Sunday, 26 February 2017

Hairdressing in the 1780s

Unknown Lady, John Smibert, 1781

Augustus Keppel: 1781-83
This advert appeared in the Bath Chronicle in 1781.

The term peruke is a synonym for wig.

A gentleman's wig consisted of two parts the toupee or front hair and the back hair.

At this time most wigs were either made of human or animal hair including the hair of horses, cows and foxes or textiles such as mohair or silk.

During this period the toupee came to be known as the 'brush' or 'feathered part'. the emphasis in this decade was on width rather than height.

A bag wig gathered the back hair in a black silk bag, this type of wig fell out of fashion in the 1790s.

There are no unambiguously labelled eighteenth-century illustrations of a bob wig but it is understood to have been a wig with short tight curls at the bottom.

Of course, all wigs would be worn powered even if they were already grizzled.

William Pitt 1781

Cushions were used to pad out ladies hair to help build the higher and fuller styles which were fashionable throughout the eighteenth century. However, at this time the height of the coiffure was beginning to decrease.

In front, the hair was usually frizzed out to give extra width to the face and below the mass of the hair at the back at the nape of the neck a 'banging chignon' was usually included. In this decade the chignon was sometimes twisted or even plaited.

Feathers worn in the hair were more popular in this eighties than they had been in the previous decade and fancy caps, ribbons, pearls and lace were also worn.

Such luxuriant hairstyles might necessitate the wearing of a complete wig.

Both natural hair and wigs were almost always worn powered especially on formal occasions.

Number 3 today


By the end of the decade, Bally had moved the business to his own house in Burton Street

1 Burton Street Today
For a man to have his hair cut and dressed cost 1s 6d or about £111 at today's values.

It is worth noting the distinction and price difference between a ladies hair being dressed for the morning or fully dressed for appearing at a formal public event.


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