The Pouf was quite the artistry, requiring everything from wire, cloth, gauze and even animal hair. The name ‘Pouf’ is fitting considering the shape of the hair style which was made possible by the use of pads and cushions underneath to shape and structure the hair as big and high as possible. The hair, along with extensions, was then pinned on the structure and set with a pomade made of animal oil and perfume before it was powdered. Now, the canvas had been created and it was time to decorate.
The adornments could include everything from ribbons, pearls, jewels, and feathers to more elaborate things such as flowers, animals, miniature ships, and figurines. The Poufs could be embellished to express certain feelings, personal interests, to commemorate a particular event or to show support for a certain cause.
Although Marie Antoinette can’t take credit for inventing the Pouf, she propelled its popularity and definitely became the poster name for the extravagant hairdo.
One of the more memorable creations she wore, was a special constellation designed to celebrate Louis XVI’s vaccination against smallpox, featuring symbols of Louis, medicine, and peace. Vaccination was a controversial subject at the time and Marie’s Pouf contributed to swaying the public opinion to a more favourable stance.
Another memorable moment was when the entire court wore ships in their hair, to support the French Royal Navy battling out at sea. The pouf eventually made its way to the streets and people far outside the walls of the royal courts, prompting creation amongst ‘commoners’ of less extravagant versions including everything from carrots to cabbage in the hairdo.
But all good things must come to an end, and so did the era of the Pouf, paving way for a new France, and new hairstyles. Being more than just a hairstyle though, the Pouf remains one of the most bold and creative ways for women in that time to take a stance, affect public opinions and become more involved in current affairs, in their otherwise so limited and passive role in society. Vive le Pouf!