Bold 1920s makeup: How to get that expressive & dramatic flapper makeup style

expressive, dramatic 1920s eye makeup style popular during the silent movie era

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1920s makeup: Fabulous and rebellious

The 1920s were a post-war era of freedom, rebellion, and rapid social change — and no one took advantage of this opportunity with as much commitment as flappers did. Flappers (incidentally, no one really agrees on the origin of this term) were emancipated young women, unafraid of expressing themselves and defying the traditional norms of the Victorian and Edwardian eras — which had, of course, been spectacularly oppressive for women.

See more: What is a flapper? Get the inside scoop on this popular 1920s term here

A flapper’s beliefs went against the long-held assumption that a woman’s place was exclusively in the home. She wore short skirts and bobbed hair — fashions which, at the time, were shocking departures from those preferred by the generations that preceded her.

This new American woman often smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol in public, danced suggestively, had premarital sex, talked openly about sex — and even wore makeup to work.

She wasn’t afraid to break some long-standing norms and revel in a rebellious new style — boldly re-inventing what it meant to be a woman in a way not possible during other times in US history.

Vintage beauty and makeup from the 1920s (2)

Even though the 1920s woman was known for her brazen attitude, she was also known for her beauty. And 20s makeup played an important role! Makeup took on a whole new life, no longer just for the stars of stage and screen — and not even just for the young.

Also see: 120+ gorgeous, glamorous actresses of the 1920s

Young women wanted to express their newfound sense of freedom. Inspired by silent film actresses, they used bold makeup looks  — which included dramatically shadowed eyes and dark red lips — to accentuate their charms.

Pale skin with brightly rouged cheeks and thin, delicately arched, penciled brows completed the flapper makeup look we associate with this era.

Here, we’ve collected various 1920s makeup tips that millions of women used to get beautiful and stylish for a night of jazz clubs, speakeasies and dancing. If you’re looking to replicate a 1920s makeup look for a performance or a party, this collection of photos and tips offers a great reference for styling your own authentic flapper makeup!

Don’t miss: Flapper slang dictionary: 120 words to help you talk like they did back in the ’20s


Helena Rubenstein beauty tips for 1920s makeup & more

A beauty reel of real interest

  • To make eyes appear larger apply eye shadow faintly on upper lid.
  • A dot of rouge at the inner corner of the eye is sometimes effective for evening.
  • A judicious penciling of the brows lends expression to the face.

Fundamental care of the eyes

  • Daily use of the eye cup is essential to good looks.
  • The eye dropper offers another method of cleansing the eyes.
  • Bathing the eyes alternately with hot and cold water is very beneficial

Eye exercises

  • Swinging your head slowly keeping your eyes on a central point will strengthen the vision.
  • Sitting in front of a large square frame and following its outline is a good eye exercise.
  • Palming is one of the best ways to rest and relax eye muscles.

Helena Rubenstein eye beauty tips from the 1920s


How to accent your beauty with 1920s makeup

By Mme Helena Rubenstein

I think everybody wants to know a little bit about eye make-up.

“Is it being done?” “Is it vulgar?” “Doesn’t it detract from the ‘nice appearance’ of a girl?”

“Isn’t it incorrect for the very young — or the not young anymore?”

Vintage beauty and makeup from the 1920s (3)

These are only a few of the hundreds of questions I answer every week on the subject of eye makeup. Let me take them in turn.

Done? Most emphatically. More these last few years than ever before — but — and it’s a great big BUT — it is done discreetly and artistically. The artificial “make-up” look that was, most certainly a little vulgar, is quite done with.

1920s eye makeup - Actress Leatrice Joy

Eye make-up today — among women who know nothing more than a faint shadowing — a careful, clever “touching up” that brings youth, color and sparkle to the eyes.

And women of every age and every clime are using eve make-up attractively and becomingly and unostentatiously.

120+ gorgeous, glamorous actresses of the 1920s

Vintage 1920s makeup - actress Claire Windsor

Mascara, which is the most common form of eye make-up, is not particularly good for daytime use. I always suggest keeping this preparation for “evening wear,” and using the simpler, less theatrical-looking eyelash creams in the daytime.

Eye shadows may be obtained in any of a half dozen colors: blue, black, green, brown or gray — and when skillfully applied, is completely unrecognizable.

A little of the shadow on the upper lid will make the eyes seem much larger and darker. Worked into the corner near the nose, it can be quite remarkably effective. This is most successful under the electric lights.

It’s a little dangerous to try an under-eye make-up, for it can transform a perfectly healthy person into a candidate for a sanitarium — apparently, of course!

Vintage 1920s eye makeup

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How to use 1920s eye makeup: Mascara tips

The eyes are one of the most important mediums of expression, therefore, anything that can be done to enhance their beauty is an advantage…

Clipping off the tiniest bits from the ends of the eyelashes once every four or five weeks further encourages the growth and thickness of the lashes.

