Monday, February 27, 2012
Madame Qui-Vive, in her Sears promotional pamphlet Hairdressing and Beauty Talks, had a bit to say on the subject of powder and rouge. Here is her article in full:
PROPER USE OF POWDER AND ROUGE
The New York Medical Journal, the most dignified and conservative medical journal in the United States, endorses the use of pure cosmetics. The powder puff and the rouge pot are acknowledged as useful hygienic accessories. Following is a brief quotation of the article to which we refer:
“The use of face creams and makeups is universal and the moral aspect of the question is becoming settled. Our women now fearlessly and scientifically handle the complexion brush, the face cream, and the powder puff. Why is the face of a country woman sixty years old faded and wrinkled, while the face of a city woman of the same age frequently is smooth and beautiful? On account of protection against the elements. The city woman has been using her cream and powder for forty years and has yet to experience any deleterious effects.
The idea that the faces of actresses are old looking off the stage is pure superstition. Many an actress courted of our fathers has a complexion the envy of our daughters. These are things the physicians should know and not be afraid to say.”
It is not an uncommon matter to hear a woman say: “I have never used powder in my life.” It usually happens that the woman’s complexion would appear to better advantage if it were powdered. The statement she makes is usually orated in a voice significant of great virtue and self satisfaction. Powder protects the skin from atmospheric dust and also from sun and wind. Good materials can be put in powder form as well as in creams or skin foods. There is no earthly reason why a woman should shun face powder as if it were poison.
The woman who keeps youthful and dainty never feels presentable without a bit of powder. It takes away the shine and the starched look and puts in its place a soft velvety surface, clean and pleasant, and gives an appearance of perfect grooming.
Excessive pallor is significant of ill health or drooping spirits and a touch of rouge on pale cheeks will not only make the chalky, wan face brighten up, but it will have a certain effect upon one’s mental state. The woman who looks into her mirror and sees the reflection of bright eyes and rosy cheeks must certainly feel happier than the one who gazes upon the mirrored outlines of a pale, white faced, forlorn looking lady.
Powder should never be applied without a foundation of cream. Special greaseless creams are manufactured for the use of those who have oily skins. This cosmetic vanishes as it is rubbed into the skin and just enough of it remains on the surface to hold the powder tight. When rouge is used it should be put on after the cream, and the powder is fluffed in afterward.
Powder should not be scattered about the face, but should be rubbed in thoroughly. The idea that it will clog the pores is nonsense. Many a mother who dusts the entire body of her infant with powder fears to put powder on her face. Life is certainly filled with many absurdities, and custom creates strange inconsistencies.
While too much rouge is always to be deplored – for the world has little use for the “painted lady” – a tiny touch of color will be found becoming. You doubtless know personally dozens of women of high social standing who have used cosmetics, rouge and powder all their lives and not one of them has any but the most exquisite and youthful complexions. To scare away wrinkles and give Father Time the laugh, the complexion should be given generously of some good skin nourishing oily cosmetic. Continual bathing of the face robs it of the natural oils and their equivalent is supplied by cold creams and skin foods.
It is best to remove powder and rouge with a bit of cold cream, although pure soap and water will do the work as well, and the cream can be rubbed in afterward.
Friday, February 24, 2012
The interesting illustration above is from 1906, showing new styles of shoes with embroidered stockings "to match." It's amazing to think the ladies would have bothered with such nicely decorated stockings, since the long flowing skirts of the day would have tended to cover these designs completely!
But then again, great-grandma wasn't dropped off by a stork. Maybe these fancy tights weren't intended for just anyone to view, but were meant instead for husbands and special-someones. It's maybe possible that they could have been used for beach wear, too (since it wasn't till the 1920s that the idea of going bare-legged even to swim became socially acceptable.) I'm of course speculating -- these mysterious tights may never divulge their mysteries to us moderns!
Monday, February 20, 2012
As mentioned in another post about Edwardian makeup, it was believed that only certain kinds of women wore lipstick, also called lip-rouge. It was not encouraged. However, there was no bar on women wearing lip moisturizers -- even if they had a bit of added red dye. The Era Formulary gives the following recipes for a variety of lip salves, with instructions to dye them using about 200 grains of alkanet root and to add whatever essential oil fragrances one would like (I'd suggest cinnamon, orange or lemon oil. Note that too much cinnamon oil can irritate the lips, but for this very reason it is actually used in a lot of modern-day lip plumpers, as the "plumping" action is so achieved through that very irritation.)
