The styling of the body carries great and enduring cultural significance for humanity. Clearly, the body is not just a given of nature but always culturally formed too and, therefore, historically liable to change. The exhibition “Skin Deep” deals with the practices and meanings of modern body care and styling from the eighteenth century onwards. It focuses on shaving, hair care and cosmetics in the Viennese context.
The desire to style one’s own body has given rise to a whole range of techniques, products and, above all, specific occupations, such as barber, hairdresser, cosmetician and wigmaker. In fact, beauty has always been and remains a product of work. Equally, just as people “work on” their bodies, they have always oriented themselves towards norms, conventions and, not least, models.
A prominent example is Empress Elisabeth of Austria, whose obsession with hair and beauty became something of a trademark. Finally, the exhibition is about the symbolism of specific trends and styles, such as the bob cut for women and long hair for men.