Makeup as Muse: Claes Oldenburg

Welcome to a very special edition of Makeup as Muse!  On this day 45 years ago1, artist Claes Oldenburg's Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks was re-installed at Yale University.  This sculpture has always fascinated me and I wanted to find out more about it.  There's a ton to unpack here so away we go!

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, Claes Oldenburg

There is quite a long history behind this piece.  Oldenburg had previously used lipstick as a central element in a work he created during his first visit to London in 1966. According to the Tate, Oldenburg had designed a single oversized lipstick for Piccadilly Circus intended to rise and fall with the tide.  He also made a collage of a postcard of Piccadilly Circus and a cut-out of magazine advertisement for lipsticks.  The lipstick "monuments" in both pieces were designed to replace the statue of Eros.  "To replace the Victorian statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus with lipsticks lifted from an advertisement was, therefore, to update one vision of sexuality with another."  Oldenburg remarked at the time, "For me, London inspired phallic imagery which went up and down with the tide - like mini-skirts and knees and the part of the leg you can see between the skirt and the boot, like the up-and-down motion of a lipstick, like the cigarette butt..."  I'll discuss the "phallic" nature of Oldenburg's lipstick later but for now let me just say that I find it very off-putting when men presume lipsticks are somehow reminiscent of male anatomy.  Can't a lipstick just be a lipstick? 

Claes Oldenburg - Lipsticks in Piccadilly Circus, London(image from

As soon as I read that Oldenburg had cut the lipsticks out of an ad I went on the prowl to see if I track it down.  Alas, I did not succeed in identifying what lipsticks were used.  The bullet shapes and cases look close to those of Max Factor, Yardley, Avon (I don't even know if Avon was available in the UK) and Clairol lipsticks that were sold at the time, but weren't an exact match.  Coty's lipsticks seemed to be the most similar.2

Coty lipstick ad, 1960s

Coty lipstick ad, 1960s
(images from and pinterest)

Anyway, Oldenburg continued expanding on the idea of a large lipstick sculpture intended to be a monument of some kind.  By 1969, the basic design for his sculpture at Yale was sketched in a drawing and shared later in a magazine published by Yale architecture students to celebrate the gift of the sculpture to the university.  I find it interesting that Oldenburg changed the lipstick bullet to a beveled shape rather than the conical ones he used for the collage of Piccadilly Circus.  Oldenburg also notes that while the lipstick had become part of his visual language3,  the concept for the sculpture was partially influenced by Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International tower.  "It became very strong in my mind at the end of the sixties. It led more or less directly to Lipstick."4

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks drawing, Claes Oldenburg(image from

In early 1969 the artist mobilized a group of faculty and students at his alma mater, who called themselves the Colossal Keepsake Corporation, to assist in the creation of a mixed media monument that would serve as a form of protest against the Vietnam War as well as a platform/gathering area for public speaking and student demonstrations.  The group, lead by architectural student Stuart Wrede, raised roughly $5,000 to build Lipstick and kept the plans hidden from Yale officials.  The lipstick bullet was constructed of inflatable vinyl and required a mechanical pump to extend it to its full height, while the tank portion at the bottom was made out of painted plywood.  The tube itself was meant to unfold telescopically.  The end result, weighing 3,500 pounds and rising 24 feet, was unveiled in front of Yale's Beinecke Library on the first day of final exams: May 15, 1969.

installation photo of Oldenburg's Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, May 1969
(image from

In the selected location, the sculpture overlooked not only a World War I memorial but also the university's President's office. Talk about sticking it to the man!

Oldenburg with Lipstick (Ascending) Caterpillar Tracks, 1969
(image from

Within just a week of installation, the vinyl tip was punctured and replaced with heavy-duty aluminum.

installation photo of Oldenburg's Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, May 1969(image from

So what did the sculpture mean for both the Yale community and the public at large?  There are many interpretations and I will do my best to summarize them as succinctly as possible.  First and foremost, Lipstick is considered Oldenburg's way of playing with traditional gender iconography.  In his 1969 "Notes", the artist remarks that Lipstick is a "bisexual object".  The lipstick is a symbol of femininity as well as consumerism, while the tank, through its connotations with war and the military, is a stand-in for masculinity.  By combining these stereotypes into a singular entity, one could argue it's a symbol of gender equality.  But the way the elements are juxtaposed indicates additional meanings.  The fact that the lipstick is sitting on top of the tank, in a sense dominating it, was occasionally construed as a feminist stance, especially given that Yale had announced plans to accept women students starting that fall. 

