Monday, 17 October 2011

Photo Tutorial: How to master a Modern '40s Starlet Look

The inspiration for this tutorial (which has been in the works for a while, for those who requested it!) is one of my all-time favourite makeup looks: that of the bold, confident, sultry 1940s starlet. As pictured below, the look is characterized by flawless matte skin, strong brows, and matte orange-red lips.

The beautiful Lauren Becall

The glamorous Veronica Lake
Unlike the pin-ups from the 50s who were adorned with dramatic winged liner, false lashes, and cherry-red lips, the 40s starlet look is slightly more subdued, yet just as striking and iconic. For this tutorial, I've attempted to create a modern 40s look, that is equally bold and surprisingly wearable. Throughout I've also added hints to help make the look either more traditional or more modern-day. I hope you find them helpful!

Here is a picture of my final, completed look, after which I've broken everything down into steps for you:

Step 1: Create a matte base

A hallmark of the 40s starlet look is flawless, matte skin. To re-create this, it is best to use a medium coverage liquid foundation, topped with concealer (where needed) and a matte finishing powder. I used Yves Saint Laurent Teint Resist foundation in #4 Sand (which I was lucky to get a sample of at Sephora), and MAC Blot Powder in Medium to create a matte look. In order for this not to look heavy or chalky (especially if you have dry skin), make sure to use a light hand when applying the powder!

Tip: To make this look more modern, opt for a more sheer, glowy foundation instead.

Step 2: Aim for a Dramatic Brow

As the above pictures demonstrate, bold arched brows are key to adding structure and drama to this look. To achieve this, first use a brow pencil that matches or is slightly darker than your brows to fill in any sparse areas and accentuate your brow's natural arch. Then layer on a brow powder to set the look. I used Clarins Brown Pencil in 03 Blonde topped with Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Ash Blonde.

Tip: To make this look even more classic and dramatic, use the brow pencil to make your brows slightly thicker and more arched than normal.

Step 3: Subtly Contour the Cheeks

In order to add further structure to the look, you can use a bronzer or neutral toned blush (slightly darker than your skintone) under the cheekbones to sculpt the face. I used Hard Candy's Hula Hula Bronzer, applied with Quo's Contour Brush (pictured below). In order to know where to apply the contour shade, make a "fish face" and place the colour where your cheeks naturally hollow.

Here is how I looked after completing these three steps:

Tip: To make this look more classic, be a bit more heavy-handed with the contour shade. To make this look more modern, skip this step altogether!

After steps 1, 2, and 3

Contoured Cheeks

Quo's Contour Face Brush

Step 4: Apply a neutral cheek colour

As seen on the lovely starlets above, the cheek colour for this look is quite subdued, which allows for the brows and lips to do all the talking, so to speak ;) To achieve these matte, subtle cheeks, choose a powder blush that is just slightly darker than your natural skin tone, applying it to the apples of your cheeks, up toward the hairline, and slightly on top of the contour shade, to blend it. I used a mix of Laura Mercier Blush in Crushed Hazelnut and NARS Powder Blush in Sex Appeal.

Tip: To make this look more modern, chose a blush with a bit of shimmer to it, rather than sticking to a matte finish.

Here's what I looked like after applying blush:

After Step 4, a mix of Laura Mercier Crushed Hazelnut and NARS Sex Appeal

Step 5: Add a Neutral Eye Colour all over the Lid and Browbone

Because the eyes are not the central focus of this look, it is important to keep things neutral and subtle. To highlight the eyes slightly, I applied a satin-finish eyeshadow (not too matte or too shimmery) all over the lid, along the browbone and in the inner corner of my eye. For this, I used Bourjois Powder Shadow in Beige Rose.

Tip: To make this look more classic, opt for a truly matte shadow, such as Revlon Vintage Lace.

Here is what this looked like:

After Step 5, Bourjois Beige Rose

Step 6: Subtly Contour the Eyes

In order to provide some shape to the eyes, while still keeping things subtle, you can add a matte, mid-toned (not too light or dark) brown to the crease. I applied a light layer of MAC Eyeshadow in Patina.

Tip: To make this look more classic, skip in this step! To modernize this look, apply a slightly darker brown for a soft, smoky eye.

Here's why my eye looked like at this point:

With MAC Patina Eyeshadow in the crease

Step 7: Eyeliner

Because brows and lips are the focus of this look, it is important to keep the eyeliner relatively subtle. This will help differentiate the look from that of the 50s pinup, staying true to the 40s starlet spirit. You can apply a thin line of either brown or black liner, winging it out very slightly. I applied Revlon ColourStay Liquid Liner in Black. Here's how it looked:

Step 8: Mascara

Even though the shadow and liner are mostly neutral and subdued with this look, it's still ok to create some bold lashes! Any volumizing mascara in black or brown will do the trick- I used Boots No 7 Volumizing Waterproof Mascara in Black. Here's how it looked:

Step 9: Matte, Red Lips!

Bold scarlet lips are truly the hallmark of this look, and finding the perfect starlet red was a fun task! I was looking for a lipstick with a semi-matte finish and warm orange tones in the red. Ultimately, the winner was NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Heat Wave. It's a gorgeous tomato red with a full-colour and slightly retro (how perfect!) finish. Here are a couple pictures of it:

NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in Heat Wave

For a more affordable option, try Joe Fresh Lipstick in Poppy!

Here's a closeup of NARS Heat Wave on my lips:

And in the context of the final look, with eyes open and closed:

Thanks for reading, everyone! I'll leave you with a few more pictures of the final look... Hope you had as much fun reading about it as I did creating it! :)


  1. You look absolutely stunning Jen. Great stuff!

  2. Awww, thanks Mike! I had a lot of fun putting this tutorial together. So glad you're still reading and enjoying the blog :)


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