Privilege Blog

Brutal Pearls And Subtle Bright Red Lipstick; The Power Of An Oxymoron

“Cool” fashion usually involves tension of one sort or another. The wearer has enough force of character, or enough vision, to carry off a union of unmatching goods. Combining patterns, textures, or “high-low” elements.

While cool isn’t a dominant High WASP trait, some style archetypes are cooler than others. The Grande Dame wears a messy bun with her red satin ballgown. The Artsy Cousin mixes ikat, madras, and pearls. The Sturdy Cousin, well, if she’s cool it’s usually inadvertent. She buys a mariniere t-shirt while biking through Normandy, and upon her return to the US she finds it’s an overnight fashion sensation.

But, as a Sturdy Gal myself, I am drawn like a taupe moth to the blood-red flame. And would like to offer up two possibilities for high tension fashion. For the oxymoronic among us.

First, “brutal pearls.”

Pearls on leather or rubber. Diamond ornamentation, even. Style oxymorons. Or, similarly, a gold plaque on wrapped, rough leather from a wonderful jewelry store with endless online goods, Ylang23. One might engrave on it, as a reminder, what Lydia, or @littlefluffycat‘s dad used to say. “All you can do is all you can do, but all you can do is enough.” Therapeutic for the Sturdy Gal. Or one might mix modes even further, and engrave one’s monogram, ornate and classic. I know, right?

Second, I would like to suggest a subtle, but bright, red lipstick. This is a recent purchase. Jane at simple + pretty recommended Lipstick Queen. For some unknown reason, as I have said, I have a faith in makeup that I have long since discarded vis-a-vis clothing. My faith is not misplaced here.

Lipstick Queen “Medieval” red lipstick.

I am another proponent of lipstick that looks like your lips but better. In Nars “Cruising” I found a nude. In Lipstick Queen “Medieval,” what we have is a glamorous, sultry, lip-bitten, subtle, easy red, that’s completely wearable when you run to the grocery store in your son’s khaki pants, a white tee, and turquoise Haviana flip flops. I know. I’ve done that difficult experiment for you. And, in case you wondered, even cool people with red lipstick sometimes then leave all the produce they just purchased in the store. No matter. A lipstick with all the allure of red, one that even Sturdy Gals can wear to leave the house, makes up for so many missteps.

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Note: To anyone new to Privilege, the Grande Dame, Artsy Cousin, and Sturdy Gal are High WASP style archetypes. The Style Archetypes should make the general tomfoolery  and tongue-in-cheekness clearer. We can but hope so.

35 Responses

  1. I'm not quite there yet with the perfectly subtle bright red lipstick, but will now search harder, inspired by the possibilities of coolness . . .

  2. Love the pearls on leather!

    I am presently coveting a pair of chocolate tahitian pearl drop earrings, which my wonderful jeweler pal let me borrow for a wedding.

    Alas, this auburn tressed Sturdy Gal can't wear red lipstick. It just looks like a mistake.

  3. hi lpc,

    i'm a red lipstick gal from way back. a little red lipstick goes a very long way, in my book. it doesn't matter what i'm wearing or where i'm going i always have red lipstick on. mine is aveda's poppy. you can wear it bright and intense or diffuse it with a little gloss on top. it puts a finish on the most casual attire.


  4. I have not ventured in the Red Zone when it comes to lippy….
    I am fair skinned and afraid I will look like a circus clown!!
    It's so amazing how the right red lights up a face, I love the look on others.
    I think I prefer the pearl diamond combo over the leather pearl marriage…

  5. The brutal pearls are a look, but mixed with red lipstick is just a little over the top unless you are in your 20s.

  6. Your Lipstick Queen "medieval red" is a beautiful color. The name conjures up images of a damsel high in a castle tower.

    Cdclaycomb: I believe there is a red lipstick for every woman. For you, of course, an orangey red would be the one. The wrong red lipstick makes you feel like a clown, but the right red gives you a feeling of glamour and power.

