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Cosmetics and clothing: highlights from makeup-outfit color coordination, 1920s-1960s

Color coordination is just one of many facets of the vast and complex makeup-fashion relationship. This post will attempt to outline the trajectory of this concept from the 1920s through the early 1960s and examine how it was being marketed, with particular attention being paid to the notion of a lipstick wardrobe. The usual disclaimer applies: it won't be as thorough as I'd like given the limited access I have to certain resources, but hopefully will give a cohesive picture.

In the nascent cosmetics industry, color harmony usually referred to coordinating makeup shades to one's skin tone, hair and eye color. (It must be noted that women of color, particularly Black women, were completely left out of the "types" developed by Max Factor and others.) But as makeup became more acceptable and even expected, outfits began to take on importance in terms of coordinating makeup. The rise of ready-to-wear fashion and designers releasing seasonal collections also played a significant role. By the late 1920s beauty columns were advising women to select their makeup with the color of their "costumes" in mind in addition to the original three pillars of color harmony.1

Color complexion chart, Woman's World, 1925
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Cincinnati Enquirer, May 1, 1927

Beauty columnists also advised a bit of color correcting through the use of mauve or green-tinted powders (which, you may recall, was pioneered by Shiseido), as this would enhance the complexion depending on lighting and the color of dress.  The racist/colorist goal of "heighten[ing] the effect of whiteness" via makeup persisted throughout the 20th century. While most articles weren't quite as blatant about achieving whiteness to coordinate with various clothing colors, the sentiment was implicit in many color coordination guides.

St. Louis Star and Times, June 15, 1927(images from

While makeup shade selection was still sparse, cosmetic companies began using dress colors as a marketing opportunity. Elizabeth Arden led the way, declaring in 1931 that "any woman can wear any color". Cosmetics and Skin explains, "Unlike clothing fashion colours, that changed from season to season and year to year, lipsticks, rouges, face powders and nail polishes were sold in the same shades over long periods of time. Although limited, the colour ranges available in the 1920s and 1930s generally included vivid colours for evening wear and enough shades to enable women to make some allowances for different outfits and/or accessories like brightly-coloured jewellery. In the 1930s, recognising that make-up, like hair dyes, could change a woman’s ‘natural’ colouring, Elizabeth Arden and others went further, suggesting that make-up could enable women to wear a greater range of fashionable colours than her natural colouring might otherwise suggest." By the end of the '30s, "Women began buying new make-up items simply because of a change in colour, thereby increasing sales."

Tussy lipstick ad, Vogue, October 12, 1929
(image from

Cosmetic companies and beauty columnists seized on the idea of choice that color coordinated makeup supposedly allowed. Women no longer had to fear certain dress colors; they could wear them with confidence provided their makeup was aligned. With a change of outfits and harmony between makeup and clothing shades, women could also express various moods and personalities. The ad copy for Elizabeth Arden's lipstick ensemble claims one could be the "The same woman...but with infinite variety" and equipped with "the power to change your personality to suit your mood - or your gown."  Columnist Antoinette Donnelly expanded on the concept, suggesting that by frequently switching up makeup and clothing combinations and breaking free from their set type, the average woman could become whoever they wanted. "[Witness] the manner in which makeup is worked out so that the woman can change her dress color to one that will put her in an entirely different category than that she is occupied in the somber shades, let's say. Or, with the help of certain makeup colors, she can be a stunning black-frocked siren, pale-cheeked and red-lipped, whereas before she may have been only a negative personality...these are frequently the type, who, rebelling, finds in an entirely new makeup scheme just that transforming note that lifts them out of the nondescript class...our interesting beauties are getting away from type classification. They're going in chiefly for being that something different which is always welcome, and particularly welcome in a world now filled with good-looking women. Makeup is the avenue over which you travel to get that difference and the crowning achievement will be reached when you know your makeup colors and what dress colors they should be associated with...the point is that this new makeup occupation of playing color successfully against dress colors is going to permit you a more dress-color latitude and will supply your audience with a woman about whom it can't be said: 'She always looks the same.'"2

