Marie Antoinette and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, friends and trendsetters | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Marie Antoinette and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, friends and trendsetters

May 10, 2013

Marie Antoinette and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, friends and trendsetters

Who wore it first? Marie Antoinette or Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire?? 

Meghan asked me...

"Now that I'm reading Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire after reading Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution there has been a question nagging at me: Who wore the pouf first--Marie-Antoinette or Georgiana?   

In "Georgiana" it says she was the first to wear the "three-foot tower" and the first to wear ostrich feathers, but I thought Antoinette did it first. Or is it that Georgiana was the first to introduce the styles specifically in England? I feel like they can't have independently and simultaneously come up with the idea.
Anyone know?"

Heather and I put our thoughts together on this one for you!

François Hubert Drouais, Marie Rinteau, called Mademoiselle de Verrières. 1761, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: @MarieGossip
Before Marie Antoinette was Queen, the style of hair for ladies had already started to grow (upwards that is). Here are portraits done in 1761 and 1769 for example. When Marie took the (fashion) wheel in France it was popular for hair to be piled up on the head, with large curls in the back.

Jean Honoré Fragonard, A Woman with a Dog. 1769, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A Pouf was known as such because of the large variety and number of items it could hold! A big cushion for art! A popular theme of a pouf was aux sentiments because the objects it held were what the wearer liked best. A reflection of the 'poufee' if you will.

These hair styles  had the power to convey very important (and not so important) messages, sometimes even political messages.  The style below was created for Marie Antoinette by Leonard in celebration of the French victory in the bataille d’Ouessant.

Marie Antoinette's Coiffure de l'indépendance ou Le triomphe de la liberté. Franco-American Museum at the Chateau de Blérancourt.
Hair with a message = Antoinette

It was these various pouf styles that were being discovered and pioneered by our favorite duo, Antoinette and Georgiana.

Feathers in the hair was an established trend, but an ambassador from France brought Georgiana a big full feather and she took it upon herself to make popular huge ostrich feathers in the late 70's.
English hair was tall and Georgie pioneered the ever-so difficult three tower pouf.

Satirical Print, A hint to the ladies to take care of their heads. 1776, mezzotint. The British Museum.
Huge tall hair = Georgiana 

French hair was tall, but not as tall, however it held innumerable scenes of art and the craftsmanship was incredible.

Phaetona or Modern Female Taste, Published by M. Darly. Nov. 6, 1776, etching and engraving. British Museum.
The image of ladies sitting on the floor of carriages was Georgie's doing, and there is the incredible story of a pouf Antoinette had made for a party, but it had to be taken down so that she could enter the doorway of the soiree! Once she got through the door they had to rebuild it.

Lauren & Heather


  1. So do I understand that they both had the great idea at the same time? Happens to me so its possible. :)

  2. Why thank you for clearing that up! I didn't know the nuances that differentiated French hair styles from English--in books it's all described very similarly.

    (which reminds me, any good sources for historical hair styles?)

    Thanks, again!

  3. Thank you! I don't recall the tale of having to rebuild Marie's pouf. Can't you just picture the scene? I must get around to reading Queen of Fashion. So many books....

  4. Having read almost everything on Marie Antoinette and The Duchess as well I was also confused about who did what first.

    They were both said to have been the first to do such similar things. Knowing that they were great friends perhaps they influenced each other and started the trends in thier respected hometowns, etc.

    Two very interesting women indeed.

  5. Thank you for expounding upon one of my favorite topics. I never grow tired of the discussion of giant hair :)

    I must know--where did you find that delightful Fragonard piece? I've never seen it before.

  6. Oh I know, hair styles are so fun it never gets old. That painting is at the Met! Which reminds me I should make another visit soon!