How to Apply 1920s Makeup

By Christine Bartsch

In that decadent decade known as the Roaring '20s, both hems and hair got shorter, and it suddenly became acceptable for nice girls to wear makeup. Fearless flappers embraced the daring trend, layering on cosmetics to create a striking, theatrical look designed to shock their sedate society.

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Emma Freeman sports bold '20s makeup at "The Great Gatsby" premiere.

Porcelain Complexion

Skip bronzers and sunless tanners. Pale, porcelain skin is the desired look for the 1920s. Back in the day, ladies layered on pancake makeup and white powder to create that waifish, delicate complexion. Modernize the look by applying the lightest shade of foundation that matches your natural skin tone and set it with a translucent, matte finishing powder. Carry a compact with you to "powder your nose" on the go and preserve the look.

Rouged Cheeks

To contrast their creamy skin, flappers caked on blush -- called "rouge" in the '20s -- to give their cheeks a freshly pinched appearance. Achieve the same effect by applying a cream blush to the apples of your cheeks in a circular shape rather than a modern, sweeping motion that follows the cheekbone. Choose a vibrant hue, such as a burgundy wine or a deep plum, rather than soft pinks or peaches.

Smoky Eyes

Motion pictures were the new fad entertainment of the era, and female film stars overapplied dark kohl liner to accentuate their eyes on screen. Flappers quickly emulated movie stars' smoky eye style. Begin with a dark, metallic shadow, such as gun metal gray, applied to the lid but not beyond to avoid giving yourself a raccoon-eye look. Add a kohl black eyeliner extending past the outer eye corner in a dramatic, cat's-eye flip. Finish the look with a lash-extending mascara or false eyelashes.

Cupid’s Bow Lips

What's For Dessert?
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Actress Clara Bow was the "It" girl -- a flapper role model.

The original "It" girl, silent film star Clara Bow, favored dark lips in an exaggerated cupid's bow shape; a look so popular that 1920s cosmetics companies sold lip stencils to aid flappers in mimicking the look. Achieve the look with a dark-red lipstick and a lip liner that's a shade darker. Accentuate the peaks of the upper lip with the lip liner, applying with a lighter touch as you sketch out toward the mouth corners. Fill in with the lip color, using a lip brush to obtain the clean, sharp edges of a 1920s lip.