Eighteenth Century Hairstyles and Trends

In the 18th century, a lot of focus shifted to women’s hair and the impressive amounts of headdresses of the middle decades became a reminder of the old regime and the excesses in fashion. Coiffures got to the peak of exaggeration in the 1770s and Wendy Cooper describes them as “a certain Madame de Lauzun” whose “enormous high headdress” filled with the typical collection of trash, was topped with “modeled ducks swimming in turbulent sea, scenes of hunting and shooting, a mill with the wife of the miller flirting with a priest and a miller leading an ass by its halter” (p.95). Coiffures grew so huge that there was a need to enlarge the doorways and in two unfortunate events, ladies lost their lives when their hairdresses caught fire when they came in contact with chandeliers. The elite often wore modest and powdered wigs even though George III stepped on many toes of English wig makes when he decided to take to powdering his own natural hair.

This powdered look was dropped altogether in England when the Younger Pitt started taxing hair powder. In France, there were more significant effects on hairstyles as the fall of Louis XVI blew away the fashion trends of the old regime, an era that imbibed the civic characteristics of classic antiquity saw men and women sporting their hair a la Titus. Those people who possessed a higher sense of political irony took to the mode a la victim often pulling their hair up to the neck to imitate the people who were about to be guillotined.

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