"Myths and Facts"
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Myth: "Don't wear any or only subtle lipstick
when you are in uniform!"
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The Black & White "Fallacy":
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(Picture Courtesy of Shelby L. Stanton)
Copyright protected
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(Picture Courtesy of Shelby L. Stanton)
Copyrigt protected
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You think these WAC service women have used discreet lipstick?
Check out by clicking the b/w images !
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Facts: WWII Service Women and Cosmetics

While modern military regulations frown upon bright cosmetics and other symbols of adult lady behavior during World War II, such as smoking cigarettes, these were accepted as womanly attributes during the 1940s. There was no equality of the sexes mandated or even desired. Women were always viewed as women foremost, and thus entitled to look and act both feminine and attractive by the standards of the time (with only excesses disapproved). 
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.... Feminine appearance of service women was even encouraged to counteract the popular sentiment that women in the military would loose their femininity. These concerns were a major problem for recruiting efforts, and unwritten policies favored nice figures and facial good-looks for enlistment, promotion and officer potential. 

Furthermore, much contemporary literature from the World War II period attests that the attractiveness of female volunteers was an important morale consideration aimed to boost the soldiers' spirits.

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Cosmetics were an important factor because nearly all other feminine attributes like fashionable dresses, high heels, loose wavy hair, jewelry, etc., had to be suppressed in favor of functionality. 

The use of cosmetics in the 1940's was intended to highlight "natural beauty". While eye-shadow and rouge was applied discreetly to give a fresh and rosy look, lipsticks were used in striking red colors. 

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(Some cosmetic companies tried to attract especially service women with their advertisements) 
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Camel advertisement from LIVE magazine ..... Furthermore, liberal application of lipstick was encouraged for women by medical authorities (including the military) during an era when smoking was part of sophisticated adulthood.

Lipstick was thought sufficient to guard delicate female lips against smoke vapors.  Just as popularly, it gave a sexy polish to the cigarettes themselves -- both to flirt and to allow socially permitted public exchanges between couples sharing cigarettes, even without direct kissing.

Service life, as part of adult culture, mandated this make up style as it gave social conformity to cosmetic trends (especially for rural girls not used to big-city ways) and introduced nonsmoking women to cigarettes. 

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Recruitment Poster: Navy Nurse CorpsRecruitment Poster: ARC Nurse's AidRecruitment Poster: Women Reserve of the Marine Corps ..... Striking red lipsticks were not considered as extremely conspicuous or excessive. Unlike today, they were deemed part of the fashionable "natural look". 

With this background, it can be understood why bright red scarlet lipcolors were used by service women despite military regulations  which prescribed "inconspicuous" make up. Indeed, the Women's Reserve of the Marine Corps even advised to use only lipstick which matched or blended the scarlet red hat cord. 

Official recruitment posters and brochures, period magazines as well as wartime photographs show clear evidence of the extensive use of red lipsticks. Naturally, some women refrained from cosmetics for religious and other reasons, and lipstick was often absent in the field.

The use of cosmetics in World War II is totally unlike today's unisex environment, where female soldiers are expected to conform to the similar appearance standards as male soldiers. 
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..... Recruitment Poster: Army Nurse CorpsRecruitment Poster: Cadet Nurse CorpsRecruitment Poster: Navy WAVES
Recruitment Poster: Women's Army CorpsRecruitment Poster: Coast Guard SPARSRecruitment Poster: Women's Army Auxiliary CorpsMagazine Cover with Army Nurse
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Therefore, it is important not to mistake current army standards for previous military allowances or be misled by WWII regulation orders of "inconspicuous make up" which were actually often disregarded. This attitude is also confirmed in the statements regarding Army Nurses and their use of make-up in 
War Department News Release S-1039 (December 1942)
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If you want more detailed information about 1940's make up please take a look at my
"20-to-40-style Make up Guide"
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Make-Up Guide from www.swingstyle.de.
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