H eating the castles and great halls of wealthy people in the seventeenth century was not easy, especially in the cooler countries

in the north, such as England and Scotland. Stone walls and fireplaces in nearly every room could not keep rooms warm enough when the days grew cold. Though people had many layers of clothing to keep their bodies warm, their hands remained exposed and cold. The solution to the problem of cold hands, which seems to have gotten worse during the seventeenth century, when climatic change brought years of very cold winters, inspired the creation of the muff, an insulated tube of fabric or fur into which the hands could be tucked.

Though muffs served a practical purpose, they soon were turned into stylish accessories by those wealthy enough to afford them. Light muffs might be made of double layers of satin or velvet, stuffed to provide insulation. Fur soon became the preferred material for muffs. People choose the softest, finest fur for their muffs, which might be decorated with jewels or lace trim. King Louis XIV of France, who ruled from 1643 to 1715, had muffs made from the fur of tigers, panthers, otters, and beavers. Muffs could be fastened to a belt at the waist and secured by a loop of ribbon which hung about the neck.

Muffs continued to be used by both men and women through the eighteenth century. During the eighteenth century, muffs provided a portable home for carrying the small pets that became a brief fashion craze among the very wealthy. After the eighteenth century muffs became exclusively a woman's accessory and are still used for warmth to this day, although more rarely than gloves or mittens.

Taffeta Mastic Patch
Initially created to combat the long, cold winters, muffs, like the checkered one here, were insulated tubes of fabric or fur into which the hands could be tucked. Muffs soon turned into stylish accessories. Reproduced by permission of © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS.


Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World.. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Cunnington, C. Willett, and Phillis Cunnington. Handbook of English Costume in the Seventeenth Century. Boston, MA: Plays, Inc., 1972.

Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978.

While the placing of false beauty marks, or patches, on the face began in ancient Rome around the first century c.e., it became a widespread fad across Europe from the late 1500s through the 1600s. A dark mole that occurs naturally on the face is sometimes called a beauty mark. Beginning in the late sixteenth century, fashionable men and women imitated this natural mark by sticking black beauty patches on their faces. These patches were eventually used to send signals to members of the opposite sex in flirtatious courtship rituals, but they had a practical use as well. Carefully shaped black patches could be applied to hide blemishes and scars on the face, especially the deep round scars left on those who survived the frequent outbreaks of smallpox. Smallpox was a contagious and often fatal disease that caused its victims to break out in sores. It was the vaccination for smallpox, discovered in 1796, that led to the end of the fashion of wearing beauty patches.

The use of patches as a fashion statement began in Paris, where young women and men began wearing patches made of black taffeta, velvet, silk, or thin leather, cut into tiny circles, crescents, stars, and hearts. These patches were stuck to the face with gum mastic, a type of glue made from the sap of trees. More and more elaborate patch designs were created, in such shapes as sailing ships, horse-drawn carriages, and birds in flight. Small boxes were made so that the fashionable person could carry extra patches, in case one fell off or a new look was desired.

Soon, the patches began to take on meaning and send subtle signals to others at parties and other social events. A patch near the eye indicated passion, for example, and one by the mouth showed boldness. A black spot on the right cheek marked a married woman, while one on the left cheek showed that one was engaged-



All the Rage. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1992.

Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

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