9 Easy Tips to Get the Old Hollywood Glam Look

Getting red-carpet ready has never been this simple. From makeup and nails to hair and fashion, these tips can transform your style.

Published July 31, 2023

Old Hollywood glam is the definition of vintage fashion, not values. Dandy Wellington's moniker perfectly encapsulates our fascination with glamourous vintage styles that we can't help but want to replicate in the 21st century.

Whether you've got an important event coming up or you just want to channel some vintage vibes into your everyday look, here are some easy ways you can achieve that Old Hollywood glam style without needing to time travel.

Create Soft Waves for the Ultimate Old Hollywood Hairstyle


Whether you're inspired by silent stars or 40s femme fatales, a versatile way to style your hair is by mimicking the starlets' soft waves. S-waves work on super short and super long hair; it's just about how you adapt the technique.

For short hair, we suggest you use wave combs and a styling gel to secure the fine s-curve into shape. But for longer hair, it's difficult to keep tight waves past the crown, so you should take a different approach.

Instead of wave combs, curl your hair from base to tip, leaving the curl as-is. Let your hair cool for about 10 minutes, then take a boar's hairbrush and brush through the curls, working them into a soft wave pattern. If you think you've brushed enough, you should brush some more.

Choose Your Red Lips Wisely


It's true that a red lip was a Hollywood staple for decades, but there's a little more to the story. Every decade had a different red shade people gravitated towards. The 1920s focused on vampy purple reds, while in the 1930s an orangey carmine red sourced from carmine pigments that aren't used much today. The 1940s and going into the 1950s loved a truer scarlet.

From blue to orange undertones, there are so many different red lipstick options. So, make sure you're picking one that perfectly complements you.

Pair a Bold Brow With a Light Lid


If you browse through publicity and promo photos from the last shining decade of the studio system, you'll see that the ultimate fashion face was significantly pulled back from the high glam nightlife we're used to today. We know it's hard, but you've got to put down your eyeshadow palettes and brushes if you want to get the look.

Instead, focus on enhancing the natural shape of your brow into something bold and sculpted. To contrast, choose a neutral-colored lid and highlight the orbital bone with a brush of a light brown shadow. Let the brows frame your face and the lips be the star of the show.

Put Your Contour Down and Pick up a Blush


If you like wearing makeup, you're probably knee-deep in contour and bronzer. But, if you want to replicate Old Hollywood portraits, then you need to resist the urge to define the lines of your face. Instead, blush is your best friend.

Now, don't go overboard with a bright orange rogue up to your temples ala the 80s when it comes to this type of vintage makeup. Use a soft pink or orange hue and lightly define the apex of your cheek bone. Using a light blush instead of a harsh contour will give you the soft blurred look that was so popular.

Create a Custom Half-Moon Manicure


Take a page out of Dita Von Teese's fashion book and stick with a half-moon manicure. Manicure styles are endlessly creative today, but one that you can see on famous Old Hollywood stars was the half-moon.

These manicures leave a small semi-circle of nail unpainted at the base of your finger. If you've got a pair of circular stickers, and some patience to let the nail polish fully dry, you can bring your own to life.

Select Clothes Made of Luxurious-Looking Fabrics


For high Hollywood glam, you probably fill vision boards full of photos from old premiere red carpets. For decades, Hollywood had their own in-house designers like Edith Head, who often dressed the stars in custom tailored looks.

One way to achieve that luxurious feeling on a budget is with finer fabrics like stains, silks, and faux furs. These fabrics provide texture to a garment and create a conversation with light by reflecting it. Synthetic fabrics polyester and spandex typically read cheaper, but inexpensive satin can be styled up.

Pick a Bias Cut Dress for an Easy Slip-On Style


In the 1930s, just as 'talkies' were hitting their stride, the bias cut dress became a huge part of Hollywood vixen wardrobes. This style gets its name from the way the fabric is cut (aka along the grain), which gives it that loose, figure-hugging effect.

Bias cut dresses aren't as common today, which both helps and hurts your goal. It means it might be harder to source them, but since people don't see them all too often, they'll read retro really quickly.

Bring Attention to Your Waist Through Various Means


Especially as Hollywood neared the 50s, silhouettes were all about defining your waist. Don't let couture fashion fool you -- people of every size have been living their best lives for hundreds of years. Anyone with any measurements can bring attention to their waist in a variety of ways:

  • Use a medium or large belt to further cinch in your natural waist.
  • Wear shoulder pads or clothes with a strong shoulder seam to give the illusion of an even smaller waist.
  • Wear bottoms or skirts that emphasize the hips, as it can also create the illusion of an even smaller waist.
  • Use shapewear or corsets to create the cinch underneath your clothes.

Say Hello to Pantyhose


If you want to read retro, we've got one ultimate hack for you: say hello to pantyhose. If you grew up in the 'hose generation, then you're probably loathe to go back to it. But it can elevate a 21st century outfit into something vintage in 10 seconds flat.

If you want to feel really retro, try to find hose with obvious seam lines running down the thigh and calf. During rationing for World War II, women would use various products to draw on the seamlines to make it look like they were still wearing hose.

It Only Takes a Few Tries to Master the Look


From brows, blush, and lips to satins and silks, Old Hollywood style works perfectly in a pinch. Unlike our favorite frosted lips and 90s pencil-thin eyebrows, Old Hollywood makeup and fashion are timelessly elegant.

And the best part is - with a little makeup remover and a few minutes, you get to toss that look aside in favor of your well-worn sweatpants.

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9 Easy Tips to Get the Old Hollywood Glam Look