Portland News

An In-Depth Look Into the True History of ‘Cumbrellas’

A woman grooms her eyelash, circa 1930. Photo: Keystone View/Getty Images
A woman grooms her eyelash, circa 1930. Photo: Keystone View/Getty Images

Cumbrella – Fake eyelashes have been a modern accessory to help women achieve the look they want when going out, but its name has also been the subject of ridicule with some racy history behind it.

Warning: the following content contains terms and phrases that are NSFW.

The Claim

For more than a decade, the internet has been home to funny memes and edited photos and videos, with many sites dedicated to creating content to lighten everyone’s mood. 

However, there are a couple of memes that come off too believable.

Early last year, a meme went viral regarding the origins of elongated eyelashes.

“I finally understand why so many bitches wear fake eyelashes,” the post wrote. “Cumbrella – In 1882, London prostitute Gerda Puridle invented elongated eye lashes or “cumbrellas” to block semen from getting in working girls’ eyes that are worn today as common fashion.”

Since then, many content creators have shared the meme on several platforms like Facebook and Tiktok.


Originally from @livgreenawayy Cumbrellas☔️

♬ original sound – Liv Greenaway
Two examples of content creators sharing the meme and passing it off as history

The Woman Behind the Picture

Although there are plenty of duplicates of the meme going around, the woman shown in the picture is not a prostitute named Gerda Puridle.

Instead, the woman is an actress & novelist named Alice Regnault.

Alice Regnault rose to prominence in the 1870s, and the photo used was reportedly taken in 1879 by French photographer Gaspard-Félix Tournachon.

The photograph was published in a guide a few years later by Emile Bergerat titled “Les Actrices de Paris” or The Actresses of Paris.

Regnault was described as an intelligent and flexible actress whose dedication allowed her to escape the ‘pretty woman’ label and get her talents recognized.

Who Made the Lashes?

Despite her reputation as an actress, novelist, and journalist, Alice Regnault was not the inventor of the elongated eyelashes.

Beauty Magazine Marie Claire wrote that eyelash extensions had been done since ancient Egypt, but the late 1800s saw how people could use human hair to lengthen their lashes.

In 1882, a “Medical Records” volume explained the process in detail. 

Although the practice had been common in that era, the first patent came out in 1911 from inventor Anna Taylor.

Five years later, artificial eyelashes became more popular thanks to filmmaker D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance.”

Since then, elongated eyelash extensions have become a popular accessory in entertainment, music, and everyday lives.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.