Joanna Dryden gives us a brief history of the most iconic of make-up bag essentials: the red lip.
It’s 7pm on Thursday 14th February, 2013 and you’re about to embark on that highly anticipated Valentine’s date. The nerves have kicked in and as you check your reflection in the mirror for what feels like the thousandth time, you wonder if that flourish of red lipstick is just a step too far. Even in our current society, where trends such as underwear-as-outerwear are deemed acceptable, we still find ourselves embroiled in the red lipstick debate: is it sexy or trashy? Do red lips whisper ‘come-hither’ or do they scream ‘I’m-gagging-for-it’?
Whatever your opinion, there’s no doubt that lipstick – the most pertinent and controversial of make-up materials – has a fascinating history. Mesopotamian women, circa 3000 BC, originally made it from crushed gemstones, and other ancient civilizations used it as decoration during tribal events. However, in medieval Europe it was banned due to its satanic connotations, and so began the trials of this cosmetic essential. Long labelled the tool of prostitutes and ‘loose’ women due to its association with female genitalia, lipstick and other make-up only became socially acceptable in the 1920s. This paved the way for the era of the red lip during the 1950s, in which it became the staple accessory of screen sirens and fashion icons. Could we imagine iconic images of Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe without their red lips? Thanks to these stars, make-up is now a core feature in most young females’ lives – but why do we still feel so shy about brandishing a bold, sexy, colourful red lip?
I am one of those females who cannot be without her make-up bag, let alone her lipstick. My name is Joanna Dryden and I am a self-confessed lipstick addict. The MAC counter at Selfridges is my sanctuary (I should probably seek help, I know), yet even I find myself caught up in the conflict of whether I’ll end up looking Elizabeth Taylor-esque or more like a lady of the night. The way to achieve the former is to ensure your lippy is impeccably applied and to think about the outfit you’re pairing it with. A classic dark-palette evening look with red lips spells instant glamour, but recently stars such as Marion Cotillard have been pairing bright dresses in shades of pink or yellow with their rouge, thereby updating the trend.
The wonder of lipstick in its rainbow of colours is in its ability to completely transform an outfit, and red in particular can work wonders on us, making our teeth look whiter and brightening our complexion. Be bold and embrace the lipstick trend and remember that when it comes to red lipstick, it’s all about how you wear it. Take your lead from Gwen Stefani and Dita von Teese in keeping it apple-red and impeccably applied, but beware of the tacky Kat Slater look: stay away from the leopard print bralet.