Vanity Of Victorian Female Convicts

millbank prison

Women have always felt the need to take care of their appearance, even when locked up in prison. Not that men ever understood that. A journalist writing for the New York Times stated in an article, titled “Vanity of Female Convicts The Ruling Passion Strong in a Condition Worse than Death” and published in 1895, that British female convicts were “the vainest of the vain daughters of Eve”.

I doubt that’s true, but they certainly were very ingenious. Here’s how they procured their own, rudimentary, beauty tools:

- A convict at the English Millbank prison was “discovered to be in the possession of three tallow candles, which, if they had not been missed, would no doubt have been utilized as pomade!”

- When the hinges of the cell doors were oiled, some women would wipe it off and put it in their hair!

- Women at the Working Prison wore bright-red-striped aprons. Convicts discovered that “when unraveled and chewed in the mouth the colour or dye was released“. The paint so obtained was then used as blush and lipstick.

- Convicts “spent hours in tearing out bits of wire from the window guard and afterward bending them into the require shape” to form a hairpin.

- Women also torn out leaves from the Bible to “make the old-fashioned ‘cracker’ curls“. There was a severe punishment for this though.

- Women would “scheme, plot, and plan for months together in order to become possessed of a piece of broken window pane in order to make a looking-glass.” For instance, they would scour the ground when out in the exercise yard for a piece of glass and risk punishment (usually solitary confinement and bread and water diet) to get it into their cells, where, after applying a piece of black cloth at its back, they would carefully hide it. Sometimes, they even broke the windows of their cells to have their own mirrors.

- Inmates often asked their family and friends, when they came to visit, to style their hair and clothes in the latest fashions.

- Prisons had their fashionistas and trend-setters too. When someone started a trend, “if it meets with approval [it] will be immediately copied by all the other convicts.” Fashion was also used by warders to subdue violent convicts: “many a violent, half-witted woman has been rendered tractable by permitting her to copy some little innovation then making itself fashionable within the prison walls.”

Weren’t they clever? And would you have done the same? Of, if you’re interested in reading the entire article, click here.

Victorian Toilet Recipes


Last year, I posted an excerpt about “the etiquette of toilette” from a book of etiquette titled “Our Deportment”. It explained the importance of taking care of your appearance, and provided tips to achieve just that.

The book also features quite a lot of homemade recipes to deal with any beauty problems, from freckles to wrinkles, from sunburn to gray hair. I thought it’d be interested to learn what treatments they once thought would help in all these cases, but of course, you shouldn’t try to replicate them at home. I doubt they’d work that well anyway. :)


Bruise and squeeze the juice out of common chick-weed, and to this juice add three times its quantity of soft water. Bathe the skin with this for five or ten minutes morning and evening, and wash afterwards with clean water.
Elder flowers treated and applied exactly in the same manner as above. When the flowers are not to be had, the distilled water from them, which may be procured from any druggist, will answer the purpose.
A good freckle lotion is made of honey, one ounce, mixed with one pint of lukewarm water. Apply when cold.
Carbonate of potassa, twenty grains; milk of almonds, three ounces; oil of sassafras, three drops. Mix and apply two or three times a day.
One ounce of alcohol; half a dram salts tartar; one dram oil bitter almonds. Let stand for one day and apply every second day.


Wash the face in a solution composed of one teaspoonful of carbolic acid to a pint of water. This is an excellent purifying lotion, and may be used on the most delicate skin. Be careful not to get any of it in the eyes as it will weaken them.
One tablespoonful of borax to half a pint of water is an excellent remedy for cutaneous eruptions, canker, ringworm, etc.
Pulverize a piece of alum the size of a walnut, dissolve it in one ounce of lemon juice, and add one ounce of alcohol. Apply once or twice a day.
Mix two ounces of rose-water with one dram of sulphate of zinc. Wet the face gently and let it dry. Then touch the affected part with cream.


Take two drams of borax, one dram of alum, one dram of camphor, half an ounce of sugar-candy, and a pound of ox-gall. Mix and stir well for ten minutes, and stir it three or four times a fortnight. When clear and transparent, strain through a blotting paper and bottle for use.


Ammonia one ounce, rosemary one ounce, cantharides four drams, rose-water four ounces, glycerine one ounce. First wet the head with cold water, then apply the mixture, rubbing briskly.
Vinegar of cantharides half an ounce, eau-de-cologne one ounce, rose-water one ounce. The scalp should be brushed briskly until it becomes red, and the lotion should then be applied to the roots of the hair twice a day.


The women of Germany have remarkably fine and luxuriant hair. The following is their method of managing it: About once in two or three weeks, boil for half an hour or more a large handful of bran in a quart of soft water; strain into a basin, and when tepid, rub into the water a little white soap. With this wash the  head thoroughly, using a soft linen cloth or towel, thoroughly dividing the hair so as to reach the roots. Then take the yolk of an egg, slightly beaten in a saucer, and with the fingers rub it into the roots of the hair. Let it remain a few minutes, and then wash it off entirely with a cloth dipped in pure water. Rinse the head well till the yolk of the egg has disappeared from it, then wipe and rub it dry with a towel, and comb the hair from the head, parting it with the fingers, then apply some soft pomatum. In winter it is best to do all this in a warm room.


