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Beauty by the Decade: The 1920s


The 1920s
Photo Credit

Our newest series, “Beauty by the Decade” explores beauty trends from the past and transfers them into wearable, updated ideas for hair and makeup. In case you missed last week’s edition, see: Beauty by the Decade: The 1970s.

The Roaring Twenties were a time of dancing the Charleston, The Great Gatsby, flappers, jazz, and Old Hollywood. They were also a time of fabulous fashion and beauty – the iconic looks of the ’20s have been repeated over and over in the years since then. These classic beauty looks are fun to recreate, adding a touch of dramatic Old Hollywood to your modern day routine.

Whether you have a ’20s party to go to or just want to add some Old Hollywood glam to your look, below are some tips and ideas to help you take a trip back to the ’20s and recreate the classic beauty looks of the decade.

1920s Hair

Bobbed hair with finger waves was extremely popular in the 1920s. Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, and Marion Davies, considered the “it girls” of their time, were all pioneers of this look.

1920s Finger Waves
Photo Credit

Although finger waves look a bit more authentic on bobbed hair, this ’20s style is still doable with long hairstyles. Here is a great video tutorial on how to create finger waves and a faux bob.

1920s Inspired Hair
Photo Credit

To get a quick, updated version of the ’20s finger waves:

  1. With your hair parted at the side, make a bun at the nape of your neck. The bun should be a little off-center. Use bobby pins and hair spray to keep it intact. Make sure you leave a little hair out of the bun on the “heavy” side of the part (the side with more hair on it) — that way, you have some hair to frame your face.
  2. Take the hair you left out and create finger waves with a flat iron. To do so, clamp the iron down on the piece and do a half rotation outwards. After holding it in place for a few seconds, move the iron down the piece and do a half rotation inwards. Alternate this pattern until the piece is finished. Remember – practice makes perfect!
  3. Spritz your hair with some hair spray for staying power.
  4. Take bobby pins and pin the waved piece to the side of your face.

1920s Makeup

1920s Makeup
Photo Credits: 1, 2

Two makeup staples of the 1920s were dark lips and kohl-rimmed eyes.

In the ’20s, the makeup industry was relatively new, and women were just beginning to purchase cosmetics on a regular basis. Dark red lipstick was the hot ticket because it was the only color available. Mascara was far from today’s tube and wand combo — it came in a cake of wax that you added water to in order to create a paste you’d brush onto lashes with a small brush.

One of the most iconic beauty looks of the ’20s was dark lipstick that outlined and emphasized the cupid’s bow of the upper lip.

To do your lips ’20s style:

  1. Line your lips with a dark lipliner, emphasizing the bend in your upper lip. For an authentic look, create an outline that is shorter than the width of your mouth.
  2. Apply matching lipstick (preferably of a darker, wine color) within the outline and blot.

1920s Makeup
Photo Credit

To recreate the dark, kohl-rimmed eyes of the 1920s:

  1. Start by choosing a shadow with a slightly gray base. This is more wearable than a black eyeshadow, which could come off too strong.
  2. Apply a dark eyeshadow on your eyelids. Sweep a little eyeshadow up and outward beyond the edges of your eyes (almost in a “cat eye” look) for a little dramatic flare.
  3. Line your upper and lower lashes with a black eyeliner, smudging the bottom lines for a more blended look.
  4. After giving your eyelashes some lift with an eyelash curler, apply a few sweeps of mascara to your upper and lower sets of lashes.

Your Thoughts?

Would you incorporate the beauty trends of the ’20s into your beauty routine? What’s your favorite look from the ’20s? What decade would you like to see next in “Beauty by the Decade”? Let us know in a comment!

Posted on on February 1, 2011 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , ,

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42 Responses to “Beauty by the Decade: The 1920s”

  1. 1
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:15 am

    This post was really interesting! I love how you’ve taken the styles from the past and came up with more modern approaches. And I am definitely going to give the finger waves that you described a try. Can’t wait to see more styles from decades past.

  2. 2
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Great post! I love 20s style flappers and I think it will be really interesting to see how to recreate the beauty looks from each decade!

  3. 3
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I LOVE IT!

  4. 4
    February 1st, 2011 at 11:58 am


  5. 5
    February 1st, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I would have loved to see if you could find clothing pieces that were inspired from the 20’s that could be worn today. But I liked the post!

  6. 6
    February 1st, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Please do the 1940s!!!

  7. 7
    February 1st, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    hm…a cake of mascara that you mix with water and apply with a brush sounds much more environmentally friendly than all those little plastic tubes. I wonder if there are any companies that sell it this way!

