Hi, I’m Fashion Historian Amber Butchart and welcome to Kenwood which is cared for by English Heritage. I’m standing inside an incredible Georgian house in North London which was once home to William Murray 1st Earl of Mansfield and his aristocratic companions in the 1700s.
Today we’re going to be looking at the late 18th century and we’re going to show you how to recreate an authentic Georgian look. We’ll be exploring not only what the cosmetics can reveal about England during this period but also why bigger was better for the hairstyles of the Georgians.
Plus we’ve got an extra special treat for you. We’re going to be recreating two Georgian looks and talking about how both women and men used makeup to make an impression in Georgian society. I am so excited to see this! Hi Rebecca Hello Amber, welcome to the Georgian era Thank you This is Ashleigh, our model Hi Ashleigh Take a great look at her because she’s going to be unrecognisable very soon.
I can not wait. So today we’re focusing on the Georgian era, this is a period of huge political and social upheaval huge change Now technically it lasts from 1714 to 1837 but we’re going to be focusing on just two decades, the 1770s and 1780s when George III was on the throne So Rebecca what are the key elements from the look from this era? Well the look changed a little bit throughout the centuries but we’re going to focus on doing pale porcelain skin.
dark black eyebrows and flushed rosy cheeks – it’s going to be very elegant very beautiful Fantastic! Ican’t wait let’s get started Let’s do it So step number one is, just like today, skin prep, and I’ve done loads of research on skin care.
Georgian ladies used creams, they used waters, they used all sorts of lotions. I found a great recipe that involves the juice of strawberries – wow! – onto skin Apparently you would put it on at night, you’d leave it on your skin overnight and then you wash it off with water with chervil in it, which is a form of parsley What this does, apparently, is to get rid of freckles and also to clear a tanned skin It’s interesting you say that this was to get rid of freckles.
This is a period where we see the onset of the Industrial Revolution which you know really brings in huge changes throughout society. But the period we’re in at the moment having tan skin or having freckles is really associated with outdoor agricultural work.
It essentially is a sign that you don’t have much money and so this is why people are trying to avoid it so much And the look that we’re doing today is for an aristocratic lady, so she wouldn’t have had freckles, she wouldn’t have had a tan so we’re going to get rid of those So we’re going to get rid of those freckles with our chervil water and strawberry face cream Fantastic.
Now the process of sort of getting dressed and getting ready the whole toilette was quite elaborate for women at this time and could be quite performative in some ways as well. There are some accounts of women getting ready while having breakfast or even while entertaining other women you could use it as a sort of socialising time for chatting and catching up on gossip and things like that as well So our next step is to start creating the look and we’ve already said that we are going to be creating a look for aristocratic ladies, and this one is for an affluent lady who’s going out socialising.
To achieve this pale, porcelain look I’m using an authentic-ish Georgian recipe for a white face base. Now I say authentic-ish because there are some ingredients that I can’t get hold of today like ceruse which, is white led So this is still being used at this time in the Georgian era? The ceruse which is very poisonous, corrosive substance? Yep.
But women like Kitty Fisher and the Waldegrave sisters still insisted on wearing this white lead, white makeup So you’re not using that today, just to clarify? No, we’re definitely not using that today This is a combination of sweet almond oil and titanium dioxide pigment which is used in makeup today and also a little bit of bees wax And how are you going to create the dark brows that we so associate with this era? Well interestingly enough, I’m going to be using a clove to coat the eyebrows Have a smell Oh wow! They smell amazing.
You need to burn the end of a clove It smells like Christmas! I know! And then you can draw them on and they make really quite surprisingly effective eyebrow pencils Who’d have thought it! I know! But there were other rumors around at that time that people were using things like mouse fur to create those thick, lush eyebrows Well a lot of the sources that talk about mouse fur being used for eyebrows are satirical sources so people like Jonathan Swift wrote about it, there are a few prints as well, satirical prints that talk about mouse fur eyebrows which is why we’re not really sure if it was actually used or if it’s just something that people joked about We’re beginning to enter a real golden age of satire at this time.
