Taking care of and manipulating one’s physical appearances are long-standing and enduring traditions, embedded in local social and cultural environments.
This can be seen in examples from around the world, like the use of kohl to the contours of one’s eyes or artificially elongating infants skulls to elevate the back of the head in ancient South American societies.
In the Perspectives section of the World Gallery, the objects displayed support the variety of ways in which people choose to beautify themselves. An individual can have his or her skin permanently covered in tattoo markings within several hours. The process takes a little longer among Maori societies who practice te moko in New Zealand. In various parts of the world, distending lip plugs, ear plugs or nose plugs are gradually inserted to create increasingly larger holes in the lip, nose or ear. In Victorian England, wooden stay busks (world_gallery:layered_info:perspectives:museum:beauty:objects:2012.22) were inserted into clothing, like corsets, to keep the wearer’s body upright and their posture straight. And finally, in China, the practice of physically binding women’s feet from a young age and wearing lotus shoes increased in popularity from the 12th to early 20th centuries.
Less permanent ways of changing appearances are also achieved through adornment: by wearing necklaces, chatelaines and bracelets, all from different materials and all on display throughout the World Gallery.