Anyway, on with the recipes:
8 ounces Vaseline
3 ounces white wax
8 ounces coco butter
1 ounce white wax
8 ounces benzoinated lard
5 ounces white wax
8 ounces sweet almond oil
5 ounces white wax
8 ounces purified mutton tallow
4 ounces white wax
The instruction for these is to add the alkanet and fats together and gently warm them, until the intensity of color is satisfactory. Then strain, and mix in the essential oils. Pour the finished formula into pots for use.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
Most people are familiar with the practice of ratting the hair, whereby one roughly frizzles and tangles the hair by backcombing with a comb or brush to give it volume. Not so many understand what a hair rat is.
Short description: it is a mass made from artificial or real hair (in the latter case, often saved off one's own comb or brush, though purchased can also be used) employed so as to pad out hairstyles. They are less popular nowadays than they once were, due to their use requiring somewhat long hair in order to secure and conceal them; modern short hairdos don't always allow for this. Additionally, modern hairsprays and glues can often produce similar effects which were not otherwise obtainable in the past. Still, in the hairstyles of Victorian and Edwardian era women (and Georgians, too!) they were often essential for being able to achieve the fashionable looks.
Madam Qui-Vive writes, "There are many advantages in a [rat.] It not only shapes the head properly, but it saves one’s own hair from “ratting” and gives a good, firm, solid foundation for puffs, braids or curls. The hair can be waved or it can be worn plain."
Hair rats can be made in pretty much any shape needed, and are done by tangling up or ratting (hence the name) whatsoever hair is to be used, into the proper form. One's own hair saved off a comb or brush is recommended because this way, it will exactly match your own hair's color and texture. Show-through was a common problem; while formal studio portraits always show ladies with their hair and makeup freshly done, more informal pictures of Edwardian ladies frequently show their natural locks in a bit of disarray, falling away from an inner form that probably is a hair rat; as in the following example of a girl with a low pompadour:
To use a rat, it is secured with hairpins or sometimes with very small threads (much like modern weaves) and the natural hair arranged over it.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
For everyday wear, the Oxford style shoe was a popular choice. The shape of the moment was for a long, narrow, pointed toe, and a "French" heel (what we usually now call a Louis heel) of about 2 inches: rarely ever was it higher, or lower. Even walking shoes for ladies tended to have elevated heels.
Fletcher complained against the fashion of the pointed toe, thinking it to be too uncomfortable:
"Though ages past have shown us many curiosities of footwear, nothing more abnormal or more inimical to the beauty of the foot, and consequently the grace of a woman's walk, has ever had any vogue than the absurdly deforming and crucially uncomfortable pointed-toed shoe of the present decade. It should be said in their defense that women are not alone to blame for the folly. If the shoemakers did not make them they could not be worn; and if there was anything else to be had in the shops, there is an army of women who would never wear them. They are women who cannot afford their private bootmaker, and often have to buy where they can cheapest; and even the wise woman who knows that the best in quality is the truest economy is equally restricted in style.It is idle to urge in defense of the pointed toe that the remedy is to buy longer shoes, and that you thereby gain for the foot a slender appearance and give the toes the necessary ease. When a shoe of this shape is long enough to secure this freedom, it is too large for the heel and the ball of the foot,—even with an unusually high instep; and will rub blisters in the most surprisingly unexpected places. An ill-fitting shoe may be too large as well as too small; both extremes are a menace to the health and comfort of the foot."
I was able to buy a set of shoes in a thrift store of a similar appearance to the ones portrayed above, and have to say I don't find the long toes to be more uncomfortable uncomfortable or problematic than any other dress shoe; in fact less a problem than many a fine pair I've owned. In any event, the fashion of the Edwardians was for more of a long, narrow foot than for a small foot overall, and the elongated toes of the shoes helped one to gain this impression.
Monday, February 6, 2012
"It is a physical characteristic of the American woman to possess as handsome feet as any women in the world, not excepting the Spanish, Russian, or Polish; yet except among the Chinese, no women treat their feet so badly, in a mistaken effort to improve their beauty. Dr. Shoemaker has aptly pointed out that there is such a thing as a 'danger-line of beauty,' and native-born American feet often verge upon this, and occasionally pass it. That is, they may be too short for the height of a person. A woman five feet six inches in height should have a foot nine and one third inches long. It should be slender and delicate, not thick nor broad; and in the highest type the instep rises in a gracefully swelling arch. 'It should be axiomatic that nothing, except face and hands, can be so aristocratic as a well-dressed, shapely foot; nothing so plebeian as an ill-dressed, clumsy one; and nothing more vulgar than any foot in a shoe manifestly too tight.'"
