Have you always been fascinated by illustrations of elaborately opulent 18th century hairstyles such as the one called À la Belle Poule that commemorated the victory of a French ship over an English ship in 1778?
The application allows to build your wig by dragging a mouse-comb over the head of a model and instantly conjure up on the screen fluffy clouds and cascades of soft hair.
You can then powder and embellish it with feathers, flowers, jewels, the occasional fan and obviously a four-mast ship calling back to mind the model of the Belle Poule ship originally set on an enormous pile of curled and powdered hair stretched over a frame affixed to the top of a woman's head.
Such gravity-defying styles were particularly difficult to achieve: long hair was pulled up and over a frame or a bundle of wool, human or horse hair (kept in place with a paste made from pig fat...), and then extravagantly decorated, smoothed or frizzed. The final touch was given by scented powders made from flour that were spread over the head of the woman while she wore a big cone over her face (your model in the V&A app will do the same once you get to the powdering stage).
Since these hairstyles needed a lot of time to be created, women would try and keep them for several weeks at a time with two main consequences - very bad headaches since they had to assume awkward positions to sleep (not to mention the fact that they would have to stick their heads out of carriage windows or to sit doubled over because their hair was taller than the carriage roof...) and, well, lice. There were actually other disadvantages linked with these hairstyles: doorways had to be altered to accomodate them and they were banned from the general seating area of theatres because they blocked people's view of the stage.
The app was launched as a portal or an introduction to the new Europe 1600-1815 galleries, that opened in December. The new spaces combine together several arts and disciplines, from painting and sculpture to music and fashion. The hairstyle app goes well with the "City and Commerce" and "Luxury, Liberty and Power" sections of the galleries that include also a few examples of garments such as silk dresses and overdresses and men's coats, waistcoats and breeches set among Rococo furniture and sedan chairs.
You can more or less recreate other fantastically artificial hairstyles that were popular among women during the 18th century (there were hairstyles inspired by the first vaccine and the solar system that you may want to try...) or just come up with your own amazing style, just bear in mind that unfortunately the model remains a woman and there is no chance to create a bizarre wig for a man. Once you've finished, you can either save your work of art or share your styles on social media.
The app is cleverly done and allows to play at being a hairstylist while learning basic notions about art, history and fashion from those times (obviously you're invited to learn more while visiting the new V&A galleries). There are many advantages in designing the 18th century wig of your dreams with this app: in the past hairstylists had to climb ladders to finish their intricate constructions that at times would require an entire day. You won't have to climb on a ladder to design these wigs, but you may end up spending an entire day creating them. The app is indeed highly addictive.
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