Then, of course, comes the use of mascara to aid in beautifying the lashes until such time as their natural luxuriousness eliminates the need of artificial touching up.

Mascara, applied in such fashion that it is noticeable, thwarts the very thing it is used for, which is to cover up the deficiencies of Mother Nature. By making this resort to artificial beauty apparent, the whole charm of the deception is lost.

Screenland magazine actress 1927

Mascara has a tendency to break off the eyelashes. Whether this is due to the ingredients used in mascara or because it makes the lashes so stiff they just naturally break off, I don’t know. I rather think it is the latter and that it is much the same principle as the one in which wet clothes crack or break when allowed to freeze.

Be the cause what it may, the result is the same… the lashes frequently do break off when mascara is used if some precaution is not taken.

Vaseline makes an ideal protection, for it oils the lashes, thus making them pliant. Only a little vaseline is needed. This may be applied with the fingertips, or, better still with a small brush.

1920s eye makeup on actress Marion Davies (1923)

By applying vaseline to the lashes, all worry about their breaking off may be banished. As vaseline also has a tendency to make the lashes grow long and thick, a two-fold purpose is gained by its use.

There are many different kinds of mascara and as all of them are good, the kind you choose depends upon your personal likes and dislikes.

Some mascara comes in cake form and is applied with a small brush furnished for that purpose. This form of mascara must be moistened with water before it !s applied. Another cake form is a sort of wax mascara and must be melted for application. Still other kinds come in liquid form and have a small camel’s hair brush or glass rod for their application.

Vintage beauty and makeup for women - from the 1920s

But what I’m most interested in telling you about today is HOW to use mascara to your advantage.

When each lash has been covered with vaseline, apply the mascara. Then, just before it is entirely dry, brush the lashes on the eyelid upward so that they will have the curly appearance so desirable and so hard to achieve unless you know the trick.

Brush the lower lashes slightly downward, NEVER with mascara.

By using mascara on both the upper and lower lids, the eyes become hard and often starey, and, shadows are thrown below the eyes which, of the course is most undesirable.

When properly done the ensemble will give the appearance of large, luminous eyes, fringed with long dark lashes.

Be very careful to keep the mascara from getting into the eyes, for most kinds make the eyes red and bloodshot.

Should this happen to you, close the eyes tightly and with cold water, wash off the mascara already applied. Then bathe the eyes, using a solution of boric acid and an eyecup so that all the mascara is removed from the eyes.

Actress Joan Crawford with her vintage 1920s makeup

Vintage beauty and makeup from the 1920s - Actress Joan Crawford

Young Joan Crawford shows her good side - 1927-1933


20s makeup: Mascara to instantly beautify your eyes



Flapper makeup: The girl with the wonderful eyes

Are you that girl — the charming person who fascinates by a mere glance? You could be, if you had long dark lashes to emphasize the depth of your eyes. Use WINX, the Liquid Lashlux. It will bead your lashes and make them appear darker and heavier.

Easily applied with the glass rod attached to the stopper, it lasts all day, unaffected even by swimming or weeping at the theatre. Absolutely harmless.

Vintage WInx eye makeup - Mascara from 1923

Vintage beauty and makeup from the 1920s (4)


1920s makeup: Phyllis Haver, lovely comedy star, uses and recommends Maybelline

You, too, may instantly beautify your eyes with Maybelline

Just a wee touch of Maybelline will make light, short, thin eyelashes and brows appear naturally dark, long and luxurious, thereby giving charm, beauty and soulful expression to any eyes.



1920s makeup: Vintage actress Viola Dana reveals the secret of her beautiful eyes

Miss Dana, world-famous for the beauty of her expressive eyes, accentuates the lovely sweep and length of her curling lashes by darkening them with the dainty toilet requisite she is here shown applying, “MAYBELLINE.”

She has used “MAYBELLINE” for ten years, both for street wear and in her screen work, and regards it as indispensable. Millions of women; from charming girl to queenly matron have discovered how “MAYBELLINE” reveals the hidden beauty of their eyes. “MAYBELLINE” is harmless.

The popular Solid Form or the waterproof Liquid Form, BLACK or BROWN, are 75c at all toilet goods counters.

1926 Maybelline eye makeup - mascara

How to use false eyelashes to get a real big-eyed retro look: Vintage tips and examples


1920s makeup: The Expressive Beauty of Dark-Veiled Eyes

… thrills and lures with ever-soulful glance. It is the shadowy fringe of luxuriant lashes that lends to them romantic depths.

Darken your lashes with WINX and your eyes at once take on pensive shadows and luminous mystery. A light touch or two with the brush attached to the stopper of the bottle and your lashes appear much longer, darker and heavier. WINX is a harmless waterproof liquid that dries at once, cannot run or smear and lasts for days.

At drug and department stores or by mail. Black or brown, 75c, United States and Canada. WINXETTE (cake form), complete with tiny one-row brush and mirror, black or brown, 50c.


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