Accessorizing Through The Ages: A Retrospective on Hair Accessories

Accessorizing Through The Ages: A Retrospective on Hair Accessories

In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion, one element has remained a steadfast symbol of individuality and elegance: hair accessories. From ancient civilizations to modern runways, they have played an integral role in the expression of personal style as the figurative “cherry on top” of a look. Let’s explore the rich history of hair accessories and the iconic figures who have kept them relevant.

Ancient Origins

The story begins in the cradle of civilization, where ancient Egyptians adorned their flowing locks with intricate gold and gemstone embellishments. These opulent ornaments symbolized status and spirituality, with hieroglyphs depicting gods and goddesses wearing elaborate headdresses. From the gilded braids of Cleopatra to the regal crowns of Pharaohs, hair accessories were imbued with divine significance, transcending mere fashion to become symbols of power and prestige.

Ancient Egyptian Hair Accessories

(Nefertiti by Unknown)

Cleopatra Hair Accessories

(Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, 1963)

Medieval Majesty

As the Middle Ages dawned, hair accessories evolved alongside the shifting currents of society. Medieval maidens wove flowers and ribbons into their locks, channeling the romanticism of courtly love. Noblewomen adorned their hair with ornate circlets and tiaras, echoing the opulence of the royal court. 

Eleanor of Aquitaine

A true Renaissance woman ahead of her time, Eleanor of Aquitaine was a trailblazer in the realms of politics, culture, and fashion. As the queen consort of both France and England, she wielded power and influence with unparalleled grace and sophistication. 

Eleanor of Aquitaine Hair Accessory

(Queen Eleanor by Anthony Frederick Sandys)

Isabella of France

Famed for her beauty and cunning, Isabella of France was a formidable presence in the tumultuous world of medieval politics. As the wife of King Edward II of England, she navigated the treacherous waters of court intrigue with poise and determination. Sporting a diadem of emeralds and rubies, Isabella exuded an aura of regal authority.

Isabella of France Diadem

Renaissance Rebirth

The Renaissance brought a rebirth of artistic innovation, inspiring a newfound fascination with hair accessories. Renaissance women embraced the elegance of pearls and lace, elevating their hairstyles with delicate combs and hairpins. As the era of enlightenment dawned, hair became a canvas for artistic expression, with ornate braids and elaborate updos.

Margot Valois

A prominent figure in the French court during the late 16th century, was renowned for her impeccable fashion sense and distinctive style.Known for her love of lavish accessories, she adorned herself with ornate jewels, bejeweled headdresses, and delicate fans, adding a touch of grandeur to her ensembles. Margot's fashion choices not only captivated the French court but also influenced the trends of her time, cementing her legacy as a style icon of the Renaissance period.

Margot Valois Hair Accessories

( Portrait by Francois Clouet)

Elizabeth I of England

Queen Elizabeth I of England was celebrated for her iconic fashion sense and her penchant for elaborate hairstyles. As a symbol of power and majesty, she frequently decorated her fiery red hair with elaborate crowns, jeweled combs, and intricate hairpins. Elizabeth favored ornate headpieces featuring symbolic motifs, such as Tudor roses and her iconic pearl-studded crown. 

Elizabeth I Hair Accessories

( Elizabeth I by George Gower, c. 1588)

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII of England, was known for her grace and charm. She introduced several innovative hairstyles and hair accessories to the English court. Anne favored intricate French hoods with pearls, gemstones, and delicate lace trimmings. She also popularized the use of gauzy veils and jeweled hairnets.

Anne Boleyn Hair Accessories

(oil on panel, late 16th century)

A Brief Mention of Rococo

Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France from 1774 to 1792, became an enduring icon of Rococo style. Rococo is an artistic and architectural style that emerged in France in the early 18th century, is characterized by its ornate and whimsical aesthetic, pastel colors, asymmetry, and motifs inspired by nature and mythology. Marie Antoinette's style was characterized by lavish fabrics, voluminous skirts, and intricate hairstyles featuring  feathers, ribbons, and jewels. 

