Marie Antoinette (2022) Hair & Wigs, Part 1


The first episode of Marie Antoinette (2022), the Canal+ series about the famous 18th-century French queen, has finally come to American shores. It’s already aired in France and on the BBC in the UK, but now PBS is showing it over here. Created and written by Deborah Davis, who wrote The Favourite (2018), the series attempts to show the real story in a specifically feminist lens. This is the first of three planned seasons, and you KNOW I needed to be all over it, given how much the 18th century and Marie Antoinette specifically is my jam.

The whole series and its costumes needs an in-depth review, and I’ll be doing that later. But I have enough to say about the hair and wigs in the series that separate posts are required! Because, as longtime readers may know, I’ve done enough research into the history of 18th-century hair/wig styling and worked out my own recreations, that I wrote a book, 18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques. The book has been out of print for several years, but I’ve finally gotten organized enough to do a second printing, which will come out in July 2023. If you’re interested in the why’s and how’s of 18th-century hair and wigs, the stylistic differences of different eras, and/or how to recreate these hair/wig styles taking advantage of modern products, you should know that I’m offering a discount on presale orders up until the book is released (you’ll save $15, and if you live outside of the U.S., you’ll also save $10 on shipping).

18th century hair & wig book

Frock Flicks’ own Trystan rocks the big ship hair, and so can you!

With that in mind, let’s get into the hair and wigs in Marie Antoinette (2022)! Now, I’ve managed to watch the whole series, so there will be hair spoilers here. If that bugs you, save this post and come back to it when you’ve watched the whole series!

I haven’t yet been able to figure out who was the official lead hair/wig designer(s) on the show (IMDB only lists stylists). The costumes were designed by two people: Madeleine Fontaine (Versailles, Casanova, A Very Long Engagement) was the costume artistic director, while Marie Frémont (costume supervisor on Versailles and The Last Duel) was the official costume designer.

The first thing I’m going to say is that the hair and wig styling is beautiful. No crappy “what died on her head” face-eating wigs here! The second point I need to make is they got a lot of things right but flubbed some details, which of course drives me crazy; and they made something of a mishmash of the timeline, with characters switching between mid-1770s and mid- to late-1780s styles and back.

In this post, let’s look at our main character, Marie Antoinette. She starts off in very sweet styles with only a bit of height, some romantic waves and curls, and zero powder:


2022 Marie Antoinette

Her hair has the kind of wave you get when you brush out curls, and it’s up til the crown of the head, then the back is long and styled into one big ringlet.

2022 Marie Antoinette

She wears her own hair color, which is a just slightly strawberry blonde.

I liked this style for showing her youth and freshness, and because they got the key element of hairstyling in the second half of the 18th century: for both men and women, the front was up to the crown of the head, but the back was longer.

2022 Marie Antoinette

This is the perfect cut for the period.

That being said, even this style isn’t quite right for the era. What should she be wearing? The “tête de mouton” or sheep’s head style, which involves lots of regular curls across the front half of the face, and the back pulled up smoothly.

Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Style leader/Louis XV’s mistress Madame du Barry rocks a high tête de mouton in 1772 | Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Augustin Pajou/Sèvres Manufactory, Madame du Barry (1746–1793), 1772, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, the later Queen Marie Antoinette of France by Joseph Ducreux, 1769, Palace of Versailles

You can see almost exactly the same style on the real Marie-Antoinette — plus copious amounts of powder | Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria, the later Queen Marie Antoinette of France by Joseph Ducreux, 1769, Palace of Versailles

My guess is they looked at something like this bust of Madame du Barry where the back of her hair isn’t styled (i.e., a boudoir look):

Madame Du Barry (née Marie-Jeanne Bécu) (1743-1793) by Augustin Pajou, 1773, musée du Louvre. Note the image on the right is from a reproduction.

Madame Du Barry (née Marie-Jeanne Bécu) (1743-1793) by Augustin Pajou, 1773, musée du Louvre. Note the image on the right is from a reproduction.

At her wedding (1770), the dauphine wears something more along the lines of the tête de mouton with structured rolls and curls, plus a touch of powder:

2022 Marie Antoinette

The main problem is that the back of her hair isn’t straighter and pulled up as it should be (look at the back of the du Barry bust again):

2022 Marie Antoinette

It’s just a mishmash of curls and waves.

She goes back and forth between these two looks during her time as dauphine; here’s another more-accurate-to-the-specific-period look that again is all curls in the back (although the hanging ringlet helps). The other annoying thing is that in this period of the show, they’re trying to hammer home the point that Versailles is ALL FORMAL ETIQUETTE — although they talk about it more than show it. One great way they could have shown it was through hair powder, but there’s almost none throughout the series.

2022 Marie Antoinette

Things continue in that vein until 1774, when Louis XV dies and Louis XVI becomes king. Suddenly out of nowhere, Marie-Antoinette starts rocking a beautifully styled, but completely incorrect on several levels, frizzy mid-1780s style:

2022 Marie Antoinette

We’ll discuss the details in a second.

First, what did hairstyles look like in 1774?

