Victorian Hair

Victorian Hair
by Michael Warner

T

he expression, “a woman’s crowning glory” has its origin

dating back to the Victorian Period.
But ironically, women’s hair during this era of romance and
feminine mystery was
often severely damaged from the relentless use of hot irons.
Hair became scorched and often had an unpleasant odour that had to
be masked with heavy perfumes.  It was not
uncommon to have ones hair
reduced to a wool-like
texture.  Hair was never cut except in cases of serious
illness.  The
simplicity of the smooth, center-parted styles worn by women in the
Victorian era lasted until the 1870s, when the Parisian hairdresser M. Marcel Grateau created a new, natural-looking wave by turning a curling
iron upside down.

 

I

n
1872, Marcel had introduced his
famous Marcel wave using a heated iron that imitated the natural curl of the hair.
Hot tongs were applied to produce a curl
rather than a crimp.  Done
at intervals over the head, the hair would assume the look of moiré.
It revolutionized the art of hairdressing all over the
world.  The Marcel wave remained popular for almost half a century
and helped usher in a new era of women’s waved and curled hairpieces,
which were mixed with the natural hair.

 

O

rnate hair combs like this faux tortouise
comb were a
common hair accessory.

O

rnamental
hairpins, combs with
Rhine

pebbles, or laced butterfly were commonly worn on one side.

 

C

urls, crimping, and
the natural-looking marcel wave were achieved by the use of heated
irons, including the waving iron invented by Marcel.

 

H

air-fashion
for the average face demanded graceful waves, coquettish curls, and
plaits of hair becomingly arranged.  Hair was often twisted and arranged to create the appearance of
height and the look of an oval or round shape to the face.




Curly
hair was meant to indicate a sweeter temperament, while straight-haired
girls were considered reserved or even awkward.  A woman’s hair
was profoundly important to the overall effect she was able to make.
Reaching
the age when the hair could be put up was a rite of passage in her life,
and often there were several interim stages, where a plait would be
loosely put up with a ribbon, to signify the coming event.

D

uring
the Victorian Period,
the hair receiver was commonly found on a  woman’s vanity.
After brushing her hair, she would remove the hair from the brush
and  place it through the opening
of the receiver for storage.
Once enough hair
had accumulated, it could be used to construct rats, or could
be woven or plaited and put into lockets, left visible through cut-glass windows of a brooch or even made into watch
chains, bracelets
or jewelry.  Hair receivers
were usually made from ceramic, bronze or crystal.
Hand-painted ceramic receivers are commonly found in antique
stores.

 

 

 

V

ictorian hairwork is a
popular collectible today.  Bracelets, watch chains, necklaces,
rings, and even ear rings were carefully crafted from human hair.  A few museums where
hairwork is displayed
are the Dearborn Historical Society in Dearborn
, Michigan and the  Swedish Institute, Minneapolis,
Minnesota.  For more info on hair jewelry,
visit the Official Victorian
Hairwork Society Website
.

Watch Fob Made with Hair

A

7-inch bracelet
carefully woven with human hair.

More
Hairwork Pieces

 

I

n
the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, postcards and
valentines were often sent with human hair attached.  The sentimental sender
would glue locks of their hair onto specially made postcards, (a picture
of a beautiful woman) and send it to someone as a keepsake.

More
Hair Postcards

I

t was common to save a lock of
hair from a loved one.  These pieces appear to have come from
several members of one family.

 

T

he mourning  brooch
was a common piece of jewelry used to preserve the locks of a loved
one.   This brooch was made in the form of the
Prince of Wales’ feathers, embellished with seed pearls and gold thread.

T

he Gibson Girl was known as the
century’s first pin up.  First sketched by Charles Dana Gibson in
1902, this imaginary woman was to represent the ideal woman.  She
became known as the liberated young woman with the characteristic
upswept hairdo.  Created using a combination  of the Marcel wave and
postiche, the Gibson Girl look was to last a quarter of a century.
The hair style consisted of a soft pompadour, puffed for a cloud effect,
rolled from temple to temple over a horsehair rat to give it the width
that went well with a tiny waist.

 

 

The Gibson Girl look became
immortalized by the stage idol, Lillian Russell.