Thursday, November 6, 2014

From the archives: What's at the Makeup Counter in the 1820s

Thursday, November 6, 2014
With deadlines looming, we've pulled this post from our archives to share again.

Loretta reports:

Thanks to Frances Grimble’s splendid compilation, The Lady’s Stratagem, (which I’ve referred to/raved about hereherehere, and here), I’ve discovered several terrific resources dealing with historical dress and manners in the early 19th century.  One was The Duties of a Lady’s Maid (1825).

Among other things, the book offers a clue to how matters stood regarding makeup.  The contents make it clear that it was acceptable for women—and not just actresses and harlots—to wear make-up.

Though the author recommends making beauty aids at home—and offers many dire warnings regarding toxic ingredients—ladies could and did buy them from their favorite perfumer.

One could buy rouge in dishes, of which there were two kinds, Portugal-made (superior & costlier) and London-made.  One could also buy small cakes of rouge-tinged Spanish wool (I’m picturing felt, but welcome explanations from our experts)—the London-made being superior to the Spanish-made.

There were also color papers.  One variety was rouge-tinged paper, “chiefly for the convenience of carrying it in a pocket-book.” Another, from China, came in fragile 3” diameter “large, round, loose cakes.”  The wool that holds the rouge is described as being “like carded wool,” and apparently, the color flaked off easily.

China also provided color boxes, which “contain each two dozen of papers; and in each paper are three smaller ones, viz., a small black paper for the eyebrows; a paper of the same size, of a fine green colour; but which, when just arrived and fresh, makes a very fine red for the face; and lastly, a paper containing about half an ounce of white powder (prepared from real pearl), for giving an alabaster colour to some parts of the face and neck.”

Mouse fur eyebrows not included.

Illustrations courtesy Wikimedia
Top: Katsushika Hokusai, A bowl of lip rouge, a mirror in a case, and a packet of face powder.

Bottom:  Mignot Parfumeur, illustration from Journal Universel 16 décembre 1854—by Monsieur Gilbert Randon.


Ann Sharp said...

Possibly the cake of wool was the woolly equivalent of a cotton ball.

RocketJNYC said...

Ann Sharp - I believe that was(and still is) generally called cotton wool.

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