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AUTHENTIC VINTAGE 1940S & 1950S MAKEUP TUTORIAL

Updated: Jan 12


Marilyn Monroe. Audrey Hepburn. Grace Kelly. Mae West. Rita Hayworth.

Incredible actors. The movie megastars of their era. And creators of a brand of glamour that is still iconic and memorable to this day.

I am a huge fan of vintage style, beauty and glamour and finding your own brand of fabulousness.

I'm amazed at how glamorous women from the 1940s and 1950s look - from icons like Marilyn Monroe to the everyday woman.

Everyone looks like a movie star!

There was a true air of glamour to their everyday look. No matter where my gorgeous Nanna went, she always looked her best.

It’s a trait of hers that always inspired me.

Part of self love is presenting the best of yourself in a way that feels true for you, and creating a signature “look”. I love the art of showcasing one’s self, always looking one's best, and making your appearance part of your brand.

It’s such a beautiful way to celebrate oneself.

I’ve been researching inspiration from Hollywood's Golden Age, and vintage style archives, while revamping my look.

In my research, I came across these wonderful makeup tutorials from the 1940s and 1950s. They’re quite different from a modern pinup look - and seemed quite simple to follow too.

You can find the original vintage makeup tutorials, derived from larger bodies of work on women’s grooming, here:

Cosmetics companies like Ponds and Dial produced these videos and distributed them to schools and women’s groups. They’re so interesting and well worth watching in full.

Otherwise, follow along with me to find out how to get a glamorous, authentic vintage makeup look.

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HEY, WATCH IT!

Watch the original video on my YouTube Channel, The Rhiannon Show (and if you liked it, I’d love if you did me a small favour by subscribing and sharing it with a friend).

BEFORE WE GET STARTED: A DISCLAIMER

I didn’t use authentic vintage makeup products for this look. I just improvised with what I already have.

Women in the 1950s didn’t have twelve different highlighters and eyeshadow palettes. They made do with the products they had.

So, that’s what I’ve done here, using modern products with a vintage technique. However, if you’d like a list of the products I used for this video, I will leave the links below.

These products were discontinued since I purchased them, but these are the closest dupes I could find:

P.S. I’m not a professional makeup artist or beauty YouTuber.


I’m just an everyday girl who loves playing with makeup, experimenting with new looks, and vintage style. Still, I think you’ll have as much fun following along with this GRWM as I had making it for you!

HOW WOMEN IN THE 1950S APPLIED FOUNDATION


THE TECHNIQUE:

  • Apply the foundation to the face and neck with your fingers

  • Blend the foundation with your fingers until “completely unnoticeable”


THE VERDICT:

In the tutorial, the makeup artist applies a great deal of product: far more than I would ordinarily use. My personal method is to smear a small amount of foundation on the back of my hand and apply it with a very damp beauty blender.

I actually can’t remember the last time I applied foundation just with my fingers, so this was fun - and a bit of a challenge. I definitely found it more difficult to get a good, even blend this way.

N.B. It goes without saying to always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your face and applying makeup. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bacteria trapped between the foundation and your skin -ewies.

The tutorial doesn’t use any primer, nor does it use concealer. Before this tutorial, I moisturized well.

I also dabbed a light layer of Vaseline over my dry areas (this was a favorite technique of Marilyn Monroe).

THE 1940S VINTAGE WAY TO APPLY BLUSH (ROUGE)


The Good Grooming for Girls tutorial via archive.org teaches a method to apply cream blush called the “tri-dot system”. I was so intrigued I had to try it out.

THE TECHNIQUE:

According to the tutorial, one dot of cream blush (or in my case, a dab of deep pink lipstick) was applied to:

  • Directly under the pupil of the eye;

  • On the cheekbone; and

  • No lower than the tip of the nose.

With a sponge, these dots were then blended together and out to create a rosy cheek effect, but it had to be very subtle so that “no one can see that the rouge is there … not even you”.

THE VERDICT:

This idea both freaked me out and intrigued me at the same time, so I had to give it a go!

Once you have the dots in place, blend them together and out so that there are no harsh lines.

You'll get a very subtle blush effect, rather than a noticeable pop of color. When you’re done, it should look like a very faint, youthful flush to the skin.

Whilst I would have never thought to apply blush there, I don’t mind the finished result. In fact, after filming this tutorial I’ve kept this technique to apply my blush.

THE VINTAGE WAY TO FILL YOUR BROWS


Brow definition was still around in the 1950s, but it was designed to enhance what was already there, rather than add to/change the shape like we do today.

THE TECHNIQUE (PART I OF II)

  • Begin at the tail end of the brow

  • Fill in the natural brow with a fine brush by drawing tiny strokes in the direction of growth


THE VERDICT:

This is quite similar to the modern technique! I used my L’Oreal Brow Artist Micro Tattoo pen to draw tiny strokes in the direction of growth, filling in any patchy/sparse spots in my natural brow.

I’ve just recently purchased the L’Oreal Brow Artist Micro Tattoo pen and I’m still getting used to it. Have you tried it?

I’d love to know what you think and your tips for getting the most out of it. I definitely love the idea of it.

THE TECHNIQUE (PART II OF II):

After filling the brows in, the tutorial instructs to “brush the hair up ... and then … turn down the tips of the hair” for a clean line.

THE VERDICT:

I already do a similar thing with brow gel. Brush the hairs of the brow up to evenly disperse the product, then with the flat edge of your spoolie, follow the direction of your brow to brush them into place.

1950S EYESHADOW APPLICATION TECHNIQUE

THE TECHNIQUE:

  • Choose an eyeshadow that matches your eye color (e.g. brown shadow for brown eyes, green shadow for green eyes et cetera)

  • Using your finger, apply eyeshadow as close to the lash line as possible, starting halfway toward the outer corner of the eye.

