A guide to researching Australian and international fashion, designs, designers, industries, textiles and fabrics, patterns, tailoring, dressmaking, uniforms, accessories, and body art.

Face, hair & body art

Wallona Aritta [tattooed lady] P.351/PC.2Joseph Banks, who had been on Captain Cook’s voyage on the Endeavour (1768-1771), wrote this description of Polynesian tattooing in his Journal of the voyage:

I shall now mention their method of Painting their bodies or Tattow as it is called in their language. This they do by inlaying the colour of Black under their skins in such a manner as to be indelible; every one is marked thus in different parts of his body according may be to his humour or different circumstances of his life.

It reminds us that, throughout history, people have looked for ways to personalise their appearance.  In fact, as Victoria Sherrow mentioned in her Encyclopedia of hair: a cultural history, anthropologists consider that ‘this desire to groom and beautify the body is an inherent part of being human’.

Try these catalogue searches to find books in our Library:

Online databases

Try some of our online databases. These are available within the Library by anyone, and outside the Library by Victorian registered Library users.

Article search

For general articles choose the Articles option from the dropdown menu next to the search box on our catalogue and enter keywords such as tattoos, body art, cosmetics or hair care. From the results list use the options at the left of the screen to further refine your search results

The full text of these articles are available to anyone within the Library and to registered Library users offsite.

From our Pictures collection


Punk, Greville St., Prahran, H2012.140/1406