The arrival of 1920s makeup was a revolution. After decades of conservative attitudes towards cosmetics, the 1920s saw a fight back as everyday respectable women used makeup to its full effect.
1920s Makeup Suppliers:
Victorian and Edwardian values had seen makeup used very subtly. Perhaps the biggest influence on 1920s makeup was the arrival of cinema and stars like Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo who used very dramatic makeup both on and off camera. Much of this was actually Egyptian-inspired with the 1922 discovery of Tutankamun’s tomb causing a wave of “Egyptomania” through society, from 1920s fashion to architecture.
These films being black and white, 1920s makeup in cinema was high-contrast to define the features. Most people would only see these looks therefore in either silver screen films or illustrated celebrity magazines. The film “The Flapper” cemented the reputation of fashionable young women at the time who identified with this tribe.
Another influence on 1920s makeup was department stores and manufacturers. Early on in the 1920s cosmetics were still new and rudimentary. There were not many brands and those that did exist were relatively low quality. However in a very short space of just a few years this exploded into hundreds of brands competing to make the best makeup. Inventions like tube lipstick and mascara were born in this period.
The inventions of mascara, lipstick, eye-shadows, pan-sticks, powder compacts and more by leading innovators such as Max Factor, Maurice levy and Maybelline’s TL Williams spread easily through fashionable shops, this of course being the era of Harry Gordon Selfridge.
After the Victorian pale look of lead, sulphur and mercury, rather less toxic 1920s makeup championed rouge, lipstick and kohl eye shadow.
That said, many average people would have only experienced a tickle-down effect of this fashion. Not everyone would have looked like silver screen icons but only tried to emulate what they could.
Today though it seems likely that you are looking for a guide to 1920s flapper makeup, and if you’re not then you only need to water down this look with a bit of Edwardian reserve and modesty to create a more authentic 1920s look for an everyday person.
1920s Flapper Makeup
Of all looks to recreate from 1920s makeup, the 1920s flapper makeup is definitely the most popular and perfect to match with a 1920s flapper dress.
Dr. R. Murray Leslie stated in a 1920 lecture that the devastation and loss of men following the First World War led the way for the flapper.
“The social butterfly type: the frivolous, scantily clad, jazzing flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined, to whom a dance, a new hat, or a man with a car, were of more importance than the fate of nations.”
No wonder then that it was these rebellious young women who brought makeup from the music halls and movie set to nightclubs and fashionable society.
For 1920s flapper lipstick, the aim was to keep the lips small but still full and bold with a tight heart shape.
Apply foundation to the lips’ edges, and the left and right side of your mouth and create this “cupid’s bow” shape by applying lipstick to the middle of your mouth in a heart shape. See this image of Besame Cosmetics’ 1935 cherry red lipstick for reference.
Using a lip pencil first can be a good way to start if you haven’t tried this before. Otherwise use the edge of the lipstick to carefully form your outline.
1920s Eye Makeup
Flapper eyeliner was often improvised with burned matchsticks, charcoal and vaseline. Today any good eyeliner and eyeshadow will do, although use a shiny base to recreate the vaseline gloss. Alternatively just add a layer of lip balm on top with your finger. Again think of silent cinema and go for neutral grey and black.
Here you have a choice again between film stars and more everyday people. Film stars would have used strong contrasts on screen and so used heavy eye shadow across the eyelids. However, for a more average look you can be softer with this.
1920s Flapper makeup is all about lashes so curve them as much as you can. The eyelash curler was invented in 1923! Either use lots of mascara or wear false lashes.
Eyebrows were fashionably thin and curved. Many guides suggest plucking eyebrows but this was not customary in the 1920s. Instead the popular technique was to use vaseline to shape the eyebrows into thin arches. Although not necessary, you may want to shape yours further with an eyebrow pencil.
1920s Makeup Powder And Rouge
The pale face remained popular from the Victorian and even Georgian eras. However, the 1920s saw many women using lots of rouge blusher. This was partly due to the new trend of suntans. Use your favourite matte foundation and concealer and set it with powder before applying blusher to the cheeks. Flappers infamously even rouged their knees!
1920s Flapper Dress
Of course no 1920s flapper look would be complete without the iconic flapper dress. We’ve got a great guide to the best 1920s flapper dresses to buy now.