Arsenic And Lead And Paste, Oh My! The Dead(ly) White Fashion Extreme Of " Enameling "

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JPK Huson 1863

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Currier and Ives produced a long, long series depicting era ideas of beautiful women. " Elizabeth ", " Emily ", " Georgiana ", may have been the era pin ups. For some reason the one aspect in common all these fictional women share is white 'n pink 'n really, really white skin. If you saw anyone walking around that pale in 2019 you'd call an ambulance. There's a life threatening iron deficiency somewhere.

150 years ago we paid to look like over exposed photographs.

So keep running into the era practice of ' enameling '. 150 years ago we seem to have dedicated ourselves to a kind of embalming while still alive. It's hysterical, fascinating and maybe a little familiar- how many odd rituals are out there in 2019 all dedicated to pursuing whatever anyone's definition of ' beauty ' might be. This one is more baffling than most because the expensive form was hugely expensive AND required a fashionista not to bathe.... or at least bathe and leave the expensive parts alone.

I can't find photographic images of women you know for certain have been ' enameled '. Quite a few possibles, mostly women and young girls wearing ball and party frocks. Some seem probables, their uber paleness not the result of a photographic under exposure. Still- posting one would be silly because we don't know.

We'd been slathering various sludge-like preparations on our faces in pursuit of perfect skin since Day 1. I can say I bought exactly one pot of ' foundation ', age 21, used the stuff exactly once and pitched it. We girls have various skin types but no one is naturally orange. Queen Elizabeth famously covered small pox scars with some ghastly white paste that cracked when she smiled- may be why she looks so severe in paintings.

" What Is Enameling? " . Article one of many- this is 1865.

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"..... is somewhat curious ". Wait for it.

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" Composed of arsenic, or white lead ". There was a green dye at the time called " Paris Green ". Among other uses, it was used to dye fabric. Women's ball gowns, fake greenery on bonnets, etc. was drenched in Paris Green- which was colored arsenic. So you'd get enameled, put on your green dress and go dance at a ball. We frequently died young.

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Well we still do that to eyebrows, except for the arsenic.

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NYC, an enameling salon.

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" Keeping the face in a well enameled condition...". From two weeks to permanently. Permanently! These are era prices- pretty sure you could buy a cottage for $600. Or less.

Reenactors, have you heard of this? Obviously it was for those wealthy women following the ' mode ' but cheaper preparations made an appearance almost immediately. I'm not sure reenactors would attempt it anyway- in 2019 we like washing our faces. With soap.

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" Georgiana ", without the time-darkened paper, she'd be awfully pale. It was a ' thing '.

Tons more information and discussions from the era on enameling but you get the idea. Apart from noxious ingredients this enameling thing is no more outrageous or bizarre than quite a few practices in 2019. Wish it were possible to convince we girls everyone is just FINE exactly like we are.
 

Mrs. V

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Today was picture day. I wore no foundation. I did some shadow and mascara, and made sure my eyebrows were visible. I still have a nice tan, so figured I would let that shine through..and of course, I had my Guinea Pig Corsage. He complimented my blue dress nicely.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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9K? Hate to get side tracked but I keep running into the activities of some ( I said some ) the uber wealthy during the war. While the whole thing was going on all the 5th Avenue shopping, balls and social functions seem to have kind of floated above the fray unimpeded. Those ' resorts ' like Saratoga Springs seem to have been awfully crowded too.

Lead, arsenic and mercury were awfully common ingredients. The thing is, even after it became clear this stuff was just, plain deadly companies had to be forced to remove it from products. Like Poisonous Green- it had been around for decades if not a century or so. Everyone knew it was toxic hence poor Marie Tepe choosing it when she committed suicide. Seem to remember still seeing it imported in the 1920's.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Now we just use chemical tanners, sooo much better.

Tan is in, to the chagrin of myself and many other pale white girls who are pale white girls no matter what we try to do.