Take the hulls of butternuts, about four ounces, and infuse in a quart of water, and to this add half an ounce of copperas. Apply with a soft brush every two or three days. This preparation is harmless, and is far better than those dyes made of nitrate of silver.
Oxide of bismuth four drams, spermaceti four drams, pure hog’s lard four ounces. Melt the two last and add the first.


If the head be perfectly bald, nothing will ever cause the hair to grow again. If the scalp be glossy, and no small hairs are discernible, the roots or follicles are dead, and can not be resuscitated. However if small hairs are to be seen, there is hope. Brush well, and bathe the bald spot three or four times a week with cold, soft water; carbonate of ammonia one dram, tincture of cantharides four drams, bay rum four ounces, castor oil two ounces. Mix well and use it every day.


Take a pint of alcohol, half pint of bay rum, and half an ounce of spirits of ammonia, and one dram of salts tartar. Shake well together and it is ready for use. Pour a quantity on the head, rub well with the palm of the hand. It will produce a thick foam, and will cleanse the scalp. This is used generally by first-class barbers.


Melt one ounce of white wax, add two ounces of juice of lily-bulbs, two ounces of honey, two drams of rose-water, and a drop or two of ottar of roses. Use it twice a day.
Put powder of best myrrh upon an iron plate sufficiently hot to melt the gum gently, and when it liquefies, cover over your head with a napkin, and hold your face over the fumes at a distance that will cause you no inconvenience. If it produces headache, discontinue its use.
In washing, use warm instead of cold water.

If you’re interested in reading the book, you can download it for free at Project Gutenberg.

What do you think of these recipes?

Bailey’s Rubber Brushes

bailey's rubber complexion brush 01

The Clarisonic is often touted as one of the greatest innovations in skincare. But the idea of using a brush to cleanse skin is nothing new. Bailey was already selling one of such brushes at the end of the nineteenth century.

Simply called Bailey’s Rubber Complexion Brush, the flexible device had soft and flat ended cylindrical teeth that were supposed to be gentle on the skin, giving a radiant glow without irritating it. An advertisement that appeared in the October 1890 edition of The Chemist and Druggist Supplement described it thus:

“Used with a little soap in the daily ablutions, the gentle friction of this brush makes the skin beautifully soft and smooth, effectually eradicating all blemishes, blotches, wrinkles, coarse linens, &c, and entirely superseding the poisonous cosmetics and face-washes now in use. It is simply invaluable for bathing the delicate skin of infants and children.”

bailey's rubber complexion brush 02

Of course the company also sold the soap, which retailed at $0.10, while the Rubber Complexion Brush would have set you back $0.50. The company also sold a wide range of brushes, which included toothbrushes and the Bailey’s Rubber Bath & Flesh Brush, which promised, by opening up the pores, to throw off “the waste which the body sends up to the surface” and improve circulation.

Bailey also claimed their brushes were more sanitary than “bristle brush sponges or wash-clothes that absorb and retain the filth from the bath and become sour.” Their brushes, they promised, were always clean and could be used by the whole family.

Would you have used them?

Scented Waters Recipes From The 18th Century

rose perfume

I’ve already talked about, and shared recipes from, The Toilet Of Flora, a popular beauty book published around 1772. A section of the book is dedicated to scented waters, which were used both to wash your face and hands, but also as perfumes. So, here are a few recipes on how to make them:

To make Rose-Water

To make an excellent Rose-water, let the Flowers be gathered two or three hours after sun-rising in very fine weather; beat them in a marble mortar into a paste, and leave them in the mortar soaking in their juice, for five or six hours; then put the mass into a coarse canvas bag, and press out the Juice; to every quart of which add a pound of fresh Damask Roses, and let them stand in infusion for twenty-four hours.

Then put the whole into a glass alembic, lute on a head and receiver, and place it on a sand heat. Distil at first with a gentle fire, which is to be encreased gradually till the drops follow each other as quick as possible; draw off the water as long as it continues to run clear, then put out the fire, and let the alembic stand till cold. The distilled water at first will have very little fragrancy, but after being exposed to the heat of the sun about eight days, in a bottle lightly stopped with a bit of paper, it acquires an admirable scent.

To make Orange-Flower Water

Having gathered (two hours before sun-rise, in fine weather) a quantity of Orange-Flowers, pluck them leaf by leaf, and throw away the stalks and stems: fill a tin cucurbit two thirds full of these picked Flowers; lute on a low bolt-head, not above two inches higher than the cucurbit; place it in balneo Mariæ, or a water-bath, and distill with a strong fire. You run no risk from pressing forward the distillation with violence, the water-bath effectually preventing the Flowers from being burnt. In this method you pay no regard to the quantity, but the quality of the water drawn off.

