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April 11, 2024

Josephine Baker Getting a Manicure and Pedicure, 1937

In the 1930s, the country was dealing with the aftermath of the Great Depression, but the film industry continued to grow. And along with it came new beauty icons. More than ever before, the public needed distraction–and films delivered. Remember, this was a time before television and the Internet, so film stars were really the only public figures that everyone could see.

Pale skin and foundations with pink undertones were in vogue. In the early 1930s, light pink cheek colors were most common, but the colors got deeper as the decade progressed. The popular lip shape was an overdrawn top lip that was rounded and extended at the corners.

When it came to hair, gone were the bangs of the 1920s. Hair was slightly longer, styled in waves and usually pushed back from the face or side parted. Finger waves were popular throughout the decade. Jean Harlow, the first platinum blonde, started a frenzy for lightened locks. Hair color formulas were far from perfected at this point, so many women damaged their hair using harsh bleaches and color kits.

Nails were often painted to match dress colors. Sometimes a silvery topcoat was added. The polish was applied to the center of the nails leaving the half moons and tips bare. Towards the end of the decade, women started painting the nail tips as well.

Here are some candid photographs of Josephine Baker getting a manicure and pedicure in 1937:


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