Tag Archives: history

Beauté du Siecle

Beauty Of Our Time: Beauté Du Siècle

June 9, 2013

You may not know this about me, but… I am absolutely fascinated by the subject of beauty!

Poetry, music, art, science. Everything draws inspiration from beauty. It is not something you can easily define and hold onto. Rather, beauty is coquettish. Full of elusive meanings and flabbergasting  delight.

I always like to know and learn more about the role that beauty has played across time and across different cultures.

So when delving deeply into a subject, I often turn to books, which will forever be a source of enlightenment.

This week, a real jewel of a book arrived and became part of my ever growing collection of beauty literature.

The book is called Beauté du Siecle.

And it is a super shiny 400 page silver monolith of a book.

Beauté du Siecle

Beauté du Siecle is the collaborative work of several journalists and fashion magazine editors.

The book is dedicated to the history of women’s beauty:

“From the heroines of antiquity to the goddesses of modern times… each epoch chooses its archetypes, erects its own myths and invents its new recipes.” 

First, we are taken on a historic tour, which begins in ancient Egypt and guides us along to modern times. Then the book jumps across different domains, from art, cosmetics, magazines to perfumes.

There is a section dedicated to ethnic beauty, which is something that I am particularly interested in, as it is a story that is rarely told.

And of course, what would a beauty book be without a visual component?

The images within this book are truly marvelous and were chosen with exquisite taste.

Beauté du Siecle

Beauté du Siecle describes itself as a book that shows how our appetite for novelty constantly triggers the emergence of ideals of perfection, which are as unrealistic as they are ephemeral.

I only hope my french is up to par to understand all the highbrow and flowery language contained in this book…

But I’m up for the challenge.

Hair: Symbol of Power, Seduction and Shame.

November 5, 2012

The Bouffant Belles were a Texas all-girls track team that competed in full hair and makeup in the 1960s. Photo from the “Art of Hair” exhibit, Branly Musem.

Things got really weird really fast at the Art of Hair exhibit in the Branly Museum.

From the common to the unexpectedly strange, everything was on display in this cultural celebration of hair. The exhibit shows how people have been decorating their hair as far back as the days of our cave dwelling ancestors. But even more surprising are the lessons revealing the role of hair beyond the realm of beauty.

“The Art of Hair: Frivolities and Trophies,” is a temporary exhibit currently going on at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, showing how hair has always been a symbol of power, seduction and shame throughout time and across different cultures.

Some of the images we see in the exhibit are kings from ancient times displaying their grandeur through their long hair, sirens luring men to their deaths with their crooning voices and sweeping hair, widows with their hair unpleated to mourn for their dead husbands. The exhibit is filled with statues, drawings, paintings, photographs and videos illustrating how hair can mean different things for different cultures.

One of the videos cleverly juxtaposes haut couture hairstyles found on the runway with hairstyles sported by tribal groups. Perhaps the most sobering footage is the one of European women in the 1930s, being displayed after their heads have been shaved to mark the shame of sleeping with enemy soldiers.

Then things got weird, with the display of scalped heads and shrunken heads. Real human scalp and real shrunken human heads. Apparently, this is the trophies part of the “Frivolities and Trophies.” If there is one flaw in the exhibit, it’s that the subject of hair itself is very abstract. So you can show ANYTHING in this exhibit, as long as it has hair on it.

Still, if you want to get cultured on hair and you happen to be in Paris, then I would suggest that you check out “The Art of Hair: Frivolities and Trophies” exhibit at the Branly Museum, which is going on until July 14, 2013.

Heads up on the little quiz that you can fill out as you follow along the course of the exhibit. The first place winner is awarded with a hair makeover valued at €300 by the stylist Frédéric Birault, from the Cut By Fred blog.