As Eddie Redmayne mania continues to sweep the nation so does the preoccupation with those voluptuously pillowy lips, unprecedented in the male since the heyday of Mick Jagger and Michael Portillo. Big generous mouths are the new craze: have you read about that star cricketer whose party piece is to pop a tennis ball into his mouth? With women its a more familiar story; long pre-dating Gloria Grahame, “the girl with the novocaine lips”.
In my Harrods days, hundreds of years ago, the Cheese Counter was run by an egregious film-fan who was much preoccupied by the appearance of British movie star Valerie Hobson. By then, as Mrs John Profumo, she was a regular Harrods shopper and evidently blessed with great patience besides exquisite manners, as her appearance in Cheese was inevitably greeted with a barrage of verbatim dialogue from “Blanche Fury” or “Kind Hearts and Coronets”. “My word,” Mrs Profumo would say mildly, “WHAT a memory, David…perhaps a little Stilton,today?”. As she left, David’s admiring “Great Big Lips!” shouted rather than murmured, followed her to the lifts.
Because the mouth + lips have such obvious sexual + sensual connotations, the fashion in mouths was for centuries discreet for both sexes. A small mouth + narrow lips denoted wisdom, prudence, discretion + continence. Two of our best looking kings (in their golden youth) Edward IV and his grandson Henry VIII had mouths like neat buttonholes; theoretically, the perfection for every boy and girl was a mouth like a tiny rosebud.
As late as the 1920’s the ideal was a mouth smaller than one’s eyes: look at those old silent stars and post card beauties like Lady Diana Cooper, Edward VIII and Ivor Novello. Only when Wall St crashed (IS there a connection?) did what Vogue then called the “bow-tie mouth” begin to manifest. Garbo, Crawford, Gable, Dietrich, Davis, Gary Cooper + Fred MacMurray, thanks to better dentistry and an increasing sexual openness, set a new trend for wide mouths and full, generous well-glossed kissable lips.
Old Hollywood stars of both sexes were generously lipsticked: Ralph Schwieger‘s glorious perfume Lipstick Rose is unconventional but supremely feminine. This is a paean to the scent, the colour and connotations of a gorgeously shiny deep rose lipstick – a child’s memory of his mother dressed for the evening; a waxy pink waft from an expensive bag filled with cosmetics,scent and the scent of suede. It’s a warm fresh flirty scent which perfectly encapsulates that delicious frontier of the senses where smell and taste meet. The rose and the violet (think of the colours as well as flowers) overlap with raspberry and grapefruit; velvety textures are overlaid with a sparkling effervescence. Gorgeous – to coin a phrase: two lips like tulips. Kiss me quick!