Dedicated followers of 18th century fashions

Helen Pratt pictured after her make-over at Temple Newsam, Leeds.
Helen Pratt pictured after her make-over at Temple Newsam, Leeds.
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When it comes to modern beauty treatments it’s all about manicures, face creams and moisturisers.

So naturally a dead mouse makeover or a pigeon paste facial might not sound like the ideal way to pamper yourself.

Helen Pratt is pictured made-up by Deborah Crossley.

Helen Pratt is pictured made-up by Deborah Crossley.

But for 18th century men and women these unusual beauty treatments and bizarre potions and lotions were at the height of fashion.

A new series of events at Leeds’s Abbey House Museum and Temple Newsam House are set to lift the lid on some of the weird, wonderful and downright disgusting things Georgian men and women would put themselves through in a bid to look drop dead gorgeous.

Beaus and Belles: 18th Century Toilette will be led by Leeds Museums and Galleries community curator Helen Pratt and visitor assistant Deborah Crossley.

Helen said: “There were all kinds of strange things people of that time would do to be considered beautiful.

“Beauty spots were very fashionable, so if they didn’t have a real one, both men and women would cut out pieces of fur from dead mice or voles and stick them to their faces instead.

“They’d also use poisonous lead-based face powder and a skin tonic made of dead pigeons or puppies.

“It’s fascinating to hear the lengths that people would go to in order to fit in with what was seen as beautiful back then 
and also a reminder how much those ideals change through the ages.

“Maybe in future people will look at what we do today and think it’s just as strange.”

The Beaus and Belles workshop this month has been planned to coincide with the current How Do I Look? exhibition at Kirkstall’s Abbey House Museum.

The exhibition, which runs until December, shows how people throughout history have enhanced their looks and the ways they have presented themselves to others.

Councillor Brian Selby, lead member for museums and galleries, said: “It’s a great opportunity to have fun and find out some weird and wonderful facts but also to learn about how our ideas have changed over the years and how that relates to our ideas about beauty today.”

For more details visit www.leeds.gov.uk/howdoilook.

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