A History of 1950’s Makeup
(A snippet from the ‘Retro Makeup Book’)

“After the conservative years of WW11 came to an end and the cosmetics industry caught back up with demand, makeup styles took the biggest turn seen to date.  Along with bright coloured kitchen appliences and couches, came bright and shapely makeup, with well defines eyebrows becoming the look of the day”

The base for the 50’s style makeup was a foundation cream, creating a pale, mask-like complexion which was topped off by patting on a flesh coloured powder to set it.  Once your base was set, then “slowly, comes the metamorphosis”

The eyebrows of the 1950’s were mostly thicker in the inner corner and then tapered out to a clean point.  But they varied in styles; the inner corner could be rounded or squared.  The ascent could be a straight line or pointed to a peak. A gradual rounded eyebrow was very popular, as was straight!  It was customary to take what you had, tweeze it to a clean line and then use a pencil to darken in and possibly thicken.

Next came eyeliner, by the mid 50’s the winged/cat eyeliner was a very important part of the decades makeup looks, and that too had many variations, from striking to soft.  The various products on the market included pencil, liquid and gel eyeliner. The possibilities for the wing eyeliner were endless. By changing the length, thickness, flip (wing) and colour, the appearance of the eye and the rest of the makeup changed dramatically.
Lip shapes in the 1950’s, for the regular girl, followed the basic shape of the natural mouth, but in Hollywood, they began to customise it! They began to taper the fall from the peak to the outer corner for a droop that almost mimicked a pleasant, innocent smile. Sultry movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Sylvia Lopez were over-drawing their top lip for a fuller look.

The most duplicated look of the era is Marilyn Monroe’s. Her blond ‘bombshell’ image, complete with sultry red lips and thick eyeliner, is one that has been sought after for many years.

By following these simple steps we will help you capture the essence of the 50’s Bombshell look, with her glowing skin and sultry eyes.

 The Bombshell (Retro Makeup Book p.82)
  • Apply a cream foundation (that matches your skin tone) all over your skin, including eyelids and lips. Then gently pat on a flesh coloured powder that is light but gives a good coverage, like Besame Cashmere Powder Compact (which comes in 2 shades – light or medium. And also has refills available)
  • Next comes the eyebrows, which are essential to define as they frame the face. The high pointed eyebrow of Marilyn is created by first brushing the inner half of the eyebrow up and to the right with a wand coated with eyebrow gel (or clear mascara). The outer part of the eyebrow is combed down and to the right. Then fill in the peak of the eyebrow with an eyebrow pencil like the Masterline Eyebrown Pencil
  • Apply a light, neutral Eyeshadow to the entire eyelid. Then apply a fine layer of a brown colour, like Besame Eyeshadow in Socialite Brown, to the upper eyelid. Be sure to concentrate the colour in the area of the crease of the eyelid.
  • Using a black pencil eyeliner, like the Besame Masterline in Kohl, draw a soft line that begins at the inner corner of the eye and runs along the lash line of the upper eyelid to the outer corner. Draw a small wing out that begins just above the outer corner of the eye. This naturally gives a rise to the appearance of the eyes. If the wing is too low, it makes the eye appear to droop.

Add three or four single eyelash clusters to the outer corner of the eye to increase the doe-eyed effect. Finish the eye makeup with a conditioning black mascara, like the Besame 1930’s Mascara, one of the most natural mascaras on the market.

  • Use a warm bronzer (the Besame Eyeshadow in Socialite Brown can also be used for this) below the cheek and on the lower part of the apple of the cheek, to add contour. Always blow on the brush to dispel some of the powder before applying it, otherwise you’ll get a mass of colour which will look unnatural and be hard to blend. You can always add more colour, but it’s harder to take it away.
  • Use a warm shimmer cream to add highlight on the temples and upper part of the cheek bone. Marilyn Monroe’s makeup often had a glimmer to it that gave her a healthy sun-kissed glow.  
  • The Hollywood Bombshell look wouldn’t be complete without glamorous red lips!  Lips are over-drawn to give the appearance of fullness (obviously if you already have full lips you don’t need to do this) and the upper lip is given a full round cupids bow. You lips should already have foundation and powder on, this helps to prolong the lipstick and create a blank canvas for you to work with.   Use a dull point lip liner in a shade that matches your lipstick – for instance, if you’re using Besame Red lipstick then you would use Beseme Masterliner in Red – Draw the desired lip shape and then fill the lips with the same liner.   Apply a luscious red lipstick, like Besame Red lipstick. Cover your lips entirely. You can use a brush if you find it easier. Carefully clean any difficult edges or smudges with foundation and a cotton bud. Lastly lightly sweep a light coloured (white or cream) matte Eyeshadow around the bottom lip and the cupids bow, blend. This really makes the lips pop.
For more advice on how to acheive ‘Retro Makeup’, check out the Retro Makeup Book by Lauren Rennells, sold at Deadly is the Female  (this book is currently out of stock but we will be getting more copies very soon)
Words (in Italics) and photographs taken from the ‘Retro Makeup Book’ by Lauren Rennells
Additional makeup tips by Lolita Noir – Vintage Hair and Makeup artist www.lolita-noir.moonfruit.com
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