Makeup=/= Harlot

Yo waddup, my peasants? It’s ur gurl giving you some hella cute makeup tips!

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Sorry about skipping a week, peasants; I know you love reading through my ramblings– even if it’s hate scrolling– I was in Williamsburg with my BFF Kelly for her birthday!

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Because we hit up the town on October 3rd and it was a Wednesday, I had to wear pink!

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amazing fan, watch, and earrings from K Walters because who else?

Kelly looked totes adorbz too. She let me play with her hair but wouldn’t let me do the makeup, ha! I had to hide her highlighter, as hard as it was.

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The heat was too much to bear in silk dresses, though we did look fabulous!

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After a week or so causing a ruckus in Virginia, Erik and I headed back up north to Philly to attend the Battle of Germantown. There, I hung out with my friends Aly, Natasha, and Jenn; we now refer to ourselves as the Silk Squad!

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Photo by Bill Coughlin

I also want to point out that Aly did a terrific job with her hair, I’m seriously impressed!

For this event, it was cool enough to break out the yellow riding habit. I missed wearing this baby because it’s so much fun and it makes me feel powerful wearing it.

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Jenn wore her adorable Eliza Schuyler cosplay… Which, come to think of it, bears a striking resemblance to  an American silk satin gown from the 1780s…

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Natasha borrowed my massive Gainsborough hat for her brand new chemise a la reine that looks terrific. She’s now the Duchess of Philadelphia

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Georgiana who?

With that little photo spam out of the way, I want to get to the meat of this post: makeup. I was at Germantown hanging with Aly when a spectator came up to me and brazenly asked me if I was a “lady of the evening.”

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Me internally screaming

I did not punch her, though it might have been reasonable because she asked me if I was a whore. I mean, come on! Lefty AND Righty were both covered! I was decent! I asked her what made her think I was and she said I was wearing makeup. Lolwhut? I said I wasn’t, I was an actress and I was currently with someone who would cover my present spending debts. Skeptically, she asked who it was– the NERVE– and I pointed to Erik. She left still skeptic. Like I don’t portray a tuppence slut what’s good for a night and then dump her, I am a high priestess to the Temple of Mode gifted with the passion for performance and theatre.

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Now, I honestly haven’t the slightest clue why this lady would assume me a whore because of makeup.  I’ve done extensive research on period makeup– if you haven’t figured that out already– and I have yet to find anything that states only whores wore makeup in the 18th century.  I make almost all my own historical cosmetics and hair care products because it’s fun and I like to do some experimental archaeology because it not only helps my impression, but it also gives something for people to relate to. Think about it, women– for the most part; there’s nothing wrong with going au naturale– wear some form of makeup, so it gives a bit of common ground to better step into the past and connect on an empathetic level. At some point in nearly everyone’s life, they’ve been in contact with makeup or someone that uses makeup; it’s a familiar thing in something of an alien world.

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Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Izard, 1775 John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Izard is wearing makeup– what a skank!
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Obviously a whore

I’ve been making my own cosmetics and doing demos on it for about four years now; it’s a project I’m constantly learning about from both my own research and with a little help from friends such as the Dutch Milliners, whom I love with all my heart. Seriously, if you haven’t read their blog yet I’m totally judging your poor life choices because it’s amazing. I do these makeup demos and wear the historical cosmetics because it’s not only fun, it also was very much a part of the national identity of American women. American women used British cosmetics receipt books because it was a large part of their identity; American women wished to remain as British as possible because they both considered themselves English subjects and British fashions were very much the vogue for them; receipts for the treatment of sunburn were advertised in South Carolina millinery shops, books such as Eliza Smith’s Compleat Housewife were being sold all through the colonies and people were simply eating them up in order to maintain the good, pale British complexion– as you do. I mean, who would actually want to be sun burnt and tan? Eww. Elite American women emulated the British royal style of having an elaborate toilette routine in order to remain as fashionable as possible as well as assert her  dominance over the economy and trade.

