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Beauty by the Decade: The 1950s


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 1920s, as well as Beauty by the Decade: The 1970s.

The 1950s
Photo Credit

Great films, iconic movie stars, and timeless fashion are just a few of the things the 1950s were known for. 1950s style exemplified class and grace — especially when it came to hair and makeup. Below are some ideas and tips on how to recreate and even update the fabulous hairstyles and makeup of the 1950s.

1950s Stars
Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3

1950s Makeup

The 1950s were all about creating a softer, more feminine look. Back in those days, women wore softly curled hair, gorgeous lipstick, defined eyebrows, and rosy cheeks. Here is a great tutorial on how to do authentic 1950s makeup. I’ve also summarized ways to get the look below.

To get the full ’50s makeup, you’ll need:

1950s Makeup
Product Information: Blush- Benefit, Pressed Powder- MAC Cosmetics, Lipstick- MAC Cosmetics, Liquid Eyeliner- MAC Cosmetics, Mascara- Bare Escentuals, Brow Pencil- NYX Cosmetics

  1. Apply foundation and concealer, blending the lines well. This will create a blank canvas for the rest of the look. For a matte skin finish, apply a pressed powder to minimize shine.
  2. Comb your eyebrows and define them with a eyebrow pencil that is a little bit darker than your natural shade. Make sure to fill in the lines and define the arches in your brows.
  3. Sweep a rosy blush up and outwards starting at the apples of your cheeks.
  4. Use a lip liner to create an outline for your lipstick, defining the arch in the upper lip. Apply a matching lipstick (preferably in a matte red, coral, or pinkish-red) to top off the look.
  5. After sweeping a light, shimmery shadow across your eyelids, take a black liquid eyeliner and carefully line your top lashes. The line should be dark and solid, starting from about the middle of your eye. Make sure the lines sweep outward and upward to “extend” the look of your lashes.
  6. Curl your eyelashes and apply a thick (but not clumpy!) coat of black mascara to your top lashes and a very light coat to your bottom lashes (this creates a subtle, doe-eyed look).

Updated Versions of 1950s Makeup

1950s Updated
Photo Credits

As you can see above, celebs have embraced 1950s makeup in recent years, while still making it look modern. How to do this? It’s all about switching up the color of the lipstick. Instead of using a red or pinkish-red lipstick, you can try a deep nude or even a bright fuchsia if you’re feeling daring. Just keep your lips precisely lined to keep with the ’50s vibe and, ideally, go for a matte or satin-finish lipstick for the most retro-fabulous look.

1950s Hair

1950s Hair
Photo Credit

In the 1950s, hair was flawless and perfectly coiffed, which went perfectly with the ultra-precise makeup looks of the time. The pompadour, rolled bangs, and soft curls are three great 1950s hair styles that translate flawlessly into today’s style.

1950s Hair Tools
Product Information: Hairspray- Tresemme, Flower Hair Pin- Unique-Vintage, Curling Iron- Folica

How to Create Rolled Bangs and The Pompadour

Creating a pompadour is really easy with this tutorial. Here are the basics:

  1. Take the front middle section of your hair and backcomb it slightly. This will create a little volume.
  2. Twist the section at the back and push it forward (this creates the “arc” of the pomp). Use bobby pins to secure the pomp at the back.
  3. Spray the pomp with hairspray for staying power.
  4. Take a small amount of hair on either side of the pomp and twist them back. Pin them close to the back of the pomp for a finished look.

Rolled bangs are an easy way to add a ’50s feel to your do. All you have to do is take your bangs (if you have them) and roll them upwards, securing the roll with pins.

Feel free to accessorize with a bandana (a la “Rosie the Riveter” from the ’40s) or a big flower hair clip for an added touch.

How to Create Soft Curls

This look takes a bit more work to achieve. Here is a tutorial that goes into great detail about how to create pin curls and get an authentic bombshell hairstyle. This look takes longer to create, so make sure to set aside some time to style.

