Cosmetics or make-up, which ever term you are most comfortable with, were not widely used or seen in the years prior to the Model A era. When the young ladies began applying it, many men as well as some women were not too happy about it, most of these being parents. Many thought that the wild youth had really gone astray. As the years went on and the younger became the older, the use of cosmetics was generally accepted by most all.

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A variety of cosmetic suppliers were used during the Model A era. Coty products were very predominate in advertising in many of the womanís magazines, Armand, Vivaudou, Tangee, Mavis, Tre Jur to name only a few, later in the era Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden, two very popular cosmetic suppliers today. As make-up became more widely accepted through the era many more cosmetic suppliers came forward and color as well as shade choices became more suitable to the different skin tones.

As with the clothing fashion, there was a decided change going about in the use of and application of make-up between 1928 and 1931 with the latter two years giving many more choices and how to tips.

1928 color choices for lipstick had red tones. Shades from light to dark and all shades very bright. As the years progressed so did the knowledge that there was a variety of hair shades and skin types. By the end of 1931 each hair and skin type could pick the make-up best suited to their types. Surprisingly you can use the same type of shading and application that you use in your make-up today.

Cosmetics used through out the era included face powder, rouge, lipstick, eyelash and eyebrow mascara, that being applied with brushes or pencil. Eye shadows and foundation came into use about 1929 found in cream form, used very sparingly.

Purse carried cosmetics would included face powder compact, rouge compact and lipstick. Some compacts had dividers that held both rouge and face powder or the rouge if paste was also be used as a lipstick. Eyebrow pencils and mascara brushes were not carried in ones purse, rather used only once at home in preparation.

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Eyebrows were pencil thin, long done with a black or brown pencil or brush dipped in black or brown liquid eye mascara. They were drawn with an arch in the middle and drooped down at the outer edge.

Eye shadow was fairly dark on the lower lid, the upper lid above had no color or lighter shade with no color at the outer lower edge of the brow. Shades included were blue, black or brown in cream form. Applied to give the eyes an almost bruised look. In 1931, shades found were gray, green, mauve, blue and brown, the look was subtle so as to not being able to tell itís there yet enhance the eye color. The soft gray shade was harked as the perfect color for day. Eye shadow later in the era was used to add depth to the eyes and the shades depended upon the color of the clothing and the lighting.

Mascara was used on the lashes, choice of two colors, brown for the blonde or lighter hair and black for dark hair. The lashes were not spiky looking, but were often very heavily colored. A smudge line could be seen just below the lower lid. Maybelline was the Brand most often seen and came in liquid or solid form. By the way, eye lash curlers are the same design as seen today.

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The shades of powder and the appearance of rouge was chosen to match the tones of the skin. There are skin tones of yellow, while others have a hint of green and still others have completely white skin. It was then as now imperative for a woman to choose carefully so as to enhance not disguise.

Face powder came loose or packed and the shade chosen was as close to your own facial tones as possible. The shades known as Naturals, which were the Rachelís and flesh shades were the most widely used. It was not unheard of for women to buy more than one shade and mix it to her own personal coloring. Coty for example had nine shades, Blanc which was white; Natural or flesh color, Rose #1 and Rose #2, Rachel #1 and #2 the latter two for brunettes; Ocre Rose, Mauve and Ocre, their use of Ocre was as a brand was meant Ochre as a color shade. In 1929 they unveiled even another shade for the summer called "Coty Tan" this shade was only seen in the summer months other brands called it "Sun-tan." Commonly the shades were called flesh, brunette, white or peach additional shades were ivory or nude. By 1931 Coty was advertising 12 different shades of face powder. Powder was applied with a very light hand. Suggestion was to apply before putting on your dress as there was always an amount of waste. It was also suggested that you push your hair up away from the forehead in applying so there was no definitive edge showing. Apply the powder smoothly and evenly over the face, brow and neck and down as low as the dress is cut. The result should be not the slightest trace should be seen when you are finished, the skin should look new and radiant. Day and night powders used were normally different shades. Slightly darker powder for evening.

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Cheeks were not ruby red circles as portrayed in sketches or cartoons. In earlier times ladies were not considered ladies if they applied color to their cheeks. (Hence why the gals constantly pinched their cheeks!) This taboo went away during the early 1920ís and rouge became a staple among the cosmetics used and carried in the purse. The two types of rouge choices were paste or powder, the powder was used in compacts. Paste rouge was normally applied before the face powder, though it was a personal choice. Selection again was done with skin tone in mind. The shape of the face had to do with where the rouge was applied. The three areas could be for example, like the rosy cheeks of children, or high on the cheek or even some placed it quite far from the nose and upward toward the ears. Rouge was applied to the cheeks softly. There did exist cream or paste rouges that were used for both the cheeks and the lips. It was also common to try and match the shade of rouge with the tone of lipstick for harmony. Rouge shades included, bright, light, medium and dark shades of red or coral. Armand had lip and cheek rouge in one. Rouge shades seen were for example by Coty, came in five different shades, bright, light, medium and dark as well as invisible. Rouge continued to be used through out the era and always seen instructions were to apply sparingly. By the way, rouge ten years prior would not have been found outside the theater.

