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Une Dame à sa Toilette by Boucher

A Little Decoration

A fashion that became all the rage from the 1600's through to the early 1800's was the face patch. We see them in portraits, and caricatures, those tiny black (sometimes red) "beauty spots" a lady would add to her face. They've made a few comebacks over the centuries, especially in the 1920's and late 1940's

These tiny gems of over the top ornamentation served many different purposes. They could be used to cover up blemishes of poc marks, different placements could even signify political allegiance! They were also used as a contrast to highlight a brilliant complexion! (Perhaps the most relevant application for a lady today)

The patches came in all kinds of shapes, stars were a popular motif, as well as circles and moons. They came in a range of materials too, like velvet, taffeta and even leather! Where you wore them had a different meaning too!

Placement Meaning Placement Meaning
middle of forehead dignified corner of eye passionate
middle of cheek gallant heart-shaped (left cheek) engaged
heart-shaped (right cheek) married between mouth and chin silent
on lower lip discreet beside the mouth likes to kiss
on nasolabial fold playful on nose saucy
near lip flirtatious
Patch meanings from The Louisbourg Institute

18th Century Patch BoxAntique French patch box from around 1770, inside inscription translates to "Pleasant Youth, Soft tenderness"

The Patch Box

Since patches were popular with ladies of high fashion, and high income , beautifully decorated little boxes were created to hold these tiny treasures in. These tiny boxes often enameled used to be given to ladies as love and friendship tokens with sentimental messages enameled into the design.

Of course if you are going to live fancy, your going to need a patch box! You can still buy such boxes today. Ever noticed the little enameled boxes often found in fancy china shops for example? These are just like the patch boxes the elegant 18th century lady would have had on her vanity! Often these boxes would have had a mirror in the lid, or sometimes even a portrait of a loved one!

If you have a deep budget for this kind of thing, there are several English manufacturers still making them today in the traditional way of over 200 years ago. Companies like Crummles, Halcyon Days,Stafordshire Enamels and the French china company Limoges create some beautiful boxes.

My Patch Boxes!

The box on the left is the one that sits on my dresser. It was bought on a lovely day out with a few of my fancy friends. I found a small mirror that would fit in the lid and glued it in, to turn the box from trinket to patch! The one on the right was a favor from a best friends wedding. It's nice flatter shape and strong clasp make it great for on the go. This is the one I travel with.

If you're on the look out for face patches or a mirrored patch box you can pick them up here at the webstore!


Costume in England [1885 Fairholt]

Costume in Detail 1730-1930 [Bradfield 1997]

Hair and Cosmetics in the Eighteenth Century [2005 Hyland]

Powder Paint and Patches [1911 New York Times]

For Appearence Sake [2001Sherrow]

Retro makeup [2011 Renelles]

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