Red Lips and Blue Jeans


As I’ve said approximately 90 trillion times, red is my favorite color. I’ve always been told that I look ravishing in red, which is part of its appeal, but I also love its implications of power and passion. And yet, even though I wanted desperately to do bold red lips, every red lipstick I’d ever tried looked positively clownish on me. So for ages, I assumed I just wasn’t a red lips girl. But eventually I realized that there were as many shades of red as there were women in the world and I was never going to pick a good one for myself by guessing. So I swung by my local Sephora. I said, “Red lipstick makes me look awful. But I’d like a shade that actually works for me.” The gal grabbed a tube of Make Up For Ever in Rouge Artist Intense 44, I slapped it on, and nearly fell over.

This shade worked with my coloring, felt amazing on my lips, and looked positively amazing on my surprised little face. But what was most fantastic about it was that it looked red and vibrant and powerful without looking too … makeup-y. I didn’t feel like I was suddenly The Girl With the Bright Red Lips, I felt like myself. Just a bit richer, cooler, more sophisticated. This was MY red.

And I realized later that I’d had a similar experience with blue jeans. I wore them non-stop throughout my youth until I finally realized that they were uncomfortable and unflattering on my body, and just because everyone around me wore them didn’t mean I had to, too. I decided I hated jeans. Pants. Swore them off. For years! Until I found a style that worked for me, my shape, my body, my needs. (High-waisted, typically Karen Kane orย Lee Classic Fit.) Finally, I’d found MY jeans.

Which just goes to show that sometimes it takes time and a little bit of digging to unearth the ultimate you-version of things. Emphasis on the “sometimes,” of course. Some body types and sizes have very limited choices from which to pick, and no one has the time, money, or energy to search endlessly for perfect versions of everything. It’s certainly possible, but I doubt I’ll ever find a dropwaist dress or pair of boyfriend jeans that works for me, and I’m not keen to try. But red lips and blue jeans? I’m thrilled to have them in my arsenal in iterations that suit me, just as I am.

Have you ever sworn off a fashion or beauty item, only to discover that there actually was a version of it out there that worked perfectly for you?

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24 Responses to “Red Lips and Blue Jeans”

  1. Heather

    It took me forever to find my red lipstick, too. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m actually wearig it today instead of my standard mauve or lipgloss. For me it’s the buxom lip tarnish in Busted. Also from Sephora.
    I went through a jeans phase where they didn’t work for me well either. My favorites now are the Levi’s 529’s.

  2. Olivia

    Flip flops or any sandal with a thong between the toes. They made my toes hurt and I could not understand why so many people wore them. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I found a pair of sandals with a soft, pliable thong that didn’t hurt. Turns out I had only tried cheap flip flops with hard, rubber thongs and that was why they hurt my toes.

  3. Suze in CO

    Well, I have yet to find a shade of red lipstick that looks good on me. Or any lipstick that doesn’t leave me with nasty, goopy stuff on my lips. I’ve tried all the cleaning/exfoliating/prepping tips … I just don’t get on well with lipstick. Burt’s Bees lip balm is about the best I can manage.

    But one thing that I had given up on for years was any shade of greenish teal. Most of my wardrobe is in shades of blue and green, but teal just made me look ill and made my hair look green. (Nope, not making that up. It was verified by impartial witnesses.) But eventually I figured out that as long as I didn’t wear it under crappy florescent lights, it looked great on me. Thank goodness for clothing stores with big windows and natural light … once I got out of the early-1980s mall stores, teal was my friend.

  4. Julie

    Make Up Forever has evolved into my top go-to makeup area at Sephora. I love their makeup, especially the HD Invisible Cover Foundation. It makes my skin look so polished.

  5. Carmen

    Thought you might be interested to know that Science Friday on NPR Talk of the Nation just had an episode in the past week talking about the power of color. The author of a book called “Drunk Tank Pink” was on and he talked about the impact and influence of color on how we behave. ( Title comes from a drunk tank in a jail were painted pink to calm the intoxicated detainees and it worked)

    Anyway, they talked a bit about red and how powerful it is. Apparently except in cultures where red is associated with death, red is seen as sexy and powerful. They did a study of online dating and people with the exact same profiles and pictures got more dates if they only thing they changed was wearing red. Thought you might enjoy hearing about it ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. RM

    Jeans were mine, I swore them off. Then I went to a seconds and close-outs store and tried on, of all things, a pair of jeggings from, of all places, American Eagle. They are the best! I love the way they fit, they are co comfortable, and who knew, they make my ass look great! Now I want 50 pairs.

  7. Kate K

    I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30 and wearing red lipstick was on the list. (I was a theater geek growing up so for me, lipstick was used for stage makeup and costume.) I walked into my local Sephora and said, “I would like to wear red lipstick but I drink coffee so I don’t want it to make my teeth look yellow and I have big lips so I don’t want them to look even bigger.” The saleswoman was fantastic and found the perfect shade and you’re right, I felt like myself, just more interesting and a bit more dynamic.

  8. poodletail

    Everything about your blog today makes me happy, Sal, especially the comments of your self-assured readers.

  9. Andi

    As for something I swore off, skinny jeans. I’m plus size and short, so I thought it was a no go. Turns out because I am crazy proportionate,I actually looked amazing in them, not like an ice cream cone. Now skinnies make up 90% of my pant wardrobe.