People start to flourish in the new print culture like Gillray and Cruikshank especially as we move into the 19th century as well. Around this period there a couple called Matthew and Mary Darly who created amazing satirical prints.
A lot of them really focused on hair and how elaborate Georgian hair could become. So fashion was a real target for satirists at this time. The eyebrows are looking fantastic I know, isn’t it a great colour? It’s really good, it’s perfect Now it’s time to add some color to this face and I’m going to use a modern, safe alternative to a product called vermilion, which is actually red mercury Again it’s another really toxic ingredient that women were constantly using on their cheeks to get this bright, rosy flush I love this it looks so incredible, it looks so authentic It’s so gorgeous, I love it! This is a look that we’re really used to seeing on French portraits especially portraits of Marie Antoinette for example from this time.
And it was a look for that reason that many women in England really wanted to emulate. We see this with fashions throughout this era as well. There were some differences between English and French fashions And it also reflected the differences in the sort of structure of power in each of the countries.
In France you have this very court-centric power culture where Versailles is the absolute center and its this kind of spectacular theater of power and wealth. In England it’s a bit more sort of geographically diverse and you have the managing of the country estate being a really important facet of aristocratic life.
So things like walking, like taking the air, being a bit more active for a lot more important this is something we see especially in menswear where there’s a bit more of a focus on wool rather than French silks So this is certainly a really fashionable look but it’s also something that’s slightly seen as improper sometimes as well as sort of very, very French Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, her mother wrote to her in opprobrium at one point and said ‘how glad I should be if you could tell me you had quite done with rouge’ I love that quote And there was a really lovely portrait that I’ve seen where the ladies in the portrait have coloured their earlobes in with a tiny bit of rouge For our lip colour I’m using exactly the same product, but this time it’s mixed with beeswax to make it more like a lipstick texture Let’s finish this makeup off with the ultimate Georgian accessory, which is the face patch.
Now we’re cheating slightly because face patches were actually more in fashion a little bit earlier than the time that we’re focusing on, but I couldn’t resit it Well this sounds fantastic. What were they made of, these patches? So they could be made from silk, you could make them from velvet or sometimes you could make them from fine Spanish leather.
They came in a range of different shapes Now these patches served a number of purposes didn’t they. They firstly serve to highlight the whiteness of the skin next to the, you know, dark patch itself and this isn’t even an old idea if we think of someone like Marilyn Monroe for example and her beauty spot.
This is still something that we associate with beauty to this day really. But also they could hide a multitude of sins: pox marks, scars, moles any kind of blemish that you didn’t want to have on your face you could hide with a patch I love that idea! It’s just absolutely so handy! There are also a number of secret languages of patches that we can read about in different accounts from this time as well People basically said that wherever you wore it on your face meant something different So I’ve got one here, what does that mean? So if you had a patch near your mouth the accounts that I’ve seen suggest that it meant sort of coquettishness or kissing, something quite cheeky basically And I’m gonna put one here, what does that mean? So near the eye could mean passion or could even mean killing, so quite a dangerous little number that one She’s a dangerous lady! But they could also have political meanings as well There was a report in The Spectator in 1711 that said women of a Whig persuasion would wear patches on the right hand side where as Tories would wear them on the left.
And that’s everything that we’re going to do on the face, but a Georgian lady is nothing without her hair and that is a big affair, it’s going to take me some time Ok well while you do that I’m going to go and find out more about Kenwood We’re in this majestic Music Room and the whole of Kenwood is so beautiful can you tell me a bit about the history? Yes the first house is built here in the early 17th century but the house we see today largely reflects the taste of William Murray who purchased Kenwood for £4,000 in 1754 £4,000, pounds that sounds like a bargain to me! It was a reasonable amount but you had to make a lot of changes to the property so he employed the Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam and his brother James to completely transform Kenwood And so that turned it into the sort of neoclassical mansion that we know it as today? It did, and in the 1790s wings were added to the building so the room that we stand in now is actually one in one of those wings And so what was happening outside these walls in the late 18th century? For some people it was a period of great prosperity with the boom in manufacturing but with this increase in industry and also with the rise in population cities could become very overcrowded and unsanitary.
