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The History Of Coiffure In The XVIII Century.

by Anastasia on May 1, 2009 · 21 comments

in History, People

How long does it usually take you to make a hairstyle? I doubt that’s more than 10 minutes in the morning, actually it
takes me around two minutes to make something on my head since my hear is really short. Can you imagine yourself or your friend making you a hairdo from the early morning till very evening before going to the club? Believe me or not, but there were times when this was a reality. And can you imagine that all the other women around have the same hairstyle? Same length of the hair? Same color of the hair? Sounds like hell right, but if you were in the court in the earlier days you would have to keep to the strong rules of the court etiquette.

The history of the coiffures of the XVIII century is amazing.  The XVIII century is considered to be “a century of women”. That’s the time of sophistication, mannerism, simplicity and unimaginable complex coiffures at the same time. Hair has always been a reflection of general trends in fashion and Rococo style defines the accents in the XVIII century.

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The history of the women hairstyle of the 18th century can be divided into several stages. Till 1713 the aristocratic ladies were still wearing the fontage which form and look by itself was a piece of art.


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The new era in headdresses began in 1713, at a ceremonial reception at Versailles, when a Duchess of Shrewsbury appeared before Louis XIV without a fontage with the smooth and slightly curly hair decorated with lace and flowers. Louis liked that, and since he was the leader of European fashion at that time it was a command for the court to follow this new trend in hairstyles. This seeming simplicity became a major fashion tendency of Rococo century.

All the ladies from the paintings by Watteau, Boucher, Patera, de Troyes, Chardin of this time have simple and modest yet graceful coiffures, no matter whether this is a luxury marquise de Pompadour, virtuous  Maria Theresia or young Fike of Tserbsta. Just listen to the names of the hair cuts: «Butterfly», «sentimental», «secret», «mollycoddle».

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However somewhere from mid 70-ies the hairstyle started “growing up” again. It emerged into a complex structure and was was as high and unimaginable as ever before. Ingenious women used almost everything they could find to make their headdress ,including most popular belts, jewelry, fabrics, flowers, fruit. Of course, their own hair was not enough to make such a piece of art and they used the hair of their servants and even the horse’s mane.

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After becoming a Queen Marie Antoinette spent most of the time inventing new hairstyles and clothes. Her personal hairdresser Léonard was bringing all her fantasies into life. Joint work of a hairdresser and the Queen gave the world such masterpieces as «explosion sensitivity», «concupiscent», «secret passion» (just compare with pale «mollycoddle» or modest «butterfly»).

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The most stylish womеn managed to wear stuffed birds, statues and even a mini-gardens with tiny artificial tree on their heads. The well known and beloved A-la Belle Poule hair model with the famous frigate also belongs to this time. Such a design could take the whole day and coiffure itself could be weared for several days and sometimes even a week. Not speaking about the fact that it was impossible to sleep, such hairdresses were homes for lots of insects and it was allowed to scratch the head with a special stick.

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Over time in the beginning of the 80-ies the bulky and fussy hair models become much more modest. The fashion for the «sails» and «vases» disappears. Only tape and muslin fabric are now being used by fashion-mongers, though the hair models still look pompous.

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French revolution has changed it all. New hair cuts were on scene now.

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Hope you’ll like this small historical post. Cheers and thanks God we live in the XXI century :)

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy Muller June 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Thank you for an extremely detailed look at a history of fashion.

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Stephen Paul West June 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm

The differences in hairstyles relate to the complexity of the social dictums of different courts. The entire social structure for women was difficult and it reflects in the hairdos of the era. Jane Austen knew her material well!

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Regan June 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I really enjoyed your post! Do you know the name of the painting with the woman sitting down and a baby in her lap? The baby’s hands are in the air, and the woman has one raised as well, mimicking the baby.

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ND August 12, 2013 at 7:38 am

It’s a portrait of the duchess of Devonshire, famous Georgiana, and her eldest daughter named after her ;)

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AG June 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm

An extremely interesting topic, but I would disagree with Nancy Muller by saying that it wasn’t detailed at all, just a brief overview with a few paintings/engravings to illustrate. I was left wanting a lot more information about how these looks were achieved and why they were so popular. Also, a little proofreading before posting would have helped – I’m not sure the author speaks English as a first language, because this is terribly written.

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Mary Jo Ferril June 3, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Wow ! I am simply amazed! I have done hair for 35 years and never saw half of this much information! My compliments to the compilers ! and Thank YOu!

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Yuli June 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Amazing… I never know before that in the history of women, there were such hair style. “With ship on the head” style! I think it may take more than a day to finish it.
I think they have no other things to do besides doing hair styling. ^_^
Even doing my hair for 20 minutes, I already felt un-passion. Then at last I just let it be naturally.
But salute to their creativity. Nowadays we are so much depends on the hair stylists to dress our hair.
Thanks for the compilation !

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zeen Lin June 22, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Thank you so much for posting this article.
Awesome =) Love it!

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Coiffeur December 29, 2009 at 12:56 pm

What a nice collection of pictures… Thx a lot for sharing, nice job…

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Sallyanne Fort January 10, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Thanks for this very exciting read and incite into eighteenth century hairdressing! Im glad and disappointed all in the same breath as a 21st century hairdresser! It would have been so much fun! Amazing pictures to see and piece of history to read!

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Stephen Paul West May 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I like to review these pictures from time to time and the various artists study on hair has a certain earthy dignity to it. These prints are very fine art, and I find inspiring even for models today.

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The Historienne June 17, 2010 at 10:03 am

Re: Regan

The painting is Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire with her husband’s illegitimate child. I think it’s a Joshua Reynolds.

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Anne August 10, 2010 at 4:33 am

can’t imagine myself with a hair like that today! they will definitely laugh at you!

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Janine October 14, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Insects in their hair! Happy with modern hair styles, though the 80s were a modern version of the early styles :)… and yes I know this because I was a teenager at that time.

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sarah October 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I loved this site! Some of my favoirte pictures on here! Thank you!

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judy September 2, 2011 at 5:32 am

Hi Anastasia! I just kept wondering what are the names of all those beautiful people. The expressions of their faces stir the imagination.

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natalia March 22, 2013 at 3:15 am

zajebiste

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