Monday, July 29, 2013

Experimenting with coloured hair powders

I have always loved the idea with tinted hair powders and I have written about them before. I was therefore absolutely delighted when I found several recipes in Plocacosmos by James Stewart, published in 1782. The recipes is very straightforward, white hair powder with added pigment and scent. I cheated a little and used plain starch and I Think the the resulting colour would be a little paler if one use powder with added white pigment, so next time I will do that. They are easy to make yourself, but they can also be purchased at Little Bits on Etsy.

Here are yellow, rose and "pink" powder. The book calls it pink, but as the pigment used is blue, it isn't what modern eyes would call pink. They are also scented to match the colour. The yellow smells of Essence of Lemon. The rose should be scented with Essence of Rose, of course, but I didn't have any, so I used Rosewood, which was used in the 18th Century as well, and do smells a bit like roses. The blue one has me stumped though. It is supposed to be scented with Essence of Pink. Do you know what that is? I haven't got the slightest, so I opted for Lavendar instead.

This weekend I had a chance to try out my powders on a few friends as Skansen had their annual 18th century weeks. Marianne has very dark brown, almost black hair

Here she is with blue powder.

Aggi's hair is dark Brown.

Tove the maid assisted, but she looks rather sceptical.

With yellow hair powder.

Helena's hair colour is light brown.

She opted for something more discreet, so she is wearing the light brown Marechale powder I made a while ago. Her hair colour is quite similar to my own, and as you can see the same thing happened to her- the Marechale powder is barely visible, though it gives a powdered look. And it smells heavenly.

Me, I tried out the rose powder, to match my outfit.

We spent both Saturday and Sunday at Skansen, so on Sunday I used white powder instead.

Using coloured hair powder makes for a great effect and I really like them. I do wonder if it wouldn't be better to first powder the hair white and then add the tinted one as an accent, though. For practical reasons I used hairspay to make the powder adhere, but it makes it quite hard to get even. I haven't been able to make a proper hair pomade yet, but when I used my own hair as I did on the Sunday, I make the hairstyle with loads and loads of hair wax. It's quite messy and sticky (which real hair pomade probably is as well), but it is so much easier to get the powder even and it sticks on the hair powder very well.

Skansen has a number of old buildings ranging between the 16th to the 20th Century and to my absolute delight they have an 18th Century apothecary, Kronan (the Crown). I spent some time reading on all the boxes and jars and there were quite a bit of things I could have purchased for my makeup experiments, had they still been selling things.


One of the things they sold in the 18th Century were mummy powder... And they have a stuffed Crocodile hanging from the ceiling, which I found the height of cool when I was five.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step by Step Techniques

I'm on vacation and hadn't planned to post in a while- Internet in the archipelagio outside Stockholm isn't the best, but this is exiting news and I want to share. I am sure that most of you already know about Kendra of Démodé and have already caught wiff of her upcoming book, 18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step by Step Techniques. But in case you haven't, then I hope that you feel as exited as I over the chance of getting a book with how-to's for 25 hairstyles. There is a FB-page here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A small announcement

I have something to tell you, which I feel a bit shy about, but as some may notice that I have pulled some of my posts from the blog, I thought it would only be fair to tell you why. I have begun writing a book on 18th century beauty and though it is nowhere near completion, the writing in itself goes very well. The plan is to make it with three sections, one for history, one for recipes and one with few makeup tutorials. A both theoretical and practical book, in other words.


As of now I don’t know in which form the finished product will take, or when it will be finished, but at the very least there will be an E-book eventually. I will continue to do my cosmetics experiments here, but no more essays.


Great idea, or just plain dumb? Would you be interested in a book like that?

Young Girl Writing A Love Letter by Pietro Antonio Rotari, ca 1755

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Making Cyprian powder

Carl von Linné by Alexander Roslin, 1775
You can clearly see that hair powder is dusting the shoulders of
his coat. I don't know if he used Cyprus powder himself, but he does
mention, well complain, over his students using it.
I have finally got around finishing the Cyprian powderThe version I did is a 17th century recipe, but it is actually quite close to the 18th century ones I have found.

To make grey Cyprus Powder
Take the moss which grows on the branches of the bolm or scarlet oak tree (in Latin ilex coccigera, querens) and wash it several times in common water, till the smell of the moss is quite gone: then steep in equal quantities of rose water, and orange-flower water, and put it to drain in some high place, where the sun does not come, often stirring it; when ‘tis very dry, reduce it to a very fine powder, and with every pound weight of the powder mingle a dram of good muck, and half the quantity of civet.
N.B: It must be steep’d three or four times in the rose water and orange-flower water, and be dry’d each time. / Collection of Voyages and Travels by Awnsham Churchill,, p. 717
217. Cyprus Powder.
Fill a linen bag with Oak Moss, steep it in water, which change frequently, and afterwards dry the Moss in the sun. Beat it to powder, and sprinkle it with Rosewater; then dry it again, sift it through a fine sieve, and mix with it a small quantity of any of the preceding powders*.(* Rose, Violet, Jonquil, Orange-flower, Jasmine or Ambrette Powders.)
218. Another Cyprus Powder more fragrant.
Wash Oak Moss several times in pure water and dry it thoroughly; then sprinkle over it Orange Flower and Rose-water, and spread it thin upon a hurdle to dry. Afterwards place under it a chafing-dish, in which burn some Storax and Benjamin. Repeat this operation till the Moss becomes well perfumed; then beat it to fine powder, and to every pound add a quarter of an ounce of Musk, and as much Civet. / The Toilet of Flora, 1779, p. 182-183

The same ingredients are used over and over apart from the Oak moss. Rose water in all, but orange-flower water, musk, civet, ambergris, Storax and Benzoin (Benjamin) are used in some combination in all but one. The proportions vary as well.

