Dressing Up, Dressing Down

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wig 1954.979/3
engraving 1958.148

For over a century from the 1660s to the late eighteenth century, fashionable men chose to shave their natural hair and to wear a wig instead. Over this long period, styles changed, but the procedure remained similar, necessitating the regular services of a barber for shaving, and to powder the wig, and a wig-maker or perukier to provide new wigs, maybe once a year, and to restyle used wigs. At first, large "full-bottomed" wigs were the fashion, like those worn by judges today, but as the eighteenth century wore on, smaller neater wigs were used, like those of barristers. New wigs were expensive to buy, costing perhaps 2 or 3 in the early eighteenth century, so poorer urban aritisans often bought second-hand wigs at about 8 shillings instead.

To make up their wigs, perukiers used different hairs, including horse or goat, or for the most costly wigs, human hair. Payments are recorded in household accounts to female tenants from male estate owners for lengths of cut hair which could be used for the long full wigs of the early eighteenth century. This very rare survival is made of white horsehair and was worn by Thomas Carill-Worsley who lived at Platt Hall from the 1760s. The prints below show a range of wigs being worn in mid to late eighteenth century life.

Full item descriptions:

"wig & bag" [1954.979/3]

Related Themes:

18th Century Men's Fashion