My 18th century-esque makeup attempts

When I was younger, I wouldn’t leave home without at least wearing foundation, powder, and eyeliner. I couldn’t wear mascara or lipstick (allergies with one, and annoyance with the other), and the rest I just didn’t feel like I needed.

When I got older, I didn’t have as many reasons to wear it and just stopped wearing makeup for the most part. I can be a little weird with having stuff on my skin anyway.

With 18th century costuming, I figured out a reasonable way to attempt makeup for atmosphere mostly. Since I’m not completely accurate, I try to achieve a general “feel” of a period look, as well as consider my own comfort. I also want to make sure it’s fairly quick and easy for me to put on and take off after a long event.

I already had some cosmetics, and I acquired the others, like the powder, when I decided to try this. I’m not saying they’re the only products that will work, but this is how I do it.

I start off with a very, very light foundation. Not pure white, but a very pale skin tone. I use Maybelline FIT 110 porcelain foundation. I put this on lightly, and blend to my hairline and past my jawline, onto my neck slightly.

Next, I use Manic Panic Virgin White pressed powder. It comes with a sponge-like applicator, and I use that to blot the powder on and blend it in lightly (no swiping motion — all gentle blotting, in circular motions). I make sure to blend lightly down my jaw and onto my neck as well as into my hairline, just enough so I don’t have an obvious line. I use a powder brush to help with touchups and blending once I have the right amount of powder covering most of the areas.

I also use the brush to get some of the powder onto my neck, ears, and even into my hairline. I don’t worry about whether or not it shows up on my hair (it really doesn’t) — I wear a cap most of the time, and honestly my hair is streaked with silver and white, so I don’t feel like having my hair look too powdered.

Then I use Ecco Bella Burgundy Rose blush (it’s a rather dark pink), and I do the same with a clean tissue, blotting it into a nearly central location on my cheeks, and then blot-blending out into the upside-down triangle shapes you see in a lot of paintings. If I have trouble blending, or want to tone it down a little, I can also gently and carefully add a bit of white back wherever I need it to soften edges or tone the color down.

Finally, I line and fill my lips with Ecco Bella Plum lip liner, and finish with a similar Ecco Bella Tuscany Rose lipstick. These are the only colors I have a liner and matching liptstick for, so that is why I use those. I personally get the best lasting results from that type of layering, even after several hours and eating and drinking (of course, I also use a few cleaning and moisturizing products that have worked for my skin and lips, and those also help maintain the makeup for a while).

I don’t line my eyes, use any eye shadow, or even do anything with my eyebrows. My brows are dark enough, but if they weren’t, I would probably just take a natural brown pencil and help fill them in only to show up just enough. Even though I’m wearing white powder, I still prefer a little bit of a more natural makeup look, whether it’s modern or 18th century-esque. That’s just my personal take and taste since again, I’m not going for 100% accuracy.

When I first tried the makeup, I wore the K Gown’s jacket, and the white fabric tucked into the neckline of the jacket helped hide the fact that I only used the makeup on my face. When I wore the Yellow Rose Jacket for the event earlier this year, I was not sure if I would actually be wearing it since that was the first time I even tried it on. I don’t have anything to fill the neckline of that jacket yet. I didn’t bring the makeup down my neck and chest, just in case — I almost expected to be changing and wearing the K Gown’s jacket anyway.

I realized later while looking at photos, that I needed to fill the neckline in with those jackets, or bring the makeup all the way down, so for this most recent event I tried makeup. What a mistake! Since it’s been so warm, and I’m hot natured, I ended up sweating so much I had very obvious white creases on my neck. I wiped off most of the makeup on my neck — it wasn’t really showing up that well anyway. I noticed no real difference with or without, sadly. Maybe because I had to keep it light since it’s a little painful for me to touch my throat area due to fibromyalgia (thankfully I can still wear ribbon chokers).

To be honest, I’m not sure if there is any makeup that would work for me due to sweat and other issues, so I will just have to make sure I blend my makeup as best I can or fill the neckline with fabric to hide any difference.

