“You know a woman means business when she puts on red lipstick.” This quote from famous fashionista Elizabeth Middleton could not be more true. Nothing speaks drama quite like a good coat of red lipstick. After all, haven’t all the best seduction scenes in movies been instigated by women in red lipstick? One can only imagine how much less impactful the characters of Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) in Pulp Fiction or Jessica Rabbit in “Who Shot Roger Rabbit?” would have been if they had chose a rosy pink.
Red is the color of passion, the color of blood and when a woman puts it on one of her most erotic body parts, it is bound to cause a stir, and over the years it certainly has.
Perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find out that red lipstick got off to a rocky start. Most of the earliest red lipsticks contained ingredients that could easily kill you. The first documented red lipstick (Sumeria , 2500 BC) was made from white lead and pulverized red rocks and Cleopatra famously achieved her red lips by crushing beetles and ants to get the right shade of blood and used fish scales to achieve a shiny texture.
Although the 1500’s saw the advent of red lipstick made of herbal based dyes, apparently no one told Queen Elizabeth I about them. The queen, who adopted red lipstick as part of her signature look, looked so youthful in her makeup, that medieval Europeans began to believe red lipstick could ward off death.They found out how wrong they were when Elizabeth apparently died from the white lead in her favorite cosmetic.
1700’s and 1800’s
After the queen’s passing, red lipstick became less morally favorable. In 1770, British Parliament, declared that women who wore brightly- hued lipstick were seductresses and would be punished with annulment of their marriages and accusations of witchcraft; declaring red lipstick reserved for prostitutes. The more liberal French, however, disagreed, encouraging red lipstick for the upper class, while prostitutes and peasants were traditionally bare faced. This did little to change the minds of the British whose Queen Victoria declared red lipstick impolite making it unfashionable in the 1800’s. They were suitably shocked when French movie star Sarah Bernhardt began habitually applying her red lipstick in public.
By the 1900’s, as Bernhardt’s reputation as an independent glamorous women began to grow, so too did the popularity of what she referred to as her “love pen.” Add that to the fact that lipstick was now being made with castor oil and beeswax, and a new trend was born. In 1915, the first metal tube of red lipstick was manufactured. Red lipstick became the fashion choice of suffragettes in New York and was gaining traction with cosmetic companies such as Elizabeth Arden Max Factor and Chanel. Arden, in fact, took the opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of the emerging cosmetic trend by handing tubes of the stuff out to the marching suffragettes herself. Old Hollywood starlets, Clara Bow and Greta Garbo increased the desire for red lips by modeling them on the silver screen, and by the 1940’s, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rita Hayworth were all donning the ruby cosmetic.
The rest, as they say is history. While purples, blues and blacks have all been modeled to varying degrees of success, it seems that nothing has outlasted or outdone the classic. Just look at fashion and pop icons like Gwen Stefani and Rihanna for proof. Nothing seems to hold the inimitable glamor and power of a good red lipstick.
So what does red lipstick mean to you? Let us know! We love to hear it!