Marie Antoinette by Jean-Martial Frédou, 1774, Christie's

Going out of style was that high tête de mouton look | Marie Antoinette by Jean-Martial Frédou, 1774, Christie’s

Marie-Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty, 1775, Palace of Versailles

If you wanted her to look fashion-forward, as the scene tries to imply, you should be going with this higher and wider style with LOTS of decoration | Marie-Antoinette by Jean-Baptiste André Gautier-Dagoty, 1775, Palace of Versailles

Second, if you ARE going to put her into a 10-years-too-early frizzy “hedgehog” style (note, it wasn’t actually called that, read my book for more info), it wouldn’t be a beach ball:

2022 Marie Antoinette

Totally round curl thing.

1785 - Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français via Wikimedia Commons

First, it should have a crap-ton of ringlets | Gallerie des Modes et Costumes Français, 1785

Portrait de femme by Jacques-Edmé Dumont, 1786, Musée du Louvre

Second, the back of the hair should be much longer and much straighter. It took me a while to be convinced that these busts were correct and the sculptors weren’t just crapping out on doing the back of the hair. But as you can read in my book, this really was the way hair was cut | Portrait de femme by Jacques-Edmé Dumont, 1786, Musée du Louvre

We then start going back and forth between the two eras’ styles, like here where Marie-Antoinette performs at the Trianon:

2022 Marie Antoinette

The hair is high, like it was in the mid-1770s, but it’s too pointy. I like the jewel, too bad they actually used powder but managed to get it onto the bling?

Portrait of Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828) by Alexandre Roslin, c. 1777, via Wikimedia Commons

High hairstyles of the mid- to late-1770s tended to be high and wide | Portrait of Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg, Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828) by Alexandre Roslin, c. 1777, via Wikimedia Commons

2022 Marie Antoinette

Here’s another great example of them getting the back of the hair wrong. They’ve just pulled it up and stuck a bunch of rolls on it.

Gallerie des Modes 1778

The back hair should still be long and straighter, and was generally worn looped up | Gallerie des Modes, 1778

She goes back and forth between these two looks through the period of her pregnancy and birth of her first child (1778):

2022 Marie Antoinette

She does at least start adding ringlets (AND MOPS), but the back is still styled exactly the same as the front.

2022 Marie Antoinette

Except then she adds braids and looks like the Wendy’s poster girl.

2022 Marie Antoinette

This was one of the weirder ones with all the feathers, as it’s just not an 18th-c. aesthetic. I get that they’re trying to make her look over the top.

belle poule

But as literally everyone knows, the way they made hair over-the-top in the 1770s was to make it 1) huge and 2) put all kinds of crazy decorative stuff in it. These are two examples of the legendary “ship in the hair” styles from around 1778-80. The show does NONE of this, which is a huge miss.

Things go to extra crazytown with this look:

2022 Marie Antoinette

I just …. words fail. This was NOT a look ever seen in the 18th century.

Marie Antoinette 2022

Luckily I already mocked it for Snark Week.

At some point, she finds her powder, but it doesn’t stick (ha ha) around very long:

2022 Marie Antoinette

Some kind of brioche?

The final episode really embraces the mishmash. You’ve got:

2022 Marie Antoinette

A too-pointy high hairstyle with lovely, if very modern, decorations.

2022 Marie Antoinette

The sides and back are frizzed and pulled up in a very not-1770s manner.

Then for a formal event, we go full Basket Weaving 101:

2022 Marie Antoinette

I guess this was the Bridgerton look?

2022 Marie Antoinette

Maybe she just went to a harvest fair?

And all in the same period, she also rocks this soft, romantic take on mid- to late 1780s hair:

2022 Marie Antoinette

It’s one of the more accurate looks! Just, it’s 1780ish here and so this is a few years too early.

2022 Marie Antoinette

The pulled-back hair should stop higher up, but at least they’ve got some hair down in back.

Portrait of a lady said to be Jeanne de Valois, comtesse de la Motte [I would be shocked if this was accurate] by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, c. 1780 [I'd say post-1783], via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a similar style but from several years later, minimum | Portrait of a lady said to be Jeanne de Valois, comtesse de la Motte [I would be shocked if this was accurate] by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun, c. 1780 [I’d say post-1783], via Wikimedia Commons

Next, I’ll do a long post about the costumes and plot, and then yet another post where I talk about the hair and wigs on all the other characters in Marie Antoinette (2022)!

Interested in learning more about 18th-century hair and wigs? Want to try making your own? Check out Kendra’s book, 18th-Century Hair and Wig Styling: History and Step-by-Step Techniques!


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

19 Responses

  1. Constance

    I am obsessed with 18th century and have been reading journals and letters of the period…the best ones I have found are those of Lady Sarah Lennox, mostly to her close friend Lady Susan Fox Strangeways, ( who eloped with an actor) though her family removed all letters from the period where she left her husband to run off with a “mad man”. (From Aristocrats series). Also the bio of Harriet Spencer Bessborough, who was sister to the famous Georgianna Duchess of Devonshire, as well as mother to Lady Caroline Lamb…and was left out of the movie The Duchess entirely, is so good. Her story was equally scandalous and interesting to her sister’s and they were joined at the hip, so it is a shame they left her out of the film.
    I have a question about the powder though…did they wash it out frequently to start fresh? I can’t get a sense of that from the any of the journals I have read, though they all detail the hairstyles and fashions.

