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Katherine LaGrave Headshot

Red Lip-shtick

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"Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick." -- Gwyneth Paltrow

They say that inspiration comes in all forms. In this case, the inspiration was born, beautifully, of confusion. I've been traveling a lot recently, and as anyone who is no stranger to airports knows, have seen typical varieties of airport chaos: Do I have to take my watch off? Can I board now? How long do I have to hold my hands up in this X-ray? But no. This confusion is different. This confusion is of a personal variety. It involves a red lip.

For centuries, females have been using the red lip to add some punch to their pucker. It's nothing new. Cleopatra wore red lipstick made of crushed beetles and ants, and Queen Elizabeth I wore white powder and red lips in the 16th century, a look Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe helped to re-popularize in the 1940s, '50s and '60s, respectively. Today, Sofia Vergara says if she leaves her house without lipstick, she feels naked. Perhaps my favorite anecdote is that of my friend who wears the red lip for its history -- it makes her feel like she's in the 1950s, she says. Time-travel on a budget.

History has shown us that the red lip has stood the test of time, and generations of women have proved it's not difficult to execute. Why, then, is it seemingly so easy to mess up?

Let's start with the basics. Elementary school taught us that red is a color of power and passion. It steals the front-row seat. It's bold and daring, and beautiful and strong. Red is also a color of temptation, and so it's fitting that red lip can lure wearers into perilous territory: the tendency to match bold with bold, to overshadow the beautiful lip with heavy eye makeup -- pun intended. Here's where it helps to remember what generations of French women seem born knowing: less is more.

But first, red-lip wearers need to get past the mirror, out the door and out of their own heads. Herein lies misconception after misconception: that a red lip only works on people with an exaggerated look full of contrasts -- think Dita Von Teese: pale skin, black hair and old-school Hollywood charm; that adding a red lip to your look should be limited to eveningwear. Both of these notions cry more foul than a knockoff Gucci. Contrarily, the best things about the red lip are, in fact, its dynamism and ability to work on all skin tones, at all hours of the day and night.

The point of this article is not to disprove that a red lip takes confidence to wear; it's to deconstruct and demystify the belief that the look isn't something everyone can pull of. It is. Bottom line? Regardless of at what time of the day you choose to wear the red lip, or of what outfit you decide to pair it with -- and even if it takes you 20 years to feel comfortable enough to do it -- just remember to K.I.S.S. Keep it simple, stupid.