Monday 3 December 2012

It’s time for the powder room ....

Ever thought where the term came from ... I used to see it when I visited golf clubs, posh hotels, Harrods – the 1p slots were beyond! – none of which in our youth we frequented often.  But Powder Room – seemed to imply powdering faces, powdering our noses ...  and I suppose that’s why it stuck ...

A very modern powder room

Going round Bateman’s (Kipling’s house) recently and having the Powder Room pointed out – a small room off Kipling’s bedroom – it was clarified as the wig powdering room ... I thought oh ok = interesting fact.

Then I read an article about a Queen Anne house that had been restored in the east end of London, together with other houses in the terrace.  Here again – the powder room off the landing was highlighted.

The Kiplings' powder
room off their bedroom,
now full of display items
Now it made sense ... wig powdering, Queen Anne (reigned 1702 – 1714) and Bateman’s built in 1634 – even a farm house in the Sussex countryside needed a wig powdering room:  well if you can get your head round the fact that wig powdering was a necessity in the country as well.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the use of wigs fell into abeyance in the West until they were revived in the 16th century as a means for compensating for hair loss or improving one’s personal appearance.

There were also the practical reasons to use a hair piece: head lice jumping around and the unhygienic conditions of the times ... having one’s head shaved and then using a wig, which could easily be removed and cleaned, made a great deal of sense.

Elizabeth 1 - her Armada portrait (1588)

Well now I’m not sure about that ... Samuel Pepys recorded the day in 1663 that he was at the Swan pub by the river in Chelsea and sent for his periwig-maker to bring his periwig; but it was full of nits ... so he sent the old boy away to make it clean.

Royal patronage was crucial to the revival of the wig – Queen Elizabeth 1 reigned from 1558 – 1603 and wore a red wig, elaborately curled tight in a “Roman” style.

But wig wearing really came into its own in the 17th century – King Louis of France (1601 – 1643) started to pioneer wig-wearing in 1624 when he had prematurely begun to lose his hair. 

Queen Anne - who didn't look
like she needed a wig (1705)

Women followed on in the 1700s – usually only adding to their own hair – with supplemental hair-pieces – or lightly dusting and colouring their hair – rather than the full wigs worn by the men.

However it became de-rigueur with Louis’ son and successor King Louis XlV (1638 – 1715) from where it spread to the rest of Europe – here in England Charles II, on his restoration in 1660, brought the style back with him from his exile in France.

It’s interesting to consider Bateman’s building’s date of 1634 with these timings ... Kipling’s house was off the beaten track – he had a new lane built down to make the house more easily accessible.

Queen Anne terrace in Kew, SW London
I’d better stick to my theme of powder room ... wig powder was made from finely ground starch that was scented with orange flower, lavender or orris root.  It could be coloured violet, blue, pink or yellow, but most often was used as off-white.

Wigs were made from human hair (expensive), horsehair, cows’ tail hair and even linen and silk threads sewn into a cloth cap ... the oils from the wearer’s head tended to soak into the wig’s material.  However talcum powder would absorb these oils.

Puffing the powder, using
powder bellows - no sign of
face protection here
A wig had to be powdered while it was being worn to keep the powder in situ atop the head ... hence the powder room – when a cover cloth would be used to protect the clothes ... but the face – breathing in all that powder wouldn’t do anyone any good.

The wearer would place their face in a paper cone to avoid breathing in any of the powder.  A family member or servant would take a cloth bag filled with crushed talc and shake it vigorously over the wig – where it would stick to the oily/greasy hair. 

Powder bellows became popular in the 18th century, but powder puffing was more genteel.

Example of powder bellows
The powder room doubled as an early washroom before water was piped around the house ... certainly the two I’ve seen recently were relatively small in size.

In 1795, the British government ever keen on raising money ... taxed hair powder – levying one guinea per year!  That put the kibosh on the fashion for wigs and powder.

A Hundertwasser designed toilet in Kawakawa,
New Zealand - couldn't resist this photo
The Duty on Hair Powder Act 1795 was repealed in 1869 – so it didn’t last very long ... the Act stated that anyone wishing to use hair powder must visit a stamp office and register ... in 1812 46, 684 people paid the tax, by 1855 only 917 did ...

