In Vintage Inspiration

1940s Hair and Makeup Resources

To help you complete your Sew For Victory look, I’ve put together a bunch of links to get you started on the right path for authentic 1940’s hair and makeup. The 40’s look was all about enhancing your natural beauty and disguising war time hardships with subtle glamour.


This photo of Lana Turner is a great example of 40’s makeup. Eye makeup was minimal, eyebrows were natural but sculpted, the face had a “clean” appearance, and the shape of the lips were natural but the lip color was some shade of red, pink, or coral. One of the biggest mistakes I see with 40’s makeup (even the most glamorous styles) are overly made up eyes. Eyeliner wasn’t used much, and if it was, it was applied in a very thin line just to enhance the eyelashes on the top lid. Sometimes you’d see a slight extension of the lash line with eyeliner, but never the full cat eye “wing out” that was popular in the 50’s. Eye shadow colors were usually matte and in various shades of warm brown, grey, or navy. Eye makeup was not worn on the bottom! Sometimes women would use mascara on the bottom lashes, but that was as heavy as makeup got on the bottom lid. If you’d like to see how NOT to do 1940’s makeup, take a look at Lesley-Anne Down’s character in the WWII movie Hanover Street. So, so wrong!

One of my favorite resources for 1940’s makeup is this makeup guide by Glamour Daze.

1940's make-up Guides

This PDF download is a fully restored beauty book from the 1940’s so it’s one of the most authentic guides out there. It covers a wide variety of topics from proper hair and makeup looks that suite your face shape to exercise routines. I highly recommend it!

Another great book that I really love is Retro Makeup by Lauren Rennells.


This book covers makeup techniques from the 1920’s through the 60’s, but it has a great section on the 40’s and how to achieve different looks from the era. I love that Lauren included wartime work looks, military looks, and everyday makeup in addition to the more glamorous makeup techniques that we see more often. It’s really neat to see how much makeup application has changed throughout the decades! This is definitely my favorite non-downloadable makeup book.

This video by Super Kawaii Mama is one of the most authentic tutorials I’ve found on YouTube for 40’s day time makeup.

Since the 40’s is all about enhancing your natural beauty, you can skip any makeup that would make you look overly done up. For example: my face is naturally flush so any kind of color on my cheeks looks like too much. I also skip all face makeup that isn’t a simple finishing powder because it irritates my dry skin and definitely does not enhance my natural beauty (ha!). If you’ve been blessed with long full eyelashes, try a clear gel mascara instead of traditional ones, and don’t redraw your lip line if you don’t need to! My eye lids are quite small, so even with my daytime makeup I still do a bit of subtle contouring with natural eye shadow colors to give them a little extra brightness. Are you starting to see the trend here? Enhance natural beauty!

As far as hairstyles go, I really can’t recommend this book enough! 1940s Hairstyles by Daniela Turudich is a gold mine for those on a quest to create authentic 40’s hair. This book covers styling tips and techniques, as well as different hair cuts of the era including short cuts, wartime cuts, the most popular hair cut of the 40s, and screen siren styles. I was surprised when I read about the Shingle Cut which started at 4-6 inches long on the top for styling, and tapered to only 1 inch long at the back!


So, girls with short hair, this book will answer a lot of your questions!

Check out this video about the “Vingle” factory haircut by British Pathe.

The overall length of the Vingle is actually quite short, but when it’s styled, it looks the same as other longer styles of the period.

No matter what length of hair you had, the styling was pretty much the same. Using different curling methods to create fancy wave patterns was the standard look of the 40s. I learned pin curling and finger waving in cosmetology school (yes, once upon a time I was a licensed cosmetologist!) but if you’re unfamiliar with the techniques I recommend Vintage Hairstyling by Lauren Rennells.


This book includes more than just 40’s hairstyles, but has awesome step by step instructions for how to do all kinds of curls. You’ll learn about different types of rollers, tools, and setting patterns, and how curl base and direction affects them. Definitely a must read for those interested in vintage hair.

For some extra help with 40’s hair, check out these YouTube channels for awesome tutorials: Elegant Musings, Diary of a Vintage Girl, and Lisa Freemont Street.

The most important thing to remember about 40’s hair is your comb out is everything, and comb outs take time! When you start to brush out your hair and you end up with a massive frizz pile, do not panic. Just keep brushing!



For some authentic 1940’s makeup check out the awesome products available at The Vermont Country Store! Shown above: Tangee brand blush and lipstick, Max Factor pan stick foundation, and the original “cake” mascara.

Later this week I’ll be sharing a review of two lipsticks from the Vermont Country Store, in order to demonstrate two different 1940’s makeup looks.

Oh, and yes they did have wigs in the 40’s! 😉 😉

Hopefully these links will help you get started with your 1940’s hair and makeup. I can’t wait to see everyone’s completed looks at the end of the sew along! I have a bunch of great prizes starting to stack up here so make sure you’re active in the Sew For Victory Flickr group so I know who’s eligible to win them 😉

Have a great week!

