Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Price of Beauty!

I was putting on my makeup this morning, looking at my pale face (after yesterday's nightmare sinus headache). I felt I needed some color, not only with my lipstick, but all over to relieve my ever-so-slightly-light-greeny-white complexion. Ha Ha! Quickly, I brought out the bronzer!

Then I remembered The Look, the favored visage of the18th Century attractive woman! Pale, very pale indeed! I instantly felt better, like perhaps if I lived in the 1700's, this palor would be an asset! I'd be popular, and very much in-vogue!

Only today can a lady go out and buy affordable cosmetics. In the 18th Century, only the women, or men for that matter, with means could afford these little luxuries. It was a time when outward appearance revealed your station in life. Faces were pock-marked from disease, tooth-loss made for sunken cheeks, and generally the lower classes' poor diet reflected on the complextion as well.

Only if you could afford to, were scars and blemishes covered with fashionable black patches of silk or taffeta, to hide imperfections, and enhance beauty. These patches were cut out in little interesting shapes! Hearts, diamonds, circles, flowers! For the poor, the question became: Do I eat today, or do I purchase some silk for my pimple?!

Hair too was enhanced, piled high on the head, eventually reaching tremendous heights, powdered and perfumed, propped up on the inside with forms, and decorated with flowers, boats, stars, anything the mind could think of depending on the occasion. The poor just had to tie their greasy hair back, and out of the way.

Here's an interesting account I found on-line:
The basic ideal of a beautiful face was described by Sir Henry Beaumont in Crito; or A Dialogue on Beauty (1752) "the forehead should be white, smooth and open. The skin in general should be white, properly tinged with red with apparent softness and a look of thriving health in it. The cheeks should not be wide; should have a degree of plumpness, with the red and white finely blended together. The eyebrows, well divided, rather full than thin, semi-circular broader in the middle than a the ends. The mouth should be small, and the lips not of equal thickness. A truly pretty mouth is like a Rose-bud that is beginning to grow...."
In contrast to the very white complexion the cheeks and lips were excessively rouged due to the poor quality of the product making application difficult. Eye make-up was not used but the eyebrows were darkened or thickened using mouse skins. Cheek plumpers of cork or leather were inserted too.

Cosmetics were made at home as well. Below see an interesting recipe for a face pack, or "fard" as it was called:
Take two ounces of oil of sweet almonds, ditto of spermaceti: melt them in a pipkin over a slow fire. When they are dissolved and mixed, take it off the fire, and stir into it one table-spoonful of fine honey. Continue stirring till it is cold; and then it is fit for use.
This useful paste is good for taking off sunburnings, effects of weather on the face, and accidental cutaneous eruptions. It must be applied at going to bed. First wash the face with its usual ablution, and when dry, rub this fard all over it, and go to rest with it on the skin. This is excellent for almost constant use.

Beauty is an ever-evolving thing, and styles come and go. Think, for instance, a few years ago the singer Pink, created quite a scandal with her pink hair. Today, many others have gone pink, or green, or brilliant yellow, and no one gives it a second thought. What will be next? It's fun to see what will be the next trend! It seems palor is making a comeback! Or at least, the very dark eye!

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