Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's at the makeup counter in the 1820s

Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Loretta reports:

Thanks to Frances Grimble’s splendid compilation, The Lady’s Stratagem, (which I’ve referred to/raved about here, here, here, 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.


Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Loretta and I marveled over the colored "papers" described here, and we both were sure we'd heard of a modern version - though of course we couldn't remember it at the time, either. Late last night (also of course), I did recall the name of the product, Papier Poudré, which in the manufacturer's description sounds exactly the same as these - except they say it was developed in the early 20th c. Au contraire! *g* (BTW, I've never tried this, so this isn't an endorsement - simply another NHG "the more things change..." observation.)

Sarah said...

Fascinating! I might dig around in the newspaper archives online for cosmetics in the adverts too...
would the Spanish wool be from the Merino sheep, and the natural lanolin a carrier for the colour?

Isobel Carr said...

I’ve never heard of these papers, how cool! Reminds me of the little papers you get from Japan now for soaking up oil on your skin.

textilehistorIE said...

Paper makeup?! Mouse eyebrows - ugh!

Seriously glad I found your blog though, ladies. Really enjoying it!

Isis said...

I made Spanish Wool rouge recently, which may interest you:

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