I Found An Unexpected Beauty Muse In A Pile Of Old Photos

A Mary Pace makeup tutorial. (Mary Pace is my grandmother, by the way.)
Publish date:
April 24, 2013
muses, family

There are exactly two pictures of me with my grandmother.

In the first, she is sitting next to my older brother as he meets me for the first time. He's wearing a Spiderman t-shirt, and she's wearing a grandmotherly yellow cardigan. In the other I am a larger baby, maybe a year old. I have fallen asleep, mouth gaping open, and I am hanging awkwardly off of her lap. Her body language and the look on her face say, “OK, someone better take this child.”

She passed away before I was two, so I have no memory of her. She has become an enigma to me.

Family stories paint her as a quiet, possibly withdrawn woman. My brother remembers that she would return to her room after breakfast and spend the day perched on the side of her bed smoking cigarettes. My father notes that she liked Nixon (bad) and made a helluva lamb chop (good).

She fought with my grandfather, apparently, and my mother hypothesizes that she was embarrassed by her advanced maternal age. She was born in 1905, though she told people 1909 for several years. She was about 42 when my mother was born in a time when the average mother was in her twenties.

This is Mary Pace, before she married my grandfather, 23 years old and enjoying a sunny day in Atlantic City.

When I came across this image while archiving some family photos, I was struck by how sassy and confident she looks. This is not the woman I have heard about in the sparse stories of her later years in Atlanta. This is the girl who tried new things. This is my daring flapper grandmother.

Other photos from this time show her playing miniature golf in gauzy floral dresses and smart pumps, or splashing in the waves with other bathers in belted swimsuits. In one image, she's sitting in the rumble seat of a Ford Model A, wearing a fur coat and a cloche hat. She looks like a young woman enjoying life and not giving a flying fig about what her mother or society might think of her.

My mother once asked an aunt about Mary.

“Mary was always the first one to try something new.”

In honor of this mysterious, vibrant woman, and inspired by that bold lip on the beach, I hope to translate Mary’s 1928 look into something modern and wearable. I am her grunge-loving, bare-faced, sometimes androgynous granddaughter, and I’m going for '20s-It-Girl glamour. Cross fingers!


My reference photo is very old, and the contrast is high. Mary’s skin looks very pale, though she might be sporting a newly-fashionable tan (Coco Chanel took the tan from farmhand to rich jet-setter status in the 1920s).

For our purposes, I’m opting for a film star’s matte, pale face. I’ve used Clinique Even Better Makeup in Ivory, and I literally patted myself down with Coty Airspun Translucent Powder in Neutral. (The packaging is fantastic.)


Obviously, that dark, luscious lip drives this whole look. Again, it’s hard to gauge the exact color as it appears to be the same shade as her hair and bathing suit, but I like to think that it’s a Bordeaux, black-cherry, vampy color.

My usual lip routine consists of Chapstick or maybe a tinted balm, so this was a challenge for me.

I decided to use what I already had in my arsenal: Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. It has a nice, shiny texture, but it lacks that heavily pigmented oomph of a true lipstick. Therefore, I picked up a Revlon ColorStay Liner for Lips in Wine.

My natural lipline is not clearly defined, and I found out through experimentation that I need some guide-marks, so to speak. I made dots along my lip line, trying to emphasize my cupid’s bow. I drew my lower lip line shorter and plumper than it really is.

Then I traced the line and filled in my entire lip. I let the liner set for a few minutes so that it wouldn’t clump when I applied the lipstick. A swipe of Black Honey completes the look.

(I’m sure many of you will have suggestions for black cherry hued big-girl lipsticks in the comments!)


It’s hard to tell what Mary has done with her eyes. However, a photo from 1929 shows her wearing almost no eye makeup at all.

If you want to do a low-key day look with the bold lip, you could easily use a shimmery gold eye pencil or even Vaseline to make your eyelids dewy. Then a few coats of black mascara and you’re ready to go.

I want to go for a more glamorous, re-imagined silent film star look. However, my eyes usually get lost in too much dark makeup. I don’t want to say that I’m intimidated by eye makeup, but I am that girl on America’s Next Top Model that Tyra describes as “The makeup was wearing her.”

Therefore, I have chosen a palette that, while bold, is not too far from neutral. I am using a shimmery coral color from Maybelline EyeStudio Color Plush in Coral Oasis. First, I apply the coral color to my lid and blend up over the edge of my orbital bone.

Then, line your lower lid with the same color and blend out until your eye is lined in coral.

Use the peach color to soften the top line of coral, blending to the brow. Use the same color to blend out the lower color, too, stopping at the top of your cheekbone. You should have a glowy halo around your eyes.

Use the yellow color to highlight the inner corner of your upper lid.

Use a liner brush to smudge the plum color to the outer edges of your lower lashline.

False eyelashes would be beautiful with this, but I don’t have the time or talent for false eyelashes. Instead, I like to line my inner, upper lid with L’Oreal Infallible Eyeliner. Slightly push your lid up and smudge the liner between your lashes. I find it easier to do this if you look down into the mirror.

Line your lower waterline with the same liner. Then apply several coats of Maybelline Full 'N Soft Mascara to you upper lashes. Apply mascara to outer lower lashes as well.

I also filled my brows with Maybelline EyeStudio Master Shape Brow Pencil in Brown and extended the outer corner of my brows downward, to add to the '20s appeal.

Fluff Bobbi Brown Blush in Peony onto the apples of your cheeks.

The resulting effect is a bit sultry without being super-heavy.

And hey, let's add a little sepia for authenticity:

Go, dance the night away in some gin joint!

Do any of you have chic ancestors? What retro looks would you like to translate?