Does This Pouf Make My Hair Look Big?

Marie Antoinette

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

Beautiful Friday – 1912 Fashions and The Wild Flower Fairy Book

Let’s start off Friday with some lovely images that I found at BNF. These photographs come from the November 1912 issue of Elegancias : Revista Mensual Ilustrada Artística, Literaria, Modas y Actualidades.  

Click on an image to expand. 

I found this gorgeous 1905 volume The Wild Flower Fairy Book at the Library of Congress. It was illustrated by Charles Buckles Falls (C. B. Falls), an artist and writer known for his stylistic World War I posters. I’ve posted a few images from the book below.

Falls, C. B. (Charles Buckles), 1874-1960 [Public domain]

How to Dress Becomingly in Victorian Mourning

The following appeared in Arthur’s Home Magazine published in 1885 in Philadelphia



By Ella Rodman Church.

BLACK has been so generally worn for a long time past that it is not always easy to distinguish between those who are in mourning and those who are not. It is an economical dress, and imparts an air of refinement where it would otherwise be lacking. A lady who was dependent on her own exertions for support, and who felt painfully conscious of a lack of taste in dress, as well as of scanty means, once said that she had seriously thought of going gradually into a suit of mourning, because it was such a lady-like dress and such a safe retreat for those who hadn’t much to spend.

It seems hard and worldly enough that fashion should prescribe the cut and style of garments supposed to be worn as an expression of grief; but mourning habiliments are of themselves a blind obedience to fashion, and are sometimes worn only “because people will talk” if no change is made. To the real mourner they are a protection, because they shield her from much that would otherwise be very trying; and for this reason alone the custom is likely to endure.

Parisian regulations on the subject of mourning are as follows:

The deepest mourning is that worn by a widow for her husband; it is worn for two years, sometimes longer. It consists, for the first year, of solid black woolen goods—collar and cuffs of folded untrimmed crape—a simple crape bonnet and a long black crape veil. The second year, silk trimmed with crape—black lace collars and cuff’s and a shorter veil may be worn; and in the last six months, gray, violet, and white are permitted.

The mourning for a father or mother is worn for one year. The first six months, the proper dress is of solid black woolen goods, trimmed with crape, black crape .bonnet, black crape veil, collar and cuff’s of black crape; three months, of black silk with crape trimming—white or black lace collar and cuff;—veil of tulle, and white bonnet facings ; and the last three months, in gray, purple, and violet.

Mourning worn for a child is the same as that worn for a parent.

Mourning for a grandparent is worn for six months; three months, black woolen goods—white collar and cuffs—short crape veil, and bonnet of crape trimmed with black silk or ribbon; six weeks in black silk trimmed with crape, lace collar and cuffs, short tulle veil, and six weeks in gray, purple, and violet.

Mourning for a brother or sister is worn six months; two months in solid black trimmed with crape—white linen collar and cuffs—bonnet of black crape, with white facing and black strings; two months, in black silk, with white lace collar and cuff’s, and two months in gray, purple, white, and violet.

Mourning for an uncle or aunt is worn for three months, and is the second mourning named above—tulle, white linen, and white bonnet facings being worn at once.

All this, with more to the same purpose, is extremely French, and the gradual shading off of the “light mourning” does not prevail much here—black and gray especially being so much in general use that they are no longer regarded in the light of mourning. There is something very unnatural in the idea of shading off’ into degrees of grief according to the rules set and ordered, and yet a sudden transition from deep mourning to colors is both startling and unseemly. Thus, a lady who suddenly appeared at a boardinghouse table in a head dress with bright blue ribbons, surmounting a dress of bombazine trimmed with crape, produced a very disagreeable impression, and became the subject of most unflattering remarks.

Handsome mourning is always a stylish dress, that is becoming to all except the very dark and sallow. Persons of this complexion should never wear black collars, nor let black come into immediate contact with the face. A narrow edge of crepe lisse, or fine tarlatan, is allowable even in deep mourning, and this finish gives a clearer, brighter look to heavy folds of sombre black.

Crape is an expensive trimming; costly sit the first, if of good quality—and a poor one is not worth buying—and easily spoilt by dust and damp; many, therefore, who put on mourning do not feel that they can afford it, except in the shape of bonnet and veil. There is no other fabric, however, that belongs so exclusively to mourning, and the handsomest and most suitable of such dresses is one of fine woolen goods—it may be bombazine, Henrietta cloth, or serge— covered three-quarters of the way up the skirt with crape laid on perfectly plain; the plain waist, or basque, almost if not quite covered, and the sleeves with very deep crape cuffs. Such a dress costs as much as a handsome silk; but with care it will last for some time, and there is an appearance of quiet elegance about it that gives an air of distinction to the wearer.

A severe plainness, that is utterly antagonistic to the wearing of superfluous trimming and all kinds of shining and dangling things, should characterize deep mourning; and straight lines and long folds are more suitable than puffed drapery. Smooth bias folds or tucks take the place of flounces and plaitings, simplicity and a perfect fit, as every wrinkle shows in such a dress, being the effect aimed at.

Complimentary or slight mourning can be made extremely becoming, especially in summer dresses; and almost any one looks well in white organdy or India muslin, trimmed with rosettes of crape or loops of narrow gros-grain ribbon. China crape, plain, brocaded, or embroidered, is a handsome, dressy material; and so is black grenadine trimmed with black lace. A plain black dress is brightened up by turning it in at the neck over a chemisette of pulled or gathered black tulle or white net.

When expense is not much considered, a surprising variety of pretty costumes may be devised under the head of half-mourning; all the dressy black toilets worn by people in colors are pressed into service, and just enough of the true character is retained to make the wearer ” interesting.” As I a lady once remarked of a fashionable young wife I at a watering-place, “She had no idea that any one could dress so much in mourning.”