Beauty by the Decade: We Tried Makeup From a Different Era Every Day for a Week
Stuck in a hair and makeup rut, InStyle.com Assistant Editor Marianne Mychaskiw tested out retro beauty trends from the '50s onward each day for a week to see if she could find modern-day inspiration in vintage looks. Find out what it was like, and get tips on how to pull off each one!
I'm a creature of habit and when I find something that works, I tend to stick with it---just ask the barista I hit up at Starbucks on the daily, who knows my order to a T. Often this routine fits just fine, but I was feeling a bit uninspired in terms of my hair and makeup. The cat-eye was my standard, and my lipstick lineup ranged from nude, nuder, and so nude that it would probably be accompanied by an NC-17 rating. In need of a beauty reboot (and perhaps a motivational sing-a-long to Katy Perry's "Firework"), I took a retrospective look at all the top hair and makeup trends from each era every day for a week, with the 1950s as my starting point.
Taking inspiration from equal parts Marilyn Monroe and the perfectly-coiffed pin-up models, a neutral eye, matte skin, red lips, and a structured hairstyle was a standard look throughout the '40s and '50s. I began with the face and applied a full-coverage matte foundation, then used the shimmer-free colors from Urban Decay's Naked Basics palette ($29; sephora.com) to sculpt out the eye, making sure the darker colors were concentrated on the outer portion. Instead of finding a liner to match Chanel's Coromandel Lipstick ($35; chanel.com), I used a trick I picked up from celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose---apply it straight from the tube, blend it out with a brush, correct any smudges around the perimeter with concealer, then re-apply another layer of lipstick with the same brush. With NARS' Matte Multiple in Anguilla ($29; bloomingdales.com) placed and blended on my cheeks, I moved on to the hair, which was really the hardest part of the entire process.
Pro tip: A victory roll updo works best on unwashed hair, which has more grip, so attempting to do this on clean, blown-out hair was quite the process. If you're like me and shampooed the night before, spray on a little texturizer before you start. Take a large-barrel curling iron and curl both portions at the front of your head toward the back. Pin both in place to completely set, just as they did back in the day, and work on adding movement to the rest of your lengths as the clipped areas cool. Take the section on the left side of your head and wind the curl into itself until a rolled shape is created, then anchor to your head with bobby pins. Once it's in place, you can reshape it to your liking. On the opposite side of your head, unclip the curled section, roll it inwards toward your head, and clip into place.
The swingin' '60s saw a nude lip and faux lash invasion take over vanities around the world. Inspired by Twiggy, women stacked strips of falsies on top of each other to achieve that doe-eyed effect. Another popular trend was to emphasize your crease with either a thick swipe of liner, or a shadow that contrasted against a pale, pearly base. I used the MAC Rocky Horror palette ($44; maccosmetics.com) in conjunction with Hourglass' shadow duo in Gypsy ($38; hourglasscosmetics.com), and started by working the pearl-toned shimmer from my lids to my brow bone. I applied the graphite hue from the MAC palette on my lids, and I used Eyeko's Eye Do Liquid Liner ($19; eyeko.com) to draw on the cat-eye. The liner served as a guide as far as where to place the contrasting shade in my crease, and I picked up a pencil brush dipped in Hourglass' rich brown shade to draw a line that followed the exact shape of the sharp wing. After a few pumps of the lash curler and some mascara, I applied the entirety of Eyeko's Lash Wardrobe ($19; eyeko.com) to my upper and lower lashes, and finished with the Rouge Dior Lipstick in Bar ($35; nordstrom.com).
"The higher the hair, the closer to heaven," is a proverb known, loved, and practiced in my native land of the South, and apparently, in the 1960s as well. I teased my hair to a higher altitude, clipped it onto the back of my head with bobby pins, then placed an un-teased portion over the top to hide the backcombing and form a Bardot-esque shape. It only felt appropriate to shellac the entire thing into place with Bumble & Bumble's Classic Hairspray ($26; bumbleandbumble.com).