Wigs have continued on in many guises ... while powder rooms have evolved out of private houses to be only found in public places for ladies’ use ... where plumbing is now to be found.

The Austrian artist
Friedensreich Hundertwasser
(1928 - 2000) see Wiki
he looked interesting

It’s interesting how the names/phrases keep on – powder rooms, powder puff – powder our noses - even if the government taxed the fashion to its death ...

The Kiplings’ House – Bateman’s ... my recent posts:
Putting the House to Bed part 1 (the background)
Puttingthe House to Bed part 2 (managing wear and tear)

Fascinating what we can find – I was very surprised to find the Duty on Hair Powder link ...

I did write a post a year ago on toilets and using the pan - different turns of phrases ... see here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So glad we don't have to wear those wigs of old. I bet they really smelled by the end of the day. Or week, depending how often they were washed.

Anonymous said...

Now this was an intersting and unexpected topic! I love learning new stuff about history and cultures of times gone by.

Too bad they didn;t realize bathing was so critical to good hygiene. I couldn;t imagine living in a time when people bathed twice a year.

Laura Eno said...

Now my head itches... :)

Very revealing, as I always thought the name came from powdering noses.

I wonder what we do today that will be looked upon as a quaint and ridiculous fashion 300 years from now?

Betsy Wuebker said...

LOL Laura! So fascinating the stuff you've dug up, Hilary! Love it!

LTM said...

So the powder room had to do with powder on the wigs? What do you know abut that! Thanks for the educational post, Hilary! :D <3

Suzanne Furness said...

Kind of makes your head itch doesn't it?

Luanne G. Smith said...

Oh, the lice aspect just gives me the shivers. But such an interesting piece of history. Some of those wigs were so elaborate, especially among the French. Well, and Elizabeth too. She did like to stand out. :)

Connie Arnold said...

Fascinating post, Hilary! Never knew all that. You are such a terrific source of knowledge and enjoyable information!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex - my father did clean one for me to wear at school and it was foul - don't think it had nits though .. it was very gungy!

@ Stephen - thought it was something different .. well we eventually got round to working out cold baths were good things - just prefer my hot one now-a-days.

@ Laura - sorry about the itching! Your thought about what they'll be talking about in 300 years time is an interesting idea ...

@ Betsy - itching .. I know. I loved finding this out ..

@ Karen - it's funny how we don't think about origins of things isn't it ..

@ LTM - it's extraordinary how things change and come about .. powder rooms have almost gone today ..

@ Luanne - sorry about the shivering licy itches! I could easily do a post on wigs ... but curtailed my exploration ..

@ Connie - thanks so much .. it was an interesting thought to expand on ..

Great to see you all - I'm taking my itchy scalp off the net .. see you tomorrow!!

Cheers Hilary

Old Kitty said...

Powder scented with lavender and oranges! Now that should be revived! And all modern powder rooms should be designed by this fine fella of a man Mr Hundertwasser!

Take care

Rosaria Williams said...

Now that explains the powder room and the need for wigs too.

Li said...

Fascinating! I love learning the origins of words and phrases which are still with us even after centuries!

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I always did wonder where the term originated!

Sue said...

oh dear,I found I was scratching by the time I'd read to the end Hilary and I want to sneeze too.

It makes sense now you've explained it, but why the term was imported to Australia I have no idea. Did any of the early settlers wear wigs at all I wonder.

Janie Junebug said...

I had no idea that wigs were powdered. Once while on a tour of an historic home the guide told us that people wore nightcaps to keep the bugs on their heads so they weren't crawling all over their bodies. Not a very pretty thought, but life is full of the beautiful and the not so terribly attractive.


A Lady's Life said...

That is a topic no one talks about much anymore but so interesting.
Hair wigs and talcum powder and powder rooms. lol
So how come this word changed to toilet? lol I personally like the powder room but I always thought it was a room to powder your nose, not your head. But it makes sense to use it to powder wigs. I think if I lived in those times I'd find a river to bathe in. Bring a large bucket and build a fire to heat the water and go to it. Nothing worse than having icky hairlol

Denise Covey said...

