beauty, books, history, History of Beauty, review

Review: Beauty, what it is and how to retain it by A Lady


Y’all know that I love history and especially Victorian history and beauty history, so having found a book that is both my favourite topics combined, I can only love it, right?

These are a just a selection of the many wisdoms given in the essential guide for women, Beauty, What It Is and How to Retain It. First published in 1873, the book rejects any notion that beauty of the physical body should be treated with indifference for fear of moral corruption, and sets out to celebrate beauty and to teach women how to achieve and retain it. All aspects of body shape, the face, complexion, health, and dress are covered in this delightful book. Much of the advice still has relevance to the modern reader, such as the comment that “perfect cleanliness is essential to the preservation of the teeth,” whilst other parts serve as a reminder of the age in which the book was written: “The water used for washing the skin should be rain-water, but if London rain-water, it must be filtered to clear it from smuts.” Recipes for hair tonics and face creams using such ingredients as beef marrow, lard, and borax also highlight how this was still the era of the homemade beauty product.

Honestly, I was surprised. The Victorian era is known for being very anti makeup and the likes, thanks to Queen Victoria (she thought makeup was for prostitutes and so no “respectable” lady should wear it). This book, however, was very positive. It gave some really solid advice that you could still use today (I mean, the rain water tip is a legit one guys, just don’t try this at home unless you live out in the country or like Australia), and it wasn’t as racist as I thought it would be, it gave some advice for darker skin ladies as well. The writing style was a bit boring, but I did really enjoy this little book.

Now, if you aren’t interested in beauty or the Victorian era, than this wouldn’t really be a book for you, but then again, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t even slightly interested! It isn’t a perfect book, but it is definitely an interesting book and I would recommend this! You can buy this edition here.


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