From as early as the founding of the Roman Empire in 27 B.C.E. women have been known to color their hair. Blonde has often been the most sought after color, perhaps because it resembles gold, perhaps because it is the least common natural color. Europeans in the sixteenth century were no different, though they did pursue new ways to lighten their hair. Women living in the Italian city of Venice in the late sixteenth century were known to sit all day in the blazing sun wearing a special crownless hat that allowed the hair to stick out the top and be bleached by the sun, yet kept the rest of the face covered. One contemporary observer, quoted in Richard Corson's Fashions in Hair, tells of a Venetian woman who sat in the hot sun so long that, "although she obtained the effect of her desires [blond hair], yet withall, shee procured to her selfe a violent Head ach, and bled almost every day abundantly through the Nose; and on a time being desirous to stop the Blood by pressing of her Nostrils, not farr from her right Eye toward her Temple, … as it were by a hole made with a needles point, the Blood burst out abundantly." Women in northern Europe, where the sun was not so constant, sought out various dyes for their hair, which had become sophisticated enough to allow women to obtain a variety of different shades of blond.
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.