Lady Elizabeth Foster v. Lady Elizabeth Seymour Conway v. Countess of Lincoln

Another Round of Dueling Fashionistas Begins With . . . 

Source: Gibe, Wikipedia
Source: Gibe | ‘A Young Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)’

The 18th century was a glorious time for coiffures.  They were absurdly tall, sausage and pin curled, stuck with feathers and baubles and ribbons.  They housed ships and birdcages, were tools for storytelling or political/personal commemoration.  In short, they were EPIC.  Arrive at the 1780s, however, and ladies’ hairstyles fell flat.

I blame it on the hedgehog wig.   Compared with the glamorous, albeit headache inducing pouf, I’d slap the style with an ‘uninspired’ stamp, but they must have held some charm.  They were widely favored for almost two decades, from the 1780s to the 1790s.  Early adoptees touted them as a return to a more natural, effortless appearance, and they kind of are.  Maybe it’s the color–dishwater grey, like a wig that’s been trampled on in the street–or the fact that, as the name suggests, they resemble a hedgehog placed atop one’s head with a dignified curl underneath.  American Duchess replicates it with her own hair, and I must say, it’s attractive.  But the 18th century versions are frowsy.

The Analysis

If we pick the hairstyles below to pieces, Lady hedgehog #1 separates herself from #2 and#3 by wearing crown frizz.  Yes, the nemesis of modern curls was fashionable in the 1700s.  For all that I’ve lambasted this hairstyle, I believe #1’s wig is slightly more becoming.  Ladies Hedgehog #2 and #3 have smoothed their coiffures from the crown, coiled half the hair into a top knot, and curled the bottom.  The style is neater but looks like it would require a can of Elnett to keep it in place.  Hardly natural.

The Verdict

I bear a strong dislike for one and all, but I’m wondering if I’m alone here.  What do you think?  Thumbs up?  Thumbs down?  And what about the clothes? They’re pale affairs, ruffled and feminine down to the empire waist (#1 and #2) or past the fichu on #3, but not objectionable in and of themselves, right?

Lady Elizabeth Foster | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1787
Lady Elizabeth Foster | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1787
Lady Elizabeth Seymour Conway | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1781
Lady Elizabeth Seymour Conway | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1781
Frances, Countess of Lincoln | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1781
Frances, Countess of Lincoln | Sir Joshua Reynolds | 1781

Let your vote be heard!  Who wins this edition of Dueling Fashionistas and why?

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6 thoughts on “Lady Elizabeth Foster v. Lady Elizabeth Seymour Conway v. Countess of Lincoln

  1. I also vote for #1. It seems aided by a stocking over the lens, compared with the unflattering light of the other two portraits.

    I fear #2 wanders into Bride of Frankenstien territory a bit with the greying temples. Her blouse is similar to #1 but lacks the former’s poofy arms which make #1 appear younger. #2 also has a brow which ordinarily would be quite attractive were it not for the harrumph-y expression and the sponge color and appearence of her hair.

    #3 is sad. Literally. While bringing to mind a portrait of Samual Johnson for some reason, she’s a pretty lady who, too, is failed by her aquarium-ready hair. With the plunging blouse-top, aided by her forward-leaning pose, her chest seem to be in the act of sagging.

    Thanks for the link to American Duchess – the pintrest link she has is almost bottomless…!

    1. I find #1 most fetching, though I do think the dress girlish with the neck ruffles inspired by the Elizabethan ruff (?), the pink beribboned/tucked sleeve, and the billowy lace cuffs. I also like Lady Elizabeth Foster’s pearlescent lip. It’s a bit like lipgloss.

      American Duchess has a wonderful site. Her Pinterest boards will keep you busy.

  2. I’m trying hard to see how the hair styles improve the beauty of these ladies. I guess, whilst imaging the baulk of clothing below, the general scale of the hair style balanced the lady – when viewed from head to toe. But i’m more of a landscape kind of guy after all!

  3. I may be behind the times but I too like one. In France the hair-do was created for the queen because she lost hair during her pregnancy. They even used the reason for its name. I am sorry to say I don’t remember it except L’something. Lol

    1. One has to wonder how many hairstyles were created for practical reasons then sold as The Most Chic. Antoinette was lucky to have reigned in the era of wigs and pads for hair. If she’d made it to the Directoire, she’d have been old fashioned but the who knows what she would have created!

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