  10. The Good Will Hunting Paralegal

    Actually, the two items I swore off were hats (never fit) and…yes, red lipstick, which looks orange on me. Guess I’ll be heading to the Sephora counter the next time The Teen makes me go to the mall ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for the hats, they were on my 50+ Style Blogger Bucket List. Not only did I find two that fit (happily prancing around in them in this week’s blog post) but I found a hobby, too. So many peeps tell me that they have big heads and can’t wear hats, that it’s time for us to come out of the closet and make hats that fit ๐Ÿ™‚

    Now, if you could just direct me to a light foundation that works with acne rosacea. I know about the green under-foundation, but that is too much work, and I hate the feel of heavy foundation on my face.

    Peace & grace,

    • Claire

      Hi Lynne, I also have acne/rosacea-ey skin and the best thing I’ve found so far is Dusk Til Dawn Recovery by Larenim. It’s a therapeutic skin treatment and can be layered as foundation under powder, and with your skin tone you may even be able to wear it on its own. Good luck if you decide to try it. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • The Good Will Hunting Paralegal

        Thanks, Claire, I will try it. I’m hoping to score some samples of appropriate foundation before I buy a new foundation. I have to use topical antibacterial treatment daily, and when it gets really bad, I have to take oral medication, i.e. Oracea. People seem surprised when I tell them I’m 50, but I think it might be because of all the layers of skin peeled off by prescription acne meds over the years – and pimples. What 50 year old has pimples? ๐Ÿ˜›

  11. Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Fabulous red lips, Sal! Congrats on finding “your” color. I’m going with pinky-red lips lately, and discovering I can wear more pink than I had thought. I’m also choosing more floral scents than I used to. Exploration is fun!

  12. Chelsea

    Hi! Just came across your blog, I’m loving it. Powerful, beautiful message m’dear.

    I’ve been a long time red lip aholic but they’ve recently discontinued my favorite shade! It was that really cheap drugstore brand Milani and it just doesn’t exist! I’ve got to bring my last tube to sephora and get them to help me, too!

  13. Gillian

    I wore red lipstick all the time when I was 14 and felt awesome. But that was the only time I’ve ever managed it because I was in class and not having a beverage or touching my face or trying to eat…plus I wasn’t kissing anyone. Last week I tried to wear some hot pink lipstick and immediately got it on my sweater while trying to cover a sneeze. I’m just too fidgety. But lip stains! Stains I can do.

    I hated jeans as a kid and would’ve worn leggings with dresses forever if I’d been allowed. Jeans are so much more comfortable now with the added stretch.

  14. Eliza

    I swore off pencil skirts for years after a few particularly bad experiences. I’ve had skirts (that were boxy and big when I was standing) rip, hike way up, or bunch really oddly the second I tried to sit. These weren’t particularly inexpensive skirts, but they were definitely cheaply tailored!
    This last winter, I finally found a (consigned) Armani pencil skirt that fits and is as comfortable for sitting as it is for standing. The funny thing is that it’s actually narrower than many of the problem skirts, but it seems to move with me, so it never feels restrictive.

  15. Jean

    I have been on and off about red lipstick for ages. I love it in theory, but not always in practice. Recently, Maybelline’s ‘Red Revival’ has worked well for me; also a Revlon shade with a label I can no longer read. I have found that lip liner (in a shade close to my natural lip color) helps tremendously with precision and staying power.
    Your post inspired me to wear an awesome new navy stripe dress and navy cardigan today with red lips. Thanks!

  16. Angela

    For years I kept trying to find a wrap dress that looked good on me. I kept reading about how magical and flattering they are, but I tried on tons of them and every one I tried looked ill-proportioned and bunchy or gappy in the wrong places on me. Then one day I stumbled upon a DVF wrap dress at Nordstrom Rack for $50 that was MAGIC. It fits beautifully, and indeed flatters in the way I’d always heard that a wrap dress should. I wear it all the time, for all kinds of occasions. (In your “Old Reliable” post yesterday, you asked “Do you have a go-to outfit for days when you have mere minutes to get dressed?”โ€”this wrap dress is definitely my old reliable!)

    • Heather

      That’s the best part of the wrap dress. I’m wearing one of mine today. My husband was putting on his pants this mornign and I’d just gotten out of the shower, but I got my wrap dress on before he got his pants up and fastened.

  17. SKP

    I have a theory that sometimes, when a style seems not to work on a particular body, it’s because of how off-the-rack sizing works, not because the style is inherently unflattering even if cut to the right size. Haven’t tested it much yet, since it requires some risky sewing.

  18. Mary

    Long ago, I shied away from tall shoes. I’d try on heels in DSW thinking, “maybe this pair will work for me” and then stumbling for five feet before writing heels off again and keeping to my usual low (mostly ugly) shoes.
    BUT (like many, perhaps) I eventually figured out that it was stilettos that are my bane, not heels or tall shoes in general. I tried a 2.5-inch wedge at some point and felt instantly glamorous. Then at a later point I figured out that platforms were also my friend, and made the sole a touch more cushy than you usually get with thin-soled shoes.
    Heels feel great to me now, as long as I’m not in them, standing, for six hours, and as long as I don’t need to get anywhere in a hurry!
    Also — maybe this doesn’t count — but I hated pale colors on me when I had my natural hair color (dull ash brown). Now that I’ve been a dark, red-tinted brunette for years, I love pale pinks, mints, ivories, and even pale greys.