Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but Victorian ladies liked to care for their skin (even if they were unknowingly causing more harm than good by applying scary things like lead) and many did wear makeup – minimally of course – it was definitely a no-makeup makeup look for them (since they didn’t want to be mistaken for ladies of a particular profession). I’m only starting to fall down the rabbit hole of how they cared for their skin and what they wore but I thought that I would share some of the products and tools that I use when I’m aiming for a looks-reasonably-acceptable look when dressing Victorian.
Everyone has their own secrets, tips, and tricks which may be similar to mine or may be completely different. Some of the items photographed are travel or mini sized which makes packing easier and were also the items I grabbed when taking photos.
I touched very briefly on makeup in my post about accessories, saying that minimal was best and modern makeup trends look very out of place. I still wear makeup but opt for a reasonably-close-to-natural look.
To avoid looking washed out in photos I use a light coverage foundation – I love Bourjois foundations because they’re kind to my skin and they actually offer a shade that suits my very ‘English Rose’ complexion.
Now, my skin is never 100% clear, which is frustrating to say the least. So a concealer is always a must-have in my makeup bag. I’ve had hits and misses with them in the past because it can be hard to find the right shade for my skin tone or they’ve oxidised and gone a bit orange which makes the wearing of a bit less secret! I’m using the Thin Lizzy concealer at present and that’s working quite well for me.
Another Bourjois product that I love is their pot blushes. These wee beauties were originally created in the 1860s so there’s a little nod to the Victorian era right there. I use only a little to create just a hint of a flush.
I have green eyes and naturally brown lashes that are reasonably lengthy. While I do wear black mascara for more normal circumstances it’s not natural looking and can look too harsh. Fortunately, some brown mascaras do exist although always harder to come by. Brown mascara not only looks more ‘natural’ but it really compliments my green eyes. That’s a win win situation.
I recently tried out the Benefit They’re Real primer and I am in love. I can wear it on it’s own and my lashes look amazing. I also like the Revlon Mega Multiplier Mascara in Plum Brown and really wish that shade was available for their other mascaras (not to mention, why is it so hard to get a waterproof brown mascara?)
I also use the Benefit brow powder which goes on lightly and has the perfect shade to give me fuller but not obviously powdered or really obvious brows (which I like to do sometimes in a more modern situation) and can, if I wish, set my brows with their 3D Browtones.
My hair is stupidly long at the moment, which I kind of love but it does take quite a bit of care. And it takes such a long time to dress historically. It’s about to get two or three inches taken off which should help a bit but, apart from that, what do I use to take my hair from the 21st Century to the 19th?
I am now the proud owner of three curling irons… yes, three. My most recent acquisition is a 10mm curling iron which I got for my birthday. 1880s curled fringes here I come! I just need to pick up an adaptor plug since it has a UK plug. My other two curling irons have been used quite a bit and I find myself favouring the larger barrel while my hair is so long. If you’re going to use curling irons remember to use a heat protectant beforehand to avoid frizzled locks (although…that fate did befall some Victorian ladies…) Sometimes I use the curling irons for curls to pin up, other times they’re used to add volume.
Speaking of volume – I have a few tricks for transforming my hair into a voluminous mane any lion would be proud of. The first trick is to use a volumising shampoo so before you even start it’s already got a bit of oomph. Speaking of shampoo, dry shampoo is pretty much the best thing ever invented and that’s also a great trick for giving your hair a boost and it’s also great for getting your hair to behave during styling.
Another trick is to dye your hair – hair dye makes your hair a little bit thicker which is why my hair was always so thick when I regularly dyed it. I don’t dye my hair often anymore because it’s a hassle having to touch up my regrowth and, again, long hair = ages to do. I do put in highlights sometimes though to add an extra dimension and to get a mini boost of volume from the thicker, dyed strands.
I also love my Tangle Teezer Finishing Brush because it makes my hair feel amazing. And, it’s brilliant not only at teasing your hair to create loads of volume but it makes brushing it out quite painless and easy.
I love using sheet masks – especially when I’m stressed out or anxious (it’s very therapeutic) – and I’ll always use them in the lead up to an event. I can put one on and then go about my sewing or whatever else I need to do every three or so days starting a couple of weeks out from the event. If I’m attending a multi day event like the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations then I’ll put one on partway through.
Eye masks or under eye patches are also a favourite of mine because they can help disguise obvious signs of a lack of sleep. Lack of sleep from late nights of sewing, an early morning start due to travel, or from staying up well past midnight at a ball and just about turning into a pumpkin. Because I’m looking at computer screens all day at work (yes, screens plural – I use two) my eyes feel tired quite often and it’s such a relief to put on an eye mask or the under eye patches – they feel even more refreshing if you’ve kept them in the fridge.
I am a huge fan of Rosehip Oil and use it for everything – taking off my makeup, an extra boost of moisture when combined with my night cream, for conditioning and growing in my eyebrows, I even put it in the ends of my hair to help prevent them drying out. Definitely a multi-use miracle in a bottle.
A new addition (and a why did I not start using it earlier product) to my shower caddy is Pears Soap. This is a soap that has stood the test of time – having been manufactured for over 200 years! After just one use I could definitely see why – it’s amazing and, just because you don’t show any skin while dressed as a Victorian lady (unless attending a ball or lounging about in your undergarments) that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about it.
Something that I can not recommend highly enough is sunblock. It might seem like an odd suggestion since we’re pretty much covered head to toe but I accidentally got badly sunburnt while on holiday prior to attending the Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations last year and it was pretty obvious that my arms had recently seen a lot of sun. Face palm!
Perhaps my greatest secret is not a secret at all… I love historical costuming and I love having the opportunity to dress Victorian and attend events. Have you ever seen someone talk about or do what they’re passionate about? They light up from within and I’ve caught glimpses of myself while attending an event or seen it come through in photos – my eyes sparkle, I look happy, I’m in my element.