Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Size Matters

What better to make an entrance into society than with a 3 foot hairdo. Georgiana blasted into the London scene in full couture splendor upon her marriage at the age of 17. She immediately got to work on establishing herself as a fashion icon. Whether this was her intention or not, one can only guess, but her celebrity began with her fashion trends.

The first notable trend she began was the three-foot hair tower. Hair was already large at the time, especially due to French influences, Georgiana simply took it one step further. The hair towers required scented pomade, pads of horse hair, and at least two hairdressers in order to be constructed. To this, Georgiana would add scenes such as the classic ship in sail or stuffed birds. As with every trend in London, woman immediately took to the look and tried to make it more outrageous by making their hair even taller or more ornate.

Georgiana never seemed to acknowledge when people took to her fashions; while London society attempted to imitate her by making her vogues more outlandish, she would simplify and create an even bigger buzz. Her next hair fad was the infamous ostrich feather which she would drape in a large arch across the front of her hair. When Lord Stormont presented her with one over four feet long every lady of refinement went on a wild goose chase to find the rare length of feather. Of course scandal developed. Only the very wealthy could afford the feathers, which they snobbily flaunted to the point where Queen Charlotte banned them from court. This couldn't have come at a worse time for the fashion elite. The Duchess of Kingston's trial for bigamy was approaching and everyone who was anyone would be showing up in their best in order to outdo each other at the embarrassment of their fellow Peeress. Feathers were forbidden from the trial. This was a devastating blow; like banning Gucci from fashion week. The only lady who seemed unaffected by the ban was the one who started the fashion trend; Georgiana brought snacks to munch on with Lady Derby at the trial instead of her signature feathers.

Although (probably due to the ban) large ostrich feathers was only a short-lived fad it lived on through the decades. In satirical prints, Georgiana would forever be identified as herself by being portrayed with ostrich feathers in her hair.

Check out this collage I made of the hair tower. I only used Reynold portraits because I'm lazy, but it serves a purpose; if you were being painted by one of the most fashionable artists in society you would be portrayed in only the hottest trends. The portraits were painting from 1775-1779.Satirical Prints related to the D of D and her hair:

Lady All-Top May 1776

The Preposterous Head Dress, or Feathered Lady March 1776

Matthew Darly, Vis a Vis May 1776


  1. I wonder, what color her four foot feather was?

  2. Oh jeez, I always just assumed it was au natural. I must look into ostrich feather dying techniques now, or maybe that can be your expertise...

  3. I have always found these hair towers adorable.

  4. Ooh, fabulous! (As you can see I am familiarising myself with your old entries and am so thrilled to discover that you have included one of my favourite 18th-century portraits, that of the sublimely beautiful Mrs Richard Crofts! You wouldn't happen to know her first name?)Sigh. I had big (as in punky spiked) hair in the 80s but it just can't compare to what these ladies had going on... We should discuss this when we come to the part in Burney's Evelina where her hair is 'frizzled' as part of her London makeover!