This is the story of an extremely unusual book, published in Paris in 1694, against the luxurious hairstyles carrying the courtesans of the time, especially the mythical ‘Fontange’ hairstyle making so much buzz at the time…
Recently joining the wonderful library of the Museum of History of Hairdressing of Raffel Pages, ‘Traité contre luxe des coeffures’ (Treaty against the luxury of hairstyles), is a very peculiar, unique, book published by Chez Edme Couterot, aiming to give food for thought to women… so that they steer clear from the mythical ‘Fontange’ hairstyle. The idea was to establish two forms of femininity from behavior and hairstyles: on the one hand, there was the ‘flirty’ women, whose behavior was reprehensible according to the book, and the ‘modest’ ladies, in which the book praised women’s modesty and simplicity when it came to styling.
The ‘Fontange’ hairstyle had been popularized by Mademoiselle de Fontanges, known mistress of the King Louis XIV of France. A hairstyle which, in any case, seems born by chance, says Raffel Pages, founder and director of the Museum of History of Hairdressing. During a hunt in 1768 in the forest of Fontainebleau, the lady saw how her classic hairstyle undid, by being caught on a branch. Mademoiselle de Fontanges then started to collect all of her hair up with a ribbon while, leaving her curls to fall gracefully cascading on her forehead and shoulders.
The King considered the hairstyle compelling and absolutely delicious. Mademoiselle de Fontanges was a beautiful woman, sexy and glamorous. Her hairstyle, conditioned by the favorable opinion of the King, caused immediate fuss among noble women, the aristocracy and the wives of rich bourgeois: ‘Fontange’ fashion was born. A hairstyle which certainly grew in sophistication, some would apply varied and luxurious ornaments, jewelry and beads to the hair.
Shortly after, Mademoiselle de Fontanges fell in disgrace before the King; probably due to a strong rivalry with her other lovers, retired from public life and eventually die in the Abbey of Port-Royal, in strange circumstances which were never clarified. She was only 20 years old. However, her legendary hair stuck in time and moved to other European courts. Her hairstyle was very popular among the English – Queen Mary II also wore the ‘Fontange’– and even reached to the Tsars’ court in Russia!
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