Thursday, 26 September 2013

Beauty Spots - More Than Just a Mark

Beauty spots first appeared in the Roman empire and since the 18th century took a lot of inspiration from the Antiquity it seems almost appropriate to take some beauty advice as well. When the French courtiers adapted the trend it became a way to give small signals to your fellow courtiers - mostly about romantic affairs or personality traits.

Both men and women wore beauty patches that could be made of black fabric such as taffeta, silk, velvet or leather. The patches were cut out in little shapes; circles, hearts, stars and crescents. To make the little patch actually stick to the face one side would be smeared with a sticky substance produced by sapping a tree. Many courtiers used patches to cover the severe scaring that was the inevitable consequence of catching smallpox. Like most other fashions at this time even the patches became more and more elaborate over time. Eventually patches could be shaped as carriages or ships and most courtiers carried extras with them just in case!

The Louisbourg Institute gives us this explanation as to what a beauty patch's location means:

    • Lower lip: discreet
    • Middle of cheek: gallant
    • Middle of forehead: dignified
    • Besides the mouth: kissable 
    • Corner of the eye: passionate
    • Between the mouth and chin: silent
    • Heart-shape on the right cheek: married
    • Heart-shape on the left cheek: engaged
    • On the nasolabial fold: playfull
Sometimes the patch could also be placed on the shoulder or at the cleavage. The patches were normally kept in elaborately decorated porcelain boxes often decorated with pretty motifs such as flowers. In the end the trend vanished when the vaccine against smallpox was invented in 1796.

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