Hi Hilary. This is one term I've never thought about but I love to know the origins of names/sayings. Thanks for this history. Love it. :D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Old Kitty - it's the orris root that tempts me .. I can only think of pomander oranges ... love that scent!

Glad you picked up about Mr Hundertwasser ... he just looks inspiring doesn't he and those loos in NZ - fascinate!

@ Rosaria - great .. I've cleared that up

@ Li - many thanks .. it was an interesting one to find out about.

@ Keith - now we know ..

@ Sue - the head lice I couldn't do much about - thankfully in our minds only (theoretically).

As Australia was first found in 1606 - the ships and occupants would have conformed to European standards .. so yes - it looks like they probably did .. how long before they shed them in the heat - is another thought ..

@ Janie - I looked up mob-caps/ night caps ... but couldn't find a definitive answer or one that made sense to me ... so excluded that thought.

Mob-caps were used perhaps to cover bald (shaved) heads, or perhaps to cover up the undress of the hair, or to keep the head lice in - not an option I'd have thought!

@ A Lady's Life ... I guess it's fallen out of fashion - as we in the 1st world have running water.

Toilet - came from l'eau de toilette ... I think! BUT I did do a post on them a year ago ... see below.

I suspect your idea of bathing was a lot of effort and time was of the essence .. and not considered worthwhile taking the time about. Icky hair is horrid .. isn't it!

@ Denise - delighted to please!

Cheers everyone - thanks so much .. Hilary

see my toilet post .. for more a different type of info - I'd forgotten I'd written it!


Wonderfully interesting Hilary, it's surprising how different sayings that we know today originate from. Thanks for enlightening us about the powder room.


Lynn said...

I involuntarily scratched my head when reading about the lice. :) Oh my - I'll bet that was awful!

When I was a little girl, I was friends with a girl who came from a wealthier family than mine. They had a powder room - beautifully decorated. I remember coming home the first time and asking my mother why they called it that. She just said it was because there was no tub, but had no idea how it got its name. So thanks for that - now I know!

Nick Wilford said...

Powder bellows? You learn something new every day. Funny to think that things which were once part of everyday life (although probably only for the upper classes) seems so strange to us now. Some of those wigs looked pretty uncomfortable to wear but I guess people were used to it.

Talli Roland said...

Interesting - I'd always assumed the term came from what we call powder today: for the face! I never even considered wigs!

MorningAJ said...

I have to admit I assumed the name came from face powder, rather than wigs. Interesting post, as ever.

Southpaw said...

Ewww - head lice jumping! I can't imaging a bellows blowing talc on my head - even with a face protector since that powder gets everywhere!

Ella said...

It is fascinating what we will do~
I too thought of powdering one's nose not wig. I love what you shared about scents n' colors. I could see it...but the lice-ick! I agree there must of been a lot of discomfort in this process!
Thank you :D I like learning something new~

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Yvonne .. many thanks - so many different origins of nouns.

@ Lynn - sorry about the itches!

Gosh that must have been some house - to have a 'powder room' .. fascinating I think ours became cloakrooms in large houses ... but I may well be wrong. Your mother's answer re 'no tub' makes sense.

@ Nick - couldn't resist the powder bellows, especially when I saw the cartoon. The Tax Duty link - gives some interesting ideas on this .. the master often paid for the servants too - so they were licensed!

The wigs must have been really uncomfortable to wear .. that makes me itch!!

@ Talli - we all just 'assume' things don't we - these kinds of snippets I love finding out about.

@ Anne - as for Talli .. strange how we don't put 2 and 2 together til someone points it out - as they did to me at Bateman's.

@ Holly - yup eewewew nits!

You're so right that thought of blowing talc on my head is disgusting .. I'm not good with gunge. I expect it wasn't so fine in those days either ...

@ Ella - the colouring was interesting - just not sure how that came about .. I suppose adding 'paint' powder to the talc before powdering the nits to an inch of their life perhaps?