Claes Oldenburg, Lipstick (Ascending) Caterpillar Tracks

On the other hand, as noted in his previous lipstick collage, some perceived the lipstick bullet as a phallic object.  Bridging these interpretations was the underlying subtext of the Vietnam War.  "[The] large lipstick tube is phallic and bullet-like, making the benign beauty product seem masculine or even violent. The juxtaposition implied that the U.S. obsession with beauty and consumption both fueled and distracted from the ongoing violence in Vietnam."  However, given that in its original form the lipstick bullet was often deflated, perhaps it was Oldenburg's tongue-in-cheek way of dismantling the gender binary.  The flaccid lipstick bullet no longer wields the same masculine power it did when, um, fully upright. "The wonderful thing about it is that it will never stay up," he said in a recent interview with the New York Times

model - Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks(image from

However you interpret Lipstick in terms of gender, it's undeniable that it simultaneously represented a sort of a joke as well as a place to protest.  The student group that organized the sculpture's acquisition maintained that Lipstick was intended as nothing more than a silly monument. According to Bust magazine, "Members of the Colossal Keepsake Corporation vehemently denied the sculpture was either peaceful or militant, saying that they’d simply wanted to thwart the administration by creating something ridiculous to rally around. An event in and of itself."  The protests that took place on campus throughout 1969 attest to the fact that while humorous, Lipstick was also meant to be a site of political action for a variety of important causes - of course protesting the war in Vietnam, but also feminist rallies, student strikes and Black Panther gatherings.       

Oldenburg himself confirms the dual meanings. "There’s an element of humor in whatever I do...but it also can be turned into something pretty serious."  This goes back to his 1961 manifesto in which he claimed, "I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum...I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary."  In a 1996 interview with The Guardian, he cites Lipstick as being one of his more political pieces.  "That one did have a political purpose to it; I think it was a lot to do with the fact that it was commissioned by the students...I would do works for various causes, and in that sense I've always been political."

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, Claes Oldenburg(image from

The story of this remarkable piece doesn't end in 1969.  Lipstick was removed by Oldenburg in March the following year and sent to the New Haven-based Lippincott metal foundry for repairs, which was the company that had fabricated the few metal components of the original sculpture.  Obviously, the other materials were not the sturdiest and couldn't withstand the elements or the frequent usage by students.  The wood of the base had become warped and rotted, covered in graffiti and posters, and the metal had started to rust.  In 1971 a new plan was hatched by Yale art history faculty as well as the art gallery director to restore and bring the sculpture back to campus.  "The original members of the Colossal Keepsake Corporation voted to donate the work to the Yale Art Gallery.  With the gallery making a permanent loan of the work to Morse, the lipstick was restructured by Lippincott, at a reported cost of $14,000. (Mr. Oldenburg himself donated a lithograph edition of the Lipstick, with the proceeds of its sale to provide a permanent fund for maintenance.)"

On October 17, 1974, another version of Lipstick was installed at Morse College. This one maintained the dimensions of the original sculpture but was constructed of hardier Cor-Ten steel. 

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, Claes Oldenburg

The installation was quite a celebration, and it solidified Lipstick as a bona fide piece of artwork.  Here's a fun little excerpt from an account of the evening's festivities by the New York Times.

