View Full Version : Medieval makeup?

09-21-2010, 10:49 PM
As most of you here know by now, I've got a massive 14th-century-styled costume in the works for halloween. But I've hit mostly a dead end in terms of the makeup styles used in that period. I know pale complexions were fashionable (and that's NO problem. I'm already white as a ghost), but I've found nothing at all about what was done for lips and eyes. And without something done to the two, I look pretty much faceless in just foundation and powder, especially in a black costume.
So, anyone have a decent website link, or suggestions on what can be done (colours to use, technique, how heavy to apply it, etcetera)?

E. Hyde
09-22-2010, 02:02 AM
Rather than trying to find info on exactly what techniques were used then, it might be simpler to look at portraits from the time and base your look off of those. I think portraits from that time tended to idealize, which would give an idea of what features to emphasize.

09-22-2010, 12:16 PM
I've looked, but actual medieval portraits (and from the time period I'm basing my costume from) that aren't flat, cartoony manuscripts are incredibly hard to find. I didn't find anything from them.

09-22-2010, 02:06 PM
From what I know and what I've asked my mother (Who is infinitely more knowledgeable about this than me) makeup was more or less non-existent in Medieval times. There were pinky-red vegetable dyes around, but like a lot of other periods, nice girls didn't colour their faces.

Fingers, however, fingers were a different deal. Apparently women coloured not just their nails but the whole tips of their fingers and nobody knows how - probably something like beetroot juice or alkanet, but still.

Mum also claims (She did a course on this sort of thing, so I think she's probably right, but it's a bit weird) that women plucked out their eyebrows and, in fact, took their hairlines up an inch or more. I don't advise this. That takes a hell of a long time to grow back.

09-22-2010, 03:08 PM
The hairline plucking was near the end of the period/15th century, and mine's from the mid-14th, so it won't be a problem there. My forehead's already absurdly high, anyway. X_XU
But yah. There not really being any facial makeup is kind of the problem. (Also, my character portrayed is not a "Nice girl" by medieval standards...) I do need some definition around my eyes and probably lips, but I wouldn't know how dark/what colours I'm better off using. Or if kohl/eyeliner was in use at all. That's my biggest question.

09-23-2010, 04:41 PM
I know that a bit later, getting into the later Tudor period (And right the way through to the Victorians and the beginnings of commercial makeup) they were definitely using rouges (Cochineal and vermillion if you had the money, plant-based colourings like alkanet if you didn't) for cheeks and lips. Alkanet is pretty easy to get hold of if you try some herbalists or hobby soap suppliers, as are recipes for making a lip balm or some such, it's completely safe (A plus when dealing with historical makeup) and always comes out a sort of a pinky cherry red on me.

Eyeliner, on the other hand, seems to be an extremely late addition to the Western European woman's repertoire. I've seen plenty of references - again, mostly coming from later on, but the Romans were at least aware of kohl - to women darkening their eyelashes, but not eyeliner as such. That seems to die out in Europe when the Roman Empire falls and doesn't really come back in until the 20th century. You may well get away with regular mascara, especially if it's a good match for your natural colouring.

09-23-2010, 09:03 PM
I figured on mascara or eyeliner in some way. My eyes are tiny and they need definition, especially when paled up. Lips shouldn't be a problem (I'm actually just going to use a tinted lip balm, but knowing the general range of colours available makes that way easier), but I'm actually skipping on the cheeks. If I use any form of blush, I look like a clown with rosacea (My face turns beet red at the slightest provocation, even with thick foundation. Adding more colour is NOT a good idea...).
Would I use any pinkish shades on the eyelids at all, or would I be better off using my original ideas of a small amount of black/grey, neutral or just skipping it all together?
I was also thinking, though I know it's not period, using some white eyeliner for the camera either with or without other colour, so I have more noticable eyes. Like I said above, they're small. They actually look Asian, even though I'm white (I just about have the hooded eyelids), so if it's a character that has larger, obviously caucasian eyes, I usually need some help in that respect. X_X

oh, and I'm guessing the nail/fingertip colouring was generally in shades of red? I may or may not paint my fingernails for the costume. Red wouldn't really go with it.

09-24-2010, 04:55 AM
I think eye shadow was another one of these things that went out with the Romans and didn't start coming back until much later. I'm not certain, but there are no references to it in any of my books or usual sources. Throughout history, people have come up with some very varying ideas of what constitutes beauty and for a lot of European history having big eyes or pouty lips just wasn't part of it.

