The Age of Extravagance: Beauty Rituals and Cosmetics in the Time of Marie Antoinette


During the Age of Extravagance, which spanned from 1755 to 1793, beauty standards and practices evolved significantly, largely influenced by the extravagant lifestyle of Queen Marie Antoinette of France. This period witnessed a surge in the use of elaborate cosmetic preparations and unique beauty rituals, reflecting the societal values of luxury, opulence, and sophistication.

Beauty Rituals and Cosmetics in the Time of Marie Antoinette

The Age of Extravagance

The hallmark of this era was the reign of Queen Marie Antoinette, who was known for her extravagant style and opulent beauty routines. Giant pompadour wigs, named after Madame de Pompadour, the chief mistress of Louis XV, became a popular fashion statement. These wigs were often powdered to give them a distinctive white or grey appearance.

Face powdering techniques were also prevalent during this time. Women of status would apply scented face powder made from pulverized starch to their faces. This practice not only helped to achieve a desired pale complexion, symbolizing nobility and refinement, but also provided a pleasant fragrance, adding an element of sensory allure to the wearer’s presence.

During the Age of Extravagance, bathing practices were elevated to decadent rituals. Women would often bathe in mixtures of strawberries and milk, taking advantage of the natural properties of these ingredients. Strawberries, rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C, were believed to provide the skin with a fresh, youthful glow, while milk, containing lactic acid, was used for its natural exfoliating properties.

Cosmetic preparations were not limited to the face alone. Crushed geranium petals were used to impart a natural pink and orange hue to the lips and cheeks. This practice reflects the era’s preference for a vibrant and rosy complexion, associated with health and vitality.

To address skin imperfections, women would adorn their faces with small silk patches. These patches served a dual purpose: they concealed blemishes and added a decorative element to the wearer’s appearance. The placement of these patches could also carry hidden meanings, often used as a secret form of communication in courtly love.

The Age of Extravagance was a time of dramatic transformation in the realm of beauty and cosmetics. It was a period that celebrated opulence, sophistication, and innovative beauty practices, many of which continue to influence modern cosmetic trends.

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