Seeing Red

This season, the fashion world falls for a Hollywood-style scarlet kiss

October 08, 2006|By Tanika White | Tanika White,Sun Reporter

When Saks Fifth Avenue revealed to the world last month its list of fall's "must-have looks and fashion-forward trends," right there among the voluminous sleeve, the flat boot, a romantic blouse and a pair of skinny jeans was a surprising entry - the red lip.

A flip through glossy magazines showed the storied department store was right on. Whether pale and blond, like Scarlett Johansson, or bronzed, like Jennifer Lopez, on page after style-setting page, celebrities young and old were shown vamping it up with siren's smiles in hues of cherry, fire engine, tomato, burgundy or blood.

The lipstick writing is on the mirror. After years of pale glosses and nearly-nude lips topping the charts, bold red, old-Hollywood-style lips are back for fall. And this time around, they're for anytime - and anyone.

"Red lips are a classic; red lips will always be around, and there will always be certain women who will always have that red lipstick that they put on," says Patricia Tortolani, senior editor at Allure magazine. "What's special about red lips right now is the idea that any woman can wear red lipstick."

It's true, beauty experts say. No longer is red the sole domain of those blessed with Veronica Lake's pale face and flaxen hair.

"Women say it's hard to wear a red lip, or `Oh god, I don't feel comfortable in a red lip; I don't think it goes with my complexion,' but you just have to find the right shade," says Andr?e Corroon, a Saks Fifth Avenue spokeswoman,

There are about as many shades of red lipsticks as there are skin tones, Corroon says, and one is right for nearly every individual.

"Someone with a darker complexion would look good in more of a plummier, cherrier red. Fairer people look good in a brighter red," she says.

In Allure's 2006 Best of Beauty winners, the red lipstick that won - Deluxe Beauty's "Vinnie" - took top honors because it looks great on just about all skin tones, Tortolani says.

But the choice of color, ultimately, is a personal one.

After many misses, Lindsey Nigh, a product expert for Sephora - who is fair and freckle-faced - discovered recently that her lips look best in a deep bordeaux shade.

"It looks so good," she says. "People notice. I wear it when I feel really saucy."

A daring red lip does have an effect on one's outlook, makeup and beauty experts say. The color says many things: Confidence. Mystery. Femininity. Sex appeal.

"When I think about the red lip I think about 1940s Hollywood glamour," says Corroon. "The red lip is always a very glamorous look, a very sophisticated look. But it's also a look that is very playful and fun. You can wear it during the day and into the evening. It's a way for a woman to express herself beyond what she's wearing."

In fact, lipstick lovers say, wearing red lipstick is like carrying a chic accessory, like a fabulous handbag or a killer shoe. That's why the new way to wear red lips is so all-encompassing. It's not just for black-tie affairs or nightclub-hopping. Red lips can be worn just as easily to a Saturday breakfast or on an afternoon stroll.

"Red is one of the easiest ways to turn up the heat on any look," says Collier Strong, consulting makeup artist for L'Oreal Paris.

"You can throw on the skinny jeans and a pair of great flats or heels and a simple T-shirt," says Tortolani, "pull your hair back into a ponytail and wear some red lipstick and it's a gorgeous, really `now' look."

The trick to wearing red in a more casual setting is not to overdo it, in terms of the rest of your makeup and your overall look.

First, avoid being "matchy-matchy," experts say. Don't feel inclined to match your lips to your nails to your purse to your shoes and earrings, too.

At a recent fashion show in New York, designer Rachel Roy - a cinnamon-skinned woman with dark hair and eyes - wore her red lips with an outfit of grays, blacks and orangey-browns. When the pale and beautiful Dita von Teese married rocker Marilyn Manson, she paired her signature red lip even with her royal purple wedding gown.

No matter the outfit, the rest of your makeup should be minimal when wearing red lipstick, makeup mavens say.

"Right now, it's about playing up one feature," says Tortolani. "Red lips look beautiful with just a bit of mascara and a nice, dewy complexion."

But even with that relatively simple advice, many women find the prospect of wearing red lips positively frightening.

And they have good reasons.

Red shows up on the teeth a whole lot easier than, say, a pale-pink gloss.

As it wears off throughout the day, red leaves an unsightly line around the lips, and, sometimes, fleshy pink flakes.

And - for mature women who have started to get fine lines along the upper lip - red often bleeds into the tiny valleys of the skin.

Why risk all that when you can just wear a safe taupe?

There are ways to avoid those red-lip pitfalls, experts say.

One of the most important steps is to always line the lips first, in either a color that matches your natural lip tone, or in the exact shade of the lipstick.

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