Great to see you all - thanks for commenting ..cheers Hilary

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! What an ordeal...imagine having to wear those hot and uncomfortable wigs, then having to ward off lice and fleas.

I wonder what rationale the Government used to keep raising the tax. If they did so in the name of protecting people's lungs (like tobacco tax), I could see people being quiet about it. However, the stats show that people simply cut out the powder. No uprisings?

What happened to the head lice issue then? Yike! :D

It's uncanny, Hilary, I still do not receive notices of your posts. Now that I have converted to a Mac, I'm going to subscribe yet again. I will first do an unsubscribe and start anew.

My old computer was so wretchedly hard on my eyes that I had to cut way back on my reading. This new Mac adjusts the light automatically - according to the light level in the room.

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, that is interesting. Man, I would have hated that wig stuff. I imagine them to be itchy or sweaty. It is interesting though, that it has stuck.

I was warned when I studied Spanish that asking for a baño would lead to a bathhouse--for a bathROOM you needed to ask for a lavatario (washroom).

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amy - I suppose it was part of life back then .. but the lice and fleas and bed bugs .. not nice at all.

I'm not sure they kept raising - it was a popular item that they could tax to raise money. Thinking about people's health didn't come into it 300 years ago!! Yup fashions changed for whatever reasons .. once suspects that dreaded tax ..

I'm emailed you re the subscription - but am so pleased you've got a new Mac that adjusts the light level accordingly - that sounds a brilliant idea. I'm lucky my eyes are ok ...

@ Hart - good to see you .. and as you say Man, me too - I'd have hated those wiggy things ..

The names of toilets, bathrooms etc are different in other countries - always need to remember what to ask for ... it was fun to find out about the powder room though.

Cheers Amy and Hart - have good evenings .. Hilary

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

And here I thought they were called powder rooms because ladies went there to dab powder on their nose. But what did gentlemen do?

I should probably look it up, but I'm wondering why the barristers still wear wigs, and why are they called silk?

Sara said...


I've said this before, but I must repeat myself. You find the most interesting historical things to write about. I loved this post. Powdering the wigs has always fascinated me and you filled in a lot of information for me. I loved this:
"Samuel Pepys recorded the day in 1663 that he was at the Swan pub by the river in Chelsea and sent for his periwig-maker to bring his periwig; but it was full of nits ... so he sent the old boy away to make it clean." LOL if don't get them your own hair, it's bound to annoy you if you get them in a wig.

In addition, I no idea this was where the term "powder room" came from. I grew up hearing this term all the time without a clue.

I also liked the powder bellow. That must have been a scary experience with powder everywhere!

Okay, I didn't quite get the Austrian artist at the end of the post -- did I miss something. After I leave this comment, I check out the Wiki link.

Thanks again for a very fun and interesting glimpse into history:~)

Anonymous said...

My ex-sister-in-law wears of a wig due to hair loss. A woman in my childhood did; made her look so much younger. I've even occasionally considered one. Never knew they were used to cover up nits, etc. Such interesting details.

As I read this, I thought of Cary Grant in a wig, posing as a woman to get on the ship heading for America with his new bride, played by Ann Sheridan, in the Howard Hawks delightful black and white movie I Was a Male War Bride that Jen and I have watched a gazillion times!

Now I've got to check out your post on the toilet and the pan....

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

I couldn't help but thinking how strange it was that powdered wigs were ever in style. And then I thought, almost everything that has fallen out of style has come back at one time or another. And then I thought, this is one we could do without.

Strange how the powder room terminology has stuck around even though we didn't really know what it meant.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Joylene - the gents .. I've no idea - don't usually venture there (except out of necessity occasionally!!)

Ages ago I did do a brief post about silks - jockeys' silks and said I'd write about barristers' silks - so I could add in wigs too - a post next year!

@ Sara - it was a great post to write about - and I included the Swan pub - as the Thames was the main thoroughfare through London .. the Pepys note really added to the story.

It's interesting where the terms originated from ...

