1920s Makeup: Shapes, Contours, & Of Course, Gatsby


When I think 20s makeup I think, “The Vamp.” A page in Kevin Aucoin’s “making faces” book in particular. Demi Moore is made up to tribute Clara bow. With inky brown doe eyes, a tiny dark  mouth, and long thin eye brows, this stunning look is the quintessential 1920s makeup. Silent film starlets inspired new makeup application. Features had to be ultra defined due to primitive filming equipment.

The vamp, was flashy lady who wore rouge and eyeliner, and brush on mascara. Women liberating themselves with a new political voice and a shorter hemline, was not without the new art that is makeup. Women were experimenting with dark sultry eyes, deep red and violet lips – the natural look emphasizing the understated beauty of a woman was dying away along with male supremacism.


These early practices inspire much of the styles and applications we use with makeup today. The smokey eye for one. The 20s eye is a very dark shadowed eye with a down turned shape in the crease, like a half moon. The shadow continues, dipping below the lower lash line. Essentially hallowing out the eye, this vintage shape can be a bit unflattering. It really droops the shape of the eye, instead of lifting it up like we do today – it is quite rounded though.

The eye colors were dark browns and smokey blacks, anything to define the contours of the eye. White kohl pencil can be lined on the inside of the eye to emphasize the roundness.The shape of the face should be contoured on the jaw line and forehead to resemble a heart, think Betty boop. Reece Witherspoon would have the ideal 20s face shape, she has the drinking  part down.

Small delicate bow mouths were emphasized with strong lip liners and creams.   Lips can be drawn smaller than the natural mouth emphasizing the Cupid’s bow – the bow shape was all the rage. Color choices for lips were berry reds, current, and pomegranite!

(Today an updated version of this look would be a smokey eye with an “ox blood” lip, Longer thinner brows, and a contoured jaw line).

If you are talking Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan would stick to the fresher part of the spectrum – she’s not a vampy gal, but an ingenue. The same face shape would apply, but softer browns and pinky reds would be more proper for the untouchable siren. Myrtle’s look would involve more sultry colors, she is a depraved woman, she is used for sex and her look should exude sensuality. Makeup can do a lot for a character, these 20s looks were groundbreaking and it’s interesting to see them applied in a modern day to embody the far gone decade.

Products used in this video:

Face: Lancome bienfair aqua moisturizer, L’oreal True Match Foundation and Laura Mercier Silk Cream Foundation, L’oreal True Match Concealer, Cover FX foundation

Eyes: Mac soft ochre paint pot, Smashbox Master Class Palette, Maybelline Liquid Liner, Lancome white kohl pencil, Benefit’s They’re Real mascara

Brows: Anastasia Brow Whiz in medium, powdered with matte brown from smash box palette.

Cheeks: Smashbox halo bronzer, Illamasqua Blush in Naked Rose

Lips: Nyx lip liner, OCC Cosmetics lip tar, Mac lipstick in hangup

One thought on “1920s Makeup: Shapes, Contours, & Of Course, Gatsby

  1. So, so cute, so twenties and a great lesson in making almond eyes, round! Loved it and now I must go see the movie!

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