During the 18th century, the beginnings of extravagance and even avant-garde of the Rococo fashion era were experienced. We can also attribute this to the stylistic expressions of hairstyles in the second half of the century. If at the beginning of the 18th century, small hairstyles were still in vogue, then in the late period of Rococo fashion era, the hair was already combed higher, creating grand rolls. The French hairdressers encouraged fashionable women to accept such a dramatically high hairstyles, allowing them vertically place the decorative accents on top of the head. More than that, they embellished them with imaginative Fête Galante scenes. Even the pallets called pomatum have been used, but the hairstyles have doubled the height of the woman's head. [3.] This trend was particularly marked when Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette began to rule in France in 1774.
Everything probably started with the strange hairstyle of the Queen of France - Marie-Antoinette. Her hairstyle were embellished with gorgeous feather bouquet that was attached to it. Soon afterwards, women's hairstyles looked like towers and reached one and a half meters in height. [3.] However, before that, in the 1760's, hairstyles had started to grow both vertically and horizontally, so pallets and a hair pomade were used, the main ingredients of which were apple extract, pig fat and floral essences. [3.]
Hairstyles continued to grow, and their verticalization process ran until 1778, when the height of the hairstyles was enriched by headgear and decorative elements - fabric flowers, ribbon bouquets, fans, feathers, pearls, and so on. To think of a new combination in this area was the greatest desire of the ladies of that time. The triumphal success was to see the hairstyle, that she invented, was able to echo in the court society and stick to fashion trends of that time for several weeks or at least a few days. [3.]
Every week Marie-Antoinette consulted with her master hairdresser, Léonard Autié as he was considered one of the celebrity hairdressers of that time. He was masterfully using meters of gas cloth, but never used lace! [3.] Every week she commanded him to come up with new combinations, which she then introduced into fashion. Until the time of Marie-Antoinette, styling of hairstyles was the scope of anonymous masters. Everything had to change with Léonard. He and his contemporaries never duplicated the same combination of decorative elements in the hairstyle twice. Over the course of a year, they managed to show several hundreds of new combinations. Women's hairstyles even resembled impressive performances with war scenes. [3.]
Legendary Léonard Autié
"Léonard Autié, the famous hairdresser of Queen Marie Antoinette, is considered to be the first great famous hairdresser of modern history."[5.] Once he began to make hairstyles to some actresses of the era and then, the magazines and the society gave them a name of "the 'Leonardees' in reference to the eye-catching hairstyles he gave them. And that was how he began to acquire name and popularity and be considered one of the greatest hairdressers in Paris." [5.]
In 1779, Léonard was invited to become the personal hairdresser of Marie-Antoinette. For the Queen and the court ladies he created sophisticated and extravagant hairstyles. Marie-Antoinette "helped spread the fame of her hairdresser affecting other dames of French nobility and the Court to adopt his ornate and extravagant style."[5.] Very high, vertically placed hairstyles was his signature.
Such a coiffure made fashionable lady to bear on her head the most surprising embellishments with gauze, jewels, feathers, flowers, fruits and even scale models of ships and castles. [5.] "Thus was created the famous 'Pouf au sentiment' or simply 'Pouf' which is the name with which went in hair history because of Léonard's hairstyles." [5.]
The French hairdresser Léonard Autié at work. Credit: Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Date of creation: circa 1780 Source: scan from the original work : Bashor, Will (2013). Marie Antoinette's Head: The Royal Hairdresser, the Queen, and the Revolution. Guilford, Connecticut: Lyons Press. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Hairstyle of the Century
As already mentioned above, the fashion for grand hairstyles was first set by Marie-Antoinette, but this trend "was taken to extremes by her courtiers."[1.] Such hairstyles once where satirized in political journals and were associated with decadence of the court. "Critics spoke of such hairstyles as dirty, accusing their wearers of harbouring nests of fleas."[1.] Various extravagant and strange decorations complemented the already grandiose hairstyles. For example "the Duchess of Chartres even had tiny figurines of her children and household placed in her coiffure."[1.]
In this engraving (featured above) we can see a fashionable lady of the court who is applying the finishing touches to her outfit. Her hairstyle is very extravagant, made "with several layers of frizzed poufs, padded out by gauze, and dressed at the neck with lockets à la reine. All of the hair and the hidden padding are woven around a metal supporting frame for the crowning model of La Belle Poule - a celebrated French warship that gained a rare victory against the British navy in 1778, an even that is regarded as marking France's entry into the American War of Independence".[1.]
It is worth paying attention to that model of the ship has been trimmed with significant Rococo style decorations, such us, feathers, ribbons and garlands... Also there is a pearl-trimmed blazon! Everything the ship is all about! Even the "teardrop pearls hang from the portholes and the rigging is strung with pearls."[1.]
The hair powder was then used in huge quantities and even became one of the rococo fashion symbols. Hair was powdered with an atomizer, but the face, during those manipulations, was covered with a mask for protection. [1.] "Powder was key to giving these hairstyles their volume and malleability. It absorbed the hair's natural oils and prevented the need for restyling. It also disguised differences in tone between the natural hair and any extensions."[1.] Hairstyles were made in accordance with the Rococo style and they became a symbol of the fashion of the whole age.
References & Further Reading
1. Fashion - The Whole Story./ general editor Marnie Fogg. - London: Thames & Hudson, 2013. - pp. 109. - 111.
2. Lowery A. Historical Wig Styling: Ancient Egypt to the 1830s. - Routledge, 2013.
3.Parute E. Stila un modes enciklopēdija. - Rīga: Jumava, 2010.
4.Recollections of Léonard, Hairdresser to Queen Marie-Antoinette./ transl. from the French by E. Jules Méras.- 1912 edition.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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