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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Subversive Femininity

Throughout its history, red lipstick has been given a great deal of thought.

  • In ancient Rome, women painted their lips with vermilion, and it was banned.
  • In Elizabethan times the women wore tinted red alabaster, and an edict prohibiting its use was published... women caught wearing red lipstick "shall be punished with the penalties of witchcraft"
  • The Nazi party banned all lipstick in 1933 to uphold their ideal of the pure Germanic mother figure.
  • In 1770 British Parliament passed a law that if a woman wore cosmetics before her wedding that marriage could be annulled. 
  • Again, in 1915, in Kansas a law was passed that a woman wearing cosmetics of any kind was a misdemeanor.
  • Medieval Europeans however believed that red lipstick and other cosmetics had the power to ward off death. 
  • Queen Elizabeth II had her own red shade mixed up to her specifications for her coronation.
  • In 1930s America red lipstick and female vanity was seen as a vital contribution to the war effort... although this was a big cosmetics advertising push at work.
  • In New York when suffragettes marched for the right to vote in 1912, they all wore red lipstick as a symbol of feminine power and solidarity.  

Of course later in the 1970s, we would learn that lipstick was a tool of patriarchal oppression... a very interesting conclusion given its true history don't you think?