August 17, 2013

On the European Hair of the 18th Century

I borrowed a book from the school library yesterday titled "The Long and Short of it: Five Thousand Years of Fun and Fury over Hair" by Bill Severn (Best known for his books on magic tricks. Magic. Tricks.) It's an old hardbound, yet contains a very good history on the way people treat hair and hairstyles over hundreds of years. There are lots of satires, debates as well as preferences that went in and out as different hairstyles went by. What fascinated me most was reading on how 18th century European ladies styled their hair:
 Bushels of cotton wool, shred of rope, horsehair, bran or straw were used for stuffing, mounded upon felt pads or cap wigs, with the natural hair brought up over the wire frames and masses of false hair added. Then the whole thing was cemented with a paste that hardened, and the outer shell was greased and floured with powder, decorated with gauze, tulle, pearls and jewels. Creating a headdress was a problem in engineering that required a full day's time. 
Once the structure was built it remained undisturbed for from two to nine weeks. Some women slept with their necks on wooden supports to preserve their artificial "heads".
Good heavens, and I thought the Japanese geisha's shimada hairstyles were complex enough. Which reminds me, the book only talks about Western history regarding hairs and makes no mention on Asian hairstyles. Kinda limited but it's still informative, it even talked about a few more tidbits about French women:
  • Marie Antoinette promoted the fashion of attaching ostrich plumes, some of them four feet high, to heads, and the ballrooms of London and Paris soon became "forests of waving feathers"
  • One day the queen hummed a tune from a favorite opera and a few days later, her ladies appeared with model stage settings for scenes from the opera on their heads
  • When the French ship La Belle Poule won a victory over the English warship Arethusa, Frenchwomen celebrated the event by re-creating the battle on seas of hair, with model ships.
The last one looks very much like the picture below. The scary thing is, with all these frivolous
 styles, the materials used are prone to rotting away, plus with extra wigs, the scalps are either greasy or stinking. Now imagine all of them in a fancy ball or something. BO every goddamn breath. I seriously wonder these guy could live during their time. Everything looks so damn fancy but in the worse way possible. Their only redeeming qualities it seems are their clothes.

I wanna see this in real life though.

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