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Dress Of Women - Hair Dressing: Caps And Hats

( Originally Published 1902 )



THROUGHOUT the Eighteenth Century, the arrangement of the hair was eccentric. In 1711, Addison de-voted an essay to the subject of the head-dress, declaring that " there is not so variable a thing in nature," and asserting that "within my own memory I have known it rise and fall above thirty degrees. About ten years ago it shot up to a very great height, in so much that the female part of our species were much taller than the men." The witty satirist is, of course, referring to the commode, or fontange, that originated with Mademoiselle Fontange at the court of Louis XI V. in 1680. This head-dress, which was sometimes also called a "tower," was composed of two or three tiers of lace arranged very stiffly above the forehead and kept in place by a knot of ribbon behind. It was popular in England during the reigns of Mary and Anne. The hair itself was simply arranged, often in curls.

In 1729, "gauze heads" were very fashionable and, after a short period when a low coiffure was worn, the arrangement of the hair became more and more elaborate until George III.'s reign, when it developed into the complicated structure which remained in vogue until 1780, ever increasing in height and eccentricity. From 1749 to 1776, there were no fewer than forty-one wig-makers and hair-dressers registered among the freemen of New York. The advertisements of several of these are given in the chapter on the costume of men. Not a few of them made a business of dressing the hair of the ladies and furnishing them with fashionable towers, tetes or heads, perrukes, etc. There was evidently much competition among these barbers for the patronage of the fair sex.

"Simon Franks from London makes and sells all sorts of perukes, after the best and newest fashion, cuts and dresses ladies' wigs and towers after a manner performed much better than is pretended to be done by some others. (1748.)

During this age, it was impossible for ladies to dress their hair themselves. The great erection on their heads had to be "composed " or built up with pads, cushions, puffs and curls before it was ornamented with lappets, gauze, lace, poufs, feathers, ropes of pearls or beads, jewels, ornamental pins and various fantastic gewgaws. With a plentiful supply of pomatum, powder and false hair, as well as crisping and curling tongs and pins, the barber "works all into such a state of confusion, that you would imagine it was intended for the stuffing of a chair-bottom ; then bending it into various curls and shapes over his finger, he fastens it with black pins so tight to the head that neither the weather nor time have power to alter its position. Thus my lady is dressed for three months at least ; during which time it is not in her power to comb her head."

As a rule, this head was retouched every day and anointed with strong essences. Every few weeks, it was taken to pieces and built up again. The descriptions of " opening a lady's head " in the contemporary magazines do not bear quotation. Satirists found the lady's head a theme for attack ; but their verses and essays had no effect upon fashion. The Universal Magazine in 1768 published the following stanzas to a belle of the day :

"When he views your tresses thin
Tortur'd by some French friseur,
Horsehair, hemp and wool within
Garnished with a di'mond skewer,

"When he scents the mingled steam
Which your plaster'd heads are rich in,
Lard and meal and clouted cream,
Can he love a walking-kitchen ? "

This was published only a few months after the following had appeared in a New York paper :

"It is now the mode to make a lady's head of twice the natural size by means of artificial pads, bolsters, or rolls over which their hair is carefully combed, or frizzled to imitate the shock head of a negro."

In 1773, we gain a good idea of the appearance of one of these fashionable tetes in these lines

White as the covered Alps, or wintry face
Of snowy Lapland her toupee uprear'd,
Exhibits to the view a cumbrous mass
Of curls high nodding o'er her polish'd brow,
From which redundant flows the Brussels lace
With pendant ribbons too of various dye,
Where all the colours in the ethereal bow
Unite and blend and tantalize the sight."

Hannah More referred to this ridiculous fashion in one of her letters of 1777, and described eleven ladies who had among them on their heads an acre and a half of shrubbery, besides grass-plots, tulip-beds, kitchen gardens, peonies, etc. She also says some of these head-dresses, with their decorations, cost hundreds of pounds !

Not only did the barbers and peruke-makers advertise everything that was needed in their line, but other people were constantly importing powders, pins, pomatums and essences. As early as 1734, Peter Lynch, near Mr. Rutger's Brew-house, had for sale " very good Orange butter ; it is excellent for Gentle-women to comb up their Hair with." Hair-pins, hair-bags, powder-boxes and puffs, wig-springs and brushes, hair-dyes, best grey powder for mourning, hair powder plain and perfumed, and pomatum came in great quantities in 1760-'1. We notice hair-fillets in 1764; tupee combs in 1765 ; and, if we turn to the milliners' announcements, everything that can be thought of in the way of ribands, beads, feathers, lace, lappets, gauze, aigrettes and ornaments of all sorts for the decoration of the monstrous " tete."