Elizabeth Arden ad - Vogue, June 15, 1931

Ad for Elizabeth Arden lipstick ensemble, Vogue, January 15, 1932
(images from

Still, there was a lot less flexibility than beauty columnists and ads cared to admit. Any woman can wear any color, perhaps, but only by following the prescribed advice and buying particular colors. Couched in the language of freedom and excitement, a variety of makeup shades may have offered new possibilities in terms of dress, but there were rules dictated by self-appointed experts and businesses who overwhelmingly encouraged women to wear what was "becoming", not necessarily whatever color combination one desired.

Nevertheless, the industry wanted to make it easy for women to buy multiple shades and the notion of sticking to one color or ensemble seem antiquated. As one 1933 article encourages, "Don't say, 'I can't wear grey'- or blue, or green as the case may be. It's hopelessly old-fashioned. Smart women these days merely change their complexions to suit their costumes, and find that there are no longer any forbidden shades...when you know your makeup story, it's all so simple."3 In addition to this sort of rhetoric that emphasized simplicity and modernity, cosmetic companies boosted sales by creating ensembles that made choosing colors less daunting for customers. The assumption was that by eliminating confusion regarding what beauty products went with what fashion color, pre-made sets detailing appropriate shades would appeal to shoppers who would otherwise be intimidated by makeup-dress color coordination (or those who merely didn't want to be bothered spending time picking out the "right" shades), normalize the idea that women should own more than one color, and introduce shades customers may not have considered otherwise. Matched makeup products and sets existed - most notably by Max Factor and Richard Hudnut - but without the fashion component, instead focusing on the original three tenets of color harmony (complexion, hair and eye color). Elizabeth Arden's lipstick ensemble and color harmony boxes may have been the first official sets designed to take the guesswork out of makeup-clothing color coordination.

Ad for Elizabeth Arden Color Harmony boxes, The New Yorker, June 1932

General guidelines on color coordination proliferated and more companies began releasing pre-made sets.

Harpers Bazaar, January 1935 article on lipstick tips and color matching

Newspaper ad for Lucien Lelong's Tic Tac Toe lipstick trio, October 1939
(image from

Elizabeth Arden may have also been the first to collaborate with department stores on showcasing new colors that went with the latest fashions. In 1931, a fashion show held at Lord & Taylor demonstrated not only new dresses, but the Arden products that went along with them. "How the new striking colors of the season may be worn by all women if the proper makeup is utilized was illustrated by various feminine types wearing the proper cosmetics with the colorful gowns chosen for them."4 Five years later, makeup companies were advertising their seasonal shades alongside the latest fashion colors in department store windows. Primrose House, Helena Rubinstein and Charles of the Ritz displayed their new tawny shades in next to white sportswear collections.5

Elizabeth Arden continued to lead the way by introducing "color capes" at counters and salons where customers could try on little capes in the season's latest fabrics and decide what makeup went best with them.

Elizabeth Arden "color cape" ad, Vogue, October 1, 1936(image from

Generally speaking, color coordination guidelines were to stick to either warm or cool tones (i.e. don't mix a warm-toned brown dress with a blue-red lipstick) but still wear colors that allowed for maximum contrast between skin and dress. While dress and accessory shades needed consideration, one's own coloring was the most important in terms of picking out makeup. If your outfit had two or more contrasting shades, the makeup should be matched to the dominant color or the one closest to your face. One should own at least three lipsticks: a "clear" or true red (what I suspect has neutral undertones), a blue red (cool-toned) and an orange red (warm-toned). Finally, coordinating lip color was more critical than face powder for a harmonious look, if one had to choose between the two. Some rather harsh color coordination advice from the decade6:

  • "There are shades of rouge and lipstick and powder that are unequivocally antagonistic to other colors in close juxtaposition. This is seen in makeup colors themselves. Such as a bright orange face rouge and a purplish or deep raspberry lipstick. This combination is really ugly. Extend the idea to apparel. Take a blue eyeshadow with a red or flame colored dress. Just wrong, that's what it is."
  • "You must change the lipstick and rouge cases that you carry in your pocketbook as regularly as you change your frock, if you want a pleasing ensemble."
  • "Remember always that your lips supply the most outstanding color to your face. If they are wrong, your whole face might as well give up."

