I thought I would start to share my make-up looks as I see online all the time people not knowing where to start. I have gone through the learning phase, and find that learning about the history and context of the times helps me to understand why things were done a certain way. I am starting with a 1940s make up look, this is a girl next door look for me – neat brows, defined eyes, and of course, that luscious red lip. First, let’s see what was happening during this time that made these choices fashionable.
Influences of the 1940s on make up and beauty
With much of Europe at war at the start of the 40s and other nations soon to be joining the battle, wartime restrictions impacted daily life over time and cosmetics were no exception. Many everyday items disappeared as the materials were needed to assist with the war effort. Rationing affected everyone and everything. Petrol, sugar, eggs nightshirts, sausages and spats, all came in a book of stamps to be claimed. Shortages of alcohol meant less cologne and perfumes. Fat and oils meant that even soap was rationed. A key ingredient for the war effort was glycerine, which took it away from the cosmetics industry.
Packaging was also affected as metal and plastics were needed and therefore not readily available for the cosmetic needs of the nation. Some cosmetics companies also made items which meant their output for the cosmetics market was lower. Revlon factories, for example, made first-aid kits and dye markers for the US Navy.
Rationing in the UK especially, meant that many everyday items were hard to get. Rather than go without, the women of the UK would get creative and use substitutes. These included:
- Burnt cork for mascara
- Cochineal or beetroot juice for lipstick
- Bicarbonate of soda as a deodorant
- Gravy Browning for tinting legs (instead of wearing stockings)
When cosmetics were available in store, word would get out resulting in women queuing for hours at a time. Even second-hand theatre makeup was considered better than nothing. Rationing didn’t end as soon as the war did. In Britain, rationing was in place until 1954 for some items. Things did start to come back into regular circulation – albeit slowly.
How to get a 1940s make up look
The overall 1940s make up look was relatively natural, topped off with some glamour from the red lips and nails. Foundation was natural with a subtle, rosy glow to the cheeks. Shaped eyebrows were medium thickness, brushed and delicately filled in. Eyeshadow was subtle, usually matched the wearers eye colour and was finished with a touch of mascara on the lashes.
Colour harmony with products was popular. Primarily it was hair colour that would determine which colour range one would opt for, although skin tone and eye colour also had their role to play. Beauty guides from the time also advised to colour match lips, cheeks and nails to one coordinated shade.
Although this sounds simple, women’s make up looks in the 1940s could take a while – there was no such thing as a 5 minute face.
Foundations weren’t the same as they were today and there was a much slimmer shade range. If you look at old adverts of the time they often boast of having five shades so you can easily see what it would be like to be the average woman who wanted to have natural looking make up. Most foundations had a pinkish hue which worked well for white women but obviously not for people of colour. They would often mix their own shades or go without.
It wasn’t just the availability of different shades and skin tones that was different. Foundation in the 1940s was much thicker and creamier – there was no lighter liquid foundations available. Face powder was essential to keep the face matte and matched one’s skin tone. Foundation wasn’t just used to even the skin colour, it also helped the powder to cling to the face – the powders would usually fall off otherwise. Foundation and powder were extended right under the dress neckline to make the lack of skin tone matching less noticeable.
Powders were used to provide a matte look to the skin as the foundations tended to be heavy and glossy in appearance and would match the natural skin tone as much as possible. Light shades were used to keep one looking fresh and youthful, whilst a slightly bronzed shade would add a sunkissed glow which was popular with film stars. Most make up lines would therefore carry a sunkissed colour.
If you have a yellow tinge to your skin, a pinker tone will work well to brighten and lift. A puff would be used in the 1940s to apply powder liberally all over the face. This would then be brushed off with a large brush from neck to forehead. The brush would be used in a downward motion once only to finish the skin and smooth out any fuzz.
1940s Blush or Rouge
Blushes or rouge as they were known at the time were used very sparingly and like foundation didn’t have many shades available. They were usually found in pinkish shades of peach and coral for pale skin and raspberry tones for bronzed skin.
Cream formulations of rouge were most often used to give a natural colour and were blended into the foundation. Compressed powder formulations were also lightly brushed on the cheekbones to give a natural rosy cheeked look.
As a carry over from the 1930s, eyebrows that were thin and arched continued to be worn in the early 1940s which led to the contoured faces of the 1940s. Eyebrows were worn fairly natural looking with only stray hairs being plucked to create an even, natural arch to the well-groomed brow.