If nine pounds of Orange Flowers were put into the still, be satisfied with three or four quarts of fragrant water; however, you may continue your distillation, and save even the last droppings of the still, which have some small fragrancy. During the operation, be careful to change the water in the refrigeratory vessel as often as it becomes hot. Its being kept cool prevents the distilled water from having an empyreumatic or burnt smell, and keeps the quintessence of the Flowers more intimately united with its phlegm.

Sweet Honey-Water

Take of good French Brandy, a gallon; of the best Virgin Honey and Coriander-seeds, each a pound; Cloves, an ounce and half; Nutmegs, an ounce; Gum Benjamin and Storax, of each an ounce; Vanilloes No. 4; the Yellow Rind of three large Lemons: bruise the Spices and Benjamin, cut the Vanilloes into small pieces, put all into a cucurbit, and pour the Brandy on them. After they have digested forty-eight hours, distil off the Spirit in a retort with a gentle heat.

To a gallon of this water, add of Damask Rose-water and Orange Flower-water, of each a pint and a half; Musk and Ambergrise, of each five grains; first grind the Musk and Ambergrise with some of the water, and afterwards put all into a large matrass, shake them well together, and let them circulate three days and nights in a gentle heat. Then, letting the water cool, filtre and keep it for use, in a bottle well stopped.

It is an antiparalytic, smooths the skin, and gives one of the most agreeable scents imaginable. Forty or sixty drops put into a pint of clear water, are sufficient to wash the hands and face.

Odoriferous Water

Take sweet Basil, Mint, sweet Marjoram, Florentine Orrice-root, Hyssop, Balm, Savory, Lavender, and Rosemary, of each a handful; Cloves, Cinnamon, and Nutmegs, of each half an ounce; three or four Lemons, cut in thick slices; infuse them three days in a good quantity of Rose-water; distil in a water bath with a gentle fire, and add to the distilled water a scruple of Musk.

Which one would you have used? My favourite is the sweet honey water. Judging from the ingredients, it must have smelt divine!

Oh, and if you want to read the whole book, you can do so for free at Google Books.

Aline Vallandri’s Hair Care Secrets


Aline Vallandri was an opera singer of the late 19th-early 20th centuries famous for her beautiful, very long hair. Probably the longest in Europe, it was described as “a veritable golden mantle about her and reaches to the very ground”. The singer, who spent three quarters of an hour every day taking care of it, shared her hair care secrets in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. Here they are:

1. Keep hair clean (without washing it often)

The first essential, in my opinion, is to keep both the scalp and hair perfectly clean. [...] I am perfectly certain that much washing of the hair with water is bad. As a matter of fact, I wash my own hair as seldom as possible. [...] In the dark, foggy days, when there is much dirt and soot in the air, the hair naturally gets more dirty, and may therefore require more frequent washing than in the light, bright days of summer. Still, even under these conditions, it is possible by much brushing to avoid any excessive use of water.

2. No towel drying or hot irons allowed

When the hair is washed, it should be allowed to hang down until it dries naturally in the air, as I do not believe in rubbing it with a towel or using hot irons for the purpose of driving off the moisture. Those things are bad — very bad. Hot irons ruin the hair. The woman who uses curling-tongs courts disaster. The heat dries up the natural oil which is supplied by the little oil glands at the roots of the hair and keeps it soft and moist.

The result of tongs or of heat is to make the hair brittle, so that it breaks off short. It stands to reason that if you are constantly breaking the hair it will never get long. Only once in my life did I ever have my hair curled with curling-tongs. That once taught me my lesson. The hairdresser used irons which were too hot, and he burnt a lot of the hair in the middle of my head. Since that day no hot irons have ever been put near my hair.

3. Wash hair brushes often

It is possible, as I have said, to keep the scalp and the hair quite clean by brushing it. To do this, perfectly clean brushes are absolutely necessary. My own brushes are washed every day. When once a brush has been used it is never allowed to touch my hair again until it has been thoroughly washed and dried. [..] If you think of it, it is no more nice to brush your hair with dirty brushes which have not been washed for two or three weeks than it is to dry your face with a towel which has not been washed for the same time.

Every morning when I get up my maid brushes my hair. As it is so long I have had to have a specially high stool made to sit on. The maid brushes both my scalp thoroughly and my hair from the roots to the end for half an hour. The other quarter of an hour I devote to dressing it for the day.

4. Golden ointment for scurf

In addition to keeping the hair perfectly clean, this brushing prevents the possibility of any scurf or dandruff — and scurf is death to the hair. [...] It should be cured at the very earliest moment it is seen, so that it may not cause the hair to drop out, as it most assuredly will if it is neglected. I should strongly recommend the doctor being called in when there is scurf, but sometimes a home remedy like ” golden ointment,” which is a compound of mercury, will cure the condition rapidly.

In that case, what I have said about washing must be ignored for the time. The ointment must be well rubbed into the roots of the hair at night, and washed out the next morning. In the course of a week of this treatment the scurf ought to be quite cured

5. Brillantine for dry and dull hair

If the hair is very dry, it is a clear indication that the little oil glands are not supplying enough nourishment. This must, therefore, be supplemented by the use of a little good brillantine. It is not a good thing to put it on all over the hair. What should be done is to dip the tips of the fingers into the brillantine and rub it well into the scalp until you feel a distinct tingling.

