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Wigs

Wigs

Upper-class Egyptian men and women considered wigs an essential part of their wardrobe. Wearing a wig signaled a person's rank in Egyptian society. Although a shaved head was a sign of nobility during most of the Egyptian kingdoms, the majority of Egyptians kept their heads covered. Wigs were worn in place of headdresses or, for special occasions, with elaborate headdresses. Egyptian law prohibited slaves and servants from shaving their heads or wearing wigs.

The base of an Egyptian wig was a fiber-netting skullcap, with strands of human hair, wool, flax, palm fibers, felt, or other materials attached. The wig hair often stuck straight out from the skullcap, creating large, full wigs that offered wearers protection from the heat of the sun. Most often black, wigs were also other colors. Queen Nefertiti, who lived during the fourteenth century b.c.e., was known for wearing dark blue wigs, and festive wigs were sometimes gilded, or thinly coated in gold.

Wig hair was arranged in decorative styles throughout all the kingdoms of Egypt. During the earliest dynasties (which began around 3200 b.c.e.) and the Old Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2700c. 2000 b.c.e.), both men and women wore closely cropped wigs with rows of short curls or slightly longer straight hair. In later kingdoms, some women began to grow their hair longer and wore wigs of greater length and bulk that showed their natural hair beneath. By the time of the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000c. 1500 b.c.e.), bulky wigs with hair coils draping forward over each shoulder were favored. During the New Kingdom (c. 1500c. 750 b.c.e.) men's wigs became much longer in the front than in the back and less bulky, but women's wigs became larger, completely covering the shoulders. For special occasions, wigs were decorated with gold, braided with colorful ribbons, or adorned with beads. Wigs were made even more elaborate with the addition of golden bands, caps, and fancy headbands.

The hot climate of Egypt made it uncomfortable for men to wear beards. However, Egyptians believed that the beard was manly, so they developed artificial beards, or beard wigs. Men of royal rank tied stubby beards on their chins for official or festive occasions. The king's beard was longer than that of other men and was usually worn straight and thick. Gods were depicted with thinner beards that curled up at the tip. Egyptians believed that kings were descended from the gods, and in some ceremonies kings would wear a curved beard to show that they represented gods.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess, 1970.

Lister, Margot. Costume: An Illustrated Survey from Ancient Time to the Twentieth Century. London, England: Herbert Jenkins, 1967.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume: From Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Twentieth Century. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved April 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs

Wigs

Wigs

During the Roman Empire (27 b.c.e.476 c.e.) wealthy members of Roman society developed a rich and fashionable lifestyle, which included much attention to appearance and ornamentation. Both women and men used any means available to improve their looks and decorate their bodies. Cosmetics and luxurious costumes were used, and elaborate hairstyles came into fashion for women. Baldness in men was viewed as an ugly defect. Both women and men made frequent use of wigs to hide any shortage of hair.

The citizens of the vigorous Roman Republic, which thrived between 509 and 27 b.c.e., had valued simple styles in hair and clothing. Even the wealthy styled their hair plainly, though they may have curled it with hot irons. By the time of the Roman Empire (27 b.c.e.476 c.e.), which saw the Roman people grow in wealth and power, styles had changed, and luxury and excess were in fashion for those who could afford them. Though hairstyles for men remained short and simple, most who suffered hair loss were unwilling to have their lack of hair exposed. Julius Caesar, the famous general and leader of Rome who lived from 100 to 44 b.c.e., frequently wore a laurel wreath to hide his baldness. Other wealthy Romans glued hairpieces onto their scalps for the same reason.

During the Roman Empire, Roman women began to wear more and more elaborate hairstyles, with masses of corkscrew curls piled high on the fronts of their heads. The Empress Messalina, who lived from 22 to 48 c.e. and was married to Emperor Claudius I (10 b.c.e.54 c.e.), became famous for the complicated and showy hairstyles she wore. Soon other noble women copied the empress. Women who did not have enough hair to achieve the ornate styles wore wigs or added extra false hair to their own. It became especially popular to use blond or red hair that was bought or taken from slaves and prisoners of war from more northern countries like Gaul (present-day France) and Germany. Blond hair had once been associated only with Roman prostitutes, but once the empress began to wear it, the shame attached to blond hair disappeared. Eventually light-colored northern hair became so popular that a lively trade developed, and red and golden hair became a sort of currency.

