1930s Beauty

The 1930s gave the world its first introduction to the power of Hollywood glamour. Max Factor, Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden became household names; Pan-Cake foundation, cream blush and nail polish were invented; and women everywhere said to hell with sensible hairstyles in favor of waves falling dangerously over one eye. No wonder it is considered THE era of makeup.

A departure from the little-girl look of previous decades, the beauty mood was all about sex, drama and glitter. Chalk it up to that big stock market crash, prohibition, and the onslaught of slinky movie seductresses. Lips, eyes, skin, nails, hair—just about everything was buffed, polished and painted into unnaturally fabulous proportions.

Here's how to channel the original sex goddesses. Try one or go for it and wear all five at once.


Back in the day, every woman had her curlers, her permanents, her setting lotions, her hair bonnets. Hair was serious, serious business, and if you didn’t have some fab little waves, you might as well be walking around in sackcloth and ashes.

hair and lips

Photos: Getty Images|Corbis

Myrna Loy (left) works '30s waves; Josephine Baker powders while she pouts (right).

Take a page from icons like Josephine Baker and Jean Harlow with loose, come-hither finger waves. Though the glossy, curving sweep was once a chore to create, hairstylist Oscar Blandi has devised a more simplified take on the superfeminine style that requires just rollers and some deft handiwork.

Prior to styling, work in some Oscar Blandi Volumizing Spray, then blow dry to remove all water from strands. Next, create a middle or side part. Using small- to medium-size hot rollers—hair should wrap around the curler 1 1/2 times—wind hair around the rollers from the part and work your way down to your ear on both sides of the head. Hold each section 90 degrees out and work rollers in a downward direction and slightly toward the ear.

Once rollers have cooled, mist hair with hair spray, then brush hair out with a small, round Mason Pearson brush. The key is to then merge the hair together, lining up the waves so they make an S formation. Lock waves in with a few more mists of hair spray for a sleek finish.


The emphasis of this era was to create a beautifully curvy, "rosebud" pout through the really sharp use of lip liner. Popular colors in the '30s included dark red shades, maroon, raspberry and brown. Major lip color transmits jazzy glamour, but for 2011, we like it in bright, fresh, juicy shades.

"Think two things: lips and lashes," says Lipstick Queen Poppy King. "Red lipstick is best applied straight from the tube for maximum impact. I suggest applying lip liner AFTER you apply lipstick to even out the edges and avoid clown mouth, which can happen with red lip liner if you apply it before the lipstick."

King's rule of thumb?

"The fairer your coloring, orangey reds look best; the deeper your coloring, pinker reds look best. It also depends on your mood: Red says glamour, pink says flirty. Blot with a tissue after first application to set, then apply lighter coats on top throughout the night."

Westman advises trying red or pink lip stain. "They create beautiful, bright color and won't smudge or fade. You can top with a bit of sheer red gloss for a beautiful, multidimensional look.”


Lashes and smoky eyes are so gorgeous they belong to every decade. What anchors the smoky eye of the '30s is its mysterious, almost mystical look. You want an eye shadow that's gray and foggy, slightly sparkly, almost like a cloud over the eyes. In a time of struggle and darkness, smoldering imports like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo lifted the haze.

eyes and face

Photos: Corbis|Flickr

Clara Bow wears the '30s version of smoky eyes (left);  Renée Perle shows off a flawless face (right).

The most direct way to achieve the vamp look is with a veil of dark, smoky gray or black shadow on the lids. Don’t be intimidated by a little pot of eye shadow, says makeup artist Gucci Westman.

“Think lots of thin layers to gradually build color," she says. "It's more user friendly—not to mention flattering—than a few heavy coats of color."

The secret: Blend it well. Westman advises using a dark gray, brown, navy or—for those who want to go all out—black eye shadow, and make sure it has some shimmer. Dark, matte shades streak easily, looking more "dirty" than "sultry."

