2002-1er_Chanel Boutique-WM

Barbara Redmond

By Melissa Larson

Bold reds, bright pinks, pale nudes. Whatever the shade, lipstick has come to be the finishing touch on any chic outfit. Whether staining the rims of wine glasses or adding splashes of color to glossy fashion magazines, lipstick has come to be seen as a symbol of glamour and femininity around the world. But how did it manage to make it into the clutches and handbags of women around the world? While several companies and celebrities contributed to the rise of this trend throughout history, Coco Chanel was one of those that had much to do with its popularity.

Although oil, dyes, and wax act as some of the primary ingredients in lipstick today, the original recipe was much less glamorous. Women of ancient times started the trend by creating tints for their lips from crushed plants and insects. Initially when lipstick became more widespread, women refrained from wearing lipstick due to its associations with stigmatized actresses and prostitutes. However, as pale faces and bright lips became increasingly popular in upper class societies, countries around the world came to accept the new trend. Eventually, the style spread throughout the globe, and red lips became fashionable in Elizabethan England and continued throughout the centuries.

The newfound popularity spurred several innovations in lipstick packaging and distribution in the early 1900s. Up until this point, rather than using “sticks,” women used brushes to paint color onto their lips. However, cosmetic companies soon made the transition to paper tubes, to metal containers, and finally to the first swivel-tube in 1923, which allowed lipstick to become more accessible to the everyday woman. Lipstick flew off cosmetic store shelves as women hoped to emulate the styles of favorite actresses, such as Clara Bow. The trend continued despite world wars and economic depressions, and the creation of the first long-lasting lipstick occurred in the 1940s. As popularity continued to grow, Elizabeth Arden, Revlon, and other cosmetic companies increased their varieties of lipstick shades, fueling the makeup frenzy.

Among the customers busying themselves with choosing favorite colors and companies was Coco Chanel. However, rather than settling for a commercially manufactured shade, she created a signature color and left her own influence on the lipstick industry. Calling lipstick “a woman’s prime weapon of seduction,” Chanel did not leave her home without her “Rouge de Chanel,” created in the 1970s. Her love of lipstick prompted Bakélite, a company that created dashboards for cars, to design the black case that the lipstick continues to be sold in today. The innovations continued in 2006 when the company distributed “Rouge Allure,” a lipstick engraved with her iconic name.

These days, lipstick continues to be worn to emulate the glamour of old Hollywood. Yet, new trends have arrived on the scene in recent years. Used by men and women alike, cosmetics can portray anything from the classic red lip to a black punk style. Whatever the look, it is difficult to open a magazine or watch TV without stumbling across an advertisement for the newest, most colorful, most long-lasting lipstick of the moment. Whether creating a timeless or modern look, one could argue that lipstick is the most popular cosmetic in the world, and it is not leaving the world of fashion any time soon. So, for all makeup-wearers out there, here is some advice from Chanel:

“If you feel sad, if you are broken-hearted, put on some makeup, pamper yourself, add a little lipstick and go for it: men hate the crybabies…”

Melissa Larson cropped verticalMelissa Larson was born in Japan and raised in Round Lake Beach, Illinois. Melissa is studying International Studies, Japanese, English, and Community and Global Health at Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, and is a student intern at the Minnesota Department of Health and A Woman’s Paris. Melissa will be studying abroad in Denmark in an international public health program later this year and plans to chronicle her first trip to Europe while overseas for A Woman’s Paris. When not rowing on Macalester crew or taking ballroom and salsa dance classes, Melissa enjoys reading and working on her cross stitching in her free time.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, Beauty Confessions from a Globe-trotting Parisienne. Parisienne Bénédicte Mahé shares a French woman’s approach to beauty and makeup; and how the relationship Americans have with beauty is very different from that of the French. Including her list of Beauty Resources in Paris and a vocabulary of French to English translations. (French)

“Fatale: How French Women Do It” – Perfume that rocks the room, peeks at the mysterious ways Frenchwomen manage to appear sexy, smart and recklessly chic from the book Fatale: How French Women Do It by Edith Kunz (used by permission). Includes are tips for applying fragrance and a list of 18 key pulse points to consider. 

Perfume: discovering the perfect luxury experience, by Andrea Johnson who shares tips on finding the right fragrance, which is not always easy. A biochemist and former fragrance sales associate, Andrea writes about choosing a fragrance that reflects your personality and drawing people in with a scent.

 A storied scent, by Barbara Redmond who shares from Parfums Houbigant Paris, “When in 1793 Marie-Antoinette was executied by guillotine, she carried 3 vials of Houbigant perfume in her corsage to give her strength.” Redmond asks, “Thinking of a hurried escape, could I not imagine how Marie-Antoinette, awoken in the night by a great mob, would have wrapped herself in some vestage of familiarity and comfort—if the legend is true?”

French Soap: Savon de Marseille, by writer Lauren Ernt who stumbled upon La Licorne, a storefront soap factory in the heart of Marseille and one of the last authentic manufacturers of the famous “savon de Marseille.” Lauren writes about her visit and love of this renowned soap for its purity and restorative properties.

Portraying France though Cinema: Myth vs. Reality. Melissa Larson explores the common stereotype that finds its way into the American Hollywood film: the perception of Paris. Who wouldn’t want to believe that he or she could travel to a place known for its beautiful art, food, wine and language of love? 

Text copyright ©2013 Melissa Larson. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Thyra Helgesen. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.