Who says girls don’t have toolboxes? I have a toolbox, it’s just that inside it I have curling irons, hair spray, lipstick and bobby pins! Oh, the joys of being a girl! Funny thing is, the same thing was true of women at the turn of the century, though the tools and trends have changed. Women like Flossie Jayne (the main character I spent so much time getting to know for my new book) didn’t have access to all the modern tools I have, but for her and for them, primping and priming was still a big deal.
What I find fascinating, though, is how the beauty standards of each era has changed. Women like Flossie were expected to have pale skin and a very natural, makeup-free look--a far cry from the fake eyelashes and hair extensions of today. At the turn of the century, only lower-class individuals worked outside in the sun all day, so having that bronze glow we covet was a major no-no for them. Pale skin was a sign of belonging to the middle or upper class, and showed that you spent your time indoors taking care of your home like a “respectable” woman should. Crazy, right?
To keep her skin looking healthy, Flossie invested in facial creams instead of makeup. And do you know what I found out? This is when Pond’s facial creams really took off. I love it when I find companies like Pond’s who have survived over all these years despite the changing trends in beauty and fashion.
For Flossie, beauty was all about subtlety, so to highlight her features in a non-dramatic way, she’d use crushed herbs as a blush or lip stain, but nothing more than that. Heavy lip colors and eyelid shadows were only worn by ladies of the night and actresses. And don’t quote me on this--but I think those were the only women who shaved, too. (Something I’m careful not to point out in my books. I mean, who wants a heroine with hairy armpits! Ha!)
One of my favorite hairdos from back then is the “Gibson Girl” style, shown here in an illustration drawn by Life Magazine illustrator Charles Dana Gibson. And Flossie was an expert at it. To achieve the Gibson Girl look, she piled her long, wavy hair in a pompadour or bouffant style on top of her head in a way that managed to look both effortless and elegant at the same time. Now, being from Texas, I’m all about big hair, but even I would find the Gibson Girl do a challenge--especially if I did it every day!
Still, I find Flossie’s beauty routines and those of turn of the century women impossibly fascinating and love to experiment with recreating their sense of style. If you’d like to try a few “Gibson Girl” inspired hair styles, check out this post and let me know how it turns out! You can share your pictures on my Facebook page right here!