Hi. I’m Fashion Historian Amber Butchart and I’m here today at Eltham Palace which is cared for by English Heritage. This place was once the childhood home of King Henry VIII. I’m currently standing in the glorious medieval Great Hall underneath this hammer beam oak ceiling.
But we’re not recreating a medieval look today. We’re jumping forward in time to the 1930s when Stephen and Virginia Courtauld transformed this amazing palace into the art deco mansion we can see today.
Let’s take a look inside. I’m so in love with this place. Today we’re creating an authentic 1930s look that you can recreate at home. We’re going to find out what the style of the 1930s can reveal about what was going on in Britain at the time, as well as taking a closer look at the lives of the Courtaulds at Eltham Palace.
Let’s get started. Hello! This is incredible! I know! Isn’t this place amazing. Now the 1930s is a real decade of change, but one thing that really flourishes at this time is makeup and cosmetics.
So what look are we going to do today? So the 1930s look kind of changed throughout the decade. We’re going to focus on a classic Hollywood 1930s look on our beautiful model, Sharon. Lovely and so what will that entail? Red lips, glossy eye lids and thin, arched eyebrows are the main characteristics of this look.
Very Marlene Dietrich, I love it. Now the first thing I’m going to do is to use a cold cream cleanser on Sharon. So we’ll get this on. Now I wanted to use this one particularly because – – Ponds Ponds, that’s right.
You’ve heard of this already? Yes, it’s still available, right? – Yeah. Now Ponds are a really interesting brand because in the 1930s they were famous for their advertising. They would pay socialites and aristocratic ladies to talk about how fantastic Ponds cold cream was in magazines like Tatler.
So it’s kind of a new, old form of influencer marketing. And of course advertising and celebrities, especially Hollywood, really kind of came together in this decade as well didn’t they? A lot of cosmetics, a lot of products, were starting to be advertised by Hollywood stars.
Absolutely, yeah, it was all about Hollywood and also makeup became acceptable and you could wear it and you could talk about it. Step two in our skincare routine is to use a toner to remove the last traces of that Ponds cream cleanser.
That smells delicious. It smells so good. So this is orange blossom water and this is an astringent toner which is designed to help your pores get smaller and also to help your skin get tighter, which is what 1930s women really wanted from their skincare.
And so if this is step two, is there going to be a step three? You are ahead of the game, Amber, yes there is a step three. The 1930s is the era of the three step skincare routine that came in around that time.
And it was partly because skincare companies realised that if they gave you a routine you’re probably going to buy more products from them. But it also means that you get really lovely, glowy, healthy skin with your three steps.
And step number three. That looks familiar. Yes, this is good old Estée Lauder and the reason why I’m using Estée Lauder moisturiser is because Estée Lauder brand was created in the 1930s and it’s still around today.
Now Hollywood is really crucial at this time. This is really the first decade where what’s being seen on screen is really influencing how people are dressing in real life and that’s especially true of makeup as well.
A lot of the products that are being used are also being adapted for sale on the high street. We’ve got millions and millions of people going to the cinema every week at this time. And excitingly it’s also the time when the makeup artist becomes the star.
So Max Factor started out his career as a Hollywood makeup artist and then moved into making products for people to use at home. So the product that I’m going to use is a modern reproduction of his famous Pan-Cake makeup which sadly you can’t get hold of any more.
Oh that’s a shame. What are you using instead? So this one is a powder-based foundation that I’m using with a damp brush and buffing it into the skin. Max Factor created the Pan-Cake makeup because he recognised that when films moved into colour, the old fashioned grease paint that people were using just wasn’t cutting it, it was too shiny.
So he developed this much more mattifying formula. And then because people saw it on screen and they wanted to wear it, he developed it in different colours that would work for everyone so they could have a little bit of Hollywood at home.
Another Hollywood trend was the long, thin, arched eyebrow, which became accessible to most women because of the invention of the eyebrow pencil to the mass market. Now we see this happening in fashion at this time as well.
We’ve got the emergence of chain stores, we’ve got the rise of mass manufacture, ready-to-wear becoming much more accessible so this is really a moment of democratisation for style. To create the 1930s eyebrow shape I’m using an eyebrow pencil in long strokes through the eyebrow and extending it down towards the temple, much longer than you’d normally take your eyebrow.
Let’s move on to eye shadow, and I wanted to show you a trick that I learnt from Marlene Dietrich herself. Exciting! Apparently she used to take a candle, burn it on the underside of a saucer and then mix that soot with Vaseline.
And that’s how she created her iconic look? That’s how she created that amazing smoky eye, and who doesn’t love a smoky eye? So is that what you’re using here, soot with Vaseline? I’m using Vaseline because it’s an iconic 1930s product but I am not using soot.
I didn’t think it would be fair to put that on Sharon’s eyes. So I’ve taken a black eye shadow and just crushed it up. The Vaseline is so effective, it’s giving it such a lovely sheen it’s really starting to come together.
Let’s move on to mascara which is a staple in my makeup bag. I can’t live without it, how about you? Well yeah, I mean it’s the one thing that you always use, right. Absolutely. And in the 1930s mascara looked really different to how it looks to us today.
It comes in a cake format that you wet with water and then use a small broom to apply. Wow. That’s so pretty but it looks really complicated. I have to say that it is pretty laborious and I’m really pleased that we have tube mascara these days.
Now to finish off these eyes I’m going to add some false eyelashes which became really popular in the 1930s. Moving on down the face, let’s talk about colour and cream rouge. Yes because outdoor exercise becomes really popular in the interwar era.
