Physical attractiveness and the female life-cycle in seventeenth-century England

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on evidence from diaries and letters to discuss how women of the aristocracy, gentry and middling-sorts in seventeenth-century England conceptualised their own physical attractiveness and that of other women. Moving beyond histories of fashion and aesthetics which have prioritised male opinions, the article demonstrates that women recognised the importance of maintaining an attractive appearance across the life-cycle. Particular attention was paid to the emergence of good looks during adolescence; the importance of physical appearance alongside other qualities in the marriage market; and the means by which physical changes and their psychological impacts were negotiated in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)469-485
Number of pages17
JournalCultural and Social History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2018


  • Attractiveness
  • youth
  • age
  • women
  • life-writings


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