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The pouf or pouffe also "toque" (literally a thick cushion) is a hairstyle and a hairstyling support deriving from 18th century France. It was made popular by the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette (1755–1793), when she wore it in June 1775 at the coronation of her husband Louis XVI, triggering a wave of young French women to wear their hair in the same manner.
Marie Antoinette acquired the hairstyle which was a creation from the famed hairdresser of the day Léonard Autié. In April 1774, it was first sported as Le Pouf Sentimental by Duchess de Chartres at the Opera. The Duchesse's hairstyle was immense. 14 yards of gauze were wrapped around a tower as well as two figures representing the baby Duc de Beaujolais in his nurse's arms with an African boy (a particular favourite of the Duchess) at her feet. A parrot and a plate of cherries were also added.
From then on it quickly became widespread amongst noble and upper-class women in France during the time. It was highly creative and artistic and women could literally wear their moods through strategically placed decorations and ornaments. Ships, animals and hundreds of other novelty items could be seen on these poufs. Other decorations included pearls, headdresses/hats, hair jewellery, and plumage, such as ostrich feathers.
It also became popular in other countries throughout Europe and the United Kingdom during the same era, with Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire the most notably famous, for her hair in Great Britain. From 1789, upon the outbreak of the French Revolution, the pouf became more of a political weapon for women who supported the revolution in turning against their former Queen's most popular fashion statement.
As the 18th century came to an end, and the beginning of the 19th century, new fashions came along for hair and the pouf, after the execution of Marie Antoinette, became history. The pouf returned in both the 20th and 21st century with the more modern name "beehive", revived by stars such as Dusty Springfield, Cilla Black, and Amy Winehouse.
The pouf was a very elaborate and time consuming hairstyle, hours were needed to create it. To create the base, a very thin metal frame was used to structure the shape. Also a triangular pillow (pouf, toque) was used as support. The frame was then padded and intertwined with pomaded false hair 'postiches', and one's own hair would be taken in. The pomaded hair would then be curled in various sections (varying on the specific style), with heated clay curlers lined with strips of thin paper. The lovelocks would be curled in a similar fashion. Once the shaping and styling was done, it would be finished off with white or grey powder, and decoration proceeded.
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