The Flavian court–or, at least, Vespasian and Titus–strove to avoid the reputation for extravagance and profligacy of the previous regime, especially Nero’s excesses and empire-bankrupting expenditures on luxuries and banquets. Why then the elaborate coiffures of the Flavian women, which became de rigueur fashion for many wealthy women of the time?

I read an interesting commentary on that recently. The hairstyles, elaborate as they were, also could represent the opposite of extravagance. Poets joked about how the piles of curls and coils made a tiny woman look deceptively tall and regal, a rude trick on an admirer and a literally over-the-top fashion statement; but the detailed hairstyles, with their emphasis on precise architecture and dependence on upright posture, could represent order, morality, strictness, and creating refinement from chaos. Everything Vespasian and Titus wanted to present to the world about their new dynasty.