Besides being one of the most misunderstood females in history, doomed French Queen Marie Antoinette is also an object of fascination to everyone from historians to fashion designers (See: Karl Lagerfeld's Queen Marie-inspired 2013 cruise collection, held at Versailles). So, when I was looking for the next famous face to tackle for my historical beauty routines experiment, it's no surprise that many of you voted for Marie Antoinette.
Day 1Excited to start this one off — at least this time, I'm working with more than just a bar of charcoal and a straight razor. I strived to use as many products from French brands as I could in an attempt to be authentic and pay homage to Marie's heritage. I lay out my assortment of primping products lovingly on my vanity (read: tiny bathroom sink) and get to work. First off: a shower. Antoinette was hot on baths (probably because there was no running water in 18th-century Paris), but I live in Brooklyn and my bathtub has probably been used for everything from making gin to washing small livestock. I'll need a gallon of bleach and some courage before I work my way up to that one. So, shower it is.
Day 2Clegg enlightens me that the reason scented floral soap were de rigeur was plain and simple: Versailles smelled like ass. "The courtiers did everything they could to keep the smell at bay," she says. "Marie Antoinette’s rooms were scented with a profusion of fresh flowers, melted pastilles, potpourri, oils, and perfumed sachets." And even though Marie's was a frequent bather (very unusual for the time), there were still some less-than-queenly odors to disguise. Which is probably why she had perfumers on call — her receipts from the time gave us a clear idea of what she liked and just how much she was spending on the smelly stuff.
Her skin care was extensive and heavily reliant on liquids — that gross pigeon cleanser, toner, floral water, and whitening creams. I switch out the bird stew for a micellar water from Dior. I'm not a huge fan of micellar waters — I don't feel like they take all my makeup off. This one does a pretty decent job. It takes three soaked cotton pads but it gets almost all my foundation off.
Day 4Now for the makeup. "Like stage actresses, women at this time wanted to make sure that their features were visible in candlelit rooms and that they glittered and stood out as much as possible," says Clegg, "so they would have been a lot more heavy handed with their cosmetics, applying more rouge and kohl and darkening their eyebrows." That's going to be fun under fluorescent office lights.
Day 5Aaaaand I cheated. Don't judge me, it was for a really good reason. Interviewing Gwyneth Paltrow with giant blush spots while sitting directly across from her her easygoing, natural beauty was not high on my list of life experiences. I did adhere to the skin-care routine. (I'm finding that easy — even enjoyable — to do every day.)
Day 6Alright, back to the grind. Saturday finds me en route to Paris (how fitting) for another celebrity interview. The life of a beauty editor, right? I skip the makeup for my six-hour plane journey, but pack my micellar and rose spray in my carry-on so I can keep my skin fresh and hydrated. Upon arriving to the hotel, I unpack my makeup and begin my routine. By this time, I've mastered my blush placement (smaller dots of blush, smaller circular motions, and putting the product closer to my cheekbones rather than the true apples of my cheeks) and have perfected kohl liner longevity. (Thanks, Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion!)
Day 7My hotel room has a swimming-pool sized bathtub, so I figure this is the perfect time to attempt Marie's bath routine. Clegg says Marie would sit on a pad filled with sweet almonds, pine nuts, linseed, marshmallow root, and lily bulb. My version involves a folded up towel (sorry, housekeeping) filled with an entire bag of Mistral's Almond Milk Bath Salt. I take out the muslin cloths and a bran body wash (The Body Shop Japan Adzuki Bean & Rice Bran Shower Gel) and start scrubbing. An hour later, I reluctantly drag myself out of the tub, rub in my almond oil, and slip on my comfy robe and soon-to-be-stolen slippers.
"She has some pretty stiff competition from several other women in French history," notes Clegg. "Most notably, Diane de Poitiers, the influential mistress of Henri II, a remarkable woman who was completely obsessed with maintaining her youthful good looks."
In addition to being credited as the inventor of jogging and practicing strange rituals like peeling an onion near her eyes to make them more luminous, she was also known to have been a regular imbiber of a tonic that contained real gold that she believed would promote a more youthful appearance.
"When her body was recently exhumed, it was found to have high levels of gold in her hair and it’s thought that this rather extreme beauty treatment may even have killed her," says Clegg. Hopefully, all that Goldschläger I downed in college didn't do anything more than just make me question my life choices.