cover image The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History

The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History

Ilise S. Carter. Prometheus, $28.95 (216p) ISBN 978-1-63388-710-7

Carter, a journalist and beauty brand copywriter, debuts with a fascinating tour of lipstick trends in U.S. history. She notes that Martha Washington made her own “tinted lip balm” from lard and alkanet root, and that lip rouge went “underground” during the Victorian era, when “pallor” was in style and fashionable women “endured a makeup process known as enameling for that just-went-to-her-great-reward glow.” Prohibitionists briefly considered whether to “go to war against the scourge of makeup” after succeeding in their campaign to ban alcohol, while American cosmetic makers began to cater to the buying power of teenage “bobby soxers” when the European consumer market was slow to recover from WWII. Carter also delves into racial and gender discrimination within the makeup industry, noting that until recently, the color range of lipsticks, as well as foundations and blush, were geared toward a “porcelain” complexion. She also highlights trailblazers including Madam C.J. Walker, whose hair-care company for Black women made her one of the first self-made female millionaires in the U.S., and trans activist Marsha P. Johnson, who by some accounts helped set off the Stonewall uprising by throwing a shot glass at a barroom mirror. Full of memorable tidbits, including a decade-by-decade breakdown of the most popular lipstick shades, this colorful survey will delight history and fashion buffs alike. Illus. (Nov.)