"To music, speeches and some exuberant student shenanigans, a peripatetic monument made a comeback on the campus of Yale University last night. Kingman Brewster, Yale's president, who reportedly is not captivated by the lipstick's esthetic appeal, was not on hand for the ceremony. 'It's a great event. The first time, we didn't have music,' said Mr. Oldenburg, who, with rousing accompaniment by the Yale University Band, addressed the crowd in his stocking feet from a perch on the lipstick's base. “I'm taking off my shoes to demonstrate that the piece should be treated with some respect since, among other things, you'll find it useful as a speaking platform. And hope you'll take your shoes off when you do.'  Though its sponsors denied that their intention was political, it was seen at the time by many students as an anti‐war monument and also a refreshing dig at Yale's stuffiness, both architectural and social...Mr. Scully, an art and architectural historian, took a long, admiring look at it. 'You notice how that orange color brings down the blue of the sky?' he said. 'And how the form makes you read the verticals of the Morse tower?'  Later Mr. Oldenburg, surrounded by students, said he was glad the work was 'now a qualified art object.' 'Lots of people got so involved in the content they didn't see the piece as a form,' he said. 'I also like the fact that it now embodies a history, like the obelisk in Central Park.' And, gazing fondly up at the rocketlike structure, he added, 'I think it will be very uplifting.'"  Indeed!

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks, Claes Oldenburg
(images from

While there has been a recent effort to move the sculpture back to its original, more prominent location on campus, Oldenburg is content with Lipstick's current site, where it continues to inspire students today

Naturally I feel the need to share my thoughts on Lipstick.  I concur that it's two things at once:  a vehicle intended to help affect serious social change as well as a sort of gag artwork.  While I haven't seen it in person, I imagine Lipstick looks quite majestic and powerful rising above the plaza.  At the same time I bet I would snicker walking by it - the inherent silliness of oversized objects never fails to make me giggle.  However, I'm not really on board with the outdated, gendered meanings associated with Lipstick.  If we accept the lipstick/tank to read as stand-ins for women/men, it does seem as though the tube is stomping all over traditional masculinity, and thus could be interpreted as a feminist statement or the rise of women's rights.  But I feel that lipstick shouldn't, in 2019, still be a marker of femininity or women, as I believe makeup is for everyone regardless of gender.  Plus dominating or defeating men isn't what feminism is about anyway - it's not an "us vs. them" mentality, we just want to be equal. I'd also like to take the notion of the lipstick as phallic symbol completely out of the conversation.  I understand there is a vast history behind this concept and that it's still being used to sell lipstick. But once again, I don't think lipstick should be a gendered or hyper-sexualized object in this day and age.  To acknowledge that a lipstick's design can be sexy is one thing; to interpret it as a substitute for a phallus is something else. Perhaps 50 years ago it made more sense.

Overall, I think Oldenburg's Lipstick is an important artwork that captures the turbulent political atmosphere of the '60s while also serving as a reminder not to take art, or even ourselves, too seriously.  What do you think about this sculpture? 


1 This post was supposed to be published way back on May 15 to mark the 50th anniversary of the original installation, but of course nothing is going according to plan this year so I had to post it on a different anniversary of the sculpture...and even that was late so I had to massively back-date it.  Sigh. 

2 While I couldn't discern what lipsticks were used in the collage for the earlier Lipstick collage, the finished sculpture drew a comparison to a specific brand:  the 1974 New York Times article mentions Lipstick's "Tangee-like tip of glowing orange".  Still, none of the bullets I could find in Tangee ads seemed to have Lipstick's beveled shape.

3 I couldn't find an installation date, but apparently Oldenburg created another gigantic lipstick sculpture for the opera in Frankfurt, Germany.  It's interesting to compare this one, the Lipstick at Yale, and the earlier collage to see how they interact with each other and how they can be perceived as a cohesive body of work.  In short, Oldenburg's lipsticks don't exist in individual vacuums.  The Tate explains it better than I can:

"A sculptor who moves between performance and graphic art, Oldenburg treats his work as a totality in which key themes and motifs interweave in a variety of media. Taken as a whole, his graphic works represent a number of themes that have structured his practice throughout his career (see, for example, System of Iconography – Plug, Mouse, Good Humor, Lipstick, Switches 1970–1, Tate P07096). These motifs range across media, from performance and sculpture to the graphic arts, and include a shifting sense of scale, size and location, as well as exchanging hard for soft and organic for machine-made materials. Oldenburg sees this activity not as a series of discrete and isolated pursuits, but as a totality through which he engages with and represents the reality that he encounters every day. As the historian Martin Friedman explained in 1975:

