When Were Beauty Spots in Fashion?
False beauty marks or beauty spots are sometimes applied to the face as a form of make-up. Beauty marks were particularly highly regarded during the eighteenth century and creating false ones became common, often in fanciful shapes such as hearts or stars. They could be purchased as silk or velvet patches known as “mouches” (flies). The first women on record as having worn beauty spots on their faces were leaders of fashion in the days of the Roman Empire. These spots were small and round, and evidently worn in great profusion. The poets Ovid (43 BC-AD 18) and Martial (about AD 40-104) were among the classical writers to comment on the habit.
Beauty spots then seem to have gone out of fashion until they reappeared late in the 16th Century. Their return is believed to have started with the use of black velvet or taffeta court-plasters on the temples for the relief of tooth-ache. Women found them more effective in improving their complexion by setting off the whiteness of the skin. The patches were usually placed near the mouth. As the craze for them developed they became much bigger and were cut to different shapes and patterns. In London, beauty spots took on political significance. Supporters of the Whig party wore them on the right cheek, those of the Tory party on the left.
In 1711 a writer in The Spectator, a famous London magazine, noted that women “would be more beautiful than the sun were it not for the little black spots that break out and sometimes rise in very odd figures. I have observed that these little blemishes wear off very soon but, when they disappear in one part of the face, they are very apt to break out in another. I have seen a spot in the forehead in the afternoon which was upon the chin in the morning”.
In Paris the fashion produced elaborate variations. One marquise is reported to have appeared at a party wearing 16 patches in the shape of a tree in which perched two love birds. Men also adopted the vogue. These “little blemishes”, cut out of silk, taffeta, velvet and even leather, and stuck on with mastic, continued to wander about the faces of women until the middle of the 19th Century.
Otherwise a genuine beauty mark or beauty spot is a euphemism for a type of dark facial mole, so named because such birthmarks are sometimes considered an attractive feature. Medically, such “beauty marks” are generally melanocytic nevus, more specifically the compound variant. Moles of this type may also be located elsewhere on the body, and may also be considered beauty marks if located on the face, shoulder, neck or breasts. In the 20th century, Marilyn Monroe’s beauty mark generated a new vogue. Fashion model Cindy Crawford’s prominent mole helped revive the fashion.