Think your monthly wax is bad? At least your highlights don’t contain Clorox!
Vintage glamour will never go out of style. Satin lipsticks continue to win out over lipgloss, matte skin is in, and Armani’s Fall 2013 runway show featured 1940s victory rolls. Luckily, looking fabulous doesn’t take nearly as much pain and suffering as it did just a few decades ago. Let’s take a moment to be thankful for how far women’s beauty has come.
Then: Jean Harlow was the original blonde bombshell. The shade “platinum” didn’t even exist until her perfectly white locks hit the screen. Her signature shade was reportedly dyed with a caustic mix of ammonia, Lux laundry soap flakes and bleach that permanently damaged her hair and allegedly contributed to her illness and early death at age 26. The shade was copied by thousands.
Now: Going blonde is as easy as running to the drugstore. For light haired ladies, an at home highlight will run you $5-$15 and take as little as thirty minutes. If you follow the directions, the worst that will happen is a brassy dye job and not, you know, permanent hair loss and possible poisoning. Brunette? It may cost you, but at least salon bleach doesn’t double as drain cleaner.
Then: Before Maybelline created the first mascara, women mixed Vaseline and coal dust to tint their lashes. Ladies would also slap themselves in the face to obtain a natural flush. Cosmetics could mark you as a loose woman well into the 1920s, so nice girls had to make do with pinching their cheeks. Plus, the first blushes came as bright red loose powders that couldn’t be carried in a lady’s handbag.
Now: Mascara is the true beauty equalizer, with some of the best formulas available at the drugstore for under $10. As for blush, cream, powder, and gel blushes are available for every skin type. For an old school “just pinched” look, go with a sheer stain like Tarte Cheek Stain.
Then: A curled hair set involved spending the afternoon under a bonnet dryer, or sleeping with locks wrapped around steel rollers. Trendy haircuts needed a full set to look their best and were only washed once a week.
Now: Clampless curling wands make it easier than ever to get long-lasting curls in any shape and size. Ceramic barrels and variable heat settings are gentler and more effective than models from the eighties, let alone 1950s. Many models, like NuMe, even come with multiple barrels to swap out and heat up completely in less than a minute.
Then: Full girdles were an absolute necessity to fit into popular dress styles. How effective were these bad boys? Marilyn Monroe had a 23-inch waist. That’s one full inch smaller than Gisele, Miranda Kerr, or Jessica Alba, supporting a very healthy D cup. Vintage vixens also didn’t perform rigorous exercises like running, which add muscle tone around the abdomen and make obtaining an extreme hourglass figure more difficult.
Now: We may still have unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies, but at least slipping into a sundress and cardigan doesn’t require being strapped in with plastic boning and polyester. For comfort, “nylon power net” has nothing on Victoria’s Secret 5 for $25 cotton undies.
Then: Face lifts were major procedures that often became weeks long holidays so that ladies could recover from their stitches. In the 1920s, paraffin wax was used as a facial filler for plumper eyelids and cheeks.
Now: Botox, Restylane, and other fillers are so non-invasive they can be injected during a lunch hour. With the right cosmetic surgeon, you can fill a wrinkle safely and effectively in less time than a decent pedicure. Progress!
Then: Not only did movie stars, housewives, and teenagers slick themselves with baby oil before baking in the sun, they often mixed it with iodine for an extra bronze tint. I can’t even.
Now: For starters, effective sunblock is available at every price point, from the invisible-under-makeup La Roche-Posay Anthelios to heavy-duty drugstore sport lotions. L’Oreal’s new Sublime Sun oil spray even makes it possible to get the glam oiled-up look with a generous SPF 30. As for adding color, faux glow potions come in foams, sprays, and glazes that are more natural looking and better smelling than they were even a few years ago.
I will always turn to the glamorous screen queens of the fifties and sixties for beauty inspiration, but I am so thankful I have gentler methods to get their signature look. Oil-free foundation, moisturizing lipsticks, and undies that fit in a handbag are just a few of the innovations I’m thankful for every day. So, next time you’re at the salon for a touch-up or squeezing into skinny jeans, say a little prayer for all the girdled, bleached out ladies before you.
Need a little more vintage-meets-modern inspiration? Check out Samantha’s posts on the 30s, 40s, and 50s. Now, for my own take!
This look pulls iconic elements from several decades. Matte skin, the deep cupid’s bow of the 1930s, 1940s victory roll, 1950s high arch and winged liner.
In this look: bastard victory roll, Garnier Skin Renew BB Cream in Fair/Light, Maybelline Fit Me liquid makeup in Porcelain, Maybelline PureStay powder foundation, in Ivory, MAC blush in Well Dressed, Maybelline Color Tattoo in Barely Branded, BH cosmetics neutral eye palette, L’Oreal Carbon Black Lineur Intense Brush Tip Liner, CoverGirl Lip Perfection lipstick in Tempt, Wet n Wild lipstick in Cherry Bomb, Maybelline Full ‘n Soft and Maybelline Colossal Volume Express mascara, Maybelline Great Lash in Clear.