Saturday, September 24, 2011

19th Century Falsies

This Scarlett O'Hara thing has got me tuned into hair.  I've been going through the Godey's Lady's Books for 1864 and 1865 (thanks to the always generous and amazing Providence Athenaeum) and have picked up a few interesting items about hairstyles during the period.

In January 1865, the Lady's Book reports:  "The latest folly in Paris is the coloring of the hair red.  We think this fashion not likely to be followed in this country."  Paris, of course, was the source of all things fashion and the focal point of the Parisian fashion world was the red-haired Empress Eugénie, the Spanish-born grandee who married Napoleon III and reigned as Empress of the French from 1853-1870.

The ever-fashionable Eugénie from a portrait by Winterhalter, 1857.
In April 1865, the Lady's Book would print a detailed report of the process of hair-dyeing in use in the French capital to achieve the desired shade (and its cost).

As an aside, in February 1865, the Lady's Book included this recipe for an astringent hair wash:  two drachms of Borax, two ounces spirits of rosemary, and fourteen ounces rosemary water.

A hairstyle from the same issue was described thus:  "The hair is rolled, puffed and curled.  The ornaments are white flowers with frosted leaves and a very brilliant humming-bird."  This style imitates a coiffure by the French Empress reported in December 1864: 
The dress was of pearl gray tulle; three skirts, one over the other, formed of puffs running lengthwise.  The upper skirt was looped up with two bouquets of velvet nasturtiams, with a diamond hummingbird in the centre of each.  A bouquet of the same flowers, with velvet loops of a darker shade, in the centre of the forehead, and a small bouquet of the same at the back.  A band of diamonds was used to connect the bouquets, and a diamond bird was nestling in both.

In March 1865, the Book reports:
For young ladies there are many graceful little coiffures, such, for instance, as the Eugénie.  This is formed of a tuft of roses and forget-me-nots for the centre of the head, another for the back, from which falls a garland of rosebuds seemingly dripping with dew.  Most of the coiffures are composed of separate tufts or branches, or else flexible garlands, which can be twined in with puffs and curls to great advantage.
"Twined in with puffs and curls"?  Where did these women get all this hair?  Of course, many women never cut their hair and would have much to work with, but the reality of the time was that if you wanted to be fashionable, you needed some fake hair, and apparently the more the better.

During the spring of 1865, several issues included features on false hair pieces.

From March, this elaborate hairstyle is described thus:  "Ball coiffure.  The hair is rolled very high in front, and arranged in a waterfall at the back, and an Alexandra curl on the left side."  Tucked in the lower right corner is Figure 11:  "A waved bow of hair, to be worn over the brow."  Another description of a hair style admits:  "Most of these fancy arrangements are false; so also are the coronet plaits now so much in vogue."

Other examples.

Figure 12:  Crimped bow of hair, with a bunch of curls in the centre.  And Figure 14:  False front, suitable for a married lady.  The curls hang behind the ear.

Figure 1:  False plaits of hair, the knot to be place just over the brow.  [This presumably was the piece used to create the coronet plait, where the braid is wrapped around the top of the head like a crown.]  Figure 2:  A waved waterfall, with ball comb and fancy clasp of jet and gold.  Figure 3:  A new style of hair bow, very pretty for a ball coiffure.  Figure 4:  Waterfall bow caught with a fancy clasp comb.

Repeatedly, the Lady's Book advises its readers that "Any application for these articles must be addressed to the Fashion Editor, and not to Mrs. Hale, who is the Literary Editor."  In addition to writing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and helping to create Thanksgiving, Mrs. Hale must have been plagued with the indignity of a flood of requests for false hair pieces.

Advertisements for hair crimpers were also common in the magazine, in spite of the Fashion Editor's admonition against their use. 

"What matchless beauty lingers on every glossy wave and riplet of her lovely hair."

No comments:

Post a Comment