A Modern Vintage Manicure

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

In the 20s and 30s it was considered a little “extreme” to paint your entire fingernail.

The “moon” manicure or reverse French Manicure was far more common. Often with the tip of the nail also left unpainted.

For the past few seasons it’s been kicking around on the contemporary catwalks too, and of course Dita Von Teese has been sporting this vintage look for a while.

I am utterly convinced that I read in a beauty manual belonging to my Mother (so probably from the 60s or 70s) that you should leave the moon bare to allow the nail to “breathe”. This would have been somewhere around 20 years ago, though, so tracking down whatever book this is now would be nigh on impossible and you’ll just have to take my word for it.

It always seemed likeĀ  a bit of a faff to me, I’m more than capable of messing up a regular manicure, without the added difficulty of trying to get perfect moons. However, in the interests of research I decided to give it a try. I went hunting for hole reinforcers to use as guides, but my totally useless local stationers didn’t appear to have any (what if I’d had some holes that urgently needed reinforcing?) so instead I bought little dots.

I decided to paint the moons a pinky beige and use my bright pink Nails Inc polish for the rest of the nail. I can confirm that it was a total faff, especially trying to do my right hand. I actually quite like the effect though, so I might try it again. From a distance it looks pretty good, but close up it’s a little messy. Like I’m fond of saying, though, practice will surely make perfect.

On a couple of nails I peeled off a little of the bottom coat of polish removing the stickers and I’m a bit disappointed with the contrast, the beige polish is too close to my natural nail colour, next time I might try using a lighter shade, or even just an extra coat of this one.

What do you think of the moon manicure? Faff or fun?

22 Responses
  • Andi B. Goode
    August 4, 2010

    I love it. I think it looks much nicer (but as am lazy I comfort myself by looking at pictures I’ve seen of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, among others, with nails that are not only fully painted but not even in length ;]) and mine generally looks messy up close but nice from a distance, too. ;]
    -Andi x

  • Franca
    August 4, 2010

    I like it on you! Far too faffy to do for myself though, plus i have odd nails, my index and middle finger ones are pretty much a round shape, but on my ring and little finger the are more rectangular/longer, even if they’re all trimmed right down. So having identical sized moons would look really odd!

    Now I’ve left a really long comment going on about my bizarre nails! Sorry!

  • Bethany
    August 4, 2010

    Love the look, I gotta try this myself!

  • LandGirl1980
    August 4, 2010

    Looks awesome! But, I have enough problems with staying still long enough for the 2 layers I ALWAYS seem to need (no matter the brand and how “one coat” and “pro finish” they tell me they are!) I know I would royally fluff these up!

  • Charlotte
    August 4, 2010

    I never paint my fingernails (though my toenails are never bare!), but if I do I’ll surely do them in this style – I have an article in one of the vintage 40s magazines in my collection with instructions for the perfect manicure, which leaves the moons unpainted.

    xx Charlotte
    Tuppence Ha’penny Vintage

  • Meghan
    August 4, 2010

    I think more than anything–more than painstaking hair sets, more than ridiculously structured undergarments, ANYTHING–this is the bit of vintage beauty that intimidates me the most. How on earth did they all do this neatly??! As it is I have to paint my nails in the evenings, so the liberal amounts of polish that ends up slopped all over my fingers can rinse off in the shower the next morning. I do like the look of it, but it’s definitely something I’m not going to attempt myself.

  • Angela Peters
    August 4, 2010

    You have just clarified something for me. When I was a little girl and my grandmother and I were sitting around doing our nails together, she would always remark on my “lovely natural half-moons.” She would tell me not to paint my nails because it would be a shame to cover this up. I couldn’t understand the big deal, and I eventually grew out of the half-moons. I never knew about the moon manicure until today, but Grandma was growing up in a time when it was all the rage. Evidently to have the moons without the polish was highly prized.

  • Fiona - Notorious Kitsch
    August 4, 2010

    You know what I really really don’t like it, I don’t know why but I just don’t.

    I go for a more 50s look anyway and pretty much every picture you see of that time women don’t have that type of manicure. I don’t know enough about it but it seems to be a more 40s look to me, but I could be terribly wrong, plus I’m glad I don’t like it cos I couldn’t do it!!

  • Lottie
    August 4, 2010

    I’m well impressed that you went to that effort. I have been considering giving it a go for a while but I can’t be doing with the faff. Nice idea on the sticker front though. Yours looks far better than I have seen many others attempts.

  • melina bee
    August 5, 2010

    I’ve been wanting to try this for a while… to get the perfect moons, use french manicure strips. you place them on before painting and they work like painter’s tape basically leaving the nail bare after your remove it.
    I want to leave my tips bare as I am curious to know if it will let the manicure last far longer?

  • melina bee
    August 5, 2010

    also I would love to recommend a wonderful product by essie called Quick E. apply a drop on top of a regular nail polish and it will be totally dry in like 10 min

  • Sherin
    August 5, 2010

    I think it looks good and you did a great job on them. My hand isn’t nearly as steady enough for this though!

  • Laura Kim Connell
    August 5, 2010

    Thanks for that info! I love learning about fashion history

  • bonita
    August 7, 2010

    I think it looks really great, and if it does help your nails to breath I might have to try it myself. Too much polish leads to yellow tinged nails. Ewww! Gross!! >x<

    b. of Depict This!

  • liz
    August 10, 2010

    I think it looks super cute!

    I remember when I was very young, my grandmother would paint my nails (I did not have a steady hand) and always leave the moons and even the sides bare! It drove me crazy! She said painting the entire nail was vulgar..

  • Mother!!
    August 12, 2010

    You remember well! Leaving the half moons bare was in a little red book called Beauty Hints which came free with a Playtex Cross Your Heart Bra in 1973!!! xx

  • Mother!!
    August 12, 2010

    and I still have the book by the way!!!

  • lisa
    August 16, 2010

    I’d never heard of moon manicures until now. They look fun! I wonder if I have hole reinforcers from my school days lying around…

  • Anthea
    August 16, 2010

    Very very interesting! Thanks for sharing! Did not know that people used to do this.

  • Steph
    August 18, 2010

    I love the half-moon look but on the couple of occasions I’ve tried it, I’ve found it far too fiddly. My hands shake a lot due to a neurological condition but I suspect the trick is just to keep trying. You’ve done a good job with yours.

  • Angela Deaton
    August 19, 2010

    I love the look that you did. I am curious to see what it would look like with different colors also! Are you planning on mixing it up!??

    • Retro Chick
      August 19, 2010

      I do plan on giving it another go with different colours, but my nails have broken quite a bit from putting up tents, so I need to grow them back a bit first!