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A real vintage guide to ’50s eye makeup, with tips from the pros

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Women putting on makeup from the fifties - 1956
Get unforgettable ’50s eye makeup with these vintage beauty tips straight from the fifties! Find out the best ways to use eyeshadow, liner, mascara & more.

What it was like getting a real 1950s eye makeup makeover

by Claire Banister – Austin American Statesman (Austin, Texas) September 22, 1955

It sounded so simple, the assignment handed me by our Woman’s Editor, Nell Fenner, It said:

“Guinea Pig: Go down to Meyers-Lloyd and get your eyes made up. Do a short story on it for The American.”‘

It would be simple except for one thing — that word “short.”

There’s more to eye makeup than meets the eye. Miss Lila Libby, eye makeup expert for Aziza — a firm which makes only eye cosmetics — demonstrated this for me.

“Most women usually define eye makeup as just ‘mascara,'” she said. “Really, it’s a trio of eye cosmetics — mascara, eye pencil and eye shadow — and each of them enhances and beautifies eyes in a different way.”

“But what if you have fairly nice, natural eyebrows and lashes,” I asked, “why use eye makeup at all?”

Vintage makeup 1958

‘Lazy Daisies’

“Hmmm, you sound like one of our ‘Lazy Daisies,'” she answered.

“They’re the girls who settle for soap and water and stop there. They say they want to look natural, but chances are the only natural thing about them is their laziness. No woman in her right mind will deny the ability of correctly-used makeup to improve her looks.”

“How about being more specific?” I asked.

“All right, here are four good reasons for using eye makeup.

“First, it balances your makeup — a bright blob of lipstick needs a balance of color on the upper part of your face.

“Second, you look prettier. The color in eye makeup plays up the color in the rest of your, face, adds softness and vitality, and dramatizes your most expressive feature — your eyes.”

The third reason, Miss Libby said, is that “you look younger.”

As women grow older, the natural pigment in the skin fades. Around the eyes, lashes and brows is one of the first places this occurs. So, “you just put back the color that nature intended,” she said.

Fifties beauty and makeup tips and hairstyles

Well-groomed look

“The fourth reason is that you look well groomed and fashionable with eye makeup, This is the age of eye makeup and more eye makeup–you are branded as an attractive, up-to-the-minute modern when you use it,” she said.

Expert at subject changing — if not at rebuttal — I asked her about this “Lazy Daisies” business as she began applying some blue eye shadow on my upper lids.

“Aziza made a survey recently on the use by American women of eye makeup. We discovered that while 97 percent of all American women use lipstick, only 23 per cent use eye cosmetics of any kind at all.

“The women who don’t use eye cosmetics can be grouped roughly in four categories — the Lazy Daisies that I’ve already told you about, the Timid Souls, the Conservative Clique and the Mighty Misinformed.”‘

Makeup from 1955

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The Uninformed

“There might be another group,” I suggested, “of women like me, the Mighty Uninformed.”

“That’s quite true,” she agreed, “and that’s is really why I’m in Austin this week, you might say. To show women how to make the most of their eyes — and their natural looks — through the use of eye makeup.”

Those in the various groups she listed include the timid women who are afraid of what other people will think of them: the women who have as their motto “Let someone else start first”; and those who have misused eye cosmetics previously — putting on mascara “with a trowel,” distorting their brows and ”slathering” on eye shadow.

As she talked, she also applied “Briar Brown” eye pencil to my brows and “Blue Night” mascara to my lashes. She checked a little sheet with the various colors for day and evening that go with my hair (brown) and my eyes (hazel).

50s fashion - hairstyles - makeup

Helpful aids

She showed me many other shades of the various items, detailing which should be used by women with other hair-eye color combinations. She gave me the sheet listing which were correct for me, and — most helpful — on this sheet were exact, illustrated directions for applying eye makeup.

“Eye makeup is an especial boon to women who wear glasses,’ she said. ‘And our products are waterproof and hypo-allergenic.” (They’re not supposed to make your eyes itch or irritate the skin around them.)

When I looked in the mirror, I had to agree that eye makeup did help me. Somehow I kept remembering that years-ago remark of a teenage friend of mine: “You ought to use an eyebrow pencil,” she told me, “you look sort of blank.”

I wish she could have seen me after Miss Libby finished — she’d be hard put to find a more up-to-the-minute, modern guinea pig anywhere!

Women's fashion from 1956


Actress Elizabeth Taylor with subtle vintage ’50s-style makeup

50s eye makeup with Elizabeth Taylor


Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe with glamorous ’50s eye makeup

Marilyn Monroe beauty from 1958-1959



’50s eye makeup: Mid-century glamour accents the eyes

By Betty Clark, Beauty Editor – Argus-Leader (Sioux Falls, South Dakota) April 30, 1950

You’ve got to be “big-eyed” as a Kewpie doll to be in the social swim — the competition in eye makeup is that keen. Even older women have gone in for the extra charm that eye makeup affords.