Friday, February 3, 2012
The old-time texts of the Edwardian era usually advise washing hair once a week. Some take this even further: they say that, in fact, hair should never be washed more than once a week.
The natural oil of the hair and scalp doesn't seem to have been considered a dirt like it is nowadays. In fact, it was considered healthy and beneficial. Books of the era advised to keep the hair combed and brushed to distribute the sheen, and that one should avoid adding other pomades and greases to any but the driest of hair.
I decided to brave this tactic and put it to test. Usually I'm a person who shampoos and conditions every day or every other day. A week without washing my hair would be a bit of a task. I made sure to arm myself with period-correct styling tools: a natural boar-bristle brush (stiff, like the texts direct -- so it will "stimulate the scalp") and a wooden comb.
It is notable that the wooden comb does a fair job of keeping the hair clean on its own. Something about its texture makes it very good at picking up any lint, dust or other things that have gotten into the hair. Maybe for this reason, Mme. Qui-Vive had made it a point to say that all combs and brushes should be always kept "scrupulously clean." I made sure to give my hairbrush a wash and comb-through as well.
I shampooed my hair on Saturday. By Monday my hip-length hair was looking typically oily, at least down to about the shoulders. A whitish film -- I assume the oil and dead skin from my scalp -- was beginning to collect on the wooden comb when I'd run it through. By Thursday, my hair looked as if I had intentionally greased it up with styling pomade, and dandruff was becoming a bit of a problem: nevertheless, at the store that day the clerk (whom I had never seen before) complimented me on how I looked so "Victorian" in the way I'd done my hair. The greasiness was, admittedly, giving the hair a bit of body and hold, very much like a styling pomade would. It was interesting to see that only the upper part of my hair around my scalp was getting oily: everything from the shoulders down stayed pretty dry. On Thursday night I decided to follow some in-period advice and brush a little bit of castor oil into the ends, to help keep them moisturized (usually my hair would be conditioned frequently to keep the ends nourished and strong.) This now allowed my hair to be uniformly greasy.
By Friday the dandruff seemed to have cleared up, for no apparent reason. Hair still looked very slick and well-greased. Brushing hair was becoming a high point of the day -- the 'stimulation' of the brush made my scalp feel just a bit less oily and nasty.
Interestingly, on Saturday, prior to any washing, that disgusting feeling had mostly gone away. My hair was still undeniably oiled looking, but it was very shiny, and the oil seemed to be leveling out some, so that the strands weren't inclining to clump together so much. In fact, Saturday's hair probably looked better than Monday's.
Some months prior I'd actually done another Edwardian hair experiment, washing my hair according to the recommended historical mode and then applying a period-correct concoction of castor oil and alcohol as a sort of conditioner. It too had left my hair greasy but shiny. At left is my "shampooed and conditioned" Edwardian look: right is my "natural" Edwardian look. Note that while in both pictures the hair just looks nice and shiny, I don't think in real-life view you'd perceive the hair, in either case, as not being a bit greasy looking: the sheen is definitely that of oil, not of healthy, clean hair.
Much like today where that which is "artificial" is frowned upon, the Edwardians would have considered the naturally oily hair to be the healthy and correct version of beauty, whereas they'd have had some kind of excuse for why the applied oil was unhealthy for its being "unnatural." Nowadays we tend to feel somewhat opposite to this; oil secreted from the body is perceived to be more unhealthy than applied botanical oils. As my experiment shows, in any case, the better part of a week's nastiness can be avoided but a similar result obtained, with the artificial application of oil.
The recipe for my applied hair oil -- called Brazilian Amber Gloss -- is as follows:
1 part castor oil
7 parts 80 proof alcohol
Essential oil perfume may be added as desired: the original recipe used a perfume made from 1 part each thyme and clove oil to 2 parts geranium oil. To use, apply the final mixture with a brush to freshly washed and dried hair. Keeping the hair very well combed and brushed is the key to making this "well-oiled" look work in one's favor.