Makeup by the Eras: Lipstick kisses

Makeup played a role in the war effort during the 1940s

click to enlarge Makeup by the Eras: Lipstick kisses
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Anita Carmichael, of Lewiston, is pictured with '40s-era inspired makeup applied by Jacey Johnson of Black Magic Beauty.

Fashion, clothing and cosmetics trends of the 1940s were heavily influenced by historical events, particularly World War II.

Makeup was a huge industry as the ’40s dawned, according to, marking the arrival of the first generation of teenagers to routinely wear mascara and rouge, which 20 years before would have been unheard of.

click to enlarge Makeup by the Eras: Lipstick kisses
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Johnson used red lipstick for Carmichael's look, in keeping with the fashion of the 1940s.
g the war, women were encouraged to buy lipstick and send letters to the front covered in “lipstick kisses” to boost soldiers’ morale. In 1942, the U.S. War Production Board determined the materials used for cosmetics were considered nonessential to the war effort, so existing makeup could continue to be manufactured, but women were advised to “bulk buy” in case of shortages.

Developing new makeup products was forbidden under the War Production Board’s limitations, but, in an exception to the “new cosmetics ban,” makeup maven Elizabeth Arden was asked to create a kit for the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Arden developed lipsticks that matched the red scarf, arm insignia and hat cords on the reserve uniforms in the shades “Victory Red” and “Montezuma Red.”

Lipsticks were red, red and more red, with countless shades to choose from. As for the rest of the face, the ’40s kept it pretty natural. Brows were kept neat and lightly penciled in, and eyeshadow typically was very light brown or matched the color of a woman’s eyes. Mascara was applied in a light and natural way, often in brown or black, depending on hair color.

click to enlarge Makeup by the Eras: Lipstick kisses
August Frank/Inland 360
Carmichael gets a first glimpse at her 1940s-inspired look.

Here are the key components if you would like to try a 1940s makeup look at home, as demonstrated on my beautiful model, Anita Carmichael, of Lewiston:

1. Style brows upward with a comb and Vaseline, penciling in any sparse areas to make the brows stand out without being too harsh.

2. Use a foundation cream or “pan-cake” makeup all over the face.

3. Use a liquid or cream blush on the cheeks.

4. Set with a powder.

5. For eyeshadow, use a light brown on the crease or a shade that matches the color of your eyes.

6. Eyeliner is optional. I used an eyeliner on Anita to create a small wing. The more dramatic winged liner we typically associate with the “pinup look” wasn’t popular until the 1950s.

7. Finish with your favorite red or orange lipstick, lining the upper lip with a lip liner to create a fuller appearance.

More information about the history of makeup is available at

Would you like to be a model? Email or contact Johnson on Instagram.

Johnson, of Lewiston, creates makeup looks inspired by different decades in U.S. history, using you, our readers, as her models. She can be found on Etsy at BlackMagicBeautyShop and Instagram @blackmagic._beauty.