Creating a vintage face is a definite art form, and getting just the right look takes practice and care.  Amanda Newsum from Jitterbug Doll is often asked about her favorite make-up products and application tips and is sharing her best on how to re-create a Forties look with us.

Over the years I have refined my tastes, and as I delved farther into the vintage lifestyle, I have worked very hard at perfecting the styles of the Forties to Fifties. There is something so elegant about perfectly sculpted brows and shockingly red lips, and the nuances to be found in the different looks are quite fun to explore.

The first red lipstick I bought was Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow, a color released in the Fifties and still available today. I was 19 and had recently discovered Marilyn Monroe when I came across a book of photos in a used bookstore. I thought she was so pretty, and something about her curled hair and innocent wide eyes sparked a new interest in style in me. Since that fateful purchase, I have bought many a tube of red lipstick and amassed a large collection of other products as well!

Anyway, I’ve rambled on a bit, so let me give you a guide to creating a Forties face:


Period-perfect brows are neat and defined, providing the frame for your vintage face.  The Forties brow is softly arched and generally of medium thickness, a change from the dramatically pencil-thin line favored in the Thirties, and not the thicker, more pointed shape of the Fifties.  A favorite brow pencil of mine is Maybelline’s Expert Eyes Eye and Brow Pencil, which is available in several shades at a bargain price.  Apply in soft, short strokes to mimic the natural hairs. I generally soften the penciled line by going over it with a bit of shadow on a damp angle brush.

Eye Shadow

The Forties eye is subtle and clean, but this does mean you must go bare to get the look.  The sculpted shape is enhanced by applying a cream, nude, or beige shade to the lid, with a deep shade in the crease to accentuate the natural hollow.  I often reach for Clinique Champagne, Ben Nye Vanilla, or MAC Yogurt or Vapour for the lid color, and Clinique Rum Spice, MAC Malt, Haux, or Woodwinked, or Ben Nye Shell for the crease.  Soft grays and darker browns work well too. There is a great deal of shades that fall into this category, so you will be sure to find the right color for you!

Eye Liner

Liner was soft and understated in this era, as compared to the heavier cat or doe eye in vogue during the Fifties.  I like to use Joe Blasco Ultamatte, a dry cream cake liner, in the shade Eddie Leonard (a dark brown with a slight reddish tinge), and I apply it using a small filbert brush.  Cake liners are also a good choice. These dry cakes are applied using a damp brush.  Gel liners, such as MAC Fluidline, are also popular, as they can  be easier to apply than a liquid or water-activated cake liner.  Pencils and liquids can also be used, a favorite liquid of mine is L’Oreal Lineur Intense.

Lashes should be lush, full and long. I am fond of using a lash primer before applying 2-3 of mascara. Because I am blonde, I always use brown mascara over black, but choose the color you feel best accentuates your eyes.

My favorite false lashes are made by Ardell, these as a must for photo shoots or when you want your eyes to have an extra touch of glamour!


Starting with a flawless canvas is a must when creating a vintage face.  The Forties look calls for a smooth, even base, and this can be achieved with a variety of foundations and powders.  Pancake makeup, a water-activated powder cake made popular by Max Factor, was very fashionable during this time, though liquid and cream formulations were available as well.  Many women applied a layer of vanishing cream as a base for a dusting of powder.

I am fond of cream and powder cake formulations myself, and in particular like to use products offered by “stage” lines, as I find they offer high quality products in a wide range of colors than the average drugstore of department line.  Personal favorites of mine are Ben Nye Color Cake (like Max Factor’s Pan-cake, this is a water-activated cake) and Graftobian Hi-Def Glamour Cream.  Apply with a damp sponge in a stippling motion and set with light dusting of loose powder, such as the vintage favorite Coty Airspun, or a colorless set powder like Ben Nye Neutral Set or RCMA No Color Powder.


