Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Political Power of Marie-Antoinette's Hair

The Queen's hair
From Jstor Daily:
With the help of a French hairdresser, Marie Antoinette embarked on what initially appeared to be a happily fated alliance between the Habsburgs and the Bourbons. But trouble was brewing, and that trouble too manifested itself in the new queen consort’s hair. Marie had a taste for the extravagant, from 72-layered powdered creations to allegorical hairstyles adorned with charms and figurines that represented political themes. One hairstyle even featured a model ship designed to celebrate a French naval victory.

The over-the-top styles were victories for Marie and her hairdresser, Léonard, too—Léonard because they elevated him to superstardom, Marie because they allowed her to exert some control over her life. But not everyone was pleased. The queen was soon being pilloried for her extravagance even as she was copied by women throughout France. “The conflict between fashion and the queen’s dignity quickly assumed social and financial ramifications,” writes Hosford.

Marie Antoinette’s hair did not keep its epic proportions for long—her hairdresser famously cut her hair short after she gave birth for the first time, to give the by-then damaged locks a “clean start” —but its significance still loomed large. As the queen abandoned fancy clothing for a less extravagant style, she was criticized for supposedly triggering the fall of French industries in fabric, ribbons and other accessories. When the queen appeared in a portrait with a simple hairstyle, writes Hosford, it “was readily perceived as a blatant act of disrespect for French propriety concerning the external manifestation of royal dignity, a subversive rejection of queenly representation, and a national degradation.” (Read more.)


Dymphna said...

It's amazing that the poor queen didn't' go mad with so many people in Versailles and without tearing away at her day after day. The irony is that some of the very people who were lied and gossiped about her ended up at the guillotine themselves.

elena maria vidal said...

So true!