1920’s Makeup Tutorial

1920s makeup consists of dark, smoky eyes; bright cheeks and luscious, bright red lips. Stars like Theda Bara and Clara Bow made paper-white skin, blood red lips and insanely made-up eyes into must-haves for every fashionable woman who ever rolled a stocking below the knee.

Day Look (no sound):

Evening look (no sound):

Brought to you by Helena Rubinstein.

A quick read on fashion and makeup during the 1920’s:

Before the ’20’s, women wore cosmetics, but nice women hid their rouge pots and powder puffs away from fathers and husbands, who heartily disapproved. Discretion was imperative. But when the ’20’s hit, young women went for makeup in a big way.

Makeup was in its rawest form, because the market was just beginning to grow. Early mascara was a cake of wax that was melted and applied in a gluey mass to the lashes with an orange stick. The trend in lipstick was the reddest red—no other color options were available—and smudgeproof lipstick was mandatory for would-be vamps who wanted to neck without leaving a trail.

Eyebrows were painfully thin; in a fad, women plucked out the entire eyebrow and penciled it back on higher than it had been in the first place. Eye makeup consisted of kohl, which might be made of ingredients as strange as soot, lead and goose grease. Kohl went all the way around the eyes, turning the whole orbital area into a deep-stained smudge reminiscent of vampires. For a dramatic touch, some ‘vamps’ drew a line of kohl from the corner of the eye outward, simulating a slightly Asiatic look that was deemed sexy and bad. (Even today, imported kohl may contain lead: substitute black eyeliner instead). Powder (usually rice powder) was vital to the Flapper look: skin looked white to the point of near-death; one author called it, “the pallor usually associated with innate vice”. Themes in makeup as in dresses were based on the Orient.

The lips were the most important part of the face for any woman who wanted to make an impression with her 1920s makeup. Bright red was the only color and smudge-proof lipstick was in. Cherry-flavored lipstick was also popular. Applied to the upper lip, lipstick rose above the actual lip line in a “cupid’s bow.” The bottom lip was slightly overstated. The width was minimized by stopping short of the natural crease in the lips.

Along with other ‘unfeminine’ behaviors, Flappers didn’t hide their makeup any more than they did their legs; lipstick was applied at the dinner table and powder compacts made public appearances at parties and speakeasies. Portable makeup containers—compacts and lipstick tubes made of precious metals and encrusted with jewels—became ideal accessories when cosmetics left the boudoir for the banquette.

Article care of Free Beauty.

2 thoughts on “1920’s Makeup Tutorial”

  1. Most women did not go for the so called flapper look but instead the idea of facial contouring was gaining interest and soon 19 makeup and beauty books displaying detailed tutorials for women were being sold. One notable makeup tool that appeared in the 19 was eyeliner inspired by the huge interest in all things Egyptian, following the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun .

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