How Vintage Film Stars Really Did Their Makeup

Vintage film is a well of beauty inspiration. From the brows, to the plump pouts, the women of classic cinema have their beauty game on point. But have you ever wondered exactly how vintage films stars really did their makeup? At least with black and white movies, the process is a bit more complicated than you think. Believe it or not, many of your favorite old movie stars were probably wearing yellow lipstick to work.

This vintage film makeup tutorial, featured on Retronaut, outlines just how to make over an actor or actress' face for black and white as well as color cinema in the 1910s and 1920s. On the “color projection” side of the tutorial, the shades are pretty typical and true to the every-day beauty regimen. Sure, the eye shadows prompts are pretty over the top, but otherwise things are rather standard. However the black and white side instructs the actress to contour her nose and forehead with blue, paint her lips yellow, and powder her face in lavender and yellow.

In the early days of movie-making, a budget-friendly kind of film stock called orthochromatic film was the industry standard. However, this film was too sensitive to certain types of light, so in order to make the characters’ faces look natural, actors had to be made up in sharply contrasting colors. The beauty result amounts to more of a Lady Gaga in “Applause” face than 20’s bedroom eyes.

Image: Retronaut

This cheat sheet was likely used by actresses to apply their own makeup. In this era of film, actors and actresses typically provided their own wardrobe. It wouldn’t be surprising if they did their own makeup styling as well. Also, can we just talk for a second about “grease paint” for a second? From contextual clues, it would appear that they're just talking about foundation. I think we can all agree that this name change was necessary to keep the tinted moisturizer bubble from popping.

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