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Winged Eyeliner Throughout History, Plus 4 Ways to Wear the Trend

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Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (1963)

Winged eyeliner, also referred to as a “cat eye,” could be the most classic beauty trend in history. It was even part of Cleopatra’s beauty routine, since it was believed by the Egyptians as a way to ward off the “evil eye.” Eventually drawn-on “wings” made their way to Hollywood in the ’50s and onto the eyes of Brigitte Bardot, Anna Karina, Sophia Loren, and—full circle—Elizabeth Taylor in the film Cleopatra.


Photo by Kaylin Idora

Retro style icon Dita Von Teese’s signature winged eye helped boost the trend’s popularity in more recent years, and now that celebs like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Angelina Jolie are sporting the look. All to say: there’s no argument that a cat eye is a timeless makeup effect. It’s perfect for any eye shape, and it always makes eyes bigger, bolder, and more noticeable. The look is so versatile, you can wear it casually, on its own, for day or intensify it with shadow and bold lashes for a dramatic evening statement. Any type of liner works, too, whether its in pencil, liquid, or gel form—it just depends on your preference. When I first started doing my own cat eye ten or so years ago, I used a felt-tip liquid liner pen. After all that practice, I now consider it part of my signature look (with red lipstick, of course!)

A basic way to achieve the look is to take the eyeliner applicator or brush and start by creating a thin line from the inner corner of your eye. Then extend the line toward the outside corner, increasing the thickness as you go on. Flick the end upwards toward your temple to create the winged effect—see a full step-by-step tutorial here.

Once you’ve got that basic move down, you can play with endless variations. A few we love:

1: Subtle

There’s the flirty-yet-subtle thin upward flick, really close to the lash line. Watch Wayne Goss demo how to use a flat-topped, push liner brush to get the look here.

2: Graphic

On the flipside, it’s also fun to go much more theatrical with your lines and make them thicker and more illustrative, depending on what effect you want. Think of how Amy Winehouse famously sported an extreme, super-thick flick that complemented her ultra-teased bouffant—and check out more inspiration here.

3: Bat wing

There’s also the “bat wing,” an edgier take on the cat eye that’s distinctly heavier at the ends, is great when you want to bring on the inky black. Cora of Vintage or Tacky shows us the technique in this video.

4: Double wing

You can also try a double wing, a fun variation a la Red from Orange is the New Black (below) that feels at once sophisticated and little bit punk. Learn how to do it here.

Liners we’re loving right now

All you’ll need is a steady hand and some patience to channel the look of your favorite silver screen goddess—plus one of these excellent products.

1) Inglot Cosmetics Liquid Eyeliner in 25 | $12 | shop it
2) Ellis Faas Eyeliner in Black | $36 | shop it
3) Inglot Cosmetics Full Metal Eyeliner in 522 | $13 | shop it
4) Kevyn Aucoin The Precision Liquid Liner | $34 | shop it
5) Inglot Cosmetics AMC Eyeliner Gel in 77 | $12 | shop it

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