Make-Up: A History – The 1940s, Rita Hayworth/Dita Von Teese Style

The effortless elegance of the 1940s remains an extremely popular style; classic and simple enough to wear everyday, yet glamorous enough to add allure to any evening ensemble. A favorite for many celebrities, this classic look is flattering for anyone! The look consists of arched sculpted eyebrows, clean looking skin, coral/red/pink lips and minimal eye make up. Victory Rolls were a popular hairstyle, and half-moon manicures were often seen on the nails.

Due to the Second World War, women took over many of the male’s jobs in factories and on the land, whilst the men were at war. For this reason, it was popular for make up to be fuss-free and ‘on the go’ compacts were popular because of this, and the 1940s saw the first powder compacts and ‘cake mascara’ compacts. As lipsticks were often matte, ladies often added Vaseline to their lipstick application to achieve the lustrous shiny lips of the on-screen sirens of the decade, such as actress Rita Hayworth.

To achieve a modern 1940s make-up look follow the steps below!

  1. After moisturizer and primer, apply foundation. A foundation brush will help you achieve a flawless and clean finish.
  2. Define eyebrows with a pencil. A very curved, yet thin shape was very popular in the 1940s. For a softer look, a matte brown eyeshadow applied with an angled make-up brush adds definition to the brows.
  3. Add definition to the eyes either by a small amount of kohl eyeliner close to the lash line, or with a dark brown liquid eyeliner. Sometimes a small flick was taken to extend the lash line, however a full-on feline flick is more 1950s then 40s.
  4. Lashings of mascara or even false eyelashes were a popular look. Be careful to avoid clumps in the eyelashes.
  5. Add a soft blush to the apples of the cheeks, making sure to blend softly.
  6. Using a lipliner, lighty trace on the lip line in order to create a soft, curved lip shape. Fill the lip with a rich red or coral lipstick, then add a small amount of clear gloss or Vaseline  to add a Hollywood Rita Hayworth-esque sheen to the lips.

Half-moon manicures were extremely popular during the 1940s. The war caused a shortage of many beauty essentials’ availability to be imported, so in order to make nail polish last longer, ladies left the wick of their nails bare. This meant it was less noticeable that the nail was growing, and therefore required less maintenance.  This look is still extremely popular, with modern pin-up beauty Dita von Teese favoring the half-moon manicure.

  1. Apply a basecoat to your nails.
  2. Fashion a curved, half-moon shaped template from a piece of tape, using scissors.
  3. Apply the template to the wick of the nail, and paint the nail with polish. Red was traditionally used in the 1940s.
  4. Remove the template slowly, and apply a topcoat.

To achieve a victory roll, the quintessential 1940s hair trend, take the section of hair in front of the ear, and curl using a curling wand. Release the curl, and hold the section of hair at the end. Using your fingers, turn the curl inwards back towards your head. Secure the roll in place with a few hair grips and hairspray. Easy peasy!

Singer and actress  Christina Aguilera can frequently be seen in 1940s style hair and make-up and the style often features in her music videos and red carpet looks. Dita Von Teese has also embraced this era.