The aigrette was fashionable in most of the 18th century but also in the previous century. The term refers to either a jewelled ornament for the hair or a plume of feathers likewise attached to the coiffure.
In the 1680's fashions once again favoured the high hairstyles which saw the reemergence of the aigrette. By this age it became common to reserve the best diamonds for those used in hats and aigrettes. Marie Louise d'Orléans - daughter of Monsieur - was a great fan of a new trend of aigrette: having inscribed words or names on the aigrette. Marie Louise had the name of her future husband, Carlos II of Spain, written in her own.
|Small aigrette worn by Marie|
Marie Leszczynska is seen wearing a splendid aigrette in her state portrait. When Monsieur de Chabot married the daughter of the Duc d'Anville the bride was given a purse of 100 louis and a precious aigrette according to the Duc de Luynes. This alone shows how popular the accessory was. The same Duc also refers to a particularly magnificent diamond aigrette owned by "the younger Madame la Duchesse" which was estimated to be worth 100.000 livres.
With the popularity of the aigrette is is little wonder that they were often used as presents. One rather odd instance was when Madame de Pompadour found out that one of the minor mistresses of Louis XV was pregnant. When the time came for the young woman to be delivered of her child the Marquise charged her lady - Madame du Hausset - with going to the convent where the birth was to take place and present her with the gift of a diamond aigrette.
|Louis XVI's gift to Marie Antoinette|
Marie Antoinette made the aigrette one of her first fashion statements. She was fond of real feathers which immediately became all the rage - so much so that an entirely new trade sprang up in France. This greatly angered the Dauphine's mother who scolded her daughter for it. Louis XVI made a discreet hint to spend less on the trend by gifting his wife with an aigrette made from diamonds already in his possession.