A Modern Take on Vintage Makeup

Written by Michelle Richardson, L.E. and professional makeup artist

Vintage makeup is always coming back into fashion with a new twist on the original application. Although there are new techniques, products, colors, and textures that change the old version of vintage makeup, history can be found with each new trend. Retro makeup goes back much further than the last 100 years. Smokey eyes were worn by Egyptian women thousands of years ago and bright red lipstick was worn in Asia more than 1,000 years ago. This look can easily be seen in traditional Chinese paintings. Europeans did not use makeup until just a few centuries ago. Mixing modern with vintage is nothing new. There are some makeup trends that keep coming back time and time again. Each generation will be sure to experience most of the trends that have been repeated.

1930s
Overdrawn Lips
Then: Long before the overdrawn lip of 2015 became trendy, Hollywood starlets were tracing outside their normal lip line to create the illusion of a fuller, curvier pout. No injections required!

Now: The same look is created using lighter lipstick and lip liner colors. Injections have been used for clients that can afford them.

Heavy Blush
Then: Healthy, glowing skin was a staple in the ‘30s. Lots of blush was used to obtain that sought-after, flushed, radiant look.

Now: These days, more and more women are keeping things simple on their lips and eyes while giving their cheeks a touch more color for a more youthful glow.

Heavily Penciled Eyebrows
Then: The super thin eyebrows of the ‘20s did not stand a chance in this decade. Eyebrows had a heavier, defined look that showed no gradient or blending.

Now: It is trendy to now fill in the eyebrows using a darker-than-normal eyebrow pencil. Keep everything modern by following the natural eyebrow shape. If the client’s eyebrows are arched, keep the arch. If the client’s eyebrows have a curve, follow the curvature.

Soft, Smokey Eyes
Then: The smokey look was lighter and perfected without using a liner, offering an exotic look without making the eyes look smaller.

Now: Skip the tricky liquid eyeliner. Sweep a flattering shade of bronze-pink shadow across the client’s eyelids and along the lower eyelash line. Add at least two coats of mascara to curl the eyelashes for a defined, yet soft look.

Straight Eyebrows
Then: Straight eyebrows framed the eyes in the most dramatic way.

Now: This look may not be a good everyday look, but it is fun for a unique night out. This trend is gaining much attention in Korea.

1940s
Coral Blush
Then: Orange shades were used on the cheeks and were very popular for a healthy, glowing look all year round.

Now: A peachy-pink shade is a pretty safe bet if the professional is unsure of which shade to use for the client. Paired with a nude lip color, this look helps to avoid going overboard on the warm side. This look is a safe choice for most skin tones.

Orange Red Lipstick
Then: To ensure the lips kept the attention, the rest of the makeup was muted.

Now: An orange-red lipstick is now paired with glowing skin, along with the same muted eye makeup as listed in the ‘40s.

Matte Skin
Then: Pressed powder was used quite often to erase shine, giving the skin a perfect matte finish.

Now: Matte skin is still popular, but with a subtle twist. The focus should remain radiant, never flat. Regular exfoliation and proper moisturization will keep the powder from looking caked and dry. The now popular HD powders are much lighter in texture to help achieve a more transparent matte finish.

1950s
Strong Red Lips
Then: Full, red lips with emphasis on the peaks on the top lip were very popular. Use a pointed lip brush for a more precision lining application. Be careful not to over exaggerate the lip lining since red can look clownish if done incorrectly. This decade usually applied a moist, creamy lipstick for a slight shiny look.

Now: A softer bow is created and a more matte formula is used for a modern twist. Complete the lip with softer eye makeup than was used to complete the look in the ‘50s.

Contouring
Then: Contouring is by no means a new makeup concept. Many movie stars of the past have contoured their faces. It was a staple technique.
Now: Contouring has grown increasingly popular in the past several years. The final look, compared to the ‘50s, is softer and more well-blended.

1960s
White Eyeliner
Then: White eyeliner was used on the bottom waterline to make the eyes look bigger and brighter.
Now: Using a light eyeliner on the bottom waterline is still used to make the eyes look larger. For a more subtle look, replace the white eyeliner with a nude liner for light-to-medium tones. For medium-to-dark skin tones, use a light blue color.

Purple Lipstick
Then: A sexy purple-colored lipstick was used to give the wearer an innocent doll-like look. With this look, the focal point of the face were the lips; the cheeks were muted.