Oldenburg’s art is a totality. The themes, each manifested in different media, are intimately related. Detailed drawings of objects, hastily scrawled notes, fragments of poetry, cardboard models, muslin and vinyl soft sculptures, and the recent large industrially fabricated steel pieces are elements of a total view. His ‘performance pieces’ that continued into the mid-1960s and combined people, objects and environments are essential to this view.
(Friedman in Oldenburg: Six Themes, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis 1975, p.9.)

Lipstick (Ascending) on Caterpillar Tracks – and the larger body of graphic works of which it is an example – represents one piece within a constantly evolving oeuvre; a ‘total’ work that responds, in multiple media, to the variety and ephemerality of the everyday, material world."

4 The Guardian, May 24, 1996.  Accessed at

5 You can see more of the installation in this video around the 35-second mark.

Curator's Corner, September 2019

CC logoI've been keeping up with links in Feedly but lacked the time to share them here.  I finally managed to pull something together for September.  Happy fall!

- I'm all for surgical cosmetic enhancements, but I'll keep my resting bitch face, thank you very much. 

- "Makeup brands largely ignore plus-size consumers in their imagery. The exclusion feels impossible to justify when one considers that lipstick and eyeshadow have no size limit." Refinery29 had an interesting piece on the lack of plus-sized models in makeup advertising. While I'm not plus-sized, my weight has definitely fluctuated several sizes and that's one of the reasons I love makeup so much - it always fits.  So it is indeed odd (and wrong) that we don't regularly see plus-sized models in campaigns.

- The original article is behind a pay wall (annoying) but fortunately Nylon summarized the Business of Fashion's report on the declining sales of major beauty brands.  One of the reasons they cited matches what a recent Yelp survey found: consumers are opting for skincare treatments over makeup. 

- In the seemingly never-ending battle between Ulta and Sephora to be the top beauty destination, it looks like Ulta is starting to get the upper hand.  I have to admit I've been shopping there a bit more in the past year or so...but I still like Sephora's samples better.  #sampletramp

- Another one to add to my makeup coffee table book wishlist.

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, fall 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of Friends.  Personally, I'm with this guy.

- I started following Atlas Obscura's feed and I love it!  They highlight museums I never would have known about otherwise.  Did you know there's a whole nutcracker museum?   

- In other museum-related news, an independent curator who has been extremely supportive of the Makeup Museum on Twitter is raising money to help him retrieve the few items that did not perish in the wildfires in his former hometown of Paradise.  Please consider donating. I know that if most of my collection and personal items were lost in a fire while I was on the other side of the country and I couldn't afford to go back to get whatever was left before my previous home was razed to the ground, I hope that people would help me.

- While I'm asking for favors, I might as well request that you continue to keep my parents in your thoughts.  While my dad has shown marked improvement on the cognitive side, physically he has not progressed much.  :(  These past 6 months since his stroke have continued to be incredibly difficult for both him and my mom, exacerbated by the short-sighted sale of my parents' house (and my childhood home - I'm still in shock that it's gone, and have shed many tears thinking about how my dad never got a chance to say goodbye to the house.) Please think of us and send any good energy and healing vibes you can spare. 

So as not to end on a down note, what are you looking forward to this fall?  I dread the short dark days, but I do love my pumpkin spice lattes and honeycrisp apples! 

Look here: vintage lipstick mirrors

As with lipstick holders and tissues, another piece of makeup ephemera has seem to gone nearly extinct:  the built-in lipstick mirror.  Sure, there are still some run-of-the-mill fabric and leather lipstick cases with mirrors inside, and some contemporary companies have recycled the basic designs, but no current lipstick mirrors are as novel as their vintage counterparts.  Today I'll take a look (haha) at the various vintage contraptions and mechanisms that allowed for a quick lipstick touch-up.  As usual this exploration is not intended to be a comprehensive history of lipstick mirrors, but a brief overview and theories as to why they have mostly disappeared from the beauty milieu as well as the reasons they were even produced in the first place.

