Stories Photo essay

Steven Meisel, ‘Couture’, Vogue Italia 2005.

By Tautahi Subritzky

If you’ve engaged with any fashion-related media lately, there’s a high probability you’ve heard of the term “Quiet Luxury”. A movement in fashion characterized by minimalism, neutral colours and invisible branding. Quiet Luxury or “Stealth-Wealth” as it is also referred to, focuses on an appreciation for quality over quantity. Luxury presented under the guise of austere simplicity. Words like ‘understated’, ‘classic’ and ‘timeless’ are often used in conjunction with both of these terms and highlight the somewhat muted and utilitarian nature of the trend. ‘Dressing down’ has become the new ‘dressing up’.

Seemingly hair and beauty have followed suit with clean, bare and “un-done” looks dominating previous Ready-To-Wear presentations. Perhaps the most recent Spring/Summer 2024 Haute Couture collections have made us hungry for a bit of escapism. Sure, we love a slicked-back chignon and a beautifully cut suit as much as the next person, but sometimes there’s nothing that excites the senses quite like the extravagance and opulence of the 18th-century rococo era.

Going against the grain of anything “quiet”, we’ve compiled some of our favourite 18th-century looks, inspired or otherwise, for your viewing pleasure. Keep your curling tools on standby.


‘Marie Antoinette with a Rose’, Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1783.

While musing on 18th-century hair and beauty trends, there’s one figure who dominates them all and that is the Dauphin of France herself, Marie Antoinette. An icon of the rococo era who continues to inspire popular culture centuries after her infamous beheading.

Leonard Autie, the queens' premiere hairdresser, was the person responsible for creating her ornamented and gravity-defying Pouf, setting a trend amongst the noble women of Versailles, who were obliged to emulate the queen. Soon after, young ladies of Paris would also demand this new style, which drastically increased coiffure expenses and caused many to incur unpayable debts. Leonard’s ostentatious new hairstyle would indirectly cause some of the first inflammatory attacks upon the queen by the French people.


The 18th century along with Marie Antoinette’s stylistic influence has inspired many directors to highlight this era of history in film, with some truly spectacular results.

Norma Shearer in W.S Van Dyke and Julien Duviviers ‘Marie Antoinette’,1938.

An elevated Pouf trimmed with ringlets and ornamented by stars in a 1938 film adaption of Marie Antoinette’s life. There’s nothing “Quiet Luxury” about this look. it screams opulence.

Lucille Ball in Roy Del Ruths ‘Du Barry Was A Lady, 1943.

Taking place in a drug induced dream, Lucille Ball as Madame Du Barry; royal mistress to King Louis XV. Nothing says rococo more than bejewelled hair ornaments, barrel curls AND ostrich feathers.

Marisa Berenson as ‘Lady Lyndon’ in Stanley Kubricks
‘Barry Lyndon’, 1975

Actress and model, Marisa Berenson plays an 18th century aristocratic widow for Stanley Kubricks ‘Barry Lyndon’ and there’s no wonder why this film took home an Oscar for ‘Best Costume Design’. Chefs kiss.

If you haven’t seen Tilda Swinton's performance in ‘Orlando’, you should definitely add it to your list of films to watch. We’ve taken some liberties here as technically the film begins its story in the Elizabethan era of the 16th century, but trust us, after you’ve seen this film, you’ll see why we’ve included it on our list.

Tilda Swinton in Sally Potters ‘Orlando’, 1992.

Kirsten Dunst in Sofia Coppolas ‘Marie Antoinette', 2006

The most modern telling of Marie Antoinette’s life leading up to the French Revolution, ‘Marie Antoinette’ by Sofia Coppola aimed to present the rococo era queen in an historically accurate yet fantastical way. Hair and Wig Designer Desiree Corridoni definitely understood the memo and created epoch hairstyles worthy of a Vogue editorial.


The popular music industry is all about image and many musical artists have chosen to reference 18th century styling within their performances.

Madonna, MTV Music Video Awards 1990.

A MAJOR Madonna moment. 18th century hair and beauty for her on-stage performance at the MTV Music Video Awards.

Madonna performing ‘Vogue’ at the MTV Video Music Awards 1990.

Adam Ant, 1981.Album Art for ‘Prince Charming’

Pretty and punk.

Charli XCX for ‘Used to Know Me’, Music Video 2022.

“It’s Charli baby!” and she’s definitely playing the part. There’s nothing understated about her look for the ‘Used to Know Me’ music video.


John Galliano

Galliano is famed for blending historical references and presenting them in a high fashion context. Using the theatricality of historical garments in a way that elevates them from the everyday. From his very first graduating collection at Central Saint Martins, Galliano has looked to the past for inspiration. As well as the clothing, hair and beauty has played a major part in highlighting and elevating these references with nods to the 18th century and Marie Antoinette herself present throughout his archive of work.

Yasmeen Ghauri for John Galliano, Spring/Summer 1993.

Historical, sculptural and dripping in ringlets for John Galliano’s namesake collection.

Shalom Harlow for John Galliano, Spring/Summer 1993.

Romantic ringlets and a parasol add a touch of historical drama.

John Galliano, Spring 2004.

Back-combed Pouf’s with 80’s glam beauty. Only at John Galliano.

John Galliano for Christian Dior

John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture, Fall 2000.

Feathers, pearls and knitting needles. Leonard Autie’s vision lives on for Christian Dior Haute Couture by John Galliano.

John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture, Spring 2006.

A ‘Haute Couture’ collection inspired by blood, gore and the French Revolution. Hair was bleached, teased and fixed into ringlets while the beauty was cold, bruised and exquisitely demonic.

John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture, Spring 2006


Another designer who referenced bygone eras within her work and brought a touch of 18th century glam to her runway showings was the queen of punk fashion, Vivienne Westwood.

Vivienne Westwood, Spring/Summer 1994.

White out. A powdery complexion with blushed cheeks and a dusty red lip. Sans the led and mercury s'il te plaît.

Linda Evangelista for Vivienne Westwood, Fall/Winter 1995.

The pale complexion returns with a tousled “messy” up-do.

Eva Herzigova for Vivienne Westwood, Fall/Winter 1995.

Vivienne Westwood, Spring/Summer 1997.

From the Palace of Versailles to the runway. Historical hair re-imagined for the 90’s Westwood woman.

Vivienne Westwood, Spring/Summer 1997.

Moschino by Jeremy Scott

“Let them eat cake” or should that be “let them wear cake”. Jeremy Scott presented an undoubtedly Marie Anotinette-centric collection with vibrantly hued sky high do’s for his Fall/Winter 2020 collection at Moschino. The references were clear, camp and so over-the-top.

Moschino by Jeremy Scott, Fall/Winter 2020.

Deliciously rococo and far from understated.

Backstage at Moschino by Jeremy Scott, Fall/Winter 2020.

Charles Jeffery Loverboy

Looking both to the past and future for inspiration, while maintaining a queer sensibility, for Spring/Summer 2024 Charles Jeffrey Loverboy presented a collection that merged historical accents with contemporary silhouettes. Hair was artfully curled into ringlets and accessorised with feathered hats while beauty was blushed and rosy.

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Spring/Summer 2024.

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Spring/Summer 2024.

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