In terms of individual colors, the prescriptions were as follows. It's very interesting to see the roots of makeup color theory, especially considering how advanced it is today. Some of the advice is debatable, most likely due to the fact that there simply weren't many shades back then. And once again, these sorts of color-specific tips were intended for white women only. While some of the principles could theoretically be applied to BIPOC skin tones, it's obvious that the industry was focused on a white audience. Racism and colorism were on full display, particularly in the advice given for black dresses.


  • "Keep rouge and lipstick in the tone of the costume color - red geranium for an orange red or vermillion dress, red raspberry for the purple-reds, the rich wine shades and fuchsias."
  • "When wearing red, violet or blue-violet, it is very important to have the same basic tones in rouge, lipstick, and costume - no clash of orange with blue-red. That's bad!"
  • "If your dress is red, your lipstick leans toward purple and your rouge is borrowing its tones from orange, you will look as flamboyant as a circus poster."
  • "Red is a danger color in makeup. If the costume color is a bright shade of red, it should be matched as closely as possible with lipstick and rouge. The smartest crimson frock could be ruined by proximity to orange rouge and mandarin lipstick."
  • "If you wear red, particularly the bright, slightly off shades, the lipstick must match your costume exactly. Your rouge must be properly toned with your lipstick."

Beige and brown:

  • "Rouge and powder should have a touch of yellow. Green eyeshadow is stunning with beige."
  • "For wheatstalk and other beiges, use a vivid note: peach makeup base and peach powder, red geranium lipstick, rouge and nail polish. Green eyeshadow and blue-green mascara."
  • "If you are wearing browns that let orange supply their gaiety, you will want a touch of orange in your makeup."
  • "A warm terra cotta or russet makeup base, terra cotta or russet rouge and lipstick and a faintly mauve shade of face powder. Use bronze shadow and brown mascara."


  • "All shades of grey needed a decided contrast."
  • "It is advisable to accentuate lip and eye makeup and subdue grayish pallor by using a deep peach rachel powder. When cheek rouge is used, it should be of a dark red or true blood tone, never a light orange shade."
  • "For grey, a vivid makeup is recommended for contrast: peach makeup base, a light shade of pinkish tan powder, red coral rouge and lipstick and matching nail polish. Blue eyeshadow and blue-green mascara."
  • "If you emphasize the pinkish tones in your skin and use a warm, bright rouge and lipstick the color will be more becoming."


  • "The new purple shades are difficult colors to wear, so be sure to use a double application of pale peach foundation to give the skin an extra smooth texture and even coloring. Red coral rouge and lipstick have the clear quality that you need with difficult costume shades. Use blue eyeshadow if your eyes are blue, blue-green if they are brown."
  • "If you're in purple, lipstick and rouge ought to have bluish tones under the red."
  • "For lilac, mauve and violet, makeup base with a brownish undertone, a light shade of pinkish tan powder, red raspberry rouge, lipstick and nail polish. Black mascara and blue eyeshadow."


  • "For costumes of green - the vivid shades - a bright flame rouge and lipstick with pale rachel powder and green-gray eyeshadow could be tried out with effectiveness assured."
  • "For deep green costumes, use the same rouge, powder and lipstick shades, but use blue-green mascara and shadow according to the color of your eyes."
  • "For greens, from pale green to emerald and vivid green, makeup base with a brownish undertone, light shade of pinkish tan powder, red geranium lipstick, red strawberry rouge with a blue undertone, red geranium nail polish. Jade or emerald green eyeshadow, and blue-green mascara."
  • "Greens and yellow-greens are trying, but if you bring out the warm rose tones in your coloring you will stand a better chance of wearing these colors successfully. If these colors make your skin appear sallow, blend a little mauve face powder with the color you normally select to match your skin. Use a dark rosy lipstick to give your mouth a definite outline and a brown or grayish purple eyeshadow."


