Being Vintage: Waxing Poetic About The Bouffant

November 14, 2011 • Magazine, Vintage

I love big hair. I have always had big hair, and am notorious for tresses that grow out, not down. The other day I was at a lecture with Simon Doonan, who was speaking about fashion icons. I asked him a question, and he responded with an observation about my hair: referring to it as a bouffant, and synthesizing it with my own existential sense of personal style (his words — not mine. But, happily accepted). He commented about its “vintage quality”, which got me thinking about the notion of vintage and how it can be parlayed into modern concepts of fashion and style. To be very honest, I love a vintage aesthetic but I don’t wear much vintage clothing. I do not enjoy hunting for clothes (oh, how I wish I did!) and I like a wardrobe that is timeless, chic and can be worn seamlessly from day to evening. But my hair has always been my standout feature — the one component of my aesthetic that hearkens to a vintage ideology. Particularly, it shows my deep-rooted love for the 1960s.

So can one have a vintage style, without looking primordially vintage? Absolutely. In my opinion, that’s the most exciting embrace of vintage. As someone who wears a bouffant and red lipstick every single day, I can attest that this integration of my favorite vintage style moments — the carefree, sleekness of the Mod look, paired with very clean makeup and an exaggerated pop — has been the most resounding discovery of my own journey with fashion and style.

As I watch trends move in and out of the contemporary fashion world, comparing them to moments past, I’m delighted when a designer or an editorial commits to exploding a look from the top, especially with a bouffant. The bouffant was the highlight of Jean Paul Gaultier’s FW/11 collection, piled sky-high atop the models’ heads and often tinted a vibrant, austere gray. Back in 2008, designer Limi Feu sent her models onto the runway with hair that was a sensational fusion of ‘90s grunge and a ‘60s bouffant — a combination I find wildly successful.

The bouffant has also been a celebrity street style moment: Chanel Iman and Sarah Jessica Parker were both recently captured sporting radically different, but equally inspired bouffants. Chanel’s immaculate and sleek version was piled and poufed on top of her head — a gleaming vision in noir. SJP’s bouffant was markedly different, achieving impressive verticality and flanked by heaps of luscious, teased curls.

The bouffant is often even the subject of entire editorials! Style. Magnet Magazine recently dedicated a multi-page spread to the bouffant’s heightened wonder. Teased, tousled and gloriously messy, the various styling techniques speak to its inherent versatility. The bouffant is a classic, perfectly translated.

Vintage is not just about clothing. It’s about a feeling, an aesthetic and the interpretation of a moment past in what now lives as the present. For me, vintage wear is shellacked into a dome five inches from my scalp. What’s your bouffant?

1. Jean Paul Gaultier FW 2011,
2. Limi Feu SS 2008,
3. Chanel Iman, Refinery29
4. Sarah Jessica Parker, Refinery29
5. Editorial, Style. Magnet

— Amanda Aldinger

Image Layout: Amy Newling

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