Red is a signature color when it comes to nail polish. Like red lips, it’s the color you can slip on confidently for any occasion. Pastel pink for a weekend picnic, bright scarlet for a trip to the mall, and deep ruby red if you’re headed to a formal soiree. And that’s just the beginning. If you browse the shelves at any shop you’re guaranteed to come across dozens of shades of red nail polish ranging from vaguely pink whites to slightly reddish blacks. That’s where the struggle comes in. In 2017, there are so many manufactured tints of red polish that it’s easy to get lost in a sea of crimson. You need a guide to help you coordinate different reds with your outfit, your makeup, and your personal level of glam. Look to these famous women of the screen to learn how to maximize the possibilities of red.
MARLENE DIETRICH FROM 1937
Covered in pinkish taupe makeup and decked out in a tasteful sequined dress, Dietrich was one of early cinema’s most beautiful stars. She knew how to highlight her natural sophistication with the subtle reddish peach on all fronts. Notice how her matte nail polish complements the ruddy tone of her skin. When you’re picking out red nail polish this summer, let the shade of your other makeup products be your guide.
RITA HAYWORTH FROM 1941
Bold red nail polish exudes a fierce sexiness. That’s a quality you can seize upon when the setting is right. In this iconic image from the 40s, Hollywood royalty Hayworth uses everything within her power to turn her red nails into a blazing, searing symbol of desire. The scarlet shade stands out against her thin white dress and those manicured nail tips lengthen her fingers and heighten their visual tension. If you’re headed out on a steamy date, take these details into consideration.
JOAN CRAWFORD FROM 1945
Orange nail polish often falls into the red category when it comes to crafting a look. If you think red is too typical or same old, same old, look for some nail polish shades that incorporate a little yellow into their tone. This color will help blend other dramatic makeup changes like orange lipstick and yellow eyeliner, both 2017 beauty trends more daring than uniquely colored nails. Take a cue from Crawford and use orange nail color to ease in bold, new makeup hues. If you can work orange into your outfit and surroundings too, more power to you.
LAUREN BACALL FROM 1950
You know two of the areas for eye-popping makeup are your nails and your lips. Want a pop that’s less aggressive but still stands out against your outfit? Use the same shade of red to tie these two spots together. Red works best as a highlight when the red of your ensemble is grayscale. The same red will unify your statement color and make it feel more a part of the whole even if you’re wearing bold scarlet with muted gray or black. Here, screen legend Bacall highlights the classic shade even more by posing in a gentle field of daisies.
DOLLY PARTON FROM 1978
If you want your red nail polish to blend in, pair it with another bright color. This is a recent trend brought on by 2017’s fashion penchant for bright hues rather than blacks and whites. It’s an interesting change for your red nails. Where before they were a notable statement color against your grayscale outfit, in a multi-colored ensemble red is just another color in the collage. Don’t let the words “multi-color” and “collage” scare you. One bright color will still mute your nails pop a little. Take this look from everyone’s favorite country star. Parton’s nails pop, but so does her searing yellow dress, creating a fireworks display for your eyes rather than one defined explosion of color.
Whether you want a statement color, something that blends in, or some combination of the two, these famous ladies can help. Red may be a vintage classic, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear it like it’s old-fashioned.— Scarlett Price