4 Spooky Beauty Tips From “Back in the Day”

Y’all know my first question to blog guests is: “What kind of undies are we talking about?” I’ve gotten some really great answers over the years, but today’s guest is simply too dignified to flip up her skirts for our amusement.

Here’s a sassy 19th century gal, talking about some really spooky products. All of my comments are in pink. 🙂

*  *  *  *  *  *

19th century women: personal enhancements
by Concordia Wells
translated by K.B. Owen [with plenty of commentary by Jenny]

Although I am by no means an expert on what constitutes female beauty, the charming Miss Hansen has asked me for my insight in regard to the common beauty issues for which the ladies of my time seek remedy.

[My actual question: Whatcha got on under all those clothes?]

I’m happy to oblige, although I must warn her that the remedies are at the least a waste of money, and at the worst ridiculous.

[Don’t you LOVE how fancy they spoke back in the day??]

A Lady’s Hair

The ideal for a woman’s hair is that it be soft, full, lustrous, and manageable. Such qualities are considered indicative of youth and good health. Sadly, many a lady experiences dissatisfaction – anxiety even – over the state of her hair.

[Well, that hasn’t changed in a 100+ years…]

I am not immune to such a condition, as my own hair never behaves as I would wish: it continually comes out of its pins, and is a most unfashionable shade of red. Tonics and treatments galore are available, although the effectiveness of these are called into doubt.

Here is one such tonic:


Quite a number of claims are made in the advertisement, particularly that of a baldness cure. If that were the case, I know many a gentleman who would have availed himself of such a remedy.

A Lady’s Complexion

Mottled skin tone and blemishes are the frequent bane of a woman’s beauty routine, and there are no end of homemade and druggist concoctions available to meet demand. I suffer from freckles myself, and I’ve found only by reducing sun exposure does one find relief. I have since thrown up my hands in surrender, since I will certainly not give up my bicycle-riding to satisfy the demands of beauty.

[You GO, Concordia! I think freckles are gorgeous angel kisses. Keep on biking…they might not be able to see that perky behind under all those layers, but you’ll know.]

Here is a popular product that some ladies use:


Thank goodness we have moved away from the use of arsenic in complexion creams, which was a truly dangerous practice.

[Arsenic and skin? *shudders*]

A Lady’s Size

When one partakes too much of the pleasures of the table and not enough of the joys of outdoor exercise, a lady can find her size expanding and her clothes ill-fitting. Often she attempts to seek a quick remedy, such as this:


[Oh, now come ON, 19th c advertisers! *grumbling*

Concordia, my darling, since you’ve popped up here to the 21st century with us, we’re gonna send you back with some tools (IYKWIM). I think it’s time to get over to August McLaughlin’s place for some Girl Boner tips. Take those back in time and see how everyone reacts.]

Setting aside the ill-advised form of address – one cannot imagine any lady taking kindly to the term “fat,” no matter how much room she occupies on a park bench – I doubt the effectiveness of such a product. Wouldn’t everyone be trim if it were so easy and affordable?

A Lady’s Bust

Many a woman sighs over the flatness or general inadequacy of her bosom. Instead of appreciating what Providence has given her, she seeks to enhance its size with a product such as this:


The left edge is hard to see, so I will provide the quotation:  “If Nature has not favored you with that greatest charm, bosom, full and perfect, send for the Princess Bust Developer, and you will be pleased over the result of a few weeks’ use.”

[With all those layers, you’re telling me these gals had no precursor to the push-up bra?]

One would hope that the cream itself is at least harmless, but the plunger-style apparatus makes one shudder, does it not? As I do not have personal experience with such foolishness, I cannot speak to the effectiveness of such a product. However, I have yet to notice among any women of my acquaintance a sudden change in her silhouette, or a dramatic improvement in a gentleman’s attentions towards her. It seems a sad waste of money.

