Ladies’ Edwardian Makeup

Look what I found for you – An article about Edwardian makeup from 1909!

While writing a post for you about ladies’ makeup in the Edwardian era (you’ll see that post in the near future) I was perusing the California Digital Newspaper Collection online. And there I found this treasure of an article that was in the Sacramento Union, Number 63, 25 April 1909.

The Edwardian makeup text is hard to read on the old newsprint, so I’ve transcribed it for you. You can find the original at the bottom of this page. Don’t you love the way they wrote back then?

Sacramento Union, Number 63, 25 April 1909

The Powder Puff and Rouge Pot

Once upon a time it was no sin to use cosmetics. Great ladies stained their cheeks, kohled their eyes, and dusted on their “white” in the presence of distinguished visitors; and to appear in society without these aids to Beauty was actually to establish oneself as a person of defective taste.

But fashions for the toilette change, and men and women change with them, so that to-day the open use of cosmetics represents, as it were, one of the seven deadly sins. Yet when done with a delicate art the offense is pardonable; and since it is done to a large extent very badly, it seems to me only right and proper to tell the right way to use cosmetics. As Confucius pithily remarks, “Even in killing men, let us observe the rules of propriety.”

1909 Edwardian Makeup Look
This picture shows us how Edwardian makeup looked.

A decent restraint in the use of cosmetics is not as easy as you would think, for the eye grows drunken at last with color, and taste is blunted by excess. So since the actual offense lies in LOOKING painted and powdered, start your toilette of loveliness with the idea that you will underdo it rather than overdo it. A little pallor or sallowness is far better than a mass of red and white which stands out from the face like a foolish mask.

The stage gives magnificent suggestions for the use of cosmetics. The most harmless rouge advised is grease paint, which comes in stick form and in small pots. This is said to be less drying than a dry rouge and more natural than a liquid one. Three grades of red – light, dark and medium – suits it to every complexion. Black, brown or blonde cosmetic are the stage names for the pencils which darken eyebrows and eyes, and when buying these many a society woman goes to the good places which sell theatrical supplies. “Complexion sticks” are tinted cosmetics which suggest as nearly as possible the natural coloring of the skin.

edwardian makeup stein greasepaint
Greasepaint – Edwardian makeup

These are often applied first – after the cold cream rub, of course – to give a foundation to the other things used, but for day they are only advised where it is necessary to cover up some disfiguring mark, such as the dark red birthmarks which so distress a pretty woman. In such a case, the complexion stick is rubbed directly upon the blemish until it has paled or is hidden, and then the spot is covered with powder.

Edwardian makeup - rouge pots

As to powder, the simpler the ones used with rouge the better, as it is really the thick, fast-sticking white which gives the improper and clownish look.

Scented talcum, rice, or wheat powder and prepared chalk are the only secure powders for sensitive skin. If you must have something more concealing and fast than these, be sure you match your complexion with the powder tint, blonde, brunette or pink. Buy always the best cosmetics, for it is only in this way, and through a careful preparation of the skin first, and an even more careful cleansing of it at night, that you will keep your complexion. The delicate pores of the skin have no fondness for the grease and dust blanket.

Edwardian makeup rice powder (for the face).
Edwardian makeup – rice powder.

Start the cosmetic toilette by washing the face with warm water and a good soap. This rests and softens the skin so that the red and white will blend with it and not lie outside in a solid, unnatural sheet. Then rub in cold cream with brisk, yet gentle massage, and sit down to your dressing table to a good twenty minutes of toil, seeing to it that all the implements of war, as well as a hand glass, lie in line before you.

Edwardian makeup - Pears' Soap
Pears’ Soap – a must for Edwardian ladies who wished to take care of their complexion.

The rouge is put on first, the brows and eyelids darkened next, and the powder applied last of all. A soft spun silk, linen or cotton rag is indispensable, for this must smooth down hard edges till the line between the color and natural skin is lost.

To apply the rouge, dig a right-hand finger into the red and rub it over all the points which have ever displayed a hint of natural rosiness. Some faces need a touch of rouge upon the chin and lips, a faint tinting of the eyelids, and a decided rosiness for the lobes and curl of the ear. The lid-tinting is to give the ball of the eye fullness, and the chin, lip, and ear touches make the cheek blush seem more natural.

Edwardian makeup - rouge pot.

Leave this application to sink into the skin and proceed with the dark cosmetic. Except for the fairest women, who use a blonde pencil, brun (brown) is the best color for this. Follow the natural eyebrow line with the pencil, and never make a mark, if you can help it, on the bare skin. Then rub the dark pencil across the palm of the left hand, and with a clean finger of the right gather up this soft brown, blonde, or black dust and rub it delicately over all the eye covering.

zona edwardian makeup eyebrow pencil

A hard line is made by a dark pencil under the eye is very bad, but few persons not in Beauty’s secret will be able to suspect the artificiality of the improving over-shadow made in this way. But the red and the black are only a breath – they must seem the reflection of the ball of the eye through a thin lid.

Edwardian makeup mermaid mirror
I think I just discovered that I need an Art Deco Mermaid mirror from the Edwardian period for my dresser.

You now come to the important “make-up” rag, and with one corner of this go over the rouge, and with another over the lids till your own mother could not tell where her daughter begins and art ends. Then dust on the powder, smoothing that with still another corner of the rag.

Thus should a woman use cosmetics, if at all, and thus the offense of employing them is lessened appreciably; though I would that all my sisters left the rouge pot and the face powders severely alone. But, alas, how many make use of them – and execrable use at that!

Katharine Martin

I hope you enjoyed this article – tell me your thoughts about Edwardian makeup in the comments below!

Edwardian makeup article “The Powder Puff and Rouge Pot”, by Katharine Martin in the Sacramento Union Newspaper, Number 63, 25 April 1909

edwardian makeup article 1909
“The Powder Puff and Rouge Pot”, article about Edwardian makeup by Katharine Martin in the Sacramento Union Newspaper, Number 63, 25 April 1909

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