The Austrian artist - he designed that washroom/powder room and I just loved his colours and vibrancy of life = hence he went in! He took his work to a different level after his early life in Nazi Germany - he worked outside of the box ...

@ Ann - wigs are of value - one of the Olympic Gold Medal cyclists wears a wig or varieties of wigs - she looks stunning.

The fact your head was shaved and then you 'had' to wear a wig - theoretically meant the nits would be left behind - but as you see with Pepys .. someone's nits were brought to haunt him!

Cary Grant's film .. I haven't heard of or ever watched ... delighted to read it's one that Jen enjoys ...

The toilet and the pan post was a fun one - a slightly crazy one ..

@ Chase - it's strange to think wigs have been around since Roman times ... but I totally agree about wearing a wig because fashion dictates .... I definitely won't be complying!! Also that gunge - once in my life is enough!!

Terms fall out of use ... and now they change so quickly - many words have different meanings today ..

Thanks everyone - great comments - love reading your thoughts .. cheers Hilary

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What a fascinating post! I always assumed the term "powder room" came from nose-powdering. Its association with powdered wigs never even occurred to me. (Do members of Parliament still wear wigs?) Thanks for the lesson. Oh, I got a kick out of your post about all the different toilet terminologies.

Ciara said...

Oh, I'm so glad we don't have to wear wigs. I used to wear them when I danced at Disney. They itched like crazy. The thought of oil seeping onto them, eww.

Jo said...

Alex, I don't think there was any washing involved. That would have ruined the wigs of those days. I bought a wig some many years ago which you could wash. Just wanted a change of hair colour.

We really were incredibly dirty in those days weren't we? Even as a young woman we only washed our hair once a week.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Susan - exactly like me .. but this room was very small and had no plumbing (the house was too early granted) - so when they mentioned wig powdering room - then it clicked.

Re MPs and wigs - they do and they don't .. they do for ceremonial occasions and I think the Speaker never wears one now.

The "Down the Pan" post was fun wasn't it ..

@ Ciara - I can believe they must be very uncomfortable to wear .. and I echo your thought re oil oozing into them!

@ Jo - we used cleaning fluids when we cleaned our barrister's wig - I'm sure the methodology is available somewhere. 300 years ago we were very dirt ..

Cheers and thanks for commenting - Hilary

Helen Ginger said...

So interesting, Hilary. I recently watched the John Adams movie and it seemed like everyone back in those days wore wigs. To me, they seem like they'd be so hot and uncomfortable.

cleemckenzie said...

I love to know the derivation of words. This was so interesting. I did get a little itchy reading about the nits and the mites. I'm so glad we have shampoo and regular bathing as our ritual. I'm mite and nit adverse!

Unknown said...

Fascinating! I thought doing my hair today was tiresome but having to keep a wig on/up would be much more of an ordeal. Thanks for this interesting look into the small powder room.

Morgan said...

It *is* interesting how the names/phrases keep on, isn't it??? And I LOVE that time period... I hope I have a Regency novel in me... And such a fun post, Hilary! :D

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Helen .. I think that's one of the films I want to see - whether I've missed it .. or it's still to come down - I'm not sure.

The thought of wigs in hot countries or hot climates does make me cringe - and itch!

@ Lee - sorry about the itching connotations .. and me too - glad I can shampoo and bath regularly .. I am definitely nit averse.

@ Clarissa - I have very short hair and no fussing - so the thought of fiddling with my hair is too too much.

@ Morgan - I agree the Regency period appears wonderful ... not sure exactly whether I'd actually like it - if I could be delivered dressed, puffed up and pretty - I'd be happy .. otherwise I'll stay in the 20th/21st century ..

Thanks to you .. lovely seeing you - Hilary

Rosalind Adam said...

Fascinating, Hilary. I never realised that was why it was called the powder room. I have recently had trouble working out which toilet was meant for me as restaurants now seem to have to have gimmicks. Lads and lassies I can work out but when it's in a foreign language, which it was at a pub we visited recently, I have to wait for someone else to come along so I don't go into the wrong one.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Fascinating. I never thought about how gross the wigs would be after being worn all day. Blech!

