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Raising eyebrows: Vogue investigates the season’s most eye-opening looks

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Jancee Dunn

Throughout the tweeze-happy ’90s, I enthusiastically pruned away at my eyebrows. Inspired by Kate Moss’s delicate arches, I obliterated my own—chestnut-coloured, with a totally acceptable, softly-angled natural shape—until they were as slight as my slip dresses. It took years for some semblance of regrowth to materialise, thus closing a traumatic chapter in the beauty history of an entire generation. That is, until it was pried open again by TikTok, where a popular thin-eyebrow filter that renders full-to-feral shapes into reedy wisps sent a shiver across my forehead when I first came upon it. 

“How did we get here?” I brooded to myself, as I flipped through images from autumn/winter 2022-23 shows where brows weren’t so much streamlined as completely decimated. At Burberry and Versace, the make-up artist Pat McGrath broke out her bleach pots to create what she describes as a “strong, daring, powerful and otherworldly” look. The make-up artist Diane Kendal called the bare foreheads she sculpted underneath sharp-edged mullets at Marc Jacobs “gothic and futuristic”—adjectives not typically associated with supermodel Bella Hadid, who blended  in with the rest of Jacobs’s dystopian-couture cast. Hadid herself is certainly part of the minimised-brow come-back, regularly romanticising all things ’90s—a decade in which she spent just four living years. But the retro revival is as much a homage to the original supermodels as a reflection of our collective emotional state, suggests make-up artist Marcelo Gutierrez. Using brows as a creative canvas—slimming them down, bleaching, shaving or dyeing them, or affixing them with jewels or glitter—provides a welcome shot of fantasy in our triggered times, says Gutierrez, who has worked with Troye Sivan, Dua Lipa and Euphoria’s Alexa Demie. Existentialism begets escapism. “If I know my client wants to step into another world, I offer to bleach their brows.” 

Gutierrez draws parallels with the exuberance of the Roaring Twenties, after the First World War, “when people were excited to live in a fantasy, because they didn’t know when the world would end again”. In uncertain times, he suggests, a skinny brow is decisive. “It’s a very—how do I put this—bitchy-in the-best-way eyebrow.” This checks out, according to London-based beauty historian Lucy Jane Santos. Clara Bow was the original brow influencer, says Santos, describing the razor-thin brows that extended dramatically past Bow’s natural brow line, which fellow 1920s-era film star Anna May Wong and performer Josephine Baker all sported a century ago. Ideas in beauty are now moving even faster. “If you look at the really young make-up artists on Instagram who are doing different things, they either don’t have brows or they’re drawing them on really thin,” says Rihanna-approved make-up artist Raisa Flowers. When I ask Flowers for her favourite ’90s brow looks, she happily pulls them up on her phone. “Lil’ Kim. Ooh, Mary J Blige. Missy Elliott, definitely. Their brows were pencil, pencil-thin, and they would put concealer around them so they would look even more perfect.”



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