Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Poll: Lipstick etiquette


I have heard that there is a transatlantic divide about the etiquette about reapplying one's lipstick in public. I would not bat an eyelid about taking out my (Dior) compact and my (Guerlain) lipstick and reapplying it at a restaurant table, but American friends say it is a vulgar no-no.

Vote on this matter on the right.

29 comments:

Trevira said...

How fascinating! I've just recently come across a Daily Mirror cartoon from 1914 which addresses this very subject - in the last panel a man startles a woman by having a shave at a restaurant table! I'll see if I can link to it, if anyone's interested.

Ever since women first started to wear conspicuous cosmetics in the early 20th century (Victorian women did use them but made sure it didn't look obvious), their public application was deplored as bad manners.

But then, what were all those exquisite little compacts made for, if not for using out and about?

Isabelle said...

I'm in France, and have never been shocked by women applying lipstick in public. Take the métro in Paris. It's common practice.

Anonymous said...

I'm an American, and the version I learned is that applying anything BUT lipstick in public is not permissible.

Mary Anne in Kentucky

Anonymous said...

When I lived in London I always did my make-up on the tube. It felt pretty transgressive but it saved a lot of time. I always got the impression people around me were oddly fascinated, but perhaps they were just disgusted.

Hedera said...

There's a title 're-applying lipstick in public' on the right, but underneath that is not a voting option, just an Amazon ad.

For the record, I think it's perfectly fine to do it, but I'm in the Netherlands.

Toby Wollin said...

Wait a minute - as I recall from my mom's behavior(definitely a lady of the 30s, 40s, and 50s)as well as films, not only is it acceptable and elegant to reapply lipstick with your compact, but powdering one's nose is definitely ok. However, I think that making major adjustments to one's hair is considering NOT ok because doing hair was considered a private and rather intimate thing.

Anne (in Reno) said...

As another American, I was always taught the same as Mary Anne - lipstick is fine but anything beyond that is taboo, ESPECIALLY if you're getting out a hairbrush.

Linda Grant said...

That will be a problem with your browser, hedera, as there have a number of votes which indicates it's visible and working

Deja Pseu said...

My very prim-and-proper little grandmother used to pull out her compact and lipstick and reapply after meals, so I've always thought it was OK. It was only in recent years that I had any inlking that some felt otherwise.

I did a similar poll over at Une femme a few months ago, and the results were pretty even yes/no. I agreed with one commenter who said basically, "keep it quick and businesslike, don't make a big fuss."

Hedera said...

Hi Linda!

Yes, that might be it, I'm using Firefox (and I will never go back! Never again! ;-).

Although I was able to vote on the bag vs shoes poll, a while back.

Linda Grant said...

I'm also using firefox so it might be the settings on your firewall

Skoochie said...

Speaking for the "shallow" American South (as opposed to the deep South) --

I think it depends on where you are and who is around. On the metro or in public in general, I think it's fine. At a restaurant --it's fine at a causual lunch or dinner with friends, but the more formal the setting the less acceptable it is to apply lipstick. Any other make-up or personal grooming habit is a no-no, and flashing labels is always gauche.

Anonymous said...

It's iffy in Canada. Lipstick and lipgloss you can get away with if you're quick and don't make exaggerated expressions while doing so; anything more is iffy.

That said, many do apply mascara on the subway. I figure if men can adjust themselves on public transit women can damn well do as they please with make-up.

Anonymous said...

I may put on powder and lipgloss very quickly in public, but I do it knowing that I'm not on my best behavior. I try to keep all personal grooming activities in the privacy of a restroom. If I HAD to choose, I would say that lipstick is the most acceptable cosmetic to apply in public. But I think it's a little gross when actually at a restaurant table, especially while people are eating - I'd wait until we were leaving the restaurant and walking down the street or something.

I'm in KY, USA

lagatta à Montréal said...

I've never seen re-applying lipstick be a problem in Québec - perhaps it is different in anglophone Canada.

Mopsa said...

Good grief - does anyone really object to folks doing this in public? Personally I can do without the farting and the sniffing and the drooling and the spitting. My expectations are low.