The 1970s brought on a more fresh-faced appearance, and although all of the shimmer and color of the disco halls made their way out of Studio 54 and into everyone's makeup bags, Farrah Fawcett embodied the general aesthetic with her bronzy skin, shimmery earth-toned eye, and trademark feathered hair. This was one of my favorite looks of the week because it wasn't too far from a look I'd realistically wear--feathered hair aside--and Laurie Forman from That '70s Show was a minor idol of mine growing up. With Dior's Versailles shadow palette ($60; dior.com), I applied the gold shade in the center of the lid up to my brow bone, then did some light contouring with the darkest brown shade before putting on eyeliner and a generous amount of mascara. I picked up a powder brush to blend Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer ($30; ulta.com) around the perimeter of my face and used Tarte's lip gloss in Tipsy ($19; tarte.com) to finish.
Recreating Farrah's hair ended up being almost as challenging as a Charlie's Angels mission, but only because I'm impatient. With a medium-barrel curling iron, I went section by section winding my hair outward, and clipping each ringlet in place to set. Once I had covered my entire head in pin curls, I applied a veil of the same Bumble and Bumble hairspray, and after 10 minutes, took out all of the clips and brushed my hair into a more Fawcett-like shape.
I'm not sure what happened in the '80s, considering I was born in '88, but the excess makeup and over-the-top hair challenged everything from the previous decades, and I was into it. Influenced by new wave music, Patrick Nagel's illustrations, and probably some Jem and the Holograms flair, the trends were nothing short of outrageous with bold colors to complement even bolder ensembles (from the mall, obvi). Instead of blending your eye shadow into your crease, women layered colors directly on top of each other and directed their brushes upwards to impart a winged effect. I did this using a base color of Stila's sky-blue Cha Cha shade ($18; stilacosmetics.com), and the loose pigments in Darling and Royal from Sugarpill ($13 each; sugarpillshop.com). Start with the lightest color, and work your way to the darkest--I applied Cha Cha from my lid up to the crease, then went from the middle to outer portion of my eye in the turquoise Darling hue. I also swept Royal, a true cobalt shadow, in an upward motion from the outer area of my eye, and continued along my lower lash line. Again, sweeping upwards, I applied NYX's Cream Blush in Red Cheeks ($6; ulta.com), and I applied a crazy amount of highlighter over the top for contrast. I finished with Chanel's Melodieuse ($35; chanel.com), an ultra-bright hot pink.
This wouldn't have been a true '80s look without crimped hair, which is why I picked up Conair's Mini Pro Deep Wave Styler ($15; walgreens.com), and went to town. I feel like this step is pretty self-explanatory--just work section by section, and tease your hair as you see fit. I threw on my Jem earrings just to let Synergy know what was up, and I definitely got weirder looks on the subway this day over any of the others.
In the early '90s, and probably up until the Spice Girls came along and told us to spice up our lives, flannel shirts, burgundy lips, and smudged liner ruled supreme. To rebel against the over-coiffed '80s (or perhaps because everyone was hungover from that party), the low-key grunge aesthetic with its acid-washed jeans, sunflower prints, and denim overalls, replaced the shoulder pads of the previous decade, and there was a certain smell of Teen Spirit wafting in the air. Nineties day was another of my favorites, and was one of the most low-maintenance days I had all week. Instead of waking up early to tease and spray my hair into oblivion, I fell asleep with it wet, and wound a few strands around an Amika Curling Wand ($110; sephora.com) to create a loose wave, and left it at that. It took 10 minutes tops, but if you want to be authentic, you can part your hair down the middle in whatever state it happens to be, and call it a day.
The makeup was just as easy. After a layer of tinted moisturizer, I put on Maybelline's Eye Studio Leather shadow in Creamy Beige ($7; ulta.com) and applied it up up to my crease, then smudged BareMinerals' Long Wearing Eyeliner in Black ($16; sephora.com) around my upper and lower lash lines to get my Courtney Love eye on. Just before practicing my best "I'm so totally over Jordan Catalano" stare into the camera, I applied another layer of Temptu's Color True Lipstick in Jet Rouge ($24; temptu.com) to ensure the color was super-opaque.