Marie Antoinette Hair accessories Rococo


Sofia Coppola Marie Antoinette Hair Accessories

(On set of Marie Antoinette, Sofia Coppola)


Gilded Glamour

As the modern era unfolded, hair accessories underwent a transformation, reflecting the shifting currents of fashion. The Gilded Age, spanning roughly from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, was a period of unprecedented wealth, opulence, and extravagance in American history. During this time, elite society was characterized by its lavish lifestyles, grandiose parties, and extravagant fashion. Hair accessories played a significant role in the fashion of the Gilded Age, with wealthy women sporting hair dos with a variety of ornate embellishments.

Decorative combs were a staple of Gilded Age fashion, often crafted from precious metals like gold or silver and adorned with gemstones, pearls, and intricate enamel work. These combs were worn to secure hair do’s such as Gibson rolls, pompadours, and chignons. 

Tiaras and diadems were reserved for the most formal occasions of the Gilded Age, symbolizing wealth, status, and aristocratic lineage.

Gilded Age Hair Accessories

The roaring twenties saw the rise of flapper chic, with jeweled headbands and feathered fascinators adorning the sleek bobs of the Jazz Age.

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker, the legendary entertainer and dancer, captivated audiences with her electrifying performances and avant-garde style. Known for her bold fashion choices and boundary-pushing aesthetics, Baker often sported embellished headbands to compliment her sleek bob. These headbands, typically made of silk or velvet and adorned with feathers, beads, or sequins become a staple of signature style.

Josephine Baker Hair Accessories

(Getty Images)

Clara Bow

Clara Bow was an iconic American actress who rose to fame during the silent film era and became known as the "It Girl" of the 1920s. Her captivating screen presence, vivacious personality, and distinctive beauty made her one of the most popular and enduring stars of her time.

Clara Bow Headband

( Eugene Robert Richee, 1926)

Contemporary Couture

In the fast-paced world of modern fashion, hair accessories continue to evolve, embracing a fusion of tradition and innovation. There is much to unpack here so let’s break it down by era.


1960s: The Era of Mod Fashion

The 1960s ushered in a revolutionary period of fashion, marked by the rise of mod culture and the influence of icons like Twiggy and Brigitte Bardot. Hair accessories of the era were bold and playful, reflecting the spirit of youth and rebellion. Brightly colored headbands, oversized bows, and statement-making hair clips were all the rage. Twiggy, with her pixie cut and penchant for mod fashion, popularized the use of bold geometric hair accessories. Brigitte Bardot's tousled hair and oversized hair bows became synonymous with 1960’s glamour. These women along with their contemporaries, like Jane Birkin and Jackie O (too many to name because 60’s style icons will have their own article), are immortalized through their influence on today’s fashion and on every fashion girl’s mood boards. 

Brigette Bardot Headband

(Contempt, 1963)

Brit Ekland Hair Accessories

(Britt Ekland, 1960)

Twiggy Iconic Hair Accessories

(January, 1972)

1970s: Bohemian Chic

The 1970s saw a shift towards a more relaxed and bohemian aesthetic, influenced by the hippie movement and icons like Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. Hair accessories of the decade were earthy and natural, reflecting a back-to-nature ethos. Women embraced floral headbands, beaded hair wraps, and braided leather hair ties, channeling a free-spirited vibe. Stevie Nicks, with her flowing locks and penchant for mystical attire, epitomized 1970s bohemian style and inspired countless women to embrace eclectic hair accessories as expressions of individuality.

