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A Century of Lips

Posted Dec 28 2009 1:00am

From Pucker To Pout: Lipstick Trends from One Decade to Another


According to Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s best known trend forecasters, there is an interesting connection between body, lips, and timeframe, influenced by focus and proportion. Many factors come into play when analyzing lipstick trends: emphasis on particular body parts, celebrities of the time, and most importantly, the economic and financial status of American society in general. Perhaps you knew that the length of a woman’s skirt is dependent upon the economy, but who knew the color and shape of a woman’s lips could be so telling of the times?

The 20’s – Prohibition and Rebellion


A matte-finished, heart-shaped mouth is the expression of the seductive, coquettish woman of the Roaring Twenties. Taking their cue from the scorned-yet-sought-after flapper, women go out to dance, drink illicitly distilled whiskey, and push the envelope of their independence. Black and white movies present the mouth in daring, feminine shapes – the “cupids bow” style of Clara Bow, the “vamp’s lips” of Theda Bara, and the sexy “bee-stung” lips of Mae Murray. Edelkoort notes that because the focal body part of the time period is the legs, “breasts are smallish, and girls are boyish.” Eyes are large and lips are thin. Lip colors are black and garnet red.

The 30’s – Economic Depression


A mouth drawn outwards with square edges emphasizes the stern, perfectionist appearance of the sober 30’s. Women, having witnessed the financial battery of the Great Depression, are thrifty and austere. Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich – powerful, yet glamorous women who are not afraid to determine their own fate – are idols of the time. Their steely and androgynous appearance personifies the adult woman. Lip color is a silky/glossy reddish brown.

The 40’s – Wartime


A full mouth formed with symmetrical curves represents the courageous, self-assured look of the 40’s despite wartime privations. While men are at war, women are forced to fill their roles, giving them a newfound sense of identity and responsibility. The Hollywood heroines of the silver screen, such as Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Katherine Hepburn encourage the idea that women are equally as capable in filling roles formerly occupied by males. Lipstick becomes an instrument of individual morale, symbolizing strength while disguising sorrow. Lip color is a brilliantly glossy vermillion.

The 50’s – Post-War Period


A voluptuous mouth with the lip line extended beyond the natural shape is reflective of this period of reconstruction. The look is seductive and feminine, revealing the ambivalence of women. On one hand, they oppose the traditional role of women – one they fought to suppress during wartime. On the other hand, they long to embrace their sexuality and femininity. Consequently, there are two strongly opposing role models: the voluptuous and feminine Marilyn Monroe, and the cool and self-confident Audrey Hepburn. Lip colors are bright red or pink. Edelkoort says that in this period of rebuilding an entire economy, the focus is on the body, and the face is seen as one whole element in perfect proportion.

The 60’s – Flower Power and Rebellion


A full, soft pout goes hand in hand with the rebellious habits of hippies in the sixties. The period is characterized by the exploration of outer space, the sexual revolution, Woodstock, and the anti-war movement. The youthful, anorexic chic of Twiggy and the provocative pout of Brigitte Bardot are symbols of the rejection of conventional beauty, prosperity, and consumption. Hence, lipstick is still applied, but discreetly. Lip shape is large and colors are shimmering beige-like mother-of-pearl, baby pink, and silver/white. Li attributes this to a sudden shift in sexuality, noting that the most focused-upon body parts are the breasts and butt.

The 70’s – Disco Rules


An outlined, shiny mouth reflects the shimmering iridescence of the 70’s disco look. Saturday Night Fever, Studio 54, platform shoes, and soulful divas like Gloria Gaynor and Diana Ross define this decade. Women break social conventions and explore boundaries. They are not afraid to become single mothers or fight for their social and political rights, and they are especially unafraid of their sexuality. Lip colors such as glittering crimson or burgundy red convey self-confidence.

The 80’s – Emancipation


A dark, wide mouth represents the provocative punk look of the 80’s. Punk, as a musical statement and a culture, is the first anti-beauty movement. In fashion, women and men alike play with the idea of reverse gender roles. The transvestite chic of Boy George and the fashion of Vivienne Westwood convey “tribal identity”. Influenced by music videos such as Madonna’s “Vogue” and Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby?” strong eyes and dark lips become a popular trend. Lip colors are dark to black with metallic effects.


The 90’s – Individualism


A clearly outlined mouth painted in natural colors, either shining or matte, documents the grunge-turned-pop look of the 90’s. Internet, cell phones, Pearl Jam and plaid, piercings, tattoos, hip hop, and the fitness wave set the tone for this decade socially and commercially. Fashion trends change quickly – everything is allowed. The introduction of Supermodels – Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista – permeates women’s idea of beauty. Brown undergoes a revival, but both dark and bright lip colors are in demand.

2000 – The New Millennium


“Cocooning” is the buzzword for the transition into this new millennium. The term expresses a longing to return to intrinsic value and friends and family: a harmony that does not stop at lip fashion. The shape of the mouth is natural. Soft and warm shades are prominent. Pastels and shimmering shades of beige, pink, and apricot (so-called non-colors) reflect women’s desires to embrace their natural beauty and the quest for eternal balance and happiness. It’s about a return to our basic needs, and in a declining economic climate, a new appreciation for the bare essentials.

The Decades Ahead


So what will the future bring? According to Edelkoort, history will continue to repeat itself. She predicts that, for now, generous, whitish beige lips will reflect our nurturing desire to live at a sustainable, slower pace. “Thinner lips will take us into the 2020’s,” she says. “Eventually, perfect red lips with harmonized proportions between the eyes, lips, and body will balance our beauty in the new era of post-recession and reconstruction.”

from beautypress.com

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