It’s taken me so long to get to the first Decades post because I keep learning more and more about the beauty looks from different eras. But then I reminded myself of two things 1) I can edit this post and add more info after it’s been published and 2) I’m not writing a friggin’ book here. So this is what I’ve got for now…
The Roaring Twenties, The Jazz Age, art deco, The Great Gatsby, flappers, Prohibition, silent films. These are the trigger words to help bring you into the right decade. Since history influences beauty and fashion, certain looks will make more sense if you know what was going on at the time. But this is a beauty blog, not a history class (which I would in no way be qualified to teach), so I’ll keep it brief. WWI ended in 1918, bringing a sense of lightness and fun after years of death and sadness. By 1920, women in all states were finally allowed to vote, after nearly 40 years of the suffrage movement. As a result, women felt more free than ever before.
The first Miss American pageant was held in 1921, which was around the same time that mass production of beauty products exploded onto the market. John Robert Power opened the first modeling agency in 1923. In combination with the growing popularity of films, women of the 1920s became focused on how they looked and what was in style.
The long hair of years past was chopped into bobs, a rebellious move for many. Some wore this look with small curls gelled onto the face or pulled out from the popular headbands and ribbons of the time. Dresses became shorter, brushing the knee, and a thin, “boyish” figure was popular. Gone were the corsets and restricting clothes that had been the American woman’s wardrobe choices for so long.
As with any decade, there were a few different popular makeup looks during the 1920s. One of the most popular looks at the time was a dark eye makeup, whether it was made dark by kohl eyeliner or eyeshadow (which was often dark grey or green). Mascara, in cake or cream form, was applied liberally using a small brush or wand, but tube mascara was not invented yet. Eyebrows were rounded and super thin–sometimes shaved off and re-drawn–and low on the face. Face powder, which was previously only available in pale, pasty shades, become available in more flesh-toned shades. Blush (or “rouge”, as it was called), often in orange or rose tones, was applied in circles on the cheek. Dark lip colors became popular, and lips had a very distinct shape. They top lip was rounded in a way that emphasized the cupid’s bow, and the length was shortened. The overall result was a big-eyed, almost doll-like face. Daytime makeup became less heavy by the late 1920s, but there was still an “anything goes” attitude towards nighttime makeup.
The legend goes that Coco Chanel made tanned skin popular by accidentally falling asleep in the sun. She then started purposely tanning, and for the first time in American history, pale skin was “out.” Tanned skin now symbolized that a woman was wealthy enough to summer in resort locations, playing tennis outdoors and sunbathing. In the past, pale skin signified the class level of a woman. If she was pale, she was rich enough to not have to work outside, and so paleness was desired (and often achieved by way of dangerous skin bleaching creams). Kind of makes you cringe, doesn’t it? I love learning about the looks from different eras, but I definitely do not like the idea of any one skin color being “in fashion.”
I hope that has given you an idea of what 1920s beauty was like. In American culture, it was a time of freedom and fun. This of course influenced fashion and beauty, along with other influencers like the influx of beauty products on the market and the popularity of film stars. I love 1920s beauty because it was such a departure from the looks that had been in style before that time. Long hair chopped into bobs; light, natural lips redrawn as small, bow shaped mouths in deep colors; bare eyes darkened and mascared to the max–what drastic moves! If you look at the changes from the average woman in 1915, to the average woman in 1925, you will not find many similarities. But it wasn’t just a change in appearances. It symbolized a change in American culture in regards to women. There would still be a long road ahead, but for the first time, women felt a sense of freedom they hadn’t experienced before. Love it 🙂