Favorite shades of the Forties include bright coral pinks, crimson, and rose pink shades.  To achieve the right look, dust the your chosen color on the apples of the cheeks.  You may choose to softly contour your face to add additional depth with a neutral tone or darker shade of foundation or powder as well. I like to enhance my cheekbones with a touch of soft beige shadow.  Good lines to check out include LA Femme (Indian Rose and Pink Velvet are personal faves), Joe Blasco, Ben Nye, and MAC (Dame and Pink Swoon) are also in my blush favourites.


Lip color is perhaps the easiest, most memorable way to achieve a vintage look.  Mouths were very defined, painted in luscious, eye-catching shades, and each era had its preferred shape for the lips.  In the Forties, full, wide mouths were very much in vogue, and women often overdrew their lip line slightly to accentuate the shape as much as possible.

For a Forties look, red is always a popular choice, but don’t feel hedged into a single shade—there are plenty of options to choose from!  Reds run the gamut from cool to warm, soft to bright, and there is a red for everyone.  As a cool-toned, fair blonde, I favor bright blue or true red shades to add oomph and a pop of contrast.

Warm-toned complexions will do well to try warmer, orange-based shades, or those with a brown base.  If you have trouble with red lipsticks pulling a quick-change act and turning a less-than-desired fuchsia tone, you might try experimenting with a brick tone, as these may pull a truer red shade when paired with your chemistry.

When wearing red, lip liner is a must to define the shape of your mouth and help prevent the lipstick from straying outside that line. I like to line the mouth and fill it in with liner to give the lipstick something to cling too.  Application with a lip brush also helps in applying a smooth, even layer of color, blotting the color, applying a light dusting of loose powder, then a second application of color, and then blotting once more, will serve to increase the staying of the lipstick.  If you’d like to experiment with overdrawing your lip line, apply a light layer of foundation to your lips to blend over the natural lip.

As a red lipstick junkie, I have a good-sized list of my favorite reds.  These include MAC Ruby Woo and Russian Red, as well as Revlon Cherries in the Snow, Love That Red, and Really Red.  Other good vintage reds include MAC Dubonnet (a brick shade used on Gwen Stefani in The Aviator), Julie Hewett’s Noir line (all six lipsticks are period perfect and run the gamut from a vampy wine red to a bright orange red), Revlon Fire and Ice (an orange red), and Besame’s original line of lipsticks.

For day-to-day wear, and many of my photo shoots, I am also a fan of a liquid lip stain made by Lip Ink. This indelible product looks and photographs like a traditional lipstick, but without worry of it smearing, bleeding, or transferring to your glass or beau.  Lip Ink Red is quite similar to MAC Ruby Woo; other colors of interest include the brick shade Lava Red (similar to MAC Dubonnet) and the orangey Fire Red (similar to Revlon Fire and Ice.)

Red is not the only shade to choose from however, and pinks and corals are also quite suitable for a vintage face.  Softer rosy shades, shocking pink, and bright corals are all good options to look for as well.  Favorites of mine include Revlon Love That Pink (a coral-pink shade), Revlon Raspberry Bite (a pretty raspberry shade), MAC Girl About Town (a bright fuchsia), and NARS Schiap (an intense hot pink named in homage to designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s favorite Shocking Pink shade).

There you have it—a guide to how I create a Forties face!

19 Responses

  1. Lisa

    Wonderful article Amanda – thanks so much. I’m wearing Cherries in the Snow today and I’m sure its a pink? Yes, its definitely a pink.

  2. Amanda Lee

    Thanks for the comment, Lisa! I’m glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

    Cherries in the Snow is a pink-based red; I think it was originally more of a true red but it’s still a lovely shade today 🙂

  3. Louise

    I have an old advertisement for Cherries in the Snow – which I pinched out of a magazine from 1950 – framed and mounted in my hallway. The model looks like a cross between Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner and the copy is priceless. My favourite bit “who else but Revlon understands you as you really are … a trifle shy, but oh-so-warm … and just a little reckless, deep inside … as strange and unexpected as cherries in the show.”

