Cat Eye Makeup In Pop Culture

Cat Eye Makeup In Pop Culture

Cat eye makeup has been a part of pop culture for decades, and its popularity only continues to grow. From classic Hollywood starlets like Marilyn Monroe to modern-day fashionistas like Rihanna, the cat eye has been a go-to look for decades. In this blog, we explore the history and evolution of cat eye makeup in pop culture. Learn how stars have used this iconic look to express their individual style and explore the endless possibilities of cat eye makeup!

Perfecting the cat eye look takes time, effort, a good eyeliner and definitely a steady hand. It’s so popular that there are an abundance of “how to do a cat eye” makeup tutorials on Youtube—so many that it yields about 3 million results (and, literally, there's a tutorial for every cat eye you can imagine, some of which we will link below)! And rightly so, as it adds drama to the face depending on how far out your wings are drawn. 

The cat eye makeup look can be both subtle and severe, either look lifts and accentuates the eyes. The trend has remained in Western fashion for nearly a century from the gothic to the glamorous.

Let’s examine how the cat eye has evolved through the past several decades!

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Cleopatra

As one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 created a popular movement in Western culture and art. Henceforth, Egyptian hieroglyphics and paintings were recreated in everything from jewelry and fabrics to architecture, influencing film and music as well. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: King tut's death mask

It comes as no surprise that King Tut's death mask (seen above) influenced makeup trends of the 1920s and beyond. This, alongside the Eye of Horus (which is a commonly used symbol within the goth subculture) provided inspiration and new makeup interpretations for celebrities, musicians and movie characters alike. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup:Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra

Eagle Lion Films

Though the original goth goddess Theda Bara played the role of Cleopatra first in 1917, Vivien Leigh followed in the movie Caesar and Cleopatra in 1945. Donned in the most exquisite headdresses, Leigh also had stunning cat eye makeup even though it was not as extreme as Ancient Egyptian Art depicted. This look is showstopping with its mid-range winged eyeliner and filled-in dark eyeshadow. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup:Elizabeth taylor with bold cat eye flicks

In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor stunned audiences with her interpretation of Cleopatra with the most amazing makeup, channeling Egyptian aesthetics in color and grandeur. Not afraid of dramatics, Taylor's makeup was bold in color, eyeliner thickness and in metallics—only to be outdone by another queen in the 1980s (hint: Siouxsie Sioux). 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Marilyn Monroe wears a subtle flick of eyeliner

Ireland's Own

The glamourous 1950s fashion icon herself, Marilyn Monroe, often wore just the touch of a cat eye to accentuate her smouldering eyes—proof that this look can be as simplistic or as outrageous as you can imagine. A classic look like this works for all occassions. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup:Edie Sedgewick 1960s makeup


As Andy Warhol's muse and superstar, Edie Sedgwick was a fashion icon in the 1960s. She was the "it girl" who wore her cat eye a bit more artistic, to match her socialite lifestyle. Here, Sedgwick flicks her cat eye out in multiple lines with different thicknesses—a playful accent to her bold personality. This dramatic but playful look pairs perfectly with vintage style clothing for an all-out 60s vibe. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Siouxie Sioux with dramatic black eyeliner

Goth goddess and icon, Siouxsie Sioux is not only the queen and progenitor of the goth subculture, but is the master in cat eye looks. With her severe wings that often connect with her eyebrows, Siouxsie's makeup is always spot on. Since the late 1970s, Siouxsie has been creating her unique cat eyes and shows no sign of stopping—a true inspiration.

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Corinne Burns wears punk rock style cat eye makeup

Paramount Pictures

Diane Lane as Corinne Burns in the 1982 flick, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains is a punk rock interpretation of the cat eye. Corinne's don't-give-a-fuck attitude resonates in her harsh black and red unforgettable makeup—it's sexy and harsh, just like her. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Boy George wearing intricate eye makeup

Boy George

Our favorite 1980s New Romantic, Boy George of Culture Club, always had fantastic makeup. So good, in fact, that he was creative enough to draw arrows on his colorful cat eyes as seen here. Bold and playful, stunning and artistic, Boy George was never boring in his makeup aesthetic. 

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Gothic cat-eye makeup in Elvira Mistress of Dark

Next is Elvira, our goth beauty with incredible cat eyes. Seen here from her 1988 movie Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, her lined eyes, oversized lashes and drawn out wings are to die for. It's the classic everyday gothic makeup look that's stood the test of time!

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Amy Winehouse always wore thick eyeliner

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse had the cat eye makeup down and was our favorite of the 2000s. Always with a thick and long outstretched wing with minimalistic makeup elsewhere, she was able to balance drama with simplicity. 


A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup: Dita Von Teese wears a subtle but glamorous flick of eyeliner

And, finally, to round out this list is the classically glamorous queen of burlesque fashion Dita Von Teese. Just like Marilyn Monroe, Von Teese captures simplicity and accentuates her eyes juuuuust enough to add a little more sex to her signature red lipstick.

A Visual History of Cat Eye Makeup

From Cleopatra to Siouxsie to Marilyn Monroe—whose cat eye makeup do you love most? Comment below!

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Cover photo courtesy : Dita Von Teese


About the Author

Steph Simpson

Steph Simpson is a freelance writer with a background in health & fitness, lifestyle blogging, branding and marketing. When she's not blogging for a living, she writes about her journey into freelancing, and offers help and support for new writers and freelancers over at her website. Please stop by Steph Simpson Writes, and say hello!