Trends in fashion and beauty are cyclical. Will this fashion come around again? Although odd, it seems relatively benign compared to some of the procedures and affectations of current times...
from "The Book of Days", 1832:
|an early wood-cut|
~Samuel Pepys has duly recorded his wife's first appearance in patches, which seems to have taken place without nis concurrence, as three months afterwards he makes an entry in his Diary: 'My wife seemed very pretty to-day, it being the first time I had given her leave to wear a black patch.' And a week or two later, he declares that his wife, with two or three patches, looked far handsomer than the Princess Henrietta. Lady Castlemaine, whose word was law, decreed that patches could not be worn with mourning; but they seem to have been held proper on all other occasions, being worn in the afternoon at the theatre, in the parks in the evening, and in the drawing-room at night. Puritanical satirists, of course, did not leave the fair patchers unmolested. One Smith printed An Invective against Black Spotted Faces, in which he warned them—
|an ideal beauty of the day...|
To such as in black spots delight.
If pride their faces spotted make,
For pride then hell their souls will take.
If folly be the cause of it,
Let simple fools then learn more wit.
Black spots and patches on the face
To sober women bring disgrace.
Lewd harlots by such spots are known,
Let harlots then enjoy their own."
Fashion, however, as usual, was proof against the assaults of rhyme or reason, and spite of both, the ladies continued to cover their faces with black spots. When party-feeling ran high in the days of Anne, we have it on authority, that politically-minded dames used their patches as party symbols: the Whigs patching on the right, and the Tories on the left side of their faces, while those who were neutral, decorated both cheeks. 'The censorious say that the men whose hearts are aimed at, are very often the occasion that one part of the face is thus dishonoured and lies under a kind of disgrace, while the other is so much set-off and adorned by the owner; and that the patches turn to the right or to the left according to the principles of the man who is most in favour. But whatever may be the motives of a few fantastic coquettes, who do not patch for the public good so much as for their own private advantage, it is certain that there are several women of honour who patch out of principle, and with an eye to the interests of their country. Nay, I am informed that some of them adhere so steadfastly to their party, and are so far from sacrificing their zeal for the public to their passion for any particular person, that in a late draught of marriage-articles, a lady has stipulated with ner husband that whatever his opinions are, she shall be at liberty to patch on which side she pleases.'
This was written in 1711, and in 1754 the patch was not only still in existence, but threatening to overwhelm the female face altogether. A writer in the World for that year says: 'Though I have seen with patience the cap diminishing to the size of a patch, I have not with the same unconcern observed the patch enlarging itself to the size of a cap. It is with great sorrow that I already see it in possession of that beautiful mass of blue which borders upon the eye. Should it increase on the side of that exquisite feature, what an eclipse have we to dread! out surely it is to be hoped the ladies will not give up that place to a plaster, which the brightest jewel in the universe would want lustre to supply. . . . All young ladies, who find it difficult to wean themselves from patches all at once, shall be allowed to wear them in whatever number, Bize, or figure they please, on such parts of the body as are, or should be, most covered from sight And any lady who prefers the simplicity of euch ornaments to the glare of her jewels, shall, upon disposing of the said jewels for the benefit of the foundling or any other hospital, be permitted to wear as many patches on her face as she has contributed hundreds of pounds to so laudable a benefaction, and so the public be benefited, and patches, though not ornamental, be honourable to Bee.'
And from "The Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist", 1880
"...we may well fancy that the first "patches" would be bits of " court plaster," the necessary appliances to a pimpled or " broken out " face. The ladies themselves, however, with their usual and highly commendable ingenuity, asserted that as Venus herself had a mole on her cheek, which added a fresh charm to her beauty, they wore, as lineal descendants of her loveliness, these patches as artificial beauty-spots...
...Thus, if in the first instance, a pimple or other disfigurement appearing on the face was, of necessity, covered with a small plaster—possibly cut into an ornamental form for appearance sake—and this occurred with some "highborn dame " or leader of ton, the fashion would at once be " set" and imitators would increase and multiply in every rank of society, each outdoing another in novelty, form, number, and position of the so-called beauty-spots...
...Prefixed to a curious work, called "A Wonders of Wonders, or a Metamorphosis of Fair Faces into Foul Visages; an invective against black-spotted faces," written in the reign of James the First, by one R. Smith, is a short poem " On Painted and Spotted Faces," in which, alluding to the shapes of the patches, the following lines occur :—
|the wearing of patches was not limited to the Ladies...|
Which our she wantons so delight to weare.
The Coach and Horses with the hurrying wheels,
Show both their giddy brains and gadding heels;
The Cross and Crosslets in one face combined,
Demonstrate the cross humours of their mind;
The Bra's of the bowls doth let us see,
They'll play at rubbers, and the mistresse bo;
The Rings do in them the black art display,
That spirits in their circles raise and lay;
But, oh ! the sable Starrs that you descry
Benights their day, and speaks the darkened sky.
The several Moons that in their faces range,
Eclipse proud Proteus in his various change;
The long slash and the short denote the skars,
Their skirmishes have gaind in Cupid's wars.
For those, that into patches clip the Crown,
"f is time to take such pride and treason down.
...from " The Burse of Reformation" (and "Wit Restored"), 1658, :
Heer patches are of every art
For pimples and for searrs;
Heer's all the wandring planett signes,
And some o' th' fixed starrs,
Already gumm'd, to make them stick,
They need no other sky,
Nor starrs, for Lilly for to vew,
To tell your fortunes by.
in "Beauties' Warning-piece, or Advice to the Fair", 1680
"But fair one know your glass is run,
Your time is short, your thread is spun,
Your spotted face, and rich attire
Is fuell for eternal fire. "
from "A True Satire " —
"Come you Ladies that do wear
More Fashions than Sundays in the Year:
With your Locks, Ribbond-knots, and silk Roses;
With your Spots on your face and your noses
Your bare breasts and your back, discover what you lack,
Come along, come along, I must lash you. "
*gasp* Lashing for a fashion faux-pas? Seems a mite severe....
|"The Birth of Venus", Botticelli|