Classic Red Carpet Makeup That Stands the Test of Time

For your formal-event beauty mood board.

classic makeup angelina jolie
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From Elizabeth Taylor at the Oscars to Zendaya at Valentino, beauty looks we consider "classic" have evolved over time. In the '70s, pretty pastels were all the rage; in the '90s, makeup was all matte browns and pinks; and in the last decade, we've seen dramatic, bold eye makeup take center stage. But no matter your favorite decade and makeup trend, you'll find a timeless beauty look on this list to love.

Whether you have a formal event coming up or just want to evolve your "classic" go-to makeup, there's something on this list for you. Below, the most classic red carpet beauty ever.


classic makeup cher

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At the 1974 Grammys, not long after Cher had split from Sonny, she debuted this infamous butterfly outfit—complete with hair clip. Beauty-wise, the matching purple and silver eyeshadow is very '70s in a great way, and I love the mauve glossy lip as a contrast.

Lauren Hutton

classic makeup lauren hutton

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Obviously it's difficult to see in this photo, but Lauren Hutton's iconic pastel Halston dress at the 1975 Oscars was a standout from the prestigious event. She kept her makeup simple so that the focus could be on the dress: her skin was gently tanned but barely had any blush or eyeshadow.

Bella Hadid

classic makeup bella hadid

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Actual supermodel Bella Hadid has rocked a number of edgy beauty looks. But I love it when she breaks out a softer look; this, for the Fashion For Relief Cannes 2018 event, relies on a pink blush and deep fuchsia lip for a vivid and "sun-kissed" vibe.

Hailey Bieber

classic makeup hailey bieber

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The 2023 Vanity Fair Oscar Party is seen as one of Hailey Bieber's best beauty looks ever, which is really saying something. She's got that "lit from within" glow on her face, and the rest of the look relies on soft pinks and browns for an elevated version of the no-makeup-makeup look.

Drew Barrymore

classic makeup drew barrymore

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Drew Barrymore probably didn't know she'd hit the pinnacle of the '90s in this look from the 1998 Oscars. But there's something about the combination of daisies, dark mauve lip, very skinny brows, short bangs, and body glitter that combines all the things we loved.

Lily Collins

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Lily Collins' pretty pink gown at the 2017 Golden Globes is already epic. But in a genius move, instead of going for a contrasting color on her face, she really leaned in. The bright pink blush and eyeshadow, plus that deep red lip, really made for a synergistic moment.

Emma Watson

classic makeup emma watson

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At the last premiere for the Harry Potter franchise in 2011 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) Emma Watson was ready to show off a more daring look. The shorter, slicked-back hair and gold flecked black eyeshadow delivered that in spades.


classic makeup rihanna

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At the CFDA Awards in 2014, Rihanna gave us an extremely sheer outfit that was as daring as it was stylish. The matching head scarf was perfectly sparkly (matching her light pink lip color, no less). But her ombre smokey eye might be my favorite part.

Reese Witherspoon

classic makeup reese witherspoon

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It's one of her most indelible images: Reese Witherspoon looking like a vision in yellow at the 2007 Golden Globes. Her pretty wheat-colored highlights—complementary but not matching to her dress—plus the deep pink of her lips and cheeks make her look feel cohesive.

Rita Ora

classic makeup rita ora

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Rita Ora likes dramatic makeup. This looks from the 2018 Grammys is therefore no exception, although I think the way she deploys red lipstick here is phenomenal. The light silvery eyeshadow matches her gown and jewelry, and her dark roots match with her darker brows.

Charlize Theron

classic makeup charlize theron

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Charlize Theron is a familiar presence at the Oscars—this is from her 2016 red carpet appearance. She keeps things simple with a soft updo and minimal smokey eye; the pink lip (instead of the more expected red) helps the look feel romantic instead of bold.

Lady Gaga

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Lady Gaga has given us so many edgy and cool makeup looks that I've lost count. When she started to move into her "Old Hollywood" era right around A Star Is Born (this is from the 2019 Grammys), though, I loved it just as much. This graphic eyeshadow matches perfectly with her dark roots.

Dua Lipa

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Dua Lipa showed up to the 2024 Grammys in a gorgeous metallic chainmail dress. Naturally, her silvery eyeshadow matches, and her lips and cheeks are somewhat complementary in a neutral way. But the auburn hair, for me, takes the look from beautiful to legendary.

Barbra Streisand

classic makeup barbra streisand

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At the 1969 Oscars, Barbra Streisand was a vision in a soft, but graphic, cat-eye and her signature hairstyle. While we might not see this extremely blunt bob as often nowadays, back then it was pretty synonymous with Streisand. Frankly, she matches her statue to perfection.

Lucy Liu

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Lucy Liu's top-notch red carpet track record spans decades. This is from the Golden Globes in 2013, and everything feels "messy" and "undone" in the best way. A soft flush on lips and cheeks, smudged eyeliner, and a full, messy braid, all matching her romantic dress.