Updated recipe
A problem with this recipe is that it contains musk, civet and ambergris for which substitutes must be found. I have liquid substitutes that are very good, but this is a dry recipe. I bought artificial vegetal substitutes instead, which all smell something akin to the original, but nowhere near as pungent. The Civet was the best of the three. The musk contains musk seed, valerian, cumin, copal, labdanum, and sweet hay extract. The civet, musk seed, oak moss, naioli and cedarwood and the ambergris amber resin, benzoin, cypress, patchouli, vetiver and tonka beans.

Oak moss 80 gram

I washed it in Rose water, let it dry and then let it steep in more Rose water. As there are no quantities I used a small bottle which contains about 3 dl for each. After it was completely dry I ground it into a powder and mixed it with the other ingredients. I made both versions.

Version 1
Oak moss 40 gram
Musk 3 gram
Ambergris 1,5 gram
Civet 1 gram
Yellow Sanders 6 gram

Version 2
Oak moss 40 gram
Benzoin 6 gram
Black Storax 6 gram
Musk 1 gram
Ambergris 1 gram
Civet 1 gram
I ground the remaining ingredients, those which needed it and mixed it with the Oak moss. My biggest problem was that I found it impossible to grind the oak moss as finely as it should be. After much hard work it looks like this, much too coarse to use as hair powder:

The Cyprian or Cyprus powder where mixed with hair powder. I haven’t found any 18th century recipes were the ration is fixed, but a 19th century books says it should be 50/50. As the Cyprus powder is grey, I think it is fair to say that the resulting hair powder will have a greyish tinge. I plan to mix my scented powder with starch, letting it rest until the starch has absorbed the scent and then sieve away the coarse particles. Those I can make into a scent bag while still enjoying the hair powder.

My thoughts
Both my versions smell lovely. It’s hard to describe it, but the oak moss is certainly prominent. Version 2 has a more vanilla resinous feel to it, which isn’t surprising. I think my vegetal substitutes are a bit too weak and if I use them again I will probably up the proportions. Another idea is to scent starch with my liquid versions, letting it dry and then mix it with the oak moss. As proportions vary so much between recipes I don't think I will stray too far away if I do. Apart from the hard work grinding it I will definitely try it again as it smells so nice! I want to try it with orange-flower water as well, too.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Madame Isis beauty parlour goes to Sala

The silver mine in Sala has an 18th century festival every year and last year I attended for the first time, along with other members of Gustafs Skål. It was great fun and this year I was asked to hold a little talk on 18th century beauty. Of course, I could talk about that for hours, so to keep it to about 30 minutes I decided to do an 18th century makeup on my friend Lithia.
The talk seemed to be well received, but it was tucked away in a house in the outskirts of the festival area, which made all my listeners people from my own and other historical societies who helped out, and not the general public, who tended to drift around. I think more would have benefitted if I hadn't done so much as an arranged talk as just putting on Lithia's makeup outside were people moved around and answering questions. In fact that was just what we did for the hairstyling, as it takes much, much longer to put up hair in an 18th century style than it takes to put on makeup. Lots of people stopped and talked with us, not to mention taking photos.

A couple of years ago I did a very basic tutorial for a late 18th century style and that's the basics of Lithia's hair as well, though with a large rat instead of back combing.

Portrait of Marie-Josèphe of Saxony,
Dauphine of France
by Jean-Étienne Liotard, 1749
Lithia's hair is hip-length and very thick and the day before she makes standing pin-curls to make it curly. In fact, I am a bit annoyed with myself for not taking any photo of her before we began, because with all those curls close together she really had a perfect sheep’s head hairstyle! All that was needed was some powder and decorations! But we were aiming for something later, so it had to go. I brushed out every curl separately, as it makes it much easier to manage with this much hair. I parted the hair from ear to ear and brushed the front hair forward, before placing the rat and pinning it to place. Then the hair is brushed back over the rat and pinned it into place

The rest of the hair is partly arranged into curls and partly left hanging down. The hairdo you see took over an hour to complete, so if I had continued putting up the curls, then I would have missed the talk. We have decided, though, that when we find the time we will make a full formal high hairstyle and style it with pomade to see what it looks like. As the talk was inside and I didn’t want to mess up the floor, I opted for just some powder around the face.
Lithia slept in her hair and on Sunday I just had to do some touching up. The hanging curls had held up quite well, but it rained twice that day, so at the time I took the photos they were somewhat straighter.
The makeup consisted of Spanish White, The Economical Rouge and lip salve with Alkanet root on the lips. I used Queen’s Royal to paint her eyebrows.

I used Nun’s cream made with real pearl powder and now when I have got a (very slight) tan, I can actually see that it does whiten my skin. The result looks rather invisible though. I used The Economical Rouge on both cheeks and lips. For once I also used a wig, but with my own hair brushed over it to hide wig’s hairline.