  • "For blue apparel ensembles the 'blue' idea is stressed. The powder should have a good deal of purple pink in it, the rouge and lipstick with a purple cast. And blue eyeshadow by all means."
  • "If your favorite gown is in one of the bright new blue shades, use a soft peach shade of makeup base and powder and raspberry rouge and lipstick."
  • "For guardsman blue, dusty blue and other spring blues, peach makeup base, peach powder, red strawberry lipstick with a blue undertone, matching rouge and nail polish. Blue mascara and blue eyeshadow."
  • "Blue has a way of throwing bluish or purplish shadows on the face. Use a creamy tinted powder to soften this effect and use a lighter color of rouge and lipstick, yet one that is vivid and bright."


  • "White requires little rouge - the amount that is chic with black is blatant with white - and the paler tones are more successful."
  • "White, like black, takes either a dark or a fair makeup, but nothing is more striking than white worn with the darker powders. Golden skins, tawny skins, make a gorgeous contrast with white."


  • "Black requires a more brilliant makeup to complement it than a color does. A powder as light as your skin tone permits, and the bright shades of rouge and lipstick, those on the geranium cast, prove most effective."
  • "Black is most striking and flattering when the skin is fair, pearly and transparent-looking. Black is not becoming with sun-tanned skin or sallow, yellowish skin. If your new fall costume is to be black, then you must get rid of your leftover tan and get your skin as freshly pink and white as possible...powder with a warm pinkish or peach cast, rouge and lipstick that are a blush rose or a frank red - those are good to wear with black."


  • "Shades which have a suggestion of blue in them call for a rouge with a blue cast. Shades with a hint of yellow look their best when the face is made up with rouge and lipsticks with an orange cast."

Vogue also offered general color coordination guidelines in their October 1, 1938 issue.

Vogue makeup color guide, October 1, 1938.

Another development in the 1930s was the recognition of the win-win situation offered by color-coordinated makeup and clothing. As early as 1932 both industries acknowledged the opportunity to profit through various types of partnerships. According to the December 30 issue of WWD that year, "Clothes-stylists and cosmetic experts are in a strong position to help each other today, with the result that more clothes and more cosmetics can be sold."  The end of the decade marks the point at which cosmetic companies began creating makeup shades based on seasonal fashion colors and/or formally collaborating with fashion houses on colors.

Ad for Dorothy Gray Sierra Gold, Vogue, November 1939
(images from

Perhaps in an effort to outdo Elizabeth Arden, in the fall of 1938 Helena Rubinstein collaborated with noted milliner Marion Valle to produce the "vanity box of hats" series, a collection of 6 hats "based on the colors of six Rubinstein products."  The hats and cosmetics were displayed together in department store windows.

Newspaper ads for Helena Rubinstein/Marion Valle "vanity box of hats", October 1938

Newspaper ads for Helena Rubinstein/Marion Valle "vanity box of hats", November 1938
(images from

To further emphasize the connection between fashion and cosmetics, it was around this time that companies began referring to color coordinated makeup using fashion terminology. Gone was the "ensemble"; enter the "wardrobe".

Germaine Monteil lipstick wardrobe, Global Cosmetic Industry, June 1938
(image via

Article on lipstick wardrobe, Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1939(image from

In short, the 1930s witnessed the solidification of clothing/makeup color coordination, mostly due to cosmetic and fashion companies realizing they could have mutually beneficial relationships in terms of sales, but also due in part to the greater trend of accessory coordination and the growth of the cosmetic industry more generally. The 1940s strengthened the notion of color coordination. The sales tactics, accessory coordination, and pre-made sets remained more or less the same. Advised a 1946 issue of Chain Store Age to salespeople, "Lipsticks must also harmonize with costume colors so women need a vari-colored lipstick wardrobe. Point out to your customer that she should have one for daytime, one for evening, one when her skin tans, etc."

