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The pouf is a hairstyle deriving from 18th-century France. It was made popular by the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette[1] in 1774, first sporting it when she attended her husband's, Louis XVI, coronation. From then on it quickly became widespread amongst noble and upper-class women in France during the time. It was highly creative and artistic and women could literally wear their moods through strategically placed decorations and ornaments. Ships, animals, and hundreds of other novelty items could be seen on these. Other decorations included pearls, headdresses/hats, hair jewellery, and plumage, such as ostrich feathers. It also became popular in other countries throughout Europe and the United Kingdom during the same era. In the late 1780s to 1790s women began to use the pouf in support of the revolution. Not long after, however, the pouf, like many other aristocratic fashions, fell out of fashion.


The pouf was a very delicate hairstyle and hours were needed to create the style. To create the base, a very thin metal frame was used to structure the shape. It then was padded and intertwined with pomaded false hair, and one's own hair would be taken in. The pomaded hair would then be curled in various sections (varying on the specific pouf style), with heated clay curlers. The lovelocks would be curled in a similar fashion. Once the shaping and styling was done, it would be finished off with white or grey powder, and decoration proceeded. The height varied from very subtle to as much as three feet.

The hairstyle would remain remain in the wearer's hair for about a week, until it was no longer hygienic (due to the pomade) or till it could no longer keep its shape, and it was then simply washed and redone. Some women kept the same style for over a month. Wealthier women may have had their hair done more often than this due to the cost of the technique and materials. In order to keep these hairstyles from ruin, women would wear 'calashes', a type of bonnet which protected it from wind, dirt and rain. When sleeping they would add two or three pillows to keep their head upright and protect the hair. Great care was taken to duck when entering doorways and carriages, for the same reason.


There was a brief revival of the pouf in the form of the 1960s beehive hairstyle. Today we can see the influence of the pouf in wedding, prom, formal and commercial hairstyles where larger, teased hair has come into vogue. A recent product on the market called Bumpits has been seen, which is meant to partially shape the hair and give it lift by means of a plastic base.


  1. ^ Antonia Fraser


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