Smithsonian's Threaded blog is publishing a series on the flappers of the Roaring Twenties. The introduction post explains some of the reasons young women changed their style so dramatically as the 1920s dawned. Part two addresses the rise of makeup, which was not all that common earlier.
In the decades before the Roaring Twenties, nice girls didn’t wear makeup. But that changed when flappers began applying cosmetics that were meant to be noticed, a reaction to the subdued and feminine pre-war Victorian attitudes and styles typified by the classic Gibson girl.
Before the 1920s, makeup was a real pain to put on. It’s no wonder women kept it to a minimum. The tubes, brushes and compacts we take for granted today hadn’t yet been invented. Innovations in cosmetics in the ’20s made it much easier for women to experiment with new looks. And with the increasing popularity of movies, women could mimic the stars—like Joan Crawford, Mae Murray and Clara Bow, an American actress who epitomized the flapper’s spitfire attitude and heavily made-up appearance.