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During the fifteenth century in northern Europe, high class ladies painfully plucked their hairline to make their foreheads appear higher, as was a sign of beauty at the time, as well as scraping back their hair as much as possible in order to wear elaborate headdresses. In Italy the climate was much warmer, and women could not wear elbow headdresses as they were far too hot. Instead, Italian women displayed their hair in plaits under low jeweled caps or turbans. At the time blond hair was considered to be the most beautiful, and many men and women tried to lighten their hair by bleaching it with saffron or onion skin dye. Italian women used to sit for hours in the sun with a crownless hat to let the sun naturally bleach their hair.

In the 16th century fashion changed. King Francis The First accidentally burned his hair, and began a trend for men of wearing their hair at a shorter length, not only on their heads, but also on their faces, sparkling shortened moustache and beard styles. Queen Elizabeth was highly influential in setting styles for women at this time. Her naturally pale complexion and red hair was favored by women in high society, who used copious amounts of white powder and red wigs to fit in. The best way to create this look was by using ceruse, otherwise known as white lead. Lead based rouge would also be used to add a touch of red to cheeks, and alabaster pencils would also be applied to lips, eyebrows and even blue veins. To hold this all together egg white paste was painted over the entire portrait a woman had created on her face, sadly all the use of lead caused skin damage, hair loss, and often death due to lead poisoning.

The eighth century saw yet another change to style. Men began to wear long powdered wigs tied back at the back of the neck and wrapped in a black silk bag, although a simple black bow was also acceptable. Some men wore their own hair in this fashion, although they would have looked out of place with a group of other men who would most have worn powdered wigs. For women the eighteenth century thought out some of the largest headdresses and hairstyles ever known. Women's hair was trimmed, crimped or curled, and powdered and decorated with bows and garlands. Later coiffures were built up over a woman's head using horse hair pads and wire cages, all of which was then starched to make it stay standing the tallest. Some hairstyles were three feet high and used springs to adjust the height should a woman find that she needed to enter a low doorway. These hairstyles took hours to prepare and required work to remake them every one to three weeks, in which time they were likely to attract vermin. In a stark movement against this formality, the herisson hair style was born, which was nothing more than a bushy mass of hair atop one's head.

The Victorian Era welcomed about a sense of muteness to makeup and style. Makeup was used much less and only by middle and upper class men and women. Much brighter makeup was thought of as prostitute makeup used only by them and stage actresses, for which it was part of their job to wear the brighter makeup. Popular magazines of the time and society in general warned against the use of lead based makeup and instead promoted healthy living and hygiene through washing regularly. Women's hair during this period was oiled on top and came back to a long sausage of curls at the side, or heavy curls or plaits at the back of the head. Men of the time kept their hair relatively short, sometimes oiled, and most worn some form of moustache and maintained their beard and sideburns.

Throughout the nineties style changed more regularly throughout each decade. Today styles change three or four times a year, with older styles often coming back into fashion when determined so by fashion designers in the fashion capital of the world, France. As styles continue to change clothes seem to be covering less and less of people's bodies, and it is expected that in the future clothes will be as revealing as swimwear, if not more so.


Source de Charlotte Palmer

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