It’s easy to brush off the 1920’s as the swinging Jazz Age, full of opulence and bootleg gin. But amongst the bobbed haircuts and flapper dresses, incredible advances for women were taking place. From easy to use lipstick to the right to vote, the 20s changed women’s lives forever.
It’s only fitting that Gabriela Hernandez started her Bésame Cosmetics line with a lipstick from 1920. As we step into the 2020s, Gabriela's looking back a hundred years to see how the nascent women’s movement inspired our modern makeup.
1920 - Bésame Red
Significant advances in women’s rights in the 20th century started from an unusual place — war. During World War I, men went off to fight and someone had to work in their place. Just like Rosie the Riveter, women stepped into the workforce.
The factories and workplaces of the 1910s weren’t friendly to the large bustles and skirts of the period, so dresses started to get smaller and shorter. Women felt the independence of making their own money and being out in the world, which slowly lead people to believe that women might have something to say...and a right to be heard.
On August 26, 1920, women’s lives would never be the same. After a 70 year struggle, women finally gained the right to vote. With money, independence, and an equal say in the government, women celebrated their new freedoms with easy to wear clothes, short hair, and for the first time, makeup.
Though makeup was used throughout history, it first became socially acceptable for all classes in the 1920s. Maybelline Cake Mascara and the invention of the lipstick tube both came about in 1915, so by 1920 these newly easy-to-use cosmetics became popular. Women were free to go out in their knee-length skirts (oh, the scandal!) and wore a bright red shade that announce for all women “We won’t stay in the shadows. We’re here to be seen.”
Gabriela found this bright red shade and fell in love with the vintage lipstick. She was so enamored of the color, packaging, and gorgeous detail that it inspired her to start a makeup line of her own. So, she painstakingly replicated the color and Bésame Red was born.
At first, Gabriela thought this little vintage lipstick would stay a side project. But people were drawn to the history and intricate detail of the product. It was more than just a pretty color. It was a connection to the strong women of our past. It was a declaration of power. It was the freedom of the 20s brought to life. Without any advertising, the lipstick sold out and soon Bésame grew to the line it is today.
1922 - Blood Red
By 1922, Prohibition was in full swing around the country. This was actually a good thing for women in two ways. One, it was the first time that a women’s cause made a major difference in national legislation. Prohibition was actually passed before the women got the right to vote, but without women leading the charge against alcohol, the 18th Amendment never would have happened.
Before Prohibition, liquor was incredibly strong and many women became victims of men who drank too much, couldn’t work, and took out their anger on their wives. Getting sick of being captive to drunks, women started preaching temperance and called for the banning of alcohol altogether. In 1919, Prohibition was ratified and by 1920 all the booze was “gone.”
Having a say in the Constitution wasn’t the only Prohibition plus for women. Speakeasies were good, too! Though alcohol was legally banned, it popped up again through illegal sources practically overnight. Before 1920, women either weren’t allowed in bars, were kept in separate areas from the men, or had to be officially escorted. Since a Speakeasy was completely illegal anyway, women went in as they pleased!
As women enjoyed the freedom of the nightlife, their looks got even bolder. Gabriela found a vintage 1922 lipstick at an antique store in California and immediately became captivated. The shade was surprisingly dark with a pure red tone. The deep shade had a sense of daring as the darkness of the color was even more audacious than the bright red of a few years before.
That vintage lipstick was the inspiration for our 1922 Blood Red, a seductive shade that evokes the thrilling and illicit nights of the Jazz Age.
1925 - Forever Red
In 1925, America was rapidly changing. New York officially became the largest city in the world, taking the title from London. Movies were increasingly popular with classics like the original Ben-Hur and Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush making their debut. And women found roles far outside of the kitchen.
Nellie Tayloe Ross and Miriam A. Ferguson
Nellie Tayloe Ross became governor of Wyoming in 1925, while Miriam A. Ferguson was elected governor of Texas in the same year. In only five years, women went from having no say in the government to running the largest state in the union.
Since 1925 exemplified the growing power of women, Gabriela chose a vintage shade from the year to replicate for Bésame’s 15th Anniversary. Forever Red is a classic shade that looks good on any skin tone and will never go out of style. The red has a deep, cool undertone, perfect for when you don’t want to be ignored at the office or a glamorous evening out.
When women chose to wear makeup in the 20s, it wasn’t just to look pretty or impress men. Makeup made a statement. A statement that women couldn’t be ignored. That they had power. That they would lead the country into a modern age. Though lipstick may seem like a small part of that movement, a simple red lip said a lot. And it still holds that same power today.