All I have to add here, is thank God Corcordia is a woman of good sense (who knows enough not to buy all this crap). We’re sending her back to her time with voting pamphlets and some Girl Boner products. We’ll see if that brings a smile to The Ogre’s face.

Here’s more about Concordia Wells and her Unseemly Adventures:

KBOwen_UnseemlyPursuitsA deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  An ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Where can you buy Unseemly Pursuits?

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1gmn7h1
Paperback: http://amzn.to/1iD2BaS
Nook: http://bit.ly/1nlTNN5
Smashwords:  http://bit.ly/1cVnqL6
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1fslk5y
iBooks:  http://bit.ly/1lYBprV

And there’s an Unseemly giveaway!!

KBOwen_UnseemlyGiveawayDuring K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which ends HERE, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop.  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.

Next week, Kathy will hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style.

More Cowbell is the last stop on Kathy’s tour, so leave those comments for a chance to win! She’ll announce all of the winners next week. Check the sidebar on the home page of http://kbowenmysteries.com to see the previous stops and learn more.

About Concordia’s Creator:

KBOwen_PhotoK.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series.  The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
This entry was posted in Amazing Writers, Reading and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to 4 Spooky Beauty Tips From “Back in the Day”

  1. darcyflynn says:

    Oh my gosh! This is the cutest thing I’ve read in a long, long time! Laughing out loud, for sure! I guess I had an idea what these ladies went through to attain and keep beauty, but seriously . . . I had no idea it was to this extreme! 🙂
    Great questions, Jenny and Concordia I wish you’d stop by my house before you go back in time! We’d share a cup of tea and I’d tell you all about the anti-inflammatory diet I’m on! 🙂


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Darcy! I’ll see if we can sneak Concordia over to your place before she jets on back to her time. 🙂


    • K.B. Owen says:

      LOL, Darcy – thanks! Do you want Concordia to bring any of the products with her? Oh, and there were still arsenic wafers for the complexion, but they were on their way out, thanks goodness. Anti-inflammatory diet, eh?


  2. This is awesome! And sounds painful…


  3. Dang! Do you suppose that breast enhancer is still available? Surely there’s a stock of it in someone’s attic from back-in-the-day. Of course, since Jenny brings August and GB power into play here, it might be repurposed IYKWIM.

    SKA-WEET! I blinked. Three months disappeared and KB OWEN has her second book in her series out! Yes. I’ve hopped to Amazon. Yes. I’ve purchased the book.

    P.S. to Jenny in re: glob: Point made and advice taken. Look for action on Snark E. Pen soon and with regular frequency. Thanks!


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Don’t you dare alter that cute figure of yours with any breast enhancing weirdness. I’ll come bonk you on the head with that Cowbell.

      Is your move almost completed? I lose time like crazy when I move. And I’m delighted to hear that the glob shall be checked in with, even if it’s just pictures with captions. 🙂


    • K.B. Owen says:

      Aww, thank you Gloria! I guess it’s been a while since you and I have waved to each other across Jenny’s blogosphere! How have you been, girlie?


  4. Sherry Isaac says:

    Beauty and barbarism seem to go hand in hand, Concordia. I recommend you never take a gander at birth control apparatuses of your time–not for the faint of heart. (And they call Us the weaker sex!)


  5. Sharla Rae says:

    Since I write historicals, I have books with these in them but I have to share something about the weight reduction pills. My dad used to tell us that those old pills had tape worms inside! Scared us to death as kids that someone would sell such things back in the “good old days.” 🙂 Thank goodness for the FDA. Ha! I have no idea if it’s true but I highly doubt it. For one thing, I doubt many of huskers even knew what tape worms were.


  6. Pingback: Concordia joins the More Cowbell posse!

  7. K.B. Owen says:

    Jenny, thanks so much for inviting Concordia (and me) to join your posse today! Having so much fun! (Are you feeling any better?)


  8. I love this!! I can’t believe they actually advertised that bust improvement plunger thingie back then. It looks painful!


