Make up, perfume and 18th century law | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Make up, perfume and 18th century law

September 11, 2008

Make up, perfume and 18th century law

How much Amour and Psyche do you want?

Heather had me watch Perfume a story of a murderer recently. I have read a few books on perfume and its art, and have tried to create some of my own concoctions! So with perfume on my mind I want to share a bill that was brought to parliament in 1770.
"That all women, of whatever rank, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce and betray into matrimony, any of his Majesty's subjects by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, and bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law now in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours, and that the marriage upon conviction shall be null and void."

Imagine that! Men would have had it good.

'I have made a huge mistake! one minute we were talking at Sea World the next we were pushing each other around in shopping carts! I swear she was wearing high-heeled shoes!!'


  1. I don't remember where I heard or read this, it might have been an example of source criticism in history class at university, but I'm pretty sure I've heard that this text is a bit of a myth.

    Apparently no one has been able to track the actual source of it, although I think it is pretty old, and the witchcraft thing is one of the main arguments against it since witchcraft was not considered a crime anymore in the age of enlightenment (I don't know the specifics of this). Maybe it was published as a joke to begin with.

    If you know anything more about the source of it I'd love to know!

  2. That is interesting- I have not heard criticism that it did not exist, but I have read that it is not traced to a particular source/author. Whether it is a myth or fact I do not know but it is referenced in several publications, and the whole idea of the bill is quite interesting!
    Here are some sources that this mystery bill is mentioned:

    Piper, David. The English Face.
    "The Fair Ladies," Time
    "The Most Interesting Part of History- Manners and Customs." The Gentleman's Magazine
    Swords, Barbara W. “Woman’s Place” in Jane Austin’s England.