  • Blend the shadow out and upward right to the brow.


THE VERDICT:

As I have hooded, deep-set eyes, sometimes when I apply my shadows it looks great as long as I have my eyes closed - but as soon as I open my eyes, no shadow is visible.

With this technique, the shadow is still clearly visible and defined even for hooded eyes, so this is a definite plus!

Blending with my finger was tricky! The end result should be a very soft, subtle shadowing effect, rather than dramatic color.

Without a brush, it can be tricky not to get patchiness or harsh lines, so blending is the secret! (Or you can totally cheat and just finish with a brush. I won’t tell.)

VINTAGE MASCARA APPLICATION

THE TECHNIQUE (PART I OF II):

  • Wipe your mascara wand almost dry

  • Apply remaining product to the top lashes only

  • Coat each lash with product individually


THE VERDICT:

I was hesitant about the fact we weren’t using an eyelash curler beforehand because I have very long, but ridiculously straight lashes.


However, by wiggling the wand at the very base of my lashes and pulling the wand up, I was still able to give my lashes wonderful lift and definition.

THE TECHNIQUE (PART II OF II)

  • Take a dry eyelash brush/comb

  • Brush through lashes gently to separate them

THE VERDICT: I’ve been brushing my lashes to separate them for years. I’ve done it since I read that Audrey Hepburn used a hat pin to separate each lash individually for a fluffy look.

That felt unnecessarily dangerous, but using a lash comb does the trick. I wait a few moments for the mascara to semi-set, then taking the comb, I place it right at the base of the lash, and blink as I very gently brush the comb through the lashes.

Be careful with your lashes and don’t pull too hard - you don’t want to pull your lashes out!

THE SIMPLE 1940S WAY TO APPLY LIPSTICK


I used both the Clean Look tutorial and the Good Grooming for Girls tutorial to apply lipstick.

First, line the lips according to the Clean Look tutorial.

THE TECHNIQUE:

  • Fill a lip brush with lipstick

  • Trace an un-exaggerated line around the lips, staying as close to the natural edge as possible


THE VERDICT:

I struggle with a sturdy lip pencil at the best of times, so tracing a clean line with a lip brush was a challenge and a half! I am also used to slightly overlining my lips, so “coloring in the lines” was another stretch.

However, though I did overline my lips a little bit, I generally stayed true to the natural line of my lips. This method definitely took longer, and I did notice my lipstick didn’t last as long, but it did give a beautiful line and definition to my lips.

Next, I filled in the lips following the Good Grooming for Girls tutorial.

THE TECHNIQUE:

  • Paint the color on with two strokes on the upper lip

  • Use a single long stroke of lipstick on the lower lip

  • Fill in the gaps with vertical strokes following the natural grain of the skin

  • Blot the lips


THE VERDICT:

Okay, so usually I just smoosh my lips with color until they’re all filled in, or I apply with a lip brush. This was a fast, easy way to apply color. I loved it!

The tutorial also asks you to coordinate your lipstick shade with your nail polish “and make sure everything is in key”. I will say, this does make your overall look much more polished.

If I weren’t following the tutorial, this is where the lip application would get technical. I would probably re-apply the shade several times, blot a few more times, tidy up any patchiness and clean up the line with more lip liner and concealer.

1950S MAKEUP POWDER: THE OGS OF BAKING


We may think that baking is a fad started by the Kardashians in the 2010s, but it was happening as far back as the 1950s.

I was shocked to watch in The Clean Look tutorial as the makeup artist applied heavy amounts of powder to the face with a cotton pad (not a brush or powder puff).

THE TECHNIQUE (PART I OF II)

  • Take a clean cotton pad and apply powder

  • Brush the excess off with the cotton pad


THE VERDICT:

This felt terrifying - there was so much powder.

In my mid-30s I’ve been scared off using more than a very, very light dusting of powder over oily areas. Otherwise, I’ve been afraid it will settle into cracks and fine lines.

That said, it really did give me a soft, mattifying look without feeling cakey at all. Even several hours later, the powder hadn't settled into any fine lines and still gave a soft, flawless finish.


THE TECHNIQUE (PART II OF II):

  • Pat all over your makeup with a slightly damp sponge


THE VERDICT:

The makeup artist literally appears to gently blot a sponge over the makeup with a swiping motion. I used a little beauty blender for this.

I didn’t know about it at first - I was afraid that I would wipe all my makeup away.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the result! The technique took away any residual cakeyness left by the powder to create a sort of airbrushed, glowy look.

It finished the look perfectly!

THE FINISHED LOOK



Et voila! This is the finished look! (I couldn’t resist taking some vintage-esque filter selfies on Snapchat, because it was all the retro vibes!)



All in all, I am so happy with how this makeup turned out. A few techniques I probably wouldn’t do again, like applying foundation and eyeshadow with my fingers, but I found a few new tips to add to my toolkit.

The look didn’t take long at all to do, and felt like a simple everyday makeup look that wasn’t overdone but still felt glamorous. In fact, if I have only a few minutes to look pulled together and glam, I’ve started using this tutorial as a roadmap.

What I love about these old tutorials is that they are simple, and don’t require a lot of expensive, crazy products. With a little creativity and a few drugstore staples, you can throw together a look that is glamorous, polished, and timeless.


What do you think? Did you try this look and if so, how did it turn out for you? Let me know in the comments below!


- keep discovering -

If you liked this article, you’ll find these useful too:- Self Care Routines for Busy People / 57 Ideas for Your Self Care Sunday Routine / Essential Oils 101: The Basics for Beginners

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