Magazine article The Spectator

Fashion Victims

Magazine article The Spectator

Fashion Victims

Article excerpt

Hairstyles Ancient to Present by Charlotte Fiell Goodman Fiell, £30, pp. 512, ISBN 9781847960405 The key thing in 18th-century France was to get the hair extremely high. Perching on a small ladder behind his client, a Parisian hairdresser could pull off all sorts of engineering feats. Once the hair was three foot in the air, the coiffeur could add props - ribbons, shepherdesses, feathers, mythical allegories. After a French naval victory in 1778, some of the more patriotic women took to sporting a ship riding on the waves of their hair. Extravagance was frowned upon after the Revolution, but innovation continued; some ladies of fashion took to wearing their hair very short like the hair of those condemned to the guillotine. The style was called 'a la victime'.

This compendium of hairstyles shows that, apart from this anomaly, the hair world has always had a soft spot for high maintenance styles. The coiffure 1830, for example, was one of a number of creations that built loops of false hair into ambitious structures on top of the head. You get the impression that the wearer would have to have stayed very still to have kept the various elements in place. …

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