By Rachel Felder
Updated: Apr 10, 2019 @ 11:33 am
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The following is an excerpt from Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon by Rachel Felder. 

A crimson mouth was an essential component of Marilyn Monroe’s bombshell identity; her pursed, full lips and the soft, sulky voice that emerged from between them oozed sex appeal and a magnetic, ultra-womanly allure. Along with her platinum blond hair, red lipstick was the cosmetic equivalent of the slinky, low-cut dresses and high heels that were her sartorial trademark.

But it was more than that: red lipstick served to enhance many of the characters she played. In roles like Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Chérie in Bus Stop, red lipstick was the ideal accessory to underscore her characters’ femininity and seductiveness.

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The application of red onto Monroe’s lips on film sets was methodical and strategic: her makeup artist, Allan “Whitey” Snyder, used several shades of the color at a time, with a darker iteration near the edges of the lips and lighter versions toward the center to create an intensely accentuated pout. But the actress’s seductive persona wasn’t limited to just her movie roles: even o duty, a staple of her look was a liberal application of her favorite shade, Max Factor’s Ruby Red. Although that brand is no longer available in America, it’s still popular in Europe, where four wearable versions of red were introduced in 2016 as the Marilyn Monroe Lipstick Collection. One of the options is her beloved Ruby Red.

Rachel Felder is an author and journalist who has written about beauty, style, and trends for the New York Times, Financial Times, Women's Wear Daily, the New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. You can find Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon on Amazon.