Tag Archives: makeup

Body Adornment

The other half to yesterday’s blog on camouflaging the true shape of our bodies is one of adornment. People are like crows. We have always been attracted to shiny and colorful objects. Ever since Grog the caveman noticed the bright blue stone, we’ve been collecting these things. The best way to store such objects, if you were an itinerant caveman, was to wear it. And look, that blue stone brought the sky back again or slowed the mammoth down so we could kill it.

Body adornment covers jewellery made of glass, metal, clay, wood, stone, feathers, bone, etc. strung or worn in many ways across different parts of the body. As well it has been stuck through and pierced into whatever piece of flesh could be pierced. From lip and nose discs to rings on fingers, toes, nipples, to pieces of wood or stone or metal punctured through chests, backs, arms and other fleshy bits–if it could be done, someone has done it.

Jewellery has as many uses as clothing does. In many cases such adornment started out as a ritualistic aspect with Grog, perhaps a dedication to a belief or god or path. As well, certain body markings indicated tribal/familial affiliations or ranks of authority. A pope would wear an amethyst ring that the faithful would kiss. A particular group in the jungle may have their noses pierced while their neighbors had their eyebrows be-ringed. Whether a fashion trend in that area or a mark of community, these regional differences served the purpose of identifying one group from another.

Facial and body makeup also came along, where applications may have been used for special occasions, rituals, power or to enhance characteristics, such as outlining the eyes to make them look bigger; but also the kohl liners worked to reduce sun-glare into the eyes. There have been practical applications for some body makeup and painting, such as coatings to keep sun off, or insects from biting.

Tattoos and scarification are other ways in which the body has been marked for centuries. Piercings can be temporary, as in the sundance done by some plains nations in North America, where the man’s chest is pierced for the (up to) four-day sundance. But permanent marks are part of identification, authority or belonging to a particular group. Scarring the skin with ridges and whorls, along with embedding items under the skin have been done in some areas for quite a while. Sailors were long known to pick up tattoos on their travels. I’m not sure of the reason why and that would take a bit more research. Some I believe had to do with visiting foreign countries where some of these practices were more common.

Tattoos are big now in parts of modern tribal culture as well as the resurgence of the burlesque dance style. Dancers often have designs that are reminiscent of the 50’s and the earliest North American white tattoos (I say white because I’m not sure if any First Nation groups did tattooing like the Maori have done). Maori tattoos served several purposes including looking fierce in battle, along with the facial gurning.

But last and probably the most popular reason for adorning one’s body, whether with rings, earrings, necklaces, piercings, makeup, tattoos or scarification is for the sheer enjoyment of decoration. We have not traveled that far since Grog started smearing red clay handprints onto his chest, tying a blue stone about his neck and piercing his ears. Though he may have decorated some for superstitious reasons or protection from spiritual or real elements, there came a time that it was just cool and fun to decorate himself. And let’s not forget the status symbol of having the brightest colored rocks or the largest gems in the whole tribe. That hasn’t changed much. If it had, we wouldn’t pay through the nose (does that term come from jewellery?) for precious gems and gold. As long as there are humans we will be given to adorning ourselves and structures around us. If you don’t like a particular fashion of body decoration, be assured that within a hundred years it will change again.

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Fashion Camouflage

Throughout humanity’s history, we’ve used clothes for camouflage. I’m not talking about camo gear and leaf markings on your face to hide in the shadows while carrying out some special ops espionage. Although that is the most blatant aspect of camouflage it’s not the most prevalent.

Besides the basics of keeping ourselves warm, we started to wear clothing for a host of other reasons. Ritualistically, masks, accessories and robes were donned to imitate a spirit or element or to make oneself pure or sacred in the eyes of the gods. Along the way standards of modesty and morality came in to play. Genitalia are a vulnerable area on most creatures, and for humans many other connotations are attached, such as virility, power, immortality, continuance of family. Religious aspects and beliefs, as well as just hiding something mysterious and scary (a woman’s womb has often been related to the underworld) combined to cover the genital areas first.

In African countries, other warm climes, and throughout periods of history, women’s breasts were not always considered erogenous, and therefore did not need covering. A period of Elizabethan dress had the decolletage so low that the nipples were visible. But that is more revealing than camouflaging.

Yet, we’ve used camouflage to enhance our bodies for a long time. Elizabethan men wore pads of horsehair to give the right line to their calves under their hose, as well as padding to form the preferred peascod bellies. And then there were those codpieces to make the genitals look way larger than they were. Women wore corsets to slim their waists, or bustles on the backs of dresses to enhance the womanly shape. Shoes of varying heights have been worn to convey status or make a person taller.

We do the same today. Slimline jeans with no pockets to show off the curves and line of a woman’s leg and hip. Padded and uplift bras to make the breasts look larger, men’s underwear (and chaps) that may shape and define the genitals or butt, (some of this for gay culture but not all), tuxes or other James Bond jackets for that sophisiticated, I-have-plenty-of-money look.

Makeup, since at least the Egyptians, has also been used for enhancement or to comouflage plainness, blemishes, birthmarks, or whatever reason was required. Wigs and toupees have been worn for many centuries as status symbols, to change one’s looks, to make it look like a person had hair. It’s not a new thing and most people do look better in clothes because they cover up all sorts of imperfections. Fashion can highlight a person’s good points, change the line that the eye follows so that a person looks taller, broader, slimmer, bustier, etc.

Until we hit the day that we have our own heat generating forcefields, have tossed vanity and modesty to the side and do not need possessions or adornment, I think humans will continue to dress in a myriad of fashions, as well as camouflaging what is not seen as the current trend and fashion for bodies and looks. The realm of phsical changes has its own history, but that’s for another day. We may yet hit again a look where flat chested, twiggy and adrogynous shapes are considered sexy and then the padded bras and fitted clothing will disappear…for awhile.

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