Does This Pouf Make My Hair Look Big?

I mentioned in a previous blog post that my life has recently changed, and I’m no longer running around in the frantic, urban commuting rat race anymore. With this newfound abundance of time and lack of road rage, I’ve been writing fiction (it’s true, I’ve been known to write romantic fiction) and doing more cooking and mixology. While I’m in the kitchen, I like to have a podcast or documentary playing in the background. Learning new stuff while enjoying food and cocktails – yep, that’s me. Lately, I’ve been listening/watching stuff on Marie Antoinette. I’m not sure why.

I could write of the French Revolution or life at Versaille for this post, but there are books and Great Courses on those subjects by people who know what they’re talking about. No, I wanna look at the cray-cray hair. I gotta be honest, the whole 18th-century wig thing turns me off on a writerly level. I have enough trouble figuring out how to dress characters in the Victorian era, forget tossing in elaborate wigs and updos. That said, the idea of going around with hair art is intriguing.

Images from Galerie Des Modes Et Costumes Français – Dessinés D’après Nature, published in 1778-1785 .

Marie Antoinette, early fashion star and trendsetter, wore her hair for a time in a “pouf”, which is essentially like making a massive platform of your hair (and lots of fake hair) from wireframes and pillows. You would have powdered this pedestal of hair to turn it fashionably white.  According to one documentary, Marie Antoinette used flour to powder her hair, which is what you do when your country is suffering a wheat shortage and powerful men tend to use you as a scapegoat. Then you would adorn your pouf with your favorite stuff, such as gardens, fruits, miniature animals, celestial bodies, or a model of Paris. I would have had fruity cocktails, chocolate bars, and a bunch of Krispy Kreme donuts on the top of my pouf. However, you could also make political or military statements with your pouf. The pouf was super creative and versatile that way. Marie Antoinette once wore a miniature boat on her pouf to commemorate a victory.

You may wonder how you might have gotten in your carriage or walked through doorways with your towering, pimped-out pouf. To be sure, that was a serious drawback of the pouf. Thank goodness for a resourceful hairdresser named Beaulard.  According to The Woman of the Eighteenth Century: Her Life, from Birth to Death, Her Love and Her Philosophy in the Worlds of Salon, Shop, and Street, by Edmond & Jules de Goncourt, Beaulard created a mechanical device that could raise or lower a woman’s hair by one to two feet with the press of a button!

Images from Gallerie Des Modes et Costumes Français, published in 1778-1785 . View the volume for more glorious fashion illustrations!

If you want to learn more, check out the Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast on Marie Antoinette’s hairdresser, Léonard Autié.

Léonard Autié: Hair, Grandeur and Revolution, Pt. 1

Léonard Autié: Hair, Grandeur and Revolution, Pt. 2

One Reply to “Does This Pouf Make My Hair Look Big?”

  1. I love the idea of an internal mechanical lift. It’s technology that would have been so useful in other areas, but of course, fashion and showing off got the inventorly love. As always.

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