HOW TO: Makeup & Hair of the Late 1920s

The 1920s was a decade of decadence that, not surprisingly, inspired the nickname The Roaring Twenties.

Words by Chrissy Keepence

Joan Crawford 1930 wikicommons RH Louise

Joan Crawford circa 1930

In the years following World War I, Americans were hungry for everything new. In the glow of a strong economy they embraced new technology in the form of new cars and electric appliances. They danced the ‘Charleston’, tangoed to sensational new jazz music and attended the first talking motion pictures. They read the likes of Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald and followed their favourite sports figures.

Prohibition of alcohol led to a proliferation of speakeasies (establishments where illegal alcohol was served) and contributed to the rise of organized crime. Women gained the right to vote and reveled in their new independence by bobbing their hair, shortening their hemlines, going into a frenzy over the new looks for makeup and fashion and generally abandoning 19th century social mores.

But by 1925 the flapper look was becoming passé. The new look in makeup was described as ‘pallor mortis with scarlet lips and ringed eyes’, intended to give the wearer that sought-after debauched look.

Danish actress Asta Nielsen



The_Canary_Murder_Case_(1929)_1Louise Brooks Paramount publicity b

Louise Brooks 1929

You can recreate this look today by following these steps:

Create a matte canvas with foundation and concealer – the correct look verges on pancake makeup, so don’t be afraid to use a heavy hand in applying foundation. Try to duplicate your natural skin tone. Use ivory, cream or flesh colors for lighter skin tones and medium or dark flesh for darker skin tones. Finish the foundation with loose powder to match the normal skin tones. Powder should be blended to suit the individual complexion. You are aiming for a flawless matte finish to start with before applying other cosmetics. Don’t forget your neck and earlobes! When applying matte finish, nothing ruins the look more than the mask-like effect created when one forgets to apply foundation to the neck. Take your time and double check for smoothness and blending before moving on to the eyes.

The thinly tweezed eyebrows look was all the rage.  The eyebrow pencil gained popularity and eyebrows were darkened and exaggerated and made longer. The late 20’s saw the eyebrow start to arch upwards creating more white space on the eyelid and opening the eyes up again. Comparing Clara Bow to Greta Garbo or even Joan Crawford’s eyes, you can see a huge change from the downcast brow to the lifted arch within the decade.

Clara_Bow_Photographer Nicolas Murray 1921

Clara Bow’s eyebrow style in the early ’20s

Garbo_in_Inspiration 1931 MGM

Greta Garbo’s eyebrows were shaped and raised in the late ’20s

Tip: If you already have super manicured dark eyebrows then maybe just a smear of Vaseline to give them lift and shine is the go.

This meant kohl pencil was used around the whole eye and smudged slightly to create the smokey eye look. Eye shadow primer is optional here, but remember that sometimes the stars choose to have a very shiny eyelid, so you can use a dab of petroleum jelly to start with too – but very, very lightly! Place the neutral colour over the whole lid then the darker colour in the crease, blending to the outer edges. Blending is the key and popular eye shadow colours used were greys, plums, blues and greens.

Step 4: LASH UP
Eyelashes are a huge part of this look, so be sure to curl your lashes! Use mascara heavily and add false eyelashes if you want to take it all the way.

Pink, Pink or Pink. Use a smooth, light, silken blusher texture to create that healthy pink ‘Sunday afternoon fireside’ glow. Apply to the ‘apples’ of your cheeks for that perfect look.

Interesting Fact: Beetroot or Rhubarb or even squashed fresh berries also make a great cheek and lip stain.

Define the contours of your made up lip with a highly pigmented deep red lip liner. Alter your lip shape slightly by enhancing the Cupids bow on your top lip and by drawing your lips a little smaller than they are to give them a slightly puckered, rounded appearance. Fill in lips with the liner. Apply matte red lipstick over outlined lips. NB: Early 20’s lip colours were deep reds, brownish reds, and plums, but by the end of the 20’s shades like raspberry or medium reds were popular.

Interesting Fact:  Makeup of the 1920s evolved and by the end of WW1 the hair dye for men called ‘Mascaro’ was converted into the word ‘Mascara’ and re-sold with a new purpose, to beautify and darken lashes!

