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18th Century Womens Hair & Wigs | History of Fashion Design

18th Century Womens Hair & Wigs


“The Ladies’ Head-Dress”

Give Chloe a bushel of horsehair and wool
Of paste and pomatum a pound
Ten yards of gay ribbon to deck her sweet scull
And gauze to encompass it round.
Let her gown be tucked up to the hip on each side
Shoes too high for to walk or to jump
And to deck sweet charmer complete for a bride
Let the cork cutter make her a rump
Thus finished in taste while on Chloe you gaze
you may take the dear charmer for life
but never undress her, for out of her stays
You’ll find you have lost half your wife
—The Lady’s Magazine, 1777


Women’s Hair:

Women of the 18th Century usually wore their natural hair, although this hair was often augmented with pads and/or pinned on extensions. Early 18th Century women were still wearing the high piled “fontage” hairstyle of the late 17th Century. This style was superseded by 1710 by a close to the head style usually covered with a small cap.


The daughter of James II wearing a fontage.


A “Camlet” hood of 1702
In 1715, when powdering became fashionable for men’s wigs it also was done with women’s natural hair. As with men, formal occasions demanded powder, informal ones might or might not depending on the preference and pretensions of the wearer.

Close to the head styles were prevalent until 1760 when the coiffure gradually begun to rise with the aid of hair pads and pomade made from apples, lard, and floral oils.


copy of headresses included in The Ladies’ Toilet or the Art of Head-Dressing in it’s Utmost Beauty and Extent, 1768, in Costume in England, by F.W. Fairholt, 1860


  • A “Calash” bonnet of 1765, made like a tiny collapsable carriage hood, out of pleated taffeta on cane hoops. It protected the rising hair-do from weather without touching it or crushing it down.

Hairstyles continued to rise steadily until 1778 when high fashion was achieved by as much as three feet of hair above the head surmounted by an elaborate headdress, of fabric, feathers, flowers and pearls. Naval and land battles were commemorated on these huge creations which offered such scope to the millinery

artists of the time.

fan&hair d'amour hairback

flowerpot miniature

After 1780, the emphasis slowly shifted from the hair to the hats and women’s hair was dressed in softer more natural fashion.
Plates of 18th Century French Women’s Hair & Hats by Hoey

C. 1789 French Hairdo.….

English hair and hat of 1780s
From 1780 to 90 huge hats were the focus, then in the 1790’s, the hats and hairstyles both shrank down into close to the head styles derived from Greek sources.
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