Museum event lifts the lid on bizarre 18th Century beauty secrets
A dead mouse makeover or a pigeon paste facial might not sound like ideal ways to pamper yourself.
But in the 18th Century, beauty treatments involving all kinds of bizarre lotions and potions were the height of fashion for socialites wanting to look their best.
Now special events at Leeds’s Abbey House Museum and Temple Newsam House later this month are set to lift the lid on some of the weird, wonderful and downright disgusting things Georgian men and women would put themselves through in a bid to look drop dead gorgeous.
The learning workshops, entitled Beaus and Belles: Eighteenth Century Toilette, will be led by Leeds Museums and Galleries community curator Helen Pratt and visitor assistant Deborah Crossley.
Donning a wig and costume, they will talk visitors through some authentic 18th Century treatments, highlighting how people of that era struggled to live up the beauty ideals of the age.
Helen said: “There were all kinds of strange things people of that time would do to be considered beautiful.
“Beauty spots were very fashionable, so if they didn’t have a real one, both men and women would cut out pieces of fur from dead mice or voles and stick them to their faces instead.
“They’d also use poisonous, lead-based face powder and a skin tonic made of dead pigeons or puppies.
“It’s fascinating to hear the lengths that people would go to in order to fit in with what was seen as beautiful back then and also a reminder how much those ideals change through the ages.
“Maybe in future people will look at what we do today and think it’s just as strange!”
The Beaus and Belles workshop has been planned to coincide with the current How Do I Look? exhibition at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum.
The exhibition, which runs until December, shows how people throughout history have enhanced their looks and the different ways they have presented themselves to others.
Other highlights include Ancient Egyptian kohl pots, 1960s false eye-lashes, Victorian corsets, curling tongs and 1950s perm machines.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said:
“This workshop, alongside the exhibition, is a really though-provoking look at the different ways people through the ages have tried to conform to the beauty stereotypes of their time.
“It’s a great opportunity to have fun and find out some weird and wonderful facts but also to learn about how our ideas have changed over the years and how that relates to our ideas about beauty today.”
Beaus and Belles workshops are available at Abbey House Museum on Tuesday, September 29 from 2pm-4pm and then at Temple Newsam House on Wednesday, November 18 from 11am-3pm.
The workshop includes a short session on hand and arm massage techniques with some aromatherapy oils using floral ingredients from the past and present.
Places are limited to 15 people per session. Booking is essential. Sessions are £4.20 per person (no concessions).
Price includes entry to the rest of the museum. To book your place please call 0113 2305492 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details about How Do I look, which runs until December 31, please visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/howdoilook