Sketch of Rihanna wearing a lip-print one-shoulder top by Hedi Slimane for Yves Saint-Laurent.
'Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick' - Gwyneth Paltrow
As far as I can remember myself, I've always been fascinated my two things: high heels and red lipstick. Today I want to write about the latter.
I've never been an expert in make-up - I've learnt how to apply eyeliner only 2 years ago, and I barely use foundation. Mascara, powder and blush are my routine for years. That, and red lipstick.
Red's always been my signature lip color, it's something I simply need in my life. It boosts my confidence and I often feel the most empowered as a woman with this color on my lips.
One can argue that rather than giving confidence, wearing red lipstick requires confidence. This question will not be answered today; however I found two interested quotes about the matter that can help us understanding the complexity of the mythical 'Hollywood Lips':
"There is the chicken and egg question when it comes to red lipstick: is the person who wears the red lip more daring, or does she become that way because of the external reinforcement after the fact? We will never know." - Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner, psychologist and author of You Are What You Wear: What Your Clothes Say About You.
'During World War II, Elizabeth Arden created a red lipstick for American women serving in the US armed forces to help them feel confident and powerful.' - Anna DeVere, formerly of Elizabeth Arden, now working at Colour Me Beautiful.
Another plus side of the red lipstick: you don't need to do much, as it is best worn with fresh and clean makeup. You can make a statement not matter what you wear, and all you need is 5 minutes top in front of your mirror. That's the perfect morning routine: quick and with an amazing result!
Besides, red lipstick never goes out of style and it looks good on every woman no matter her skin tone. A true gift from God!
And in case you were wondering, my favorite Red is always with a matte finish. Lately I love 'Red Velvet' by Lime Crime, and 'Matte crimson' by Clinique.
But wait, when did red lipstick become such an important part of women's lives?
Ancient Mesopotamian women were probably the first to invent and wear lipstick, about 5,000 years ago, using crushed gemstones, followed by Ancient Egyptians and Roman Empire. Lipstick was made from fruits, insects, minerals, plants... and fixed with beeswax. But the first solid lipstick appeared in the 8-13th centuries, during the Islamic Golden Age.
During the Middle Ages, wearing red lipstick was linked to worshiping Satan, and the Pope issued a special directive banning the use of cosmetics. Its use was only for prostitutes and lower-class women.
By the 16th Century, Queen Elizabeth I, by wearing bright crimson on her lips, made cosmetics popular, although it was still disapproved of by the Church.
The popularity of red lips didn't last and the 17th Century saw the rise of a strict anti-cosmetics reign in England. The British Parliament made its position really clear, passing a law cancelling marriage if a woman wore cosmetics before her wedding. Again, cosmetics were to be worn only by prostitutes.
This taboo toward makeup continued during the 18th Century, with Queen Victoria pronouncing herself in favor of a natural look and declaring makeup impolite - lipstick was prohibited.
France was an exception, with cosmetics being accepted and even encouraged for the exact opposite idea - looking 'natural' for prostitutes.
During that time, makeup is associated with women of questionable morals and actresses, which were using red lipstick to darken their lip color in order to stand out on black-and-white film.
This use of lipstick by actresses on and off the stage eventually leads to lipstick becoming popular by the end of the century.
In the 1880 's in Paris, the perfumers started producing commercial lipstick, sold in pots on paper sheets or in paper tubes. A decade later, lipsticks were sold and advertised in Europe and the USA. In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal push-up lipstick tube . Before this, lipstick was made of deer tallow, castor oil, and beeswax and came wrapped in silk paper, which made it difficult to carry around in a purse. All of a sudden, lipstick became portable, easy to apply on-the-go, and affordable for ordinary women. Within years, major beauty companies like Chanel, Elizabeth Arden and Guerlain started selling lipstick.
During WWI, women started being more involved and present in workplaces, starting gaining independence. Women were now able to buy more cosmetics with their new incomes, while wearing lipstick was also a way to gain control of their own lives and bodies.
In U.S. teenagers were encouraged not to wear makeup, yet by the late 1940s, 90% of American women were wearing lipstick.
By the 1950s, movie actresses Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor were known for their use of red shades, making lipstick acceptable again for all.
After that 'Hollywood effect', Red lips definitely became a classic, and although they had their ups and downs, they never stopped being a sign of femininity and empowerment since then.
What kind of lipstick do you like? I would love to hear what red lipstick means to you, what's your favorite shade, if you like it on a day-to-day basis or if you reserve it for special occasions? And if you have something to add to this short history of lipstick, leave a comment! :)