"Making Up to the New Fabrics", Harpers Bazaar UK, February 1940

Newspaper ad for Lucien Lelong Pif Paf Puf sets, May 1940

Makeup and accessory coordination advice,The Atlanta Constitution, June 2, 1940
(images from

Maybelline ad in Hollywood magazine, 1940
(image from

In the spring of 1947, U.K. company Gala of London presented a similar idea to Arden's color capes by encouraging customers to visit their "Colour Room" with swatches of their dresses in hand. It's not clear whether they were inspired by Helena Rubinstein/Marion Valle partnership some 9 years prior, but Gala also collaborated with Gertrude Harris on several creations based on lipstick shades. 

Gala lipstick/hat collab, Harpers Bazaar UK, July 1947

Seasonal colors really came into their own in the 1940s. Primrose House released a shade called Maraschino, a "cherry red designed for wear with summer clothes," while Revlon came up with Pink Lemonade and Red Punch for summer 1940.

Revlon Pink Lemonade ad, 1940

Dorothy Gray continued introducing colors to go with the latest fashions, a tactic they had begun in the the late 1930s, but launched sets in addition to individual coordinated colors. The company was one of the first to present sets as a cost-effective way to have the necessary variety of colors on hand. "To offset the disadvantage and expense of various makeup colors to match costumes, there is a new 'Portrait Make-up' package at a nominal cost, which will harmonize with any color scheme milady might have for spring."7

Ad for Dorothy Gray Portrait makeup set, April 1941
(image from

Formal collaborations between cosmetic and fashion houses also continued in the '40s. Elizabeth Arden, still the runaway leader in fashion/makeup color coordination, began partnering with a collective named Color Affiliates in early 1940.

Elizabeth Arden Color Affiliates ad, Harpers Bazaar, February 1940

Elizabeth Arden Color Affiliates ad, Life magazine, September 9, 1940
(image from

Ad for Elizabeth Arden and Color Affiliates, Harpers Bazaar, February 1941

As a side note, some companies had a more literal interpretation of the lipstick wardrobe idea. Gala's set, most likely released during this decade, consisted of an outer box featuring an illustration of a wardrobe and slid open to reveal four colorful dress silhouettes with corresponding mini lipsticks.

Gala of London lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1940s. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Tussy's Kiltie Red was obviously named for the Scottish garb and the bottom of the tubes adorned with a plaid kilt-like ribbon.

Tussy Kiltie Red ad, Vogue, 1941
(image from

While Elizabeth Arden was the preeminent expert in color coordination, in 1945 Helena Rubinstein introduced her "color spectrograph", which detailed makeup-dress coordination for five types.

Helena Rubinstein Color Spectrograph, 1945
(image from

Helena Rubinstein Color Spectrograph, 1945(image from

Rubinstein introduced several products relating to the color spectrograph, including lipstick wardrobes in a pouch, Four-Cast lipsticks and Keys to Beauty sets. These were all basically the same concept but packaged differently. (Keys to Beauty had been launched previously in 1940, but was not marketed as a color-fashion coordinating set. Rather, there was only one set of three shades meant to be worn at different times of day.)

Helena Rubinstein lipstick wardrobe ad, Harpers Bazaar, October 1945

The lipstick tubes for the Four-Cast and Keys to Beauty were cleverly correlated to the outfit color family, i.e. the lipstick in the pink tube would go with pink or pastel outfits, while the shade in the green tube went with green or similarly colored outfits. (I would have taken these out to demonstrate but sadly, they had not an insignificant amount of mold.)

