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Fashion and Beauty Trends Through History

Illustration, woman powdering her faceMany beauty and fashion trends quickly fall out of vogue, but others have more staying power. In Special Collections there are many fashion books and magazines produced in numerous time periods, as well as historical retrospectives that focus on the history of fashion and cosmetics. Women in particular are featured in many of these books. This week’s blog will focus primarily on the trends in fashion, undergarments, and cosmetics popular in past eras.

The Vern and Bonnie Bullough Sex and Gender Collection holds the majority of items pertaining to fashion and fashion trends. I Wonder What’s Under There? A Brief History of Underwear tells the history of undergarments from early civilizations to today. Some items still in use today can be traced back thousands of years. Undergarments have been popular throughout many centuries, although they have changed over the years.  The History of Corsets focuses on a single type of undergarment no longer in common usage, highlighting shifts in popularity, time period, and the materials used in making corsets.

A Primer of Personal Loveliness features beauty regimens suggested to women in the 1920s to keep their looks fresh through fashion, make up, and perfumes. Different chapters detail how to take care of your skin, hair, hands, and how to keep a "youthful body." This book includes various exercises ladies should perform to maintain a youthful look.  A few of the "10 Fundamental Beauty Habits" found here still hold some truth; especially getting regular check-ups, eating healthy, and exercising.

Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine is a magazine for women that in some respects is similar to modern fashion magazines. It is filled with fashion advice, such as the new fashion trends of the season, embroidery patterns to embellish collars, and sewing patterns. It also includes more general entertainment for readers, especially short fiction stories, recipes, and even essays highlighting new trends in architecture. While many of these fashion and beauty regimens are no longer popular, looking back there are some things are, especially wearing undergarments, make up, perfume, and working to have good health.

Cover, I Wonder What's Under There?: A Brief History of Underwear
I Wonder What's Under There?: A Brief History of Underwear, page 15
Cover, A Primer of Personal Loveliness
A Primer of Personal Loveliness, page 1
Table of Contents, A Primer of Personal Loveliness
Illustrations of corsets, The History of Corsets in Pictures
Image of Cupid applying lipstick on a young lady from, Lipstick: A Celebration of a Girl's Best Friend, page 18
Lipstick shapes that are created by users from Lipstick : A Celebration of a Girl's Best Friend, pages 56-57
Just Like Mama, from Godey's Lady's Book, page 1
Needlework featuring dogs, from Godey's Lady's Book, page 100
Children's Dresses, from Godey's Lady's Book, pages 106-107
Spring Fashion 1861, from Godey's Lady's Book

Read more Peek in the Stacks blog entries