French, after the Marquise de Fontange

Legend has it that one day the Marquise de Fontange, then the favourite of Louis' XIV many mistresses, went out hunting with the king and lost her cap in the fray. She took a ribbon and used it to bind her hair up in a way that pleased the king mightily. As anything that the king's favoured ones did, it soon became the rage among the court.

The term fontange originally only denominated a ribbon in the hair, then a certain looped ribbon on the cap (the commode) and finally a whole hairstyle in which the hair was piled up in rows upon rows of locks and surmounted by an attachment to the cap held upright by lots of starch and wire.

The fontange fad started around 1680, when relatively low, ribbon-trimmed caps appeared (e.g. the "fontange à la sultane", worn with a veil), reached its height in the 1690s with very high towers of lace, and degraded both in height and popularity until about 1710. The king himself was not in favour of such excess, but while he himself had sparked the fashion, it grew up beyond his power to command.

Terminology is a bit confused and confusing where the fontange is concerned, as some writers use it for the cap of that period, others for the hairstyle or combination of cap and hairstyle. See also commode/coiffure.