Category: Beauty

Fashion and Beauty Essentials for a 19th Century Summer Holiday

Individual Collage Images via MFA Boston and Victorian and Albert Museum.

In women’s magazines today, we often see lists of summer vacation “must haves.”  These lists usually include such hot weather essentials as swimsuits, sunscreen, and a romance novel or two to read at the beach.  But what about ladies in the Victorian era?  By the end of the 19th century, beach holidays were certainly on the rise.  However, our Victorian sisters met the heat without benefit of air conditioning, skimpy clothing, or sun protection.  What did they have instead?  In today’s article, we look at a few fashion, beauty, and novel necessities for a 19th century summer.[…]Continue Reading

Medieval Hairstyles for Men and Women: Guest Post By Regan Walker

Today, bestselling historical author Regan Walker brings us a guest post on Medieval hairstyles for men and women!

Detail of Illustration form an Italian breviary showing women's figured silk gowns and a saint. Bilbliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1380.
Detail of Illustration form an Italian breviary, Bilbliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1380.

The Medieval Era spanned the 5th to the 15th century.  For my Medieval Warriors series, I did considerable research on the hairstyles of men and women during the Medieval Era, though my particular interest was the 11th century.  For my newest book in the series, Rebel Warrior, I also needed to know how the hairstyles might have differed in Scotland.[…]Continue Reading

On Bluestockings and Beauty: 19th Century Advice for Educated Women

“Blue-stocking or not, every woman ought to make the best of herself inside and out.  To be healthy, handsome, and cheerful, is no disadvantage even in a learned professor.”
The Art of Beauty, 1883.

Portrait of a Woman by Henry Inman, 1825.(Brooklyn Museum)
Portrait of a Woman by Henry Inman, 1825.
(Brooklyn Museum)

Unlike the clever, witty bluestockings that populated the fashionable salons of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Victorian bluestocking was considered to be, as one 1876 publication puts it, “a stiff, stilted, queer literary woman of a dubious age.”  This unfortunate stereotype was so firmly entrenched that it even made its way into an 1883 edition of the Popular Encyclopedia, wherein a bluestocking is defined as a “pedantic female” who has sacrificed the “excellencies of her sex” to education and learning.[…]Continue Reading

Victorian Fat Shaming: Harsh Words on Weight from the 19th Century

“All defects are in the nature of ugliness, but certain ones are more degrading than others; and of these obesity, which is a deformity, is signally ignoble.”
The Woman Beautiful, 1899.

Unknown Painting by Ivan Makarov, 1870.
Unknown Painting by Ivan Makarov, 1870.

During the early and mid-Victorian era, a great many health and beauty books echoed the popular 19th century sentiment that plumpness equaled good health.  It was leanness, not heaviness, to which beauty experts directed the majority of their criticism.  For example, in his 1870 book Personal Beauty: How to Cultivate and Preserve it in Accordance with the Laws of Health, author Daniel Brinton states that a “scrawny bony figure” is “intolerable to gods and men.”  According to Brinton, the only occasion on which excessive leanness had ever been beneficial to a lady was in an encounter with a cannibal.  As he explains:

“The only lady who we ever heard derived advantage from such an appearance was Madame Ida Pfeiffer.  She relates that somewhere in her African travels the natives had a mind to kill and eat her, but she looked so unpalatably lean and tough that the temptation was not strong enough, and thus her life was saved.”

[…]Continue Reading

The Beauty Rituals of 19th Century Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab, 1867.
Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Georg Raab, 1867.

Born in Munich on December 24, 1837, Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie became Empress of Austria when she married Emperor Franz Joseph at the age of sixteen.  Though now widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women of 19th century Europe, Sisi, as she was known to her intimates, was not considered a great beauty in her youth.  Some biographers have even referred to her as sturdy and boyish with a “round peasant face.”  Highly sensitive to any perceived deficiencies in her appearance, Sisi embarked on a lifetime of starvation diets and extreme beauty rituals which have since become the stuff of legend. […]Continue Reading

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