High-Society Bouffants Are Back

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Hours before guests descended on the Plaza Hotel for Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball, the nearby salon run by Kenneth Battelle hummed like a wartime munitions factory. A master of discretion whose clients included Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, the mononymous Kenneth played sculptor and traffic cop. “We had a lot of wives, ex-wives, and mistresses that we had to hide in different places,” he later recalled. “Some of these hairdos required up to seven hairpieces at a time.”

The so-called Svengali of the Silver Scissors had his finger on the pulse of high society, conjuring bouffants that acted like manicured hedges: beacons of elegance and reserve. Babe Paley, a Kenneth regular portrayed by Naomi Watts in FX’s Feud: Capote vs. The Swans, epitomized this lofty perfection. The production’s wig designer, Chris Clark, who also styled Watts, re-created that silhouette. A self-professed research nerd, he likes to use a period-style setting lotion while simulating the effects of a hood dryer. “Then I tease and smooth and tease and smooth,” he says, “and really try to find Babe.”

Puffed-up coifs are turning heads elsewhere. Palm Royale, the Apple TV+ show set in late-’60s Palm Beach, presents an array of towering salon dos. Kristen Wiig plays a bumbling striver with DIY pin curls—her level of finesse is “a little bit off,” says hair department head Karen Bartek, who looked after Wiig. For Schiaparelli’s spring 2024 runway, Guido Palau crafted a pair of bouffants (designer Daniel Roseberry is a Texan, after all), aided by hairpieces and a new Zara hairspray. “I’m attracted to doing these extreme sculptures,” Palau says, “because they’re so in your face.” To him, a proper set is more subversive than half-shaved pink hair.

Amplified volume, with its feminine edge, has a way of declaring, “I’m here!” says Mara Roszak, whose hair care line Rōz added a clean-propellant root lift spray this awards season. It can boost a soft blowout (as she showed on Emma Stone for the Golden Globes) or be dialed up à la Amy Winehouse (the subject of an upcoming biopic). Going rogue is an appealing tack, to judge from Marc Jacobs’s spring 2024 show, where hairstylist Duffy layered wig upon wig for cloudlike coifs inspired by Diana Ross and Elizabeth Taylor—more punk than polished.

That irreverence lurked in writer and gal-about-town Sarah Hoover’s teased updo for a recent Chanel event near the Plaza. On Instagram, the wry (and pregnant) Hoover mused: “Have we considered what might happen if we just let the mob wives and the swans join forces against the husbands”?


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