Tuesday, 10 January 2012
Book Review: Chinstraps, Nose Moulds & Corsets
I can't lie when Missy Vintage casually mentioned she had this book I almost ripped it out of her hands. Just the title made me know that this book was destined to find its way into my collection soon (and yes I will give this one back first).
Subtitled A Shopper's Guide to Feminine Beauty 1800-1930s this book, written by fashion historian Rosemary Hawthorne, features reproductions of adverts for some pretty weird and wonderful contraptions, ointments, lotions and potions.
It starts with the authors introduction explaining why she thinks people bought these items and what they can reveal about women of the times.
"This is a book about things women have wanted or needed - to make them feel 'better'. Women have always wanted 'something' because they believed they would become lovelier, happier, nicer and therefore more pleasing and desirable....
Although outwardly, it's beauty products and clothes that seem to give women confidence and sense of self-wroth, there are other, less obviously (indeed, well hidden!) items that women have thought highly of over the years.
Some of these are very basic and go unrecognised as female morale boosters. In whatever sense the word 'love' has meaning, most women like to believe they are lovely. Convincing them they can, with ease, become better, nicer, bigger, smaller, prettier, smarter and newer- has always been skillful work for purveyors of temporary vanities and transient wonders. For centuries, the seeds sown in advertising to beguile women have fallen on fertile soil. Women want to believe. The 'sell' has been soft - the trick being to create a feeling of promise. Then, as now, it has been essential to make the product unforgettable, choice, outshining all others and, somehow, within reach."
The book is broken down into sections focusing on a different part of the body or a different 'problem' that manufacturers have tried to solve (or in some cases create and then solve).
The value of this book is really as anthology of advertising of these products but there is some useful commentary included which helps to place the products in their context.
It was published in 1999 so this is not a new book but I guarantee anyone interested in the history of beauty products would find this an interesting read. And as it is available on amazon for only 1p (plus postage) there is really no reason not to buy it. I certainly will be.