Gold and Silver Hair Powders for Fashionable Victorian Coiffures

The Empress Eugénie Surrounded by her Ladies in Waiting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1855.

During the mid-nineteenth century, Empress Eugénie of France was the undisputed arbiter of Victorian fashion. When she appeared at a Paris theatre in 1853 with her fair hair dusted in glittering silver powder, the fashionable world sat up and took notice. Ladies—from the upper echelons of the haut ton to the minor ranks of country gentry—were quick to imitate her and it was not long before perfumers, like Eugène Rimmel of London, began advertising glittering hair powder for the masses “as worn by the Empress Eugénie and the elite of the French nobility.”[…]Continue Reading

The Lost Letter 99¢ eBook Sale!

 To celebrate next week’s release of The Lost Letter audiobook (coming June 12 from Tantor Media), the eBook version of The Lost Letter is going on sale for only 99¢! The sale runs from June 4-June 10 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. If you haven’t yet read my debut Victorian romance, I hope you’ll give it a try. You can learn more about it below.[…]Continue Reading

From Arsenic to Electricity: A Brief look at Victorian Hair Removal

In the Boudoir by Johann Georg Meyer von Bremen, 1870.
(Private Collection)

In the Victorian era, ladies with excess facial or body hair didn’t have the luxury of making an appointment at their local salon. Instead, women employed various methods of hair removal at home. There was shaving and tweezing, of course, but there were also more dangerous methods. These ranged from caustic depilatories made of arsenic and quicklime to surgeon’s needles dipped in carbolic acid or nitrate of silver. Below are just a few Victorian options for hair removal (not to be tried at home!).[…]Continue Reading

Beauty and the Beast: From French Folklore to Victorian Romance

An illustration by Warwick Goble for Beauty and the Beast, 1913.

In 1740, French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve wrote and published a collection of stories entitled La Jeune Ameriquaine et les Contes Marins. Within, was the fairy tale La Belle et la Bête. Widely viewed as the oldest version of Beauty and Beast, La Belle et la Bête contained all of the now familiar elements of the much beloved story. There was a handsome prince cursed to live out his days as a monstrous beast and a courageous beauty who consents to be his prisoner in order to save her father.

[…]Continue Reading

The Etiquette of Broken Betrothals: Victorian Advice on Ending an Engagement

Jilted by Briton Riviere, 1887.
(Philadelphia Museum of Art)

In the Victorian era, a broken engagement was no small matter. If a gentleman jilted his fiancée, he risked doing untold damage to both her reputation and his own. Even so, if an engaged couple discovered that they were incompatible, Victorian era marriage manuals and books on etiquette strongly advised breaking the engagement rather than embarking on what would surely be a miserable marriage. As The New York Fashion Bazar Book of Etiquette (1887) explains:[…]Continue Reading

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