You’ve seen her darting into the stacks in search of Moody’s wearing Chanel knock-offs and Kenneth Cole shoes. You’ve glanced at her from the corner of your eye during conferences wolfing down free scones while decked in what you’d swear was last year’s Mizrahi. Or you’ve seen her with that Linda Evangelista-like pout and Oliver Peoples frames as the umpteenth person has asked her where the bathroom is. And you wonder, “who is that exquisitely attired woman and are my tax dollars paying for it?” Who is she? She’s a Lipstick Librarian!
The history of Lipstick Librarians is a troubled yet glamorous one. During the nineteenth century when librarianship was in its infancy, librarians were envisioned as the “handmaidens of the library.” It was in 1892 that Wanita Huffington of Saginaw, Michigan, who, after spending two hours turning an unholy blue while being yanked into a whale-bone corset, went into what several historians have identified as “a tizzy”, heaving several volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary at city councilmen and a few stray cats during the dedication of a new wing. It was then that a few brave souls decided they’d rather be mistresses rather than handmaidens. Thus, lipstick librarianship was born.
Into the Twentieth Century
Along with indoor plumbing and the manufacture of some really hideous shoewear, lipstick librarianship marched proudly into the twentieth century, stopping only to admire itself discreetly in store windows. Lipstick Librarians demonstrated their support for the Suffragette Movement by fighting for free access to the women’s underwear section of the Sears-Roebuck Catalog. During World War II, while the nation suffered the rationing of life’s luxuries, Lipstick Librarians added a little sunshine to the lives of countless housewives with their uncanny ability to synthesize a fairly decent rouge using library glue and red-ink stamp pads.
So the next time you see a Lipstick Librarian hiding behind clothes racks in a department store, struggling to put on a size-6 Betsey Johnson mini-skirt underneath her dress after a big lunch, or driving cosmetic salespeople crazy by asking if they can switch lipsticks in that free-with-any-purchase-over-18-dollars gift, think of the unique heritage they’ve provided (not to mention tips on where to find designer-label clothing wholesale) for our profession.