Rhiannon said...

A friend of mine who was raised in the 'deep American South' by a true southern belle says her mother (the southern belle) rules thus: if you can see the restroom from where you're sitting you should use it to reapply. if you can't see the restroom then it's ok to reapply lipstick as long as it's quick and with no fuss.

Flavia said...

I apply lipstick in public all the time--with the aid of a pretty, vintage, mother-of-pearl compact, thank you!--but I agree that anything much more than that is in bad form at a restaurant table. And hairbrushes are ALWAYS inappropriate to use in public.

(I live in the Northeastern U.S.)

Gaile said...

I think americans in general do a whole lot worse in public, and are the last people who should be talking about vulgar. Applying lipstick in public isn't the least bit vulgar. Perhaps if you're in a church or something, or up in front of a group giving a speech. But after dinner, or on the tube, it seems perfectly fine. And yes, I'm an american. not that i make a point of advertising it these days...

Phyllis said...

Last week I sat next to a woman on the commuter rail last week who spent the whole trip putting on full makeup. I was mildly annoyed, probably because all she needed to do was get out of bed 20 minutes earlier (If I can do it then she can) Or maybe it was her preening and product pumping that bothered me. Plus – come on, the train? One sharp stop and that mascara wand is going straight into her eye!

But lipstick? Harmless.

dana said...

There seem to be two images invoked by applying/reapplying lipstick in public. First is that of a powdered and sprayed matron with matching bag and shoes, getting that last little detail nailed back down after the luncheon. Second is the overly obsessed with looks tart. I suppose no one wants to admit to the first, but most don't mind being taken for the second, especially when the alternative is chapped lips.

Bex said...

I'm from Canada as well and I've never thought of re-applying/applying lip stick/gloss to be poor etiquette. Though, personally, I wouldn't even IMAGINE applying any kind of eye makeup in public.

Mrs. Fox said...

I believe the official Emily Post position is that any public grooming is considered gauche, but there are so many vulgar public activities these days that I think applying lipstick is probably a minor infraction.

morty said...

I would not add liptick in public. Not even would I powder my nose. There are places with mirrors where you can add and correct your make-up. The thing that really irritates me is, when I how Americans eat. Thers is a total lack of the use of the knife.It really looks awful to see people leaning over their plate,putting there fork hand on the table as well.And then they `pork´their plate. I´ve seen this kind of operating of food in fine restaurants too.

aennchen said...

Didn't know this is up for dicussion ;-)
Here you could reapply your lipstick everywhere, but I prefer a restroom with a LARGE mirror.

Anne (Germany)

soo said...

That's funny, unlike other Canadians who've commented, i've always felt it to be poor manners to reapply lipstick in public. And I'm not sure it's an anglophone thing since I go to a french school in a french neighbourhood and always have.
I'll reapply lipbalm, and maybe gloss (depending who i'm with), but nothing else. I'd be happy to learn that it's ok though, cause it can be a pain to always go to the bathroom after you eat!

Nancy (nanflan) said...

I think it's ok to touch up lipstick in public as long as you don't make a major production of it. That being said, I prefer the ladies' room, where I have a decent sized mirror and can primp to my heart's content

Judy said...

I was just at a restaurant in Shepherd's Market in London and saw a woman at the next table reapply her whole face, powder, lipstick, etc, after the meal.

As an American, this didn't shock me in the slightest until she whipped out a small hairspray and proceeded to give her head an all-over touch up!

I'm not sure about cultural differences, but spraying any kind of sticky aerosol in close proximity to another's food is the height of extreme rudeness and insensitivity.

Anonymous said...

While I think that it is not considered proper, I absolutely love whenever I see a girl doing her makeup. I find it incrediably sexy, and I wish that more women would do it, afterall is there anything hotter than seeing a female redoing her lipstick/lipgloss? Well I guess two hot girls doing each others' makeup, followed by a kiss. So please don't stop fixing your makeup in public, I think if we do it long enough etiquette will change, I can dream!