On the other hand, they also didn't have cameras, which do hideous things to faces. If you're going to be photographed, I'd say wear as much makeup as you need to - in fact, wear enough that it looks like you're not wearing any :p

And yes, nails in red - again, nobody knows for certain how they did it but the smart money is on something like alkanet. Red/pink was pretty much the entirety of European makeup once woad become socially unacceptable XD

10-07-2010, 07:12 PM
Well, I gave a natural but semi-noticable look a shot; here's a close-up (and my camera SUCKS, FYI) and one at more at a distance.
I certainly used a lot of stuff. Concealer, foundation applied wet, regular powder, this brick-coloured eyeshadow, black mascara, white eyeliner, and a purpley-red lipstick blotted enough to be barely on. I actually think I could still stand to be paler. And my concealer didn't quite conceal well enough for the camera.

10-08-2010, 07:30 PM
You may want to check films based in the time period and see what they did. But you seem to favor a natural look, and yes even "natural" looks require a bit of makeup!

10-18-2010, 03:54 PM
During medevil times, a proper woman wouldnt wear makeup. However, you also want to look realistically from that time period. Women would pinch their cheeks to give them high color and bite their lips to make them redder. They would also occasionally use charcoal to darken their lids to give them a more sultry look. As for the pinching a biting, Id say add a bit of blush to your cheeks because otherwise you end up looking like a doll. A darker lipstick would work better for making your lips redder, and use a darker eyeshadow. A purple? Historically, medevil women looked rather bland. Personally I'd go for a more tame hollywood version.

01-19-2011, 01:02 PM
If you wanna dye your fingertips red... or brownish red... use henna.... i mean... its been used for henna hand tattoos... its non-permanent and will go away after 1 - 2 weeks... if anyone outside of cosplay asks... just say its Mehndi... a cultural thing... you visited a cultural fair or something.....:)

check it out : http://handsofhenna.com/mehndi-occasion/bridal-mehndi/bridal-mehndi-blue-01/57/


henna comes in many shades... remember to get the right one

01-19-2011, 06:29 PM
I do a lot of historical costuming and reenactment, and 14th c. is probably my most common. I really haven't found any documentation for makeup during that period (though there is a lot from Elizabethan era and people seem to confuse those periods - most of what I find for middle ages is just here-say that I can't find reputable documentation to back up). We do know pale skin was fashionable throughout the middle ages because the higher class stayed indoors and didn't have darkened skin like those who worked in the fields. In general, I try to replicate the feel of the images just because images tend to show us an idealized vision of any period. I'm very pale, and at most events, I don't wear makeup. If I'm going to a court event or something fancy, I use concealer and foundation to smooth out my skin and maybe some mascara. When I'm doing a specific photoshoot, I put on slightly heavier makeup to compensate for flash but still keep the look very minimal.
Since your event is Halloween, you may not be completely bound by historical accuracy. Depending on where you're going, you may get away with a slightly more modernized version of the makeup look. You can look at Hollywood representations for ideas, but I wouldn't use them for absolute reference, as they're often dead wrong for period look.

01-19-2011, 08:20 PM
Dunno why people keep posting when it's wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy after the event, but to end it, here's the makeup I went with. Simple stuff; a lot of foundation and powder, faint red lip colour, reddish eyeshadow, mascara, and a touch of grey and white eyeliners to make my eyes stand out better (it was for the purpsoe mostly of a photoshoot, AND I have tiny eyes). And it was freezing cold, so I got the rosy cheeks naturally.


01-20-2011, 12:12 AM
Ooopppssss... heh heh.... sorry was a little too eager to reply... but... I must say, your cloak is fabulous. :D

01-21-2011, 12:55 AM
And I posted because it showed up as a recent thread! Our responses must not have been in vain though, for I am sure more people search for ideas on medieval makeup. Perhaps we will all help them too!

05-10-2011, 05:02 PM
I have seen this done all too much... What class of society are you doing? that is the whole thing and from What part of the world.... Different cultures used different things... Let me know... and il get back to ya with what you need

05-10-2011, 10:32 PM
Dude, I posted this over six months ago, and Halloween's LONG past. I figured things out pretty well as per the photos I linked in my prior responses.

05-11-2011, 04:26 PM
Eigh i guess thats what i get when I dont read the posting dates... lol