Thank you for stopping by the A-to-Z and contributing to the co-host questionnaire discussion!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Robyn Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robyn Campbell said...

Ack! EGAD MAN! Wigs are sooo hard to deal with. Can you imagine about the smell? Wowza! How intriguing, Hil. Love it. I would love to visit the powder room of the Kipling's. (I always thought powder rooms were for powdering too.)

Don't forget about #bepositive Day. It's here. Hope you can tweet in between the studying.

Rhonda Albom said...

This was really interesting. We had a "powder room" growing up, also called by my sister and myself, the "pink bathroom" or "dad's bathroom" (don't ask). It was a half bath. Also, my mom often wore her "fall" (partial hair piece) but she never powdered it. And I have to add, that we live in New Zealand now and head lice are practically an epidemic amongst the school kids. But they don't shave heads, or even go home, hence the spread of the problem.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Hilary
I was here earlier but blogger wouldn't let me leave a comment or even open the comments so I'm back. I always wondered about the term 'powder room,' and I wondered about wigs. I didn't realize the Romans had wigs.

On a silly side, my hair is thinning and my children told me they were going to buy me a wig. Ugh! All I can think of is the heat and itch it would cause. I think they were just teasing me.

Tina said...

Great history lesson as always. I had thought of powder rooms as a private place that had a sink and a mirror but not necessarily a toilet. Had no idea about the wig connection, thought about face powder which has been in use for centuries.
Great stuff as always.
Thanks for you oh so encouraging stop today.

Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

There's nothing nicer than a classy "powder room"! I love it when there are flowers, and real hand towels (not paper towels on a roll or, worse, those horrible noisy air drying machines!)and pretty feminine touches.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ros - oh I know I sometimes stand and stare .. and wait to see ... so it would easier if everyone could read!! I guess you were in Israel .. I had the same trouble in Greece many (many) years ago ..

@ Shannon - it's so easy to forget as we live so comfortably. Pleasure about the A-Z questionnaire .. I'll be back to check what others say.

@ Robyn - I know - EGAD MAN is a good phrase .. no wonder they had special periwig-makers ... just de-licing them must have been impossible.

No - I've remembered #bepositive day and give everyone time to wake up over the pond to send some more .. cleaning out and studying ..

@ Rhonda - that's fun to remember .. and a half bath - I've seen those occasionally - usually on the continent. My mother had a wig - it really didn't do her any favours .. and she didn't powder hers I'm glad to say .. or carry her nits around with her!!

Kids here too have nits .. they are endemic ... as are bed bugs .. we are reverting back to medieval days ...

@ Nancy - oh I know Blogger can have its moments - I go in and out occasionally too - and learn to copy the comment, in case!!

I have the same problem .. I wonder what your kids would think if you did get one .. I've seen some terrible ones - but there was an Olympic gold medallist who has alopecia and she looks stunning in her wigs ... yet is happy to be au natural too ..confidence. I hope they're teasing you!!

@ Tina - the powder room to me was the area you did powder your nose, the ablutions were in the room next door - as many public toilets are laid out now.

Delighted that my comment gave some positivity across the airwaves ..

@ Judy - lovely to see you .. you're right about the classy powder rooms - rooms where you can lounge and chatter in ... they always look airy and light. Feminine rooms ...

Cheers everyone - lovely to see you all .. it's #bepositive on Twitter if I can work out what to do!!

Happy Thursday from the positive letter lady! Hilary

Elise Fallson said...

I loved this post! I worked for about a year in colonial Williamsburg Va, and remember visiting the wig maker shop on several occasions. It was interesting to see the process behind making the wigs.

Chatty Crone said...

I am a first time visitor and may I say I loved the name of your blog that is what drew me here.

I LOVED that story about the powder room. You must do a ton of research for your blog.

I love information like this too.

No wonder they put some good smells in the wig = greasy hair!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Elise .. thanks - I've never explored a wig makers .. perhaps I should - especially how they cleaned them in those ancient days ...

@ Sandie - good to see you here - we've both been around .. I see you quite often!

