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When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Glam!

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How to shine like a star in a lackluster world. 


Traci Fein/FineMakeupArt

Every day, there is more bad news about the lousy economy—the slump, the downturn, the recession. The steep drop in retail sales reflects our new reality. But, just take a stroll to your neighborhood cosmetics counter and you may be surprised to see things are still buzzing along. This is the “lipstick indicator” in action.

Traditionally, in times of economic uncertainty, makeup sales tend to rise. Leonard Lauder, Chairman of Estee Lauder, saw lipstick sales skyrocket after 9/11. During the Great Depression cosmetic sales rose approximately 25 percent and many cosmetics companies emerged from the Depression wealthier than they had been. U.S. households were more likely to own a tube of lipstick than a jar of mustard. The Red Lipstick of the day offered women a lot of bang for their buck. When you can’t afford to buy a new dress, it’s an easy way to perk up your look, and your mood.

During World War II, makeup was seen as a vital part of the war effort; advertisers turned lipstick into a symbol of resilient femininity in the face of danger, a symbol that would boost the morale of both the women wearing the lipstick and the male soldiers who saw such attractive American females. A leading cosmetic company at that time had a “War, Women and Lipstick” campaign as an effort to boost personal morale. The Marines even used lipsticks “Montezuma Red” by Estee Lauder and Revlon’s “Certainly Red" as a part of women’s uniforms.

So, just as the American generation of women did during the Great Depression and WW II – today’s American women are creating our own “Recession Chic.” While we may not be recycling last year’s sweater for the wool to knit a new one, many women are being forced to make sacrifices.

Some of us are starting small, forgoing a visit to the salon and doing our nails at home. And the days of spending $35 on the newest mascara formula are over. We’re going back to basics. The classic Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ($5) does the job, and the pink and green tube is still found in every professional makeup artist’s kit from New York to Paris.

As in past decades, when the economy gets bad, hemlines get lower, more durable fabrics are used and lipstick gets brighter and darker. We are seeing that cycle now, as makeup and fashion move right past the pastel colored, frillier Spring collections (which were designed last year) – and the Fall 2009 Collections move decidedly toward a darker, more somber palette, black was everywhere and matte and semi-matte makeup is making a comeback. Natural nude lips are still a favorite, but Red lipstick dominated the runways. Fashion week featured heavy coats of MAC Ruffian Red and Chanel Rouge Allure Laque.

American women are not going to let this recession get their appearances down. We are strong, beautiful and resilient. Just like the Great Generation of women that preceded us, “We can do it!”

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