Wait for it. When you're all around 20 years older it'll become clear who may or may not have made a mistake devoting themselves to achieving that tan. Ran into someone I hadn't seen in years who'd been one. Winter and summer she was always a kind of golden orange, for 3 decades. It looks like she's still at it because she's still golden orange but looks a lot older than she is. That stuff is just really hard on your skin.
 

diane

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Wait for it. When you're all around 20 years older it'll become clear who may or may not have made a mistake devoting themselves to achieving that tan. Ran into someone I hadn't seen in years who'd been one. Winter and summer she was always a kind of golden orange, for 3 decades. It looks like she's still at it because she's still golden orange but looks a lot older than she is. That stuff is just really hard on your skin.
Oh, yes! Had a meeting with a long-time-no-see pal a couple years back - she was the original hippie. Sunbather, beach babe, pool poodle. Her natural skin was Nordic white. She has shriveled up considerably and had numerous battles with skin disorders - nobody much thought about what was in suntan oil - or pool water - and other products back in the day! Curiously, like your friend, she continues to fry in the sun every chance. She said, "I can't believe I'm darker than you now!" :rofl:
 

Mrs. V

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Oh, yes! Had a meeting with a long-time-no-see pal a couple years back - she was the original hippie. Sunbather, beach babe, pool poodle. Her natural skin was Nordic white. She has shriveled up considerably and had numerous battles with skin disorders - nobody much thought about what was in suntan oil - or pool water - and other products back in the day! Curiously, like your friend, she continues to fry in the sun every chance. She said, "I can't believe I'm darker than you now!" :rofl:
Oy! I’m a nut brown tanner myself. Just from in the pool, kayaking, reading..etc..I use 30 to start, then go to 15. It’s a genetic thing. My Dad was/is dark. And if he is in the sun then bam! He is dark. Carpatho Russien, Spanish heritage. And at 84 his skin is as smooth as a babys bum.
 

diane

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Oy! I’m a nut brown tanner myself. Just from in the pool, kayaking, reading..etc..I use 30 to start, then go to 15. It’s a genetic thing. My Dad was/is dark. And if he is in the sun then bam! He is dark. Carpatho Russien, Spanish heritage. And at 84 his skin is as smooth as a babys bum.
Genes are fun! I'm Native so a tan is instant with me, but my brother - same parents, too! - burns to a crispy red. At powwows he's always under the shade! A lot of Indians do burn - that's why some tribes have full face paint.
 

Mrs. V

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Genes are fun! I'm Native so a tan is instant with me, but my brother - same parents, too! - burns to a crispy red. At powwows he's always under the shade! A lot of Indians do burn - that's why some tribes have full face paint.
I went to a local powow, oh, about 20 years ago. They all wanted to know what Nation I was from..Short, dark hair, almond shaped eyes....I dunno, but I think there is a Mongol loose in my gene pool! I always wanted to be a Native American...my grandmother was a great friend of the local Nation. We have several baskets that were gifted. She was a great herbalist as well...and of course no one knows if she kept an herbal...drives me batty!
 

Yankee Brooke

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Wait for it. When you're all around 20 years older it'll become clear who may or may not have made a mistake devoting themselves to achieving that tan. Ran into someone I hadn't seen in years who'd been one. Winter and summer she was always a kind of golden orange, for 3 decades. It looks like she's still at it because she's still golden orange but looks a lot older than she is. That stuff is just really hard on your skin.
Yeah, I don't touch the stuff. I wear sunscreen if I'm going to be outdoors for long, but I don't see the need to slather myself in it to walk from my car to the grocery store/Target. I don't feel that's good for you either, never leaving the house without sunscreen, but that's what the dermatologists push now "wear sunscreen at all times or you'll get melanoma and die!" How about I keep the chemicals on my skin to a minimum?

I burn easily with too much exposure, but it rarely turns into much of a tan, my skin comes back just as fair as it left. So I just roll with it and don't bother.
 

Yankee Brooke

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Hard to beat what you were born with.
There are times maybe I wish I was a little tanner, and I'm curious what I'd look like. But really I mostly don't care, we all come in different colors. I'm white as heck, that's my natural shade. My sister definitely shows the Italian heritage in the family though, she has the "olive" skin tone I didn't get.
 
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