But there were also places a great spectacle, so it was great period for the theatre, for pleasure gardens and also for shopping William Murray, he was a judge and he made quite an important ruling when he was Lord Chief Justice Can you tell me about that? He was the most powerful judge in England as Lord Chief Justice and in 1772 he had a particularly significant case and that was the case of James Somerset.
Somerset was a former slave who had been imprisoned by his once master and he was about to be sent to Jamaica in order to be sold. But Murray ruled that no slaver could forcibly send a slave out of England and in his summing up he described slavery as ‘odious’ so that was just very much one small step in a much longer journey towards the abolition of slavery William Murray lived here with two nieces as well didn’t he One of which, Dido Elizabeth Belle, I’m really keen to hear more about Dido came to live here at Kenwood in about 1766 and she was the illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay and an African woman, Maria Belle, who was possibly a slave although we don’t have the evidence to necessarily prove that, but Lindsay, who was Lord Mansfield’s nephew, had been stationed in the Caribbean and was an officer of the Royal Navy.
Now Dido as both illegitimate and also mixed-race would have faced many challenges in 18th century English society. But we do know that she was brought up here at Kenwood as a lady. She was a companion to her cousin; she was taught to read, write and play music and she also supervised the dairy which was a popular pastime for ladies in that period Now this room is filled with many examples of other other women from this period.
Tell me about the exquisite works of art that we’re seeing here These paintings are part of an outstanding collection that was formed by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, and then was given to the nation along with the house after his death in 1927 And this woman here in particular is very familar Could you tell me a bit more about this painting? Yes so this is Caroline Alicia Fleming who in 1776 married John Brisco and that’s actually the same date we believe as when she posed this portrait by Thomas Gainsborough.
Her husband was later made a baronet so we know her today as Lady Brisco I love the fact that so many of the pictures here, the paintings they’re quite romantic, they’re quite whimsical. There’s an element of sort of costume and fancy dress to many of them can you tell me about what we’re seeing? So there was very much a trend to depict 18th century ladies as characters from history, from literature and myths and that was the cause history paintings were seen as the most important type of paintings in this period, much more important than portraiture.
So the artists were very much trying to elevate the status of portraiture and their own status as artists. But I can imagine it would have been very flattering as an 18th century lady to be portrayed as a Greek goddess or a Shakespearean heroine as well And speaking of history we’ve got someone dressed as Cleopatra here right Yes so this is Kitty Fisher, the famous 18th century courtesan.
But Joshua Reynolds the painter has chosen to show her as Cleopatra and it’s very much an allusion to Kitty’s own seductive charms And so we’re seeing a real flourishing of the arts in this period aren’t we Absolutely, both in terms of portraiture and also theater and of course fashion.
I love the fashions from this era for both women and men. I’m particularly keen on cultivating a sort of menswear silhouette from this era, it’s definitely one of my favourites Now speaking of fashion, you’ve got something to show me, haven’t you? I do.
So we’ve got a large collection of Georgian shoe buckles. Would you like to come and take a closer look? I would love to! We’re really lucky to have an amazing, quite unusual collection of shoe buckles on display here at Kenwood They’re so fantastic! How many do you have in the collection? Well, more than a thousand although they’re not all on display.
But I think they’re really interesting because shoe buckles were worn by those men and women and because they could be removed from the shoe they were very much treated like a piece of jewelry, like a brooch for instance I mean they do look like jewelry don’t they the size of them and everything, they’re exquisite Yes, so let’s take a closer look So they were often made out of precious metals so for instance this is made out of silver, or they could also be encrusted with paste so cut glass which was backed with metallic foil giving this wonderful glittering effect It’s so sparkly! You can just imagine that in the sunlight or in candlelight, it would just be so shiny Yeah and you would think that these were just worn to parties and that kind of thing but they were actually part of the everyday wear, well for certain sections of society anyway.