The simplest design consisted of a mirrored tube, favored by the likes of Avon and Flame-Glo.

Vintage Avon mirrored lipstick tube
(image from

Flame Glo mirro-matic ad, July 1959

The second most basic and inexpensive option was the humble lipstick clip, which attached directly to the lipstick tube.  The adjustable design meant that it could fit virtually any tube and was easily removable. 

C-lip lipstick mirror ad, September 1946

C-Lip lipstick mirror clip on advertisement, July 1947

Vintage Lip Vue lipstick mirror clip on(image from

Coty24 ad, Feb. 13, 1957

I purchased a couple of these clips for the Museum's collection.  Here we have the "Looky" mirror, which was patented in 1957, and Compliments, which most likely dates to around the same time.

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

Vintage Looky and Compliments lipstick mirrors

The only design flaw with these types of mirrored tubes and clip-on mirrors was that they would be easily smudged since the mirror was exposed.  Enter the folding lipstick mirror and clip!  Elizabeth Arden's Rolling Mirror lipstick debuted in 1959, and while I couldn't find an exact date for Stratton LipViews, they probably were released around the same time and continued to be sold until the early '90s.

Elizabeth Arden Rolling Mirror lipstick ad, Dec. 1960


Elizabeth Arden Golden Rolling lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1960

Stratton lipview

Stratton lipview
(images from

Avon also made a far less elegant plastic version.

Avon clip on lip mirror

The mirror could also be protected from smudges and scratches via a sliding mechanism instead of a folding one, as shown in this fan-shaped Stratton lipstick holder.

Vintage fan-shaped Stratton lipstick mirror

Stratton fan-shaped lipstick mirror

These next few will put a spring in your step.  Spring-loaded, sliding cases in which the mirror popped up when the lipstick was opened were also quite popular.  Shown here is Volupté's Lip Look, which dates to 1949-1950.  Elgin, Elizabeth Arden and Kotler and Kolpit offered similar cases.

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Vintage Volupté Lip Look lipstick mirror

Elizabeth Arden "Looking Glass" lipstick ad 1936


Elgin lipstick mirror ad, Dec. 1953

Vintage Stratton lipstick mirror

Given how many came up in my search for lipstick mirrors at Ebay and Etsy, it appears that the most widely available model of the spring-loaded variety of lipstick mirrors was a silver carved case accented by gemstones.  They're unmarked, meaning no particular company patented the design and choice of metal.  I believe they were mostly sold in department and jewelry stores.

Vintage sliding case lipstick mirror

Vintage sliding case lipstick mirror
(images from

Despite the silver cases' ubiquity, I'd say the most recognized name-brand spring-loaded lipstick mirror was Max Factor's Hi-Society, which was heavily advertised from their debut in 1958 through approximately 1965.

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick ad, 1959

You might remember I featured these in the Museum's holiday 2016 exhibition.  I'm still hunting down all the designs, which actually isn't difficult given how many the company produced. 

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases


Next up is a more complex version of the folding mirror.  Instead of a tube clip, this was an entire folding hand mirror with the lipstick hidden within the handle.  Here's an unmarked, super blingy version.  Stratton also made a bunch.

vintage folding lipstick mirror

folding lipstick mirror ad, May 1, 1953

Here are some rather dainty petit point and floral versions by Schildkraut.

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror
(images from

Vintage Schildkraut folding lipstick mirror
(images from

Schildkraut's represent possibly the earliest form of lipstick mirrors, judging from the patent.


The folding model's popularity continued well into the 1960s, as evidenced by Kigu's "Flipette".

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick

Kigu Flipette lipstick
(images from

Kigu Flippette lipstick ad, 1964
(image from

Finally, there are the handle inserts.  This item from Revlon would appear to be a regular hand mirror, but the lipstick is cleverly hidden in the handle.  It was introduced in 1950 as the "biggest news in lipsticks since swivels were born".  How very exciting.

