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Glass display case containing various cosmetic devices from the 1700s, England, 1880-1930

High fashion in the 1700s included the use of thick layers of make-up and extravagant powdered wigs. Artificial eyebrows were used to enhance facial features and fake moles and beauty spots were made out of court plaster and shaped into moons, stars and hearts. Court plaster was so-called as it was mainly used by those high up the social ladder who would have attended the royal court. These shapes were also used to cover up smallpox scars, which would have been a familiar feature at a time when the disease was relatively common. The small circular cork discs are placed in the mouth to make the cheeks look plumper, a fashion of the time particularly as some women would have lost molar teeth through disease and decay and would have been very hollow-cheeked otherwise. The breast pads were used to enhance the cleavage, a practice that some women still adopt today.

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Glossary: cosmetics

Powders, lotion, lipstick, rouge or other preparations to be applied to the human body for the beautifying, preserving, or altering the appearance of a person.

Glossary: smallpox

Smallpox is an infectious virus unique to humans. It results in a characteristic skin rash and fluid-filled blisters. After successful vaccination campaigns throughout the 1800s and 1900s, the World Health Organisation certified the eradication of smallpox in 1979. Smallpox is the only human infectious disease to have been completely wiped out.