Social New York under the Georges, 1714-1776: Houses, Streets, and Country Homes, with Chapters on Fashions, Furniture, China, Plate, and Manners

By Esther Singleton | Go to book overview

II
HAIR-DRESSING: CAPS AND HATS

THROUGHOUT the Eighteenth Century, the arrangement of the hair was eccentric. In 1711, Addison devoted an essay to the subject of the head-dress, declaring that "there is not so variable a thing in nature," and asserting that "within my own memory I have known it rise and fall above thirty degrees. About ten years ago it shot up to a very great height, insomuch that the female part of our species were much taller than the men." The witty satirist is, of course, referring to the commode, or fontange, that originated with Mademoiselle Fontange at the court of Louis XIV. in 1680. This head-dress, which was sometimes also called a "tower," was composed of two or three tiers of lace arranged very stiffly above the forehead and kept in place by a knot of ribbon behind. It was popular in England during the reigns of Mary and Anne. The hair itself was simply arranged, often in curls.

In 1729, "gauze heads" were very fashionable and, after a short period when a low coiffure was worn, the arrangement of the hair became more and more elaborate until George III.'s reign, when it developed into the complicated structure which remained in vogue until 1780, ever increasing in height and eccentricity. From 1749 to 1776, there were no fewer

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Social New York under the Georges, 1714-1776: Houses, Streets, and Country Homes, with Chapters on Fashions, Furniture, China, Plate, and Manners
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