  8. 8
    February 1st, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I love the finger waves! I find them hard to make though! :)

  9. 9
    February 1st, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I love this idea for a series and love this post. Could you please do the 1940s/1950s? That is my favorite time era. Again, awesome job. Thanks.

  10. 10
    February 1st, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I’d love to see your take on Georgian style make up.

  11. 11
    February 1st, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Ha! My hair is about the right length to do a finger wave (maybe a tiny bit longer, but not long by any stretch) and I’ve been looking for tutorials on it FOREVER! :)

  12. 12
    February 1st, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I love this post so much! I always try to incorporate vintage items in my everyday style so it is fun to see makeup ideas along this train of thought. I was wondering if you could post fashion by the decades, too. Oh, and I was wondering (I know this is kind of annoying, sorry!) if you could do clothes from stores that you don’t have to order online from because I only shop in stores and I am sure that is the same for a lot of college students. Thanks!

  13. 13
    February 1st, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    I agree with the above comment that clothes would have been a neat addition, but I really dig these articles so far.

  14. 14
    February 1st, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I loved this post! I’ve recently gotten so into the 1920’s-era style of makeup, short bobbed haircuts, and always-fashionable cloche hats! I would love to see more about popular clothing and footwear styles in the 1920’s. I love the idea of bringing back fashion trends from the past, so I would really like to read more about all the decades of the 1900’s.

  15. 15
    February 1st, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Where was this post when I needed it for Halloween I was a flapper but great ideas though

  16. 16
    February 1st, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I loved this post! I would totally love to see something from the 60’s.

  17. 17
    February 1st, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    How glamorous! Even better than I expected. I think a 1950’s, WWII/Poodle Skirt Girl look would be absolutely wonderful to do next. However, I’d appreciate any beauty decade, just keep ‘em coming! [:

  18. 18
    February 1st, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Love the post but would have loved to see outfits, great job though!!

  19. 19
    February 1st, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Is that last picture Karen Elson and Sarah Sophie Flicker? They’re in this great cabaret troupe called The Citizen’s Band that does 20s-themed shows. If you like 1920s inspired makeup they’re both great inspirations! Good choice!

  20. 20
    February 2nd, 2011 at 12:44 am

    GORGOUS. style in the 1920’s was amazing.

    you should do the 1930’s as well! clothes then were my absolute favorite.

    and also the 1950’s, because it was so classic.

  21. 21
    February 2nd, 2011 at 3:48 am

    You should add pictures of how to incorporate clothing from that decade into your wardrobe! Other than that love it!

  22. 22
    February 2nd, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Cool post! The 20s style is so inspiring, I love the dramatic old-hollywood looks. This made me think of my Great Grandmother who was born in 1910 (she’s still alive!), she would have been a teenager in the 20s, and has always loved fashion, so I’m sure she would have followed these trends. Our grandparents and parents are great sources to ask about the different style decades – and hey, they might even have some vintage pieces they’re willing to pass on to us ;)

  23. 23
    February 2nd, 2011 at 5:09 am

    great article, but…. technically, the hairstyle you’re referring to is known as a “Marcel Wave.” finger waves and marcel waves are very similar, but finger waves didn’t use curling irons or other heated hairstyling devices. for the finger waves, you would pinch the hair between your fingers and alternate combing the hair in different directions, using a lotion to help the hair keep its shape.

  24. 24
    February 3rd, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I love the look of the 1920s, but I also adore the 30s and 40s as well. I love that Old Hollywood glamour! The one thing that I don’t really like that much about the 1920s style though is the eyebrows. I’m not really a fan of the shave-em-off & redraw them in pencil thin look!

  25. 25
    February 6th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    I love this article, but maybe fashion inspired by the 1920’s as well? :) Oh and I know most decade fashion/beauty articles only go back to the 1920’s, but I’d really love one for the 1910’s- Titanic, anyone?

  26. 26
    February 8th, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Love the twenties hair and clothing, but I think a less literal interpretation of the make up is needed. Maybe take the dark lip without overdoing it on the eyes. I think that this make up was more or less stage make up- very theatrical and meant for harsh lighting. On the two girls who you picture I’m reminded more of today’s style of drag make up than a tribute to the twenties!

  27. 27
    February 10th, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    Tallie-oh my gosh GREAT idea! I say YESSSSSS <3 I'm in!

  28. 28
    March 26th, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I love the posts, but could you add what clothes were fashionable at the time periods?

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