The Parisian Woman at Her Toilet

The life of a Parisian élégante is far from being an idle one; it is, on the contrary, a prodigiously active and frightfully exhausting life, which no one can lead with success who is not endowed with executive ability and great nervous endurance.

The cares of the toilette, the daily succession of visits, receptions and fetes, the theatres, the flower and picture shows, races, lectures, attendance at church, with many other duties and pleasures, form a cycle absorbing every hour and moment of this rushing, fluttering, froufroutante existence.

In short, a Parisian woman of fashion lives in a perpetual whirl, which allows her no graceful intervals of leisure in which to retire within herself and indulge in dreams arid reverie. Dress alone constitutes an intolerable tyranny—one, however, to which she slavishly submits. The morning toilette, to begin with, involves the torment of the hairdresser and the manicure, and for many the torment of “making up” the complexion, of massage of the head at intervals (a long and fatiguing process), and of face-massage for her who trembles at the sight of her first wrinkle.

The Colour of Paris: Historic, Personal & Local by Lucien Descaves

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

The Parisian woman at her toilet

— Photos from German periodical, Das Album, April 1899 (via Wikimedia Commons)

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About Evangeline Holland

Author of Edwardian/WWI historicals. Likes cooking, the smell and collecting of old books, various artsy hobbies, travel, classic cinema, period dramas, the fusty areas of history, and all things French (though is terrible with maintaining fluency in the language). Read more about her novels and non-fiction here

5 Thoughts on “The Parisian Woman at Her Toilet

  1. Danemead on May 22, 2013 at 1:32 PM said:

    One of the things I love about your blog is your postings of snippets from old books. I always go to the Internet Archive and download the whole book if available. The top photo is quite frightening — no wonder ladies fainted so easily!

    • I have plenty of them! :D

      As for her tiny waist, there a slight chance these pictures were airbrushed (you’d be shocked by how many were!), but she could have also been very tiny (most women were 5′-5’3), which made her waist appear even smaller! Plus, corsets were worn from childhood, which trained the waist.

  2. Yes, my life is similar. I don’t know how I find the time to take a shower and throw on jeans AND THEN eat breakfast! Not to mention hours of TV, sitting outside reading, and tweeting.

  3. Carole Cox on May 23, 2013 at 12:36 AM said:

    Oh my! That waist! A funny side note: My grandmother-born in 1892-thought it scandalous when women starting going about without a GIRDLE!

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