Lipstick applied by Mrs Keegan circa 1930s from Flickr Commons
Yesterday I bought a lipstick. ‘Nothing new there,’ you might think, but this was actually a rather momentous occasion for me as it was the first lipstick I’ve ever bought.
Despite hardly wearing any make-up on a day to day basis I seem to have accumulated a heck of a lot of the stuff over the years. There are two-tone eye pencils bought in a fit of nostalgia from Hot Topic, glitter eyeshadows purchased for various fancy dress parties and of course some slightly more grown-up palettes and kits from Benefit, albeit with very whimsical packaging. I have nail varnish from goodie bags and magazine subscriptions, eyelash curlers and a dozen brushes I got as part of a set one Christmas and the odd, rarely worn lipgloss.
But the only lipstick I own is a scarlet red hue in a navy and silver tube that belonged to my mum. I remember a time when I would watch her primp and preen in front of the mirror every morning while I pottered about the room, trying on shoes that were too big for me and bouncing on the freshly made bed which would drive her crazy. When I came to Bristol for uni seven years ago she was clearing out some old make-up and offered me the lipstick. She didn’t wear it that often, only for ‘special occasions’ and so it was passed on to me to use. Like her I kept it for those special occasions, or when I was feeling particularly brave, it was attention grabbing red after all, but mostly I stuck to the safety of sticky lipgloss and tinted lip balm.
There is something so glamourous about applying a lipstick, something so sophisticated about a defined lip, that a tin of rose coloured Vaseline just cannot compete with. Seen on perfectly polished 1940s pin-up girls or even applied haphazardly in the back of a taxi by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the lipstick is a symbol of femininity, sexuality and beauty.
Beauty contestant applies lipstick, 1953, sourced from Flickr Commons
The sale of lipstick has even become a barometer for the economic world after beauty giant Estee Lauder’s chairman commented on the link between periods of recession and the sale of lipstick. ‘The Lipstick Index’ apparently showed that when times are tough financially, women look to smaller luxury items such as lipstick to treat themselves with.
Recently I’ve been craving a lipstick of my very own but despite the wealth of literature available in fashion magazines and online, I had no idea what shade would suit me or how to avoid looking washed out or worse, too try-hard.
Yesterday I decided to take the plunge by visiting the best place in Bristol for wow factor make-up – the MAC counter in Debenhams. I’ve treated myself to MAC in the past as I love the intensity of the pigments in their eyeshadows and their sleek black packaging but I have also been put off in the past as the brand is just so achingly hip. Limited edition Wonder Woman packaging, make-up artists clad head to toe in black and in your face colours… MAC make-up makes a statement! Intimidating, yes, but at the same time I knew I would be in safe hands.
Normally the counter is so busy that you need to book an appointment in advance to guarantee some face time with an Artist but luckily the shop floor was pretty quiet yesterday so I managed to get some advice from one of the girls who was lovely and so helpful.
My new MAC lipstick in 'Speak Louder'
I thought I would leave with a red shade but we talked through my style, eye colour and skin tone and decide to try out coral shades (apparently very A/W11). There worked really well, my Artist was patient and gave me her honest opinion. After a a little experimentation we hit the jackpot with the aptly named ‘Speak Louder’ lipstick and ‘In Anticipation’ lipliner. As soon as I’d finished applying it a smile spread across my face – this shade was The One.
The colour, applied directly from the tube, followed by a layer of lipliner and another coat of lipstick, stayed put throughout my yoga class and even after eating dinner which I was very impressed with. Even the smell is intoxicating – lipsticks from my mothers generation always smelt so fake, like plastic, but this one smells like vanilla. I have no idea if it’s meant to but if so then it’s a nice touch.
If I had the money I could have bought several more shades and liners but I my Artist did jot down the names of other hues that I should get including a subtle, daytime coral and a vamped up, neon pink that I would apparently suit, but ‘only when you’re ready to turn the volume up.’
I look forward to stepping it up a notch but for now I think I’ll stick to speaking louder…