Gatsby nails: Classic 1920s Manicure

The moment I got the idea to do ‘5 days of Gatsby’, I knew that I wanted to do a nail post. I thought of doing an art deco manicure (similar to the pattern from the movie’s promo posters and the tie-in novel cover below), but there are quite a few variations of that idea around the web already. I decided to research what a Classic 1920s Manicure looked like and do that in stead.

1920s manicure

From different sources I have found conflicting information on this manicure. Some sites say it was not worn until late to mid ’30s, but others say it started in the early ’20s. From what I have read and from old print ads I’ve seen online, I’d say it was the latter.

It has most commonly¬† been referred to as the ‘moon manicure’, but I have also seen it being called the ‘Paris manicure’. In the late 1930s/early 1940s the manicure changed a little, women no longer left the tips of their nails bare and filed the tips into a slight point (like Dita Von Tesse wears now).

How to apply the Classic 1920s manicure

Prep your nails by filing any uneven edges, a rounded edge works best for this manicure. Then apply a base coat.

To create the half moon I drew on the shape at the base of my nails with a tooth pick. You can also use reinforcement rings (the stickers that go over binder holes), if you want a guide for your half moon shapes.

1920s manicure

It looks like I’m bleeding out of my nail-bed ew! haha

Then paint the rest of the nail, being careful not to go over the line of the half moon.

1920s manicureClean up the edges of your nails by using a cotton bud dipped in nail polish remover.

The final step is to rub off the tips of each nail with another cotton bud (dipped in remover), you may need to use a few so there is no red stain left on there. If you don’t rub off enough of the tip, it will look like they have worn away. A little less than the width of a french tip will do.

1920s manicureNo top coat is needed, as this manicure was designed to last longer than if it was a full painted nail! This Classic 1920s manicure was normally only worn by ‘society’ women, it sort of served as a status symbol until the 1930’s when the tips were painted and only the ‘moon’ left bare.

1920s manicure

What I used:
-Sally Hansen Double duty base and top coat
-Be Yourself Acetone free nail polish remover
– Johnson’s pure cotton, cotton buds applicators
-Bourjois 1 second nail polish in #11 Rouge in style

I thought I would mention, this manicure does kind of tie in with The Great Gatsby. I won’t know for sure until I see the movie, but from what I have seen in the trailers ‘Jordan Baker’ is seen wearing the same (if not, similar) manicure at one of Gatsby’s house parties.


I hope you liked my 1920s manicure tutorial. Come back tomorrow for Day 3 of my 5 Days of Gatsby.




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