Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Makeup by the Decade: The Roaring 20's

Makeup trends of the 1920's

Rather than reiterate what you can already find on the subject of 1920's makeup, I figured I would write about my interpretations and understanding of the makeup from that era.

It sounds funny but when I think of 1920's fashion, I picture a little girl whose gotten into her mother's clothes and makeup and worn too much of it. I think it's the perfect analogy for this decade in makeup; everything was worn in excess. Mascara was hot on the scene, blush was saturated, and eyebrows and lips were highly exaggerated. Nowadays we would look at wearing this much makeup as garish or amateurish, but if you're looking to sport a 1920's look I don't think you have to cake your makeup on in order to be successful.

One of the things you should do when trying to recreate a vintage look is to consider what was available at the time; what was new or on trend at the time in colours, products and styles? For the 1920's we're aware that certain products were popular: mascara was a sure choice for accenting kholed eyes; on trend lip colours were reds and plums; and eyebrow and lip shapes were over-exaggerated.


I believe the eyebrows are what make the 1920's look. If you mess them up you'll end up either looking like a clown or from a different decade altogether! People often assume that in order to achieve a 1920's look you need thin eyebrows but this isn't the case. If you look at photographs from the 20's you will find women with thick natural eyebrows alongside those with pencil thin, drawn on eyebrows. The real defining element of the 20's eyebrow is not necessarily the thickness but the overall shape. If you study the images presented here you will see eyebrows from this time rarely feature a well defined arch, instead eyebrows are rounded. Also, they are usually elongated and shifted, sloping downward. I believe this was done in order to achieve a softer and rounded appearance of the face (as much of the makeup from this decade demonstrates). By rounding the eyebrows and drawing them closer to the eye, it creates a kind of sympathetic look. I've often felt the women from this decade look like cherubs and perhaps that was the intention. Aside from those who chose to curve and slope their eyebrows, there were also women who chose to shape their eyebrows in a more straight and severe looking fashion. This is notable in a few iconic looks, at times seen in images of Theda Bara or Clara Bow (see below).


The second most important element in achieving a 1920's look are the lips. Like the eyebrows, the shape of the lips were highly exaggerated. They were made to appear smaller with a well defined "cupid's bow" (the bow of the lip). For women with fuller lips this was achieved by drawing within the lip line, for women with thinner lips the cupid's bow may have been defined outside of the lip line (as shown in the illustration above **please forgive my wonky drawings). Look at the photos and advertisements of women from this era and you will see the different and unusual shapes used to define the bow of the lip. Lipstick colours that were popular at this time were in dark or bold shades of red, brown, orange and plum.


When you think of eye makeup from the 1920's, you may picture the dark and sultry kohled eyes of Theda Bara. This is the most commonly referenced makeup style of the 20's and although I acknowledge that it has it's place (especially given the heightened interest in Egyptian culture during the 20's), I feel it's a tad overdone and really ought to be used for an evening look. If you look through the various promotional photographs or illustrated advertisements, you'll probably notice that not every girl had dark kohled eyes. Beyond your basic black, there were also shades of brown, blue and even gold was being used. You don't have to cake your eyelid in black shadow to invoke the roaring 20's, as I mentioned before, it's more about the shapes and application of the makeup that make the look. My suggestion for achieving a 20's daytime look is to use softer shades or neutral eye-shadows like peach, gold, sage or taupe. Accent them with a bit of eyeliner close to the lash line on the bottom and upper lids (or leave the lower lid out and apply mascara to the bottom lashes). Apply mascara liberally!


Use of blush was also popular at this time but it was applied to the apple of the cheeks, it was not used to contour but to exaggerate roundness. It was applied generously in shades of orange, pink or red. I've ready varying opinions, but it seems foundation for the most part was intended to look warm and natural.


If you get the shapes and shades down right you can easily create a 1920's makeup. This look is really fun and unusual and can change your appearance dramatically. If you're curious to see what I mean, look at images of Joan Crawford from the 1920's and then those of her from the late 30's or 40's - I had to do a double take! It almost looks like two different people. Keep that in mind if you ever plan on disguising yourself for whatever reason. ; )

Next Month: The Dirty 30's

Best wishes! ♥

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Reading: Nancy Drew versus Judy Bolton

Teen Detective Showdown!

I don't get a lot of time to read but when I do I enjoy reading books from the earlier part of the 20th century. I'm particularly attracted to writers from the 30's and 40's. As I've already mentioned on this blog before, I have a handful of magazines from those decades and I enjoy the short stories featured in them (although sometimes they're a bit corny). I much prefer novels, mind you, because they allow for greater character depth. Whenever I get the chance, I like to rummage through old book shops and second hand stores to see if I can find some vintage treasures.

