Got proofs back. Whee! Normally I hate having to page through a hundred bajillion proofs from a shoot ("...argh, I blinked... blinked again... wtf what happened to my nose? ... collar got crumpled..." It can get tedious) but the photographer this time was the lovely and talented Anastasia Sierra, who weeded out most of the test shots and other flotsam before sending them to me.

One of the proofs, pre-touchups.
I was there to model some vintage pieces (a load of hats she had, and a fox fur I fortuitously brought), so I asked her what era she wanted makeup from. It turns out that when they give you the US citizenship test, they teach you a lot of things about the Revolutionary War and the branches of government, but pretty much diddly and squat about pop culture, so I spent a lot of the shoot chattering about silent films and sufferagettes while Anastasia fussed about with her lights.

The makeup I'm wearing in that photo is quite heavy. I have flat pancake foundation on, brows drawn in a few shades darker than my natural color, eyeliner and mascara on both lid lines, and a lot of dark plum eyeshadow and lipstick. The style is drawn from the films of the early 1930s; you can see something similar on Marlene Dietrich and Mae West in their early works.

Films prior to 1930 or so used what's called orthochromatic film -- the "ortho-" prefix means "right" or "correct", and in context, orthochromatic means that the film only responded to certain very sternly fixed wavelengths of light. Which is to say, not red. People contain haemoglobin, and are photographically on the pink side; the lack of film response to reds and pinks forced early silent film stars to paint up like mimes just so they'd show up on the developed stock. After the introduction of panchromatic black-and-white film (I know calling B&W film "all-color film" sounds funny, but bear with me), movie stars had to modify their standard makeup to smooth over all the red tones that previously didn't register on the film, at the same time as provide enough contrast that faces still came out looking like faces.

The main feature in a fully-made-up face of that era were the eyes, which were to be deep-set, mysterious, and as shiny as humanly possible. I was using a L'Oréal HiP metallic duo called "Sculpted"; I use HiP shadows a lot, because they're Walgreens-cheap but extremely vivid. The lighter color goes over the entire lid, all the way up to the browbone if you like, and the darker color goes on very heavy on the eyelid only. Use a proper brush, and scrub it into the crease. Try to concentrate on the details and not spend too much time looking at your entire face in the mirror, because you'll look like a drag queen getting a makeover from a blind circus clown until all this is done.

I'm not willing to pluck my eyebrows to proper 1930s thinness -- I don't wear makeup most of the time, I'd look ridiculous -- but you can get away with heavier brows as long as you remember to extend the line down farther towards the temples than modern looks allow. It'll look artificial; it's supposed to. Go darker than your natural color. Blondes can go for a medium brown, I'm a redhead and went with mahogany, and brunettes can go with as dark a brown as they like, up to and including a warm black. If you can't find a pencil in the right shade, use a damp eyeliner brush and some eyeshadow.

The eyeliner is smudgy carbon black. Remember, you're emulating 1930s movies here -- the lights were bright, the film was iffy, and you wanted your eyes to stand out. Blacken your lash lines all the way around. Get it on the waterline, if you can stand that. Your choice whether the lines come to a point around your tear ducts, or flick up a little bit at the outside corner, but the aim here is to draw a line, not look like the love child of Avril Lavigne and an emo raccoon. Soft kohl pencils or gel liner work best; actual kohl crumbles and tends to dust particles on your cheeks.

Finish by loading on your favorite volume- and length-enhancing black-black mascara. Give the bottom lashes one coat, give the top lashes as many coats as it takes to make them look entirely plastic. I find Maybelline Lash Stiletto works well, although if you're used to wearing only matte mascara, all the extra shiny motes around the edges of your vision will be really distracting for a couple of hours. (Lash Stiletto advertises "patent shine". They aren't kidding.) CoverGirl Lash Blast in any random variety would also do well, I think.

The lipstick is the trickiest bit to get right. The modern opinion on lipstick application is that you want your lips to look as full as possible, to the point where one of the most common tricks is to draw on your lip liner slightly outside the natural lipline, and make sure to match the lines smoothly at the corners. Not so in the '20s and '30s. The preferred shape was called a "cupid's bow" or a "rosebud", which is very poetic, but tells you bupkis about what that shape actually was. The deal here was to make your lips look adorably smoochy-smoochy, very round, delicate, and almost like they were about to pucker up at any point. The easiest way to do this if you have a normal human mouth is actually to paint right over the outer corners of your lips with foundation, and then just draw on any shape you damn well please. Round out the bottom lip, but don't take the color all the way out to the natural corner. On the top lip, exaggerate the two peaks of color that meet up with the ridges of the philtrum in the center, but round everything out -- there should be no sharp corners in your lip color -- and make the lines leading down to the corners slightly convex. The color will not meet up perfectly at the outsides of your lips. This is what gives silent film stars that oddly doll-like look in stills, and makes their top lips seem to thin out a bit strangely when they smile.

Popular colors in the 1930s were the kind of pasty white I normally am on camera, possibly with a touch of light pink or peach blush. Eyeshadow was shiny, shiny, shiny, and in thoroughly unnatural colors. Denim blue, medium green, bright violet, or brown with a dark plum cast were some of the favorites. For lipsticks, you can go bluish with the rose-to-raspberry palette, or yellowish with a vibrant vermilion called "Chinese red" or "cinnabar" through softer oranges.

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