  7. Love the picture you painted of you at the grocery store in your son's khakis! The day I can fit in our 9 year olds khaki pants is the day I will feel like a million dollars! Thanks for the tip on the good red lipstick!

  8. that chan luu wrap bracelet is formidable; in celebrating contrasting materials you've pinged my achilles heel.

    i embraced reds last year, as i decided a femme lip would tweak my tomboy look nicely; after putting myself in our beauty director's hands, i emerged with bourjois "so rouge" and was well pleased.

    on nudes, i channeled you the last time i was in the beauty closet and found myself a tube of chanel's insouciante no. 81. i thought i'd be red for life, but insouciante, i must say, could be the perfect lipstick. i adore it.

  9. @ Lindy….I've always heard that, but it just hasn't panned out for me yet. But I do admire women who can wear red lipstick and it looks amazing. My grandmother was one of those. Very blond with ice blue eyes…..she was fabulous!

    Honestly, nude is about as adventurous as I get with lipstick. I am more likely to slick on a coat of Kiehl's and go.

  10. Ooh. Now this, I like. Very much.

    And I really need to get myself some brutal pearls, before it's too late.

  11. Dear LPC, i love to hear about lipsticks, your Nars and the Lipstick Queen sound great, me want! it's amazing how a bit of lipstick can really lift one's morale! Bx

  12. I'm still searching for the perfect red, so I will definitely try your recommendation. And for the record, you should warn us before comments like you made about your trip to the grocery store. I had just taken a sip of Dr. Pepper and I laughed so hard I nearly choked.

    This kind of behavior is why I just left you an award over at Juleps and Jon Jons.

  13. Love red lipstick and adore the leather bracelet with the gold plaque.
    I am wearing 2 leather bracelets today, but no gold plaque. :) I will work up to that!

  14. As always, an outstanding post Miss Privilege. The 'new' way to wear a classic won't work fur us, but we have seen it on younger girls and they look darling. Not fit for formal affairs IOHO, but still lovely.

    We wore red for years. and years. Now we're more towards a softer look, something to do the age thing, harrumph.

    Sending you a smile,

  15. Mater – This one is almost more like a red lip balm. You might like it.

    cdclaycomb – I love chocolate pearls…and I always thought redheads couldn't wear red, but my light red-haired daughter wears it quite well. Might be a different kind of red hair?

    Janet – I do love Aveda.

    Hostess – I'm pretty fair-skinned to, albeit with a touch of olive. I've always felt like a clown before. This one is so light it's nice.

    Belle – I don't know that I'd do both together unless I was Dorothy Parker.

  16. Lindy – Thank you. The story behind the name is that in Medieval days women used lemons to irritate their lips for color…

    Henley – Ha! My son is 20….

    Lauren – That Chanel link is gorgeous. I didn't know you had an Achilles heel:). I suppose all heros may?

    agirl – I hope it's never too late

    Blighty – Yes. I'm wearing el reddo right now.

  17. Tara – Thank you! I will take a peek.

    Ms. Givens – Yes, start small with the gold plaques.

    TPP – As for formal, you know out here in California we take All Kinds Of Liberties:). This red is the first one I've ever found that is soft enough not to startle me at the sight of myself.

  18. I simply cannot wear red lipstick with my hair and complexion. Believe me, I've tried; I wish I could. I do like a nice bright spicy color tho. Does that count??

  19. I love red lipstick. I just wish I could wear it. I really can't. Pearls and leather?? I like!

  20. I also like the pearls and leather. I can do the tshirt, kahkis, and flip flops, the red lipstick is optional, my lips are so red it looks a bit weird.
    My aunt and grandma used to do the red lipstick, the white dress with the black polka dots, the little straw bag….you remember….

  21. I think I could love that lipstick, it is sooooo difficult to find a great red.

    Art by Karena

  22. I am one of those "lucky" people who have a complexion such that nearly every red turns fuchsia on me in a matter of minutes.