  9. Julie Glover says:

    My torso actually twitched when I saw that plunger thing. Good heavens! I suppose the promise “a full, firm, well developed breast” seemed worth it.

    It’s funny that their ads addressed the same things I see today. I wonder what their fix for belly fat was. Simply a corset?


  10. ” . . .one cannot imagine any lady taking kindly to the term “fat,” no matter how much room she occupies on a park bench.” That is a fabulous sentence.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use the same headlines for today’s ads? Attention all fat people. Freedom of press right? Not so much in today’s “police” society, I’m thinking. Someone would sue and, most likely, win.

    And that bust plunger thingey – my goodness. I wonder if a toilet plunger and some vaseline would have the same effect. Someone needs to give that a try and let us all know how it works.

    As always, great stuff, Kathy. And nice commentary from Jenny as well.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  11. I just love your historical posts, Kathy! It’s like going back in time with a brilliant gal pal (hmm… sounds accurate! ;)). Can you imagine if I gave Girl Boner tips back then? I’d have to go undercover — could be fun! 😀


  12. Debra Eve says:

    LOL! You know those breast enhancement creams and devices? They were still around in the 1970s. I remember seeing them advertised in the back of women’s magazines. And did I miss the post on 19th c. undies? Thought for sure we’d see that here. 🙂

    Loved Concordia’s last outing, Kathy, and on my way to buy this one right now!


  13. Ah yes, Jenny and Kathy. Many of these torturous enhancements lived for generations before Revlon found more expensive ways to tempt us into thinking there was something we could use to be “prettier.”

    Talking about in the day. I grew up when they tortured kids with “mustard plasters” and made kids swallow a spoon of Vicks.

    Much success to Condordia 🙂


  14. Cory Imhof says:

    Niff, I love this blog!! One of my Top 10 faves! Concordia is a fantastic character.


  15. The Regular Guy NYC says:

    I love reading all the old ads and seeing all these crazy products they had way back when. Snake oil salesmen and quackery for sure! Fun post to read. I follow KB’s blog and it’s always interesting and well written!


  16. Oh my goodness, Debra Eve is right. I had forgot about the breast enhancement creams. That was still a big thing back then. Of course I would notice those sort of things being that my breasts, well, let’s just say they didn’t get in the way. And if it really worked, we wouldn’t have breast enhancement surgery, now would we?
    It is crazy what women used to do. But then, we still seek out all types of measures to keep ourselves looking youthful today. And we still have our quackery. Yes, thankfully we have the FDA, although I think they could be more stringent with some of the product available out there. But, between you and me, I love my anti-aging potions. Although I’m trying to embrace my true older self.
    I love your character Concordia, Kathy! This was a fun post! Again, best wishes on your new release! And get better Jenny! 🙂


  17. Jane Sadek says:

    What fun! Two of my favorite digital ladies!


  18. Jenny, you and Concordia are a good team. I always enjoy her visits! Your suggestion that she get on over to August’s Girl Boner site, made me laugh out loud. Not a bad idea! Congratulations on the new release, Kathy!


  19. All the comments about breast enhancers have brought back a memory… of my high school gym teacher having us do certain exercises to the chant of: “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” 😀


  20. Cate Russell-Cole says:

    Is it just me, or does that chick in the hair restorer ad look a little werewolf like? Use that and you’ll shed on your furniture.


  21. Love this, Kathy and Jenny! And tell Concordia that the weight-loss pills carry through to the 21st century, and while the ads may be technologically improved, they still say the same thing!


  22. It is amazing how often arsenic and cocaine were used for various things back then. it’s a wonder anyone survived. A most fun blog post and look into the past. (I’ve been off pursuing my #grandmaproject, but it has now turned long distance – sob – so I’m back! grin)


  23. K.B. Owen says:

    You know, Pauline, I’ve wondered the same thing: how did they survive that time period? Sorry your grandbabies are far away. 😉


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