Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 4)

Part 4 of our ‘Secrets of the Cosmetic Art’ looks the use of  ‘patches’ as a feature of the Georgian beauty regime.  Although in existence prior to this period they were very much a feature of ladies beauty regimes.  As early as 1708 in an article regarding morals, Oswald Dykes stated the following:

A good face needs no band: and what necessity of ‘sets offs’ to a perfect beauty : patches do but hide the features and deface nature, as if the fair lady stuy’d deformity, was industrious to make herself ugly or less charming and had resolved to wear the blemishes of her mind upon her forehead.

Clearly a few years later ladies took no heed of his remarks!  These facial adornments served various purposes, the primary one being to cover pox marks.

However, the New Lady’s Magazine suggests an altogether different use for them, so please take note and ensure that should you decide to make use of them that you place them in exactly the precise location otherwise you could potentially send a possible suitor totally the wrong message about yourself and that would never do!

Image courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection


From the New Lady’s magazine, or, Polite and entertaining companion for the fair sex: entirely devoted to their use and amusement, January, 1787.

A Correspondent was lately at an assembly where he had the sight of several fine faces, but very improperly patched. Amidst the whole circle, which consisted of more than thirty Ladies, our correspondent saw but two patches properly placed. He had always been a declared enemy against the rage of plastering little bits of black silk upon the human face; but as he has not eloquence enough to persuade the fair-sex to lay it aside entirely, he thinks it a duty incumbent upon him to lay down at least certain rules for judiciously placing the patch, to such of them as think that it heightens their charms.

 PATCHES may be reduced to NINE sorts, which ought to be placed in the following manner:

 1. The passionate, or smart patch at the corner of the eye.

2. The majestic, almost in the middle of the forehead.

3. The gay, on the brink of the dimple formed by a smile

4. The gallant, in the middle of the cheek

5. The kissing, at the corner of the mouth

6. The brisk, near the nose.

7. The coquettish, upon the lips.

8. The discreet, or prudish, under the lower lip, towards the chin.

9. The concealing, upon a pimple.

Those who avert to these rules may be convinced, that a promiscuous manner of patching may be productive of ill consequences, and ruin many a fair character, as well as lead the enamorate to many a mistake.

beauty marks

It is also reputed that the use of patches indicated your political allegiance, whether this is correct or not, we can’t confirm – if you were a supporter of the Tories you would wear the patch on the left, Whigs on the right. How many of you will now look back at paintings to check the position of patches to see you can work out whether that statement was true or false.

It was fashionable to store these patches in a box similar to this one and positioned as required, taking care to follow the instructions provided above. This one is a Bilston enamel box dated c1780.


Today’s question is ‘What do you make of the positioning of Grace’s patch? Was she ‘Gallant’?’  or does it relate to a political allegiance? We would love to know your thoughts.

Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough.
Grace Dalrymple Elliott by Thomas Gainsborough. The Frick, New York.

In case you missed our previous posts about cosmetics here are the links.


Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 1)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 2)

Secrets of the Cosmetic Art (Part 3)

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