Removed from the labor of life, of sun tanning and darkening the skin in field labor, perfectly white skin represented elegance, class, sophistication, and the absence of sin and the presence of serenity.
This classic beauty ideal inspired me to create a shoot that recreated that look with modern fashion and modern means. I loved the melancholic and serene undertones of this esthetic, creating female characters that do not take part in banal, everyday activities, but, like goddesses, only appear at high moments of existence.
I shot the story in downtown Los Angeles, in a studio overlooking the city. It was later published by a New York fashion magazine, of which you can see the tear sheets here.
I particularly liked the contrast of the dark clothing with the pale skin, which I enhanced in post. It helped me to create these heavenly creatures to people the imagination of fashion aficionados, who’d like to see experiments with different looks and styles.
As with all ideals, most women were did not have that perfect skin. So they used the help of beauty products. And put the motto “Beauty must Suffer” onto a new level. To achieve this perfect white skin, women used white makeup containing lead. That lead scarred their skin, which is why they needed even more lead containing makeup to cover it up. Today’s makeup, of course, does not contain any of that terrible metal. We made our models look angelic and beautiful with perfectly healthy, modern makeup.