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My Writer's Journal

What About That Hair?

The jacket of THE BAD QUEEN makes a point: Marie-Antoinette's hair was a BIG THING. Before she could marry the dauphin--the French prince--she had to have her unruly curls fixed. But the nice little 'do the hairdresser gave her was nothing compared to the extravagant style she adopted after she moved to France. Here's how it was done:

"The friseur erected a large structure on my head beginning with a foundation of wire and gauze and horsehair, and then arranged my own hair to cover this edifice." Then he powdered her curls with white flour and arranged some sort of decoration on top. The "pouf" became all the rage among the ladies of the French court, who had to kneel on the floor of their carriage to make room for it. And everyone carried an ivory-tipped head-scratcher.

When I was Marie-Antoinette's age, I worried about my hair. My mother had beautiful wavy hair. I did not. Mine was ordinary brown and perfectly straight. I permed it, dyed it once, and didn't stop worrying about it until it turned completely white and I had it cut short.

Next week: Tight Corsets and Other Miseries
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