Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Vintage Vixens: Historically Accurate WWII Era Makeup (1940s How-To)

Recently, I've had the extreme pleasure of working in an Andrews Sisters tribute trio with two lovely and talented ladies. We're still in the rehearsal stage, and only just ordered costumes yesterday, but I thought it would be fun to do a post on historically accurate makeup from the WWII era. Even if you're not Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy-ing, this might come in handy for Disney Dapper Day, Halloween, theatre, or if you just feel particularly glam one day and want to rock your inner Rosie the Riveter. At the end, I'll give recommendations for modern day product options. Now, come along with me on a Sentimental Journey. Who knows, maybe Grandma was cooler than you thought.

Let's start with the basics (and a good giggle): Face shapes. In the 1940s, the oval face shape was most desired. Great care was taken with hair, lipstick, and clothing choices to create the illusion of an oval shape if the natural bone structure could be considered round, square, or anything else other than oval. Here is a fantastic (and hilarious) vintage film tutorial on creating an oval shape. I'd embed, but it's been disabled. I'll just wait here while you go watch.

Go on.

Did you watch it?

Seriously, that made my day.

Next comes the actual makeup. Here is a simplified tutorial, hosted, again, by our friend in the red dress. The gist is that makeup was to be minimal, and only used to emphasize natural beauty. The entire routine shown in the film consists of moisturizer or light foundation, rouge that is blended out to near invisibility, lipstick (in a coordinating shade to rouge and nail polish), and powder. And that's it. No eyeshadow. No liner. No mascara. No freaking nothing. I can embed this one, so here you go:

The lipstick application process was surprisingly specific. They didn't mess around back then.

Now, these videos have been, well, adorable, but if you'd like to watch something a little more in-depth, here's a fantastic modern tutorial that retains the integrity of the era:

Glamour Daze is a fantastic site for figuring out a vintage look for everything from a Downton Abbey viewing party to a Woodstock reenactment, and Return2Style has a great guide with color samples. According to these sites, foundation should be slightly darker than your actual skintone, with powder just a bit lighter. The powder should also have a rosier cast to it if your natural skintone is on the yellow side, and, universally, blush should stay on the pink side, as well. Eye makeup is kept minimal, with only a light contour of gray, taupe, or brown to define the socket. Liner should be thin, if not altogether non-existent. The winged-out cat eye didn't gain popularity until the 1950s, so skip that. No eye makeup should be used on the lower lashline, but loads of clump-free black mascara should coat the top lashes. You can go the false lash route, but keep 'em natural.

Besides the lashes, the emphasized parts of the face are the brows and lips. Brows should be neat, but not overly plucked, and the definitively arched shape defined by pencil or powder in a shade that matches their color. A little vaseline or clear gel will hold the brows in place, as well as add glossiness. Lips should be well-defined, and the shape should yield the most attractive, full look possible. This might mean drawing slightly outside of the lines if your lips are thin. The upper lip was commonly exaggerated at that time. When choosing a lip color, any shade of red or pink, and even red-based orange would be appropriate, depending on how natural or bold you want to go. A dot of clear gloss or vaseline in the center of the lower lip will help achieve the shiny "Hollywood" look that was popular at the time, but is not necessary.

Okay, folks, here's where things get interesting: Nail Polish! For years, I've thought 40s polish had to be red or pink. Boy, oh boy, did I have that wrong! The popular style was a half-moon mani, with just a sliver of unpainted nail at the top, and the color matched your outfit and accessories. That's right. It matched the outfit. Revlon did release a line of coordinating lippies and polishes around that time, and that look became popular, too, but--believe it or not--there was some serious color experimentation going on with greens, blues, yellows, and even black.

(Think about that for a sec: Gra'ma could've rocked some b*tchin' goth nails.)

So, that's a lot of info on 40s makeup, but what should you use to recreate that style nowadays? Well, let's see what we can come up with:

40s makeup calls for a flawless base, so you'll want something medium to full-coverage with a matte finish. I like CoverGirl Outlast 3-in-1 as a drugstore option. High end (well, higher end), MAC has something for darn near every skin type and shade, and an artist can help you color match.

Rimmel Stay Matte powder is a clear winner, with CoverGirl Oil-Control Pressed Powder meriting an honorable mention. I'm also a fan of E.L.F. HD Powder, but as a finishing powder over something else that actually sets the makeup. High End, I like Laura Geller Balance and Brighten Baked Color-Correcting Foundation (it's a powder foundation, but sets makeup beautifully when applied with a fluffy brush).

NYX does a great powder blush, and Dusty Rose, Rose Garden, or Bourgeois Pig (love that name) would all work quite well. E.L.F. Studio Blush in Pink Passion looks downright frightening in the pan (matte hot pink?! The heck?!), but gives a very natural pink flush to the cheeks. It's in my film kit now, actually. High end, I'm digging the new Julep blushes, so I'd recommend Petal Pink. (If you have the NARS One Night Stand palette, go for the hot pink one. I'm just not putting it here because it was limited edition.)

I only have one rec for this one, and that's the Urban Decay Naked Basics palette. Either W.O.S. or Foxy all over, with Naked 2 in the crease. Done. You can also use Naked 2 or Faint in the brows, and the $27 price point for six shadows keeps this in the "affordable" realm. That's $4.50 per shadow, which is squarely in the middle of the price range for drugstore single shadows.

I'm going rogue and recommending Urban Decay 24/7 pencil in Perversion. It's so dark that it looks like liquid, but you get the control of a pencil. MAC Fluidline in Blacktrack is another good option. Drugstore, you can't beat Essence gel liner. It's fantastic, and super cheap.

Drugstore, Maybelline The Rocket. High end, Buxom Buxom Lash. Waterproof, in both cases. Benefit They're Real would be here if you could remove the stuff without ripping out your lashes. That stuff does look gorgeous on, so if you're feeling adventurous, go for it.

NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams are beautiful, inexpensive, smell delicious, feel good on, and last forever. Pick a color, any color. Revlon Kissable Balm Stains are another viable option. High end, MAC Russian Red. It's classic and doesn't budge. It does dry, though, so keep that in mind.

Nail Polish
Apparently, the sky's the limit. Pick a cream finish in a vampy navy or army green for a fun twist on a classic half-moon manicure. I'm considering Julep Kendra or Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure in Thinking of Blue.

Have fun getting all dolled up!

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