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Vintage Revlon lipstick mirror/wand

Revlon lipstick mirror ad, March 1950

Of course, Max Factor upped the design ante with their "Doll Set" lipsticks, which were introduced in 1967.

Max Factor doll lipstick ad, 1967

Max Factor doll lipstick

Max Factor doll lipstick
(images from pinterest)

Now that we have a good sense of the types of mirrors that were available, let's spend a little time thinking about why they were made, or at least, why the advertising claimed they were the greatest things since sliced bread.  The first reason built-in lipstick mirrors were a necessity - again, according to the advertising at the time - was the ease provided by a fused lipstick and mirror.  Presumably women who wore lipstick also would have also carried around mirrored powder compacts, which could be used for lipstick touch-ups.  Fumbling around in your purse for a mirrored compact when you just needed to touch up your lips and not your face powder, apparently, was too difficult to handle on a regular basis.  As this 1935 newspaper blurb states, "Keeping lipstick and mirror together is the biggest trouble."  Oh, the horror!  (Bonus points for the blatant racism at the beginning of the piece.) 

Detroit Free Press, Aug 13, 1935

Such a "harrowing experience" to not be able to find a mirror!

Volupte Lip-look ad, Oct. 1, 1949

The second reason was that the lack of digging around for a mirror meant lipstick could be applied more discreetly, you know, for "when you want to sneak a look while the boyfriend's back is turned." (More bonus points for the weight/food shaming piece below the lipstick article.)  Much like lipstick tissues, lipstick mirrors were meant to be used to avoid an etiquette faux pas.

The Atlanta Constitution, Oct. 4, 1939

This 1940 column takes the idea of discretion a step further.  As we've seen time and time again, a woman's makeup habits are dictated by what men think.  "We suspect that the bold-face manner of applying lipstick is due for a set-back as a table pastime.  Recently we heard more than one rumor that men are expressing a dislike for the practice.  And it is a smeary, messy looking operation for a beloved with his own dreams about a natural beauty.  Better keep him, if not guessing, then not too much in-the-know about your coloring source."  Heaven forbid a man actually see a woman mend her lipstick!  Ladies, please keep your silly frivolous face painting to yourself so as not to ruin TEH MENZ' unrealistic expectations of so-called natural beauty.  I can't roll my eyes hard enough. 

NY Daily News, Feb. 23, 1940

Thirdly, one can't be seen with a beat-up compact.  Women should always present the prettiest possible cosmetic cases when in public.  Seriously though, at least this 1956 clip is straightforward in proclaiming that a lipstick mirror is merely aesthetically pleasing instead of a necessary accessory in the battles against flaunting your makeup application and a messy purse in which no separate mirror can be easily unearthed.  Just a little dose of "extra glamour".

The Journal News, Feb. 10, 1956

And of course, let's not forget that as part of their goal of making a healthy profit, beauty companies are forever trying to invent another superfluous gadget or product and declaring it the next must-have.  Perhaps lipstick mirrors were the mid-century version of vibrating mascaras.  In any case, despite the lack of popularity for the built-in lipstick mirror as well as the cynicism of modern-day makeup wearers like myself, several brands forged ahead with attempting to resurrect the lipstick mirror over the past 20 years or so.

In late 1999, with much fanfare, Givenchy introduced their Rouge Miroir lipstick designed by by sculptor Pablo Reinoso. Reinoso became Givenchy's Artistic Director for their fragrance and beauty line shortly after the lipsticks' release. 

The March 2000 issue of Vibe magazine proclaimed the sleek, futuristic design to be the height of convenience: "No more knives or rearview mirrors".  Wait, who uses a knife to apply lipstick?!

Givenchy Rouge Miroir
(image from

A year or two later, Estée Lauder launched their Pure Color lipstick line.  I believe these mirrored cases came out in the mid-2000s when Pure Color lipsticks were at their height.