Now: Purple shades of lipstick are still in fashion, but the only difference is that it might be paired with purple hair. There are many more shades to choose from that are suitable for all skin tones.

Cut Crease Eyeshadow
“Cut creasing” is when the crease is defined by using a contrasting eyeshadow color to “cut” across the eyelid. Very little blending – if any – is used to maintain a sharp, defined look.

Then: This look was seen a lot in the 1960s. The eyes were kept smokey while the rest of the makeup style was subtle.

Now: Mixing modern with vintage is also the new twist for this trend. Create an even sexier look using shimmery shades.

Long False Eyelashes
Then: Trademark false eyelashes were often placed on both the top and lower eyelids. The eyes were the focal point while everything else remained soft.

Now: Today, there is more variety from both black and brown false eyelashes to eyelash extensions; there are also many more designs and styles. Eyelashes are more often placed on the top eyelids only. The eyes are still the main focus.

Thick Eyebrows
Then: Thick, lush eyebrows that perfectly frame the face were the popular choice over tweezers.

Now: After the over-tweezed eyebrow of the 1990s and 2000s, full eyebrows have made their comeback. This trend works on most, but not all. Pick a shape that works for the client and fits their face, personality, and lifestyle.

Winged Eyeliner
Then: Popular in the ‘60s beauty routine, winged eyeliner extended a half-inch past the eyes, creating an exotic, sexy look.

Now: Winged eyeliner is now called the “cat eye.” This look comes in all styles and shapes and is a go-to classic look that will keep the focus on the eyes.

Pink Is In
Then: Pink came in the form of powder pink lips, as well as two coats of mascara with pastel pink eyeshadow.

Now: Go for a softer, more natural pink on the lips and add a light silver shadow on the eyes to accentuate them.

1970s
Pastel Eyeshadow
Then: Opaque eyeshadow applied from the eyelash line to the eyebrow and is a hard look to pull off. Many women ended up looking a hot mess! This catastrophe was due to the limitation of color selection available at that time.

Now: Bold pastels are now gorgeous, but not always placed from the eyelash line to the eyebrow. A matte texture is used for a softer and modern look.

1980s
Purple Eyeshadow
Then: The ‘70s were all about tons of blues, purples, and pinks. Purple was a staple for eyeshadow shades.

Now: Today’s version is a blended purple smokey eye that is perfect for a sexy evening look.

Natural Eyebrows
Then: The ‘80s eyebrows were left untouched; they were kept as natural and bushy as possible.

Now: Eyebrows are considered striking when they are barely touched. A little shaping and some filling of the eyebrows is ideal when keeping with the eyebrows’ natural shape and thickness.

Orange Eyeshadow
Then: Orange eyeshadow and matching lipstick were a popular combination in this era.

Now: The modern version of orange eyeshadow sways toward a metallic copper color. This shade is a flattering look for all eye colors.

Wild Lipstick Colors
Then: Bright, unconventional lipstick shades, such as green, blue, and yellow, were trendy at the time. These shades brought a more creative style to the era for a dramatic, quirky look.

Now: Alternative lipstick shades have made a huge comeback. High fashion runway models to mainstream women have scrambled to obtain the right shades of blue, purple, and green that are unique and unconventional.

1990s
Metallic Eyeshadow
Then: This was a bold fashion statement that included shimmery eyeshadow applied all the way up to the eyebrows.

Now: Metallic eye makeup has been all over red carpets and runways for the past few years. More subtle than in the ‘90s, this look should use warmer rose gold shades with a focus on the eyelids. Skip any application of eyeliner.

With each passing fashion week comes a new set of makeup trends for editors and bloggers to glorify. The new spring and summer trends of 2018 are a great example. For instance, there are already two new trends for the season that have been recycled from the past with a twist. The cat eye is still going strong and the “Twiggy” eyelashes on both the top and bottom eyelashes are making a comeback. Spiked eyelashes, like in the 2000s, are also making a comeback, but with a softer look than before and appearing in combination with a soft eye and lip.

Be sure to take time to learn enough about current trends to be able to have many choices to fit the client’s face and lifestyle.

Michelle Richardson is a licensed aesthetician and professional makeup artist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked for numerous retail cosmetic lines, including Estée Lauder, Lancôme, and Christian Dior. Richardson is the co-owner of the California Makeup Academy - Training Center for professional makeup artists and the co-owner of Your Makeup Line, a private label branding company.

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