This brings us to a consideration of hats, bonnets, caps and hoods of the period. These, naturally enough, varied in shape and style to suit the arrangement of the hair. The commode, which held its place during the reign of Queen Anne, was in itself a kind of cap and admitted no other covering upon the head. The hood was, however, very frequently worn and was susceptible of graceful arrangement. In 1711-'12 the Spectator humorously ordered : " All ladies who come to church in the new-fashioned hoods, are desired to be there before divine service begins, lest they divert the attention of the congregation." The ladies wore these when travelling and frequently when walking in gardens and parks.

One of the favourite varieties of hood was the Nithsdale, worn for many years after 1715, particularly by elderly women. This got its name from the ruse of Lady Nithsdale in effecting her husband's escape from the Tower, in 1715, by dressing him in female clothes and wrapping her ample riding-hood around his head and shoulders. Hoods were still being worn in 1751-'3, as the following advertisement will show :

" Margaret St. Maurice, cap-maker, from London, informs her customers that she has removed from Mr. Bayard's Wharf to the house of Mr. Vandike, opposite the Old Dutch Church, where she makes all sorts of Men's, Women's, and children's Velvet and Silk Jockey Caps, do. Hats, Bath Bonnets, Hoods, and Pullareens for Ladies in the most neat and fashionable manner as in London. She likewise makes Bags and Tossels for Gentlemen's Wiggs, also silk and velvet hats for Boys, all done at very reasonable Rates."

The pullareen was, of course, the pelerine, a kind of tippet. In 1749, she advertises " masks for ladies."

In 1750, the horsehair hat was introduced and long remained popular. We notice importations of horse-hair hats, black horsehair hats and black and white silk hats, in 1750 ; women's masquerade hats ; black horsehair and Leghorn hats, women's capuchines, gauze snail shades with hoods, new fashioned gauze caps, hoods, ladies' paduasoy hats, bonnets, gauze caps, caps and ruffles made after the newest fashion, 1751 ; and coloured silk and horsehair hats, 1754.

The capuchine was a cloak with a hood, modelled on the garment worn by the Capuchin friars. It long continued to be popular, and was often made of beautiful materials. Simple straw hats modelled after those of milkmaids and shepherdesses in the affected rusticity of the day, Leghorn and chip hats, turbans, and brims without crowns, convenient for slipping over the increasing " head " of hair, now arrived in bewildering numbers. Every year, indeed, every sea-son, brought some new style in trimmings. Some-times it was a turban, with all its trimming piled on top of the crown ; sometimes a chip or Leghorn with a low crown and a wide brim having a pouf and a spray of flowers and a bunch of ribbons with ends hanging down the back ; sometimes, a beaver or castor ; sometimes, a horsehair hat ; and sometimes, a " shade."

The popularity of the chip hat was due to its adoption by the beautiful Gunnings, who drove London wild with their beauty. One of their rivals said all she needed to make her as charming as either of those lovely sisters was an " elegant cocked chip hat, with a large rose on the left side, and tied under the chin with cherry-coloured ribbons."

The varieties and names for the trimmings for both hats and caps are legion ; there are ribbons plain and flowered, paduasoy, taffety and lutestring ribbons, figured ribbons, gauze ribbons and satin ribbons. Then there are plain and flowered gauzes of all kinds, black and white lace, and silver lace. It may be interesting to examine a typical assortment in 1754:

" M. Derham, milliner from London, by way of Philadelphia in the Rachel, Capt. Joy, at her shop near Alderman Livingston's in South Street, has brought a genteel and new assortment of figur'd ribbons, plain ducapes, satten do., gauzes, cat-gut, Paris net, white and coloured blond lace, silk edgings, thread do., striped and plain gauze handkerchiefs, Dresden ditto, aprons, ruffles both for gentlemen and ladies, French gloves, neat tanned, glazed and satten gloves, necklaces and earrings, fans, patches and court plaster, lavender, hungary and honey waters, Chip hats, French silks for capuchines, black silk laces and fringes, hollands, long lawns, clear flower'd and minionet ditto, fine book and other muslins. Likewise, an assortment of hosiery and haberdashery ; fine green and bohea tea, ladies shoes, an assortment of cutlery, cards and ink-powder. Everything in the millinery way is made up in the newest fashion, such as lappet heads, caps, French handkerchiefs, ruffles, stomachers, ruffs, sleeve and glove knots, shades, capuchines, hats, bonnets, etc., at the very lowest prices."