For the most part, the trends of the late '90s a la Clueless carried over into the early '00s, but had an extra iridescent twist. On the horizon of the new millennium, we tried fashion and beauty looks that emulated a hyper-real page from a Delia's catalog--body glitter at attention--while being just a little worried that Y2K was a real thing. It was perfectly acceptable to wear a butterfly clip or ten, long-forgotten boy bands like O-Town, BBMak, and LFO dominated the airwaves, and I got my very first CHI hair straightener, which was a huge deal. In an attempt to recreate the half-updo I wore at least three times a week in middle school, I flat-ironed my hair completely straight, and parted my hair in a zig-zag pattern down the middle. Once a few of the strands around my face were pinned back, I pulled out two tendrils on either side of my head.
The early '00s were all about that frosty metallic look, so I traced the entirety of my eye with the NYX Jumbo Pencil in Lavender ($5; ulta.com) then alternated between all of Sigma's Ice Castle In the Sky shimmer dusts ($30 for three; sigmabeauty.com) all over, and placed the sparkly white shade right under my brow bone. I contoured my crease with MAC Stars n' Rockets shadow ($16; maccosmetics.com), a shimmery magenta, then added mascara and liner. To finish, I mixed some of the pink Sigma dust with MAC's Clear Lipglass ($15; maccosmetics.com) and stuck a rhinestone next to my eye because I saw Mariah Carey do it one time. It looked better on her.
If a novel were to be written about the makeup trends from 2010 until now, I'm pretty sure it would be called The Full Kardashian, or, I Contoured My Face Into Oblivion and All I Got Were Bronzer Stains On My Jacket. Influenced by Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner krew, makeup has taken on a high-definition, perfectly-manicured effect, with alternating stripes of bronzer and concealer decking everyone's complexion in an attempt to take that flattering Valencia filter into the real world. The abundance of beauty tutorials available at the swipe of a touch-screen make learning and mastering just about any makeup effect easier and more convenient than ever, and as a result, eyebrows remain on fleek with lengthy lashes curled to the gods. Hair trends tend to vary, but in accordance with the "What Would Kim K Do" school of thought, I blew out my hair and worked my curling iron in alternating directions to give my strands a soft wave.
Not surprisingly, the makeup for this look took the longest, and I feel like this is almost a neutral-toned version of the graphic contouring popularized in the '80s. After a layer of primer, I applied stripes of Marc Jacobs concealer ($32; sephora.com) a shade lighter than my natural skin tone onto my forehead, down the center of my nose, in V-shapes under my eyes, above my cupid's bow, and on my chin. Tom Ford's creme bronzer from the Shade & Illuminate palette ($77; nordstrom.com) were striped along the hollows of my cheeks, around the perimeter of my face, and down both sides of my nose. Before blending everything out with a BeautyBlender sponge ($20; sephora.com), I looked a little bit like a rejected understudy from the classic musical, Cats. I used a handful of golds and neutrals on my eyes from the Too Faced Chocolate Palette ($49; ulta.com), applied a sharp wing with Gucci's Liquid Liner Pen ($37; gucci.com), and went hard on the mascara. More highlight was added with NARS' Luxor ($39; narscosmetics.com) through the center of my face and the tops of my cheekbones. To keep up with Kylie Jenner, I traced outside of my natural lip line with Tarte's Universal Lip Pencil ($18; tartecosmetics.com), and topped it off with a clear lip balm.
I was a little sad and lost as far as what to do with my hair and makeup after finishing this piece, but also slightly relieved---returning to my normal routine meant I wouldn't have to get up extra early to tease my hair, nor would I have to dodge weird looks from people en route to the office. Researching old-school beauty trends and techniques ended up being really informative, and I'm actually planning to incorporate a few into my regime. Plus, vintage beauty ads offer no shortage of makeup and hair inspiration. A few things I learned? Never underestimate the power of a bold lip, always experiment with different shadow colors, and most importantly, '50s-era victory rolls are a great alternative to a ponytail when working with second-day strands.