The dramatic hairstyles of wealthy Roman women changed so frequently that even sculptures began to have a sort of wig. Many notable women who had their portraits carved in marble began to ask that the hair be carved as a separate piece, so that the hair on the sculpture could be changed to keep up with the current fashion.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Batterberry, Michael, and Ariane Batterberry. Fashion: The Mirror of History. New York: Greenwich House, 1977.

Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. Updated and revised by Frances Kennett. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow, 1980.

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"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-0

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved April 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-0

Wigs

Wigs

Wigs became a necessity for French courtiers (officers and advisers) in 1643 when sixteen-year-old Louis XIV ascended the throne sporting long curly hair. For all who could not grow their own, long flowing locks were created with wigs. The fashion persisted when, at the age of thirty-five, the king began to lose so much of his own hair that he needed to add false hair to maintain his beloved style. He eventually shaved off all his thinning hair and wore full wigs.

Wigs came in several different styles, but the most popular by the end of the century was the full-bottomed wig, a mass of long curls parted in the center that towered above the head by several inches and hung down past the shoulders. The style was so huge that a satirist of the time referred to a man's face peaking out from his full-bottomed wig as "a small pimple in the midst of a vast sea of hair," according to Richard Corson in Fashions in Hair. The full-bottomed wig was the most formal of all wig styles and continued to be worn by clergy and some professionals, such as lawyers, into the following centuries. But many men had several different styles of wigs for different activities, such as rising in the morning, going to church, hunting, and eating at different meals.

Wigs were made of human, horse, and goat hair and worn over shaved heads. They were dressed with fragrant powders made of nutmeg or orrisroot, the root of a sweet-smelling European iris. The hair was sometimes dyed black, brown, or blond. Hair powder would later become so popular that houses were built with powder rooms made solely for the purpose of dressing the hair.

Although quite popular by the end of the century, wigs were not worn by every man because of their expense. Wigs became a true symbol to differentiate the upper from the lower classes. They were so expensive that some men left them to their heirs upon their own death. The history of the century is also filled with accounts of wig theft. The exclusivity of wigs did not last, however. Wigs became the defining hair accessory of the eighteenth century and were worn by every class of man. While women also wore wigs during the seventeenth century, their styles did not reach the magnitude of men's full-bottomed wigs. It was the next century that saw women wearing huge mountains of false curls.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Contini, Mila. Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. Edited by James Laver. New York: Odyssey Press, 1965.

Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Trasko, Mary. Daring Do's: A History of Extraordinary Hair. New York: Flammarion, 1994.

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"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-1

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved April 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-1

Wigs

Wigs

Wigs, false hairpieces that are worn over or attached to the natural hair of the wearer, have been fashion accessories for many centuries. The nineteenth century did not see the widespread use of elaborate wigs that had marked previous eras. Still, false hair remained popular during the 1800s, mainly for women who wished to achieve fashionable hairstyles that required abundant curls.

Both men and women had commonly worn wigs during the 1700s, but by the end of the century the popularity of the elaborately powdered and styled wig was beginning to fade. At the start of the nineteenth century much of fashionable society began to be fascinated with the styles of ancient Greece and Rome. Many men trimmed their hair in a short, informal cut, in the style of Roman generals, while some women adopted a classic Greco-Roman women's style of masses of curls, loosely bound up on the head. Those who did not have enough curls of their own, added false pieces of hair called cachefolies (French for "hidden foolishness") to add the necessary volume of hair.

During the 1860s wigs again became popular for women, as hairstyles with masses of long ringlets came into fashion. For those women who could not afford full wigs, partial wigs were available to add hair where it was needed. Wigs were costly, and women who needed money could cut their hair and sell it to wigmakers, the way the literary character Jo March did in the 1868 novel Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (18321888).

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Bigelow, Marybelle S. Fashion in History: Apparel in the Western World. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess Publishing, 1970.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

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"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-2

"Wigs." Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages. . Retrieved April 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/wigs-2