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Lipstick Tips From 1944


For some reason, I'm obsessed with reading about how women did their makeup in decades past. In a lot of ways, the beauty industry has evolved, offering countless new formulations and technologies. In other ways, though, we're still in the same spot we were fifty or sixty years ago.

I dug into the archive of the New York Times and found this story from long ago. It's the first in a series of how-to makeup stories, and it's a little odd to read such basic beauty tips in such a serious newspaper. But look at the dateline, 1944, and it starts to make sense. Lipstick didn't really take off until around the time of World War II, when it was popularized by movie stars. Many adult women didn't know how to apply it, so why wouldn't a newspaper start a sure-to-be-popular beauty column, right?

The thing is, maybe I'm reading everything incorrectly, but the tips themselves seem a little off. To read an excerpt, read more

Here's part of the story. Read this and tell me if it makes sense to you. Doesn't it sound as though we're supposed to draw outside the normal pink part of the lips? Doesn't that seem a little Bozo the Clown? Let me know what you think, because it seems odd to me...

To shape the lips: Follow the natural line of the lips. If the lips are exceptionally full cheat a bit so that the lipstick line is indented slightly from the natural line. If the lips are thin cheat a little the other way.

Retain the true proportions of the bows but keep the line soft. Avoid exaggerated curves or points, but never flatten out the line of the bows entirely. Carry the lipstick from the bows to the corners of the mouth in a line that curves out gently from the natural line. This gives a more appealing shape to all mouths. Be sure that the outward curving line is very slight—too much gives the lips a sulky, sneering expression.

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