Nineteenth-Century Body Decorations

Both men and women wore an abundance of accessories to appear fashionable during the nineteenth century. Women's accessories reflected what time of day it was. During the day, women wore elbow-length gloves, and carried fans, small purses called reticules, eyeglasses on long handles, and parasols. In the evening, women wore longer gloves and jewelry. Although women wore simple necklaces and earrings at the beginning of the century, they began to display their wealth by wearing more and more bracelets, necklaces, small rings, earrings, and brooches as the century wore on. Men's accessories were simpler. No matter the time of day, men carried ebony canes, or thin bamboo canes in the summer, and attached pocket watches with a variety of fobs and seals to the right side of their waistcoats.

Cleanliness became fashionable in this century. Though during past centuries in Europe bathing had been frowned upon, the practice now became more appealing. The first dandy, or fashionable young man, the Englishman George "Beau" Brummell (1778–1840), prided himself on being clean enough to go without perfume. His example influenced many, including the future British king George IV (1762–1830), who began washing themselves regularly and carefully maintaining their cleanliness throughout the day.

Among the upper classes, white skin remained desirable, especially for women. White skin identified a person's status because only the wealthy could afford to remain idle and indoors all day long. Women protected themselves from the sun with parasols and dusted their faces with white powder to lighten their complexions.


Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 4th ed. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Lister, Margot. Costume: An Illustrated Survey from Ancient Times to the Twentieth Century. London, England: Herbert Jenkins, 1967.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

Fobs and Seals

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