The Romans liked a smokey eye, the Georgians were ahead of their time with festival-ready hair pastels and Queen Victoria mastered the ultimate ‘no-makeup’ makeup look years before it trended on Instagram.
In our step-by-step History Inspired Makeup Tutorial series we explore what makeup can tell us about the people and places of our past. Filmed at our historical places around the country, Fashion Historian Amber Butchart and Makeup Artist Rebecca Butterworth explain how makeup has mirrored the evolution of England’s rich social and political history.
You can watch the full series on YouTube, but in this blog we’ve summarised five key looks from some of our favourite periods of English history.
1. Queen Elizabeth I Makeup Tutorial
Filmed on location at… Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Gardens, Warwickshire
The look: Porcelain skin, rosy cheeks and ruby lips
Fun fact: ‘Egg on your face’ was very much a trend set by one of England’s longest-reigning queens. The monarch used egg whites to create a skin primer that the Elizabethans believed would tighten your skin, reduce pores and prevent freckles.
2. 1930s Makeup Tutorial
Filmed on location at… Eltham Palace and Gardens, London
The look: Red lips, glossy eyelids and thin arched eyebrows
Fun fact: We can thank Hollywood starlet Marlene Dietrich for a 20th century take on the smokey eye we know and love today. The actress and singer would burn a candle on the underside of a saucer and mix the soot with Vaseline to create her signature look.
3. Queen Victoria Makeup Tutorial
Filmed on location at… Osborne, Isle of Wight
The look: Fair skin, flush of colour on the cheek and neat hair
Fun fact: Queen Victoria wasn’t a fan of makeup. However her dresser, Freida Arnold, revealed that her majesty used elderflower water to wash her face and hands, and chamomile tea to bathe her eyes.
4. Georgian Makeup Tutorial (Male and Female)
Filmed on location at… Kenwood, London
The look: Pale skin, dark black eyebrows and flushed rosy cheeks
Fun fact: The Georgians used the secret language of face patches to communicate. Made of silk, velvet or fine leather, the position of a patch on the face could symbolise a secret meaning. For example patches could represent coquettishness or passion – or even be a sign of your political persuasion.
5. Roman Makeup Tutorial
Filmed on location at… Wroxeter Roman City, Shropshire
The look: Oiled skin, bright blue eyeshadow and kohl-lined eyes
Fun fact: In an age before social media influencers and the concept of celebrity, the Romans looked to coins for beauty inspiration. Empresses like Julia Domna, who inspired our look in the video, featured on the currency that was used around the empire and helped to set beauty trends.
6. 1940s WWII Makeup Tutorial
Filmed on location at… Dover Castle, Kent
The look: Bright red lips, burnt cork lashes and liquid stockings
Fun fact: While England was at war from 1939-1945, the humble makeup kit played a surprising role in the war effort. Beauty became a duty, and everyone from Vogue magazine to the British Government encouraged the use of makeup. But at the same food and basic supplies were rationed, so makeup needed to be creative with some home-spun hacks becoming the new beauty staples.
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