  4. Lisa Prest

    Ah, mine is exactly she shade of MAC’s girl about town but it might be a slightly different shade here, I know they do that with some brands. Which is quite maddening. For a mate pink based red I love Max Factor’s “Flame”

    I’m making a list of your recommendations. Have been an admirer of yours for some time and would love to see more similar articles and how to’s from you. xxx

  5. Amanda Lee

    Oh, mine’s not that shade at all–how strange! It’s even listed under “Reds” on the Revlon site, but Girl About Town is definitely pink so there must be a big difference between the shade they sell here and overseas.

    They are sadly phasing out Max Factor here, which is such a shame.

    I definitely have more articles in the works, so stay tuned!

  6. Ruby

    I’m intrigued by the Lip Ink, since I like being able to eat/drink/make-out without worrying about leaving bold red lip-prints everywhere! I poked around their site and did a bit of research looking for reviews + testimonials. Can you tell us a bit more about your feelings of the Lip-Ink? Maybe link a picture of you wearing the product, and what shade. How long do you find it lasts? Do you use it more often or less often than other lip products — i.e., is it worth the cost? it’s a tad expensive!)

    Thanks so much!

  7. Amanda Lee

    Just saw your comment, Ruby!

    I love Lip Ink–I’ve used it for about two years and it’s the best indelible lip color out there, IMHO 🙂 It doesn’t feel tacky/lacquered like the Cover Girl Outlast/MAC Pro Longwear variety–this type of lip color always feels so heavy and coated to me, and tends to wear off/peel away unevenly. It does sting a bit when you first apply it, but you get used to that. I do use the Lip Shine to moisturize and add shine, but plain old rubbing alcohol removes it in a snap so I skip their remover.

    A lot of the reviews on places like Makeup Alley are unfavorable, but I’ve not really experienced any of negatives (and have turned on several friends to this lipstick—they love it too!)

    I’m actually wearing my favorite shade Red in most of my photos–it “reads” like a traditional lipstick, without the transfer worry! Here’s a good photo for you:*8H5TsCy20CGpdAcdWc*CzZlMu9YR2E9rnknwtfNn5ZAWD09Li*KY07-OyIGfx9I70AUzB-amBL/DSC_7862.jpg

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  9. MaPtiteChouette

    Thanks for the tips…the lips were always easy, but I could never figure out how to achieve 40s eyes!!!

    MAKE UP FOR EVER makes a great creamy but waterproof lip pencil called AQUA LIP that holds the over drawn 40s lip line like a champ…often for up to 8 hours (depending on how glossy the lipstick is you put on top). I love 8C bright red and 9c brick red depending on what I wearing!

  10. Stephanie Press

    Cherries in the Snow makes women ask me what color I’m wearing! I think this decade is my favorite for makeup. Thanks for all of the tips!

  11. Lauren Harrigan

    Thank you so much for this! I am going to my school ball this weekend and my date and I are referencing the forties- right down to my halfmoon manicure!
    Aaaah, it truly was a momentous day when I discovered Queens of Vintage- Thank you so much! xxx

  12. rachel

    Thanks for the post! Do you have any tips for those of us who just don’t have visible eyebrows though? I have red hair so my brows (and lashes!) are blonde and practically invisible, and when I’ve tried using brow pencils and the like, my face just looks strange because I’m so used to seeing myself without eyebrows. But brows are such an important part of vintage makeup and the look just doesn’t look right without them! Any advice?

    • Lena

      Hi Rachel,

      I feel your pain as I have similar issues. I’m really blonde so my eye brows are barely visible either. I’ve found that the pencilled in look just taks getting used to. My top products are Mac’s eye brow pencil in light brown and Soap & Glory’s Archery eye brow pencil in blonde. Both are fairly subtle and if used only lightly look quite natural.

  13. Nia @ Juan Carlo Debut Packages Manila

    I would really love to give this a try for 40s themed debut party that I’m going to this weekend, but I’m feeling a bit intimidated by red lipstick. Still figuring out which shade would look best with my complexion. Have any recommendations? I have yellow undertone skin btw. Awesome work on this. Thanks 🙂

    • Lena

      I also have a yellow undertone in my skin and I find that a more orange shade really suits me. I found going to a place like Mac (or any other big cosmetics company) really useful to just try out different shades until I found one I liked. Enjoy your party, I’m sure you’ll look fab!