Trying Out Makeup Tutorials From The Past
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Trying Out Makeup Tutorials From The Past

Looking back on vintage tutorials and recreating their looks.

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Trying Out Makeup Tutorials From The Past
WordPress/1Shot Photography

One of my guilty pleasures is spending hours watching makeup tutorials. I love seeing the process of how the face can change into something else with just powder and paint. Whether the tutorials are for everyday looks, cosplays or formal occasions, I enjoy seeing the difference between one method of applying makeup and another.

What intrigues me the most when it comes to makeup is its history of different styles. The way a woman applies her makeup varies on what's going on in the world. Social norms and historical events can alter how much she puts on and which parts of her face were considered beautiful. A lot of makeup tutorials on YouTube pay homage to these style choices -- some are historically accurate while others are often exaggerated and based of a popular subculture at the time. Overall, most of these looks shown in makeup tutorials are modeled off pictures of the past.

Rather than looking up photos and trying to make myself resemble a time that makeup style was in, why not do the most accurate way of looking like the past? The answer: watch a makeup tutorial that was made during that era of makeup.

Makeup tutorials aren't something newly created. There are lots of films that teach individuals how to apply makeup to replicate that time period. In fact, many of these vintage makeup tutorials can also be found on YouTube. I was curious about three things: how much the era's makeup differs from how we portray it now, how it would it look on me and the difficulty of following the tutorial.

Of course, I don't have all the makeup and tools they used to make it 100 percent authentic and I'm not very good at applying makeup myself. But that doesn't mean I can't try!

The 1930s

The 1930s to the 1950s were the Golden Age of Hollywood. During the Great Depression, many people suffering from the economic depression coped by watching movies. Not much difference is seen from the 1920s film actress looks from the 1930s with the exception of the makeup being less heavy and more "natural." Films were mostly still in black and white, so it's not easy to figure out what color is actually being used.

I used two video tutorials found by British Pathe-- one for eyes and the other for the lips and blush. I also used a video starring Constance Bennett to know how to apply powder.




Unlike many modern makeup tutorials, the first two tutorials are shown by using a model and someone else applying the makeup. Not much is known about the products used and the tutorial is rather simplistic to how it instructs. Modern makeup tutorials vary in different styles from simply showing how it's done to giving a step-by-step instruction. The 1930s seems do a bit more of the step-by-step. The first two are narrated by someone else, while the other is a commentary by the person applying the makeup herself.

My brows aren't very thin and arched like the models in the videos and my face is not very clear enough to get away without concealer, so I had to make with whatever I could with my looks.

Makeup used to make the look.

It's a pretty simple makeup style compared to what we tend to see today. Unfortunately, you can clearly see my dark circles and a few pimples here and there. I'm not very used to not sporting a winged eyeliner and my brows look terrible from my attempts to make the thin brows without using concealer.

I noticed that a lot of the modern tutorials are more or less similar to the vintage tutorials. Of course, a lot of modern tutorials try to make the look as flawless as possible with concealer and a bit of contouring.

The 1940s

World War II is going on, and America is fully engaged in the idea of rationing and doing whatever they can for the war effort. Makeup became simplified to the iconic red lips due to women entering the workforce and conserving materials for America's victory. The red lips and powder from the 1930s continued on to the 1940s but the makeup style limits itself to only that.

For the 1940s tutorial, I used a video from Prelinger Archives.


The video is quite long since it instructs not only makeup and beauty but poise and good habits. However, the tutorial on makeup is rather short since it only requires powder and lipstick. The instructions were rather easy to follow along and I see this style as a simple way of doing makeup even today.

Like the last video, I had dark circles and pimples on my face that can be easily fixed with concealer, but I had to do away with it in order to follow the tutorial correctly. I guess beauty sleep is important.

Makeup used to make the look.

I really wished I could have those full brows in the video so I didn't have to do my own brows, but they look so sparse in the look. I used the same lipstick from the last look but it obviously looks more faded since I blotted off the excess.

I noticed that modern tutorials tend to stick with a pin-up look of the 1940s-- more makeup beyond powder and lipstick. Brows are also filled in and mascara is used even though the tutorial I used does not require that. Once again, the modern ones try to do a more flawless look like the 1930s.

The 1960s

The 1960s saw a lot of political changes with the Civil Rights Movement beginning and many subcultures coming to light. For this tutorial, I wanted to focus more on what's the mainstream of the time, since a lot of modern tutorials revolve around the subculture instead.

The video I used is a tutorial by Marla Craig.


The tutorial is quite slow, as the model does each step carefully to show how it's really done. How she applies the makeup is quite gentle compared to a lot of us today using a damp sponge to beat our faces up. Like the other tutorials, a narrator talks about what is going on while the model is doing the action. Camera angles make it easier to see different sides of the face and give a closer image of how it should look like.

I really like this look the most out of the other ones due to how close it looks to today's look. It's still simple but something I can get away with. Color isn't really seen as the tutorial wants to make it as natural as possible. Unlike the previous tutorials, the lip color is not red.

Makeup used to make the look.

At least I can fill in my brows finally. Contouring is also back, which is something I'm really glad about. The makeup itself is slightly difficult if you don't know how to apply eyeliner or contour well but with practice it should be pretty easy.

The modern tutorials seem to go against the narrator's instructions on avoiding evening colors, harsh lines, and her advice on "go easy." Though contouring and subtle lip color is used, the eye makeup slightly stands out.

The 1980s

The 1980s were the introduction to big hair, neon colors, Evangelists and the rise of rock. Politically, things began leaning conservative and cable networks became part of American culture. We tend to see this era as a wild child where people sported messy teased hair and bright popping colors that still continued on until the 1990s. A lot of subcultures were seen in this era, but the most common ones involve the neon colors, big hair, and the popularity of fitness fashion.

The video I used for the 1980s is a tutorial by Barabra Daly.


It's the longest tutorial out of all the other ones. It also uses a model to show how makeup. The demonstrator commentates on how to apply the makeup while doing it on the models in real time. Like the 1960s tutorial, it carefully shows how its done, though I do wish it was a lot faster. It might be difficult to follow along as it requires the skills of blending well. It's pretty simple and more natural than I thought it would be.

Makeup used to make the look.

I'm surprised at how natural this looks. Although brighter pigments are used on the eyes and lips, it's quite subtle and blended in. It looks pretty similar to how my mom does makeup. I'm not a huge fan of the style but I do like how easy it is for me to put it on like the 1960s tutorial. Not a huge fan of the lip color and method of putting on eyeshadow, but it's overall a nice look.

The modern kinds of tutorials seem to focus a lot on making the colors pop, especially the eye shadows. Some go pretty heavy with the eyeliner and contouring. It's probably one of the reasons why we see 1980s fashion as a hot mess -- we always portray it as such.

Final Thoughts

For my favorite look, I would have to go to the 1960s look. My favorite tutorial is the 1940s vides. Of course, even the looks in the tutorials and the ones I tried on do not completely define the era as a whole.

It was really fun seeing how different eras vary in different styles and techniques. I'm still sticking to my style of makeup, but I've been getting a lot of inspiration from these videos.

Which style do you like? Which tutorial is easier to follow? Let me know!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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