Victory Red ~ Wartime Glamor

The only lipstick to wear in the 1940’s was red, red and more red!

Red lipstick symbolised the optimism, fighting spirit and patriotism of the second world war. Wearing it was considered to keep spirits up during the dark days of the war. Politically charged campaigns put red lipstick on the top of the cosmetic priority list – it was considered part of a woman’s civic duty to take care of her appearance to boost everybody’s morale! Women were encouraged to add a “lipstick kiss” to letters they sent their boys friends and husbands on the front to boost their morale.

In fact, red was considered such a patriotic colour for women to wear during wartime, the military issued female staff with their own red lipstick as part of their uniform.  Elizabeth Arden was commissioned to create a special cosmetic kit for the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. It included a red lipstick called Montezuma Red, and a matching cream rouge and nail polish which matched the red shade of the scarf, arm insignia and hat cords on their uniforms. Soon, women on the home front wanted their own, so she introduced her famous “Victory Red” lipstick in 1941 with the tagline of “Keep ’em flying!”  

“Victory Red” lipstick was literally part of putting on a brave face.  “Beauty as Duty” became a confidence-building motto and cosmetic brands enthused women in the military and on the home front, to consider good grooming habits as a visible way to support their allies to Victory. Some cosmetic companies even gave out free lipsticks to women working in military warehouses, munitions factories and those supporting the war effort.

According to the New York Times, in 1943, policewomen were issued a black shoulder bag with space for a holster but also a makeup kit. “Use the gun as you would your lipstick,” Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia said. “Don’t overdo either one.” 

Although lipstick was considered a non-essential product, and therefore not rationed, women were encouraged to buy in bulk in case of ingredients shortages. The red lipsticks were often used a rouge as well, as rouge pots became hard to come by.

One advertisement for Tangee lipstick during the war boldly stated, “No lipstick…. will win the war. But it symbolizes one of the reasons why we are fighting—the precious right of women to be feminine and lovely under any circumstances.”

Do you feel like donning some vintage glamour with a Victory Red lipstick? You’re in luck! Besame Cosmetics have faithfully recreated this stunning colour using the ingredients and production method of the original Elizabeth Arden Victory Red lipstick.

You can buy the stunning Victory Red Besame lipstick in Betty’s Closet (Amazon shop) at