The Roman Makeover
Transforming a modern woman into a fashionable Roman using reconstructed cosmetics based on original sources
Meet Heather, a 21st century geologist who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! She’s about to be transformed into a Roman fashion victim!
First the clothes have got to change. She wears a tunic made from linen dyed with madder roots and secured on the shoulders with small clasps and stitches. A light wrap known as a palla goes over the top.
After a thorough cleansing at the Roman Baths, a moisturising layer of cold cream is applied. This recipe dates to the second century and was devised by Galen.
A foundation layer of white paste is applied. The rich favoured white lead (pretty but poisonous), safer alternatives include chalk and orris-root. Recent discoveries by the Museum of London have also revealed that a paste of fat, starch and tin oxide makes a very effective foundation.
A healthy glow is restored with a rouge made from red ochre. Roman writers commented on the excessive use of rouge by fashionable young ladies and felt that too much make-up was a very bad thing.
Eyes receive special attention. Using a cosmetic grinder (something the British did for the Romans) kohl, made with lamp-black or galena is applied to the eyes and brows. A dramatic effect is aimed for with brows emphasised.
Eyeshadow made from saffron is applied. This expensive spice was loved by the Romans, who also added it to perfumes as well as food.
Lips are made up with a lipsalve tinted with alkanet root and ochre. This part is a little conjectural, we have plenty of clues that the Romans used lip colour, but no actual recipes survive so we have had to use a little guesswork when making this.
Her hair is dressed with bone pins and a ribbon. A lavish application of perfume- perhaps Krocinion or Megalion, finishes the
An alternative method of dressing the hair uses an outrageous false hairpiece.
Finished, the fashionable Roman lady!
The Roman Makeover is available as an interactive talk or display, Sally has presented this session to a number of specialist groups, heritage sites and major museums and is always happy to discuss new bookings. It can be offered as a display for public audiences or as an in-house training session for professionals or re-enactors.
Are you a student doing a homework project on Roman make-up? I have a help page for you here that may answer some of your questions.