15. Silk Moles
When one considers of supreme beauty, one surely thinks of large shapes cut out of silk glued to the face in patterns. No? Well, to the French aristocracy in the 16th century, not only were such patches the height of beauty but they also communicated a variety of moods and stats based on their placement on the face. Expensive fabrics like silk and velvet were most prized and were often cut into fanciful shapes like hearts or stars.
Despite the association with beauty, the French named the patches in as gross of a manner as possible, calling them mouches for “flies” since the patches appeared as though a fly had settled on the face. The placement of the “flies” carried significant meanings, with illustrations being created to decode the secret language of facial patches among the aristocracy.
While the marks were fanciful ways of amplifying makeup looks, they also served a much more functional and sad purpose. Smallpox was still widespread in the 16th century, and even among the nobility, many people’s faces were ravaged by smallpox scars. Large fabric cutouts allowed people to hide the worst of their injuries under the opaque fabric, giving the appearance of brighter and healthier skin. The fixation on covering smallpox scars contributed to the ravages of lead makeup use two centuries later, also in France.