Since photography didn’t exist in the 18th century, I’ve decided that I’m allowed to post etchings as well as photographs on Fridays. My favorite kind of etchings are ones that show 18th century fashion trends. I think that they’re comparable to the fashion magazines of today – most of us don’t have a reason to wear ballgowns and updos on a regular basis, but it’s fun to look at pictures of people who do. The average 18th century woman had no reason to wear four-foot-wide skirts, but she was probably amused that there were women who did. And if I were an 18th century woman looking at this etching of fashionable hairstyles, I would have looked and laughed:
My favorite style shown is “a la Belle Poule,” with the frigate in full sail perched atop a woman’s head. The Belle Poule was a French naval ship that defeated the English ship HMS Arethusa on June 17, 1778. Supposedly, this hairstyle was worn by a lady at the French royal court to celebrate the victory. All sorts of fun stories exist about the lengths Frenchwomen went to for their high hairstyles, including having their hairstylists stand on footstools and ending up with mice nesting in their giant coiffures. There’s probably no truth to the stories, but it makes the effort women put into their hair today seem positively low-maintenance in comparison.