It’s very fashionable to be involved in this kind of sporty lifestyle and so this kind of bloom and blush would really recreate that look. Whereabouts are you going to put the rouge? So cream blusher in the 1930s goes here, on the tops of the cheek bones because what we’re trying to recreate is the idealised heart shaped face – wide forehead, wide cheekbones, narrow chin.
Now I’ve actually got an original 1930s cream rouge here. But because it is actually from the 1930s I’m not going to put it on Sharon’s face. So instead I’ve created my own and I’ve used an eye primer with a loose red pigment mixed into it and it creates that same more waxy texture that the 30s cream rouges are.
So anybody could just make this at home? Anyone can make this at home, it’s really, really easy. Now this next makeup step we’re going to cheat just a tiny bit. I’m going to use a powder bronzer to give Sharon a bit more of a healthy glow because I think it’s really interesting to talk about the fact that the suntan suddenly became a thing in the late 1920s and early 30s.
So this is the first time in British history that we really see this happening. Before it had all been about maintaining this sort of very white, pale complexion, but the suntan at this time becomes this real symbol of wealth it becomes this kind of aspirational look.
More people are going to holiday at the seaside, we’ve got this amazing sort of Riviera lifestyle that people really kind of want a part of. So the suntan takes on a whole new meaning and is incredibly fashionable.
I am a big fan of a dramatic, red lip and I love that about this particular era. How are you going to recreate our dramatic lip? I love a dramatic lip as well and I’m really excited because the 1930s lip started to become much more of a bright red rather than the deep wine shades that we saw in the 1920s.
And that was because of the move from black and white films where red showed up as a really dark colour, into the colour world of the 1930s Hollywood. So again we’re seeing that real impact of Hollywood on the way that women are making themselves up.
Yeah we are, and it also reflects in the shape of the lip, because the shape of the 1920s lip was small, rosebud lip, whereas now in the 1930s it’s starting to widen up and the cupid’s bow becomes wider it’s more like a cupid’s arch.
It’s more reminiscent of someone like Joan Crawford. Now while you apply the finishing touches, I’m going to go and find out more about the 1930s and the Courtaulds who developed Eltham Palace. See you later.
See you later. Andrew, the history of this place stretches back much further than the 1930s, tell me about the early days. Well it certainly does. We know that in 1295 Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham, acquired this place and he built a palatial manor house with a large moat around it.
Then in 1305 he gifted this palatial manor to the Prince of Wales who later became Edward II and from then onwards it was a royal residence. What was the transition from this medieval palace to the art deco grandeur that we see around us now? We know that Charles I was the last king really to spend any time here and then during the Civil War the palace was quite badly damaged by parliamentarian troops that were billeted here.
Then it just really carried on decaying throughout the following centuries. So at what point did the Courtaulds get involved? Well in 1933 they took on a 99-year lease and started work on building their art deco masterpiece.
What can you tell me about the people who designed this palace? The architects of the palace were John Seely and Paul Paget. Seely and Paget as well as being architectural partners were also life-long lovers who became very good friends of the Courtaulds, particularly Ginie who like to surround herself with people who were at the cutting edge of the arts; people who lived and loved outside the social orthodoxies of the time.
So Stephen Courtauld, the family business was involved in the fashion industry. Tell me about that. Well it certainly was. The Courtaulds firm were a large textile firm and they made a lot of their money through patenting rayon which is a form of artificial silk.
Stephen wasn’t actively involved in managing the company but he did own a lot of shares and that’s where he got his wealth that he could use for his cultural and philanthropic activities. So the fashion industry really paid for what we see around us here? It certainly did, yes.
Now Virginia Courtauld, or Ginie as she was known, she was clearly at the forefront of modern tastes. Tell me a bit about her. Well Ginie was very sort of vivacious, unconventional, some would say a little bit chic as well.
And she was clearly interested in modern tastes, modern fashions, did she spend a lot of money on fashion? She did indeed. At one point Stephen sent a letter to the newspapers saying that he wouldn’t be responsible for her debts because she was running up such huge debts with all the clothes that she was wearing.
So 1929 the Wall Street Crash, we see the onset of the Great Depression, how does that affect Britain? Well obviously, like the rest of the world, Britain was heavily impacted by the Great Depression.
You see rising unemployment and great poverty and in many ways Eltham must have seemed like an oasis of wealth amongst this sort of sea of poverty in the surrounding area. But at the same time the 1930s is a period of great cultural flowering.
You have great literature coming out in this period, you also have the expansion of radio which has become the main medium for people to get their information and also the Golden Age of the cinema so it really is a period of great cultural diversification.
That’s brilliant. Thanks so much Andrew. I’m going to go and find out where they’re at with our makeup look. Wow! Look it has all come together. You look incredible. So glamorous! You look just like a movie star.
Such a movie star! You look amazing, how do you feel? That’s exactly how I feel. I feel like I just stepped off the silver screen. I absolutely love, I mean the hair has brought it all together and the high rouge, and the glossy eye I love it! I feel so glamorous.
But now that I’m all dressed up I feel like I should go and have a dance. Well I did hear that downstairs there’s a gentleman waiting for you, so maybe you should. Today we’ve experimented with a 1930s look that you can try at home.
The 1930s were a tumultuous decade that saw real, social change in Britain and a lot of the cosmetics that are available on the high street today were shaped by this period of history. Is there a historic makeup look that you would like to learn more about? If so, let us know in the comments below.
Until then, I’m Amber Butchart, and thanks for joining us at Eltham Palace.