Delighted you love the name, and the post - something usually triggers the post, which I then think that will interest everyone .. then I look around and hopefully make it as interesting as I can ..

Oh I know - we'd have needed so many pomanders and lovely scents to keep those pongs out!

Great to see you both - and lovely having you here Sandie .. cheers Hilary

Tara Tyler said...

this is how history should be taught! so interesting!
the lesson, if you want to get rid of something, tax it! too bad it doesnt work for smoking...they keep raising the tax & people keep paying it...

and off i go on a tangent! gret post, Hilary!

Sherry Ellis said...

Interesting article. I'm glad we don't have to wear wigs anymore!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I never realized how powder rooms got their name before. I was surprised that in the movie Lincoln some men were still wearing tacky, oversized wigs. Come to think of it, things really haven't changed that much. Julie

M. Reka said...

Really interesting, Hilary. I never realised that was why it was called the powder room.

Romance Reader said...

An interesting post, Hilary. Wow! Imagine powdering and wearing a wig now?

I saw your comment as Denise's and please, you're welcome to visit me anytime!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tara - thank you .. I love the learning of it!

Interesting comment that about the tax system ... over the years .. I thought about it as I posted ...

I agree smoking is just foul .. I'm afraid we're too pampered now-a-days .. we may not have money for food, but that will be found - but we do have money for fags always if that need is there .. thank goodness I don't smoke.

@ Sherry - oh me too .. wigs would be awful ..

@ Julie - I'm looking forward to seeing that movie ... some people have excellent wigs for medical reasons ..

@ Marinela - many thanks .. it's a funny world isn't it ..

@ Nas - so good to see you .. we do wear wigs but not all that paraphernalia ...

Cheers everyone .. Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

If questioned, I would have said "powder room" referred to women using powder foundation on the skin of their faces. Apparently not! Your posts are always so educational. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary -

I always assumed the term related to powdering noses. Wigs, huh? I wouldn't want all that powder on me, but I guess it was very fashionable.

You always come up with the most interesting posts!

Susan :)

Manzanita said...

Well, thank you Hilary. I, too, always assumed the Powder Room meant to powder one's shiny nose. Mystery solved. The pink powdered wigs seemed to have a certain flare. Let's hear it for the pink.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ GE - it's funny how we think we know and then how obvious it becomes when we find out - thank you.

@ Susan - as with GE .. the light went on when it was mentioned to me .. so I just thought ah a post! Glad you enjoyed it ..

@ Manzanita - learning the origins is so fascinating .. and of then they go back even further .. I hadn't realised the Romans wore wigs ..

Ah pink for Peace - well there are some amazing wigs and hair pieces around in the theatre world ..

Thanks so much - have happy Fridays .. cheers Hilary

Tamara said...

This is really interesting. Like everyone else, I assumed it came from powdering our noses. I love learning cool stuff like this. Thanks for the lesson!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tamara .. good to see you here and glad you enjoyed the post .. cheers Hilary

dolorah said...

Certinly a new take on the phrase, lol. I had wondered about bugs in wigs too.


Dianne K. Salerni said...

So, the purpose of the powder was to absorb all the oils oozing into the wig from the scalp? This is even more gross than I thought it was!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Donna - I know - it's so interesting to know the origination .. and bugs of 300 years ago .. I didn't think about too much til recently!

@ Diane - the powder was to have perfume/scent included .. so repel the bugs a bit .. but to make the smell not so noxious ... and it coloured the hair. Sorry but oil from our head does ooze out ..

Cheers Hilary

Diane said...

So that is where the saying comes from. You learn something new everyday through blogging. Diane

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane .. exactly as you say - we do pick up the most wonderful snippets of information .. I love it - and get to see France through your blog ..

Cheers Hilary

Linda said...

I had no idea of the interesting origin of the term powder room. I am glad that particular definition is in effect. The idea of wearing powdery wigs is, well gross. I can see, though, why they were popular given the lack of hygiene in those days. The wigs of today are far different but to some extent to serve the same purpose to enhance one's appearance.