More Cutex Nail Polish Ads in Color

Cutex advertises smoky nail polish shades for chic bridesmaids; Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1936.

While catching up on files I hadn’t labelled, I found two more 1930’s color ads for Cutex Nail Polish.

In 1936, ads assured customers that their Cutex nail polish would not get thick and gummy after being opened. Ad from Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1936

Those sharply pointed kitten-claw nails are much in evidence, with white, unpainted half-moons and tips. The colors are “smoky” and coordinated with autumn clothing colors.

Smoky shades of nail polish to compliment bridesmaids’ clothing colors. Cutex ad, September, 1936.

Robin Red was recommended for this pink organdy dress.

“Be divine in pink organdy with Cutex Robin Red nails.”

This bridesmaid wears Rust nail polish with her green dress.

By sending in a coupon and fourteen cents, you could get two samples of nail polish, nail polish remover, and a Cutex lipstick to harmonize! (This is the first mention I happen to have seen about coordinated nail and lip color; that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of earlier references I simply haven’t come across.)

Cutex coupon ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, September 1936.

In the October ads, competition among the nail polish companies became evident: both Cutex and Glazo claimed that their polish wouldn’t get thick or “gummy.”

Top of Cutex ad, October 1936.

Cutex showed a lineup of colors from different companies.

Nail polish colors in competition; Cutex ad, October 1936.

“We deliberately uncorked [!] 10 bottles of nail polish — two of our New Cutex — Clear and Creme, and 8 popular rival brands — and let their contents stand exposed to the air for 14 days.”

Text from a Depression Era Cutex ad (October 1936) stresses economy: “usable down to the last drop — a distinct saving!” “There’s no question about value for your money when you buy Cutex.”

Nail polish being a luxury, rather than a necessity, women must have felt a little bit guilty buying it during hard times — unless it was really a money-saving purchase, “usable down to the last drop — a distinct saving!”at “the old economical price” of 35 cents.

Glazo nail polish also addressed the problem of nail polish that became too thick to use. Glazo ad, Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1936. At 25 cents per bottle, Glazo was cheaper than Cutex.

Here’s a closer look at those hats:

The hats worn in this Glazo nail polish ad are really rather conservative for 1936.

New “smoky” Cutex nail polish colors from October 1936.



Filed under 1930s, Hats, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Vintage Accessories

4 responses to “More Cutex Nail Polish Ads in Color

  1. thetactfultypist

    That white base and tipped nail technique seems an attempt to visually lengthen the look of a woman’s fingers. Interestingly, in my own old family albums coloured nail polish doesn’t appear until the 1960s… I wonder if that is typical of working class families? Manual jobs would have destroyed manicured nails within a day! Those smooth hand cartoons hint at having hired help to scrub the floors and use the wringer washer machine, no?

    • I’m not sure when painting the whole nail one color became popular. Initially, the “rosy nails with white tips and half-moons” imitated — and “improved on” a natural nail. I think that it’s intended to make the fingernails look longer; up close the white tips attract attention to their length. (But pointed tips are not a way to keep nails from breaking easily….). In my experience, if you want your fingers to look longer and more graceful, a polish close to your skin color in value (not necessarily in color, but relative darkness or lightness) will make the fingers look longer from a distance of a few feet. That 1930’s strip of darker color that stops near the end of the finger will make fingers look shorter. (That’s a modern view.) And, like so many fashions, the idea was to proclaim “I don’t have to do any physical labor” (as in the theory of conspicuous consumption.) Of course, fashion always percolates down the economic scale; the more recent fad for very long artificial nails was adopted by a lot of grocery store cashiers and other working women who could barely type or hold a pen because of their very long nails!

  2. Hi witness2fashion! Thank you so much for posting and curating so many images from this era–your blog is both fun to read and a great historical resource.

    I was wondering where you think the term “kitten-claw” comes from to describe this particular type of manicure. I’m working on a paper about visual representation of hands in magazine advertising from the mid-to-late 1930s, and lots of the women shown having their hands “saved” from scrubbing or dishwashing are illustrated with this style of nails. I’ve been looking for textual references to it (not just illustrations) but coming up short so far–I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this type of manicure was referred to in the period.

    • I’m not able to help, really. I remember a poem from my childhood about offensive terms, and one was “you can call a woman a kitten, but never a cat.” I suppose that white nail tips were evidence that no hard manual labor was being done (e.g., stove blacking). Your project sounds interesting. I hope you have access to all those old magazines online through ProQuest. P.S. When I studied fashion illustration, we were taught to draw female fingertips with a slight upward curve — this produces a more graceful look, and can be seen in pattern illustrations, as well as advertising. Dynevor Rhys drew very elegant female hands in the 1920s and thirties.

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