Patches, Beauty Spots and What They Mean-

After yesterday’s post I thought we’d have some light entertainment.  From around 1760 onwards, patches or beauty spots became fashionable wear for both ladies and gentlemen (they’d never really gone out of fashion for women after 1600).  Personally, I think believe very few men would have worn them, and then only the ones seriously interested in fashionable dress.  The idea that they were used to cover massive blemishes is perpetuated mainly by Hogarth’s sense of humour, but no doubt people pushed the boundaries a bit.

Patches were made from fine black velvet, although sometimes the very poor used mouse-skin.  They bought them ready made as heart-shapes, ovals, crescent moons, stars and diamonds.  They were a perfect piecework industry for children and older women confined to the home and were sold alongside fans and hair ornaments in the London shops.  To stick them on, a mixture of glycerin and other ingredients, including extract of sturgeon swim-bladder was used (exactly the same as court-plaister).

Patch boxes were common gifts between girls and also as little love tokens.  They were made with lots of different places and sentiments on top, and were a cheap, pretty gift.  The basic box shape worked for either patches, or snuff, but snuff boxes have different themes (such as racing), and no mirror in the top.

A definite ‘patch language’ is unlikely because you would wear one wherever you had a smallpox mark, or a spot and so on.  At the huge parties I’m sure people did conform to some code, but fashions probably came and went so rapidly it was impossible to keep up.  As far as one does exist, here it is:

the middle of the forehead – dignified
the middle of the cheek – bold
heart shape to the right cheek – married
heart shape to the left cheek – engaged or committed to a lover
touching edge of lower lip – discreet
on nasolabial fold – playful
near corner of the eye – on the look out for a new ‘friend’
beside the mouth – will kiss but go no further
And so on….
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