Mr Selfridge and his Make Up

Mr Selfridge has hit our TV screens on Sunday nights for the past three weeks and is supposedly quite accurate to the real story behind Selfridges.

I saw Jeremy Piven (who plays Harry Selfridge) interviewed the week of the show’s premiere, and he commented on how close to what actually happened the show producers had kept it: anything that happened to Mr Selfridge was pretty much what happened, but every other character is fictional.

Whether that is totally true or not I don’t know, but having done a little bit of research I have found that the store’s portrayal has been very close to the real Selfridges back in 1909!

This week’s episode introduced to us the idea of putting make up and perfume on the shop floor, instead of in the pharmacy. God forbid that people – particularly men – would be able to SEE these items of discretion on full view of everybody in a department store!

This struck me as mad! Shops these days do generally have their make up and perfume right by the doors as you walk in, and we don’t even think about it. But back in the early 1900s, make up wasn’t something that people were open about wearing. It was an item of discretion; women used it as a subtle cover up, or for minor self-improvements, but weren’t open about doing so.

I quite like this idea, that make up wasn’t a big deal, but all for subtlety, and if a person could tell you were wearing make up, it was clearly too much.

Selfridges was the first shop in the UK to place perfume and make up on the shop floor, and what a change it must have made! Again, this was in the show so I don’t know how historically accurate it is, but, everyone was horrified at the idea of lipstick being available to buy in the store where everybody could see it. Back in those days, lipstick was a theatrical make up item, and was only seen on actresses and prostitutes. Putting lipstick on the counter, available for anyone to buy would have been a massive thing, but clearly the pioneering steps good old Harry made back then shaped the future, and now women don’t think twice about applying some rouge on a daily basis.

In the show, the idea of putting these items by the doors was because Harry Selfridge didn’t like walking past horse poo on his way into the shop, and the smell of it lingering a little as he walked into the shop. By putting perfume by the doors, the manure smell would no longer linger, and the pleasant smell of perfume would seep it’s way out into the street, making people love the shop for disguising the foul stench of the 1900s vehicle emissions.

Our attitudes to make up and self improving have gone to the far extreme end of the spectrum compared to in the early 20th century. I like the idea that make up is for a subtle change, and not for dramatic face-changing looks. I’d love it if all people did use make up in a very subtle way, and stick to natural beauty; ie. not caking one’s face in foundation to get rid of all facial definition or putting on six coats of mascara to get that fake-eyelash look or even applying blush to give one’s cheeks colour after having applied a base-coat to get rid of just that.

I know this year one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to make more of an effort in my physical appearance, and make up has played quite a vital role in this. However, I haven’t started altering anything drastically! The only real change I’ve made is to mix a little bit of foundation with my moisturiser every morning, giving me a slightly more even skin tone and my mascara has remained the same. I am even considering changing the colour of my mascara at the moment to dark brown so that it looks more natural.

I love Mr Selfridge! I think the show is fantastic. It’s the perfect mix of historical accuracy and drama! I have grown to hate Harry Selfridge a little bit this week, but that’s purely for his extra-marital business that he has going on. I still love that he is a visionary, and changed how we view shopping and everything else that Selfridges did for our culture that we don’t necessarily realise. I read that Selfridges was the first shop to really use window displays… but I haven’t looked into that one, so don’t hold me to it!

If you haven’t caught any of the show yet, I highly recommend it; Sunday, 9pm, ITV. We’re three weeks in, so catch up on ITV Player and I promise you’ll love it. (For the dresses alone if nothing else!)

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