About 1755, a very extraordinary decoration for the head was introduced. It appears to have taken the ladies by storm and to have furnished caricaturists and satirists with some material for amusement. It was known as the cabriole, cabriolet, or capriole, and the best idea we can give of it is to refer to a contemporary number of The Connoisseur, in which there is a letter ridiculing the new fashion. This must have been more of an ornament than a headdress, for the author, when looking at one of these equipages de-signed for the head of a lady of quality, placed it in the palm of his hand and remarked that he could not help fancying himself " Gulliver taking up the Empress of Lilliput in her state coach. The vehicle itself " he continued, "was constructed of gold threads and was drawn by six dapple greys of blown glass, with a coachman, postillion and gentleman within of the same brittle manufacture." A few current lines speak of it thus :

" Here on the fair one's headdress sparkling sticks Swinging on silver springs a coach and six ;

There on a sprig or slop'd poupon you see, A chariot, sulky, chaise, or vis-a-vis."

" Shades lorrains," bonnets, and " hives " were advertised in 1757 ; and castor hats in 1760. In 1761, among the newest fashions in head-gear were stamped shades, trolly and catgut hoods, gauze caps, Chinese bonnets, felt hats, silk hats and bonnets, blown lace, French trimmings, and newest ribbons of a la mode, óblue, green, white, buff and figured. The cap that came into fashion about 1762 was the " fly," modelled after a butterfly. It was edged with semi-precious stones, more often paste brilliants or garnets. As it made a very bright frame for the face and head, it was adopted with fervour and New York ladies could have procured it from the very prosperous milliner who made the following bid for custom :

" Elizabeth Colville, in Hanover Square, takes this method to inform her Friends and Customers that she intends carrying on the Business of a Milliner in all its Branches; having a young Woman just come over from England, who is well acquainted therewith, where Ladies and Gentlemen may be supplied with everything in the genteelest Taste and greatest Despatch.

"She has now by her a fashionable assortment of Caps, Ruffs, Handkerchiefs, Ruffles, Aprons, Muffs and Tippets, and sundry other Things in the Millinery Way, and continues the Business of Shop-Keeping as Usual.

" N. B. She has to sell a House and three Lots of Ground on the College Ground."

The "fly cap " is advertised among the goods of Nicholas William Stuyvesant in 1764, in which year we find that silk umbrellas, ivory fans, fancy stomachers, "egrets and breast-flowers," and "common sable, squirrel and feather muffs and tippets and ermine" are imported.

About this time, the flat hat was particularly ad-mired. A contemporary remarks that it " affords the ladies that arch roguish air which the winged hat gives to Mercury ; it animates their faces with a degree of vivacity which is not natural to them." The arch, roguish air was exactly what the coquettes of the day affected, and naturally, the flat hat with its variety of ornaments was reluctantly given up. We still find the same ribbons, gauze catgut net, Paris net, silver and gold blond and bone lace, and paduasoy and lute-string ribbons ; but novelties were constantly invented to tempt the purse and set off the charms of the fair. We may note the new importations of turbans, chip hats and bonnets, Italian head-dresses, new fashioned caps, Leghorn, Dunstable and fine chip hats, in 1769 ; feathers for riding hats in 1764 ; black and white feathers for ladies' riding hats, 1767 ; Italian and French flowers, 1767 ; and black and blue feathers, 1769. We must not omit the new and fashionable " calash," introduced by the Duchess of Bedford in 1765. This was an enormous hood, made some-thing like the hood of a carriage. It was ribbed with whalebones, thus enabling it to fold, and it was tied with ribbons under the chin. A string was attached to the front, which the wearer could pull and therefore draw the hood over her head. The calash was only worn by the women of fashion with their enormous piles and towers of hair. Two of these remarkable concoctions appear upon page 213. One is of dark blue and the other of dark green silk. Both are lined with silk. Close caps, very much laughed at as night-caps, made with wings, appeared in 1773, and were considered very correct for undress.

An interesting and fashionable cap is worn by Mrs. James Duane (Maria Livingston), in her portrait that is shown on page 218.

Feathers were in great demand in 1775, for the fashion came in to sweep the hair off the forehead and draw it high above the face. The back was ornamented in rolls and two curls were placed below the ears. Three large ostrich plumes were stiffly arranged upon the top of the head for full dress.



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