Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Beaute Spot

My last purchase from my French vacation was a Christian Dior lipstick. How could you leave Paris without something
beauté.

Then I started thinking about beauty products in the 18th Century. Both men and women in England and France wore cosmetics! As a matter of fact, cosmetics distinguished one as an aristocrat, and in fashion, or a la mode! Make-up was intended to look like paint, not a natural enhancement. And, typically, there was an aim to lighten the skin, as well as cover blemishes, hide defects, age, disease. In fact, "mouches" or beauty patches covered a multitude of sin, including pox marks. These little thin paper black tissues were applied right over the bad mark, later becoming known as a "beauty spot".
  
The face painting for the royals and other aristocrats of the French Court became kind of a formal toilette ritual, that particular courtiers were invited to view. However, cosmetics were not limited to upper society. Any bourgeois could participate. So, cosmetics began to rise in price and availability. Where the glitterati ran towards bold colors, the middle class tended toward pinks or softer tones. Rouge was applied in circular motions with fingers, rather than the brushes used today.English women were a bit more sedate, as portraiture of the 1750's and 60's indicates. They liked the more natural look, but hey, that's the Brits! The English are still best known for their country outing looks, where it's France that screams Haute couture.

By about 1781, French women used about two million pots of rouge a year! See a typical rough pot at right!
In the 1760's, vanity tables, or Coiffeuses, become the rate, and dressing rooms were built to face north to capture the best light.  

Blanc or white color could be make from bismuth or vinegar, and then veins traced with blue pencil to highlight the white. But, fashion can be a dangerous business. The white makeup that was so preferred and enjoyed was made from lead, leading to terrible accounts of lead poisoning. One famed English beauty, Kitty Fisher, died at age 23 from lead poisoning, in 1767.

Red makeup was made of vermilion, ground from cinnabar and mercury, or from creuse, made by exposing lead plates to the vapor of vinegar. These are both toxic.
But the fashion pendulum swings back and forth. What is considered fashionable one season, can be OUT, OUT, OUT the next. By the end of the 1700's, perhaps because of the Revolution, lipstick slipped out of fashion, and the painted look was relegated to actors and prostitutes. Ahh, how fickle is fashion!

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