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The dress code for a masquerade ball is all about opulence and whimsy with an 18th century flair. Imagine an over-the-top, glitter-strewn combination of Lady Gaga and Marie Antoinette (the French always were fashionable, cheri). Forget everything you've gleaned from stuffy aristocratic portraiture -- it didn't do them a bit of justice. The fashionable set of the 1700s knew more about partying than Paris Hilton. With the right combination of historical inspiration and modern-day glam, your masquerade coiffure will be the talk of the ball.
The towering hairdo known as the fontange was ragingly popular in the 18th century when women would go so far as use clumps of horse hair and gobs of pomade to achieve the look. Lucky for you, you can get the style without the added aroma of a stable wafting from your head. Just fill a hair net with faux hair for a lightweight piece that will give your style serious height. Pin the piece to the top of your head, then tease and pin your own hair on all sides to cover it and create a tall, elegant hair style, a la Keira Knightley in "The Duchess."
In the 1700s, hair ornaments were fashioned after everything from birds to ships. The tall fontange could accommodate a whole scene, telling recent news stories or evoking images of woodland whimsy. Pinning political propaganda into your hair today is less than glam, but you can keep to the spirit of this style in a modern manner. Use your own array of unusual ornaments tucked around a French twist or loose bun. Decorative butterflies, small birds and even plastic "candied" fruit are readily available in any craft store. Secure your piece of choice to a headband or pin and proudly wear it to your masquerade ball. Bonus points for witty ladies who can construct a hairstyle with an inside joke in the ornamental arrangement.
When the fontange began to go out of style, it was replaced with a much more natural look. Loose, frothy curls all around the face became the style of choice for fashionable women. This look is very simple to achieve and still looks dressed up enough for a ball. If you love the sexy look of low-maintenance loose waves, this slightly dressed-up version of the look was made for you. Use smaller curlers at the front so you have masses of little ringlets surrounding your face, with bigger curls toward the back.
Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, made the peacock feather a must-have hair accessory. In her day, this was an absurdly expensive trend to follow, giving prestige to those who could pull it off. Put yourself in the role of the rich and famous by mimicking this style. Style your hair into a simple updo and pin a tall faux peacock feather just behind your ear. Arrange the feather so it lies against your head rather than out away from your face. For an even simpler method, use a bejeweled hair clip or feathered headband in the signature jewel tones of a peacock feather. Tres magnifique!