A history

Make-up has developed enormously over the years. Modern technology such as air brushing has meant that facial flaws and wrinkles are a thing of the past.  Directors of the silent movie era previously covered the lens of the camera with Vaseline to create a soft-focus effect,when stars like Clara Bow were idolised for her doe-like eyes and luminous screen presence.

Clare Bow with her doe-like eyes.

  The first of the great Hollywood make-up artists consisted of: Cecil Holland, Lon Chaney and George Westmore.  But these were not easy times for the artists. Make-up procedure was by no means a quick flick of the artists brush; often actors were required to spend up to four hours having their make-up perfected before appearing on screen. Not only this, but products were scarce making producing looks difficult. 

Throughout the silent movie era and early Hollywood, feminine faces were always very pale. To achieve this, artists used white rice powder. The look was not a healthy or cheerful one, but bore a very particular style, most obvious when we see Greta Garbo during this period. Eyeliner lined the upper lash line, from the tear duct to the end of the eye, often becoming thicker towards the middle.    This created the illusion of the eye being drawn downwards; creating the ‘doe eyed’ effect that was so popular at the time.   The most fashionable part of the face was the eyebrows, which were rounded and fine. 

Greta Garbo - note the all important fine, rounded eyebrows that featured heavily at the time.

The 50′s saw a massive difference in terms of make-up, the skin did not look so unhealthy or pale anymore, it appeared plump and rosey. With the arrival of colour motion pictures, women began to focus on achieving a perfectly made-up face complete with brighter blush and lip colour. This represented the end of the silent movie era, and the beginning of Golden Hollywood.  The look can be seen to great effect on stars such as Marilyn Monroe. Cosmetic advertising campaigns geared their products towards the fifties housewife, whose aim was to reach perfection in her quest to be a glamorous homemaker. The end of world war two meant that women could afford to look their best without having to think of rations, and as husbands arrived home from war the aim was to look their absolute best. They would emulate sex symbols such as Vivien Leigh and Grace Kelly, renowned for their beauty.

Hollywood's Golden Girl in the Golden era.


 The arrival Mary Quant’s miniskirt in the sixties made for a decade that broke the fashion rules, including the make-up. Stars such as Twiggy were famous for their huge false lashes on both the top and bottom lash line. Lips were extremely muted, often using the foundation to fill in the entire mouth.  The late sixties also saw the arrival of the hippy movement, creating an androgynous effect lacking the thick lines of make-up and welcoming the ‘natural’ look. 

Twiggy wearing typical sixties make-up.

Early seventies make-up kept the natural-hippy edge first seen in the sixties. Later seventies make-up welcomed an arrival of  more colours, more variation, more stockists and more companies. This was largely due to the glittering entrance of disco, popularised by the movie ‘Saturday Night fever’ .   The seventies also made way for extremist fashion: metallic platform shoes,  bell-bottom trousers and hot pants. The look was finished off with lots of glittery make-up and highlighters. Bronzers were used to imitate the beauty icon of the time, the feather haired Farah Fawcett known for her role in ‘Charlie’s Angels’.

Farah Fawcett

The 80′s was a time of colour, bright pinks, and vivid neon oranges. This was possibly make-up’s most colourful period of all. Noticeably, blush was used higher on the cheekbones, often all the way up to the temples. Clashing pinks and reds were often used, including grown out eyebrows, as seen to great effect by stars such as Madonna in ‘Desperately seeking Susan’.

Madonna in 'Desperately seeking Susan'.

Film stars of the 90′s and present day take on a far more neutral approach to make-up. The 90′s saw a big influx of brown-nude shade’s of lipstick, frequently seen on Jennifer Aniston in the early days of ‘Friends’. MAC’s lip liner in ‘Spice’ was the lip liner to be seen in, with no gloss, simply a matte dark lip.  Eye shadow was muted, earthy tones with no particular shape, but often dark on the upper eyelid and lighter on the lid. 

Jennifer Aniston wearing earthy, muted make-up along with her famous 'Rachel' hair.


Today make-up artists can hark back to the 50′s if they choose, with eyeliner ticks and red lips. Or keep the look neutral and glossy, as often seen on Angelina Jolie at premieres. Today there is more make-up than ever, a stark contrast to the scarcity seen in the silent move era. Modern movie make-up artists are seen as an extremely important element in the film industry; they create the character visually and prepare the actor for their close up…

Angelina Jolie - glossy and gorgeous at the recent Golden Globes.


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