1911- Where It All Began

1911 was the year that we should all remember in history. What was the thing that everyone remembers 1911 for? Was it the first successful trade agreement between the US and Canada? Was it the industrial accident at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory that later inspired weird rock cello group Rasputina to make a kick ass song? The year that King George V was coronated, ending the Edwardian Era, where it was totally OK to be a slut as long as you were rich, a man, and also happened to be the King of England? Shall we remember this as the year that gave the world both Lucille Ball AND Ginger Rogers?

Maybe, my fellow nerds, but the year 1911 was also epic for one more reason: The very first patent for nail polish was recognised (or so I read on an unsourced web site- don’t worry, I’m looking for primary records for verification, which means when I get REALLY bored I’m doing patent searches). A chemist named Northam Warren filed a patent for what was basically modified car paint- it would be a few yers before he figured out how to make a home safe nail polish remover, which is where nail polish really got it’s first bang into the market.

It was toxic, nearly clear, there was no way to remove it at home, but if you want to replicate an authentic look, go for a very sheer (OMG the first nail polish was a JELLY!), pink polish. It was really more of a topcoat than anything else.

In fact, it was called nail tint, not polish. A pink top coat might do the trick nicely. The real trick is finding a pink jelly or sheer polish with no glitter or sparkle. There’s a lot of good sheer French manicure pinks that would do the trick nicely. Essie has some good choices, as does OPI, but if you already have one on hand you love, it’s worth trying!

FIlbert shaped or oval nails were still in fashion, not too long (just barely longer than the nail), with perfectly managed cuticles. A prominent half moon (or Lunula) on the nail was still deeply desired.

Here are some modern mani’s that would go well if you were trying to do a historical costume from the era of a modern, trendy woman- think someone who would be hanging out with Rose, not Jack on the Titanic (yes, that was 1912, but it’s close enough). Or Lady Mary’s wild friend wearing American fashions at the start of Downton Abby.

This polish and nail shape combo will see you right through the 1910’s to the early 1920’s. Buffing was still more popular.

The lovely Emma from Imagination in Color is spot on for a 1910’s to early 1920’s nail polish look in this picture, the sheer polish is gorgeous and her nails aren’t too long- they’re a bit more square than was trendy at the time, but she wouldn’t be out of place at a gala in 1915 with those nails!
Kristen from Love, Lipstick and Pearls showing off a sheer pink with the ever so fashionable deep Lulunas that all the girls wanted back then, in Essie’s Pink Glove Service. Her nail shape is a bit square for the 1910’s, but she did this swatch in 2010, so I doubt she was going for a hundred year old nail trend when she took this picture!
This color is OPI’s Are You Calling Me A Lyre. I’d link the site but it’s down, and I found this on Pinterest. Her nails are a little too square for a 1910’s Filbert/Oval shape, but the color is perfect.

I wanted to show you these modern versions first, because the photos from the time were in black and white.

Theda Bara in the 1917 movie, Cleopatra- it was super high budget for the time, so you bet her nails were buffed and polished. 

Theda Bara was awesome and considered a huge sex symbol of the day. Her nails in this are rounded and longer than a normal woman would have them, but this is the height of movie star glamour!


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