“The Fashionable Wig” From Williamsburg
Essentially the most amusing of the Colonial Williamsburg’s “Past and Present” podcasts that I’ve heard thus far is “The Fashionable Wig,” Lloyd Dobyns’s interview with wigmaker Terry Lyons.
I think Dobyns tends to hunt a slightly sentimental picture of the previous represented in Williamsburg, perhaps reflecting the attitude of many historic vacationers. And on this dialog Lyons retains matter-of-factly blowing up his assumptions that the folks of the eighteenth century shared the identical tastes and priorities now we have, just in a extra picturesque trend. As she ought to.
Once you analysis one other tradition deeply, I believe, you finally find yourself questioning, “What have been they pondering ” If you happen to by no means ask that query, you haven’t dug deeply sufficient but. And for Dobyns that question seems to come up as he realizes the total extent of the notion that the top of trend for gentlemen—and even for some ladies and older boys—was to shave one’s head and put on an elaborately formed wig. (Boston 1775 will discover the hair of ladies and kids later within the week.)
Amongst Lyons’s remarks:
5 percent of Williamsburg—of Virginia—was carrying wigs, however after all that main focus was within the capital city. And so there were anyplace from one to nine wigmakers there at any one time. And so business was quite brisk, however primarily within the capital metropolis.
For a fashionable and rich gentleman:You’d have wigs for night put on, for on a regular basis put on, for enterprise, for riding. You’d simply have a spread of them as you’d have a variety of clothes. . . . the shaving of the head gave a better fit. And so you’ll go to mattress at night, remove your wig, your wife would take away her wig; you’d each look the identical.
And the wigs in one’s assortment would possibly range in shade:You’ll discover that chestnut was thought-about a fashionable coloration. Brown for males. But the paler hairs were used for evening put on, for formal put on. The paler hair confirmed better by candlelight. However when you solely had a dark wig or dark hair like Mr. [George] Washington, then it could possibly be powdered. But then, after all, you needed to step from the ballroom to the powder room to have the hair re-powdered with a clothing brush; that’s what the powder room was for.
I believe that final comment is mistaken, nevertheless. A Colonial Williamsburg publication states the identical derivation, but in accordance with Merriam-Webster’s the phrase “powder room” first appeared in print in 1937, nicely after the heyday of the powdered wig. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the phrase from 1941. Little doubt the phrase really referred to the 20th-century female behavior of applying powder to one’s face—because in fact we mustn’t check with anything that goes on in that room. (The OED does define “powder closet” as being a room where wigs are powdered—but affords no citation earlier than the 1900s.)
Extra from Colonial Williamsburg: a man with curly hair webpage with pictures on the wigmaker’s shop, a booklet on the trade, and the transcript of “The Fashionable Wig” podcast. TOMORROW: What gentleman’s wigs signified.