We also have a collection of jewelry here at Kenwood so everything from necklaces and earrings, through to fans and buttons and buckles for breeches Ah! Buckles for breeches, fantastic! You’ve got a whole array of Georgian accessories right here Absolutely Well thank you so much I’m going to go and see how Rebecca is getting on with our gorgeous Georgians How’s the transformation going? It is going excellently.
Ashleigh is upstairs having the finishing touches put on her hair, so I thought I’d introduce you to Stuart, our Georgian gentleman Stuart, you look fantastic Thank you, it feels good too Tell me what you’ve done here So at the time men and women’s makeup was actually quite similar, so I’ve used very similar products.
We’ve still got the white base, we’ve also still got the rosy cheeks though less intense and there were also men at that time who wanted to push the boundaries of fashion so to represent that I’ve gone for a more intense, more shaped lip It just looks brilliant.
Cosmetics for men had been popular since much earlier and was kind of starting to die out a little bit by this point but there were these groups of men who were really invested in having a very fashionable life.
They were known as the Macaronis. The term Macaroni started to be used for any man at any sort of level of society who showed an interest in fashion. The aristocratic Macaronis were often men who had taken the Grand Tour, they were very influenced by the fashions of places like France and Italy, wore bright colors towering wigs, just looked really flamboyant and fantastic Let’s talk about wigs.
Georgian men would wear wigs almost every day and because of that it meant that most men would shave their heads quite close as Stuart has today to make wearing wigs a lot easier So let’s get this gentleman on What would wigss like this have been made from? Wigs could be made from a variety of different things you could make them from horse hair, some of them will be made from human hair.
The most expensive hair was white hair and that’s one of the reasons why wigs ended up being powdered to imitate that expensive white hair Now wigs could be really costly and here at Kenwood the accounts show us that they spent the equivalent, the modern equivalent, of £5,000 on wigs over a period of about eight years That is a lot of money It is a lot of money but it just shows how important a wig was to the final Georgian look Stuart’s makeup is finished we just need to get him dressed and make sure that Ashleigh is looking amazing I can not wait to see this! Well I think they look amazing! Amber, what do you reckon? Just exquisite! You look totally perfect in this neoclassical Robert Adam Library This hair! How did you create it? It is a bit of a Georgian masterpiece, isn’t it? It is! In Georgian times women would wear wigs or they could use their own hair and brush it back into hair pieces or padding or switches to create this height and this volume.
Then they would also use two other key products one of them is called pomatum which is kind of like a hair cream it’s made out of animal fats and essential oils which gets combed through the hair and then you need powder and lots of it.
To get this incredible effect we’ve used corn starch powder but they also used orris root and wheat starch powder at that time Now the powder that you’ve used has given this quintessential gray look that we associate with this era, but other colours were used as well weren’t they Yes, we’ve got portraits where women are wearing pink powder in their hair there’s some light blues there’s some pale greens, all the colours! Your hair is very on-trend for the Georgian era! Thank you very much And it’s also about the accessorising as well.
We’ve got this very fashionable ostrich feather Hair could be a real area for artistic and political expression. There are even images of French women wearing ships in their hair to commemorate naval victories against the British, it’s just amazing.
How do you guys feel? Yeah, it feels amazing and it makes you feel quite elegant You look quite elegant! Thank you Well you look very elegant as well, how do you feel? Thank you, well it took me twice as long as normal to get ready.
There’s a lot of buttons to be done up Well it’s definitely worth it I have absolutely loved this tutorial. From big wigs to poisonous pastes once again we’ve seen how fashion and makeup can tell us the story of England’s past Don’t forget you can visit this beautiful house and its exquisite art collection and experience Georgian Britain for yourself.
Just click the link on the screen to find out more. Do you think you would suit the Georgian look with someone that you know? As ever we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Until next time, I’m Amber Butchart and thanks for joining me here at Kenwood