Atches were at first cut from black taffeta and gummed on - it was in this and similar materials that they reached their highest development. Later, in Georgian times they were frequently made from black velvet, and had a much more intense effect in consequence.
Patch-boxes sometimes contained compartments in which to keep the patches of different sizes and shapes, and in some cases were furnished with a tray to hold the moistening brush and tweezers, with which to manipulate the morsels of black material.
In the language of the patch, patches on the forehead showed that the wearer was of an intellectual turn of mind
These dainty trifles are to be found plentifully scattered through collections, and they take a great variety of forms. In an age greatly given to the dainty arts, the patch began to rival the snuff-box and comfit-box, and was to be found in jewelled gold and silver, enamels, ivory, horn, and wood, in a bewildering variety of shapes and of materials too numerous to mention.
Her patches are of every cut
For pimples or for scars, Here's all the wandering planets' signs
These lines indicate that the shape of the patches had now ceased being a uniform circle, and had assumed a variety of forms, depending probably on the will of the wearer.
In "Hudibras" this fact is referred to in the lines quoted :
She that with poetry is won Is but a desk to write upon ; Some with Arabian spices strive T' embalm her cruelly alive ; Or season her as French cooks use Their haut gouts, bouillies, or ragouts. Others make posies of her cheeks, Where red and whitest colours mix ; In which the lily and the rose For India lake and ceruse goes. The sun and moon, by her bright eyes Eclipsed and darkened in the skies, Are but black patches that she wears Cut into suns and moons and stars.
The coach and horses grew to be a very fashionable patch, and also the figure of the devil with horns, barbed tail, and pitchfork. In France, in Richelieu's day, patches took the shape of animals, and women wore representations of their pet cats and dogs on different parts of their faces.
The author of "England's Vanity; or, God's Voice against Pride in Apparel," published in I683, says that black patches reminded him of plague spots, ' the very tokens of death,' and made him think that the mourning coach and horses all in black and plying on their foreheads, stand ready harnessed to whirl them to Acharon, though I pity poor Charon for the darkness of the night, since the moon on the cheek is all in eclipse, and the poor stars on the temples are clouded in sables, and no comfort left him but the lozenges on the chin, which, if he pleases, he may pick off for his cold."
In "Les Lois de la Gallanterie," published in I644, we read:
"The best classes of gallants are now permitted to wear round and oblong mouches or a long piece across the temple, which is entitled l'enseigne du mal de dents, but as the hair of some men hides the patches they are trying to wear them on the cheek, which has a very charming effect. If our critics reproach us with imitating women, we permit ourselves to say : What better could we do than follow the example of those we admire and adore ? ' "
Clapthorne, in "The Ladies' Privilege," which dates back four years earlier than "Les Lois," makes someone say to an actor, "Look you,signor, if it be a lover's part you are to act, take a black spot or two. I can furnish you. 'twill make your face more amorous, and appear more gracious in your lady's eye."
Nearly all the characters in "The Rivals " and "The School for Scandal" are patched, the men as extravagantly as the women, and Sir Benjamin Backbite and the other dandies use extraordinary and fantastic designs.
The extreme to which the custom of covering the face with patches was carried is shown in "The Platonic Lover," in which one of the characters says : "Hadn't I got too many beauty spots on ? In my mind, now, my face looks just like a plum cake for all the world."
The fashion was carried to such a point that women lost all sense of proportion and beauty, and not only covered their faces with weird and fanciful black patches, but used an enormous amount of rouge. It is said that when Madame Henriette, the daughter of Louis XV., died, her body was removed, clothed in a bedgown with her hair dressed en neglige, and her face rouged and patched as well.
During the vogue of the patch there" does not seem to have been any time in a woman's life when it was considered improper to wear it, but in France women only wore patches when they were young and pretty, leaving them off when wrinkles and crowsfeet began to appear.
Although many of the clergy greatly disapproved of the custom of wearing patches, and sermons were often preached against those people who carried the practice to extreme grotesqueness, it is supposed that in France the wearing of powder was brought in by the clergy, and they afterwards also took to patches.
James Gillray, the famous and vitriolic caricaturist, who died in Waterloo year, and whose work had for forty years reflected the politics, scandals, and fashions of his time, only draws patches upon those ladies whom he most desires to wound. When heaping obloquy upon Fox for visiting General Bonaparte, he represents Mrs. Fox, who accompanied her husband to Paris, as much be-patched, and Josephine and the ladies of her entourage are also represented with many patches.