Getting the look: Faces from the past

Fashion may be repeating itself from early last century, but thankfully cosmetics have come a long way...

If, like most of us, you spent summer floating around in gypsy skirts, it’s time to move on. While the boho look took no time at all to recreate, the hot look for now is quite the opposite, based on the efforts that fashionable women from years ago made to look glamorous.

This season’s trend is for sophisticated grooming, glamour and all things ladylike – and the make-up reflects the new womanly, alluring style seen on the catwalk.

To match the hourglass sexy secretary image that's achieved with grown up clothes and structured tailoring, you have to put in some serious effort with make-up – far more than we've seen in the past few seasons. Think more Wallis Simpson than Jessica Simpson and you’ll be on the right track…

Wallis Simpson was the fashion icon of the 1930s, famous for setting grooming standards high for the rest of society, while ensnaring King Edward II. She uttered the famous words: “One can never be too rich or too thin”.

However rich and thin she may have been, she was more elegant than beautiful, and as airbrushing was a good 50-plus years in the future, she had to make herself look glamorous for Edward with the help of fairly basic make-up.

Selfridges had only been selling make-up for about 20 years, and before the cosmetic giants Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein hit the shops, wearing it was generally frowned upon.

Setting the scene

In the words of Helena Rubenstein, one of the 30s make-up innovators: “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones” and in the 21st Century there is a solution for every blemish - bad skin days are not obligatory.

High maintenance glamour has to start at skin level and Bliss Spa has come up with the perfect pre-make-up maintenance products.

‘Ounce of Prevention’ delivers anti-ageing, skin correcting moisture with a reputation for making you ‘glow’.

The AM and PM formulations deliver a hefty kick of antioxidants where they are most needed, and the Five Star Face Saving set (only available from the Bliss Spa website) also includes a gentle Perfecting Polish, Foaming Face Wash and Eye Cream.

Laying down the foundation

Formulations in today's make-up are sophisticated and ultra-wearable, allowing you to hide imperfections far more easily than ever before. When Max Factor first introduced women to Pan Cake make-up, few women actually wore any.

It’s hard to imagine not being able to walk into the nearest Boots and pick up a little perfectly presented box of potential... but 80 years ago, even stage actresses had no other choice but to wear gloopy grease paint in a stick form, which might have covered up their imperfections, but would have been pretty revolting to wear.

The grease paint worked well aesthetically for the stage actors, but it was too thick to be used on screen and for everyday wear.

Make-up artists complained that the consistency just wasn’t thin enough for them, so when Max Factor created the world’s first real foundation as we know it, in 1914, grateful models snapped it up – just because they could.

Pan-Cake make-up became, one of the fastest-growing, largest-selling, single make-up items in the history of cosmetics.

Max Factor’s latest face-saver is the Flawless Perfection make-up range, a clever combination of skin corrector and foundation in one tube. Step one is a primer, minimising fine lines and protecting Step Two, the Colour Finish, from the effects of oil and sweat.

Of course, if you prefer, you can actually still buy Panstik, because 80 years later, it’s still being made. You can even get a ‘Shimmer Panstik’ to glide on over the top and give you a pearlescent sheen.

Wearing make-up had really caught on by the 30s, and the hottest trend was to wear thickly coated red lipstick, which got redder and redder as the decade went on.

Scarlet women

Echoing the 30s theme, the hot lip colour for today is berry; a truly sophisticated, dramatic colour that has to be applied properly to complete the air of sophistication. Winter may have been all about throwing it on and making it look like you don’t care – this season means business, and looking groomed is back in fashion.

The elegant woman would also match her scarlet lips with an equally vibrant nail colour, but her toenails would always have to be pale pink, presumably to take the attention away from all that red! Because the formulations were still fairly crude, the ‘oxblood’ richness of the lipstick tended to leave women with an ugly stain after they’d been wearing it, which wasn’t quite the look they’d been hoping for.

At least this century we have Chanel Rouge à Lèvres Hydrabase in Barcelona Red for a sophisticated berry pout and satin finish, with the added bonus of matching nail colour Le Vernis.

OPI are quick off the mark with the sophisticated Chicago nail colour range, and true to form the names of the shades are almost as good as the colours. The ‘Irresistible Rebel’ in you will adore this urban palette - sumptuous dark violets, and shades of red and blue make-up the Lincoln Park After Dark, Got the Blues for Red and Marooned on the Magnificent Mile shades.

False economy

The perfectly groomed 30s eyebrows had to be pencil thin, and some poor unfortunate women plucked theirs to a thin pencil line substitute, which seems just slightly pointless. Some women even shaved their eyebrows right off, which was a bit of a disaster because they soon found out that their brows never grew back! But if you don’t have it, fake it, was the motto, and so there was also a fashion for false eyelashes.

Some previous products weren’t just basic – they were actually dangerous. Lash-Lure, a product that was heavily advertised and marketed across the US, caused thousands of reports of injury - from minor eye irritation, to ulceration, and believe it or not, even death.

Luckily, we have Day to Night lashes, from Eyelure. If the thought of fiddling around with tweezers and poking yourself in the eye puts you off the thought of falsies, these are fantastic. All you do with these little beauties is place them on your eyelid and they stick instantly – and stay there. If you put them on badly, you just take them off and try again. Even better, you can use them again three to four times – or until the glue starts to lose its ‘stick’.

Glamour on a budget

Stately, structured hairstyles, loved by the Queen and aristocratic women, dominated the catwalks as hairstylists returned to old-fashioned techniques that would have been at home on the head of the Duchess of Windsor.

Although the look seems to be slightly severe, the early 30s silhouette was feminine, and glamour was starting to creep into the national psyche. Hair was elegant, immaculately set, and was not flat like the boyish styles of the 20s.

Curves came back after the Flapper years of bound breasts and shapeless dresses. Although admittedly, curves and pencil skirts are a difficult combination to carry off in the 21st century!

Even though glamour was definitely in, money was still tight, and if you were unemployed or on any kind of benefit in the 30s, you would be visited regularly by a little man who’d check that there were no signs of any spending. If he spotted so much as a new coat, your money would be stopped. It was with this as a backdrop that magazines like Vogue began to appeal more to everyday women, showing them how they could still dress fashionably on limited money.

Fatal attraction

Vogue showed people how to take a miniscule amount of cash, and create a complete look, compete with the right accessories, leaving some spare for a beauty treatment just to cheer them up.

Some of the beauty treatments however were positively horrible.

‘Anti-Mole’ was a remedy that contained 50% nitric acid and 25% glacial acetic acid. It took off the moles that were bothering the women - along with the side of the victim’s face!

Berry’s Freckle Ointment contained 12% mercury and produced mercury toxicity. Some unsuspecting people purchased Bleachodent to whiten their teeth and burned their gums and tongues because of the high content of hydrochloric and sulphuric acid.

Being beautiful was dangerous 80 years ago.

There’s no danger from using Bliss Spa treatments though – and a treatment that echoes the rich berry and plum theme in a delicious way is Bliss Plum Plum Firming Body Balm, which tones skin and leaves you plum scented and fragrant!  It comes as a stand-alone or as part of the Plum Plum Silkening Set (available from the Bliss Spa website).

If the little girl in you secretly wants to grow up and dress up, this is definitely the season to do it!