Defining Beauty Trends From Roaring ’20s to Swinging ’60s

Paramount publicity photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It seems like we never can quite decide how to define “beautiful” or “sexy”. Our opinions of what that means, and the beauty trends that follow, are constantly changing. And those changes were drastic in women’s fashion from the 1920s through the 1960s!

Today, we’re taking a look at the sexiest fashion and beauty trends from those decades — trends that have continued to influence fashion through modern times. Who knows, you might even pick up some style inspo to work into your own look. Click through to see!

1920s Beauty

1920s fashion
Youtube | RetroWunderland

There wasn’t too much of a change in the decades leading up to here, between the 1900s and 1910s, but the roaring 20s changed everything. The hemlines skyrocketed upwards, and the silhouettes of dresses downplayed a woman’s curves. Some even bound their chests to achieve a sleeker, androgynous figure. Cloche hats and layers and layers of beads were also popular.

Makeup looks in the 20s got much more daring. There was still an emphasis on pale skin, but eyes and lips got much bolder. It was very trendy to define the cupid’s bow of the lips. Eyebrows were drawn on in a long, thin line. And short hairstyles became popular, especially with finger waves.

1930s Beauty

Jean Harlow

In the 1930s there was a greater emphasis on body consciousness. Women watched what they ate and worked out to show off their arms and legs. Dresses were more glamorous and fitted, and often bias-cut in lush fabrics like silk and lace. Halter and backless gowns were also popular. Many wore padded bras to emphasize a more hourglass figure.

Hairstyles in the 30s leaned more feminine, and eye makeup looks got a bit more subtle. Lip colors were still bold. Rouge was worn high on the cheeks to emphasize a heart-shaped face. There was also a new emphasis on tanning.

1940s Beauty

1940s fashion
Columbia Pictures

The 1940s ushered in an emphasis on separates and structured silhouettes. Pencil skirts accentuated the curves of the hips, and shoulder pads made the waist appear smaller. Women began to wear more prints as well, such as gingham, plaid, and florals.

Blouses with pussycat bows and other embellishments were quite popular. Sportswear also became popular, and we saw the introduction (and scandal) of the bikini.

The 40s was the decade of the rounded red lip. The rest of the makeup look was fairly natural, and brows got a bit thicker and softer. Hairstyles got longer with waves or soft curls. Very Hollywood glam.

1950s Beauty

Grace Kelly
Paramount publicity photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1950s were a decade of mid-century conservatism, and for the most part that extended to fashion (Marilyn notwithstanding). Dresses had clean lines, and everything was structured and tidy. Stiff bodices, belted skirts, buttoned-down blouses, and prim cardigans were considered fashionable. The idea was the allure with clothing, not necessarily seduce.

Hair was worn soft and wavy or curled. Most women slept in curlers. A peaches and cream complexion was the goal for cosmetics, and the classic red lip was still in. (Isn’t it always?)

1960s Beauty

1960s fashion, Twiggy
Youtube | Cesare Vesdani

When you think of 1960s fashion, you probably think of Twiggy. She made the waif silhouette popular (much to the detriment of teens everywhere). She was the face of the mod movement, with its bold new fashion ideas.

Mod fashion was all about freedom and rebellion, and mini skirts and bold colors were a big part of it. High boots with short hemlines were a trendy look. Twiggy also made the pixie cut a sensation. The trendiest makeup looks involved bold eyes. Mascara was layered on top of fake lashes to give that tarantula look, and those bold eyes were balanced out by a pale lip.

On the other side of things, you had the start of hippie fashion, with unstructured tops and dresses, bellbottoms, and layered patterns and textiles.

There was a big emphasis on hair accessories like headbands and headwraps in the 60s. And what flower child’s outfit could be complete without a flower crown?