Dip your finger into the shadow, pat it, and glide it over the whole lid. Use a clean cotton swab or shadow-blending brush to diffuse the edges, blending for a perfectly faded, subtle-but-sexy look. Add more color gradually, layer by layer.

For the more advanced, makeup artist and creator of YSL favorite Touche Eclat, Terry de Gunzburg advises using creamy textures with a clingy finish that really stay put.

"I created my new Ombre Blackstar just for this kind of melty-smoky eye," she says of the product from her eponymous line, By Terry. "It's a pearly black, loose-powder shadow, enhanced with lots of reflecting particles and is amazing when you blend on the upper eyelid."

De Gunzburg suggests layering a bronze shadow in the crease of the eye and ivory-gold just below the brow bone, blending all shades together really well. Finish with black eyeliner and plenty of mascara on both upper and lower lashes for balance.

Adds de Gunzburg, "A touch of illuminator just in the inner corners of the eyes will give you that fabulous Garbo look."


Truth be told, the velvety look of screen icons like Carole Lombard and Anna May Wong was mostly due to some strategic greasepaint and a great cinematographer. Eighty years later, the same effect can be achieved without a pile of foundation and a smear of Vaseline on the camera lens. De Gunzburg has mastered the modern take on the translucent, otherworldly glow with a layering technique that always looks fresh and dewy, even hours after it's applied.

First, create a smooth base with a pinky, shimmer-laced primer like By Terry Or de Rose Extreme Elixir to smooth and enhance your complexion. "It’s laced with 24-karat pink gold, which has wonderful rejuvenating properties," says de Gunzburg. "The light-diffusing formula corrects skin tone, bathing your complexion in a flattering, soft-focus glow so skin looks radiant and lifted.”

Cover any imperfections by swiping on a foundation stick that matches skin color for a warm, natural, creamy coverage, and blend well. If necessary, even out skin tone with a bit more primer.

Then, mattify and define features with a pressed-powder foundation. Apply with a powder puff on the bones of the face, then blend with a powder brush. Finish with a hint of rosy cream blush well blended into the apples of cheeks with your fingers for a healthy, fresh-faced, just-in-from-the-cold look.


In 1935, Max Factor—makeup guru to stars like Bette Davis and Claudette Colbert—introduced Liquid Nail Enamel to his growing stable of cosmetics. The look of the day was short, round, and red, with the tip and crescent of the nail left bare. We love the ‘70s reinterpretation, complete with touches of shimmer and glitter.


Photo: Getty Images

Nailing the '30s manicure.

The look for the new year fuses two classic beauty trends—rich, vibrant hues and the sequin-shimmer of glitter. "It works because there’s this lovely blast of color, texture and shine, and yet it’s so easy for anyone to wear," says Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and oracle of all things great and glamorous in the world of nails. "I like unconventional gemstone hues like [Bad Romance] black-tinged fuchsia or Across the Universe, a blazing blue and metallic green."

Lippmann created metallic gold and silver polishes with “a little extra bling—actual 24-karat gold dust and virgin diamond powder were mixed into the formulas to give an extra sparkly, sequinlike finish.”

She suggests mixing and matching metallics—silver on fingers, gold on toes. If you’re wearing colorful glitter polish—a stronger look—keep nails and toes matching. “The one exception is if you want to wear a different color on your ring finger," says Lippmann. "I recommend a crème polish on the [opposing] finger.”

Considering these eye-catching factors, Lippmann favors keeping the nail shape simple. “Stay away from long nails, acrylics, or square-shaped nails—too much!" she says. "Short, rounded nails are both modern and pretty here.”


Photos: courtesy of Deborah Lippmann||courtesy of Urban Decay||courtesy of Lipstick Queen

Clockwise from top left: By Terry Or de Rose Elixir Extrême Soleil, $135; Barneys New York. Urban Decay The Black Palette, $36; Sephora. Oscar Blandi Volumizing Spray, $18; Oscar Blandi. Lipstick Queen Jean Queen Lipstick, $18; Barneys New York. Deborah Lippmann nail polish in Boom Boom Pow, $20; Deborah Lippman.