When it comes to “period dressing” — that is, trying to achieve the most accurate image of a fashion decade — every little detail makes all the difference. Just imagine going to a Colonial America themed show where tons of ladies are in fancy dresses, wigs and such. One of them comes over to you to greet and shake hands and you look down to see chipped glitter nail polish on her fingernails. You can officially thank her for ruining the magic. Nails, believe it or not, can be a huge factor in a good first impression. No other women know this best than those of the 1940s, where nails were just as important (if not more) as hair and makeup. Today, we are offered with an array of popular styles from simple French manicures to stiletto nails and nail decals. The most iconic nails however reigning from the ’30s and ’40s were the crescent moon nails, more commonly referred to as the half-moon manicure. These nails get their name by the way they are painted, solid with a crescent shape left unpainted or lighter for contrast. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to achieve them with the help of glue-on nails for fingers that grab all the attention.
You’ll need a pack of fake nails (my little box of 100 came with glue for only $5 at Target and trust me— they won’t look so fake!), a nail file, nail clipper, cuticle pusher, nail conditioner/cuticle oil (optional but recommended), a thin paint brush, nail polish remover, your choice of nail polish and a top coat.
Begin by removing all pre-existing nail polish. Perfect your cuticles into a consistent round shape by pushing the cuticle back gently. When finished, swipe on a bit of cuticle oil (I got mine at Sally’s with a wonderful almond scent for $5. Seriously a great investment.) It gets rid of all the white edges and conditions the skin. Swipe on nail conditioner while you’re at it too (also from Sally’s for $5). It strengthens the nail which ultimately helps grow them. Both of these are brand “Nail Magic” and truly help improve your nails!
Play around with the nail kit to find the best ones for each finger. Sometimes their predetermined sizes aren’t exactly your size. Don’t be afraid to cut them down on the sides for a perfect fit especially if you have more narrow fingernails. Make sure to keep them organized so that you aren’t scrambling for nails as you glue them on.
Carefully glue each nail on one at a time. Concentrate on placing the glue towards the top of the fingernail but also spread evenly for full coverage. Press for a few seconds to ensure they won’t come off.
This is one of the most important steps to achieve that classic ’40s manicure. Nails were shaped in an almond shape. Although the kit I purchased stated the nails to be “oval”, I still clipped the sides of the nails to form a point and filed the point for the almond shape. Really take your time with the shaping of the nails.
This is what your nails should look like.
Take your solid color and begin painting the nail, leaving a crescent shape unpainted. As a general rule, your crescent shape should begin at the top corner of the nail and extend down towards the other corner. Don’t worry if your free hand painting comes out messy. You’ll be cleaning it up in the next step.
Dip your thin paintbrush into nail polish remover and smooth out the edges of your crescent shape. Other tutorials show the crescent done with a hole-punch reinforcer sticker but it leaves jagged edges at times. This is a much cleaner method of perfecting the shape.
Repeat the same steps for your next hand and finish with a top coat. Go out and show off your fabulous ’40s nails!