The Short Story of Powder: France & England | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: The Short Story of Powder: France & England

July 15, 2009

The Short Story of Powder: France & England

In France, powder was all the fashion. Powder your wig before you go out, or else! The trend was pushed into a corner when the Revolution arrived, because it appeared that those who used it for style were "taking the bread out of the peoples mouths." Powder now had a negative association with the old regime.

It was however, still worn by some. Mostly sticklers who liked the old way of doing things, and insistent coiffures. Also the Swiss guard wore powdered wigs for some time. Eventually it became socially unacceptable and instantly out of fashion. The death of powder in France was quick. Now a more natural look had been adopted, that's right, long, flowing, natural locks were all the rage!

Hair Powder in England did not die so quickly! Even with the revolution and Pitt's genius idea to place a Powder Tax, the trend still remained strong. It was a guinea for everybody who used powder. You received a certificate, and if you used powder sans certificate you would be slapped with a £20 fine! ouch!

Who was exempt from this tax? The daughters of families. But not the 2 eldest daughters (Lizzy's and Jane's everywhere were out of luck!)

"The Duke of DEVONSHIRE has paid five and thirty guineas for his family. The Duchess of NORTHUMBERLAND a single guinea for herself, powder is under interdiction among the rest of that family, though not from motives of disaffection. Her Grace assigns a more justifiable motive; namely a scruple of contributing in any unnecessary way to the present scarcity"

John Ashton, Times June 12 1795


  1. Very interesting.

    I love the scented powder I got from you

  2. who was the powder police? How did they enforce that?

  3. Lauren, what an interesting post! I know some people who still powder their hair (not as profusely of course), just when they need a quick fix and no time for wash, last minute thing- takes out the oiliness lol!!

  4. My hairdresser was actually just telling me today about how she powders her hair to give it body, rather than washing it every other day. She's an advocate!

  5. Right up until two years ago lawyers and judges in Britain wore wigs, although i think they were pasted rather than powdered.

    In fact I think some still do.

  6. I wasn't too fimailar with the powder that was in fashion. Thanks for the info!

  7. I'm one of those who still powders! Well... not to the extent the french did in Marie's day. I have extra oily hair and don't want to damage it by washing it everyday... so a little bit of lavender baby powder does the trick and I can skip a day of washing. Funny how somethings like hair powder seem to be a well kept secret these days, but used to be all the fashion.

  8. @misty autumn
    It's true! I wonder how many people actually keep to powdering, I know there are some days when I wish I had some handy- oily tresses are no fun!