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My Writer's Journal

Queenly Make-Up

The hair styles in the time of Marie-Antoinette were only the beginning of the beauty routine. The make-up sounds really grotesque. Here she is, being prepared for her first entrance into France: The ladies coated my face with a white paste and painted my cheeks with large circles of red rouge. Her mother would never have approved. My mother certainly would not have!

I remember my own battles with my mother over the use of lipstick. The brand of choice when I was in my early teens was something called Tangee. I just Googled it and discovered it can still be found; "goes on orange and then changes to suit your natural lip color." Even so, my mother didn't approve. Probably still wouldn't. Eye-liner nearly sent her into cardiac arrest.

Next week: The Versailles Glide  Read More 
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Bastille Day, Paris, 1789

A mob had stormed the Bastille, and the ancient prison fortress had fallen. They came by the thousands, armed with anything they could find. Many of them were women, some even bringing their children. The fools thought they’d find guns and powder, and secret caches of grain. They believed the cells were filled with enemies of the king, and they were bent on freeing them. The governor of the Bastille hung out a white flag of peace, but the mob ignored it and commenced attacking from all sides. It was a horrendous scene. The fighting grew more intense—the mob didn’t seem to care how many of their number were killed or wounded by the defending soldiers. They climbed onto the roofs and broke into the dungeons and released the prisoners, though they found only seven, madmen and forgers, not the hundreds of the victims of injustice they’d expected. Read More 
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Tight Corsets and Other Miseries

Beginning when Marie-Antoinette was a little girl, just old enough to walk, she had to wear stays, a sort of corset made of cloth stiffened with strips of wood, later with wire or bone. This was to assure that her skeleton was properly aligned, but mostly to make sure she had a tiny waist. By the time she married at 14, the grand corps was drawn so tight she could hardly breathe and barely eat more than a mouthful. And she was required to wear it all the time, except when she slept. When she rebelled, it caused a scandal in the French court.

My mother didn't wear a corset, but she did wear a girdle, a rubber garment with plastic stays. The idea was to hold your stomach in and your stockings up, but also to disguise the fact that you had rear cleavage. A proper girl had a smooth butt. The happiest moment of my mother's day was when she could take the thing off. I dreaded the time when I'd have to wear one. Somehow I never did.

Next week: Queenly Make-Up Read More 
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What About That Hair?

The jacket of THE BAD QUEEN makes a point: Marie-Antoinette's hair was a BIG THING. Before she could marry the dauphin--the French prince--she had to have her unruly curls fixed. But the nice little 'do the hairdresser gave her was nothing compared to the extravagant style she adopted after she moved to France. Here's how it was done:

"The friseur erected a large structure on my head beginning with a foundation of wire and gauze and horsehair, and then arranged my own hair to cover this edifice." Then he powdered her curls with white flour and arranged some sort of decoration on top. The "pouf" became all the rage among the ladies of the French court, who had to kneel on the floor of their carriage to make room for it. And everyone carried an ivory-tipped head-scratcher.

When I was Marie-Antoinette's age, I worried about my hair. My mother had beautiful wavy hair. I did not. Mine was ordinary brown and perfectly straight. I permed it, dyed it once, and didn't stop worrying about it until it turned completely white and I had it cut short.

Next week: Tight Corsets and Other Miseries Read More 
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