Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Makeup by the Decade: The Roaring 20's

Makeup trends of the 1920's

Rather than reiterate what you can already find on the subject of 1920's makeup, I figured I would write about my interpretations and understanding of the makeup from that era.

It sounds funny but when I think of 1920's fashion, I picture a little girl whose gotten into her mother's clothes and makeup and worn too much of it. I think it's the perfect analogy for this decade in makeup; everything was worn in excess. Mascara was hot on the scene, blush was saturated, and eyebrows and lips were highly exaggerated. Nowadays we would look at wearing this much makeup as garish or amateurish, but if you're looking to sport a 1920's look I don't think you have to cake your makeup on in order to be successful.

One of the things you should do when trying to recreate a vintage look is to consider what was available at the time; what was new or on trend at the time in colours, products and styles? For the 1920's we're aware that certain products were popular: mascara was a sure choice for accenting kholed eyes; on trend lip colours were reds and plums; and eyebrow and lip shapes were over-exaggerated.


I believe the eyebrows are what make the 1920's look. If you mess them up you'll end up either looking like a clown or from a different decade altogether! People often assume that in order to achieve a 1920's look you need thin eyebrows but this isn't the case. If you look at photographs from the 20's you will find women with thick natural eyebrows alongside those with pencil thin, drawn on eyebrows. The real defining element of the 20's eyebrow is not necessarily the thickness but the overall shape. If you study the images presented here you will see eyebrows from this time rarely feature a well defined arch, instead eyebrows are rounded. Also, they are usually elongated and shifted, sloping downward. I believe this was done in order to achieve a softer and rounded appearance of the face (as much of the makeup from this decade demonstrates). By rounding the eyebrows and drawing them closer to the eye, it creates a kind of sympathetic look. I've often felt the women from this decade look like cherubs and perhaps that was the intention. Aside from those who chose to curve and slope their eyebrows, there were also women who chose to shape their eyebrows in a more straight and severe looking fashion. This is notable in a few iconic looks, at times seen in images of Theda Bara or Clara Bow (see below).


The second most important element in achieving a 1920's look are the lips. Like the eyebrows, the shape of the lips were highly exaggerated. They were made to appear smaller with a well defined "cupid's bow" (the bow of the lip). For women with fuller lips this was achieved by drawing within the lip line, for women with thinner lips the cupid's bow may have been defined outside of the lip line (as shown in the illustration above **please forgive my wonky drawings). Look at the photos and advertisements of women from this era and you will see the different and unusual shapes used to define the bow of the lip. Lipstick colours that were popular at this time were in dark or bold shades of red, brown, orange and plum.


When you think of eye makeup from the 1920's, you may picture the dark and sultry kohled eyes of Theda Bara. This is the most commonly referenced makeup style of the 20's and although I acknowledge that it has it's place (especially given the heightened interest in Egyptian culture during the 20's), I feel it's a tad overdone and really ought to be used for an evening look. If you look through the various promotional photographs or illustrated advertisements, you'll probably notice that not every girl had dark kohled eyes. Beyond your basic black, there were also shades of brown, blue and even gold was being used. You don't have to cake your eyelid in black shadow to invoke the roaring 20's, as I mentioned before, it's more about the shapes and application of the makeup that make the look. My suggestion for achieving a 20's daytime look is to use softer shades or neutral eye-shadows like peach, gold, sage or taupe. Accent them with a bit of eyeliner close to the lash line on the bottom and upper lids (or leave the lower lid out and apply mascara to the bottom lashes). Apply mascara liberally!


Use of blush was also popular at this time but it was applied to the apple of the cheeks, it was not used to contour but to exaggerate roundness. It was applied generously in shades of orange, pink or red. I've ready varying opinions, but it seems foundation for the most part was intended to look warm and natural.


If you get the shapes and shades down right you can easily create a 1920's makeup. This look is really fun and unusual and can change your appearance dramatically. If you're curious to see what I mean, look at images of Joan Crawford from the 1920's and then those of her from the late 30's or 40's - I had to do a double take! It almost looks like two different people. Keep that in mind if you ever plan on disguising yourself for whatever reason. ; )

Next Month: The Dirty 30's

Best wishes! ♥