Do we really have to suffer to be beautiful?

 

James Gillray (1756 - 1815) knew all about the boudoir and the suffering therein.

 

 

 

 

You don't really need that cricket bat darling, any burglar would run a mile if he saw you!

 

On a similar vein, the daughter of a Spirella client was lounging around her Mother's house in an old housecoat, her hair in curlers and with a hardening face pack of ghastly hue in preparation for the arrival of her boyfriend later that day. The boyfriend arrived an hour early and the girl in question fled upstairs where her Mother found her virtually in tears and frantically applying her mascara and lipstick. "Quick, get my new girdle" hissed the girl. As the poor girl successfully overcame the reluctant zip of the girdle, she cried "I want him to see me as I really am!"

 

Our neighbour similarly attired recounted how she was confronted on the stairs by the lodger (a man), but with the added humiliation of wearing a far flimsier housecoat that revealed her far from flimsy foundations!

 

The girl on the right indeed sports some very substantial foundation garments. In fact, the Marks and Spencer satin elastic girdle (from the 1970's) and the CAMP 90245 panty-girdle from the 1980's are two of the strongest girdles ever made. On another page called "Trapped inside my panty-girdle", we debate whether something as simple as elastic knickers needed to be so complicated.

  

One aging actress succumbed to old age less than gracefully. Well past her prime but still on stage comes the following report, "By the 1970's, the stage had been strategically darkened to camouflage her age, and she resorted to a number of painful tricks to maintain her glamorous image. These included braiding her hair tightly before donning a wig, and wearing a tight, all-over girdle under her elaborate costumes and gowns." A similar face-tightening technique is scalp taping. This requires powerful surgical plaster to be stuck just above the forehead and pulled strongly backwards. It is in effect, a non-surgical facelift. The plaster adheres to the scalp. Such ‘taping’ can pull the sides of the face taut as well but is extremely uncomfortable.

                               

 

(Left)  Edith Thornton McLeod in 1949 had a lot to say about being beautiful over 40, although it is polite to cover your face if you appear inadvertently in your underwear.

 

(Right)  Oops! She forgot to cover her face, nevertheless, she manages an amazingly theatrical gesture: "Ooh, that Lady Windermere's stolen my fan!"

Women were so elegant in those days.

 

 

Julia Roberts in the film 'Mirror, Mirror' (2012) undergoes baroque beauty therapy that includes having her face covered in parrot droppings and using a bee sting to plump up the lips.

 

  

Two versions of the all-enveloping electric heater bag.                                                                   Curlers are one thing ...

 .. but the 'Acme Autoperm' is something else. The elderly lady on the left was the first customer.

  

 The terrifying Max Factor invention was not a torture device, but an analogue face contour measurer. Perhaps it could measure the before and after effects of the patented 'Curves of Youth'.

On the right, it looks like a simple perm, but in this case, it really is a torture device used by Vincent Price in the film 'The Theatre of Blood' (1973) to electrocute a lady that criticised him. Hopefully not in real life since Vincent Price and the lady, Coral Browne married after the film's completion.

Face masks worthy of the fetish world were used and actually worn to smooth the skin and remove wrinkles. On left, the air pressure was reduced and on the right, the lady could breathe through a tube inserted into her mouth.

Despite being tastefully finished in satin, the mask above is still faintly terrifying, especially when connected to the electricity machine.

   

There are dials for the face, neck, chin and afterwards, the rather sinister nurses spray you with, I wonder what - some immobilising chemical to hold your remodelled face in shape. But don't spray the lady on the right just yet.

These masks were, amazingly, products of the 1990s. "Slip into your satin pyjamas" exhorts the advert. What is the point of those lovely satin pyjamas if the mask will scare any suitor off.

Again another 1990s marvel - a Bullworker for your lips. Amazingly, the filmed advert shows the poor woman performing 60 compressions WHILST GIVING A COMMENTARY.

"Thithh wi' etherthithe 'u' theeks". She keeps up the mumbling for two minutes in this grotesque almost ritual humiliation.

There was no end to the old-fashioned inventors' ingenuity (or should I say, female gullability): freckle removers and dimple inserters being just the tip of the iceberg. And it still happens today, witness the Japanese misses attempting to plump up their lips. This is seriously scary and once the lips are done, you can straighten that nose as well.

Would you smear a good meal or African algae all over your fizzog, I certainly wouldn't.

The lady above is scared witless by the sight of Jim Carrey playing "the Mask", in fact about as scared as 'The Mask' (1994) is of confronting his landlady in curlers and a green facepack. Oh dear, some women just don't like to be seen like this.

Meanwhile, Anna Karen in 'On the Buses' (1971) asks her husband "Shall I take my curlers out?" in the sadly mistaken belief that he is making romantic overtures.

    

Regard the lacing marks on the model above (middle). This was taken in 2009 after the photoshoot for the first calendar. It wasn't just corsets that left you battered and bruised, look at the structural engineering involved in a strapless evening gown.

 

This remarkable series of five postcards shows the ecstasy that can be achieved from lacing up your corsets (she will never, ever lace them closed) and donning a chin strap. Soon she will be slim and that double chin consigned to history; no wonder she looks so happy.

 

This sequence of shots is from Terry Gilliams' 1985 dystopian, science-fiction film 'Brazil', where the cosmetic surgery obsessed Ida Lowry, played by Katherine Helmond, has her face stretched, clipped and wrapped in plastic (below). This is, of course, fantasy from the film world, but not actually as fantastic as you might imagine. Aging actresses have been known to have their scalps taped to pull the skin taut over the face. Apparently this is less than comfortable although rather effective. One actress even had a series of rings pierced through her scalp which, when pulled together by a ribbon through the rings stretched her face to an immobile smoothness. Her wig was anchored onto the rings that were then hidden from view.

 

 

 

All that effort and the bra still doesn't fit!