Whilst renovating Somerton House in St. James, Lady Somerton discovered this 17th century pamphlet advertising some of the cosmetics available for purchase at the Royal Exchange. As an avid reader of the Tea Time Tattler, Lady Somerton passed it on to us for the amusement of our readers. Many of these are still used today, but others, thankfully, have gone quite out of fashion.
We live in a remarkable age. Once restricted to only the highest echelons of society, cosmetics are now widely available and can be purchased on any income at the newly rebuilt Royal Exchange. While increased trade has improved food and fashion, it has also brought many new beautifying products to London, so even modest ladies and domestic servants can afford to take home a little bit of luxury. Improve your complexion and your prospects with our list of the best cosmetics available at the ‘Change:
Flower Waters–Orange flower water is not the only tonic that will improve your complexion. Erase freckles with a cowslip wash, or turn back the hands of time with May’s first dew, gathered and preserved in fluted glass. Miss Elysabeth Henshawe of Southwark sells rose tonics and salves that it is claimed are the secret to the legendary beauty of the Henshawe sisters. Purchase some for yourself and carry the lush scent of roses with you wherever you tread.
Ceruse–correct imperfections and fill in pockmarks with this miracle powder beloved of royalty and courtesans alike. The Royal Exchange stocks all grades including the much coveted Venetian ceruse that boasts the highest lead content in the known world. Though the Royal Society has noted that people involved in its manufacture tend to suffer cramps and blindness, this should not concern you as the efficacy of this product far outweighs any theoretical risks.
Mouse Skin Eyebrows–Ceruse has a depilatory effect, so if you find yourself in need of eyebrows, purchase some made of mouse skin. Simply affix with a little gum and carry on, and no one will be the wiser.
Depilatories–If ceruse does not eliminate any unwanted hair, a simple depilatory can be made by mixing cat dung and vinegar. Do not have a cat? Never fear! The Royal Exchange stocks many potent alternatives that will suffice.
Top Tip: If your income will not stretch to ceruse, a similar effect can be achieved with a dusting of alabaster powder or starch over oily skin.
Cochineal–Once you have created a flawless complexion, add a rosy flush with cochineal. This can be purchased as a powder or in Spanish paper for simple application to lips or cheeks.
Blue crayon–This product is an essential feature of many ladies’ dressing tables for a reason. Not only can it be used on lids to emphasize a pair of fine eyes, but it can be used to draw veins on the bosom to create the appearance of a pale, translucent complexion.
Alabaster crayons–New arrival from Marseilles. Composed of the finest alabaster, these crayons come in every color that occurs in nature and a fair few that do not. Use on eyes, cheeks, and lips for an effect as bold or demure as you desire.
Belladonna drops–When applied to the eyes, this magical plant dilates pupils and adds shine to mimic the flattering effects of candlelight or attraction. It has the added benefit of unfocusing the eyes, so any unpleasantness melts away into a lovely haze until the product wears off.
Patches–Lady Castlemaine is never without hers. Follow her advice and wear one every day except for when in mourning, of course. Cut from silk and taffeta, they come in an array of shapes from moons and stars to tiny coaches complete with horses. The Royal Exchange receives new deliveries of these daily and they are a refined way to express yourself, your loves, or your loyalties.
You can read more about cosmetics, shopping, and the intricacies of seventeenth century life in Jessica Cale’s historical romance series, The Southwark Saga.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jessica-Cale/e/B00PVDV9EW