Makeup is Grounds for Divorce

On my nerdy calendar of fun facts (Jeff Kacirk's Forgotten English, June 6, 2013), I discovered that in 1770 'a bill was introduced in Parliament forbidding "all women of whatever age, rank, profession, or degree, whether virgins, maids, or widows . . . to impose upon, seduce, or betray into matrimony any of His Majesty's subjects by means of scent, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool [used to absorb sweat], iron stays [hardcore corsets/bras], hoops, high-heeled shoes, or bolstered hips." Any marriage so contracted could be rendered "null and void"'.

This is, of course, a huuuuge double standard, given male styles of the day, which were very much dandified. Men wore heels, perfume, cosmetics and false hair, among many other "improvements". Hell, the Prince Regent kept himself so tightly corseted that it influenced women's fashion. I love the idea, though, of a man and woman getting married, and the first time she takes her corset off, he goes, "GASP! BETRAYED!" Or she takes a bath and her perfume washes off, and he's like, "You don't naturally smell like honeysuckle? YOU SUCCUBUS!" Like dudes had no idea what was going on.

I'm finding it doubtful that this bill ever got passed. I can find no record of it (and it doesn't even have a proper name), and since I'm not currently at the library with the law books, I can't double check.

This brings me to my second cool fact of the day, because this is a short post, and the second fact is related and also from my calendar (May 28, 2013). My Edinburgh people will like this one:

On Arthur's Seat, "girls and even grown women carefully gathered May-dew from grass and plant leaves as late as the 1930s. Wielding sponges, flat scraping tools, and tiny reservoirs at dawn during the month of May, they did so in order to partake of dew's renowned cosmetic virtues. Even the well-educated women were once convinced of its properties". I'm sure that would count as an evil, seducing "cosmetic wash", but it's okay–go climb a mountain, rub your face on the grass up there, and head out to the club. Just don't get married and you'll be fine.

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One Response to Makeup is Grounds for Divorce

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ha – superb! I want to know what individual came up with that bill…

    My favourite continuation of the May Day tradition (which I think is British, or even European, rather than just Edinburgh-based) is the St Andrews May Dip. Never mind the fearty Edinburgh-types washing their faces in dew – submersion in the North Sea is so much more impressive as a good-luck charm.


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