The 1930s was a complex era which saw The Great Depression, the start of World War II, jazz and swing style music and The Golden Age in cinema. Films such as “Snow White,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Gone with the Wind” and “King Kong” took to the screen and permeated culture forever. The style of the 1930s was as unique and distinct as the decade’s culture. The era’s makeup is easily identifiable: Thick foundation, accented cheekbones, popping eyes, pencil thin brows and cupid bow-shape lips.
Foundation: Liquid Over Pancake: Back in the 1930s, pancake makeup was the go-to foundation. Today, something lighter can be used to replicate the look. A light liquid foundation for dry or normal skin, or cream-to-powder or powder foundation for normal or oily skin can provide the smooth, silken coverage that many ’30s movie stars were known to have. Use a face primer, concealer where needed, and apply the foundation with a slightly damp makeup sponge, to make it go on smooth.
Strong Cheekbones: For the strong cheekbones that were popular in the ’30s, draw a line with a brown eyeliner along cheekbones, and smudge. To the apples of cheeks, lightly apply a peachy pink blush for fair complexions, a pink blush for medium skin, or a red or raspberry blush for darker skin tone. If skin has cool undertones, choose blush with green or blue hints to it; with warm undertones, choose blush with hints of gold and orange in it.
Eyeshadow Colors: Blue, green and violet were popular eyeshadow colors for light-haired women in the ’30s, while purple, brown and smokey greys were popular for dark-haired women. To get the look, place a good primer on lids. With a firm brush, apply a darker eyeshadow to the lid crease and on the outer side of the eye to create a triangle-like outer edge. Apply lighter eyeshadow to the lid using a soft brush.
Long Lashes: Place fake eyelashes on the upper lash line with lash glue. Hold for a minute to allow glue to dry and lashes to attach properly. Apply black mascara to lower lashes.
Popping Eyeliner: With a black eyeliner pencil, draw a line on the upper and lower lash lines to make eyes stand out. With the lower lash line, draw it just below the lashes to make eyes appear slightly bigger.
Iconic Pencil-Thin Brows
*Pluck and Shape, or Conceal and Draw *: One option is to wax or pluck brows to shape them into classic ’30s pencil-thin brows. All the hairs on the bottom of the brow would need to be removed, leaving a high, sloped line in the shape of a finger nail clipping. The other, more practical, option is to apply a concealer over brows and draw a thin line with an eyebrow pencil that is darker than the natural eyebrow hair color.
Dark Lipstick: Reds and berry hues were common in this decade. Red may complement fair tones the most. Red or raspberry lipstick may be best for medium complexions, while raspberry, plum or maroon may complement dark tones best. With cool skin undertones, select a lipstick with hints of blue for the most flattering results; with warm undertones, choose one with hints of gold. Use a lip liner to create a cupid bow line on the upper lip. Draw a defined “v” shape in the little arch on the upper lip that’s directly below the nose. Outline the rest of lips. Carefully fill in with lipstick.
References and ResourcesDazzlin' Gal: Dazzlin' Makeup Through the Years
Elle: 1930's Dramatic Makeup Video
Fashion Etc.: 1930's Beauty
ResourcesAllure: Reese Witherspoon Talks Fragrance, Workouts, and 1930's Beauty
Vogue: Magazine Covers Archive September 1933
Popsugar: Are Your Undertones Warm of Cool?