Empress Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria dieted and never cut her hair.

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as "Sissy," captured everyone's hearts when actress Romy Schneider immortalized her in a trilogy of 1950s romantic comedies.

However, a real person is much more interesting, historians will say. The future empress was born on Christmas Eve 1837 and grew up between Munich and Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. The Duchess, from a side branch of the royal House of Wittelsbach, enjoyed a carefree childhood away from the restrictions of court life. Her engagement to the Emperor of Austria was accidental.

Kaiserin Elisabeth im Morgenlicht (1) jpg

Seeking a way to expand her influence at the imperial court, her aunt, Archduchess Sophia of Bavaria, initially selected Sissi's elder sister Helene (Nene) as a suitable bride for her son Franz Joseph at the age of 23. He was only 15 years old at the time, and Cece was part of an escort and accompanied his mother to Bad Ischl, where the young man planned to formally propose to Ellen.

However, this did not affect Franz Josef in any way, and the younger and more cheerful Sissy immediately won his heart. And although Archduchess Sophie doubted her niece's suitability for court, the emperor made it clear that he would either marry Sissi or no one. They eventually married the following spring in the Augustinerkirche in Vienna, thrusting young Elisabeth into the spotlight.

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She was a celebrity in her time

Sissi's fame as an icon and trendsetter began at an early age. Slender, 1.72 cm tall, she was considered one of the most beautiful women, and her personal style was often imitated both within and outside the empire.

In particular, she was famous for her wasp waist, which varied between 40-50 cm in circumference, achieved through corsets and compression practices. To further accentuate her delicate physique, she was one of the first women to abandon overlapping skirts and petticoats, opting for a simpler, slimmer figure. At 32, she began to refuse to pose for portraits and photographs in an attempt to preserve her youthful image in history, and this increased the fascination around her.

She had very thick hair

Sissy was famous for her hair, but she was especially proud of her very thick brown locks, which she never cut. His hair reached the floor, and combing it took several hours every morning; washing was a procedure that took the whole day, sources at the time say. She wore extremely elaborate braided hairstyles created by her personal hairdresser, Fanny Feifalik, who became her confidante and whom she also used as a body double due to their physical resemblance.

She dieted and exercised

Of course, maintaining a slim figure was not easy, and the Empress was known for her picky diet, following various dietary regimes fashionable in the 19th century, including the orange, restrictive, all-dairy and egg diets.

She often avoided eating meat, preferring instead lean soups or sauces with meat juices and broth. She also took steam baths to lose weight and olive oil baths to maintain skin tone. The Empress weighed herself three times a day. On the rare occasions when he approached 50 kg, she followed strict diets.

Exercise also played an important role in maintaining her beauty and gyms were installed in all her homes. Her dressing room at the Hofburg was equipped with rings and bars so she could do gymnastics during her morning routine.

Sissy was a woman who cared about her beauty.

Despite her strict regime, the Empress occasionally indulged in hearty Bavarian dishes and sweets. Her favorite was violet-flavored ice cream, which is still offered in Demel in her honor.

Sissy's favorite sport was horse riding. She trained regularly at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and rode extensively at the Hungarian royal residence in Gedöll. Of particular interest to the press at the time were her numerous equestrian appearances in the British Isles in 1876–1882.

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Empress Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria dieted and never cut her hair.