Vintage fashionista lipstick colors
Dec 19, 2018 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
I would describe my daily makeup routine as minimal, but when I do want to wear a lip color I struggle to pick what works best for me. Instead of feeling overwhelmed in the makeup aisle, I plan to take a whole new approach in the coming year – I’m going to pair my shade with the era of my outfit. We’ve chatted about lipstick style in the past, but join me as we look at vintage fashionista lipstick colors through the ages.
Lipstick was first seen around 3,500 B.C. In these early days, both men and women perfected their pout with a little extra hue. The most common lipstick recipe: red ochre, carmine (a deep, rich red color) and fat. This pop of color was seen as a status symbol. But for a woman in ancient Greece, wearing lipstick outside classified her as having low moral character. Over in Rome, women could wear it publicly and the shade aligned with social status (rather than picking a color based on skin tone or outfit choice). Empires rose and fell, yet lipstick remained equal parts controversial and indicative of rank. Thanks to Queen Victoria, the use of lipstick largely fell out of favor during the 1800s. By the early 1900s, red lips were back in vogue and the invention of lipstick a few years later was the breakthrough makeup innovation of its time. You can read more about the historical debate behind who invented lipstick here.
The flapper girls
By the 1920s, the advancements in cosmetic product development were at a fever-pitch and the timing couldn’t have been more ideal. For this was the era of the flapper girl – rebellious and vivacious. Emerging from the horrible sadness of the great war, these young women embraced risks in fashion and shook up the status quo. This was also when the entertainment scene was changing – jazz and cinema were taking their place in society. In parallel, the celebrity lifestyle was promoted via cross-country media outlets. Stars like Clara Bow needed a look that stood out on screen and in print. The quintessential flapper look included smoky eyes, bobbed hair, and berry lip tones (the deeper the shade, the better). Lipstick was also applied to maximize the cupid’s bow, defining the perfect pout for the 1920s.
Vibrant color rules supreme
Unfortunately, these fun-loving times weren’t destined to last, for on the heels of the jazz age came a decade of turmoil. The stock market crash and increased tensions in Europe were in stark contrast to the previous years of excess. Often during times of trouble, women run to fashion. Less-expensive accessories like makeup are an easy way for a woman to boost her spirits and add a little extra joy to the day. The colors most popular during the 1930s included magenta, pink, and red. Acceptable color tones even ventured as far out as a vivid orange. If you feel like you want to take this bold spectrum up a notch – look no further than the 1980s. This decade bears some resemblance to the 1920s, but instead of a streamlined silhouette it was all about exaggeration: sequins, big hair, shoulder pads, and heavy makeup. Lip colors ran the whole gamut of the rainbow, but a bright pink hue was always a tubular choice!
Roses are red…
It’s unanimous: the perfect complement to victory rolls is a bright, red lip. The 1940s woman was empowered, feminine, and strong. She could be found on the frontlines, in the factories, or raising a family. The red hues that were synonymous with power were gracing the smiles of women coast to coast. Cosmetic companies jumped on the bandwagon, advertising for “victory red.” Just as the GI’s were fighting overseas, it became a woman’s duty to cultivate her look. A quote from one such ad underscores the point – “No lipstick…. will win the war. But it symbolizes one of the reasons why we are fighting—the precious right of women to be feminine and lovely under any circumstances.” The spirit behind this polished look proved so moving, it carried on well into the triumphant post-war era.
The eyes have it
What could stop victory red in its tracks? The swinging sixties, that brought with it the British invasion. I’m not talking about the Beatles, but Twiggy. If Clara Bow’s look was all about her pout, Twiggy was all about her doe-eyed expression. Lip color took a backseat to mascara and eyeliner. Hues from this time transitioned to subtle pink tones.
Sun-kissed and simple
The 1970s looks are flowy, relaxed, and bohemian. The style star of this decade was Farrah Fawcett, with her easygoing smile and luxurious hair. Given her California girl looks, it stands to reason that lipstick colors trended toward neutral tones. Next time you wear a gunny sack dress, keep it simple and let your natural beauty shine!
I hope you’ve enjoyed our stroll through vintage fashionista lipstick colors. Each decade brings fresh inspiration and it’s great to see the big impact something as small as lipstick had on the fashion scene of yore. With a new year approaching, now seems like the perfect time to explore some new looks. Tell me about your favorite vintage lipstick colors in the comments!