Eyebrow pencils slightly darker than the hair were used to further define the brows – a line would be drawn at the top of the brow with the underside being left soft. Most wouldn’t even use an eyebrow pencil on a day-to-day basis – a quick swipe of petroleum jelly was all that was needed to tame and smooth the hairs into an arch.
The thin and natural brow was know as a “dove wing” as it was similar to the wing of a dove when it was flying.
1940s eye make up
Very little make up was used on the eyes – the focus was on the lips of course. Most women wore a light coating of dark brown or black mascara during the day with some also using vaseline or petroleum jelly to darken lashes. Mascara was available in liquid, paste or cake format with a small brush to apply. Cake make up would have a small drop of water or spit added to create a thick build up – compared to today’s lashes the 1940s look was a lot heavier. Mascara would be applied to upper and lower lashes.
Eyeshadows were also worn but were in neutral colours and usually only in the evening. Eyeshadows would match the eye colour – not complement it as we do today. Blue eyed folk would use blue-grey shadow, those with green eyes would use grey shadow and brown eyeshadow was used on hazel, brown or black eyes.
For the evening look, eyeshadows were sometimes matched to the dress but silver or gold would usually be used to an everyday shade instead. Eyeshadows was worn in a single eye from the lashline to the brow and blended for evening looks and just on the top eyelid for daywear. Eyeliner wasn’t used until the very end of the 1940s, and even then it was only used on the top lashline. It was felt that eyeliner looked “too fake” for most.
1940s make up for blonde hair
Natural colours are the story-book hues of spun gold. For vivid beauty, wear tints and shades of fuschia. Find your most flattering colours in the wonderful blues of nature. And for a soft-spoken effect, depend upon the muted blue-greens
1940s make up for medium brown hair
Your very own colours are the glorious orange sunset shades. Your most arresting colours are the glamourous reddish-orchid hues. You day-in, day-out favourites – the gentle blues. For restrained colour strategy – select from the never discordant greens of nature.
1940s make up for redheads
Your most personal colours are the tints, glints and shades from your hair – from apple blossom pink to warm rose. Your most effective tones are the exciting purple-blues. For the colour you feel is just yours – the spirited greenish-blues. Your most delicately beautiful hues – the complacent Chinese Greens
1940s make up for brunettes
Your own vibrant colouring makes the enchanting American Beauty hues your most harmonious shades. Your electrifying colours are the dramatic life blues. Your easiest tones are the cool tropical greens. For a quiet, reposed effect – burnished golds… the colour becomes the background – you the exclamation point!
1940s make up for silver and grey
Your own colours are the natural highlights you see in your lovely, silver hair – soft purples and mauves. Create your most dramatic looks in rich cardinal red. You’ll be wonderfully “at home” in soft pistachio greens. Create an interesting effect – quietly 0 with the clever use of muted aqua – the soft-spoken colour will have an amazing impact.
As you can guess, the most important part of the 1940s make up look is the lips. Lipstick was thought to keep spirits up during the war and wasn’t under restrictions of rationing. The fashionable shade of the decade is red. Shades were blue toned, orangish and everywhere in between, but lipstick was always red and always worn. In the fall, shades became darker and were a little lighter in the spring. Only a little lighter though – bright pink shades weren’t in vogue until the 1950s.
Lipstick was generally matte – it was common to moisturise lips before application with advice from the time recommending a dab of oil on top of the lips if the shade was too bland. Lipstick coats were blotted with a tissue in between application. By 1948, lip lining pencils had arrived and were being used to shape and outline the mouth before lipstick was applied.
It was common to “plump up” the pout with lipstick if one’s mouth was ‘too thin’. An even look was most sought after with lips being the same size on the top and bottom. This plumped, even look was coined the Hunters Bow Lip, by Max factor, and was made popular by Joan Crawford. For the thin lipped, over drawing the lip line was needed to achieve the right shape. Some, like Lauren Bacall and Ingrid Bergman didn’t bother to overdraw their naturally thin lips and preferred the natural look.
Fingernails were always looked after. They were neatly trimmed and filed into long oval shapes. For safety, nails were kept slightly shorter during the war. Cuticles were also kept immaculate, trimmed and moisturised. Nails were almost always painted in shades of red, although pink, mauve, coral, rose and burgundy were also popular shades.
Nail polish would often be matched to one’s lipstick with many brands offering exact matches. One classic fingernail style from the 1920s through to the 1940s was to leave a half moon shape at the base of the nail unpainted.
I don’t know about you lovely people, but I have certainly learned a lot about 1940s makeup. I may try out the eye look from that Maybelline advert – who knows, you may see some pictures on here…