|When I wrote about The Plankton back in September, it sparked much debate with friends about whether or not women over forty became suddenly invisible.|
But every conversation about sex appeal - were we still desirable, beautiful, attractive, we asked ourselves anxiously - inevitably turned into a broader discussion about the forty-something state: Suddenly, I became appallingly paranoid that I would wake up one morning and discover myself wearing purple with a red hat that doesn't go?
'We simply have to work harder to make ourselves visible, particularly at work' said my friend Basista, and I think she's right - one does lose the effortlessness of youth in one's mid-forties. Sometimes it's the small things like having to think twice about wearing an A-line skirt with a chunky heel - what looks hip on a thirty year old can easily look frumpy on a fortysomething, particularly if you remember the look first time round - I mean, God knows what havoc the coming Thatcher-inspired trend will wreak. All I'm going to say is, if you're old enough to remember her as Prime Minister, steer well clear of the clothes unless you're achingly hip and very obviously working in fashion.
Anyway, sometimes it's also the bigger stuff, like realising that life isn't the rehearsal it once was, and you've got to get on with the Next Big Thing before it's Too Late.
However, since this is supposed to be a post about make-up, I shall stop myself segueing off into some psycho-drama about a dawning realisation of one's mortality/career shelf-life etc etc, because I've remembered that what my friend Basista went onto say - not entirely flippantly - about how the antidote to mid-life invisibility was to wear bright lipstick. She's right, of course but it's not just about making a bold statement, it's also about the subliminal sophistication conferred by a really good red lip.
Although I'm madly keen on my shiny Dior Addict one, if it's done perfectly, a red lip should be matte and it should also be expensive - not Tom Ford spendy, necessarily, but definitely something bought with due ceremony and sense of occasion from one of the more intimidating beauty counters in a department store. Chanel, of course, is the gold standard when it comes to sophisticated glamour and there are several marvellous reds in the Rouge Allure range, but I do wish they had Rouge Premier - a copy of the first ever red lipstick Chanel produced - as part of the permanent offer: it came out as a limited edition about ten years ago along with a killingly beautiful gold eyeshadow, and I only wear it once a year because I can't bear to think of using it all up.
Finding one's perfect red takes time and a lot of experimenting - it's all about nuance - I had fourteen at the last count (six of which are badly photographed below) in every shade of red from vermillion to crimson.
Now that I add up the approximate cost, fourteen red lipsticks is a rather lavish investment. But of course, I wasn't just buying a lipstick, I was investing in the whole idea of myself as elegant and well-put together.
I don't think the search for the perfect red is finished by any stretch of the imagination - I've yet to try the Bobbi Brown red that everyone says is a classic- and as I write this, I've just rummaged in my desk drawer and come across a very serious red I'd forgotten I even had (make that fifteen red lipsticks) - Dior Addict in Red Carpet. Possibly it ticks the 'get you noticed' box a little more emphatically than my everyday red (which I'm wearing in the Dior taxi), but that's all to the good.
Is Basista right? Is bright lipstick the perfect antidote to mid-life invisibility? It certainly seems to give one a much needed confidence boost. However, I'll offer one small warning: the distance between groomed glamour and looking like Bette Davis in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' is little more than a sharp jog of the elbow.