Helena Rubinstein Four-Cast lipstick set, ca. 1947. Collection of The Makeup Museum

Helena Rubinstein Keys to Beauty set, ca. 1948-1952. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Helena Rubinstein Keys to Beauty set, ca. 1948-1952. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Ad for Helena Rubinstein Four-cast lipstick set, Vogue, March 1948
(image from

The idea of being able to pull off any color also continued as a selling point for makeup, although by this time fashion salespeople were officially in on the concept. As noted earlier, it was a win-win situation: if the only thing holding back a customer from buying an outfit in a hard-to-wear shade is makeup, it benefitted fashion companies to have their sales force advise buying the appropriate cosmetics. And voila! New outfit AND new makeup purchases means profits for designers and cosmetic companies alike. Echoing the commentary from 15 years prior, one department store buyer remarked in 1947,  "A wide-awake ready-to-wear salesperson who has a customer who feels she cannot wear fall's vivid green or wine, can so easily suggest that the woman consult with the cosmetic department about a makeup which will alter her skin tone enough so that she can wear one or both of those colors, and wear them well! Toilet goods people can also suggest complete new makeups for customers who may mention that fall colors are difficult to wear." Additionally, the department store window cosmetic tie-ins that had begun in the early '30s had become de rigueur for the big makeup companies by the late 1940s.

Women's Wear Daily, September 5, 1947

 The trend of selecting colors to go with one's clothing continued throughout the 1950s and early '60s, with more or less the same marketing tactics and new seasonal shades. Lipstick remained the key to color harmony.

Coty spring color chart ad, Vogue, March 1, 1950

Coty fashion right colors ad, Vogue, October 1, 1950

Coty check list for fall ad, Vogue, October 1, 1951

Ad for Dorothy Gray Carillon Colors, Vogue, October 1, 1951
(images from

Women's Wear Daily, March 20, 1953

Revlon jewel lip kit, December 1954. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Elizabeth Arden ad, Vogue, September 15, 1958
(image from

Pre-made lipstick wardrobes continued to flourish, usually in sets of 3, 4 or 5 tubes.

Cutex lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1950s

Cutex lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1950s

Of note is Charles of the Ritz's lipstick wardrobe containing single-use matchsticks, which was introduced in 1952 after the company had success with an individual matchbook released in 1948.

Ad for Charles of the Ritz lipstick matches, The New Yorker, September 25, 1948

Charles of the Ritz lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1952. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Charles of the Ritz lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1952. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Charles of the Ritz lipstick wardrobe, ca. 1952. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

In looking at these ads and guides, it seems being a woman back then must have been absolutely exhausting. Not only was one expected to wear makeup regularly, nails and clothing needed to coordinate with it. And not just a dress, but one's bag, shoes, hat, scarf, gloves, hosiery, etc. also had to "harmonize". According to the ads and advice at the time, it was simply a matter of planning ahead, but the process seemed extremely labor-intensive.

Makeup matching article, Redbook, October 1959

Yardley lipstick wardrobe, The Evening Standard, Feb. 11, 1957

Possibly the strangest take on the makeup-clothing color coordination trend was a Pond's Angel Face campaign that ran from about 1959-1962. Their claim that using different tints of face powders would allow every outfit to be flattering no matter one's complexion. It wasn't a new idea, as Pond's actually offered a different powder in 1940 that advertised roughly the same notion.  Pond's essentially took the color correcting/enhancing concept described in the 1927 news column by Lucille Buchanan a (questionable) step further. While swapping out lipstick shades to better coordinate with clothing makes sense in the abstract, trying to change one's entire complexion to suit a particular fashion color is a fool's errand. A dusting of bronzer, color correcting or translucent powder is fine; wearing the completely wrong shade of powder or base makeup will look odd, to say the least. Given the excessive number of ads (which mostly ran in Life magazine), it seems Pond's was set on convincing women they could in fact change their skin tone through powder rather than lipstick. I guess we should give them credit for going against the conventional wisdom that lipstick is the most important factor in makeup-outfit color harmony.

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1959

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1959

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1960

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1960

What's especially amusing about the ads is that Pond's wasn't actually applying differently colored face powders or even clothing to the models - it's very obvious it's the same series of photos artificially colorized.