Beauty salons report flabbergasting response to courses in the art of eye makeup.

As with all other beauty fads, there are tricks in the eye makeup corner. At one Fifth Avenue salon (Helena Rubinstein) where an eye makeup course is given, Instructor Rod Barron says:

“Once a woman gets a good routine in eye makeup, she will enjoy doing it herself at home. Older women have discovered that eye makeup focuses attention on brows and lashes and away from crow’s feet and wrinkles.”

50s woman with eyebrows and makeup

’50s eye makeup: Mr. Barron’s routine goes like this

Eyebrows should be done first. If you have a wide forehead, use the semi-wing (high arch) eyebrow. A high forehead should wear a full arch and the low forehead needs a straight wing.

You can detract from a long nose by using the semi-wing. This is done by starting the brow one-half the distance from the inner corner of the eye.

For natural looking brows, take a brown pencil and gently fill in the desired shape. Never use a black pencil for this.

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Apply a thin film of oil over eyelids with fingertips. Make a fine pencil line along the edge of the lid just above the lashes.

For evening, continue the line upward beyond outside corner of eye to give the illusion of an extra lash.

Always use black pencil at the corner of the eye; brown will make the eye look pinkish.

'50s eye makeup tips frim 1959

Just above this line trace another line of blue, green or blue-green eye shadow, depending upon your costume. This is most easily applied with a clean lipstick brush.

If your eyes are heavy-lidded, concentrate the major part of the shadow on the lids. If you have pronounced frontal bones, under the brows, place most of the eye shadow there.

Mr. Barron applies the heaviest amount of eye shadow on the center of the eyelid, then gently blends it out. Very dark eyes should use the blues or opalescent shadows. And for that extra touch of glamour, blend a dash of your lip rouge into the eyeshadow.

Squeeze mascara on your brush sparingly, and use upward strokes, brushing from roots of lashes upward.

Apply mascara more heavily to outer lashes than to inner. Use a waterproof mascara to be tear-proof, suggests Mr. Barron.

You’ll have fun with your eye makeup kit, even if you never wear your startlingly new makeup in public.

Eye makeup makeover tips from 1950

BEFORE: Our model gets set to practice new eye technique at classes at a Fifth Avenue salon.

PENCIL FIRST: Applied in fine line along edge of upper lid. Eyeshadow is applied the same way.

Eye makeup makeover tips from 1950 (1)

DAB OF LIPSTICK: Blended with eye shadow brings out the sparkle in her eye, she learns.

NOW THE MASCARA: Applied by makeup instructor Rod Barron, completes glamorous eye makeup.


Slim dress from the 1950s - pink and white


’50s makeup looks for morning, noon, cocktail hour, evening

Same girl! 4 different looks! It’s the newest feminine strategy for making eyes. Play up to your mood or your costume… for exciting looks around the clock.

Morning: The light touch is the right touch for beauty in the a.m.! The key eye maker: Dark brown roll-on mascara.

Noon: Lunch-in-town blue… subtle but new! The key eye maker: Eyeshadow in pastel blue.

'50s makeup eye shadow


Cocktails: Cool and calculated eyes of limpid green! The key eye maker: Liquid eyeliner of green.

Evening: Going gala? Go all out with eyes like exotic orchids! The key eye maker: Platinum eye shadow over violet shadow.

'50s eye makeup - eyeshadow from 1959


Rainbow eyes are the latest fad in Cinema City today

Hollywood and Grapevine: Rush for the paint pots, gals, and get your rainbow eyes!

It’s the latest fad with movie belles, according to facial expert Aida Grey, who started it and says: “It’s wonderful for women over 30 to replace the coloring and highlights that fade as she grows older.”

War paint, says Aida, belongs around the peepers and nowhere else. The trick is to find just what colors nature has put into the eyes, and then repeat the hues starting from the eyelashes up.

Like a half line of blue under the blinkers, blue and green shadows on eyelashes and traces of the same colors in the eyebrows, Or a symphony of violet, chartreuse and gold.

Shades of Theda Bara, who smeared black around her orbs in the silent era.


4 steps to unforgettable eyes: ’50s eye makeup tips from Maybelline

A few brief minutes is all it takes to achieve unforgettable eyes… Just 4 quick steps… and you’re radiant.

Define! Form gently-arching brows with the fabulous Maybelline Self-Sharpener eyebrow pencil… Use short, delicate strokes, then blend with fingertip.

Dramatize! With color! Eye shadow stick smooths on lids with just a touch, blends so quickly, adds new depth. Choose from six jewel-tone colors. 

Dazzle! Waterproof fluid eyeliner flows on so easily. Stroke it on the base of upper lids, and brush the lovely line out towards the temple. So flattering!

Finally, Maybelline magic mascara to color, curl and separate lashes to new luxury.

Vintage '50s eye makeup how-to

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