If you think being a woman is tough now, imagine how arduous it was a hundred and thirty years ago, when fashion dictated a frighteningly elaborate clothing and makeup routine.
“Once arrayed for a fete, especially if she had lost the bloom of youth, the butterfly of the eighteen sixties and early eighteen seventies staggered forth under the burden of an infinite variety of beautifying apparatus constructed of steel, iron, wire, cotton, wood, horsehair, and wool, all attached to her person by straps, tape, and mucilage,” wrote Herbert Asbury in 1929’s All Around the Town.
The look a woman of the time wanted involved a tiny waist and big breasts (attainable thanks to a steel corset), plump arms, small feet, and a “Grecian bend,” basically a butt supersized with the help of bustles and pads under her dress.
Hair was puffed up with the help of human-hair wigs or horsehair extensions. The face, neck, shoulders, and arms were painted with “vegetable rouge” as well as chalks and pastes. A coat of India ink darkened eyebrows.
Some fashionable chicks had their bodies coated in enamel—kind of like a more time-consuming version of today’s spray-on tan.
“Many society women made regular tri-weekly trips to the enameling studio, while a few had coats put on to last anywhere from a week to two or three months,” Asbury wrote.
A hot babe of the 1870s, from All Around the Town