  • Grace

    Thank you so much for this post! So helpful! And The Vermont Country Store is right on the route I take to get to Massachusetts from Quebec. I will definitely be stopping in next time I go! Thanks again!

  • natasha

    what a great website, I look forward to seeing more make up creations

  • Laura

    So…what do you use product-wise for your fingerwaves? In school, we used a pink gel we had to mix up from a base with water that we called “goop”, but I have no idea if it is still even available (LONG time ago, lol), what it’s real name was, or what to use instead. It set hard as a rock, then you brushed it out with a full-bristle brush. Any suggestions on a modern equivalent/substitution?

    • Hi Laura, I like to use a setting lotion called Lottabody. It’s a thin gel-like liquid that you can dilute to your own preference. I mix mine up in a spray bottle and use that instead of pure water for my roller sets. It doesn’t dry hard like a straight gel, but it definitely has a nice flexible hold. I know a lot of other women who wear vintage hairstyles and they’re fans of it too. You can find it here:,default,pd.html

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  • LadyD

    I don’t usually wear make up (foundation makes my skin come up in red blotches and eyeline/mascara makes my eyes water and eyeshadow, blotchy again) So for a special occasion its lipstick on the lips and a bit of tinted vasaline on my cheeks. Its very hard for me to go over the top with makeup. lol

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  • Thank you so much for this post. For years Ive had long hair so was used to doing victory and barrel rolls but just recently Ive had it cut short and though I don’t regret this for a second it does make styling for photos for vintage looks really difficult. I shall see what I can do. Thank you.

  • agirlinwinter

    Thank you for this post, I love 40s make up and one sees so many tutorials for ‘the 40s look’ with black winged eyeliner. I’m struggling to curl my hair but I will keep trying. I had some awesome victory rolls put in my hair at the weekend by my hairdresser. I felt very glamorous 🙂

    • I love victory rolls! You could always try a hair scarf style. That way you just have to curl the very front and tuck in the back 😉

  • 40s makeup is a great thing for me since I already don’t like to wear a lot of makeup (I do powder instead of foundation since I can’t stand feeling anything sitting on my skin and have never managed to find a foundation I actually like– so I’d rather see imperfections than look/feel awkward). But I adore red lipstick, so it’s the perfect combo. lol I love that some original 40s makeup items are still available.

    I need to do a tutorial for my daily roller set, I keep meaning to and then forget about it!

    • Oooo Tasha I’d love to see your hair tutorial!!! p.s. I totally agree with the face makeup! I use powder with sun screen and that’s it.

    • jean

      Bareminerals make-up is like second skin and with little eye makeup and red lipstick is just beautiful. That’s wot I wear on my face. I would so love to wear a lovely 1940s dress band gloves and peep toe shoes and steamed stockings and a hat with netting to wear to my son’s wedding next June. I’m trying to grow the top bit of hair above my forehead so I can roll it back. My hair is short. I do so love the 1940s era and women stood out with less is more. Jean

  • Brigid

    I have Daniela’s book! I actually got my hair cut recently (this past summer) to look like Ingrid Bergman, as I have a face shape similar to hers. You can read about it here:

    Thank you for posting all of these resources! It is so neat that Vermont Country Store still has all the old makeup! Can’t wait to see your review on their lipsticks!

    P.S. Hope your dental problem is all cleared up. Get well soon. 🙂

    • Very cute hair, Brigid!
      Yes, my teeth are feeling much better thank you 🙂

  • Fabulous resources, thank you so much. I actually bought the Glamour Daze make-up guide at the weekend, a fantastic read on a cold Sunday afternoon. I struggle a lot with my hair as it’s very straight and lots of vintage styles demand a bit of body and/or curl. I may have a go at something different to showcase my SFV dress when it’s finished though! x

    • It’s a misconception that you need body or curl for vintage styles. I promise you don’t! My aunt has super fine/pin straight hair and I can get her hair in a 40’s curl pattern. Try smaller rollers or small pin curls and see if that helps 🙂

  • Jessica Cangiano

    Oh Rochelle, this post is such a joy! I can never, ever get enough of mid-century beauty images, ideas and resources. Thank you very much for putting together this stellar roundup of just that.

    ♥ Jessica

    • You’re welcome, Darling. I’m glad you like it 🙂

  • Carlee McTavish

    Thanks Rochelle! The book on vintage hairstyles will definitely be coming in handy in the future! Great resources!

  • Thanks for this Rochelle! My dress is finished but I still have to take the photos. I had an idea of what was involved makeup wise but this means I’ll be sure to get it right 🙂 Hopefully I can find time this week when there’s good light to take them!

    • Looking forward to seeing your finished look! 🙂

  • This page is an amazing reference spot, Rochelle! I’m so glad you reminded me about the Retro Makeup book, I own it and totally forgot about it 🙁 I need to look through it for some makeup inspiration. I know her hair book is great too, I gifted a copy to my hairstylist friend, Curtis, and he loves it!

    • I love both books! Especially the makeup one because it explains how to do multiple different looks for every era. It’s awesome 🙂