Red lipstick has the power to make the wearer feel unstoppable, so it’s not hard to see why for decades now it has been the one product in our cosmetic bags that completely outshines the rest. Remember fashion icon Coco Chanel’s mantra? “If you’re feeling sad, add more lipstick and attack,” she famously said. It’s empowering. It’s bold. It demands attention. “You don’t wear red lipstick when you want to blend in,” says Lori Woodhouse, a former film and TV makeup artist and now the Director of Education at Tom Ford in UK and Ireland. “It’s an instant pick-me-up.”
So where did it all begin? A look through history will show that powerful women have long used red lipstick to make their presence known. It was the first lip color ever made, dating back to Cleopatra, who used crushed bugs to create a hue for her lips, explains Woodhouse. During the Elizabethan Era, in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I believed red lipstick had the ability to ward off death; the church disapproved of its use and many believed it was black magic.
But the allure of red lipstick preserved. Before Hollywood got its hands on it, bright red lipstick was said to be a symbol of rebellion for marching suffragettes in the early 1900s. Then, in the ‘20s, it rose to prominence, thanks to silver screen starlets like Clara Bow. As demonstrated by Rita Hayworth in the ‘40s, Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor in the ‘50s, Audrey Hepburn in the ‘60s, Madonna in the ‘80s, and Gwen Stefani in the '90s, while the trends changed over the years, red lips never really strayed far from the spotlight.
In recent years, red lips have taken on new forms, playing with textures, shades, finishes, and hybrid effects. Looking ahead to Spring 2019, it’s no longer just about the glamorous look of decades past, says Woodhouse. Think shine-free, sheer mattes for a “just-bitten” pop of color. What hasn’t changed? It’s versatility. Finding the perfect red lipstick is like finding the perfect little black dress, she adds: “Everyone needs one that fits perfectly and makes you feel amazing.”
It all comes down to individual preference. Go for whatever makes you feel most confident. “Whether you’re going for dramatic, sexy, or casual-chic, you put on a red lip feel dressed instantly,” Woodhouse says.