Makeup and Hairstyles of the 50s

by Nancy Hayden

Short, curly hairstyles dominated the 1950s.

George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

The 1950s were a time of ultra femininity and glamour for hair and makeup styles. The post-World War II era was prosperous for many families and this freedom allowed women who had scrimped and saved during the war to visit salons and purchase cosmetics in order to replicate the looks of their favorite Hollywood starlets.

Short Curls and Waves

Long and straight hair were both out of fashion in the '50s. Many women wore their hair in wavy or curly dos, ranging from super short to the tops of their shoulders. Wavy bobs were created with larger curlers, while curlier looks featured tight pin curls meticulously arranged around a woman's face. Women who did not have the natural body in their hair to hold curls often got perms for wavy body and still used curlers and pin curls to create the romantic short curls seen on stars such as Elizabeth Taylor.

Updos

For women who did have longer hair, and for many younger women, the ponytail was the favored updo of the decade. The look was young, neat and easy to accomplish. For dressy occasions and evening looks in the beginning of the '50s, women with long enough hair often wore it in either a simple chignon bun or the chic, vertically rolled French pleat. As the decade progressed, hairstyles grew more elaborate and updos began including masses of cascading curls or were teased and sprayed sky-high such as with the beehive.

Foundation and Lipstick

Hollywood movies were regularly being made in color in the 1950s and Max Factor, who was a movie makeup artist, released new cosmetic products that helped the starlets look gorgeous on the big screen. One new product he released was his pan cake foundation. It was cream based and when women rubbed it on their faces it hid imperfections in the skin.

Lips were an important focus of the finished '50s face, and while women wore softer pastel shades during the day, for evening full, red lips were all the rage.

Eye Makeup

To go along with their carefully sculpted hairstyles, women took great care with their dramatic eye makeup, especially for evening looks. They plucked their eyebrows to neatly shape them, then drew over them with dark pencil for a dramatic effect. Women wore liquid black eyeliner on their top eyelid only and mascara, to make their eyes appear large. Along with his foundation, Max Factor released a line of brightly colored eye shadows, such as blues and greens. These colors were quite trendy and women wore them on their entire eyelids, up to their brows.

Photo Credits

  • George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images