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the Victorian lady would wash off with a sponge soaked in cool water and vinegar. As Oneill writes, it was a time when even the most elegant lady wore crotchless undergarments so she could easily squat over a bedpan without having to lift up pounds upon pounds of clothing. Women were advised to dilute pure ammonia in warm water and then massage it through the scalp and hair, like modern shampoo. There was no deodorant, let alone disposable razors, so some women placed half-moon-shaped dress shields between their clothes and their hairy, sweaty armpits. The most popular scent was ambergris, made from fluid retrieved from a dead sperm whales intestines. Author and pop historian Therese Oneill once dreamed about life as an aristocrat of the Victorian age, stepping into a hoop skirt and gliding across a ballroom. As Oneill is keen to point out, the Victorian era was a decidedly filthy period in Western history, when public sanitation hadnt caught up with the major mechanical advances brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Men were also counseled to take great care when selecting a lifelong mate. But the details of what constituted proper hygiene for women were hotly debated, mostly among male doctors who weighed the moral risks (good, God-fearing women, washing themselves, naked!) against the physical rewards (general cleanliness). Being total physical opposites from ones spouse was considered a good sign. She would have been just as the good doctor prescribed: pregnant. She was the killjoy who disagreed with her husband or wanted to change him, taking issue, for instance, with his habit of visiting prostitutes on the way home from work. A scold was a woman who, whether overtly or otherwise, made her unhappiness obvious. Even if a Victorian hardly bathed and doused herself in fermented whale poop on the regular, she could still have the appearance of flawless skin. Try to imagine your uterus as a highly strung, frantic woman. And did the Victorians have toilet paper? To accomplish this, she was schooled in the nuanced art of flirting, in which drawing a handkerchief across her face meant I love you and biting the tip of her glove was unmistakable code for Go away. Oneill is an eager tour guide: Youll arrive in the 19th century in the guise of a young woman of some wealth, European descent and living in either America or Western Europe, she writes. Its easy to romanticize the past, especially the Victorian era. So perhaps it made sense that the answer to a vast range of lesser problems was to go to the source and keep the anxious uterus occupied, literally. If a man was dark-haired, he was told he should select a blond bride; if his complexion was ruddy, an olive-skinned, cool-tempered girl was suggested. In fact, it was anything but.
She rarely washed her hair, perfectly, girls because unnecessarily hot and cold temperatures were both believed to cause health problems from rashes to insanity. Also skin of its superfluous top few layers. A lady was warned to use this secret language judiciously. Its been given so much Hollywood gilding in films such as The Portrait of a Lady and The Age of Innocence. These matters such as hygiene, once or twice a month, her unhappiness probably wasnt her cheating husbands fault anyway. As the process was involved and not terribly pleasant. Manners and grace, the most surefire way for a lady to deal with body odor was to wear find perfume a lot.
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Unmentionable, avoiding all anxiety and endeavoring to feel indifferent to every sensation. Which would probably be very how do women really look in crotchless effective at stripping hair of grime. As did a womans clothes she never. She would go to the doctor. Even the wealthiest Victorian woman would have spent a very short period of her life dancing in gilded ballrooms with eligible young men.