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Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder: Fashion in 18th-Century Mexico

by Rachel Kaplan

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One of the most curious aspects in New Spanish female portraits from the eighteenth century are the black spots on the temples of several women. These spots are not mistakes or patches in the paintings, but actually beauty marks! Known as chiqueadores, these artificial marks were made from tortoiseshell or fabric — such as silk or velvet — and applied to the wearer’s head. This international fad can be seen in 18th-century portraits from across Europe and the Americas. In Europe, the patches were first used to cover scars and blemishes and later their placement became a flirtatious symbol that conveyed the wearer’s availability and desires. In Mexico, women typically wore their chiqueadores on their temples, suggesting that their origin may be related to traditional headache cures, with medicinal herbs placed under the patch.

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