Ode to the Tignon

With Met Gala week coming to an end, following a theme of Gilded Age, it was only right that my favourite look of the night. Actor, singer and creator Cynthia Erivo came in an all-white, elegant fit by Louis Vuitton, but many were conflicted as to its meaning and whether it was considered ‘on – theme’. Although this dress was something that black women would have worn during the Gilded Age, the question mark stood within the headpiece that she was wearing, which does have deep significance to it that has not been spoken about enough… 

Erivo pays homage to the enslaved black women during the Gilded Age (1870-1900), mentioning that the headpiece was an ode to the women of Louisiana who were made to wear head wraps called Tignon during her interview on the carpet with Vogue. In 1786, a law was written by the Spanish Governor which enforced black women to cover their hair. During this time, New Orleans was populated by many ‘free’ black people, contributing heavily to the Black Creole culture that we still see in Louisiana today. Even though a large majority of them were free, black women were still made to identify themselves as part of the ‘Slave class’, with the Tignon being the identifier. Originally it was a knotted piece of material to cover all of their hair in a way of removing the possibility of expression by black women through their hair, and this rule was followed but with a twist…Black women began to decorate their Tignons with flowers, bright colours, feathers, even hats, subverting the oppressing intention by making them a beautiful accessory.  

Cynthias’ head piece is a symbol of power and black liberation. Black women didn’t let an intention of suppression forced onto them stop them from being able to express themselves. This is also a reminder that discrimination of black hair has been in the system longer than we think & Erivo protests this at the Met. A beautiful fit with an empowering meaning, while still being on theme. Bravo.