Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Do you ever look at old photographs of people? Chances are their hairstyles are different than those worn today. Hairstyles are always changing, and in some eras people went to a lot of trouble to create really fancy ones. Painted portraits show us that the late 1700s in England was one of those times.
Let's examine two hairstyles taken from portraits by Thomas Gainsborough.
First, take a look at a detail of Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield. How do you think she got her hair piled so high?
Back then, hairdressers used rollers, wire frames, cotton stuffing and little pads filled with wool or horsehair to help women's hair stand tall. The whole arrangement was pasted together with ointment made from animal fat and then powdered to hide the oily shine.
Now look at the hairstyle of an art dealer taken from Portrait of James Christie. How would you describe his hair?
Actually, you can't even see it! Like most men of his day, Christie had his hair shaved or cut short to fit under a wig. Christie probably had a collection of wigs cared for by a hairdresser who would comb and curl them, then dust them with a perfumed powder made from rice.
If you were posing for a picture today, how would you style your hair?