Think Outside the Red – Other ideas for your vintage nail polish color

cutex nail polish advertisement 1930s

We often see women in vintage clothing wearing red nail polish, but there are a ton of other colors we can choose from. Nail polish became very much en vogue in the 1930s. Women’s favorite movie stars like Bette David and Jean Harlow showed off their avant garde half moon nail polish and women at home wanted to follow suit.

Bette Davis 1930s with blond hair and hands around face with half moon manicure
Bette Davis, early 1930s

Red was mentioned everywhere in vintage cosmetic advertisements and books, but it is important to know that ad copy mentioning red, does not necessarily mean a true red. If the article called something a pink red, they meant pink, an tawny red meant orange.

Vintage-nail-polish-colors- 1930s-cutex advertisement
1930s Cutex Nail Advertisement

Here are some beautiful colors from some vintage Cutex Nail Polish ads from the late 1930s that are perfect summer shades paired with outfit colors you might wear them with.

I am not sure why they used color language this way. Part of me thinks it must be because color was not as prevalent. Many magazines in the 1930s were still printed in black and white with maybe a spot color of red or green. Movies were mostly in black and white. Photography… everything, except tangible products in people’s everyday lives like clothing, furniture, makeup…

You might also like: 1940s Nail Polish Trends

This advertisement shows coral, rose and ruby nail polish colors. And usual for cosmetic colors of this time period, you are suppose to match it to your outfit color.

cutex nail tint enamel polish 1930s advertisement

The advertisement reads:


Coral nails are bewilderingly lovely with white, pale pink, beige, gray, “the blue”, black and dark brown. Smart also with any of the depper colors (except red) if not too intense.


Rose is a lovely feminine shade that you can wear with any color dress. Blondes often prefer it to all other shades. It is subtle and charming with pastel pinks, lavender blues… smart with dark green, black and brown.

You might also like: Violet, Plum, Lavender… Purple Undertones in Vintage Makeup


Ruby is a new real red red. Choose it for any color dress when you want to be particularly gay and dashing. It is especially striking with white, black, and any of the pale pastel tints.

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1 Comment

  1. Hey love your blog. I like how there are vintage magazine clips very cool. I always lie looking at those old ads because it is not something us new age people are familiar with. I am a fan!

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Welcome to the Bobby Pin Blog! I am Lauren Rennells and as a hairstylist, makeup artist, writer, and generally artistic over-achiever, the Bobby Pin Blog is my outlet for thoughts and research about vintage hair and makeup trends and how to recreate them today. Thank you for stopping by!

As an Etsy and Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an independent blogger, I link these items because of my own opinions and not because of the commission I may receive.



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