Gemma Chan

classic makeup gemma chan

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This 2019 Oscars look on Gemma Chan is one for the record books: even now, a brilliant color at the event can still be one of the best looks of the night. It's also brilliantly constructed so that the ruff reflects some pink onto her face, and she has pink on lips, cheeks, and even eyeshadow.


classic makeup beyonce

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This chunky long bob on Queen Bey (at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party) is one of her best. She doesn't always wear her hair short like this, but she carries it off to perfection. A simple, precise cat-eye and pink lips keep her whole look classic instead of trendy.

Michelle Williams

classic makeup michelle williams

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Michelle Williams' mustard-colored dress at the 2006 Oscars was the star of the evening. But it might not have had quite the impact it did without an equally bold lip. So, opting for a beautiful bright and glossy red lipstick was the cherry on top on the figurative sundae.


classic makeup zendaya

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At the Valentino Womenswear Fall/Winter 2022/2023 show (which put this vivid pink front and center), Zendaya was singlehandedly showing the potential of the color. I love this long, graphic cat-eye that gives us an equally bold beauty moment to match.

Tracee Ellis Ross

classic makeup tracee ellis ross

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We're really spoiled for choice when we're trying to pick Tracee Ellis Ross' best beauty looks. The 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party is actually a little more scaled-back then she sometimes does: the red dress and glittery earrings are already striking, with some gorgeous black eye makeup to give it a little extra gravitas.

Emma Stone

classic makeup emma stone

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This might be a hot take, but I really enjoyed Emma Stone in her blonde era. This is a bit of a throwback look (it's from the 2011 Critics Choice Awards) but paired with a gorgeous tan and dark-but-minimal eye makeup, Stone looks beachy and relaxed and stunning.

Gigi Hadid

classic makeup gigi hadid

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The Met Gala calls for edgy, out-there beauty looks (usually to match the outfits). This extreme cat eye on Gigi Hadid at the 2017 Met Gala has even more detail than at first glance; having her hair cascade down over one half of her face means that our eyes are drawn upwards towards her face and hair.


classic makeup rihanna

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This is Rihanna's 5th Annual Diamond Ball in 2019. So, the singer-actor-businesswoman looks appropriately cool and in command at the event literally bearing her name. Her red lip matches the decoration behind her, and her hair is chic without being too serious.

Elizabeth Taylor

classic makeup elizabeth taylor

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At the 1970 Oscars, all eyes were on Elizabeth Taylor's diamond necklace (a gift from Richard Burton, originally designed as a ring but then refashioned into this gorgeous piece). It's beside the point, but I love her matching lavender eyeshadow and appropriately big hair.

Sienna Miller

classic makeup sienna miller

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Sienna Miller has been to the Oscars a few times, and each time she gives us a new, fun beauty look. This, from 2015, is an extremely precise cat eye and some loose but detailed twists in her hair. It just goes to show that simplicity can be just as eye-catching and revelatory.

Jennifer Lawrence

classic makeup jennifer lawrence

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Jennifer Lawrence infamously tripped up the stairs at the 2013 Oscars in very sweet, goofy fashion. But she also looked stellar while doing it: an ornate, braided, impressive updo; deep and dramatic smokey eye; and simple pink makeup to complement her dress.

Jennifer Garner

classic makeup jennifer garner

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Jennifer Garner has absolutely nailed her red carpet look. This, from the 2016 Oscars, is exceptionally classic, with pink lips and eyes and a dark but not too dramatic smokey eye. My favorite part is the touch of sparkle on her lower eyelid to match her jewelry.

Ruth Negga

classic makeup ruth negga

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Ruth Negga's silvery Golden Globes dress from 2017 often makes "best red carpet gowns" lists, and for good reason. But let us not forget that her silver and gray eyeshadow matches the dress perfectly, and yet somehow doesn't look matchy-matchy at all.

Emily Blunt

classic makeup emily blunt

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In much a similar way, Emily Blunt's beauty look from the 2019 Golden Globes is complementary to her outfit and jewelry. The silver eyeshadow against her cornflower blue eyes brings her whole face to life, ensuring that she doesn't get lost in the dress.

Cindy Crawford

classic makeup cindy crawford

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Cindy Crawford in a white gown at the 1993 Oscars (with Richard Gere on her arm) is pretty perfect—and very '90s, in the best way. The makeup is pretty minimal, with a little matte lipstick and brown eyeshadow. That's all the look needed: it's not overdone.

Janelle Monae

classic makeup janelle monae

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Gold is one of Janelle Monae's best colors. If you're unfamiliar, she has a graphic style, mostly wearing outfits in black and white, but when she brings in vibrancy as she does here at the 2017 Oscars, it's a gorgeous up-level. She's covered in the hue, all the way up to her eyeshadow and headband.

Angelina Jolie

classic makeup angelina jolie

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Angelina Jolie attended the Oscars in 2004 wearing a dress inspired by Marilyn Monroe's infamous subway scene in The Seven-Year Itch. Her beauty look was Marilyn for the modern day, with a nod to Monroe's signature cat-eye but with a dramatic updo and pink lips.

Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.