Recently, I came across a video collaboration between a few youtubers who are doing a “makeup through the ages” project, where they all chose an era from which to do a makeup look, from the 1920’s to the 1990’s. And while I loved a few of them, there were some others that I wasn’t impressed by. So I decided… why not try myself?
First up, we have the 1920’s, and this was one that really… I’m not super impressed with any 1920’s makeup looks I’ve seen around the internet. Most of the “flapper” looks tend to get the basic cupid’s bow lips and smokey eyes down, but in all the wrong shapes. I had so much fun creating a more authentic 1920’s look!
I took inspiration from the makeup ads of the era, and was surprised to find there was a lot more color in the shadows than I had expected! You tend to think of a flapper as black smokey eyeshadow only, but I found a lot of greens and golds and blues in the shadow as well.
So let’s go!
So the first and one of the most important things about getting a very period-accurate 1920’s look is the eyebrows, and since I have pretty shapely brows, the first step is to cover them up. Because I’m not going to shave them off. But you can, if you want! Ha!
Generally it’s suggested to use a glue stick for this (Elmer’s glue sticks ($2.10) work well!), but since I couldn’t find one in my house, I made do with Scotch quick-dry adhesive. I actually liked using the liquid adhesive better than a glue stick, as it was easier to work with BUT… it did take out a few more brow-hairs when I took it off than the glue stick does. So use at your own risk. I have brow hairs to spare.
Anyway. Armed with your glue, spread as many layers over your brows as it takes until they are adequately covered and pasted down. (If you don’t want to risk glue on your brows, you can just make do with concealer and powder, but it won’t be as smooth.) I layered over my brows about three times, letting it dry between each layer. I probably could have done more, but I’m too impatient and I was trying to get this done before my baby wok up from his nap, so… y’know. Motherhood.
Next, using concealer and powder intermittently, hide your brows. (I used Maybelline Dream Lumi concealer ($5.20) and CoverGirl Translucent Loose Powder($4.70)) It took a few layers, since I’ve got pretty dark brows, and you’ll want to be very delicate with how you put on product as the glue will get puckery and start to peel if you’re too heavy-handed. Make sure you blend the edges of your product out very well, since it’ll be thicker here than on the rest of your face, and if it isn’t blended out you’ll be able to see the edges.
Next it’s foundation and concealer time! You’ll want to make your skin as smooth as possible; I added concealer in all of my most pigmented areas– undereye, top of cheeks, down the center of my nose, and on my chin.
For foundation, I use Revlon ColorStay Makeup for combination to oily skin ($13.91) even though I have dry skin – the combo/oily skin formula just works better.
Once you have your foundation and concealer done, we move on to re-drawing your brows. 1920’s brows are a little tricky; you’ll see in the next pictures that I had to readjust my shaping. They’re very long and thin, and narrow at both ends, with a very slight curve overall instead of a distinct arch, and a little bit of thickness towards the inner third. To get started, I generally followed the natural top line of my own brows, just lengthening them slightly. But when I first drew them on, I basically filled them out with my natural brow shape, just longer and thinner. And then I studied the pictures and realized that the ’20’s brows are quite different from modern brows. Here’s a comparison:
On the left is the first shape I drew, which is more like my natural shape. On the right is the more period-appropriate brow, with thin ends and a more rounded curve overall. I used a mix of a brown eyeliner and brown brow powder as well as some concealer to achieve the right texture and shape for the brows. If you make a mistake, it’s super easy to correct, as the underlying smoothness of the glue makes makeup really easy to wipe off or cover up with concealer.
I used this Maybelline eyeliner ($4.79) in Cinnabar, and also the darker color of this Smashbox Brow Tech ($27.99). Side note, I LOVE that Brow Tech palette — I bought it before I got married, and it’s still going strong. Totally worth it.
And now, the fun stuff! As I said before, I was surprised to find a lot of color in the makeup ads of the 1920’s, rather than the stark smokey black you might expect. So I started out with a slightly shimmery, very pigmented pale blue in the inner third of my upper and lower eyelid. Be careful not to go above your crease, as most of the smokiness in the shadows from the 20’s, contrary to what you see in modern flapper looks, don’t really go above the crease too much.