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1960

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1960

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1960

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1961

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1961

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1961

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1961

Ponds 1961

Angel Face by Pond's ad, 1962(images from

Companies were still not finished with the lipstick wardrobe concept in the late '50s and early '60s. However, the shade ranges expanded considerably as cosmetic chemistry and technology improved. Compare, for example, the range of Coty's shades in 1961 vs. the lineup they offered a decade prior.

Coty lipstick ad, Vogue, April 1961
(image from

Pastels, corals, bright pinks, orange and iridescent shades were now considered as essential as different reds were in the 1930s and '40s. "Lipstick wardrobes should contain pale pastel tints, brilliant vibrant tones, medium shades and iridescent colors," notes one 1961 article. Another from 1962 states, "Every woman should own a lipstick wardrobe that includes a shade of coral that best becomes her, one of the pink-to-rose tint, and a clear red, which is the safest choice when in doubt" and a year later, "One color is never right for every costume. The lipstick wardrobe should always include at least an orange, a pink and a pure red lipstick."8

Seventeen, April 1962

With more colors to choose from for both eyes and lips, pre-made wardrobes now included 5-10 mini lipsticks in addition to the usual 2-5 item sets. Experimentation and play also became a bigger part of the makeup-clothing color conversation. Whether this was due to the increased volume of available colors for which the established coordination rules didn't apply, or companies trying to shift away from rules so that customers felt more emboldened to buy a multitude of colors, or simply feeling the need try a new(ish) marketing tactic is anyone's guess.

Beauty Ideas magazine, spring 1960. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

The copy for Revlon's Colorkins, Tussy's Lipstack and Pond's Angel Face lipstick wardrobe utilized traditional color coordination sales tactics (i.e., the need to have a variety of colors conveniently on hand) as well as encouraged the customer to experiment. They also were proponents of mixing shades. 

Revlon Colorkins lipstick set, 1962. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Revlon Colorkins lipstick set insert. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Revlon Colorkins lipstick set insert. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Pond's Angel Face lipstick wardrobe, ca. early 1960s

Pond's Angel Face lipstick wardrobe insert, ca. early 1960s
(images from

Tussy Lipstack ad, McCall's, May 1961(image from

Mixing colors to suit one's outfit was not a new concept, of course, as our good friend Antoinette Donnelly explained in 1956:

The Daily News, September 1, 1956
(image from

Despite these developments, some of the advice remained much the same as twenty years prior. The March 1961 issue of Glamour contained a feature on how to coordinate with the seven "happy colors" of spring. (Apologies for the wrinkled condition of these pages...not sure how they managed to get crumpled while sitting in storage.)

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

The color chart at the end of the feature is simply mind-boggling - even more complicated than what was outlined in the Redbook article. With the consideration of no fewer than 6 accessories along with makeup and outfit, were women really free to experiment? Obviously these were intended just as suggestions - indeed, as all makeup advice should be - and it's highly doubtful any woman followed this chart, or for that matter any other color-coordination advice, to the letter. As with the faux pas of not blotting one's lipstick properly on special lipstick tissues or handkerchiefs, clashing colors were not as big of a misstep as the marketing for such color coordination would lead one to believe. Yet I find it troubling that a chart detailing how to organize the colors of 8 different components was even conceptualized. Perhaps if women were kept busy figuring out what to wear with what they wouldn't notice how few rights they had, or be too exhausted to take action if they did. I'm not suggesting makeup-outfit color coordination was a nefarious plot devised by the patriarchy to distract women from fighting for equality, but there is a strong implication that they were expected to put at least a moderate amount of effort into their appearance.  As we'll see in part two of this post, charts like this don't exist in mainstream magazines these days.

Glamour, "7 Happy Colors" article, March 1961. Collection of The Makeup Museum.

