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French Twisting in the U.S.A. : From Paris to Beverly Hills, Sophisticates Are Being Swept Up in a Classic Coiffure

December 21, 1986|PADDY CALISTRO

A new twist on a classic hairdo has become the look for the holidays. The French twist, a prominent style at the recent European ready-to-wear collections, has caught on as a favorite of the Milanese and Parisian boutique set and is now taking Beverly Hills by storm.

Cristophe, owner of Salon Cristophe on Beverly Drive, says that each of his three upsweep specialists twirl at least a dozen twists a day. And Umberto, whose luxe Canon Drive salon has a cappuccino bar and clothing boutique, says he can't count the number of twists his stylists pin up each day, "but we do a lot. Our clients see the look in Europe and then they want it."

The classic upsweep has come a long way from its beginnings in the 18th Century, when Marie Antoinette topped her twist with voluminous hairpieces. Carrying on the patrician tradition, Great Britain's Princess Anne frequently twists her tresses, and her trendier sisters-in-law, Diana and Sarah, also do the twist, but only for the most noble affairs. The twist, one should realize, is a fine base for a tiara.

But the style is definitely not reserved for royalty. In the '50s, it was an important nighttime hairdo, perfect with gowns by Norman Norell, Pauline Trigere, Mainbocher and the like. Sophisticated teens wore it to school with their poodle skirts and Peter Pan collars. A twist was behind the teased bouffants that were popularized by the girl groups of the '60s, and it was a way for longhaired women to adapt Jackie Kennedy's famous bubble. By the early '70s, variations on the twist, with corkscrew tendrils tumbling down the neck, were seen on both the Ladies Who Lunch and the luncheonette set. Then, like false eyelashes, the twist was gone.

Now it's back, and everyone's wearing it for the holidays--but it's not the French twist we've seen in decades past. The severe, pulled-straight-off-the-face look has been replaced by a twist that sweeps up on the sides so that the bulk of the hair is at the crown. According to Umberto, no tendrils should fall at the nape. The neater the hairline, the better. Mousse, gel or spray, sometimes all three, tame stubborn wisps. For whimsy, Umberto might add fan-shaped synthetic hairpieces in shocking magenta, as shown. "These are for fun and decoration, not to look real," he is quick to point out.

The new twist is as detailed in the front as it is in the back. The plain-faced twist of years ago was unflattering to women with less-than-perfect features, Cristophe says, but the '80s version, with a wave sweeping across the forehead or with fringed bangs, is "much more feminine, and it's made to be worn with makeup, jewelry and hair accessories."

Accented with antique combs, jeweled hairpins, feathers and baubles, the twist is predominantly a night look in Beverly Hills. But trendies around Southern California and their counterparts in Europe are starting to wear it by day. They find it's the ideal transitional style for hair that's growing out. And it's an upbeat alternative for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein devotees who are tired of those low-slung ponytails caught at the nape in a studied bow.

Although most women will select the soft, simple twist to complement their New Year's Eve finery, others will overdo the do. Atop the twist there may be a wiglet or two, or perhaps a chignon with a long, braided tail spilling from its center. Too much? Umberto shakes his head. "This is just another version of the twist--a little Las Vegas, a little Cleopatra."

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