The Chignon, An Interesting History Plus A HOW TO

Maggie Mulhern | June 2, 2014 | 9:13 AM
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CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Actress Blake Lively attends the "Captives" Premiere at the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2014 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/Le Film Francais/WireImage)
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It's wedding season and chignons are popping up more than usual these days. Did you happen to see that AMAZING chignon worn by Blake Lively at the Cannes Film Festival? It was huge, sophisticated and outright gorgeous. It was created by Stephane Lancien, an incredible artist and the Global Hairstylist for L'Oreal Paris. After learning more about Lancien (just check out some of his HOW TO videos on you tube), I also started to investigate the chignon. WOW! There is a lot of fascinating history surrounding this very interesting (and perfectly bridal) finish.

So here it is, the summation of the search, with a big shout out to Google, Wikipedia and every on-line dictionary.

The word “chignon” comes from the French phrase “chignon du cou,” which means nape of the neck.  However, The Miriam Webster dictionary says it is from the word "chaignon" with means chain, collar or nape. According to, the word is a blend of Middle French Chaignon and "tignon" which means twist of hair. Wiktionary goes a bit deeper:

Spelled chaengnon around XIIth century with the meaning of "nape". The evolution of the meaning from "chain" to "nape" is unclear: a chain of bones.

The expression chignon de pain, is a local, dialectal prononciation of quiqnon de pain ("loaf of bread").

"Your Dictionary" adds the French variant, variety of chaînon, from Old French chaeignon, chain, nape (of the neck) ; from Vulgar Latin an unverified form catenio, and from the Classical Latin catena: chain.

Phew, it was an endless search, and quite satisfying. The bottom line, a chignon is a chain at the nape, so if you want to put a bun or knot at the crown, you should call it something else, like a bun or a knot at the crown.

The first known use of the knot at the nape of the neck was in 1783, but can also be traced back to Ancient Greece where it was specific to Athens. Athenian women commonly wore the style with gold or ivory handcrafted hairpins. Athenian men wore the style as well, which they fastened with ornamentation. The chignon also became popular in China where married women wore the low, knotted hairstyle.

The chignon achieved popularity during the Victorian era. At that time chignons were often enormous constructions with false hair or pads used as filler. After the silhouette faded in popularity, it peaked again in the 1940's when many women wore a chignon with a headscarf while working in factories to support the war effort during World War II.

We are seeing more and more chignon's these days, many larger and more intricate than ever. So, coming full circle, how appropriate that Blake sported that truly tasteful, elegant and oversized chignon in Cannes!

Jennifer MacDougall holds a bridal class at the L'OrealPRO SOHO ACADEMY IN NYC where she teaches chignon styles and other bridal shapes. Here she offers the HOW TO create the Blake Lively chignon:

STEP 1: Mist L’Oréal Professionnel Mythic Oil Milk throughout hair and blow dry smooth and straight using a paddle brush.

STEP 2: Mist the hair with L’Oréal Professionnel Infinium 3 hairspray and using a Mason Pearson brush, smooth the hair into a ponytail at the nape and secure with a bungie.

STEP 3: Back comb a hair weft into a ball and put inside of a dark blonde hair net and close net with a U- Pin (This will add volume to the chignon)

STEP 4: Secure the netted hair weft with 4 long bobby pins on a each side and attaching it over the pony tail base leaving the ends out.

STEP 5: Mist Infinium 4 hairspray on the ponytail and smooth with mason pearson covering the netted hair weft. Using a clear elastic secure the ends and tuck the ends in under chignon and pin with bobby pins. Secure the sides of chignon with bobby pins and U pins.

STEP 6: Mist with L’Oréal Professionnel Perfect Shimmer for added shine.

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