The result of this massage causes the blood to circulate very freely in the scalp, and so takes to the oil glands the material they need to make the oil they secrete. At the same time the glands are stimulated to take up the oil which has been rubbed into the scalp, so that the massage acts in a two-fold manner.

Dry hair is invariably dull hair. Now, there is an undoubted beauty in seeing hair shine and reflect the light. This effect is produced by the natural oil, supplemented by the use of the brush. When, therefore, the natural oil is absent, it is well to put the smallest quantity of brillantine on the palm of the hand, and then rub the bristles of the brush over the palm.

In this way they get an infinitesimal quantity of oil on them. This little is, however, quite sufficient to make the hair shine without being enough to damage the hair in any way, provided that the brush is used enough.

6. Cut and singe your hair to prevent split ends

People often ask me whether I believe that cutting the hair and singeing the ends with a lighted taper is beneficial for the growth. I am quite sure they do great good. I have the ends of my hair cut and singed very often. With many people the ends of the hair have a great tendency to split. In the first place, if these ends are kept cut, the splitting will be prevented, and, in the second, if the ends have split, the cutting will prevent the split from proceeding farther and ruining the hair.

Would you have followed her tips back in the day?

How Did They Remove Unwanted Hair In The 19th Century?

superfluous hair

These days we have lots of options to remove unwanted hair: shaving, waxing, threading, depilatory creams, epilators, and even laser treatments. But how did they do it in the 19th century? The Toilette of Health, Beauty, and Fashion, published in 1834 and now available for free at Google Books, explains:


Hair is said to be superfluous when it becomes too thick, or when it grows on parts not essential to its appearance, as on the backs of the hands, fingers, cheek bones, the upper lip and chins of females, and other parts of the exposed surface of the skin, contrary to the desire or taste of the individual. Hair which is too thick, or descends too low upon the forehead, or grows irregularly, is a great obstacle of beauty, either by deranging the symmetry of the face, or concealing such parts as ought to be more freely exposed.

Eye-brows too large, too thick, or too close to each other, also disturb the harmony which ought to pervade a handsome face. In these and other cases, recourse is had to depilatories; that is, substances or compositions, which possess the property of renewing hair,—and the operation thus effected is called depilation,—a very ancient practice, and formerly not confined to the embellishment of the person.

The Greek and Roman women had recourse to depilatories, to a very considerable extent. The heat of the climate probably caused them to adopt this practice, or perhaps they consulted only the pleasure of the eye. Be this as it may, so far it is certain, that all the antique statues, and the testimony of contemporary writers, prove the existence of the custom, whatever might have been the motive for it. Neither was this free use of depilatories practised only by the women.

Perseus, addressing a young debauchee, asks why he takes such care of his beard, while he bestows so much pains on removing the hair from every part of the body. There were likewise men who plucked up their beard by the root. But this was a much rarer practice than the former, and must have appeared extremely strange in an age when men universally were remarkable for the length of their beard. Accordingly the philosophers vehemently declared against this mode, which was introduced by some effeminate individuals, or rather which these voluptuaries attempted to introduce.

The ancient practice of depilation, as it existed among the Greek and Roman women, is still prevalent among those of Turkey, who observe it in common with the men.

The depilatories in general use are various, possessing different degrees of strength.—The mildest are parsley water, accacia juice, and the gum of ivy. It is asserted that nut oil, with which many people rub the heads of children, prevents the hair from growing. The juice of the milk-thistle mixed with oil is recommended by Dr. Turner to remove the hair which grows too low upon the forehead. It is also said, that the gum of the cherry tree prevents the hair from growing.

The Jewish women, who esteem, and with justness, a high forehead free from hair as a beauty, take considerable pains to procure this advantage for their daughters. For this purpose they bind their foreheads with woollen cloth bandages, preferring scarlet to any other color. The same effect is produced, according to a French writer (M. de St. Ursin), by applying leaves or rags dipped in the second water of lime, or brine, or water slightly lixivial (containing the ashes of wood, or an alkali) or the decoction of grey pease.

The following method, if carefully adopted, may be employed with success :—Apply gently, by means of a hair pencil, a few drops of muriatic acid a little reduced at first; and if this does not succeed, let the concentrated form be used by delicately touching the tops of the hair to be removed, avoiding, as much as possible, the skin; or probably the best way to apply this acid is to rub the skin and hair over at the same time, and immediately afterwards to rub the part with linen cloth.

Depilatory of Ants’ Eggs.

A stronger depilatory is composed as follows :—

Take Gum of ivy, one ounce,
Ants’ eggs, Gum arabic, Orpiment, of each one drachm

Reduce these to a fine powder, and make it up into a liniment, with a sufficient quantity of vinegar. In pounding the materials, great precaution must be taken that the dust of the orpiment, which is a preparation of arsenic, be not inhaled.

