Red lipstick has been a fashion statement for decades. After coming across the photos below I thought I would look at history and figure out how this all started and why. I came upon a slideshow by Elle, which left many questions still unanswered:
How does something popular become the complete opposite over time? What are the drivers behind such a change? What was up with Queen Victoria? How did she arrive at deeming one thing impolite and another thing not? What sort of changes contributed to cosmetics’, and in particular, red lipstick’s, return to popularity in the 1900s? How did cosmetics evolve in different areas of the world? This subject will need to be revisited in the future, for sure.
1500s – It was believed lipstick and other cosmetics could protect a person from dying. The Queen of England, Elizabeth I, (1533-1603) believed in that and took to an ultra white face and bright red lipstick.
1600s – Makeup still popular.
1700s – England does a 180. Cosmetics were only for prostitutes and grounds for divorce included wearing makeup before the wedding! France continued to favour the cosmetics industry and decided au naturelle would be for the prostitutes.
1800s – Victorian England continues their aversion. Queen Victoria calls it impolite to wear cosmetics. Momentum carries over to the rest of the Western world.
1900s – Back in vogue.
1930s – Women buying lipstick becomes an important part of war effort. It is encouraged.
1940s – Cosmetics come under fire again and propaganda attempts to persuade young girls that men would not want them if they wore makeup. Effective marketing won this war as by late 1940s, 90% of women wore lipstick.
1950s – Lipstick accepted as attractive, now sexy. 90% usage among American women rises to near 100% with the help of celebrity influences like Marilyn Monroe.
1960s – Women overall have a falling out with red lipstick opting for lighter tones like white and beige.
1970s – The rise of punk takes non-traditional, darker colours like black and purple along for the ride.
1980s – Red returns. The exotic appeal of Russian red lends to popularity aided by pop icons like Madonna.
1990s – Red sticks around among celebrities and is depended on when one’s purpose is to be noticed.
2000-2010s – Pop icons continue to provide the driving force fueling red lipstick’s stay in purses around the world.
Stunning photographs of three of today’s stars: (Top to Bottom) Song Hye-Gyo (Korea), Li Bingbing (China), and Angelababy (Hong Kong).
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