In conclusion, it seems that the attempts of both the fashion and cosmetic industries in the first part of the 20th century to ensure color harmony between makeup and clothing was little more than a cash grab. First, the shades from the 1930s through the early '50s really weren't all that different. Colors were more or less recycled from year to year, just given different names. Secondly, some customers were genuinely curious to learn what colors suited them and switched makeup based on their outfits purely for fun, in which case the advice and pre-made sets were of use to them. But the main narratives surrounding color coordination pushed by both industries - that women needed more than one shade of powder, lipstick and blush in order to really pull off any fashion color, and that they also needed to change seasonally - are false. Given the cost of owning multiple shades and outfits, it seems doubtful many customers bought into the hype and scrupulously followed the prescribed makeup-fashion color guidelines. If pre-made color coordinated sets were popular, most likely it was due to the simple appeal of being able to grab several shades conveniently packaged in one set rather than hours of careful outfit planning - at least one color from the set is bound to work, right? Perhaps also back then, with a limited selection of shades, it was more important to select the few colors that went best with one's coloring and wardrobe. These days, with the literally thousands of colors on the market and an array of custom-blending options, it's far easier for consumers to buy just one lipstick/powder that can be worn with all different color outfits. No one needs 10 lipsticks or powder (or any makeup, for that matter, but that's a whole other story) specifically for various clothing colors when a "my-lips-but-better" lipstick and translucent powder will suffice. This is to say nothing, of course, about the fact that there is no need to color coordinate between clothes and makeup at all. If you want to wear a cool purple lipstick with a warm red dress, go for it.

I don't know when part two will be arriving as I've neglected to follow up on a couple of other posts that need a second act, but stay tuned for more on fashion-makeup color coordination, which will cover the mid-1960s through today. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? And how many lipsticks do you own?

1Not all that significant, but worth mentioning is that in 1924 Bourjois disguised ads for their Peaches and Peaches and Cream face powders under the headline of "Does Your Makeup Match Your Costume?" and being appropriate for "the real outdoor girl" and to "give a 'health, vim and vigor' effect," respectively, making it possibly the first time a cosmetic company advertised dress-specific makeup.

2"Possibilities in Makeup," The Baltimore Sun, August 16, 1931.

3"Blonde or Brunette Can Try New Shades: Just Change Your Make-Up to Suit the Frock is Timely Hint to Timid Shopper," The Akron Beacon Journal, April 5, 1933.

4"Cosmetics Style Show Demonstrates Color for All Types: Lord & Taylor and Elizabeth Arden Collaborate in Costumes and Makeup in Special Blends," Women's Wear Daily, November 18, 1931.

5"Arnold Constable Promotes Vivid Makeup for White Summer Costumes: Coordination of Costumes and Cosmetics Stressed in Window Series Devoted to White Sportswear Accented by Bright Sun Tan Makeups," Women's Wear Daily, May 15, 1936.

6All of these tips came from the following articles:

  • "Match Makeup to the Costume!", Viola Paris (syndicated column), July 1930.
  • "Make the Tale Your Mirror Tells Please You," Helena Lundh, Winnipeg Tribune, May 31, 1931.
  • "A New Makeup Scheme for Winter: Smart Cosmetic Aids Must Blend Harmoniously with the Color of the Costume," Antoinette Donnelly (syndicated column), November 1931.
  • "Makeup Should Match Costume to Give Effect," Alicia Hart (syndicated column), September 1932.
  • "New Makeup Tone Said to Suit All Types," Jacqueline Hunt (syndicated column), October 1937.
  • "Match Makeup with Costume," Juliet Shelby (syndicated column), March/April 1938.
  • "Let Makeup Blend with Your Dress Colors for Spring Wear," Jacqueline Hunt (syndicated column), February/March 1939.

7"Beauty Expert Gives Spring Beauty Hints", March 28, 1941

8"Lipstick Hue Is the Key to Beauty," Abilene Reporter-News, June 9, 1961; "Key Lips, Nails to Fall Colors" by Alicia Hart (syndicated column), October 1962; "Say It With Lips" by Solange Bertrand, Baltimore Sun, March 31, 1963.

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