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A Concise Guide to the Glamourous 1940s

June 5, 2011

I have been utterly enamored with the hair and makeup from the 1940’s since I was a little girl. I remember watching films of the age over and over again. Each time, I was blown away by how beautiful and glamorous the women always looked. I love the fact that the 1940s women always looked über feminine and photo-shoot ready. The style of the era had a way of making even less attractive women seem breathtakingly stunning.
The task of recreating the 40’s look may seem daunting to a great many but I assure you, once you have an idea of what you’d like to achieve, it’s quite simple! Through extensive research and some experimentation of my own, I came up with a few useful tips and information.

The Clothes of the 1940s

A beaming 1940s belle

Tailored suits in plain fabrics were widely favoured in the war-time 40s. This fashion emulated the military uniforms worn by both men and women at the time. It was also an economically  suitable choice to match the rationing period and the general austerity that comes with any war. Necklines were kept almost severe as showing off one’s decolletage was not very popular.

Sleeves extended well beyond the elbow and sleeveless styles were almost unheard of in the 1940s. Shoulders were almost always heavily padded.  Waistlines were fitted and had returned to the natural waist, in sharp contrast to the wildly popular dropped waist of the bygone 1930s.

Dresses were usually accessorized with a thin belt, and outfits were often paired with seamed stockings. These were considered a luxury at the time but were still popular and were available in silk or nylon.

The Hair of the 1940s

Betty Grable's glorious coiffed and curled locks

Hair in the 1940s was quite voluminous and worn in a very rounded, feminine style. Hair that was left down was curled under at the edges. Ladies who had bangs wore them high on the forehead and curled. Hair had a lot of volume in the 40’s, but unlike the 60’s and 80’s, this wasn’t caused by teasing. In fact, smooth hair was in, and while plenty of women curled their hair, perms were not common. Curls were added or dropped at will thanks to hair curlers and curling irons.

The bobby pin ruled the 1940’s. It allowed women to pin their hair up in curls and waves to achieve height.

A feature that was widely coveted in the 40’s was the heart-shaped face. Even the women who didn’t have a heart-shaped face naturally, styled their hair to create the illusion. Hair was also often arranged asymmetrically. This seems to have been especially common when a woman wished to wear a hat; hair would be simply styled on the side the hat was going to be put on, but elaborately styled on the off side.

The Makeup of the 1940s

The signature 1940s red lip

The hallmark of this era, in as far as makeup is concerned, is quite obviously, the red lip. The intention was for the lip to stand out and be the dominant feature. When trying to achieve this look, go for as true a red as your skin and clothing will allow. If you can’t go fire-engine red, then go down into the pink range, or orange. Avoid purple-shades of red and anything with a brown tint.

Porcelain skin was ‘in’ during the 1940s. Powder in a shade or two lighter than the natural skin tone was used liberally to create a very opaque, flawless look.

Blush ranged from pink shades to deeper shades that mimicked the signature red lip. It was popularly applied in the hollow of the cheeks.

Since emphasis was on the lips, Eye makeup was not very heavy in the 1940s. A matte brown or grey eye shadow was favoured and some liner on the upper lid and a coat or two of mascara was deemed sufficient. Heavy liner on the bottom lid was not fashionable at the time.

Eyebrows ranged from medium to thick, although some women, like Mae West, sported a pencil-thin brow. They were definitely arched, but not excessively so. The eyebrow was often lengthened past its normal line as well, so that it comes out slightly past the corner of the eye. They were fairly close to being a uniform width from beginning to end, unlike today’s more common fashion of thicker towards the nose and thinner out to the edge.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2011 7:18 am

    Awesome post! I LOVED reading it since I too am enamored with the 40’s! Of course, you can probably tell that from my website…lol.. 🙂

    • June 25, 2011 1:07 am

      So pleased you are enjoying the blog posts Margarita. I’m loving the one about the swimwear… That entire Era is about an emotion isn’t it… where men adored women and women dressed with sex appeal -I just love it to

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