Obs.—The former acid, or acid of ants, may be more easily procured at the chemist’s, and will answer the purpose better than the ants’ eggs, which are not to be had at all seasons.

Depilatory of Rusma* and Quicklime.

Take rusma and quicklime, and reduce them to a fine powder; and dissolve them for some time in water, where they will form a soft paste, which is to be applied to hair on the body intended to be removed. In a few minutes, rub the part to which it has been applied, with a wet cloth, and the hair will be removed to the very roots, whilst the part itself will sustain no inconvenience.

*Rusma: a species of vitriol

Orpiment and Quicklime

The strongest depilatory is composed of the above substances. Considerable caution is necessary in the use of this composition. It is not without danger; and if suffered to remain on the skin too long, it is liable to leave marks. It may be made stronger or weaker in proportion to the quantity of orpiment used. These proportions are estimated as follows :—To eight ounces of quicklime, one ounce of orpiment of the first degree of strength; —to twelve ounces of quicklime, two ounces of orpiment, of the second degree; —to fifteen ounces of lime, three ounces of orpiment will present a very violent depilatory, which will produce speedy effects.

Obs.—These different degrees of strength must be adapted to the age and the constitution of the skin to which it is applied. After having reduced these two substances to a fine powder, mix them thoroughly together, and sift them, taking every precaution not to inhale the particles which rise from them. This powder must be kept in a stopper bottle.

The following are the directions for its use:— Mix with it a seventh or eighth part of barley-meal or starch, to diminish its too great strength. Pour upon the whole a sufficient quantity of warm water to form a paste, and in this condition apply it to the places from whence the hair is to be removed. Let it lie on the part a few minutes, taking care to moisten it a little that it may not too quickly dry; and now and then try if the hair comes away easily and without resistance; as soon as it does, wipe it off with warm water. The hair is removed with the paste, and the operation is finished.

Obs.—The paste must not be suffered to remain longer than necessary on the part, otherwise the skin is liable to be injured, burned, and cauterized.

Roseate Powder

This is the name given to a depilatory, composed of lime twelve ounces, orpiment ten ounces; by far too strong, unless reduced by other ingredients in the above proportion.

Another Depilatory

Take Quick-lime 1 ounce
Orpiment 3 drachms
Orice 2 drachms
Saltpetre 1 drachm
Sulphur 1 ounce
Soap lees half a pint,

Evaporate to a proper consistence, and use as above directed.

Obs.—This is safer than the two preceding, though with care and caution they may all be made subservient to the purpose.

Oil of Walnuts

This is said to be an excellent depilatory, but is difficult to be procured.

To remove Hair from the Nostrils

Take some very fine and clean wood ashes; dilute them with a little water, and with the finger rub some of the mixture within the nostrils. The hair will be removed without causing the least pain.

Obs.—The hairs of the nostrils, like those of the entrance of the ear, ought not to be removed, unless troublesome or unseemly; they are the principal safeguards against the intrusion of insects, which might otherwise insinuate themselves into these delicate passages, to the great annoyance and danger of the individual thus invaded.

Another Depilatory

The following directions are laid down by a French author (Manuel Cosmetique des Plants) to remove superfluous hair either from the forehead, or too long on the back of the hands, round the wrists and arms, and in the nostrils and other parts.

Take polypody of the oak, and cut and split it into small pieces. Put it into a cucurbite, pour some white wine upon it until it be covered the length of a finger, and let it digest in balneum marice for twenty-four hours; then distil it with boiling water, until nothing more comes over into the receiver.

The method of using this fluid is by dipping a linen rag in it, and then applying the same on the back of the hand, or other parts, and letting it remain there all night: repeating the operation until the hair falls.

The distilled water of the leaves and roots of chelidony, applied as above, has the same property. And the oil of nuts rubbed often on the head of children prevents the hair from growing.

The Female Head-dresses Of 1776

big hair 1770s

In the 1770s, women’s hair reached extraordinary heights. With the help of a sticky pomade, layers upon layers of horse hair were attached to natural hair to create huge towers that could reach 3 feet tall! And like that wasn’t weird enough, the hairdo was then decorated with feathers, pearls and all sorts of ornaments, including ships in full sail!

Imagine how difficult it must have been to walk with all that stuff piled up your head! And riding comfortably in a carriage was impossible. In fact, women were forced to sit on the floor of the carriage not to ruin their carefully arranged hairstyles, which required hours, and more than a hair stylist, to create!

This crazy fashion was ridiculed by the magazines of the time, like this entry in the The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in Connection with the Calendar, Including Anecdote, Biography, & History, Curiosities of Literature and Oddities of Human Life and Character, Volume 2 explains:


On the 12th of July 1776, Samuel Foote appeared at the Haymarket theatre in the character of Lady Pentweazle, wearing one of the enormous female head-dresses which were then fashionable—not meaning, probably, anything so serious as the reform of an absurdity, but only to raise a laugh, and bring an audience to his play-house. The dress is stated to have been stuck full of feathers of an extravagant size; it extended a yard wide; and the whole fabric of feathers, hair, and wool dropped off his head as he left the stage.

