Victorians took their hair seriously: “Want Good Hair?” asked Godey’s Lady’s Book (1861). Throughout the nineteenth century, much advice circulated in magazines, newspapers, and cook books regarding how to cleanse hair (long before shampoo was invented), use of combs, whether or not to cut kids’ hair and more!
In an 1879 essay by Henry Ward Beecher, he persuades all to see that Old Maids may make the best of wives, for their youthful ways often pass right along with their marriageable years. Come mid-twenties, when a woman is an Old Maid, he argues she’s come into her prime of womanhood.
Beecher was, it seems, concerned about appearance.
What about those ladies who are consistently kind, gracious, and pleasant to be with? What of those good girls who finds no fault and never complains. Perhaps this Best Woman did make for the Best Victorian Wives.
Dr. Richardson, a London physician, spoke against corsets (tight lacing) and the damage thereby inflicted upon women’s intellect. This article was syndicated from New York Times and appeared in Kansas Farmer on May 5, 1880.
It’s no surprise in today’s environment that women (and men) can choose any color hair they desire, piercings and tattoos at will, and permanent makeup (tattooed eyeliner and lip-liner). I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn today’s plastic surgeons offer dimple surgery to create the desirable feature Mother Nature forgot to grant. What shocked me was the inventive Victorian who figured out how to artificially bring about dimples.
Judge John H. Arbuckle promised divorces to unsuspecting men duped by mail-order brides from the East who padded their limbs, hips, bosoms or employed false hair or used cosmetic paints. Such elements of beauty were common in the Victorian American Era, at least among the wealthy. It must have been common enough among disillusioned bridegrooms for the Judge to rule (April 3, 1873) that “marriages into which a man is seduced by the use of (his list of offenses like makeup and padded breasts) without the man’s knowledge, shall stand null and void if he so desires”. Victorian ladies were guilty of nothing today’s generation hasn’t done. But just what padding devices and cosmetics were readily available in the early 1870’s?