In 1680 the fontange became the most fashionable women's hairstyle and remained popular until the early eighteenth century. The style was created by the Duchesse de Fontanges, the mistress of the French king Louis XIV (1638–1715), when the hairstyle she was wearing at the time was ruined while out hunting. She hastily gathered her curled hair on top of her head with a ribbon from her outfit. The style enchanted the king and other women began copying the style. At first the style consisted of a small pile of curled hair with ribbons and bows just above the forehead. The fontange eventually grew into a high tower of curls piled over a wire foundation, sometimes with false curls. The style was so often worn with a starched linen frill in the front that the linen cap came to be called a fontange as well. By the end of the century these linen caps were starched and wired to create very tall headdresses.

The height of the fontange related to a general trend in the seventeenth century for fashion to emphasize a vertical line. As the fontange grew taller, women had great difficulty securing it on their heads. Then, when finally secured, the fontange often slipped to one side or another. Women found the instability of the fontange so frustrating that many began suggesting that the heads of infant girls should be flattened to better hold the fontange later in life. No evidence of anyone actually doing this exists and the style fell from fashion in the early eighteenth century.


Corson, Richard. Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years. London, England: Peter Owen, 2001.

Payne, Blanche, Geitel Winakor, and Jane Farrell-Beck. The History of Costume. 2nd ed. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: