Posts Tagged ‘Queen Elizabeth I’

When Wig Was Queen

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

Is there any connection between the famous pop singer, Lady Gaga, and the great Queen Elizabeth I of England? Not an obvious one for sure, but there surely is one. Just like the pop singer doesn’t miss any chance to impress her fans and the music world by wearing fancy wigs matched with eccentric outfits, so did aristocratic women of times past. Their clothes were not as hair raising as Lady Gaga’s, but their wigs definitely were. Women from baroque and rococo periods took wigs to a whole new level by adding all kinds of accessories on them.

The reasons why women used to wear wigs centuries ago are not so different than the ones applicable these days. Yes, they wanted to look good, but they also needed wigs because of lice problems. Heat favors the multiplication of lice, so they used to shave their heads and cover them with beautiful, pompous wigs. For most these days, this particular concern no longer exists, but there are other reasons that generate baldness.

It goes without saying that only aristocratic women were able to afford a wig. The natural hair used to make wigs was often taken from slaves. In order to look more attractive, some women were only using what we know these days as wefts and closures. In Rome, both men and women started wearing wigs since the early days of the empire. The wig was considered a sign of distinction.

It is said that Empress Messalina would wear a blonde wig in order to disguise herself when she went to the brothel. Blonde wigs were, in fact, most sought by the Roman aristocratic women. Therefore, hair from European women was idealized. In addition, Faustina, wife of Marcus Aurelius, had an impressive collection of wigs- one for each attire. While these remarkable women only needed wigs to enhance their looks, Queen Elizabeth I was so well known for her red wigs that it was rumored that she had hair loss issues and needed to wear them. However, these bald tales seem to be unsubstantiated.

The eighteenth-century brought rococo wigs that were decorated in very unusual ways. Some of the ladies had high wigs with metal frames inside them that were able to sustain bird cages. They used to put one of these wigs on when they went out for a walk in the park or to visit someone. Jewelry, feathers and all kinds of other precious and flashy objects were glued onto wigs. However, things changed after the French Revolution, when wigs were associated with excess and decadence.

Wearing a wig is not associated with social prestige anymore. However, we basically have the same reasons for wearing a wig as did women who lived centuries ago. Either for medical reasons or just beautification purposes, wigs now are accessible and quite varied. Wearing them is now optional and they are a whole lot more comfortable. There is no longer a social pressure on women who wear wigs and those who choose not to. It is a personal option for both women suffering from various hair loss/medical conditions and women who just want to change their looks overnight.

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