Monday, October 20, 2008

Regency Beauty


Women today spend a great deal on cosmetics and skin preparations and toiletries, what did they do in the Regency.

One thing we often read is that people did not wash in those days. In the 1806 Belle Assemblee the following was said

The toilette without cleanliness fails of obtaining its object. A careful attention to the person, frequent ablutions, linen always white, which never betrays the inevitable effect of perspiration and of dust; a skin always smooth and brilliant, garments not soiled by any stain, and which might be taken for the garments of a nymph; a shoe which seems never to have touched the ground; this it is that constitutes cleanliness


Ablutions is of course washing. this picture is of an early watercloset. During the Regency period, indoor plumbing was making an appearance particularly for personal hygiene. There were baths being installed and even showers.

The writer of the article also makes a pitch for rouge. It seems that painted faces were the norm rather than not since he says if paint was proscribed, or done away with, he would vote for keeping rouge.

If ever paint were to be proscribed, I should plead for an exception in favour of rouge, which may be rendered extremely innocent, and may be applied with such art as sometimes to give an expression to the figure which it would never have without that auxiliary. The colour of modesty has many charms; and in an age when women blush so little, ought we not to value this innocent artifice, which is capable at least of exhibiting to us the picture of modesty?

A recipe for a "red lip pomade" from the year 1805 listed the following ingredients: half a pound of fresh unsalted butter and two ounces of pure wax, plus currants and one to three grams of alkanna tictoria. To give it a pleasant fragrance a spoon full of strong orange blossom water was also added.

Something else we often wonder about. Hair. It is quite often said that there was no hair removal in this period. But we read in La Belle Assemblee, the following:

Superfluous Hairs are one of the greatest drawbacks from the delicacies and loveliness of the Female Face, Arms &c. TRENTS Depilatory removes them in a few minutes, and leaves the Skin softer and fairer than it was before the application; it is used by the First Circles of Fashion and Rank, and now stands unequalled in the World. It is sold by every respectable Perfumer, Medicine Vender &c. in London.

Now how effective it would be I cannot say. But clearly they were as concerned with at least some superfluous hair as we are today.

And something for the gentlemen? A home remedy.

To increase the Growth of Hair. Hartshorn beat small and mixed with oil, being rubbed on the head of persons who have lost their hair will cause it to grow again as at first.

Lots more cosmetics to come. Join me again for another Regency Ramble.