King George and Queen Charlotte, who were present, laughed heartily at the exhibition; and her majesty, wearing an elegant and becoming headdress, supplied a very fitting rebuke to the absurdity which the actor had thus satirised. There are numerous representations to be met with in books of fashions, and descriptions in books of various kinds, of the head-dress of that period. Sometimes it was remarkable simply for its enormous height; a lofty pad or cushion being placed on the top of the head, and the hair combed up over it, and slightly confined in some way at the top.

Frequently, however, this tower was bedizened in a most extravagant manner, necessarily causing it to be broad as well as high, and rendering the whole fabric a mass of absurdity. It was a mountain of wool, hair, powder, lawn, muslin, net, lace, gauze, ribbon, flowers, feathers, and wire. Sometimes these varied materials were built up, tier after tier, like the successive stages of a pagoda. The London Magazine, in satirizing the fashions of 1777, said:

hairstyle 1776

‘Give Chloe a bushel of horse-hair and wool,
Of paste and pomatum a pound,
Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet skull,
And gauze to encompass it round.
Of all the bright colours the rainbow displays,
Be those ribbons which hang on the head;
Be her flounces adapted to make the folks gaze,
And about the whole work be they spread;
Let her flaps fly behind for a yard at the least,
Let her curls meet just under her chin; Let these curls be supported, to keep up the jest,
With an hundred instead of one pin.’

The New Bath Guide, which hits off the follies of that period with a good deal of sarcastic humour, attacked the ladies’ head-dresses in a somewhat similar strain:

‘A cap like a hat
(Which was once a cravat)
Part gracefully plaited and pin’d is,
Part stuck upon gauze,
Resembles macaws
And all the fine birds of the Indies.
But above all the rest,
A bold Amazon’s crest
Waves nodding from shoulder to shoulder;
At once to surprise
And to ravish all eyes
To frighten and charm the beholder.
In short, head and feather,
And wig altogether,
With wonder and joy would delight ye;
Like the picture I’ve seen
Of th’ adorable queen
Of the beautiful bless’d Otaheite.
Yet Miss at the Rooms *
Must beware of her plumes,
For if Vulcan her feather embraces,
Like poor Lady Laycock,
She ‘d burn like a haycock,
And roast all the Loves and the Graces.’

The last stanza refers to an incident in which a lady’s monstrous head-dress caught fire, leading to calamitous results.

*The Pump-rooms at Bath, a place of great resort for fashionables.

Would you have worn such crazy and tall hairstyles?

The Etiquette Of The Toilette


In 1881 John H. Young published “Our Deportment. Or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society; Including Forms for Letters, Invitations, Etc., Etc. Also, Valuable Suggestions on Home Culture and Training.” Wow! What a mouthful! In short, it was a book about etiquette. So, why am I mentioning it? Well, there’s also a chapter dedicated to the toilette, which explains the importance of taking care of your appearance and shares tips on to achieve that. I thought I’d share a few extracts with you:


To appear at all times neat, clean and tidy, is demanded of every well-bred person. The dress may be plain, rich or extravagant, but there must be a neatness and cleanliness of the person. Whether a lady is possessed of few or many personal attractions, it is her duty at all times to appear tidy and clean, and to make herself as comely and attractive as circumstances and surroundings will permit.

The same may be said of a gentleman. If a gentleman calls upon a lady, his duty and his respect for her demand that he shall appear not only in good clothes, but with well combed hair, exquisitely clean hands, well trimmed beard or cleanly shaven face, while the lady will not show herself in an untidy dress, or disheveled hair. They should appear at their best.

Upon the minor details of the toilet depend, in a great degree, the health, not to say the beauty, of the individual. In fact the highest state of health is equivalent to the highest degree of beauty of which the individual is capable.

Perfumes, if used at all, should be used in the strictest moderation, and be of the most recherche kind. Musk and patchouli should always be avoided, as, to many people of sensitive temperament, their odor is exceedingly disagreeable. Cologne water of the best quality is never offensive.

Cleanliness is the outward sign of inward purity. Cleanliness of the person is health, and health is beauty. The bath is consequently a very important means of preserving the health and enhancing the beauty. It is not to be supposed that we bathe simply to become clean, but because we wish to remain clean. Cold water refreshes and invigorates, but does not cleanse, and persons who daily use a sponge bath in the morning, should frequently use a warm one, of from ninety-six to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit for cleansing purposes. When a plunge bath is taken, the safest temperature is from eighty to ninety degrees, which answers the purposes of both cleansing and refreshing. Soap should be plentifully used, and the fleshbrush applied vigorously, drying with a coarse Turkish towel. Nothing improves the complexion like the daily use of the fleshbrush, with early rising and exercise in the open air.

