Style Police: A slash of red lippy is the season's prescribed make-up statement. But there's red and red
In the movies, you can always tell a scarlet woman by her lipstick. Kim Basinger is obviously no better than she should be with her LA Confidential siren red pout. Glenn Close's blood red cupid's bow in Dangerous Liaisons is twitching to deceive. But it was Madonna's ruby red Evita lips which made the crossover to fashion in Winter 96 with a limited edition Estee Lauder lipstick. Red lipstick spells iconic glamour, supreme confidence and control. This season a slash of crimson on the lips is the eclamation mark to finish off dominatrix heels and severely-tailored trouser suits.

But will women wear it? "The past seasons have seen a shift towards natural, iridescent make-up in neutral tones," says Minx beauty director Tamara Sturtz, "and women may be only just getting used to that minimal make- up look. But siren red is a Christmas colour. It is a night colour. It is not a tone for wallflowers. Red say 'Look me over but keep your distance'." The real question is whether Nineties women want to look - at best - like Jessica Rabbit and at worst a Russian hooker. Bright red is from the old school of glamour: the perfectly made-up mask. It's for raven-dark icons like Joan Collins and Paloma Picasso, both walking Andy Warhol screen prints.

US Vogue canvassed catwalk make-up artists Francois Nars and Dick Page on how to avoid looking like a throw-back to Studio 54. "Too elegant is deadly," says Nars, "and avoid lip liner - so old couture." Page advises: "Don't be too precious with red. Just whack it on." Now Style Police knows that a gamine young supermodel can get away with just-been-snogged smudged lippy. On a real woman, it looks sloppy.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the fun in applying make-up is the ritual," says Chanel press officer Kate Williams. "There is something so elegant in posing with a compact and applying lipstick." Chanel's "Quator Levres" in red (pounds 29.75) is a compact of gloss, matt, satin and iridescent red lippy begging to be whipped out in a smart powder room. Style Police recalls a newpaper colleague who would apply scarlet lipstick during editor's conference. Every man in the room was transfixed. "You may not find many women feeling confident enough to wear red lipstick in the office. but when they do it's a knockout," says Sturtz. But who can be bothered retouching when the new colourstay lipticks will last well into the next millennium? Estee Lauder's "Evita Red" lipstick was a limited edition, but their "True" Lipstick in red (pounds 12.50) is one of the strongest new products for the Christmas market. Style Police's resident vamp Emily Kennedy tested the latest reds and says, "Don't you believe it when a lipstick says 'stayfast' or 'kiss-resistant'. I've tested them thoroughly and Boots kissed right off. My boyfriend ended up looking like Betty Blue. Revlon's 'Fire' Colourstay (pounds 7.95) stayed put though, and I had so much fun vamping up with the Chanel compact." When it comes to red lipstick, real life does mirror the movies. You know if you are a scarlet woman at heart. If you have the fire down below, then paint the town red.