    I have tried to go for a more orangey red. But the ones that are orange enough to not turn fuchsia, aren't red. They're…persimmon. And persimmon may be lovely, but it ain't red.

    I'll stick with pearls.

  23. Ooooh how exciting this post is LPC I am looking for a 'cool' but easy red lipstick as I am usually happier in a nude or 'like my lips but more polished etc.' colour. Am quite keen on Chanels new Coco Rouge lipstick in Venise but yours sounds brilliant! Think I feel another purchase coming on! x

  24. The linen-strung pearls read as more naive than brutal b/c they are of modest size. (I've seen them in person.) Perfect for 22 yr old vegan grad. For grown women, especially those wearing red lipstick, go big- least 9.5mm!

    Any red lipstick makes me look slightly mad- and I adore it on those who can wear it.

  25. Lanvin has pearls strung on thick black ribbon. (Not that I can afford Lanvin).

    At Lane Crawford, a department store here, I fell in love with a chunky mass of different sized strands of pearls all twisted together. I thought it was custom jewelry until I looked at the cost. (Several thousand US). If it were affordable, I'd wear it with my cropped denim jacket.

    In Australia, I found warped looking pearls. It's what happens when two grains of sand become pearls in one oyster instead of just one — they're like twins, two round bits stuck inside an irregular blobby pearl. They weren't expensive (because they are reject pearls?) so I bought them.

    I wear bright red lipstick alot! On Asian coloring, it actually doesn't look too unnatural.

  26. *Looks down at white cotton capris and celery-green Crocs*

    *glances up at make-up free face and graying hair*

    No…definitely not cool. Nor terribly fashionable, I'm afraid.

    But I'm a lot of fun!!

  27. I really like the pearls on leather and (surprise!) I love that red lipstick.

    I like your juxtaposition of the Grande Dame in the ball gown with the messy bun. I love those sort of dichotomies. People who are way too coiffed and perfect don't appear relaxed to me.

  28. i decided several months ago that i wanted to rock red lips. so i'm embarrassed to admit that i tried very hard. each time i passed a department store counter, i tried on various shades of red, and each time, i looked in the mirror and saw carmen miranda. i thought my black hair and slightly reddish/olive complexion (i know, talk about oxymoron) would work well with red lips, but it's just not happening. i won't give up yet, though. i'll try this red you speak of.
    ps. not that there's anything wrong with carmen miranda…i was just going for that tomboyish, messy bun, i just threw on this outfit look, to be completed with glam red lips.

  29. Maureen – And I can't wear skinny jeans. Constraints should bring out our genius, right?:)

    Entertaining – With a pair of pink sandals, right?

    Karena – Thanks!

    Anon – Ha! It definitely ain't red:).

    Preppy101 – Give it a shot! It's really more like red balm. I promise.

  30. Duchesse – Other reds have me look mad too. Just saying.

    elledee – Wonderful.

    Joyce – Yeah, and Dries Van Noten has a ribbon bracelet…I bet the red lipsticks look great on ou.

    Jan – Just call the Crocs "celadon" and you are all set. And fun.

    Lipstick – I think you could pull off pearls, leather, and red.

    Giovanna – I know exactly what you were going for. Red lipstick is such the stuff of dreams.

  31. I realize "privilege" gals don't go embracing the "look for less", but since we're talking about a 20 y/o it's not crazy to be anticipating the chaotic life they lead and giving things that can be worn and/or lost without ruin!

    Myself I'm not tempted because I've had an onslaught of pearls come my way in recent years. I'll take the strands with the irregularly shaped beads, slightly yellowed from age, looking like something that could never be purchased any day.

  32. Aveda Lip Tint. It's a balm with color. They have one called "Verbena" which is kinda red, but more wearable. Real Simple showed it on a model in this month's magazine as an example of natural easy makeup. Red is not for me. I chose the rose-pink Peony color.

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