Is there a word to imply when someone used to be beautiful back in the day? I thought of 'ex-beauty' but sounds too harsh. (Though either way it will be inappropriate for the modern age) it's for 60s literature.
Might I suggest a faded beauty?
Definition: A woman who was beautiful in the past.
I'd also extend it to any commonly thought to be beautiful item, such as curtains, embroidery, furniture or towns.
Once-beautiful is the expression you want. See https://www.wordnik.com/words/once-beautiful
For men, the expression former heartthrob seems to be a favourite, but gossip magazines tend to limit themselves by saying someone has aged badly
The expression former beauty queen is well known, and in the past I have heard of actresses being defined former beauties. However, it is (or should be) considered sexist and disrespectful towards women in general and I would avoid telling any woman friend that she was a beauty in her heyday. But on the web, I found a few references:
- Known as “the first supermodel,” D______ was certainly a beauty in her day.
- The former heartthrob became a household name with the films Top Secret! and Top Gun.
- Former beauty T_____ was diagnosed with arthritis, ...
- Former blonde bombshell and “sex kitten” (very 1960s and '70s)
- Greta Garbo in her heyday
- Elizabeth Taylor, the actress considered the world's most beautiful woman in her heyday, ... (source)
You can use the term erstwhile, depending on how you are referring to it. For example:
Though now old and grey, the audience remembered her erstwhile beauty.
There's also What is the meaning and usage of “erstwhile”? for further reading here on English.SE.
The formerly beautiful person as gone to seed.
go to seed
(of a plant) To pass from flowering or ripening to the formation of seeds.
(figuratively, by extension) To deteriorate; to decline into an unkempt or debased condition.
For example, from UK newspaper the Daily Mail comments here on aged tennis stars:
" the fading shadows of her former beauty" Jane Austin referred to "women of a certain age" as still possessing a shadow of their former youth and beauty to indicate that while Time had been kind to them, the relentless progression of time and the merciless process of aging had still taken their toll. Another phrase she uses is " she was still a very handsome woman" to indicate that while a female was no longer in the first flush of youth and beauty she was still a formidable and attractive middle aged woman and not yet unpleasantly aged (aka hatchet-faced) or to be mistaken for a dowager ( elderly or grandmotherly figure) in her dotage.
Although I think “former” from this answer hits the spot, since you say that you’ll be writing from the perspective of a specific time period (the ’60s), maybe you could capture the notion of “former” by referring to an earlier decade:
His/Her 1950s pin[-]up[-]worthy appearance/good looks took a hit during the ’60s.
Additionally, if appropriate to your storyline, you could emphasize the double entendre of “taking a hit [during the ’60s]” with:
Both he/she and his/her 1950s pin[-]up[-]worthy appearance/good looks took many a hit during the ’60s.
Definition of PINUP (FROM MERRIAM-WEBSTER)
1. : something fastened to a wall: such as
a : a photograph or poster of a person considered to have glamorous qualities
(see the use of “pin-up worthy” in the title of this USA Today article: “Chris Pine is positively pin-up worthy in 'Wonder Woman' set picture”)
take a hit (from *Macmillan Dictionary) – 2: to suffer damage or loss
And for the purposes of the double entendre:
take a hit (from The Free Dictionary by Farlex) -
inhale through the nose
do drugs, drug - use recreational drugs