Happy World Lipstick Day – Take A Look At The On-Screen Evolution of Red Lips
First of all – happy lipstick day. If one of the oldest pieces of beauty kit didn’t deserve a day of celebration… Well then who does? While the first ever versions of lip-dyeing dates 5000 years back to the Ancient Sumerians, it wasn’t until 1915 that they began being sold in metal tubes we know today. The first brands to consider lipstick in its current format as a make-up staple were Elizabeth Arden and Estée Lauder, both at the forefront of the 20th century beauty revolution. But before there were hundreds of Mac shades, there was the red lipstick. Originally popularised in the mainstream by flappers in 1920s, that perfect shade of ruby was an object that transcended time or culture. No beauty standard was too high for a hot red lip. That, of course, was fueled by the development of the cinematic industries from black and white and into colour.
Girls (and boys) saw stars of the silver screen with a splash of carmine on their lips and instantly understood what it stood for. That vibrancy meant independence – the lipstick was there to make sure the audience was paying attention to what these women had to say. Just look at Carmen Miranda in That Night in Rio (1941). While her outrageous outfits and fruit basket hats oozed with levels of camp that were at that point unseen on the screen, her signature red lip was a sign she wasn’t just a clown singing and dancing about. She was a woman in charge of her own sexuality. Similarly, Marilyn Monroe developed that openly sexual character even further, playing with the perception of femininity and the male gaze. Dorothy Dandridge played Carmen Jones in 1954, a rebellious female lead who fought for what she believed in. On her lips – a stark red hue that matched her signature wrap skirt. The role earned her the title of the first African American to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award.
And then there was the hey day of bold strokes. 1980s and 1990s were about colourful statements in the beauty realm, as the colour wheel expanded and the options became in abundance. Whether it’s Lily Tomlin in 9 to 5 or Julia Roberts as The Pretty Woman, a signature blood-hued lip was their weapon of choice in proving they were worthy more than what the world would care to admit. Michelle Pfeiffer’s take on the Catwoman wouldn’t be what it was if her porcelain skin and patent black catsuit weren’t contrasted by the lipstick. The stock character of femme fatale was established and updated. But then came along Mulan, as one of the most game-changing Disney “princesses” out there. In 1998, she stood tall against gender norms and tradition, and proved not every Disney female lead had to strive for the same kind of perfection. While she didn’t feel comfortable with her full beat on, Mulan’s red lip moment was a turning point in understanding that, while beautiful, tradition shouldn’t be the norm. It’s up to you to decide how to use a red lipstick. But its powers are aplenty. Passion, sexuality, confidence. It’s a little bit of everything your life can benefit from.