makeup—another fun topic for us ladies.
What was the ideal of feminine hair in the 18th century? The preference was for wavy or curly hair that was black, brown, or blonde. The latter was especially fashionable while Marie-Antoinette was queen, during the period when Refiner’s Fire is set. Chestnut and strawberry blonde were also popular colors, though bright red hair was unfashionable and was usually dyed a more acceptable color.
In the 1760s height began to be added, generally about 1/4 to 1/2 the length of the face and egg shaped. In the mid to late 1770s, during the time of my series, really big hair became all the rage, with a height of 1 to 1 1/2 times the length of the face and styled in a shape that looks pretty much like a hot air balloon, like the example at right. This effect was created using toques—cushions—made of fabric, cork, wool, tow, hemp, cut hair, or wire attached to the top of the head. The natural hair was curled, waved, or frizzed (ratted), pomaded and powdered, and piled over and around the cushion, then ribbons, pearls, jewels, flowers, feathers, ships, birdcages, and other items that evoked a theme were added. Below is a fun video that will give you some idea of how these hairstyles were created. These elaborate creations could be worn for days or weeks at a time. Imagine dancing, walking around, or even going to bed with that on your head!
Obviously professional hairdressers—coiffeurs—became a necessity if one was to achieve just the right look. It must have taken hours just to have your hair styled, makeup applied, and clothing put on. But the toilette, or dressing, had an important function for women of the royal, aristocratic, and even high-level bourgeois classes in France. It was a daily ceremony performed in front of privileged persons, with the lever being the men’s equivalent.
Well, hasn’t this been interesting! Wouldn’t you just love to go through a dressing ceremony every day in front of an audience? Or are you grateful that we don’t live in that day and age? Please share your thoughts!
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is also an author, editor, and publisher. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series coauthored with Bob Hostetler, won Foreword Magazine’s 2014 Indie Book of the Year Bronze Award for historical fiction. Book 2, The Return, received the 2017 Interviews and Reviews Silver Award for Historical Fiction and was named one of Shelf Unbound’s 2018 Notable Indie Books. One Holy Night, a contemporary retelling of the Christmas story, was the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year and a finalist in the Carol Award.