Most of the colors I use came from an e.l.f. eyeshadow palette similar to this one ($14.99).
Then, I added black on the outer 2/3rds of my lid – upper and lower- and blended it all into a nice, smudgy, smokiness. I did this twice, as the first layer of black just wasn’t quite intense enough for me. With the black, I only patted it on beneath the crease, but in blending I smudged it upwards just a little bit at the outer edges. The other thing I noticed was that quite a few of the 1920’s looks created a vee shape at the outer corners of their eyes, so when blending with a fluffy shadow brush, I swept the shadow outward to get that pretty shape.
With some gold shadow, I just barely emphasized the crease, and highlighted the inner corners and beneath the black and blue shadows beneath my eyes.
Next, with a dark eyeliner (I would have used black, but I don’t have black eyeliner…), I lined the upper and lower waterline of my eyes. You might think this looks scary to do, but unless you have a severe reaction to eye makeup, it doesn’t hurt.
I then decided that I wanted a little more darkness around the outside edges, so I took some black powder and lined my lower lashes, then dragged whatever was left on the brush from the outside to the inner third of my upper lid to add a teeny bit more depth to the look.
Next up, lips! (I don’t know why, but I didn’t add mascara until the last step. So whatever.) The 1920’s lip shape is very interesting; people tend to think of a very pinched lip, almost a fish-face lip with a really pronounced cupid’s bow and very full but small shape overall. But in the makeup ads I saw, while the shape is pretty distinct, it’s not as extreme as you might think.
I used two lipliners for this — a darker, more maroon liner similar to this one (Rimmel, $8.19), and a brighter cherry red like this(NYX, $7.98). With the darker liner, I overdrew my own upper lip just slightly to get a little bit of an exaggerated cupid’s bow, and filled in the edges but left the middle blank. The lower lip was harder to get — it’s full in the middle, but swoops inwards at the edges to create a subtly pouty lower lip. Once I got that shape right, I filled in the edges of that as well. Then, with the brighter cherry liner, I filled in the middle of my lips.
And then, with a semi-satiny classic red lipstick (I used this one – NYX, $4.45), I painted over the whole thing to deepen the colors.
Lastly for the lips, I grabbed a sheer gloss (gold, in this case, since it’s what I have) and dabbed it just on the middle of my lips. I accidentally got too big of a glob, as you can see, but I was able to get most of it off. Haha!
Next up, blush! (Seriously, the 1920’s used so much color!) I couldn’t find my regular blush, so I used a smear of lipstick on my hand — the same I put on my lips — and buffed it with a fluffy brush until it was a nice stain I could use on my cheeks. The placement of blush seemed to be much more in the front than on the cheekbones, so I applied it from the top of the apple of my cheek almost down to my chin, keeping it heavier at the top and only blending backwards a little bit. In retrospect, I should have used more blush, but Asa had woken up at this point so I was in a hurry.
Last but not least, I focused mascara (My FAVORITE — L’oreal Original Voluminous, $5.60) solely on the outer upper and lower lashes to enhance the smokey, smudgey eye effect. Plus, since their mascara at this point was not what it is today, I applied quite a lot to get a somewhat thicker, almost clumpy appearance as the ads show.
And we’re done!
This makeup look was SO much fun to achieve, and actually turned out almost exactly how I had hoped it would. I think I might have made the lower lip a little bit more swooped, and perhaps narrowed (from side to side) the lip look overall, but other than that I’m pleased. I’m really excited to do more makeup looks through the eras now that I know I’m able to get a look right without having to run out and purchase a ton of expensive makeup.
So that’s it! What do you all think?
And I just have to say… you guys, I was never taught how to do makeup, nor do I have any sort of professional experience. Everything I use is from the drugstore and Target, including my makeup brushes. So if I can do something like this, with no teaching or professional experience and cheap products… why can’t you do whatever that thing is you love to do but are too afraid because you don’t think you have enough teaching or experience?
I had thought at one time that I should go to cosmetology school to become a makeup artist, and part of me wishes I had! But then… it’s more fun to just figure it out myself.