13Right: 1920 Maybell Laboratories Advertisement:  Just a wee touch of the little brush over your eyelashes and eyebrows with Lash-Brow-Ine and you will find a new beauty in your eyes. For Maybelline instantly furnishes that delicate touch of darker color so necessary to eyelashes and eyebrows while they are gently invigorated by the little brush.


As a sign of the modern times and her independence, many women adopted a bobbed hairstyle with a finger wave called the Eton Crop. The style was made popular by the invention of the Marcel wave created with a hot rounded iron. Cutting their hair was a big decision for women and proved unfavourable with men who wanted women to retain the image of a wholesome Gibson Girl*. Those who chose not to upset the men and keep their long feminine locks still rolled and pinned their hair at the nape of the neck to give the appearance of short hair.

*The Gibson Girl began appearing in the 1890s and was the personification of the feminine ideal of beauty portrayed by the satirical pen-and-ink illustrations of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson.

A variety of spectacular cloche hats were a must-have in one’s wardrobe. They were particularly great when one hadn’t had time to create that perfect finger wave set. Hats and headbands were a popular way to finish off the 1920’s look. If you did have the time to wet set your hair to create the finger look, then at the very least you would have had a hair adornment like the rhinestone comb/clip.

1 7 11

Masses of curls like Clara Bow, or maybe a straight cut classic bob like Louise Brookes or even a combination like Greta Garbo (above), can all lend to the look with very little effort and each are great with a headband/feather or cloche hat.

Not having dead straight hair naturally, I opt for the Louise Brookes curls as it is easy to achieve.  Here’s how I do it:

14Tools needed:  The LCS Essential Setting lotion, 1 Dolly Peg, comb & Pin Curl clips, and/or bobby pins.

1. Creating Pin Curls fast using my Dolly Peg and The Lindy Charm School for Girls Essential Setting Lotion,  I comb, then spray the hair, insert a small section of hair through the slit of the peg, roll the hair, tip the peg onto its end and slide the hair off.
2. Then using a double prong pin curl clip I hold it in place and let the setting lotion work its magic.
153. I then go about my day with a ‘Do Rag’ on my head and then just before I go out, I take the curls out, pop on my sequenced cloche hat and voila, a 20’s look in minutes! I can do the same overnight for longer lasting curls but I would replace the pin curl clip with a bobby pin so as to sleep more comfortably. I would also wrap my head in a silk scarf to help keep them in place while sleeping. When I wake, I have a mass of tight curls.
4. Now for the makeup and outfit to complete the look. The Lindy Charm School Essential Silken Pink Blusher is the best colour for these Vintage looks. You can buy the whole kit on our website

I hope you enjoy experimenting with these hair and makeup tips and if you have any questions, I’m here to help!

Miss ChrissyThe Lindy Charm School For Girls

Some pictures and content contribution by Chrissy Keepence of The Lindy Charm School for Girls
All other images sourced through Creative Commons, Wikimedia Commons as follows:
Joan Crawford 1930 – RH Louise, Wikimedia Commons
Clara Bow – 1927 – wiki File Violadana_2 jpg
Joan Crawford 1920 –
Chrissy Keepence – Photo Helen McLean
Louise Brooks –
Louise Brooks – The Canary Murder Case 1929, Paramount Publicity, Wikimedia Commons
Asta Nielsen –
Greta Garbo – 1924 –
Greta Garbo – Photoplay, Wikimedia Commons
Clara Bow – Fox Film Corporations Wikimedia commons
Clara Bow – Photographer Nicholas Murray 1921, Wikimedia commons
Garbo in Inspiration in 1931 – MGM, Wikimedia commons
US Public Domain Tag:



2 thoughts on “HOW TO: Makeup & Hair of the Late 1920s

  1. Gretchen Young

    Chrissie K – looking good – image 13 of the 20. Recreated a retro precode look really well.

  2. Deborah Brown

    Love your article on 1920s styling, a la Gatsby. I head-up a library at a girls’ high school, and we all went Gatsby mad this year to celebrate the film coming out. I particularly like the image credits on your page entry, as we are forever trying to impress to students the importance of correctly attributing the work of others (particularly images) that they may incorporate into their assignments. BTW I love your blog.

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