Body Dressing: “When they are veyl’d on purpose to be seene”

This chapter deals with mainly the development and functional role of masks worn by women in the in 17th and 18th century London. It Expresses the history of Wearing masks in a non-masquerade context In pre-modern societies there was no sense of privacy in pre-modern communities, everyone knew and was involved in each others life. An unknown person was to be treated as a guest or a potential outsider. Masks during this time were created as a shame punishment for women who were found at fault angrily as “scolds”. The punishment behind wearing masks in the pre-modern century was to embarrass or inhibit shame on the scold amongst the community by leading them in pillory or in a ritual through streets. One mask was just a metal cage which fitted around a persons head with metal gag protruding inside, the other was a similar type but as a shape of a grotesque mask often fitted with bells to attract greater attention. Compared to the modern age, pre-modern periods used masks for torture and exposure instead of concealing and protecting an individual as in modern times. With London as the first metropolis of the day, societies were no longer a unit because of the mass population. It became normal to be and have strangers surround you. Privacy was now demanded and taken to another level with the wearing of masks by women in London during this time. At first the mask functioned as a way to protect the delicate skin of women face (wizard mask-covered area of eyes) In the winter along with a fan for the lower half of a women’s face as an accessory. The mask was also used as a disguise to a greater extent, which allowed a person to feel invisible. It became an all yearlong option which was respected amongst society, if you were in disguise people treated you as if you were a stranger. A mask then covered an individual’s entire face but was only appropriate in theatres or parks. As expressed in the online article The Functions and Forms of Masks “ The disguise is assumed to create a momentary, amusing character, often resulting in humorous confusions, or to achieve anonymity for the prankster or ribald reveler”.
The function of anonymity of the mask was also to keep and eye-to-eye communication to one another.  It is expressed that reading into a persons face can give certain impressions and tell secrets of a person. As explained in this chapter, behavior books of conduct which were popular during this time for middle class child education emphasized how we should carry a sort of “poker face” to our private spheres out of the open ( for example, anger, jealousy, sadness).  With masks being popularized, masquerades cam about as a new chance of satisfying the still desire for social contact and communication while at the same time it satisfied a new desire for privacy. They were organized events that were planned for a certain day in an architecturally enclosed spaces, everyone had to wear a masquerade dress and purchase a ticket in order to participate. As compared to the masquerade, in parks and theatres an individual had a option to wear a mask if they wanted to in order to appear invisible. The mask lost its sinister implications from pre-modern face-to-face society as punishment and transformed into a cosmetic accessory to national and actual disguise.

Example of mask costumes used in London during the 18th century in theaters and parks

Modern day masks by artists who hide their true identity

Example of torture mask used in 17th century societies for cruel pillory or rituals of embarrassment


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