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Beauty from another time…

April 10, 2011

This has been stewing on my desktop for a while… The boy I’m dating spent college in Williamsburg, Virginia. It likes calling itself “Colonial Williamsburg,” and I hear it’s really quite a lovely place. I’m a history buff so I’m looking forward my eventual visit.

What I didn’t realize is that Williamsburg’s got a pretty neat page that has just a bunch of articles about Colonial American life and history. This is a podcast about 18th century beauty practices, it’s very brief and worth a listen. Super interesting! You can also just read the transcript of the podcast here.

Thin or nonexistent eyebrows, you can purchase mousehide eyebrows, as odd as that might sound to us. They are not frequent. They are made fun of quite a bit, but they are available. I have not seen them here in Virginia, but there are lots of evidences of them in French and English culture. There’s a wonderful poem by Matthew Prior, I believe is his name, and talking about a lady peeling off her eyebrows and setting them on her dressing table at night and the kitten runs away with them as fees belonging to his prey. – historian Meg Hunter

The website also has a list of 18th century beauty recipes, if you’re in the mood and have a stockpile of lard around. The lard, if you’re wondering, is for some sort of Rose Balm for general moisturizing, which is raising my eyebrows about that old-fashioned Smith’s Rosebud Salve. Hrm…

Meg Hunter also referred to a book called the Toilet of Flora as one of the best existing resources for us to find out how women went about prettifying themselves back in the day.
Toilet of Flora
(image courtesy the Chemical Heritage Foundation)

It’s in the public domain and Google books has it here, if your time-wasting requires something a little more unusual than your usual stroll down Gawker. No offense to Gawker. It’s really a fascinating browse. Imagine having to make your own cosmetics from scratch, accumulating herbs, oils, and flowers, then distilling or grinding or what-have-you. I wonder how many of these traditions or formulas form the basis for the deliciousness we get in Sephora, especially given the trend for all-natural lines nowadays.

Anyways, have fun perusing.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Valerie permalink
    May 11, 2011 4:19 pm

    So much fun! Good post!!

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