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Retro Beauty Rewind: A Look Back At The Makeup of the 1950's

A vintage black and white photo of a woman applying lipstick inspired me to take a journey through makeup history and pay homage to the makeup styles and products of the 1950s. Back then, makeup was not 'all natural" or "organic" by any means. Much of the makeup was heavy, deeply pigmented and was not that easy to apply.  But it was the birth of the use of makeup by regular everyday women on a daily basis.


The 1940's (WWll years), were known by many women as the "make do and mend" years due to shortages of materials because of the war. Makeup was considered frivolous and made to go a long way. I can just envision women scrapping the very bottom of the lipstick tube to use up every last bit. Not surprisingly, many things served double duty purpose, lipstick was used for both lip color and rouge. As far as the look, this decade was all about the natural beauty. But, while women had to make do with what they had, they were still able to pull off simple, elegant glamour. Think Veronica Lake.



Enter the 1950"s, when makeup trends and styles take a radical and dramatic turn. Times were prosperous,  and indulgent cosmetics became all the rage as women wanted to emulate their favorite Hollywood starlets such as Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn.  The hair and makeup was, in a word, captivating. The 50s style could definitely be summed up as bewitching, alluring, and dazzling. It was a time of supreme femininity. Envision dramatic eyebrows, vivid eye shadow (greens and blues), striking eyeliner, and bold red lips.

Hollywood movies were now regularly being made in color and the bold cosmetics worn by the sirens on film was show-stopping. Women began falling in love with the dramatic makeup colors on the big screen and could easily don the look off screen due to the Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor.  He invented a makeup line that included foundations, eye shadows, and lipsticks. While makeup has been around for ages, Max Factor was responsible for putting it on the hands of regular housewives. He has been referred to as 'the father of makeup' and, in addition , coined the word makeup.  Now the everyday woman was able to hit her local drug store or beauty salon and easily attain that dramatic, starlet look.



While a lot has changed over the decades in terms of the beauty products themselves, nothing has changed at all in terms of women and their love affair with makeup. Whether 5 or 75, most women will always have a fascination with the latest cosmetics. Do you remember when your love affair started? Mine was when I was 8 years old and discovered my mother's radiant pink lipstick. After sloppily applying it I was in awe of the girl starring back at me in the mirror. I was positively giddy. Many years later,  when I break into a brand new tube of lipstick, (all natural of course),  I'm still giddy over my latest purchase and can't wait to wear it!




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