Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Manicure

Here's a little tidbit from 1876 about Manicures that was written up in Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly.

IN France, particularly in all the large cities, the women in nearly all classes take particular pains with their hands, so much so that they go regularly to what is called a manicure—that is, a person who makes the care of the hands a specialty. In Paris this profession is mot lucrative, and there are at least six hundred men and women engaged in it. For the benefit of those who may be curious enough to know something of this novel, yet not new, calling, I give a brief description of how they manage their affairs. Ten years ago I was at the French institution of Madame Michel, at school, and while there quite shocked my teacher by asking her to trim my nails. “Why, mademoiselle,” said she, “you should have a manicure.” I was so abashed at the mistake I made in asking her to do such a thing that I naively answered, “Will not my knife do as well?” “Oh, no,” said she, “we will have a manicure here in the morning; your nails require shaping.” I supposed the manicure was a steel instrument used for paring the nails, so I retired with ungratified curiosity till the morrow, when at an early hour the steward informed me of the manicure's arrival. Supposing it to be, according to the French diction, masculine gender, I said, “Bring it up.” “Oh, excuse me, made moiselle, he never comes to the sleeping apartment; he always waits in the reception room.” I came down, and there stood the instrument to shape my irregular nails—a tall, lean, dark-skinned individual, with flowing jet locks, beard and imperial. To say I was surprised is too weak an assertion; I was struck dumb with astonishment. My teacher had gone through with her usual paring, and bade me be seated. The operation was then proceeded with. First a sharp, Frenchshaped instrument cut the nails, sloped them on the sides with a point in the centre; then a tiny pair of pincers was used to pull off all the pieces of dry skin around the nails, commonly called by us “hang nails”; then a steel file was used to raise the skin up and push it back so as to show the “half-moon” on the nail, which is considered a part of its beauty; then a liquid was poured over it to bathe it; then ried, and a red pomade, spread thin, rubbed off with a fi yellow powder, which caused them to shine. It took abo half an hour, and cost the munificent sum of sixty cent There are women in Paris who obtain as high as ten fran a visit.

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