In many houses, in large cities, there is a separate bath-room, with hot and cold water, but in smaller places and country houses this convenience is not to be found. A substitute for the bath-room is a large piece of oil-cloth, which can be laid upon the floor of an ordinary dressing-room. Upon this may be placed the bath tub or basin, or a person may use it to stand upon while taking a sponge bath. The various kinds of baths, both hot and cold, are the shower bath, the douche, the hip bath and the sponge bath. The shower bath can only be endured by the most vigorous constitutions, and therefore cannot be recommended for indiscriminate use.

A douche or hip bath may be taken every morning, with the temperature of the water suited to the endurance of the individual. In summer a sponge bath may be taken upon retiring. Once a week a warm bath, at from ninety to one hundred degrees, may be taken, with plenty of soap, in order to thoroughly cleanse the pores of the skin. Rough towels should be vigorously used after these baths, not only to remove the impurities of the skin but for the beneficial friction which will send a glow over the whole body. The hair glove or flesh brush may be used to advantage in the bath before the towel is applied.

The teeth should be carefully brushed with a hard brush after each meal, and also on retiring at night. Use the brush so that not only the outside of the teeth becomes white, but the inside also. After the brush is used plunge it two or three times into a glass of water, then rub it quite dry on a towel.

Use tooth-washes or powders very sparingly. Castile soap used once a day, with frequent brushings with pure water and a brush, cannot fail to keep the teeth clean and white, unless they are disfigured and destroyed by other bad habits, such as the use of tobacco, or too hot or too cold drinks.

Foul breath, unless caused by neglected teeth, indicates a deranged state of the system. When it is occasioned by the teeth or other local case, use a gargle consisting of a spoonful of solution of chloride of lime in half a tumbler of water. Gentlemen smoking, and thus tainting the breath, may be glad to know that the common parsley has a peculiar effect in removing the odor of tobacco.

Beauty and health of the skin can only be obtained by perfect cleanliness of the entire person, an avoidance of all cosmetics, added to proper diet, correct habits and early habits of rising and exercise. The skin must be thoroughly washed, occasionally with warm water and soap, to remove the oily exudations on its surface. If any unpleasant sensations are experienced after the use of soap, they may be immediately removed by rinsing the surface with water to which a little lemon juice or vinegar has been added.

The following rules may be given for the preservation of a youthful complexion: Rise early and go to bed early. Take plenty of exercise. Use plenty of cold water and good soap frequently. Be moderate in eating and drinking. Do not lace. Avoid as much as possible the vitiated atmosphere of crowded assemblies. Shun cosmetics and washes for the skin. The latter dry the skin, and only defeat the end they are supposed to have in view.

Beautiful eyes are the gift of Nature, and can owe little to the toilet. As in the eye consists much of the expression of the face, therefore it should be borne in mind that those who would have their eyes bear a pleasing expression must cultivate pleasing traits of character and beautify the soul, and then this beautiful soul will look through its natural windows. Never tamper with the eyes. There is danger of destroying them. All daubing or dyeing of the lids is foolish and vulgar.

A beautiful eyelash is an important adjunct to the eye. The lashes may be lengthened by trimming them occasionally in childhood. Care should be taken that this trimming is done neatly and evenly, and especially that the points of the scissors do not penetrate the eye. The eyebrows may be brushed carefully in the direction in which they should lie. In general, it is in exceeding bad taste to dye either lashes or brows, for it usually brings them into disharmony with the hair and features. There are cases, however, when the beauty of an otherwise fine countenance is utterly ruined by white lashes and brows. In such cases one can hardly be blamed if India ink is resorted to to give them the desired color. Never shave the brows. It adds to their beauty in no way, and may result in an irregular growth of new hair.

Some persons have the eyebrows meeting over the nose. This is usually considered a disfigurement, but there is no remedy for it. It may be a consolation for such people to know that the ancients admired this style of eyebrows, and that Michael Angelo possessed it. It is useless to pluck out the uniting hairs; and if a depilatory is applied, a mark like that of a scar left from a burn remains, and is more disfiguring than the hair.

There is nothing that so adds to the charm of an individual, especially a lady, as a good head of hair. The skin of the head requires even more tenderness and cleanliness than any other portion of the body, and is capable of being irritated by disease. The hair should be brushed carefully. The brush should be of moderate hardness, not too hard. The hair should be separated, in order that the head itself may be well brushed, as by doing so the scurf is removed, and that is most essential, as it is not only unpleasant and unsightly, but if suffered to remain it becomes saturated with perspiration, and tends to weaken the roots of the hair, so that it is easily pulled out. In brushing or combing, begin at the extreme points, and in combing, hold the portion of hair just above that through which the comb is passing, firmly between the first and second fingers, so that if it is entangled it may drag from that point, and not from the roots. The finest head of hair may be spoiled by the practice of plunging the comb into it high up and dragging it in a reckless manner. Short, loose, broken hairs are thus created, and become very troublesome.

Do not plaster the hair with oil or pomatum. A white, concrete oil pertains naturally to the covering of the human head, but some persons have it in more abundance than others. Those whose hair is glossy and shining need nothing to render it so; but when the hair is harsh, poor and dry, artificial lubrication is necessary. Persons who perspire freely, or who accumulate scurf rapidly, require it also.

