Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
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.
"..... is somewhat curious ". Wait for it.
" 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.
Well we still do that to eyebrows, except for the arsenic.
NYC, an enameling salon.
" 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.
" 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.