An Original Flappers Guide to 1920’s Make-up.

Advice from a Society Dame in 1927 –


Advice from a society Dame to women on the ‘art of making up’ for that ‘ special night out’ !
Adapted from ‘ Home beauty Course’ by Marjorie Oelrichs -1927.
( Excerpt from Make-up & Beauty – A 1920s Guide – available from ).

Darling – before you head for the Jazz club this evening, how you make-up will measure the loveliness of your appearance to the eyes of a potential admirer.

How to choose the right 1920’s style make-up

1920’s Make-up –  Rouge and Powder.

The objective for the modern woman in beauty is to achieve a fine porcelain finish to your face and neck. All rouging should be done over a thin, even coat of powder. Be sure to apply the powder over the neck and chest also, so that no line shows where the powder begins and ends. For a blonde, or brunette with a blond skin, powder should be of a flesh shade as this blends most naturally with blond contouring. Dark brunettes should use white powder, or one with a cream tint. When there is an olive tone to your complexion, choose brunette powder. Blondes should use a light rouge to blend naturally with their dainty coloring. Brunettes should choose a rouge dark and rich in shade.

Remember that brilliant color in the cheeks is never considered becoming in the daytime. You want the fresh alluring rose which proclaims youth and health. At night, in making up for artificial light, you can allow yourself much more color !

1920’s Fashion Film Archive

Following are some highly important, definitive rules for the application of rouge in the artful way which accentuates beauty and conceals defects. The same secrets have been learned by many a Movie actress – the secrets by which she completely transforms her appearance. These rules are based on the fact that there are four separate and distinct types of facial contour. That each type requires a completely different application of make-up. What becomes one type would disfigure another type. These types are designated as the oval, the oblong, the round and the rather large, sometimes heavy face.
As the oval and oblong belong to the same type, the same general rules for make-up apply to both.The round face and the large face are closely related and you will notice a similarity in directions.

1920’s Make-up Rules – Rouge.

Thorough knowledge of the secrets of make-up gives you the power to totally alter your appearance in a most surprising way. If you study your type carefully and recognize the opportunities for beautifying, you will soon be rewarded with a complete transformation. Once perfected, this can be your unique look.

Illustration 1 –  shows the correct way to rouge if you have a round face and fairly high cheekbone.
Apply rouge up and down, which makes the cheeks seem less full. Color may be becomingly bright in the center, then blended toward the edges so softly and delicately that it melts into your natural color. Your cheek bones and face are thus slenderized. Rouge well towards the temples, but be careful to leave an un-rouged space between temples and ears. Also – do not rouge too close to the nose.

Illustration 2 – shows you how to apply rouge when your face is of the oblong type. Note that the rouge is spread well over the cheeks, with the center much lower than is recommended when the face is round. This fills out the hollows, making your face seem plumper and shorter. The same care should be used in blending edges so that your color will seem perfectly natural.
For a more detailed version of these vintage instructions see our post on our downloadable 1920’s Make-up guides

Illustration 3 – When your face is more oblong, work out for yourself a happy medium between the style recommended for round faces and that suitable for the oblong type as shown here.

Illustration 4 – shows proper make-up for the large, rather heavy face. Apply color sparingly, for excess is not becoming to this type. Spread it with an up and down motion, letting the rouge come well up to the outside corner of the eye, but keep a wide white space on the side of the face in front of the ear and do not rouge the temple. This softens the face in a magical way, and makes it seems decidedly smaller.

The Secrets to Alluring Eyes – 1920’s style.

The eyes are often the most effective features of a woman’s face in the 1920’s. They speak more directly her personality. Their beauty, therefore, should be enhanced in every possible way. The brows and lashes emphasise the beauty of the eyes. While there are some fortunate enough to have beautiful brows and lashes, most of us find it expedient to assist nature along. The art of beautifying the eye is more difficult to master than any other part of make-up. The rewards, however are great.

Consider carefully your type of face before shaping the brows. when a face is round, a pronounced arch is most becoming. For a narrow, somewhat thin face, level eyebrows – with just a suggestion of arching – are most attractive.
Proceed tweezing slowly so as to be sure you make the line you desire.
Be sure not to leave any straggling hairs out of line. Put cold cream on to alleviate soreness. keep your eyebrows smooth and well groomed by brushing them with an eyebrow brush. Then use an eyebrow pencil to carefully accentuate the shape you desire.
By emphasizing the center of the brow you can make small eyes seem larger. A tiny bit of brilliantine applied to the eyebrow makes them more lustrous and healthy looking.
Unless you are a pronounced brunette, don’t use a black pencil. Medium or dark brown is more becoming and doesn’t leave a ‘ made-up look’

Small eyes, or eyes set too close together, can be made to look better by pencilling a light line directly out from the outer corner of the eye. You may slant it a little if this proves more becoming.

For rings under the eye – apply ever so lightly – some rouge and blend it imperceptibly to merge with the rouge on your cheek. It is most effective. And now I am going to let you in on a trade secret – known only to a few. A small bit of cold cream or cleansing cream rubbed on the upper lid and under the eye near the nose gives that natural ” dewy” look that we read about in poetry and sometimes see on the big screen. It is most attractive.
Beading the lashes, if skilfully done, is another trick which adds a great deal to the attractiveness of the eye.

Remember Ladies – always seek good light, in applying your make-up. It is absolutely necessary, to achieve that softly, smoothly beautiful effect.

That’s all !

For more on 1920’s Flapper style see: The Rise and Fall of the Flapper.

Also a lavishly illustrated history of 1920s fashion and style.

Download direct to your phone, tablet or laptop – beautifully restored vintage make-up guides form the 1920s and onwards



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