Stevie nicks flower crown

(Stevie Nicks on stage with Fleetwood Mac)

Sharon Tate Hair Accessories

(Sharon Tate, 1968)


1980s: Excess and Glamour

The 1980s were characterized by bold feminine energy and self-expression. Hair accessories of the era were loud, and unabashedly glamorous. Oversized bows, glittering barrettes, and scrunchies in neon colors. Madonna, with her iconic "Like a Virgin" look and penchant for statement-making accessories, became a style icon of the decade. Her statement making approach to fashion and her voluminous hair helped popularize the trend of bold hair accessories.

Madonna Hair


Cher iconic hair accessories

(Cher by Guy Webster)

1990s: Minimalism and Chanel

The 1990s saw a shift towards minimalism, influenced by the rise of style icons like Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Kate Moss. Hair accessories of the decade were understated and edgy, reflecting a rejection of the excess of the 1980s. Women embraced minimalist hair clips, sleek headbands, and simple hair ties in muted colors. 

Carolyn Basset Kennedy headband

(Getty Images)

P.S. This is why we named our acetate headbands The Carolyn. Shop here.

Kate Moss 90's Headband

(Vogue Spain, Sept. 1995)

Chanel runway shows under the creative direction of Karl Lagerfeld continued to be highly influential, combining classic elegance with modern flair. Hair accessories played a significant role in Chanel's runway presentations during this era, adding an extra layer of sophistication and style to the overall look. Of course, the use of headbands on the runway was not exclusive to Chanel.


Chanel Hair Accessories

(Chanel, SS 1994)

Chanel Heabands 90's

(Chanel, SS 1995)

Valentino Headbands

(Valentino, SS 1996)

2000s to Today: The three B’s - Blair, Bella, and Bows 

From fiction to fashion week, headbands and bows have remained at the forefront of style in the 21st century. Before we get into the person we all know is coming. Let’s give honorable mention to Paris, Nicole, and Lindsay for defining the trends of y2k.

Paris Hilton Headband

(Blackberry Launch, 2008)

The recent revival of Y2k has inspired a renewed affinity for bold and eclectic accessorizing characterized by futuristic yet retro tech inspired materials and playful pops of color.

Gwen Stefani Headband

(Gwen Stefani, "What You Waiting For?' video)

The Queen herself. A woman of fiction whose name has become synonymous with the headband. Blair Waldorf. Her style, as interpreted by Eric Daman, is a masterclass in polished sophistication. A perfect blend of preppy elegance, timeless classics, and modern flair brought together by her signature piece - the headband. And remember. “The bow always goes on the right.” Blair continues to have a resounding influence on not only the style of young women, but the formation of their personalities.

Blair Waldorf Headbands

(Blair in "The Freshman" S3 E2)

We are all convinced that Bella Hadid can pretty much make anything viral. She may not have been the first to do it, but she did repopularize the minimalist 90’s headband as the finishing touch to an outfit from day to night.

Bella Hadid Headband

(Getty Images, 2023)

Headbands and Bows on the Runways

Designers often use headbands on their runways to elevate the drama of a look, or bring it together with something chic and understated.

Dolce and Gabana Headbands

(Dolce and Gabbana, FW 2012)

Louis Vuitton Headbands

(Louis Vuitton, SS 2013)

If Miu Miu is the it girl’s brand, then headbands are the it girl’s accessory.

Miu Miu Headband

(Miu Miu, SS 2018)

Bows are everywhere. And they aren’t going anyway. Designers Sandy Liang and Simone Rocha lean heavily until the bow as a motif in their designs embracing the whimsical and delicate nature of feminine style.

Sandy Liang Bows

(Sandy Liang, FW 2023) 

Simone Rocha bow tears

(Simone Rocha, FW 2023)

From ancient civilizations to modern runways, hair accessories have served as symbols of beauty, power, and individuality. As we continue to navigate the ever-changing currents of fashion, let us remember the timeless allure of the hair piece, celebrating its rich history and limitless potential for self-expression.

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So awesome ❤️ love Misc. ❤️❤️❤️

Mila Rae Mancuso

Extremely interesting, educational and cool!!!


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