The hairstyle developments during the Second Empire

The hairstyle developments during the Second Empire (the Capote, the Rodomengo, the Fanchon, and the Diadem Tress).

The hairstyle developments during the Second Empire

The Capote, the Rodomengo, the Fanchon, and the Diadem Tress
During the Second Empire, the empress Eugénie in France was the queen of fashion and taste. What she wore and how she dressed her hair became all the rage.
Long hair was seen as particularly feminine – indeed some let it grow so long that it reached their knees. The chignon was particularly popular in France at the beginning of the Second Empire, but the two plaits arranged over the ears in the manner popularised by the young Queen Victoria gradually disappeared to be replaced by two flat bands of straitened hair. Furthermore, the type of chignon had to be adapted to the type of hat to be worn according to the season. Occasionally hairdressers would work hand in hand with a particular modist, as was the case with the celebrated Mme Aubert who associated herself with the hairdresser Crosat.
In the 1850s, the hat in vogue was the Capote, a cylindrical hat with an oval form framing the face down to the chin, under which the hat was secured by a two knotted ribbons. The rear projecting part encased the chignon at the back of the neck. The interior was lined with silk and lace. Such a hat could also be adapted for an “Eugénie” or “Rodomengo” hairstyle, where hair was flattened into two bands above the ears, ending in a “loveknot” chigon at the back of the neck. For parties, the hairdresser would add floral ornaments and ribbons, slightly the loosening the chignon to allow tresses or “anglaises” to fall on the shoulders in an “à la Watteau” style. Whilst the Empress hardly ever added heavy ornamentation to her hair, she did powder it with gold powder, giving it a “burnished” look. The Comtesse de Castiglione, on the other hand, adopted extravagant hair styles.

Around 1860, the Capote changed, with the rear part being removed to reveal the chignon. Chignons as a result grew in size. By 1862, the hat had almost entirely disappeared to become merely a flap of fabric, called in French a Fanchon, and as such much more flexible. The triangular shape covered the top of the head and finished in point at the back. It was attached by two ribbons and could be rigid or supple depending upon the materials used (whether cloth or rice straw). And it could be decorated with any sort of ornament. The accompanying hairstyle could be all the freer. Hair at the front would thus be prepared so as thicken the width of the triangular piece of fabric. By doing this, the “imperial” hairstyle would be created. It was made by forming a broad tress in diadem form, with flat bands not covering the ears. Since this style required a great deal of hair, hair merchants began to reappear. The invention of the first synthetic dye in 1856 made it possible to match up the two hair colours more closely.

At the end of the Second Empire, women abandoned crinolines in favour of bustles. And hairdresser took this as inspiration to create a hairstyle which was all folds. Hair was given volume at the top the head using tresses or “anglaises” which then fell in cascades down the back of the neck.
Ludovic Cazettes (March 2011)


Caprice de la mode romantique, Monique Scalaresky, édition Ouest-France Rennes, 2000.