After recently reading ‘A Study in Scarlet’ by Alexandra Schulman, the psychology behind red lipstick has intrigued me. Although I believe I am the kind of girl that should be able to wear red lipstick, whenever I applied that ruby rouge to my mouth I found myself terrified by my own reflection. That bright bold shade seemingly ripped the confidence from my step and made me more than aware of the watchful eyes that surrounded me. However, Schulman’s article pushed me to commence the mental hike to find ‘my perfect shade’.
No matter how far society has come, the red lip still runs parallel to the harlot and bad girl ideology. Even if you don’t personally relate red lipstick to these archetypes, you will be aware that those around you do. Considering my age (a mere 17 years) my appearance is constantly judged and stereotyped by my peers, as well as those many decades ahead of me. Their perception of a red satin dressing my lips would likely echo that of previous generations- with phrases such as slut and slag come to mind. With these hot fears pumping through my blood, I stepped into Harrods with the hope of overcoming such nonsense.
As I followed the yellow brick road deeper into the grandest of candy stores, I was unable to escape the strawberry kisses of the beauty brand stall hostesses, that tempted me to indulge in the practically edible cosmetics they offered. The style and elegance that each red lip evoked didn’t leave me with distaste, but with the reminiscence of the silver screen starlets that gave me my name and my inspiration. Each lady that beamed that beautiful red smile sent twinkles of Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe dancing through my imagination. They appeared strong, charming and glamorous. That ‘French girl’ feel that has come to be the Number 1 in beauty looks appeared around every product stand. It made the proclamation that I too could wear such a vivacious tone and transform my face with a singular swipe. The idea that I could bring life and vitality to my tired eyes using a lipstick brought me great satisfaction. I could add an instant polish to any look by simply following the way of the French belles.
With this in mind, I found myself drawn to a stall synonymous with chic and sophistication- Charlotte Tilbury. It’s golden spotlights gave the ambience of a soft lit stage, ready for the closing act. In this case, I hoped that spectacular finale would be my discovery of the perfect red lip. I dived into the rows of lip paints lined up like show girls, and searched for the one with the highest kick. ‘Carina’s Love’ proved too bright on my pale skin- washing me out. ‘Tell Laura’ proved to be suited more to a darker complexion. ‘Red carpet red’- not even close. ‘Love Bite’, ‘Walk of Shame’, ‘Lost Cherry’! All lacked that special something that I hoped to find!
The search was beginning to seem hopeless. In fact, only one shade remained. So Marilyn. When I saw the name, I knew a pairing sweeter than Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was about to be made. Instead of lightly dabbing it on (as I had with the previous) I used the creamy consistency with confidence. I stepped back from the mirror, ready to gain the full impact of the luscious shade. It hit me with elation comparable only to first rose tinted sunset of summer. I whipped out my credit card and payed using contactless- making my red lipstick purchase as swiftly as possible.
The journey from Harrods to King’s Cross became my catwalk as I noticed that the eyes around me were drawn to my brazen lip. I felt like a spectacle- but I loved it. The feature on show was spectacularly enhanced by my new ‘So Marilyn’ lipstick. Instead of avoiding my reflection I lusted after it as I strutted past shop windows and admired the way it lit up my dull face. It brought a sparkle to my appearance that made me feel worthy of me name sake- Grace Kelly.
This experience taught me (much like Schulman’s article suggests) that wearing red lipstick doesn’t have to be as terrifying as I once thought. Like many things, it takes that stepping out (that knowledge that you appear different) to add personal charm and character to your look. This distinctiveness may be what is most terrifying- but it is also the most rewarding.
So now, my favourite photos of myself are those when I am adorned with a red lip, as it forces me to see myself from a new angle. It presents a side of me to the world I have so long been trying to uncover.
Such depth found from such simplicity- the application of ‘the perfect red’ lipstick.