Your Thoughts?

Would you rock 1950s hair and makeup? What’s your favorite look? What decade would you like to see next? Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Posted on on February 8, 2011 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , ,

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37 Responses to “Beauty by the Decade: The 1950s”

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

    Thank you so much. I love this series of yours. Great job!

  2. 2
    February 8th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Beautiful! The only thing is the top Audrey Hepburn image is from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is from the 60s. Other than that, I love this!

  3. 3
    February 8th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    This is really great.
    But I gotta say Audrey Hepburn is a little more 1960’s…

  4. 4
    February 8th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I’m also a fan of this series because love vintage fashions. Thanks for breaking down the basics!

  5. 5
    February 8th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I am loving red lipsticks at the moment!

  6. 6
    February 8th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Ooohh! ? I love the 50s. This is wonderful!

  7. 7
    February 8th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Aside from the fact that Audrey is 60’s, and the hair pictured here is totally 40’s… I love it! haha

  8. 8
    February 8th, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    I would totally rock these styles! & the makeup. Plus Red lips are so.HOTT and completly still in style. :)

  9. 9
    February 8th, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I love this post! You captured the makeup beautifully, and I loved the step-by-step instructions. Can you do more makeup posts? Pleaseeeee?

  10. 10
    February 8th, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I absolutely love this series! As a former CF beauty writer, i think it’s really important to look at beauty trends from the past and see how they are utilized in modern culture. Keep up the excellent work Erin!

  11. 11
    February 9th, 2011 at 12:33 am

    I still really wish a fresh take on outfits were on the post too, to really complete the decade (hair/makeup/outfits/accessories). I still love the concept though!

  12. 12
    February 9th, 2011 at 1:19 am

    I love 1950s fashion, it’s so glamorous and feminine – these looks all really make me think of Betty Draper :)

  13. 13
    February 9th, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    This post is giving me ideas about wearing this blue scarf that I have on my hair. I’ve never actually tried to wear it that way. But I love 50s fashion!

  14. 14
    February 9th, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Too bad I can’t wear any kind of lip-product to class because I play a wind instrument! :D

  15. 15
    February 9th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Can you do the 20-30’s next? Like the speak easy era? I have a gala that I’m planning in May and want great outfit/hair/makeup inspiration!

  16. 16
    February 10th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    I pretty much love all fashionable things from 1940-1999, so this is great! The 1950s was one of my favourite fashion decades.

  17. 17
    February 10th, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Jennie, last week we posted a 20s Beauty by the Decade! There’s a link to it up at the top of this article.

  18. 18
    February 15th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I thought this was a cute when you first published it and now I found out that we’re doing a 50s theme b-day party for my dad and we have to dress the part and this post is now a god-send! lol Do you have any suggestions for a 50s theme outfit? I’ve been trying to find something, but all I can find are dresses that are over $100- can you help me find anything more affordable?


  19. 19
    February 15th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I love the 50s old Hollywood glam look. It’s timeless and chic. My favorite fashion and beauty icons are the three above (Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Marylyn Monroe). Great tips!

  20. 20
    March 29th, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Again, I love this post. Do you think you could do he 1940s, please?

  21. 21
    April 4th, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Oooh! Do the 40s next! :D

  22. 22
    March 17th, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I love 1950s hairdos! My favorite way to achieve that is by using hot rollers, then hair spraying to keep it in place. Unfortunately with longer hair it is not quite as easy to get the 50s look as with shoulder length hair, but it’s well worth the effort!

  23. 23
    May 16th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for the tutorial- always love finding different ways to sport the 50s retro look! Who doesn’t want to represent such a timeless look?

  24. 24
    June 28th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    The top picture is much more mid 1940s than 1950s. The silhouette had moved on from there. Think ‘I Love Lucy” and you got 1950’s.

  25. 25
    August 17th, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Victory rolls (the hair style show in the photo of the girl with the phone) were a World War II style. They were long gone by the 1950’s.

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