Ben Franklin on French Fashion


Here’s some of Ben Franklin’s observations on French women and their make-up in 1776:
“I speak generally , for there are some fair women in Paris, who I think are not whitened by Art. As to Rouge, they don’t pretend to imitate Nature in laying it on. There is no gradual diminution of the Color from the full Bloom in the Middle of the Cheek to the faint Tint near the sides, nor does it show itself differently in different Faces. I have not had the honour of being in any Lady’s Toylette to see how it is laid on, but I can tell you how it is or may be done; Cut a Hole of 3 inches diameter in such a manner as the top of the Hole may be just under your eye; then with a brush dipt in the colour paint Face and Paper together; so when the Paper is taken off there will remain a round Patch of Red exactly the form of the hole. This is the Mode , from the Actresses on the Stage upwards thro’ all Ranks of Ladies to the Princesses of the Blood, but it stops there, the Queen not using it, having the Serenity, Complacence and Begnignity that shine so eminently, in or rather through her countenance, sufficient Beauty, tho’ now an old Woman, to do extremely well without it.”

(Here Franklin was referring to Queen Marie Lesczczynska married to King Louis XV in her last year alive).

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This is an excerpt from David Schoenbrun’s book Triumph in Paris: The Exploits of Benjamin Franklin which I continue to recommend as an excellent insight into French/American relations at during the American Revolution and the last days of the French monarchy.

For a more in depth Franklin reading list, check out: benfranklinlive.org