Exhibiting enormous power or inspiring incredible devotion, throughout history beauty has been women's chief asset. Each age has required its own standard - a gleaming white brow during the Renaissance, the black eyebrows considered charming in the early 18th century, or the thin lips thought desirable to the Victorians. For those naturally blessed, their beauty could ensure a good marriage, offer social mobility, fame or notoriety whereas those without such obvious gifts would resort to any ends to achieve an illusion of beauty.
Ours is not the only age when beauty is celebrated but also judged and quantified. From the color of the ear to the transparency of the teeth the benchmark for every aspect of beauty has been set and women - and some men - have applied themselves wholeheartedly risking their lives using poisonous chemicals, their fortunes at the risk of blackmail, or the wrath of God, to reach the desired targets.
From Queen Elizabeth I who used dangerous quantities of white lead to give her complexion the illusion of a youthful lustre, to Marilyn Monroe who blended 4 shades of lipstick to emphasise her perfect pout this book will examine some of the more unusual cosmetic practices contemplated in beauty's name.
"A comprehensive history of Beauty and Cosmetics from Pagan cultures to Christian cultures through to the 1950s. The small size of this book belies the extent of information contained within, including a rich social history...Intelligently written with humor throughout and with a strong emphasis on social history, this lushly illustrated book will be of wide appeal. Highly Recommended."—Vintage Fashion Guild
"Small and compact, this wonderfully illustrated book describes the standards of beauty popular in each era, from 1550 when alabaster brows were highly prized, to the black eyebrows that were favored by 18th century women. As with all Shire books, Sarah Jane Downing’s trip through time provides us with brilliant insights... I give the delightful Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 four out of five Regency tea cups." - Vic Sanborn, Jane Austen's World
Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 by Sarah Jane Downing