V348: How To Do The 1940s Lip…

Yesterday I received Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look in the mail, and sat down right then and there and read through it.  I’m fascinated by hair and makeup of the past, and I highly recommend both of Lauren Rennell’s book (Vintage Hairstyling: Retro Styles with Step-by-Step Techniques as well).

What I have been most curious about was how to get that big ’40s/’50s lip.  Don’t kid yourself – it’s *not* a real, natural lip shape, but how do you achieve it without looking like a clown?

Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Observe…


These are not natural lip shapes.  You can see it quite clearly in the picture of Lucy – she’s quite exaggerated in her lips, especially when you compare the photo above to this photo from much earlier in her career:

Yup, that’s Lucy…

 So…how to do this style of lip?  It starts with foundation…

Start by applying a nice, heavy coat of foundation on your lips.  You may wish to use concealer around the lip line (I should have), to mask the natural lip line.

Here are my natural, normal lips.
Applying foundation

Next, with a lip liner, draw the shape of the lips, over-drawing *outside* the natural lip line on the top lip.  The goal is to make the top lip appear the same size as the bottom lip. Retro Makeup: Techniques for Applying the Vintage Look calls this shape the “hunter’s bow” (as opposed to a cupid’s bow)

Drawing the shape with the lip liner.
Here is the difference – on the left is the over-drawn lip shape; on the right is my natural lip line.

Now fill in the entire lip with the lip liner, followed by a coat of lipstick.  I don’t have a lip brush, so I used the lipstick in the regular tube, although you have to be a little more precise.

Filling in with lip liner – this will help the color stay on if, say, you eat or drink anything
The lips filled in – you can see my natural lip line, which mean I need more foundation to obscure it.
Filling in with lipstick

That’s it, really.  If you need to clean up the edges, do so with your lip liner pencil, or a little concealer on a brush.  It takes practice to figure out how much foundation to use at the beginning (I clearly needed more), and what shape will work best for you.  Here is the finished lip:

Quite a lot different from my normal lips…
It definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s one step closer to getting that authentic 1940s or 50s look…

With some doe-eyes and a killer coif, you’ll be ready to go!


  • Mistress of Disguise

    January 5, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    How fabulous! I never thought about using foundation to give a smoother lip line, that's a great tip. 😀

  • Lauren Hairston

    January 5, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    I actually did this once to go out with friends. I had to keep touching everything up! Even with concealer, foundation, liner, lipstick, blotting, more lipstick… I think I'm too much of a lip biter! It looked great, though. Even with just a bit of mascara, I looked completely "made up."

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 6, 2013 at 9:13 PM

      I know the feeling – I have to keep telling myself not to eat all the lipstick off. It's weird…even if you can't see it, it's like you can feel it, right?

  • Isis

    January 7, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    LOL, just today I was chatting with my hairdresser and told her that as a kid, when watching movies from the 40's and 50's, that I wondered why their mouth had that shape and why no one had it nowadays. I hadn't figured out the power of makeup…

    • Lauren Stowell

      January 7, 2013 at 9:27 PM

      I always wondered about that too! It was such a mystery until just a couple months ago, haha. I don't know if this look flatters everyone, or maybe I just didn't do it right – it tends to make one look kindof sour, but I suspect it takes practice and experimentation to find the right shape to suit 🙂

    • Aurora

      January 8, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      Well, that lip shape has been back in fashion for a while now, in the form of lip augmentations. 😉 Unlike you and Marilyn though, most people who try it won't end up looking like classic film stars… Rubber rings and badly stuffed sausages comes to mind. Lipstick is definitely preferable. 🙂


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