Nothing is simpler or better in the way of oil than pure, unscented salad oil, and in the way of a pomatum, bear’s grease is as pleasant as anything. Apply either with the hands, or keep a soft brush for the purpose, but take care not to use the oil too freely. An overoiled head of hair is vulgar and offensive. So are scents of any kind in the oil applied to the hair. It is well also to keep a piece of flannel with which to rub the hair at night after brushing it, in order to remove the oil before laying the head upon the pillow.

Vinegar and water form a good wash for the roots of the hair. Ammonia diluted in water is still better. The hair-brush should be frequently washed in diluted ammonia. Young girls should wear their hair cut short until they are grown up, if they would have it then in its best condition.

A serious objection to dyeing the hair is that it is almost impossible to give the hair a tint which harmonizes with the complexion. If the hair begins to change early, and the color goes in patches, procure from the druggist’s a preparation of the husk of the walnut water of eau crayon. This will, by daily application, darken the tint of the hair without actually dyeing it. When the change of color has gone on to any great extent, it is better to abandon the application and put up with the change, which, in nine cases out of ten, will be in accordance with the change of the face. Indeed, there is nothing more beautiful than soft, white hair worn in bands or clustering curls about the face. The walnut water may be used for toning down too red hair.

Gentlemen are more liable to baldness than ladies, owing, no doubt, to the use of the close hat, which confines and overheats the head. If the hair is found to be falling out, the first thing to do is to look to the hat and see that it is light and thoroughly ventilated. There is no greater enemy to the hair than the silk dress-hat. It is best to lay this hat aside altogether and adopt a light felt or straw in its place.

Long, flowing hair on a man is not in good taste, and will indicate him to the observer as a person of unbalanced mind and unpleasantly erratic character—a man, in brief, who seeks to impress others with the fact that he is eccentric, something which a really eccentric person never attempts.

Those who shave should be careful to do so every morning. Nothing looks worse than a shabby beard. Some persons whose beards are strong should shave twice a day, especially if they are going to a party in the evening. The style of the growth of the beard should be governed by the character of the face. But whatever the style be, the great point is to keep it well brushed and trimmed, and to avoid any appearance of wildness or inattention.

The full, flowing beard of course requires more looking after in the way of cleanliness, than any other. It should be thoroughly washed and brushed at least twice a day, as dust is sure to accumulate in it, and it is very easy to suffer it to become objectionable to one’s self as well as to others. If it is naturally glossy, it is better to avoid the use of oil or pomatum. The moustache should be worn neatly and not over-large. There is nothing that so adds to native manliness as the full beard if carefully and neatly kept.

The beautiful hand is long and slender, with tapering fingers and pink, filbert-shaped nails. The hand to be in proper proportion to the rest of the body, should be as long as from the point of the chin to the edge of the hair on the forehead.

The hands should be kept scrupulously clean, and therefore should be very frequently washed—not merely rinsed in soap and water, but thoroughly lathered, and scrubbed with a soft nail-brush. In cold weather the use of lukewarm water is unobjectionable, after which the hands should be dipped into cold water and very carefully dried on a fine towel.

Be careful always to dry the hands thoroughly, and rub them briskly for some time afterward. When this is not sufficiently attended to in cold weather, the hands chap and crack. When this occurs, rub a few drops of honey over them when dry, or anoint them with cold cream or glycerine before going to bed.

As cold weather is the usual cause of chapped hands, so the winter season brings with it a cure for them. A thorough washing in snow and soap will cure the worst case of chapped hands, and leave them beautifully soft.

Nothing is so repulsive as to see a lady or gentleman, however well dressed they may otherwise be, with unclean nails. It always results from carelessness and inattention to the minor details of the toilet, which is most reprehensible. The nails should be cut about once a week—certainly not oftener. This should be accomplished just after washing, the nail being softer at such a time. Care should be taken not to cut them too short, though, if they are left too long, they will frequently get torn and broken. They should be nicely rounded at the corners. Recollect the filbert-shaped nail is considered the most beautiful. Never bite the nails; it not only is a most disagreeable habit, but tends to make the nails jagged, deformed and difficult to clean, besides gives a red and stumpy appearance to the finger-tips.

The feet, from the circumstance of their being so much confined by boots and shoes, require more care in washing than the rest of the body. Yet they do not always get this care. The hands receive frequent washings every day. Once a week is quite as often as many people can bestow the same attention upon their feet. A tepid bath at about 80 or 90 degrees, should be used. The feet may remain in the water about five minutes, and the instant they are taken out they should be rapidly and thoroughly dried by being well rubbed with a coarse towel. Sometimes bran is used in the water. Few things are more invigorating and refreshing after a long walk, or getting wet in the feet, than a tepid foot-bath, clean stockings and a pair of easy shoes. After the bath is the time for paring the toe-nails, as they are so much softer and more pliant after having been immersed in warm water.

If you’d like to read the whole book, you can do it for free at Project Gutenberg.