Monday, October 4, 2010

If your eyebrows are imperfect...

Monday, October 4, 2010
Loretta reports:
As Nerdy History persons who've looked into the 18th century can attest, the recent Silly Historical Video Susan posted was all too horribly true.  The only adornment that took us by surprise was the carrots.  I'm still trying to figure out where the Horrible Histories people got that one.

The bit about the mouse fur eyebrows, on the other hand, was not news.  We've seen advertisements.  And I suspect there might have been at least a few ladies whose eyebrows actually looked like those in the video.  But to learn more about aids for less-than-perfect eyebrows, I dipped into one of my favorite tomes, The Lady's Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery, & Etiquette.  There I found the following:

"Remedy for Imperfections of the Eyebrows

"When your eyebrows are straw-colored, cut them now and again, so that they darken in growing back.  You run no risk because the absence of this nearly white hair will not be remarked.

"When your eyebrows go only half-way over the eye-socket, rub them with soap moistened with brandy to make the hair grow.  If they are too thin, the same practice is necessary..."

A few pages further on we read:
"To blacken the Eyelashes and Eyebrows.  Rub them often with elder-berries.  For the same purpose, some make use of burnt cork, or clove burned at the candle.  Others employ black frankincense, resin, and mastic:  this black, it is said, will not come off with persperation.

"Wash for blackening the Eyebrows. First wash with a decoction of galls. Then rub them with a brush dipped in a solution of green vitriol, and let them dry.

"Black for the eyebrows. Take an ounce of pitch, a like quantity of resin and frankincense, and half an ounce of mastic.  Throw them upon live charcoal, over which lay a plate to receive the smoke.  A black soot will adhere to the plate; with this soot rub the eyelashes and eyebrows very delicately.  This operation, if now and then repeated, will keep them perfectly black."

I've cited The Lady's Stratagem in an earlier blog.  It's chock full of fascinating Nerdy History information.


Alexa Adams said...

The carrots reminded me of the radishes (or were they turnips?)that Luna Lovegood wears as earrings in Harry Potter. Thanks you for introducing me to Horrible Histories! I spent too much time watching their videos following your post and enjoyed myself immensely.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, I'm glad my daughter didn't know about THE LADY'S STRATAGEM when she was in junior high. She probably would have tried all the remedies!

Beth Elliott said...

Eyebrows were obviously a big problem. I love the bit about the soot paint that will not come off with perspiration. The soap and brandy one appeals but it would be wise to keep away from fire if using that!

Lexi Best said...

In discussions about eyebrows I am reminded of an episode of Lovejoy, a British series that starred a dishy Ian McShane as a divvy. A divvy is an antique appraiser who can just *tell* whether something is genuine or not.
In this episode he was evaluating some old family's wealth including a famous Gainsborough. He declared the painting a forgery, much to the family's horror. He could tell, he told them that it had been painted in the earlier years of the 20th century because of the eyebrows. The eyebrows, he said, always gave them away. And it's true if you watch any period movie.
Came over to your blog from Georgiana The Duchess of Devonshire blog. I just discovered it the other day and having been reading through it. Now I shall have to add yours!

LorettaChase said...

Oh, Lexi, I loved that show! But I didn't remember about the eyebrows. Thank you for the reminder. He's absolutely right.

Lexi Best said...

Loretta I loved that show too! such lovely visuals and you learned something about antiques. Rosemary and Thyme is another great show if you like to look at things English though it's focus is out in the garden.
Did you see any images of the call girl who claimed she had sex with David Beckham. She looked as if she had painted on her eye brows with a resin mixture. Most bizarre!

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