Instructions seen on applying rouge were: Round full face apply the rouge high over your cheek bone, toward the eyes and near the nose instead of out on the cheeks, for this type add a bit of color to the point of the chin. Long thin face, place it low and well out on the cheeks and add a tiny bit to the tips of the ears. Prominent cheek bones, apply rouge below them. Rouge accents were often applied sparingly to ear lobes and tip of chin.

Suggestions found:
Dark hair and eyes, a nude shade powder with medium tone rouge
Blonde hair and eyes, White powder with light tone rouge
Red hair and brown eyes, mixture of two parts nude with one part flesh with orange tone rouge.

Foundation base was seen about 1930, it was not used at first as a staple in the make-up preparation routine. Found in cream form and used sparingly for those who really needed it. That included those whoís face would not hold powder without a cream base or needed just a slight cover-up to smooth out blemished skin. Again the merest trace was used and any visible sign was removed or blended in before powdering. In mid 1931 a "NEW" daytime liquid powder was used for foundation in a shiny ecru shade.

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All lips were not scarlet red. Although most shades were in the red tones. Light, medium and dark shades of red, cerise, coral and poppy as well as white or invisible for chapped lips. Early Coty lipstick shades were light, medium, dark, cerise and invisible. Lipstick was applied so that the center top lip showed arched peaks in a rosebud or bee stung shape. Before applying it was wise to moisten the lips with cream. Instructions were to work the lipstick from the inside out and blend the color gradually to the edge of the lips. Thick lips, keep the color well inside the outline. Thin lips, extend close to the edge. Large mouth, should apply the color near the center of the lips and a small mouth extend the color toward the corners.

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Lipstick became widely accepted and became a must use as a make-up staple during the Model A era. Again chosen to enhance the natural coloring. Although bright shades were used during our four year period. Late 1930 and 1931 began to show more rouge and lipstick color choices. Lipsticks shades added tangerine blends to match complexions, rouges shades added were more coral and new raspberry shade as color choices.

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Fingernail make-up. Polish today is all liquid. Liquid polish actually came about during the Model A era. In the beginning only powder was used on the nails. It was applied only to the pink of the finger nail, the half-moon and nail tip were left uncolored. A white stick was used to apply under the nails to give it that clean healthly look. The two largest fingernail polish competitors were Cutex and Glazo and it was interesting to read their ads during the era. Cutex liquid polish was not perfumed, Glazoís was in the beginning, later during the era Glazo offered a choice of perfumed or not. In 1928, liquid polish was heralded as "NEW" shades were natural pink or deep rose and sold with polish remover. 1930 finds Cutex liquid polish in what is called the basic shades, natural, rose and colorless with an additional three new shades, coral, cardinal and garnet those colors for evening or more formal wear. Glazo with their choice of perfumed or plain liquid had Flame, Geranium and Crimson, dubbed "Lipstick Reds" along with natural and colorless. The nail white pencil or cream was seen through the entire era and applied under the nail tip for accent.

Nail shapes were almond, round or pointed. With both powder and liquid polish was available and both were used. The hints were to buff on the powder nail polish with a buffer in one direction, lengthwise, then remove the excess powder by applying olive oil to the cuticles then removing. Apply the nail white or if you had none, peroxide or even lemon juice with a flat tipped orangewood stick wrapped in cotton under the nail tip. One coat of liquid nail polish follows. Both powder and liquid applied over the pink part of the nail.

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MISCELLANEOUS INFO: Interestingly enough another first came to be during this time and that was lotions and creams to cleanse skin which dominated advertising and beauty articles in 1931. Ponds had been one of the only advertisers in previous years but 1931 showed many more competitors. The Sun had been proclaimed to be good for everyone at the start of the era. After a couple of summers of sunburn and freckles creams and lotions came about to protect the face from the harsh summer rays.



Catalogs: Chicago Mail Order, National Bellas Hess, Butler Bros., Sears Roebuck & Co.

Magazines: February Ladies Home Journal; March McCalls, Womanís World; April McCalls, Hollands, Farmerís Wife; May Outdoor American


Catalogs: Sears Roebuck & Co., National Bellas Hess, Montgomery Wards

Magazines: January Delineator; February Womanís World; March Womanís World; April Farmers Wife; May Pictorial Review, Womanís Home Companion, Household; June Hollands; July Hollands, Delineator; August Delineator; September Womanís World; October Womanís Home Companion; November Womanís Home Companion


Catalogs: Sears Roebuck & Co., Chicago Mail Order

Magazines: January Modern Homemaking, Pictorial Review; March Pictorial Review, Womanís Home Companion; May Modern Priscilla; November Womanís Home Companion


Catalogs: Sears Roebuck & Co., M.W. Savage Co.

Magazines: May McCalls, Delineator, Peopleís Popular Monthly; June Delineator; July McCalls; August McCalls; September Womanís World; October Womanís World; November McCalls, Farmerís Wife

The catalogs used ranged from Fall Winter 1927/1928 thru Fall Winter 1931/1932 and included all four seasons as well as sales catalogs. There were many other magazines from 1928 through 1931 that were researched, since the same information was repetitive they are not all listed.


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