Estée Lauder Pure Color lipstick
(image from

Some more recent examples I found include this mirrored tube from Kailijumei, a brand best known for their "flower jelly" lipsticks. 

(image from

Guerlain's Rouge G series was introduced in the spring of 2018 and comes in a variety of collectible cases (and, duh, I'm working on acquiring them all).  The mechanism is similar to Stratton's in that they won't close unless there's a lipstick bullet inside.  While practical, it makes for quite the hassle to take photos of the cases only as they keep popping open.  I have to tape them closed, which is a less expensive option than buying lipstick bullets to go in each case.

Guerlain Rouge G

Guerlain Rouge G open

Finally, I spotted this folding lipstick mirror from J-beauty brand Creer Beaute, which was included in their 2018 Sailor Moon-themed collection.

Creer beauty sailor neptune

Creer Beauty Sailor Neptune folding lipstick mirror
(images from

Still, these designs are not nearly as common as their predecessors from the early-mid 20th century.  Why did the popularity of the built-in lipstick mirror fade over time?  One theory is that lipstick packaging with built-in mirrors is more expensive than non-mirrored packaging, and therefore, not as appealing to consumers.  Guerlain's Rouge Gs, for example, cost $55 ($33 for the bullet and $22 for case) while their KissKiss lipsticks are priced at $37.  Going further back in time, Elgin's spring-loaded mirrored case by itself was $5.50, while the price of an average lipstick was $1.10.  Why pay for a mirrored lipstick case if you (most likely) already have another mirror available?  Yes, you might have to dig around in your purse a bit, but at least it won't be lighter for having spent money on a lipstick/mirror combo.  This theory could also explain why clip-on mirrors were seemingly everywhere, as they were the cheaper route to fusing lipstick and mirror. 

Another theory for the continuing disinterest in built-in lipstick mirrors could be that for the last 5-10 years there's been increasing demand for less, or at least recyclable, packaging.  While some higher-end brands are refillable, most lipsticks sold with a built-in mirror don't appear to have a refill option, and consumers may be less likely to buy a mirrored lipstick tube knowing yet another packaging component will eventually end up in the ocean.  Plus, while the new designs are relatively slim, they're still bulkier than lipsticks without built-in mirrors.  The majority of beauty consumers, myself included, don't want anything taking up more room in their purse or makeup bag. 

Finally, I believe beauty consumers are savvier than they were in the early days of the industry and are less susceptible to marketing and gadgets.  A built-in lipstick mirror may have been considered revolutionary in the '40s because swivel tube lipstick had been invented just a few decades prior, but by the '70s these mirrors may have seemed old hat.  So certainly by the 21st century we know these designs are not truly a breakthrough, nor are they anything that would be considered a necessity.  I featured no fewer than 6 Kailijumei lipsticks in the Museum's spring 2017 rainbow-themed exhibition, and just now noticed there were mirrors on the tubes.  The fact that the mirror didn't even register with me, a person who enjoys re-applying her makeup and has spent countless hours poring over product packaging, until now when I'm actually discussing lipstick mirrors shows just how unnecessary a built-in lipstick mirror is.  And again, the majority of beauty consumers is likely to be carrying a compact mirror anyway, rendering a lipstick with a built-in mirror redundant.  We also know that makeup companies update older designs and market them differently to see what sticks.  To cite Guerlain's Rouge G, the description at the website highlights how the user can select both the color and case to suit their individual taste.  "Every woman is unique...choose your lipstick from a wide range of shades to match your look: from the most nude to the most extravagant.  Choose your case from an array of styles – from the most timeless to the most trendy".  Rouge G has the same basic mechanism as the spring-loaded lipsticks of yore - it's especially similar to Max Factor's Hi-Society with the array of designs - but the marketing focuses on the customizable aspects (a concept that has spiked in popularity over the last two or so years...I've been meaning to write something about the craze for name engraving/customization) rather than the newness and convenience of a dedicated lipstick mirror.

What do you think of the built-in lipstick mirror?  Would you consider it a must-have?  While I certainly appreciate the aesthetics, it's nowhere near a necessity for me.