What is perhaps less well known is that the Empress of Austria had beautifully long and full hair that reached down to her knees. For Sisi, her hair was the crown on her head. She was particularly proud of how her loose strands surrounded her like a cloak.
Unfortunately, the empress was not very happy, and this was expressed in an obsession with her appearance, among other things. She expressed this as: “I am a slave to my hair.” Her obsession with her hair, among other things, resulted in a very extensive and very interesting hair routine.
To the detriment of the Viennese court, Sisi hired a theatre hair stylist: Fanny Feifalik. Only Fanny was allowed to touch her hair at a certain moment. If Fanny couldn’t, then Sisi refused to appear on official occasions. Fanny was officially appointed as a hairstylist of the court and started earning a generous salary, which was equal to the salary of a university professor.
Dressed in white
Sisi forced Fanny to dress completely in white, complete with white gloves. The hairstylist was also absolutely not allowed to wear jewellery.
Every day 2 to 3 hours
2 to 3 hours! That’s how long it took to comb and light Empress Elisabeth’s metre-long hair. Every morning, after a cold bath, a massage, a light breakfast and a very extensive fitness session, Sisi sat down on a low chair in the middle of her dressing room and handed her hair over to Fanny.
Taming stubborn curls
Sisi’s wavy curls had a mind of their own. They wanted to fly while they had to flow, as Sisi’s Greek teacher described it. But to get the stubborn lures in shape, hairstylist Fanny carefully grabbed the hair strand by strand and let her fingertips slide over the hair as if she had the most delicate material in her hands.
While her hair was being done, Sisi learned languages such as Hungarian and Greek with the help of a teacher.
After extensive combing, braiding and lighting of Sisi’s hair, all loose and broken hairs were counted. Fanny had to put the hairs in a silver bowl, on which Sisi inspected the hair extensively. If there were too many hairs in the bowl, the empress would be very upset. But Fanny knew something about that: she secretly hid the loose hairs, with the help of tape, under her apron, so that Sisi thought that hardly any hairs had come loose.
Fanny created a unique style for Sisi; a hairstyle that consisted of braids that were put on especially. The hairstyle was very popular and was copied by many women, sometimes less successful.
Egg yolk and cognac
Every three weeks, Elisabeth’s hair washed. This was done with a mixture of egg yolk and cognac. The whole ritual took a full day, it took hours for Sisi’s hair to dry. After washing, the empress put on a special long, water-resistant silk gown and walked up and down until her hair was dry.
Although Sisi was very proud of her hair, it was often a burden for her. As she put it: “I am a slave to my hair.” The empress often suffered from enormous headaches due to the weight of her lures. If this bothered her, she stayed in her room all day while her hair was held up by ribbons, so she didn’t have to endure the weight and could ventilate her scalp.
Maybe you recognize it a bit too. Now and then we are a little too obsessed with our looks. And I think that the most important lesson from Sisi’s hair routine is that you have to be something that you enjoy and not a burden that makes you unhappy.