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For the 18th century lady, makeup was a display of her dedication to the Temple of Modes, but it was also a way to mask intention and emotion. The  1754 cosmetic receipt book Abdecker; or, the Art of Preserving Beauty claimed that makeup was used to create a mask to conceal a woman’s emotions, under which “the Passions might have their Play without being perceived.” Basically, a hot girl disguise to mask your seething rage about not being able to vote or be expected to bear children as well as give up all your property once you marry.

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Because makeup was the one thing women had to stick it to The Man, The Man feared it and used it to slut shame women; countless satirical prints of women at the toilette arose in the 1770s which proved to be ammunition in the ever waging war of the sexes.

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Here, the toilette is a place of power, but not the good kind of power– it’s the sexual power men fear the most: sheer manipulation. Cupid is at play styling the lady’s hair while she guiles a poor sucker into paying her gaming debts or something. The monkey implies she is merely aping emotion rather than feeling it making her a cold, hard Jezebel callously using her sex to gain power– the cheek of it! Notice the boob out, too, nice touch. Fashion and makeup, the one thing women truly had control over, is lampooned through satirical propaganda, sort of like today, kinda.

I choose to wear the more dramatic styles of makeup to portray an actress; actresses being the OG trend setters in the late 18th century as well as to relate to my performances as a singer. Keep in mind, though, one’s extreme is the other’s normal and it is best to keep your opinion to yourself unless asked.

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Though actresses were associated with prostitutes, not all of them were. Keep famed actress Sarah Siddons in mind; she was able to be portrayed as a dutiful and loving mother while remaining the most successful tragic actress from 1774-1819.  Being accustomed to the dramatic makeup used on stage, actresses tended to go a little heavy on the rouge, which soon became a symbol for sexual deviancy and prostitution… NOT something men want to be seen with (on the streets, at least). What made makeup so “dangerous” and morally corrupt was that everyone wore it and actresses made it trendy! Actresses such as Fanny Abington, Sarah Siddons, and Mary Robinson were world renown stars in the London stage and used their fame to become fashion icons whom the aristocracy would come clamoring to for fashion advice. Eventually, the socially elite women began adopting the heavy use of rouge as seen on the stage, much to the chagrin of male critics who said that the blending of social classes was corrupting the very moral fiber of society. Just like with high fashion, makeup became something everyone used regardless of social standing and it made telling the difference between a courtesan from a duchess impossible!

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The Ladies Walgrave by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1781
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Grace Dalrymple Elliott. Thomas Gainsborough, 1778

Not much of a difference, is there? The late 18th century was an era where the love of art and fashion united everyone and transcended class. Women had sovereignty over their bodies and what they chose to decorate them with because it was the one thing they held absolute dominion over. Culture was beginning to be influenced by the celebrity on stage rather than the aristocracy where it had reigned supreme for millennia, and men feared it. Unity of the classes was dangerous– especially through feminization–  so the best thing men could do to keep  the status quo was to shame women who wore trends… Kinda like today, tbh. I mean how many times do we criticize girls for being too basic or too edgy or too nerdy or too hip or too trashy? How many times do we criticize makeup trends or styles simply because a girl likes them only to call her ugly when the makeup comes off? This mindset has been around since the very invention of makeup and fashion!

From what I’ve learned studying fashion and makeup, trends and makeup have always been parodied and shamed. Like today, an excessive and fashionable use of makeup denotes sexual immorality and frivolity; “begone, thot!” is nothing new to our culture and, therefore, we must stop it by doing what we do best: being ourselves. As beings with an innate desire for individuality and creativity, we must express ourselves accordingly. We hold these truths to be self evident that we are a creative people and have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of self expression without the fear of slut shaming. If you want winged eyeliner, heavy contour, and bold brows: do it! If you want to go au naturale, do it. As for me, I will paint my face and rouge my cheeks in solidarity for my historical sisters to show that times may change but people don’t.

Oh, and if you’re still wondering if my portrayal as an actress has anything to do with prostitution, the answer is heck no!!! Reenactors get creepy with me portraying a lady of fashion as it is! Besides, I’m happily engaged and not doing that to Erik.

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