Friday, August 26, 2011

Thinking about makeup

I've been making lists of layers and things I want to get made and decided to put the heavy white makeup worn by Rus upperclass women of the 16th and 17th century on the list.  I certainly don't plan to mix up a batch of lead whitening and galena black as both are a wee bit poisonous what with the lead and all so I need to come up with other solutions.  The cosmetics are too important to the overall effect to just ignore.  The medieval Russian ideal of beauty was monumental.  Clothing hung from the shoulders with heavy layers actually intended to make a woman look more statuesque.  White skin, dark brows, and red cheeks were prized.  In the 16th century they took it to the extreme with red rouge and lips, black painted brows (and often black painted teeth) and clown white makeup.  Giles Fletcher, a traveler from England in the 16th Century remarked that "from terrible women they transformed themselves into beautiful dolls."   This is especially interesting in light of the similar fashion among English women in the Elizabethan period just a little later. 

According to one of my sources (that I am having difficulty locating right now so I will have to edit with the reference later) in addition to an extension of the concept of beauty, Russian women whitened their faces as a form of veiling.  Muscovite women at this time had begun to be sequestered in parts of their homes called Terem.  This had not been part of their earlier society, but developed after the Mongol invasion as Moscow rose in power, became more autocratic, and women lost more and more rights and opportunities to have any sort of public life.  This is actually a big factor in my choice of an earlier persona as much as I love this costume.  Getting a great hat and loads of bling isn't really worth having to live life in seclusion.

My concern with a theatrical white makeup is getting it all over things.  There will be a highly ornamental collar as well as the ubrus/veil and I don't want to make a giant mess.  I've used a couple of versions of kohl in various incarnations as a Goth teen and tribal bellydancer so that shouldn't be too hard, but I'm not so sure about the black teeth.  My teeth need whitening under normal circumstances, going totally black sort of creeps me out.  Certainly going to be interesting to investigate.  Rice powder maybe?  I don't know, but makeup is now on the list and I get to really start digging for some solutions.  I know its the sort of thing 18th century reenactors need to worry about too so I figured I'd start there.

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