Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1920s and 1930s Make-Up

This summer I was challenged to come up with two retro looks - one for a coworker who was attending a 1930s themed fashion event and one for myself, for a friend's 1920s themed party.

I have a soft spot for history and when we were taught the basics of beauty through the years in make-up school, I absorbed it like a sponge and have never forgotten it. I love Sam from PixiWoo for her retro make-up looks and used her videos in my research such as this one for the 1920s look (sorry about the size of this video!):

Make-up in the 1920s was very basic so women did what they could. As is the case now, what was in vogue was the faces of movies stars such as Clara Bow and Louise (LuLu) Brooks. 1920s make-up was inspired by silent film where the face was used in lieu of voices to express emotion and make-up had to stand out on B&W film. 

Clara Bow
Louise Brooks
The flapper was the IT girls of the decade with her close cropped, bobbed hair, dropwaist dresses, long beaded necklaces or pearls and cloche hats.

Why so glum, Flapper girl? I covet your boots and adorable hair!

One of my favourite photos of all time.
Louise Brooks

1920s make-up basics:
  • big, sad eyes
  • low, straight, thin, dark brows
  • pale, matte skin
  • dark red, bow-shaped lips
  • no blush

Me with my test flapper make-up
Me at the party
Taken by Beverly Wooding 
I have a face with strong features but I managed to get the 1920s look without too much difficulty.

Here's what I did:

I thinned my brows out as much as I was comfortable wearing (which wasn't anywhere near as thin or straight as they wore them in the 1920s) and used a dark brown powder to darken, lower and extend them. For my eyes, I used MAC's Smut eyeshadow in an oval shape but in the complete opposite way as I would normally apply it. Starting on my lid, I blended the colour up high in the crease and inner corner and worked it down at the outside of my eye to create a downturned, sad look. I smudged a soft line of Smut below my eyes, also pulling it down at the outer corner. To make my eyes appear larger I lined my lower waterline with Benefit EyeBright to make my eyes appear larger and added a little mascara, but not as much as I normally wear.

My base was as matte as I could make it (lots of powder) and I applied no blush or highlighter.

For my lips, I used MAC's Diva matte lipstick but first applied concealer to the each side of my mouth. The 1920s lip was known as the Bow, after Clara Bow and drawn well inside the natural lip line. Lip colours didn't bleed as quickly when done this way. I used a freshly sharpened lip pencil to draw the shape and then used a lip brush to apply the lipstick.

MAC Smut eyeshadow and MAC Diva matte lipstick

The 1930s look I gave my coworker Lindsay instruction for was inspired by this video from Helena Rubenstein and from Kevyn Aucoin's books. I think Marlene Dietrich was one of the most stunning women to grace the big screen and I have a huge retro girl-crush on her.

Can you see why?

Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress
Her face was the epitome of sculpted, otherworldly beauty with a good dose of androgyny as her face is almost handsome. She was in control of her own make-up and hair and worked mainly with directors, wardrobe stylists and technicians who knew how to make her look her very best onscreen.

Again, I went to PixiWoo for inspiration (sorry about the size of this video!):

Her high, thin, arched brows, sculpted bone structure, bedroom eyes and flawless skin were hallmarks of the 1930s look but it's easy just to focus on that face. Other beauties of the decade were:

Greta Garbo

Joan Crawford - look a brunette!

Joan Crawford again, this time as a blonde.
Carole Lombard (with Clark Gable)
The 1930s were softer in terms of hair and make-up than the 1920s. Advances had been made in beauty products, although they were still pretty basic. There had been huge advances in film though, in terms of lighting and cameras, so rather than the almost two-dimensional visuals of cinema in the 1920s, the 1930s gave us the beginning of Hollywood's Golden Age and the first of the incredibly glamourous movie stars.

This is another good video although it has no sound and the model has the perfect face for this type of make-up so it's easy to make her look like a 1930s film star.

The basics of the 1930s look:
  • glamour
  • shadow and highlight
  • liquid eyeliner 
  • high, thin, rounded eyebrows
  • red lips
  • sculpted cheekbones
  • soft pink blush
I didn't do Lindsey's make-up but I gave her lots of instruction and here's what she did all on her own! She looks great! She also has a great face for this look - delicate features, a rounded face with short blonde hair to frame it. I don't know what products she used, but it appears she used a thin line of liquid eyeliner, a touch of blush and that fantastic red lipstick (it's MAC's Ruby Woo, she tells me).

Lindsey with her 1930s look.
Taken by Jonathan Loek and posted on BlogTO.
Another photo of Lindsey taken by photographer Claudia Hung can be seen here.

1930s make-up is much more flattering than the 1920s look but since both of these looks were meant for B&W photos and film, you can play with texture and modernize these both for today. Lindsey too didn't tweeze the life out of her eyebrows to get the perfect look but this is a look she could wear again on a night out.

Coincidentally it's been a summer for retro make-up looks - so much fun!!!


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