You never know if something will work, or if you’ll like it unless you try. It’s been fun practicing and trying some things out, and I have had compliments about those little details in my costuming adding a little extra to my look. It means a lot to me — helping me feel even more dressed up, and although many of us in this area can’t have the full 18th century experience with places to go and period furniture, it’s just nice to try where we all can to have fun with it and see what we can achieve!

Whether it’s the little accessories and details in your costuming, or even silver platters, pretty china and glasses, and 18th century art on the walls. People appreciate and notice those little extras, and it’s just one more area to put a little more of yourself into your look and add to the fun of celebrating with your costuming and sewing friends.

(Of course, if you are a re-enactor, make sure it’s more accurate and fits the look you are going for.)

Photo courtesy of Kaycee Harding, a talented D/FW Texas photographer. Please check out for more of her work!

About Cynthia Griffith

I have way too many interests and hobbies, and continually cycle through them -- paying attention to some, while others wait for when I can get around to them again. My main interests are sewing and costuming (I enjoy historical clothing, such as 18th and 19th century, as well as fantasy costumes like elves and hopefully someday even dwarves), as well as getting back to art by drawing fan art of Thorin Oakenshield and Company. My husband Christopher and I spend a lot of time together, enjoying the outdoors and shared hobbies such as juggling. This blog and website is my way to share what I'm up to with friends and family.
This entry was posted in Costumes, Hobbies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to My 18th century-esque makeup attempts

  1. CMStewart says:

    You look so pretty! πŸ™‚ Natural, too. As a kid my family and I participated in those “old time photo” attractions, where you get to dress up in period costumes with period props and pose for a B&W or sepia photo. I was always surprised at how good they turned out. Of course, you did Victorian England, and I did wild west America, but I can see how both are fun. πŸ™‚

  2. Thanks! Real 18th century makeup has its differences, but I’m doing good to put any makeup on my face as it is heheh! It just helps make me feel like I’m dressing up a bit more. I almost didn’t wear makeup at all, and decided what the heck… I’m already going through the trouble to dress up, and I knew there would be cameras. Why not?

    I’m sure I’ll still make some changes, and especially depending on what part of the 18th century I’m dressing up for… lots to research and try to replicate, but at the same time I need to finish more outfits!

  3. Isis says:

    I think you have created a very nice look!

    I have been experimenting a bit with safe pigments which are similar to the more dangerous pigments of the 18th century. I found it very interesting that different white pigments makes a big change, ranging from opaque white to just a hint, just making the face paler. So obviously ladies of the time could choose how white they wanted their face. I suspect that the most opaque make-up wasn’t worn by everyone but rather by a small set for special occasions.

    I also have had lots of fun with period make-up from Ageless Artifice. I especially like the tinted lip pomade which is great for the lips and gives a lovely rosy colour to the lips. πŸ™‚

  4. Thank you, Isis! I remember your wonderful posts… in fact, for anyone reading here, hopefully this link will show you most of the makeup posts on Isis’s blog:

    I bet you’re right, with the varying tints… even today, many ladies choose differing looks with modern makeup (and makeups themselves vary). Looking at the three or four times I’ve worn my white makeup, I’ve even done varying shades of everything, lighter, to heavier, depending on my mood.

    Thank you so much for the informative reply!

  5. Mary says:

    It’s interesting how makeup has changed over the years, and how much it’s stayed the same. Yours is a great description of how and why, with some great tips tossed into the mix. You are so lovely with or without makeup and the picture posted here brings out all of your great features.

  6. Rowenna says:

    Wonderful look! So often the events I attend are outdoor reenactments–and not quite the best place for full-on makeup, as, even if it fits my persona, I’d sweat it right off! So it’s something I’ve been lax on learning. One thing I will say–I love lip and cheek stains for the natural, historical look they impart…and they don’t wear off! Sonia Kashuk for Target makes a great blendable red-toned one.

  7. Thanks so much! Yes, it gets very hot here in Texas as well. I’ve almost given up most costuming during the summer as I’m miserable enough without extra layers and makeup (and being away from my wonderful air conditioning). LOL! Thanks for the tip on the makeup — I’ll have to check it out.

    Best Wishes πŸ˜€

Comments are closed.