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The red lipstick – lust, self-possession, sexuality and power

August 24, 2014

Red lipstick has a long history and Chanel’s red lipstick is probably the most famous of them all. There are others too, such as YSL and Helena Rubenstein, but somehow Chanel’s red lipstick seems to stick in most women’s mind when one conjures up ideas on the iconic red lip colour. This is a little ironic, when you consider that Coco Chanel herself was reported to not even like red lipstick, or red nail colour, as she considered both vulgar and garish.

Red Lipstick

Red Lipstick

 

 

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It has always been in fashion and its ubiquitous appearance goes as far back as the medieval times. Over the years it’s come to be seen as a sign of self-expression, power, liberation and immorality. In the early part of the 20th century red lipstick was associated with prostitutes and during the Second World War Adolf Hitler expressed his contempt for the red lipstick considering it an anathema to his Aryan ideal.

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Suffragettes would wear red lipstick as an act of defiance and in the Second World War it would come to represent strength and power with names for individual lipsticks to match the fighting mood.

In the 1970s make up would be unpopular again with the rise of feminism, but it would come back with a vengeance in the 80s and 90s as popular as ever. What is it, I wonder, about red lipstick that women love so much, was it, is it still,the representation of power and liberation, a sign of a woman’s sexuality, or perhaps an allusion of youth as a woman’s lips lose the flush of a young girl?

Whatever the case, red lipstick will always be rife with associations, representing lust, self-possession, wanton sexuality and power. It remains the most daring and exciting of colours. Movie stars perpetuated the allusion of glamour and passion throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s with full pouting scarlet lips,with actresses such as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell giving the fiery cupid’s bow lip a real treat,the glamour and seduction associated with them both would trickle down to the rest of the population on both sides of the pond.

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Red lipstick is still popular today, but what’s really interesting is that lipstick cases are a real collector’s item. Lipstick holders may no longer be in use, but they are still something to be treasured. Metal is the most well-known of lipstick holders, but at one time, as hard as it is to imagine, porcelain was also a popular container for the lipstick, very feminine and overly fussy, they decorated women’s bedrooms throughout the 40s and 50s.

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If you’re interested in buying some vintage lipstick holders, take a look on eBay, etsy and twitter, there’s bound to be something you’ll find that catches your eye. Naturally you won’t want to use a lipstick from thirty years ago for reasons of hygiene, but there are ways to put your contemporary red lipstick in to a vintage lip holder. It’s tricky but possible, just place your current lipstick in the freezer, take it out of its container and stick it into the vintage lipstick holder with a little wax, or melt the bottom of the lipstick slightly to give it a soft base to stick on to the bottom of the lipstick holder. And there you have it, a little glamour, a little flash and some red lips at your disposal.

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