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Bare Backs, Tattoo’s and Green Hair – Valentine’s Day 1914

best 1914

1914 Valentine Day Postcard

Whilst researching an article, I came across the following “amusing”  newspaper article from a seemingly carefree period just before the horrors of the First World War.

It  illustrates  that whilst every generation thinks they are “modern”, in reality very few things are “new”.


February 14, 1914.

In these days of competition the members of the fair sex adopt all manner of schemes where by they can attract attention. They have been slowly undressing for some time, and we have been wondering ,when this kind of thing is going to stop.
But it isn’t going to stop. The ladies of this little isle never do things by halves. With them it is either a question of overdressing or under dressing, and the latter is the rage just now.
Probably because the law is so very strict, the hobble fig-leaf has still to become fashionable. But our womenfolk are coming very near to it. The unrobing act has started in the photographer’s studio, and we shan’t be a bit surprised if some daring female brings it into the street in broad daylight.
The very latest fad among fashionable women is to have their backs photographed. Don’t think that I am referring to backs made shapely and picturesque  by means of silks and laces and guinea corsets. I mean the natural back, the  bare-skin back, or, if you will have it. the naked back.
The back, from the waist to the shoulder-blades, is stripped of all that has hitherto hidden it, and that back poses before the camera. I have heard it said that pictures of bare-skin backs are exceptionally charming. I suppose it is a question of what is good ought to be seen.


The Scandalous bare back of 1914


I don’t want to suggest that the ladies who have already had their back skins photographed are in any way immodest. All I can say is their action is apt to make men ask each other -what on earth is going to stagger them next.
This bare-skin back craze will probably be come as popular as the Tango, and photographs of plump backs, thin backs, square backs, and round backs will grace our mantelshelves and knick-knack tables. Husbands will carry photographs of their wives’ backs in their letter cases; and some enterprising journal will offer a prize for the best photograph of a female back unadorned.
Two or three years ago the ladies of Paris got tired of having their faces photographed. .They took their shoes and stockings off and had their feet and ankles snapped by the man with the camera. A few ladies, more daring than the rest, had their limbs reproduced on sensitised paper and mounted on fancy cards. This little game stopped at the knee. I believe the fair damsels of the Gay City finally realised that a service of Sevres with nothing on it is less appetising than a petite marmite.


George Burchett (King of the Tattooists) at work


  It appears that some women are not content with the way Nature has made them. Pink flesh doesn’t satisfy them. They want their skins decorated. At the moment the fashionable ladies of St. Petersburg are having tiny. figures painted on their faces, necks, chests, and backs, elephants, trees, and geometrical figures being’ the commonest patterns. These “pictures,” which revive the idea of the old beauty patch, were introduced by the Russian woman painter, Nathalie Gourthakoff.  The tattoo craze has come over here, and our women are having portraits of their pet animals tattooed on their arms, ankles, shoulders, and chests:? Mr Alfred South, a well known’ tattooist, has already tattooed pictures of horses, dogs, cats, and birds on the skin of women, and a short time ago he reproduced a photograph of a pet rabbit on a lady’s shoulder.
Perhaps the undressing craze and the tattooing craze will combine forces and throw the dressmakers out of their jobs. Maybe the fashionable woman of the near future will do without clothes altogether, and have her dress tattooed on her skin. Futurist designs would probably look very well.


Olive May Meatyard was an actress who became Countess Drogheda


Two Society leaders have already appeared in public wearing coloured hair. At a recent Covent Garden ball Lady Sarah Wilson caused Society to gape by complacently coming with a luxuriously dressed coiffure of mauve-coloured hair. The astonishment became hopeless amazement when the Countess of Drogheda also dropped casually in with her hair plainly of a vivid blue colour. -(And, by the ways Miss Madge Mackintosh the actress now playing in a Shavian play at the Little Theatre, also wears green hair,) . Spectators who were overcome, and who vowed to give up the drink in the future, were gently led away. Their perturbation was quietened when they heard the explanation that coloured hair for women was now. “the very latest thing in fashion.” Now, members of the fair, the frail, the fascinating sex, you know that you must not rush out and buy yellow, or pink wigs, or have your hair dyed those colours they might not suit you.
You must at least stop’ to read the following code as a guide :- – Green hair is suitable for brunettes. – ‘ Mauve is just the thing for blondes. Rose-coloured hair may be safely worn by brunettes, also magenta coloured hair.
Pink, purple, and yellow should never be dreamed of except by fair women. ,These are the rules laid down by experts:. said Mr Willie Clarkson, the famous theatrical costumier. This new fashion, which is accepted in many quarters as a permanent feature of English Society ladies, will provide a new and fascinating hobby for the  “nut.” He will now be able to fill his pocket-book with a rainbow of souvenir locks of hair, which will add “colour” to the story of his conquests. It may come as a disappointment to many to know that coloured hair is unlikely to become the vogue among the middle and lower classes. It would be too expensive for the average purse. Coloured wigs cost as much as from three guineas to 21 guineas each.