A reminder for everyone. Tomorrow is the first of my give aways. The first person to leave me their contact details and tell me which of the 6 blog posts so far they’ve enjoyed most will win a copy of my story Fiona’s Wish published by Lyrical Press.
Day 6 of 30 days with Daisy.
I know I promised you hairstyles too but there is simply too much for one comfortable sized post. Hair styles deserve a bit more depth and will be here tomorrow.
Today’s blog is all about shaving and just in case you wondered if I’d begun discussing my hero in A Gentleman’s Folly without introducing him, you’re wrong. The shaving I’m talking about today is still all with the girls. What? I hear you mumble.
Yes. In the 18th century head shaving occurred. For some women it was easier to wear a wig than fight a battle with lice. Treatments to kill the things were fierce, yes, lots of lead involved, and you already know that was nasty. So some women took the step to shave their head. With the increase in the use of pomade and powder this made life easier too.
Eyebrows could also be shaved, especially if they were in what their owner thought to be the wrong place, or they were too dark or too fair, or the many other reasons women didn’t like their eyebrows. The replacement was the strips of mouse hair I included in my blog on cosmetics, or charcoal drawn lines.
I have found little evidence women shaved beneath their arms, and as most gowns had sleeves they may well have not bothered. However, body lice did occur so it is possible they may have used shaving as a preventative. There is good evidence to show shaved genitals were not uncommon. In fact, if you look at nude portraits from the era, the nether curls are almost always missing.
You might be scratching your head by now and saying, ‘Hang on a minute, Daisy old stick, only yesterday you were saying these stinkers bathed.’
You’re quite right, I was. But though they washed and did bathe that isn’t always enough to get rid of lice, either of head or body.
One of the joys of teaching in schools is the battle to avoid or get rid of head lice. I know! Washing alone won’t do it, some form or lice neutralizer is needed.
In the 18th century lead paste or a scalp wash might be offered as a treatment. The razor might seem a better idea even to someone in the 18th century especially as wigs became so common. And yes, if you wanted a wig for the nether regions, you could get one with the wonderfully attractive name of a ‘merkin’. I do like the word, it rolls off the tongue and reminds me very much of gherkin, for those of you Stateside, a gherkin is a dill pickle.
Did 18th century women shave their legs? The answer is, no one seems to know. My logic would be if they had felt the difference in smoothness on other parts of their bodies they might have done. Treatments like waxing or threading don’t appear to have been known or used, or at least at present we don’t think they were. Perhaps a nice letter will turn up from some well known 18th century lady, like the lovely Kitty Fisher, and in it she’ll casually mention she had her legs waxed. Who knows? That is the one thing I love about history it can change in many ways with the light of new evidence.
What were their razors like?
I asked myself this. Until 1740 they were basic, quite deadly looking staight blades of various size and hadn’t altered much for centuries. 1740 brought about a radical change with the introduction of a much higher grade of metal for the blades. Even so, self shaving would have remained hard. I would imagine most girls had a little help and as can be seen from the above image the ladies toilette included many things. Another method of hair removal frequently used was plucking… I’ll let you dwell on that for a moment and perhaps like mine your eyes will water at the very thought. Plucking is time consuming and again ladies may have needed some assistance. Doesn’t that give a whole new concept of being a ladies maid!
Tomorrow hairstyles and wigs in some depth, and I’ll let you know what appears to be the truth of the tales about mice in the hair pieces.
Do drop by.