Saturday, 2 July 2011

Book review and practical: Retro Makeup - Lauren Rennells

Morning all, and what a very fine morning it is too.  I've had 12 hours sleep and have nothing to do today except watch Poirot and knit.  Lovely.  Oh, and wade through six months of ignored messages on OKCupid, but I might not bother with that, it is always so disheartening.

Anyway, today I want to bring to you a review of Lauren Rennells new book, "Retro Makeup - techniques for applying the vintage look."  A good few of you will be familiar with Rennells work after her book on vintage hairdressing proved so popular.  I still only have the first edition, bad me.

Anyway - back to the make up.

I received the book on Thursday and tried the first look from it yesterday morning (pics to come).  It is a very clearly written book, providing plenty of fascinating history of makeup from Victorian times onward and with tutorials for looks from the 20's to the 60's.

I love this book for a number of reasons - firstly it is really good to read about make up history, about which products were available and how they were used and what women were trying to achieve.  I especially love that the book confirms my belief that make up pre 1950 wasn't all matte.  I've done plenty of my own research on this and yes - lip glosses were made in the 30's as were shimmering eyeshadows.  I don't know where this belief that everything was matte came from.  I have a feeling it is down to most of our images of make up of the era coming from movie star screenshots where shimmer products would not have been used so readily due to lighting issues and the like.

I also love the attention to detail given to what I see as the two pillars of a vintage face; lip and eyebrow shape.

Finally, I love that the book does not recommend any particular brand or particular products (Besame is mentioned but not insisted upon) - very useful for those of us on a beauty budget - we can't all afford to use 100% MAC after all, and so many make up tutorials seem reliant on the big brands that it is nice to see something that isn't pushing you toward high end products.

Now - to the actual looks.  A few looks are given for each era with recommendations for all skintones.  This is a great thing as it is useful to see more than just a flapper for the 20's, a Harlow for the 30's and a red lip for the 40's.  Yes, these are the "classic" looks but they certainly weren't the only ones.  A refreshing touch of realism.

The look I tried yesterday was a wartime one, late 30's - early 40s.  The look is based on Hedy Lamarr's strong face and is one which is very beginner friendly (yay) and which can easily be taken from day to evening.

I started with a matte base of foundation and powder (all products listed below) and then focused on the eyebrows before anything else.  I used tips in the book to accentuate my natural arch and make my thick brows appear thinner without over plucking (a combination of hairspray on a brush and then pinching the hairs together as well as concealing some hairs with makeup)  very useful I must say.  I was pleased with the results.  I then darkened and defined my brows with pencil and lifted them with a highlighter.

The entire lid was powdered with a neutral and ever so slightly shimmery shadow and then a thin line of black eyeliner applied across the upper lashline.  Quite a departure for me as I am usually a liquid eyeliner devotee despite it not being 30's/40's correct.n  I added a light coat of black mascara to gently curled lashes.

Only after completing the eyes did I put on my blusher, I didn't want the blusher to look to heavy and that is always a danger when applying before eye makeup.  I like a heavy blusher look usually but this face doesn't need it.

Finally I moved onto lips.  This is a heavily overdrawn mouth - here the top lip only is overdrawn from the tip of the cupids bow and out over the end of the upper lip slightly to give a slight false frown look, part of Ms Lamarr's dramatic and serious image.

I'm afraid I hadn't set my hair so you will have to put up with my Shoreditch topknot.  Try to imagine centre parted brunette curls please instead of a yellow mess.

Products used:

  • Revlon Colorstay foundation - 110 Ivory
  • YSL Touche Eclat
  • Coty Airspun loose powder - Translucent Extra Coverage
  • MAC blush - Dame

  • Natural Collection eyeshadow - seashell
  • Max Factor kohl pencil - 020 black
  • Benefit eye bright pencil (in the water line and at the arch of the brow)
  • Benefit Boi-ing concealer to cover hairs at the under/inner point of brow for a thinning effect
  • Rimmel professional brow pencil - 002 Hazel
  • Rimmel Lash Accelerator Mascara - black
  • Ellnet hairspray on a brush to set brows
  • MAC liner - Cherry
  • MAC lipstick - Ruby Woo

This is a good bold but not over the top daytime look, and with the addition of false lashes, a shimmery gold shadow, a darker lipstick or, if you are me, all of the above, it would make a fantastically dramatic evening face too.

I'm no expert, and my application is far from perfect, but I'm very pleased with it myself.

I thoroughly recommend the book as being very useful for both the beginner and the practised vintage makeup wearer.


  1. The brows especially are perfection! You look beautiful.

  2. Ooh lovely, I love make-up, always have. Can't beat a good experiment with new looks, thanks for sharing!! X

  3. I've been wanting to pick up this book thank you for reviewing it !!

    For The Vintage Fashionista

  4. I've seen this book around and have had my eye on it but wasn't sure how informative it would be for different styles and eras. Great review x

  5. This looks super pretty on you.

  6. You have some of the most gawjess lips I have ever seen! Love this look on you :) Hurrahs for non-matte :)

  7. ... Why didn't I know about hairspray on the eyebrow brush before? It's brilliant!

    Also, I bought some of those salux bath cloths. Great tips, thanks!

  8. lovely looks and it seems like a good book to look up!