Victorian Beauty Secrets for the Lolita

Victorian beauty advertisementThe Victorian times have been over-romanticized pretty much ever since the era ended, and those decades definitely weren't all scented gloves and garden tea parties. It's important to know that and understand the difference between taking a few cues from the lighter sides of the romanticized Victorian life and believing that these cues are the be-all-end-all of Victorian life and judging others harshly for not living their life like you choose to live yours. We've all heard this said from another somewhere or another before: "In the Victorian era, ladies didn't do _____, so Lolitas shouldn't either". Well, Victorian era ladies generally wore skirts that covered their knees (and shins, and ankles) and refrained from wearing pirate hats and head wear that looks like melting ice cream, so maybe we don't need to take every lifestyle cue from the Victorians.

However, the Victorian era has undoubtedly been a major influence in the Lolita fashion, and even lifestyle. While most Lolitas are content to keep the Victorian limited to their wardrobe and maybe decor choices, there are those that are interested in living a little more historically accurate. Personally, I'm very interested in beauty routines and recipes from the past, particularly of the Victorian era. I find them very interesting, and they're generally a very unobtrusive way to add an element of the Victorian to your life without having to change the way you act or invest in some majorly expensive antique furniture. 

Harriet Hubbard AyerOne of my favorite beauty gurus of the era is Mrs. Harriet Hubbard Ayer, who wrote a book simply called Harriet Hubbard Ayer's Book. As someone who enjoys digging through old beauty books (thank you, the internet and pre-1923 copyright laws!) I'm familiar with the dry and often times ridiculous sounding beauty routines from the era, so I was pleasantly surprised to find Mrs. Ayers book, published first in 1899, not only very readable, but I enjoyed her particular style of writing and personality, and I also found her beauty routines to be very modern sounding, realistic, and generally most of them were not dangerous or even very weird (ok, so maybe baby head-gear to make sure they don't grow up with big ears is a little weird).

The majority of Mrs. Ayer's recipes were something along the lines of a cream, lotion, or fragranced oil or powder. Wax, oil, talc, fragrance, scrubby crushed nuts, rose water, and glycerin are commonly found ingredients in Mrs. Ayer's recipes. Not very different in composition from the multitude of recipes for homemade body butters and scrubs you can find by the hundreds on Pinterest. Personally, I don't even think it's necessary to go strictly historically accurate with these recipes, as the modern home recipes are similar enough (mostly, you're simply going to find a lot less sperm whale fat in modern recipes) so that your best bet would just be to find a modern home made soap, lotion, or whatever it is you feel you could use to suit your needs.


If you're looking for some more in-depth looks at beauty advice from around this era, check out The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor, a blog that focuses on beauty tips and recipes from about 1890-1915, and includes dozens and dozens of real-life applications and adventures in recreating the recipes found in these old books!

The Gibson Girl's Guide to Glamor

If you want to do your own hunting and searching, there are a number of old beauty books available for free online at Archive.org. Below are a few of the ones I have found and enjoyed digging through. However, there are dozens more available, just search around antique book archive sites for keywords such as "ladies", "beauty" or "toilet" and you're bound to find some!


If you do plan on attempting any of the recipes or advice you find in any of these old books, please use common sense and a bit of Googling to see if what you're about to do is safe! Not every practice from the past is a safe "old timey home remedy", ladies of ages past (as are ladies of the current age) are often infamous for doing dangerous things in the name of beauty. Many of the recipes and advice in such books are only good for interesting reading, not necessarily for slathering all over yourself and ingesting.

Do you have any particularly Victorian inclined beauty routines? I'm trying to get more into making my own beauty products and going a bit more natural with the ones I use. I sort of really love Lush products and have been lurking around the internet for recipes that are similar to the products I love so I can make. I've already made a ton of different salt and sugar scrubs (and prompted used them almost all up!), as well as a dry shampoo. I want to step it up a bit for my next attempt at a recipe and try making something like a lotion bar, or that witch hazel cold cream!

8 comments:

  1. Love this post! I personally like lolita style clothing that tends to be more historically accurate myself, and always have like learning about beauty secrets of the past. I'll definitely check out some of the links! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks so much for the links. I love most of your blog and this post is no exeption.
    And I'm a big fan of Lush as well. Their schampoo bars are the best schampoo i ever used.

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  3. Great post! Thank you for sharing! <3

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  4. These sound very interesting. I'd also be interested in finding some home decorating books from the Victorian era. I'll have to poke around on archive.org. Thanks for giving me the idea. ^_^

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  5. In some ways, hearing about what Victorian/Antebellum ladies did for beauty routines doesn't surprise me at all - it was a time when people began to take a better into hygiene which hadn't been a common practice since the Roman times (bath houses and all that jazz). I think what makes these routines and recipes surprising is that it defies stereotypes of old-timey remedies like Snake Oil (maybe this was just more commonplace in the West where communication was much slower; on second note, it wasn't until after this period that miracle medicine was scrutinized by undercover journalists).

    I'm glad that you made a post about this period because I'm a fan of learning about methods of beauty and health routines/recipes around the world and throughout time ( in particular in Mediterranean countries from ancient civilizations), and now I have a new time and place to research (there really ought to be a book dedicated to the history of world beauty!).

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    1. I think this is not quite right. Bath houses were very common during the middle ages and renaissance in Europe. It was part of the day to visit a bath house after work, even for normal craftsmen. They often got a special wage for it, called "bad geld" (bath money, there are many documents remained), and lots of prints and paintings of these times are depicting bath house sceneries. It was quite a popular thing.

      The thought that water makes you ill derives from the baroque and rococo era (roughly about 1700 and later), and lasted "just" about a 100 years.

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  6. Thank you for sharing!
    Those were very great and useful, the milk thing does work, I tried it and I'm so amazed!!! Beauty secrets from the past, they shall remain useful! =D

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  7. Thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed reading this <3

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