Clara Bow has been classified as one of the silent screen's true flapper personalities (as opposed to Theda Bara's vamp or Gloria Swanson's diva.) Her heyday was mostly in the later 1920s, meaning her films were often shot on the new panchromatic film that didn't artificially create such a "smokey" look to her makeup as the old blue-sensitive film tended to do.
Figuring everyone's sick of my ugly mug, I have enlisted for this tutorial my redheaded friend Alicia.
Since no one wants to pluck their eyebrows just for a one-off, we began my using a concealer stick to hide her natural brows as much as possible (a trick that will never fool anyone in person but is acceptable for costume purposes.) Then I painted up her face with foundation. The foundation was also painted onto her lips to make them easier to reshape later.
Real 1920s "foundation" was almost nonexistant, and it was definitely not something a normal woman would have worn. Actresses used greasepaints for making up their faces, because that was practically all that was available. Regular woman didn't usually wear anything greater than a heavy coat of tinted face powder as "foundation."
Next we find poor Alicia trying to keep a straight face after seeing her new eyebrows, painted in with brown eyeshadow and a brush. While plucked brows became fashionable in the 1920s, most women didn't seem to reshape their eyebrows in quite so extreme a manner as this; yet actresses commonly tried to shape a downward sloping "sad" eyebrow that would make them look more innocent and vulnerable in film scenes.
Next item was the eyeshadow. Blue, green and turquoise were probably the most common eyeshadow shades amongst such women as wore the stuff, but brown and purple are also known colors. Not many women other than actresses seemed to use eyeshadow at this point in time (and I have never seen it marketed outside of professional theatre magazines until the 1930s). Most 1920s eyeshadow was in a grease or cream base, that inclined to run and smear.
We didn't have any cream shadows for this tutorial, so I just used a regular blue, dry shadow. The shape Clara Bow used seems to leave the color off the inner brow area but cover everything else.
Clara also uses black liner around the eyes and in the crease. We used a black cream for this.
A black mascara was used to finish the eyes. Actual 1920s mascara was a tricky business that even I haven't had the nerve to try (effectively it requires applying molten grease paint to individual eyelashes with a pin) so I wasn't going to subject Alicia to it. She just used a regular black thickening mascara to approximate it.
On to the mouth: like with eyebrows, reshaping the mouth was more common with actresses than with normal women. There is an untrue stereotype that all women were doing "bee-stung" lips in the 1920s; but, even amongst celebrities, only a few like Mae Murray and Madge Bellamy were doing such an idealized shape -- and even then, they were less extreme than many of the costume crowd today winds up with. (Hint if you want to do bee-stung lips: don't make them any narrower than the width of your nose. Any smaller and you go from bee-stung to fish-lipped.)
Clara Bow did NOT do the extreme bee-stung look with her mouth. To make Alicia's lips resemble Clara's, we did do some de-emphasizing of the sides and also only partially painted the bottom lip, while enhancing her cupid's bow on the top lip. Her mouth might have actually had as much foundation as lipstick on it.
|View showing how the bottom lip is only painted partway up.|
Finally we used a finishing powder. 1920s makeup didn't have mica in it, and the similar-looking bismuth was often thought to be poisonous, so almost all powders were very matte. The base was usually starch or talc. We used Wet n Wild Fergie powder, which is even a historically-appropriate white color. (Typical colors for face powder of the era were white, a yellowish "cream" color, a pink "flesh" color, and a tan color called "rachel.")
While blush was an important part of regular women's makeup, actresses in black and white films usually omitted it, as it didn't photograph well. We kept Alicia's face blush-free for the finished outcome.
|approximation of 1920s blue-sensitive film|
For more information about 1920s makeup looks, check out the videos I've made.
- 1920s Silent Movie Makeup with Historically Correct Styles of Cosmetics
- 1920s Flapper and Everywoman Makeup with Historically Correct Styles of Cosmetics.