Red Lips: Unravelling The Smile The Modern Woman Wears
“If you’re sad, add more lipstick and attack” Coco Chanel
Several historical events influenced perceptions that significantly defined the modern-day woman, one of which is the red lipstick. The iconic “red lipstick” has existed for over five thousand years, essentially redefining what characterises the contemporary woman. Though the red lipstick appears small and insignificant, this fashion piece has made major milestones in defining the woman of now. This executes primarily in the way she wants to be seen.
In 1912, “Elizabeth Arden”, a “distinguished cosmetic care founder, had no clue how riveting her actions of handing down red lipstick” in support of women’s rights would also define the modern woman, as the revolting women marched past her. The women coloured their lips red in solidarity with the fight for women’s rights as an act of rebellion and defiant spirit juxtaposed the quest for freedom.
Paradigms like the 1912 women’s march are not the only events that influenced the evolution of red lipstick. They characterise how crimson lips became an essential component that birthed contemporary woman’s usage of red lipstick.
In a surprising twist, in 1941 during the war, to put up a brave face, red lipsticks were mandated to be used by serving women who joined the US army. Arden’s brand was the sole provider of red lipsticks and nail polish to these women. The success of Arden’s brand hinges on those times. That way, red lipsticks became affiliated with freedom, a symbol of defiance and later glam.
The distinctive use of red lipsticks by iconic personalities has influenced the attitude shaping the way red lipstick are seen and used by women. The Golden Age of Hollywood saw the rise of a multiplicity of red lipstick being used by headlining actresses with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor carving a niche that is both regal and having sex appeal. Part of the unique identity of Marilyn Monroe is pinned to her daring red lips. Largely, the use of red lipsticks by the actress was to enhance the roles she had to play. Influencers like her created the sex appeal nature that is usually linked to a woman with red lipsticks, though drawn from its use centuries ago. In England, red lipsticks were made popular by Queen Elizabeth I, giving them the regal elements.
Another major element that shaped the perception of red lipstick is its involvement in world politics. History has it that Adolf Hitler would have you thrown in jail or even killed because, to him, red lipsticks denote defiance to fascism.
Moreso, in 1700-1800 England, the appearance of red lipstick was related to witchcraft, while in other ancient societies like Greek, red lipsticks were lawfully worn by prostitutes to differentiate them from women of high status. Thus, the amorous significance is attributed to having red lips.
This classic cosmetic “weapon” is one bombshell like no other and is one colour that resonates with every female. The colour “red” is emblematic in some cultures. In “India”, red is a colour that denotes sensuality and purity. Red-coloured lips have defined the modern-day woman, oozing with confidence merged with authority.
Red lipsticks are one of the basic makeup essentials that sum up a lady’s look. Like other pieces of clothing worn, red lipstick enhances a woman’s look and brings out an alter ego that screams “I am fierce and powerful.”
As red lipstick comes in different shades to suit various skin tones, so have they transitioned in symbols to suit different times. They have been used as a weapon; a tool of protest, a self/image booster and the grand result of being a symbol of empowering women.