A while back, I found a Judy Bolton book in an antique mall. I was attracted to the cover, a bare book without the dust jacket and a small tree pictured on the bottom corner. When I lifted the cover I was surprised to see a haunted house illustrated inside. I knew this book had to be worth checking out and for only $6 it wasn't a purchase I would regret. I did a quick Google search on the name and came up with a few results describing the book as one volume out of a children's mystery series. My best guess is that it was the poor man's Nancy Drew.

I never really read Nancy Drew books as a child. Like most kids, I was repulsed by the idea of having old things. I didn't take to vintage collectibles until my teenage years. I always gave Nancy Drew the brush off for that reason. After reading my Judy Bolton book, I felt it was time to give the Nancy Drew books a chance. I'm surprised by the results! First, I'd like to discuss each book briefly before I select a winner.

My Judy Bolton book is called The Haunted Attic, it's the second book in the series. The story begins with Judy moving into a new house. The house was gifted to her family after they lost their previous home to a bad flood. Once there, Judy discovers the house is haunted and has a dark past. As Judy and her brother seek out clues about the ghost, Judy deals with every day teen troubles involving the local girls at school. When not sleuthing, Judy spends her time planning a grand Hallowe'en party that she hopes will help win the affection of her classmates. As one would expect, everything is revealed on All Hallows Eve!

Because I don't actually own any Nancy Drew books I had to seek them out online, with some luck I managed to find the entire collection. To make a fair comparison, I selected a book that had a similar overall concept. In this case, I chose Nancy Drew and the Haunted Bridge. Nancy is competing in a golf tournament when she learns of a haunted bridge near the golf course. She becomes obsessed with the bridge; she feels there must be a connection between the bridge and a jewel thief that her father has asked her to locate. Together with the help of her friends, Nancy unravels the mystery behind the haunted bridge.

Both books were released in the thirties and have striking similarities; each deals with theft and a mysterious haunting; each protagonist is an intelligent young woman in her teens with a knack for problem solving. With that much in common, how do I choose a winner?

Who wins and why?

Judy Bolton wins! I really appreciate Margaret Sutton's writing style more than Corlyn Keene's. I found Sutton's work to be articulate and immersive. I could relate to her characters and felt that they dealt with more realistic subject matter. What I mean by that is, unlike Drew, Bolton deals with the harsh judgmental world of high school. She gets treated like crap by her peers and has difficulties coping with that. Instead of bogging the story down, this personal conflict sort of catapults Judy into action and allows her to overcome her fear of ghosts in order to solve the big mystery. In The Haunted Bridge, Nancy is inconvenienced a few times by an obsessive suitor but spends most of the novel running from point A to point B. I realize that this book comes later in the series, so there's no real need to indulge in Nancy's personal affairs, but it really makes the book lack lustre and rather incredible. It's all too convenient. It's like her dad is waiting in the wings or something, he's there so quickly, he takes her word on everything (obviously because he trusts her, this is Nancy Drew "girl detective") but really, it's all a bit much. The fact that she's so good at sleuthing she can determine a man's handwriting from a mere glance, I mean really? How the hell does she not have anything better to do with her time? She says everything so matter-of-factly that she comes across as kind of a pretentious bitch to me. Judy is a normal, relatable girl, who doesn't have these abnormal sleuthing capabilities. She solves the mystery at a nice even pace, whereas Nancy's story jumps around quickly and doesn't allow you to linger on any piece of information. To me, Judy has the capacity to be wrong, like any normal girl, but Nancy comes off as perfect. You really just want to see Nancy fall on her face.

Overall, I'd love to read more about Judy Bolton and less of Nancy Drew. I'll give Nancy another fair shot by reading one of the earlier novels, but I honestly found Keene's writing style to be too lack luster and simplistic. I'm also more impressed by the fact that the Bolton books appear to have an overarching supernatural theme to them; all of the other mystery/detective series from this time seem to deal strictly with reality based mysteries, like who stole this lady's fur coat? or what happened to so-and-so?

The sad thing is that Sutton's work got pushed to the side due to the popularity of Nancy Drew. There was an overabundance of this genre at the time and shops only wanted to shelve what they knew would sell, so copies of the Bolton books are fewer and far between. You can purchase them without the dust jacket for cheaper but the books that were released later on are scarce and command high prices. You can get a torrent of the entire Nancy Drew series but you can't find much of anything for Judy Bolton. It's a real shame because I would love to read the rest of these books and see how the series holds up over time. From what I've heard from her older fans, the series was supposed to be really good and vastly underrated.

Happy Reading!