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Are there any odd items that you take with
you everyday? Chances are they probably aren’t quite as strange as some of the stuff ye olde
ladies used to carry around. Well-to-do ladies of the 1700s never left
home without their patchboxes filled with beauty patches. Beauty patches were pieces
of silk often shaped like circles but sometimes fancier ones shaped like crescents, hearts,
stars and even horse-drawn carriages that women and some men would stick to their beauty
blemishes. They first came into vogue after the smallpox epidemic which left behind scars
if it didn’t kill you. Gradually these intricate pieces of fine fabrics became a sign of wealth
and luxury in the eighteenth century. One can never wear too many beauty patches. Well-heeled
ladies of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often used decorative walking canes if ever
taking a leisurely stroll outside. On the one hand it might have been a little difficult
to walk with all of the corsetry and skirting and petticoating and high-heeled shoes that
they would have been wearing. But also in the heads of a lot of those canes they stuffed
vinegar soaked sponges so that they could take a sniff to cover up the unpleasant odors
outside because remember this was a long time before we had modern sanitation services.
As an added bonus that whiff of vinegar could perk them up if they felt like fainting. Woah,
yep, not going to faint anytime soon. Whenever regency or Victorian era women paid visits
to other people’s houses, she certainly would not arrive without her calling card. These
calling cards were a lot like social business cards or fancy pieces of paper with your name
on it that you would leave behind at someone’s house, usually on a special silver platter
designed specifically to collect calling cards. You would leave one behind whether the person
you were there to see was home or not. If you were a very important person your calling
card would usually be left on the top of all the other calling cards so that future visitors
would see, ‘Cristen Conger has been here? I’m feeling faint. Where’s my walking cane
and vinegar sponge?’ If you ran into a Victorian Era woman there is a good chance that she
would be wearing or carrying someone else’s hair. Hair jewelry which is exactly what is
sounds like, jewelry made from human hair, was all the rage during the Victorian Era.
Everything from a locket containing a snippet of someone’s hair all the way to intricately
woven wreaths and watch fobs. Ladies of the day would collect snippets of hair from their
besties to keep inside an autograph book. It was a strange time. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth century
a woman’s outfit would not have been complete without her fan. Now I realize a fan doesn’t
sound all that strange but what’s strangely incredible was how integral fan’s were not
only to fashion but also to a woman’s communication to a point that fan’s were known as a woman’s
scepter. She could use it to communicate all sorts of things particularly to potential
suitors such as her flirtation, anger or disgust. I need to work on my fan language. Certainly
the design and ornamentation of a woman’s fan also denoted things like social status
and wealth or in my case how much I really want to be a romantic couple riding a horse
together. It’s getting hot in here, I’m just going to fan myself I’m not taking off any
clothes. Kidding me? Why would I ever take this off? Question, yeah, answer, that’s what
I thought. Never.

James Carver

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