• Emma (My Vintage)

Makeup Through the Decades

No matter what your preferred style or decade when it comes to fashion, one thing many of us use on a day to day basis to enhance or change our look, is makeup. There is no doubt that make up is a huge industry with more brands, products and tutorials around than ever before. There's contouring, cut creases, eyebrow trends, ombré lips and so much more to get your head around! But makeup is by no means a new fad, cosmetic use has been traced back to the early Egyptians and Greeks for both men and women. In the absence of Beauty Bay or Jeffree Star, plants and minerals would be used to create feature enhancing pigments. The Egyptians were actually the original inventors of galena which we now know as kohl eyeliner.


Fast forward through the ages and we can see very different and recognisable makeup and beauty trends that span the vintage decades. From the 1940s to the 1990s, lets have a closer look at the classic beauty from each era and how to easily replicate it for your chosen aesthetic...


1940s Makeup


The women of the 1940's were stunning, but it didn't come easy especially during wartime rationing. Shortages of key cosmetic ingredients like alcohol, oils and glycerine affected production, as well as packaging restrictions. But these women weren't about to let that affect their glamour. Burnt corks for eyeliner and mascara, beetroot juice for lip stain and gravy browning for leg tan were just a few of the ways British women found to make do and mend when it came to beauty.


1940s makeup was polished but actually quite natural. Foundation or powder was kept subtle with just a little colour to the cheeks. Eyebrows were subtly shaped to medium thickness, brushed and filled in. The shape was quite natural and rounded. The look was very slight on eye-shadow and only very neutral colours were used, always finished with a little mascara. The most bold choice would be the compulsory red lipstick, whether it was the classic pillar box red or other variations on the tones of pink, orange or brown. Lips would mostly be matte but for a little sheen, a dab of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) would be added to the middle of the lips.


1950s Makeup



The 1950s was an exciting time as wartime restrictions were a thing of the past and things we take for granted today such as television broadcasts were resumed; the pinnacle of which would be the Queen's televised coronation in 1953.


There were more opportunities for women to buy and use makeup too, Max Factor still being the leader and classic brands relaunching their production such at Boots No 7 and Elizabeth Arden. There was now also the option to have makeup demonstrated in your own home with your friends, as Avon started calling.


The 1950s still retained the air of natural elegance from the 1940s, but took it to the next level of glam. Lips were still red but a little fuller and with lip liner. Foundations and powders gave a little more coverage and cheeks were given a very subtle rose glow. The main shift was in eyes. Eyebrows were full and definitely arched, with a slightly longer 'tail'. Eye colour was still subdued and neutral with greys and browns, but winged eyeliner was a must. Many women would also follow the trend of using their dark brown eye pencil to copy Marilyn's famous beauty spot.


1960s Makeup


The 1960s was undoubtedly one of the biggest shifts in popular culture as the youth revolution washed over the world. Rock and roll music led the way to the younger generation breaking out of the repressed norms of the previous decades and making real waves in many ways, including fashion. London was the heart of this new mod culture, leading the way for teenagers all over the globe and the fashion boutiques of Carnaby Street and the King Road were the main places to be seen.


Models became hugely influential, non less than the infamous super models of the era - Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. Bold geometrics and monochrome blocking were huge trends and one of the biggest designers of the era was the amazing Mary Quant. In the mid sixties, she added a cosmetics line to her already huge empire, she played with colours, concepts and advertising in ways that hadn't been seen before and the public loved it.


The 1960s makeup look was ALL about the eyes. Pale and pastel shades would be worn on the eye lid with a darker shading in the crease for definition and depth. Eyeliner would often be worn very thick both above and below the eyes and tonnes of mascara would be added. Big thick clumpy lashes were all the rage! False eyelashes also helped to create these dramatic looks. Skin and lips were pale in comparison, with very pale pinks popular in lipsticks. The more natural the skin coverage the better and overall the look was very much based on baby doll faces.


1970s Makeup


There were several political shifts for women in the 1970s and the rise in feminism and women's liberation also impacted the fashion and makeup industries. Feminism presented something of a dilemma for a woman in the seventies who liked to wear makeup, as she no longer wanted to been seen as a sex object but wanted to own her femininity. The ideal shifted to a more natural look but still with that element of sparkle and shimmer of the disco era. Tanned skin was super popular so bronzing products also started to be used.


Women were also becoming more interested in their health, well-being and self improvement. They were taking more of an interest in the ingredients of the products they used on their bodies too. Many of the big brands of the time such as Cover Girl, Maybelline, Rimmel and Yardley began to market their beauty products in a more fashionable way. Products were labelled as 'barely-there', 'au naturale' and 'invisible' to appeal to these new trends.


The iconic 1970s makeup look would feature a pastel or shimmer shade on the eyes, such as a silver or ice blue. Eyebrows became much thinner pencil brows, influenced by the big 1920s resurge of the era. Skin would be warm toned with a little bronzer for a sun kissed look and a subtle flash of blusher would also be used on the cheeks. Some looks would call for the thick eyeliner of the 60s but it wasn't as widely used or defined. Brown mascara was more popular than black, going back to that natural vibe. Lips would be on the pinks, red and purple tones and hi-shine gloss was extremely popular. Some lip glosses even came in flavours for the first time, like mint, fruit or bubblegum. Fresh and glowing was the desired look.


1980s Makeup


The 1980s were all about excess. Shapes, colours, fabrics were bold and unapologetic and so was hair and makeup. Some of the celebrity idols of the time included Madonna, Grace Jones and of course, Boy George. They were trend setters and when it came to fashion, bigger was most definitely better. In contrast to the 70s, there was a shift from a subtle golden sun-kissed glow on the skin to full coverage foundation. Tans were still popular but there was also a place for a more pale-skinned 'English rose' look.


There was really only one element of 80s makeup that was natural and that was eyebrows - they would be quite bushy and brushed, with minimal grooming required. Other than that, the make up look was far from natural. Blusher was used very strongly and there was nothing subtle about it! Not only tanned pinks were used anymore but also bright neon pinks and even strong purples and violets were used to sculpt and shade the face. Lips had moved from full shine gloss to frosty shimmers. The frost effect was so trendy and appeared on all shades of lipsticks from mauve to cerise and ruby to copper. And of course, just like the clothing of the eighties, there was no colours that weren't worn together and clashing was encouraged! That meant no matter what lip colour you went for, there was still use of bright greens, blues, pinks and yellows on the eyes. To inject even more colour into the 80s beauty look, coloured mascaras in blue and purple were also super fashionable.


I hope you've enjoyed this journey through the makeup trends from the 1940s - 1980s as much as I enjoyed writing about it. Two of my biggest passions are vintage fashion and makeup, so it's been super fun bringing this blog post to you. Hopefully it should provide some inspiration and help if you ever want to create an authentic makeup look to wear alongside your chosen vintage outfit.


As always, if you have any questions at all then please don't hesitate to contact me via email or on any of our social media channels. I am always happy to have a chat and help where I can.


Until next time

Emma x


vintage fashion, 1940s fashion, 1950s fashion, 1960s fashion, 1970s fashion, 1980s fashion, vintage makeup 1940s makeup, 1950s makeup, 1960s makeup, 1970s makeup, 1980s makeup, vintage glamour, vintage beauty, vintage website, vintage boutique, vintage online, vintage uk, beauty trends, makeup trends