Y’all like historical fashion? You like weirdness? I really should title this series as ‘weird things people in the past thought were sexy.’ It’d be a whole thing.
Facial quirks have always held their own allure. Freckles, dimples, and beauty marks are all things that not everyone has and so they give a face some distinction, a marking that sets one apart from the endless sea of sameness. I get that. But there are people who seek out a particular facial quirk, and there was a time in history when people were so big into one particular facial quirk, that it was a social necessity to wear them artificially.
Enter, patch, or mouche, as it’s called in French.
Mouche, means fly. The implication by pretty much all of European high society was that ‘hey, it looks like a fly landed on your face, and I think that’s hot.’
And it wasn’t just a fad of men and women (remember, men wore more makeup that women did. That’s a whole thing, too. I’ll get into it, one day). There was a language to where you put your mouche, or even what shape it was- because you didn’t have to stick to round ones like are found in nature. Oh no, if it’s fake anyway, why not really lean into it?
If you put it on your cheek, it signals bravery. The tip of the nose is sassy. The corner of the mouth is flirty. Even the side of the face you favour signals political affiliation!
People even had special fancy little boxes, like snuff boxes, where they kept their flies.
It gets even wilder. They could be made from just about anything. You could draw them on with kohl (like ancient eyeliner pencil), or you could take velvet fluff or soot or even charcoal or lapblack and roll it around a bit of sap or some kind of gum, into a ball and put it on your face. Some of the more expensive ones were made from velvet and glued on. But if you really wanted to schill out for that Real Live Hairy Mole Look, you bought patches made from mouse fur.
When we talk about unrealistic standards of beauty, we’re talking about starving yourself to death, we’re talking about clogging your pores with toxic chemicals, we’re talking about inviting mites to live in your eyelashes, and we’re talking about gluing mouse fur to your face. The beauty industry has always encouraged and been fuelled by the most ridiculous fads, and it’s kind of a weird facet of human nature that gets talked about, but not in the right way.
The question shouldn’t be why we support an industry that encourages us to do gross and harmful things, but why it is that we as humans have to do these things to begin with. If we didn’t have the desire, the industry wouldn’t exist. And I think the answer is because we’re pack animals, at heart. We have an insatiable need to fit in. We need to be just like each other, to have that feeling of connection. If all the women at court wear mouches, and I want to hang out with my friends, I’ll look weird if I don’t have one. I’ll look other, outside the pack.
It’s weird, but I don’t think it’ll ever go away, no matter how hard we push body positivity. However, I think we’re making breakthroughs recently, in embracing the right to pick and choose which unrealistic beauty standards we pursue.