The most recent denisebrain vintage fashion show called for pictures of people’s favorite red lipsticks. If you wear vintage clothing do you need to wear red lipstick? Some thoughts.

I am a horn player, and my lips—their strength and health—are important to my well-being and survival as a musician. I have even considered insuring my lips.

No one plays a brass instrument with lipstick on, and when not playing, what goes on a brass player’s lips simply has to be good for them. I didn’t wear lipstick for many years, only considering soothing balms. Then, way back in 1999, I started denisebrain vintage, and as I started to shoot photos of vintage clothing on myself I felt the urge to add that authentic detail, a red lip.

It wasn’t particularly easy for me to make the jump to wearing lipstick, even just here and there, given my horn playing. I’m always very conscious of my lips and how they feel. But I found myself really loving the look of tinted balms and lipsticks. Now I feel more myself with some color.

Lips, particularly red lips, say “vintage” of a certain era like little else, for less money and less effort than most things. But again, is it necessary?

I would say never.

Some consider a red lip to be anti-feminist “man bait”...just look at some of the vintage ad campaigns used for red lipstick.


Others know that there are some cosmetics that are tested on animals, or contain unhealthy ingredients. They would rather not risk these things.

For me, colorful lips are simply the most exciting thing you can do with your appearance in mere seconds. Lipstick is well known to experience an uptick in sales during a recession. Why? It is a relatively inexpensive pick-me-up. Likewise, it can signal a vintage look quicker and more easily than even seamed stockings or pin curls. It can make you feel put together, pretty, yourself.

Can it make you look costume-y? Yes, it could be part of a full-blown vintage look that appears to have time-travelled out of the past if that’s what you’re after. Or it could be applied in a modern way, worn with modern clothing like a single vintage accessory. You can mix-and-match eras and lip colors for a fresh perspective.

If you don’t need lipstick, don’t like it or want it, there is not the slightest obligation to wear it! It is 2015 and most of us have options. If you want to try lipstick, please do look for the companies that do no animal testing, use safe ingredients and responsible practices in manufacturing. Find a lipstick that feels comfortable, even beneficial, so that if you decide to play the horn, you’ll be ready to go! Enjoy the ritual of finding a color, putting lipstick on and wearing it for yourself, not anyone else. See if you like the reaction you get, see if you feel put together and more yourself or not.

Lipstick isn’t something women have to wear, it is something we are free to wear—part of the art and poetry of fashion, nothing more, nothing less.


Comment