If clothes make the woman, hairstyles do just as much for the total look. Styles seem to change almost as fast as fashion itself, and nothing dates as quickly as an outmoded coiffure. The teased, back-combed, and lacquered beehives of the 1960s make any woman look dated; ditto for those shaggy, unkempt lion's manes immortalized in the shampoo ads and still the trademark of Brigitte Bardot.
Current styles epitomized in the French ready-to-wear and couture collections for the coming winter are either quite short or long, with not much in between. Long hair is seldom worn loose but is sleek and controlled in neat little chignons, French twists, or braids rather than flying free like laundry on the line in a high wind. Francis Lambert, one of the top salons in Paris, says that 50 percent of his clients still have long hair and plan to keep it that way. But in the overall picture the message is short, a boon for hairdressers as the new cuts necessitate constant care and upkeep even if the final effect is soft and easy.
A good cut and permanent are essential, but anyone who carefully observes the method and setting technique for each individual style can often manage to get by on her own for a couple of months between those expensive sessions at a professional salon. ''Wash and drip dry'' styles may have been fine for summer, but the winter scene is definitely more soignee and sophisticated, whether the locks are blow-dried or set with rollers to achieve height and volume on the crown.
As always, hair styles and silhouette trends are closely coordinated with three themes echoing this season from head to hemline: the hint of retro influence along with asymmetry and geometry. There are flashbacks to the 1920s, with the shingled bob clearing the neck and ears set off with fluffy ringlets on the crown or waves brushed to one side of the brow. Look at some of the old Mary Pickford stills back in the silent films to get the idea. Few women have perfectly regular features, and a severe center parting is not for everyone; hence the dominance of asymmetrical effects and graded cuts that are never all the same length.
If geometry is strong in fashion, hair styles keep right apace with short blunt cuts and straight Dutch boy bangs. Again, skilled hairdresser's scissors are vitally important. Even if one's hair grows slowly, a trim is obligatory every month or so.
A permanent gives body to hair, be it thick or thin, coarse or baby fine, and helps ruler-straight tresses even when they are worn straight. Newest technique on the market is the ''body wave'' perfected by L'Oreal - a method with malleable rollers that can be twisted down to the roots to achieve soft, natural-looking waves without the danger of ending up frizzled like a sheep. But no ''permanent'' truly lives up to its name, and most women require an ''overhaul'' every three months or so, according to top stylists here.
Finally, hair has to be in prime condition for any style following summer's ravages from sun and salt water. Grandmother's old treatment of a raw egg massaged into the scalp after a shampoo (and carefully rinsed out) is still viable, but many salons are trying to outdo each other with farfetched extremes. Everyone seems to be coming up with some peculiar but often beneficial specialty.
At Leonor Greyl, a treatment based on wheat germ and banana milk sets you back 150 francs. Lazartique employs nut butter, while Jean-Yves Le Goff embellishes your shining glory with seaweed emulsion applied mesh by mesh. Zouari, who coiffs Ira de Furstenberg and Margaux Hemingway, advocates honey and palm tree oil. The pinnacle of throwaway luxury is Ingrid Millet's salon on the Faubourg Saint Honore, where the German-born beautician treats your skin with her unique products made from fresh oysters and caviar, and sheep gland paste on the hair.