Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do That Anymore: Beauty Mark Etiquette

Une Dame à sa Toilette by François Boucher shows a lady applying mouches

Moles are a really common human skin condition and people have found them attractive in certain configurations for centuries. Sometimes they have also attached meaning to certain placements of moles. Drawing them in has even been fashionable at times- Marilyn Monroe’s famous spot started a trend for them in the 1950s. But 18th century French aristocrats took it a step farther and glued fake spots on, in all kinds of Lucky Charms shapes, and assigned meanings to their placements.

In France, these spots were called Mouches or little flies (pretty obvious why!) and were made out of black silk, velvet, taffeta etc. They came in all kinds of shapes like circles, crescent moons, stars, and hearts (even quite elaborate shapes like horse-drawn carriages would sometimes appear!) and would be glued onto the face and décolletage (that’s the cleavagy region of the chest). In addition to their secret meanings, these little spots were also quite handy for covering up small pox scars! They would also draw attention to a certain particularly attractive feature of the face. The dark color in contrast to the skin also made the skin look paler, very much the in thing at the time. Men and women both wore them and could wear any from one to ten at a time!

Of course, all good fads need some material goods to go with them. So the French created fancy little “patch boxes” to keep their little face  stickers in. Made with tons of gold and jewels and miniature paintings, natch.

Some possible meanings for the placement of the spots:

Middle of forehead: dignified or imposing or grandeur

Corner of eye or eyelid: passionate

Middle of cheek: gallant

Cheekbone: risque

Heart-shaped (left cheek): engaged

Heart-shaped (right cheek): married

Between mouth and chin: silent

Corner of the eye: passion

On lower lip or on chin: discreet

Beside the mouth: likes to kiss

On nose: saucy or sassy

Near lip: flirtatious or seductive or even able to kill

On neck: generous


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