Friday, October 17, 2014

A Lady's Toilette in Regency England

Most historical authors of the broadly defined Georgian, Regency and Victorian Eras (1714-1811, 1811-1837 and 1837-1901) know of La Belle Assemblee, the magazine of court fashion, etiquette and literature. As the magazine aged from its original publication in 1806 to its maturity and final issue in 1870, it was best known for its fashion plates.

The magazine was also a bellwether for poetry and fiction, along with original works on politics, science, the arts and the new trend in literature, serialized novels. Even Mary Shelly published works in La Belle Assemblee.

Inside one of these “magazines” is a wealthy assortment of information for the historical romance writer and reader. The advertisements are especially interesting to me since they provide a look into what a normal life was like.

How did a women keep her complexion? What did they do about clean teeth and hair?

Trotter’s Asiatic Tooth-Powder established upwards of Sixty Years – the extraordinary virtue of this Powder, in quickly cleaning and beautifying the Teeth, and safety of its use, from having no acid in its composition, to corrode or wear off the enamel…

And I was particularly tickled by this marketing ploy still in use today: “Sold, wholesale and retail, at No 2, Arundel Street, Strand; and by every respectable Perfumer and Medicine Vender in the United Kingdom.”

The Original Widow Welsh’s Female Pills, so long and justly celebrated for their peculiar Virtues… They create an Appetite, correct Indigestion, remove Giddiness and Nervous Headache, and are eminently useful for Windy Disorder, Pains in the Stomach, Shortness of Breath, and Palpitations of the Heart…

Rowland’s Kalydor, protects the SKIN and COMPLEXION from COLD WINDS or DAMP ATMOSPHERE, possess properties of surprising energy, in producing delicate WHITE NECK, HANDS and ARMS, and imparting a beautiful juvenile Bloom to the Complexion.

Prevents Chilblains, Heals Chapped Skin, assuages Inflammations; it heals harsh and rough Skin; removes Cutaneous Eruptions, and PRODUCES A BEAUTIFUL COMPLEXION; it affords soothing relief to Ladies nursing their Offspring, in healing Soreness of the Breast.

This almost sounds like Vaseline and I wonder at its popularity. Of all the adverts in the edition I am reading, this product seems to have the most examples and ads in a historical search on Google.

Rowland’s had a broad range of products including Rowland’s Odonto, Rowland’s Alsana Extract, Rowland’s Cereleum for the Headache.

Another wildly popular bath item starting in 1807 was Pears’ Soap and is still manufactured today.

A.Pears, No 55, Wells Street was a manufacturer and proprietor of “several intrinsic excellences” for women. The Pears’ Soap was a “favorite appendage to the toilets of ladies of the first fashion and distinction.”

Genuine Transparent Soap, is composed of the most innocent ingredients, so that, instead of possessing those acrimonious qualities that tend to irritate the surface of the skin, it gives it the healthy appearance with has long been sought after, but never attained in such perfection.

Pears also manufactured Botanic Cream, Malabar Dentifrice and Pears’ White Imperial Powder and Pears’ Liquid Bloom of Roses.

There was also the Persian Cotton Portable Rouge, “for giving a delicate rose-tint to the check; it is simple in its application, and so portable that it may be placed between the leaves of a small pocket-book. Price 2s.”

Pears’ soap was the world’s first registered brand, according to Wiki.

There was no limit to the products available to the discerning women, though it seems Regency era England could have used more truth in advertising.

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