    • Kendra

      I think they would comb it out and start fresh periodically! The powder itself was a degreaser, and they weren’t too much for water-washing in this period (beyond using a basin and jug and cloth).

    • Kendra

      And I love the 18th century letters/diaries! Check out “An English Lady in Paris: the diary of Frances Anne Crewe” for a great diary by an Englishwoman who visited Paris in the mid-1780s and did All the Things.

      • Constance

        I read it! I have found quite a lot and always looking for more. Even Fanny Burney’s has some funny stuff as she was such a prude and shocked by everything. She was appalled to meet Duchess of Devonshire and find that she was charming…and Sarah Lennox was a hoot. She wrote to Lady Susan all thru her (Susan’s) exile to America and described the fashion in great detail so Susan could be up to snuff.

      • Nico

        You should try the memoirs of the marquise de la tour du pin (Journal d’une femme de 50 ans). I don’t know if they exist in English. It is fascinated as we follow her, as a very young member of the high court (she was lady in waiting to Marie Antoinette at 16, at the eve of the revolution. Then half her family is guillotined, she lost everything, she and her hiusband fled to the US where she became a simple dairy farmer in the state of NY, then came back at Napoleon’s court.

  2. Kat

    The frill one (underneath the boats images) reminds me nothing so much as a dried coral piece. Maybe they could have stuck some pearls and kelp in there to really sell the effect.

  3. ED

    I’m not going to lie, seeing this fine website tackle a series that I’ve seen recently has mightily excited to discuss such crucial questions as:-

    Should we translate ‘Papa Roi’ as “Grandpa” or as “Daddy King” when applied to Louis XV?
    Can we call this show’s Monsieur “Provence” when he’s barely large enough for Monte Carlo?
    Has Mr Louis Cunningham achieved Peak Method Acting in going to the trouble of not only being born to a European royal family, but being named “Louis” from birth?
    Is the Princess Lamballe the only creature in this show with puppy eyes more affecting than those of the indomitable Mops?
    Did the Emperor leave tooth-marks in the stonework as well as the woodwork during his incognito visit?
    Would the future Louis XVI marrying the Princess of Savoy rather than the Princess of Savoy have left France better or worse off? (Also, what would the King of France’s safe word have been and would Madame have listened when he used it?).
    Most importantly, do we award the Princess de Polignac or Madame the title “Sexiest Schemer at Versailles (Ladies)”?

    La Polignac is quite classically beautiful, seems to have a knack for man-management and clearly has charisma to burn, but Madam has red hair, killer instinct and sheer perversity on her side (Why do I find such a horrible, horrible person so SEXY?!?).

    Oh, I’m also happy to discuss plot, themes and the vexed question of whether this show manages to find just the right sweet spot between “impending tragedy” and “Peak Foppery”.

    In any case I look forward to future instalments!

  4. Lily Lotus Rose

    Also, your comments about putting crazy ornaments in the wigs made me think of the comedy The Big Tease starring Craig Ferguson. It’s from the late 90s/early 2000s, so not a FrockFlick. But I thought it was funny at the time. It’s about a Scottish hairdresser who travels to Los Angeles for a hair competition. It’s been ages since I saw it, but it did feature several crazy hairstyles! Here’s a link to the trailer which, sadly, doesn’t feature the afore-mentioned crazy hairstyles:

  5. Constance

    I have not watched ep 1 as I have to have the whole series available before I begin but am NOT excited. Had hoped for a quasi-realistic view of Marie Antoinette, not really wanting a “feisty teen shakes up Versailles” as this appears to be…

  6. ConsiderTheBees (@Wildfyrewarning)

    I’ve been watching a lot of Japanese/Korean/Chinese period pieces lately, and one of the things I love learning was that “slapping the main characters in more modern hairstyles while the extras are all more or less period correct” isn’t just a Hollywood/ European thing. I recently watched a show set during the Shogunate and it was very clear that at some point the director was like “yea, we aren’t doing the partially-shaved heads for the main male leads. Just do that for the characters who don’t have lines.” The older/ more minor ladies in this show also have much more accurate hair while the younger ones have very modern haircuts, worn completely unstyled.

  7. Susan

    Just started watching it on PBS but am hoping that Louis bathes and isn’t a smelly bad hair wearing manchild. I want Mops back.

    • ED

      Minor spoiler: There WILL be pugs (because what other breed says “Fashionably inbred, darling” more loudly this side of a Spanish Habsburg?

  8. Mina Van Berh

    Emilia Schüle, the actress who plays Marie Antoinette, mentioned in an Instagram post the head of the hair department, Sebastien Quinet, and wrote that he spent around 400 hours doing her hair.
    Does this mean, he also designed the wigs and hairstyles? Or is that the job of somebody else? (Genuine question, I really don‘t know how these things work – but would be very interested to learn about it!)

  9. Madame Hardy

    Very late to the party, but I cannot forgive baby!Marie’s Claire’s barrettes.


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