A Victorian Lady's Guide to Fashion and Beauty by Mimi Matthews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book belongs on your bookshelf next to What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England to round out your knowledge of 19th-century life.
Ms. Matthews takes a chronological tour from 1840s through 1890s in the first part of the guide. Next comes fashion etiquette ("What to Wear and When to Wear It"). The final part covers Victorian beauty: haircare, skincare, and cosmetics and was my favorite as it was so much fun to read. A modern reader may not be able to relate to petticoats, crinolines, and mourning jewelry, but we must readily agree with Godey's Lady's Book, 1869: "Ladies of the present day, not content with the gifts of nature, often endeavor to improve and patch up the faults and imperfections of their complexions by artificial means." (p. 140) As Ms. Matthews points out, many Victorian ladies found cosmetics too powerful a temptation to resist, even if Queen Victoria did not approve of them.
Carefully researched, with ten pages of sources and notes, and generously illustrated, this book is the perfect guide for those interested in fashion, history, and culture.
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