Thursday, 24 March 2011

Timeless Beauty: Sulty Starlet Makeup of the 1940s

Although I've sported many wild and crazy makeup looks in my day, the one look that has always been most appealing to me is one that is classic and iconic: that of the bold, sultry 1940s Hollywood starlet. We all recognize the striking, dramatic black and white glamour shots of actresses such as Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, and Lauren Bacall:

Veronica Lake

Rita Hayworth

Lauren Bacall

Such images popularized the look of wavy, pinned hair, deep side parts, bold lips, and smoldering eyes. Colour photos of these starlets not only solidify these beauty trends, but also reveal the colour palette behind this classic look: Rich, red-stained lips, nude cheeks, strong, defined brows, matte, flawless skin and lots of lashes. Polished, sophisticated, and definitely sexy. What girl wouldn't want to channel this look once in a while?

As the makeup  industry was booming in the 1940s, some Hollywood actresses even began acting as the face of major beauty brands (which was novel at the time, but seems so common place today). In these ads, they even further popularized the red-lipped, lush-lashed face that characterized the time. Here is Rita Hayworth advertising her "favourite shade" of Max Factor lipstick.

It is clear that the 1940s Hollywood starlet look has continued to influence makeup artists and celebrities decades after its inception. With all of the makeup trends that the '60s, '70s, and '80s had to offer (love them or hate them!), today's red carpets and fashion magazines remain crowded with stars and models doing their best Veronica Lake impression. Here are a few:

The ever crimson-lipped Gwen Stefani

January Jones

Veronica Lake-inspired look from  Harper's Bazaar

Here are a couple of pictures of one of my previous attempts at a '40s starlet look. It was for a film noir-themed party a couple of years ago. Can't say I perfected the look, but it was not a bad try!

Because I did this look a while ago, I can't remember exactly which products I used, but I'm pretty sure I used MAC Ladybug lipstick ($17.50 CAD, at MAC stores and counters). It's my all-time favourite red lipstick! It's slightly sheer, but can be layered to make it more intense. For other classic Hollywood reds, I recommend Chanel Rouge Allure Lipstick in Lover ($37 CAD at Holt Renfrew and The Bay) and Clinique Long Last Soft Shine lipstick in Red Licorice ($18 CAD at Sephora, The Bay, and Sears).

I've been thinking of putting together a photo tutorial of how to create at 1940s starlet look. If that's something you'd be interested in, please let me know and I'll get working on it!

Thanks for reading :)


  1. Please?!!?! Jen, I suck at this stuff, and I think I have a dress to go with this look. :D

  2. Jen, Another great post! More great pictures! I remember seeing photos of you when you went to that party and you looked beautiful and perfect for the theme. Of course, you always look beautiful to me! Mom

  3. I attempted this look for Halloween last year when I was an old-timey housewife. While it was fun, it was definitely challenging and I don't think I got as authentic of a look as you achieved! Good job!
    Karen :)

  4. For sure, a tutorial would be super fun!!! Better yet, MAKEOVERS!!!

  5. I'll take a makeover...yes please! haha

    Loved this one Jen!


  6. Thanks for all the comments, ladies! Looks like enough of you are interested in a tutorial, so I'll get to work on putting one together! And makeovers are a great idea, Sarah! If you (or anyone) would like to be my guinea pig, I'd be happy to oblige ;)

  7. Jen, this is one of my all-time favourite looks! And MAC's Ladybug lipstick is one of my faves, too!

    - Laura


All of your lovely comments make my day! Thanks for taking the time to share your musings, ideas, and opinions. Feel free to leave a link to your blog- I'd be happy to check it out :)